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A Tale of Truth and Honor

Chapter Text

Prologue

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.

[{#}]

Arthur Dayne

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?"

"Snow."

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.

[{#}]

Benjen Stark

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.

"You knew?"

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.

"I did."

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."

"She?"

"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.

"Who?"

"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 raidersand 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.

Chapter Text

Lord Tywin Lannister

From atop the might of Casterly Rock Lord Tywin could gaze upon the expanse of the Sunset Sea, and only from such a vantage point would Tywin allow himself to revel in the successful restoration of his houses prestige.

The Lannisters had always held the mightiest fortress in Westeros, or at least they had since Lann the Clever had found a way to remove the Casterly's. Yet Tywin had managed to increase both the security and commerce around the Rock.

Never before had the Westerlands been so wealthy and powerful.

Looking down the cliff of the Lion's Mane revealed more ships in the Paws Harbor than had ever been present in Tywin's youth. He'd made sure that Lannister gold was the exclusive mint of the crown and that it had flown throughout the Kingdom and been spent by even the lowliest of landed knights, and so it was that the newest shipment of Golden Stags had set sail for the Reach.

As one ship left the harbor another flowed in, and it was a different type of cog than ones seen throughout the Seven Kingdoms, a Pentoshi trading vessel, Tywin knew. No doubt they'd come in search of a loan for some frivolous project that the people of the Free Cities seemed to love so dear.

Tywin cared little for what his gold was spent upon, instead he focused singularly upon the repayment.

Lords had laughed about toothless lions, but now Lannisters weren't the only ones who were paying debts.

The demise of the Reynes and Tarbecks had proven that Tywin would suffer no further slights upon his house, yet even more sinsterly Tywin had managed to secure the rebellious houses loyalty for the foreseeable future. The Red Lion never lived to see his son grow and Tion Tarbeck had only just taken his son into his arms when Tywin came to collect.

Tywin had set an incredible precedent, Mess with the Lion and he will be the one raising your cubs.

The Lords of Greater Westeros remembered only the cruelty and efficiency with which Tywin had put down the rebellion. No one would ever forget Lady Ellyn's fall, nor the drowning of Castamere, and now lords whispered that Tywin had taken Lady Rohanne and Cyrelle Tarbeck's tongues before he'd sent them to join the Faith.

Yet never before had the Lords of the West been so loyal to their liege. Perhaps it was more fear than love, but they followed the Golden Lions in every endeavor. While lords outside his jurisdiction would judge Tywin as a ruthless man, only praise had been sung amongst the Westerlands.

Tywin had raised the babes Ronnel Rayne and Adrian Tarbeck amongst his own children, and they had grown as close as brothers to Jamie, and upon their coming of age he'd seen that they were restored to the lands and titles their parents had recklessly lost.

They'd grown so appreciative of the Golden Lions adoption of them that they'd both fostered their own sons, Robert Reyne and Alyn Tarbeck, at the Rock.

Though Tywin had trimmed the secondary branches of their houses, he'd been able to cultivate a loyal trunk from the seedlings.

Not since Loren the Last had bent the knee had a Lannister been upon any throne. In the three hundred years since the Targaryens had taken the Seven Kingdoms with fire and blood not once had the Lannisters been honored with a royal marriage, but Tywin had managed to rectify that.

When they'd been young Aerys and Tywin had spoken at length about one day joining their houses, yet by the time such a union could be arranged Aerys had grown jealous at the credit men had given Tywin in regards to the realms good ruling.

Tywin had at one time been ever faithful to his dear friend, but that obedience had been worn down to such an extent that it held by a tether at the end. When the Mad King had saw fit to make inappropriate gestures towards Tywin's beloved wife Joanna, he'd only turned the other cheek. When Aerys snubbed Cersei from the deserved royal marriage to Prince Rhaegar, Tywin did not revolt like the Laughing Storm had. Yet when Aerys had taken Jamie and put the white cloak on his shoulders and saw fit to laugh in Tywins face, the Lion began to stalk his prey.

While the Wolves, Stags and Trouts had forced the Dragons to extend their necks it had been the Golden Lions fangs that dealt the death blow.

Now Cersei ruled as Queen beside her husband King Robert, and it was Tywin who laughed last.

Yet despite all the songs that were sung of him and the glory that he'd won for his house, Tywin still had to deal with the multitude of inglorious duties that found their way to his study on a daily basis, and on this occasion Maester Creylan had dropped a stack of sealed envelopes upon his desk.

Upon the top of the stack was a parchment with the crimson seal of House Lannister, it had been purposefully placed atop the stack by the Maester.

Lions should always be attended too first.

As Tywin unfolded the letter he found that it was from his good-brother Ser Stafford.

Lord Tywin,

Our endeavor to find a house willing to sell us a fully formed Valyrian steel blade has come up dry once more, yet my inquisition into the purchase of individual Valyrian Steel trinkets may eventually lead to their being enough to forge a new blade to match the one above your mantle.

Additionally I've made further contact with Lord Paxter regarding a potential union between his daughter Desmara and my son Devan. I've not received further word from the Arbor, but it is my believe that he will be very honored with our consideration of the match and will likely accept. I shall update you soon.

Dearest Regards,

Ser Stafford of House Lannister.

The Dolt, Tywin thought. He'd long trusted his good-brothers judgement at Joanna's behest, but the man had again failed to provide significant information or advance the Lannister cause. Daven was a good lad and a trueborn Lannister, but he was set to inherit no lands and would hardly be a match for the Lord of The Arbor's daughter. If Tywin had but a single other man whom he could trust either task to he'd gladly reassign Ser Stafford to something he was more likely to be able to manage.

Perhaps the Rocks sewage system. Tywin had used that punishment before and decided that he'd have to come up with another.

Tywin Lannister was versed in both the quality and quantity of Valyrian Steel, casting his gaze a few inches over towards his mantle would prove as much.

Lion's Tooth, the blade was a dark crimson shade and it held many ripples from its forging, but the blades entire handle was gilded and its pommel was a lions head with rubies set in the eyes. A ferocious blade, one that should be feared upon the battlefield.

Yet the Lannister's of the past had long left the blade to collect dust upon its mantle, We can't risk losing another sword.

All his life Tywin had desired to behold the magnificence of the blade Brightroar, but it had been lost almost four hundred years ago. Many Kings of the Rock and the Lords who followed them desired the blades return, yet Tywin had given up on its search. Gerion never did.

Tywin's youngest brother had been lost at sea searching for the forsaken blade, and despite their harsh parting words, Tywin did miss his youngest brother and wished for little more than his return.

Family is all that matters.

As he looked back over Ser Stafford's letter Tywin reconsidered the mans offer to chase down Valyrian steel trinkets. There are still smiths who can reforge the metal, why settle for someone else's discarded blade when we could be the first owners of a new one?

There were said to be two hundred some odd Valyrian steel blades in the Seven Kingdoms, yet Tywin Lannister had yet to find the fool who'd spread such misinformation, but he'd sworn that he would have his tongue the day he found him.

Numbers like that made it seem auspicious that House Lannister didn't maintain a pair.

Of all the Lords in Westeros who could have put a guess upon the amount of Valyrian steel still in the Realm, Tywin's estimate of eighty eight would have to be the closest.

After all Tywin had been the Lord to commission the book, The Valyrian Steel of The Seven Kingdoms, and all the noble lords throughout the Seven Kingdoms had been all to eager to reveal their prized possessions existence to him in exchange for the glory their inclusion might entail.

Tywin looked for the book amongst his nearby bookshelf but it was absent, no doubt Tyrion had seized it for a repeated reading.

Regardless of its absence Tywin had studied the tome enough that he had memorized its contents.

In their writings to Tywin the Lords of Westeros had revealed the existence of six breastplates, seven ax heads, two shields, three spears, two hammers, and three helms. Though only three daggers had been reported it was possible that many more had went unacknowledged. There were also items that seemed to be one of a kind, such as the trident of House Manderly, the horse armor of House Ryswell, a gauntlet held by House Glover. A mace, a scythe, and an arrow head could be counted amongst such oddities as well.

Yet the strangest of all had been House Locke's keeping of a Valyrian steel key, and despite Tywin's curiosity no one had reported upon what it unlocked.

Fifty five blades had so far been listed as well, split amongst forty five households and the seven white knights of the Kingdsguard. The last set of sword bearers had become a tradition once Robert had taken the throne and appropriated some minor Targaryen loyalist houses of their ill deserved possessions.

With the true number of blades it was even more essential that a second sword be secured. So it was that Tywin found himself searching for such a blade.

Gazing to the dual bladed mantle Brightroar's holding slot had become full of cobwebs from its absence.

Houses Stark, Tyrell and Baratheon were the only ones fortunate enough to find themselves in the possession of two such blades. Tywin knew that the Starks had long held two blades, but the Tyrell's had only come into the possession of their second blade after having been named Lord Paramount of Reach by Aegon the Conqueror. Apparently King Mern IX had the sense to leave his famous ancestors blade in Highgarden before being burned alive.

The founder of House Baratheon had been Aegon's bastard brother and so he'd been armed with a valyrian steel sword, but he'd also gained the Storm King's blade once he'd married Argilac the Arrogant's daughter and taken his castle.

While Prince Stannis kept Godsgrief as was his right as Lord of Storms End, King Robert kept Orys One-Hand's blade and now Reignmaker was heralded as the greatest blade known to the world. Though such a blade was held by his King, Tywin sought to have a sword able to rival it.

The Wolf, Stag and Rose commanded respect, but they were not Lions.

Tywin decided he would see to the other matters brought before him and that he would write Ser Stafford back later.

The next raven had provided a letter from Ser Raymund Frey informing Tywin that he'd named his newest set of twins after the Warden of the West and the Glorious White Lion.

Another foolish child named in my honor, Tywin was not surprised nor enthused, plenty of men had tried to curry favor with him by performing such an act.

He set the letter aside with no further thought on the matter.

The next parchment had a crimson lion, and Tywin found himself wondering if Maester Creylan's fingers or mind were the cause of his dulling.

Brother,

I've seen to the quick and summary end of the crime ring in Sarsfield,

I shall remain in the area for a fortnight further to make certain that it remains so.

Sincerely,

Ser Tygett of House Lannister

Tywin let the corner of his mouth curl at the sight of his brothers penmanship, he'd nearly been lost to a pox a few years prior, so it did Tywin good to hear that his brother had finally regained his full strength.

The next letter also held a crimson stamp, but it was laid next to the grey Frey seal. From the look of it the letter had been penned by Genna, only for her lackwit husband to poor the wrong seal. Genna knew that Tywin gave preference to the crimson.

Tywin sat the letter aside, their correspondence had become a regular occurrence and as such the letter was not likely to be of great importance. Tywin would read the letter once he'd taken his afternoon meal, or perhaps sooner if he didn't find himself so busy.

The next letter was at least a few days old, it carried Lord Petyr Baelish house seal and Tywin knew that it would most likely be an update to the current amount of debt the Crown owed to the Lannisters. Tywin opened the letter and once his suspicion had been confirmed he set the parchment off to the corner of his desk, adding it to the pile he'd designated for burning.

The next letter had a brown boar seal.

My Lord,

I am sorry to report there has been a great uprising in civil unrest amongst the common people of Crakehall.

I humbly ask for your intervention in the matter.

Your Loyal and Capable Bannerman,

Lord Roland of House Crakehall.

Loyal and Capable? It was true that Lord Roland was an undeniable servant of Tywin, yet like Gregor Clegane he was of little use in times of peace. Tywin rubbed his hand across his face in disgust at the mans incapability.

Was it any suprise that Jamie had become so stubborn? Tywin had let the boy squire for Lord Crakehall, acquiescing to the boys wish of becoming a great warrior, I should have kept him here, raised him myself.

Jamie had always been Tywin's favorite, and he'd let him get away with far too much.

Tywin decided that he would write back to his brother Tygett and inform him that once his stint in Sarsfield was completed that his men would be needed at Crakehall.

The next letter had the seal of the black hooded man. House Banefort, Tywin couldn't remember the last time Lord Quenton had sent his liege a raven.

My Lord,

The Iron Sails have once more been spotted along the shore.

They've set about harrying my lands.

I've set out to meet them as is my duty.

Lord Quenton Banefort.

Tywin found the creepily scraggled handwriting unsightly and unbecoming of a lords penmanship, but it was the news of ironborn reavers that drew his attention the most. After a moment of thought Tywin decided Lord Balon was innocent, The Kraken would not set a tentacle upon the Lions lands whilst the Lannisters held his eldest son.

Rodrik had grown to be a fine man, even accepting the worship of the Seven and wedding one of Lord Payne's daughters. Tywin would still question the man though, see if he could learn anything that might aid Lord Quenton in his repulsion of the raiders.

With his mind made Lord Tywin moved to his next letter.

The red seal of House Reyne was mixed the blue of House Tarbeck and were both upon this parchment.

Lord Tywin,

We've written this letter to humbly seek your approval for a betrothal between Ser Robert of House Reyne and Lady Danielle of House Tarbeck.

We are aware that such a union has been previously proven derogatory to the natural order of the Westerlands,

So should you decided such a union ill fated  we would be inclined to seek different matches.

As it stands though, we intend to have their foster grandfather as a person of honor at the wedding.

We will be awaiting your reply and shall be honored at its wording regardless of your decision.

Your Humble Former Wards,

Lord Ronnel of House Reyne, Lord of Castamere

Lord Adrian of House Tarbeck, Lord of Tarbeck Hall

Men said that Tywin Lannister was not one to smile, but the contents of this letter brought his lips into a tight curl and the whites of his teeth were bared to the Sea laid out before him.

Everything he had imagined had come true, Lord Ronnel and Lord Adrian had become the perfect image of what Tywin desired a Westerlands bannermen to be.

Humble, Polite, Seeking their Lords Approval, Well Versed in Penmenship, Proper Warriors, and Good Fathers.

Some would be astonished when they heard Tywin had approved of such a match so soon after the houses had been nearly extinguished for rebellion, but those close to Tywin knew he'd taken the boys as his own and could not have been prouder that they'd made such appropriate matches.

Should Jamie ever have trueborn sons Tywin would've push for a marriage between Ser Robert and Lady Danielle's children.

"I'm a Kingsguard, sworn to the protection of his Grace, I shall never hold lands nor father children. Tyrion is the heir to the Rock."

Perhaps you'll hold no lands my son, Tywin knew the secret. Joanna had told him all those years ago, it was a dangerous and disgusting thing but by the time he'd learned of it the two had been out of Tywin's grasp.

Diversity amongst Lions was not one of their great strengths, Joanna was Tywin's own first cousin by birth, yet still he could not condone his children's action, and instead he sought only to protect his cubs from whatever danger they put themselves through.

Tywin's thoughts proved on target as the final letter in his stack had the green seal of House Baratheon and the crimson seal of House Lannister.

Dear Father,

Lord Jon Arryn has passed in the night. The Handship has been so far unfilled, but Robert is planning to place the pin upon his dear Northern friend.

I've tried to convince him otherwise. There are several worthy options at court, and I told him that you'd be happy to once again rule the Kingdom. The stubborn oaf could name anyone yet he's remained adamant that it shall be his beloved Ned Stark.

He is beginning to plan a trip up to the North, he says that Jamie and I shall accompany him and that his retinue shall include our children.

Robert says that now is a good time for the Northmen to be introduced to Joff and the others, and while that may be the case

I've tried to convince him that Little Cassana is too young to make the trip. Yet the oaf insists that as a Princess she must make sacrifices for the people.

Lord Arryn was a good man, but he'd begun thumbing through some things he should have left unopened.

I'm afraid for our children father, I fear Lord Stark shall be deeply concerned with uncovering the happenings that led to his foster fathers death.

Yet though this conspiracy shall lead him back to us I can say that neither Jamie nor I had the time to see the old man sent to the Gods.

I hope to hear back from you soon father.

Queen Cersei of House Lannister.

Tywin could hardly understand his daughters handwriting, the penmanship had been forced and scratchy, and there was so much to unpack in his daughters letter that Tywin had to read the letter twice to understand each lines meaning, yet Tywin Lannister was amongst the most elite minds in the entirety of Westeros and so he began to make sense of the nonsense.

Tywin had his mission, Restore the Prestige of House Lannister, and Lord Arryn had his mission, Undermine absolute authority of the Monarch.

Sometimes these goals had conflicted and so it was that Tywin did not weep for Lord Arryn's passing, and while the man had undermined Tywin's plans a number of times he'd also helped the Lannisters secure increased prestige through the marriage he had proposed. For that Tywin would have thanked the man who was a father to the King.

But the Foolish Falcon had seen fit to see the Last Targaryen's whisked away out of Tywin's grasp. Tywin had always believed their continued existence would be a detriment to the realms stability, but Lord Arryn had always sought a way to unite the Great Lords against a tyrannical ruler.

And now he'd apparently discovered a way to undermine the continued legitimacy of House Baratheon-Lannister.

Tywin would never forgive the man for that.

Robert was surrounded by fools in Kings Landing, but Cersei's assumption that Tywin would happily abandon his home once more was simply wrong. Tywin would not leave the Rock for the stink of Kings Landing, not again, at least not to serve as Robert Baratheon's only opposition in governance. Too many yes men had surrounded the King and it was such that Robert had managed to occur his incredible debt.

If it had been a formal request from the King then Tywin couldn't well refuse, but he had no intention to resume a part of the Crowns governance until his grandson came to age.

The Warden of the West had no doubt that his Northern counterpart would sift through Lord Arryn's droppings, it was only a matter of time before he came to the same conclusion that the Foolish Falcon had, but even if he did there would always be doubt to any accusation.

There was a single thread that would keep the Kingdom together even if the truth was learned, and though it was singular in its effort, the strand belonged to an incredible girl.

Tywin would never forget the sight of little Princess Cassana and her emerald green eyes. A True Princess, one befit for all the songs that would be sung of her. The girl had seen three name days now and had been born two hundred and ninety seven years after Aegon the Conqueror forged the Seven Kingdoms into one. Though in the time since each of his successors had been forced to struggle in maintaining the realm their ancestor had taken. Tywin had felt the tidings of war coming years previous yet all had settled since the dark haired girl had been born, and she'd proved equal parts lion and stag.

Did Cassana's birth halt the realms dissolution? Or would she be the herald to their splitting?

As to Joffery's temperament, Tywin believed he would be sorely detested by the Northerners, perhaps even to such a degree that they'd be disinclined to submit to his rule as future King. If it had been any of his other grandchildren Tywin would have gladly agreed with Roberts proposition of presenting them before the people they would one day rule, but even Tywin could not deny that his eldest grandson was a monster.

The Targaryens had grown mad from incest, could...?

Tywin did not dare finish his thought.

The boy would be King and he was a Lion,

And that was all that mattered.

Setting his daughters letter aside, the Golden Lion roared for the captain of the guard, but found that the man was entering before Tywin had even raised his voice. The man stood in silence as Tywin returned his level to just above a whisper.

"I'll take my lunch now."

The captain nodded and ensured Tywin he'd have it brought immediately, but he did not leave at once and instead he spoke.

"Your family has arrived and they wish to speak with you."

Tywin nodded knowing he couldn't refuse them despite his intention being to work while he dined.

He heard the rolling of the chair before it was in his line of sight, and he could hear his son whistling The Rains of Castamere. It would be only a moment before they emerged from the tunnel way and into Tywin's solar.

His youngest son waddled into the room first, a smug grin upon his face. Tywin lowered his gaze so that he could meet Tyrion's.

Genna had once commented that it was Tyrion who most resembled Tywin, and after she'd clarified that the resemblance wasn't physical, he'd allowed her to speak.

"He is your son brother, more so than Jamie."

Tywin couldn't shake the memory of the discussion.

"Your White Lion is quite the man and he's every bit a Lannister. Loyal like Kevan, a proper fighter like Tyg, and he smiles like Gerion, but Tyrion is your son."

"He has your wit, your stare, and your mind."

While Tywin was unsure of the validity of the first and last statement he could not deny that the boys mismatched eyes would have made a lesser man very uncomfortable.

"Do you intend to starve yourself father?"

Tywin did his best to hide his disapproval and so paid the insolent boy no mind. Instead he was consumed by the embarrassment his youngest son was becoming. Even as the technical heir to Casterly Rock, Tywin Lannister had been unable to secure an appropriate match to his now twenty seven year old son.

The rolling of the wheels came even closer and were now just outside Tywin's solar.

"You really do worry me sometimes my love."

The beautiful golden haired woman was in the same seated fashion she had been in for much of the past three decades. Yet the rolling chair that her half-brother Ser Damon now pushed her in was of her sons own design, and as Tywin had favored Jamie so had Joanna favored Tyrion.

"He is like me Tywin."

"No, he did this too you."

Tywin would never forget the look she had given him that night, the first time she'd been strong enough to speak once more.

"He is our son, and I love him. If you really love me then you should try your best to love him."

Even after thirty seven years of marriage Tywin had never laid eyes on anyone half as beautiful as his crippled wife. He'd have given up everything for her, even his relentless pursuit of Lannister prestige.

Tywin found it impossible to imagine life without her.

The Lady of Casterly Rock reached for her favored sons hand and so Tyrion waddled back over to her and planted a kiss upon her hand. She'd always protected the boy but now was the time for him to prove he was of more use than fixing the sewage of Casterly Rock.

"I'm glad you came, I have need to speak with you both."

Three emerald eyes and one black turned in surprise and stared at the Golden Lion.

"Tyrion, you'll be needing to pack soon. I'll have you suppress Joff's...impulses as they travel through the North."

The dwarf smiled with glee, and so to did Joanna.

Tywin had known that Gerion had instilled a sense of wonder within Tyrion, and the boy had previously expressed desire in seeing the North, especially the wall.

The Lord of Casterly Rock had long desired his son to make the trip, but he'd envisioned the boy mounting the wall and swearing some oaths.

Yet the love Joanna held for the boy seemed to have some effect on the Great Lion, and it was for her sake that he did not loath the boy.

Things certainly would've been different if Joanna had not lived.

Chapter Text

 

Lady Olenna Tyrell

 

 

The Queen of Thorns leaned on her cane and made her walking seem burdensome.

 

Of course Olenna didn't need the support, but it was critical that everyone around her think of her as old and frail, A wilted rose or old sour wine, that's what she'd have people believe of her. So Olenna played her role as she passed by the gathered nobility, allowing her oafish son to eagerly embarrass himself through the meandering that he called socializing. The group of "nobles" that her son was meeting today were nothing more than the Casterly Rock gold minters.

 

"The finest gold in the world my lord and lady, this set is freshly printed and Lord Tywin has given his seal of approval upon the golds quality."

 

The Queen of Thorns rolled her eyes in disgust, Was she to believe the quality of something solely because a man gave his approval?

 

Olenna had long done deals with the Lion of West, and so it was that she tuned out the babbling of the oaf and his new acquaintances. Instead she paid attention only to the single Golden Stag that she held in her hand.

 

Its feel had been of a proper weight, and Olenna knew better than to think Tywin Lannister would cheap out on her of all people. The crown rested around the stags neck in a manner its antlers would not allow and Olenna could not picture how such a creature could rest a crown on its head.

 

It must've been crowned by someone else.

 

The Queen of Thorns sat the coin back into the container it had been delivered in, and as she stared upon the complete set she could not help but think, What ugly horrid things.

 

Olenna knew what a proper quality gold coin should look like, after all she kept a chest of uncirculated Golden Hands, the old Gardner Kings mint, with her in the event of meeting an unsavory salesman. She truly enjoyed the looks upon their faces when they'd name their price in gold, and she could only be too happy to provide them the half weighted Hands. It would be only then that the sales man knew,

 

A wilted rose still has thorns.

 

"We are most thankful to have been delivered this shipment by Lord Tywin himself, we will be very happy to see the mintage circulated."

 

Her oafish son was going to continue beyond the required pleasentries and Olenna found herself tiring from her act.

 

"Do shut up dear, can't you see that the poor men have been at their duties long enough? Would you have it said the Tyrell's didn't give rest to weary travelers."

 

Mace look dumbfounded for a moment, but Olenna had trained him well enough to respond to her commands.

 

"My apologies my lords, I'll have my man Ser Igon see you to your rooms."

 

The Westerland men bowed with gratitude and though they spoke Olenna paid their courtesy no mind, instead the only words of theirs she cared about had been tidings of Tywin's response to the death of Jon Arryn.

 

The Lion has not left his rock, perhaps he does not serve the Stag he crowned.

 

Olenna began to walk away before the men had finished but as she was only the Lord's mother they stayed focused upon the buffoon. As such the real ruler of Highgarden walked away unimpeded.

 

She had important buisness that needed to be attended to, the kind that required privacy. Her guards Left and Right were quick to follow behind their Lady, and Olenna began a summary stroll through the gardens of the keep. More important people than Lannister cronies required her attention.

 

As she walked deeper into Garth's Maze she found the path that had been dubbed Alester's Alley after the famous Andal knight and founder of the house that would become the hereditary High Steward of Highgarden.

 

Olenna had been raised in the Arbor and been given an education in Redwyne history, but she'd still heard the stories of the Rose in Garth's Gardens.

 

The Tyrells of the past had been immortalized in songs of old as leal capable aids to the Gardener Kings. Alester, for whom the house had to thank for its existence, had become the sworn shield to Gwayne the Fifth. His son Gareth and grandson Leo had performed their duties as steward to such a degree that the title was granted to their descendants in perpetuity.

 

King Garth the Tenth had ruled for eighty nine years, during which time Ser Osmund Tyrell had aided him in leading the Reach. Garth had never fathered a son and once the King had grown old and delusional war had broken out amongst the peoples of the Reach over which of his daughters would succeed him.

 

After a decade of tumultuous battling Ser Osmund led the faction to end the war and he'd seated Mern the Fifth upon the throne to restore the peace. Osmunds son Robert had further continued his fathers work and so it was that Mern the Sixth rewarded Roberts son Lorent the hand of King Mern's own daughter.

 

Even more recently Ser Harlan Tyrell had the foresight to not meet dragons upon an open field, "Fire Burns Roses" he'd allegedly uttered when he announced his intention to remain in Highgarden while his king Mern the Ninth had insisted upon bringing his entire line to the Field of Fire. House Tyrell had preserved following the end of the Gardener dynasty, and Ser Harlan had seen further wisdom and opened the gates and surrendered Highgarden to Aegon the Conqueror when the Dragon King approached the fortress.

 

Upon learning that none of House Gardener still drew breath, and finding himself in need of a Lord Paramount of the Reach, Aegon named Ser Harlan the new Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the South. The Golden Rose banner became as numerous upon the battlements as their red cousins in the gardens.

 

Yet since the time of Leo Longthorn the hallowed halls of the Former Gardeners had become less prestigious and its occupants less respected.

 

The Tyrells had never been blessed with the respect and loyalty of their bannermen the way other great houses had been, instead the Tyrells had been considered upjumped above the more noble bloodlines of Garth Grrenhand’s many storied children. The succession of the oafish Luthor to his fatheaded son Mace had ensured that insolence had grown amongst the Tyrell's more unruly bannermen, and Olenna had been too busy trying to raise her son into a proper lord too have killed the plotting in its crib.

 

But now the roses truly are gold again, Olenna thought as she finally entered her secret solar.

 

She had abandoned Left and Right, leaving them outside the paths only entrance to ensure that whatever words were spoken would not be repeated.

 

Masked within the walls of the maze the awning prevented the elements intruison and provided shade for the gathered roses, and among the red variety Olenna counted four golden roses.

 

They noticed Olenna's arrival and without being asked they began moving to see themselves seated around the hard oak table top set in the center.


Margaery had already been seated when Olenna had walked around the final corner, Such a bright girl, today she'd worn her autumn brown her pulled tightly into a tiara shaped ring while the rest fell down to her shoulders. Her large brown eyes stared back at Olenna and she gave her grandmother a big bright smile. She'd not been off beyond Highgarden like her brothers had been so Olenna had already spoken to her briefly about the purpose of this meeting. Do not bring your cousins, Olenna had warned the girl and with the absence of Alla, Elinor and Megga Olenna knew her granddaughter had done as she was bid.

 

Garlan sat down next, he'd been off to Cider Hall with his lady wife. They'd gallivanted her ever growing stomach off before Lady Leonette's younger brothers Tanton, Bryan and Edwyd. Olenna had no great grandchildren yet and so she was excited to welcome another golden rose into the garden, but her favoring of the unborn babe did not extend to the mother who carried her. Leonette was not a Tyrell and as such would not be privy to this parties dealings, regardless of her apparent loyalty to Garlan.


Yet before sitting down the Gallant knight tugged at his brother to break him out of his day dreaming. Loras had been off at the capital enjoying the company of his lover, Olenna did not condemn her grandson for his nocturnal activities, but she did wonder how he could manage a romantic moment amidst the stench of that city. Loras was more his fathers son than any of the others gathered, too hot headed and ill tempered to be a proper tool, Olenna had considered his exclusion but worried that he'd be informed regardless.


With his lazy ringlets of brown hair and liquid gold eyes Loras was too beautiful for his own good. Every girl he walked by glanced lustily at him, even if Loras didn't notice their stares. The Knight of Flowers cared for only the gaze of his beloved Stag, and he hid from no sideways glances, regardless of the countless eyes that looked at him. He was playing a dangerous game in Kings Landing, and Olenna knew it.


The beautiful oaf reminded her so much of what Luthor had been and as she reached her chair Olenna couldn't help but reminesce upon the way her deceased Lord husband had made love, but she also remembered how he'd so stupidly hawked his way over a cliff and left her forever. Olenna couldn't help but wonder


Would Loras come to meet a similar end?


Looking away from her beautiful grandson Olenna began to pull her seat back, but a single hand reached forth and grabbed it first before pulling it backwards to allow for the frail Olenna to fit her frame between the table.


As the Queen of Thorns followed the outstretched arm she came to gaze upon her favorite grandson's face. Willas was not quite so comely as his youngest brother, nor was he the fighter Garlan was, but he was the most cunning man known to House Tyrell.


"Allow me grandmother" he said with kind courtesy as he helped her get seated to the best of his ability. In truth Willas needed his cane far more than the prop that Olenna carried with her.


He would have been the perfect heir to Highgarden, the picture of what a Tyrell should be. Olenna would never forgive the southern serpents for what they had taken from her family, and she'd only grown harsher on her own lackwit son after he'd insisted Willas needed to enter the accursed tourney.


Yet as Olenna looked at his deep honey brown eyes she came to accept that even a rose dropped in the dirt was still a rose.


Silence was maintained as the heir to Highgarden slipped into his seat at Olenna's right hand. It was only when Loras spoke from directly across the table from Olenna that the peaceful moment was interrupted.


"What have you called us here for grandmother?"


She didn't appreciate his tone.


"Oh I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that your hobby of knocking men of horses was more important to you than matters regarding the family."


With that said the youth let his eyes drop down to the table, and instead of speaking his brother Garlan chuckled at what his grandmother had said.


"Do you think its funny? You whose spent his days dragging a poor pregnant woman town to town so that you could dress up in your fancy armor and be bashed about by the knights of the realm."


Garlan returned to his previously quite state, knowing full well not to get into a verbal sparring match with his grandmother.


"Oh please Grandmother, Garlan is an excellent swordsman. He's not recieved a scratch on his journey" Margaery replied with sarcasm slightly etched upon her tongue, but she changed her tone and asked how Leonette had been holding up.


"She is only three moons pregnant now but the child grows each day, the maesters claim that it shall be a boy."


The eldest member of House Tyrell chuckled,


"And you believe them?"


As they turned to their grandmother for further explanation the Queen of Thorns found herself inclined to provide.


"I've yet to find a maester whom I believe wholeheartedly, their order was ruined for me when our former grey rat told me your father would grow to be a intellectual."


Even though House Tyrell was proudly represented amongst the chain wearing maester, the golden roses were accustomed to their grandmothers wit and so they carried on with congratulating their brother upon the gestation of their child. It was Maergery who returned her brothers attention back to Olenna.


"I'm so happy for you Garlan, and Loras what grandmother has brought us home for is truly important."


When the girl finished Olenna began.


"In deed, word has arrived from the Capitol, and as I'm sure Loras has already informed you, the former Hand is dead."


Margaery let out some poor whimper of saddness as if she knew the man, but she was only showing her practiced grief at the news. The rise drew a giggle out from her brothers, and Olenna continued.


"I have it on good authority that King Robert has begun ridding north as we speak. He intends to name the Lord of Winterfell as his hand" she meant to continue but Loras again interjected.


"I tried to tell him it should be Renly, but the King wouldn't listen to that. He even spurned Stannis, and he wouldn't even hear mentions of father."


"Your father is a dolt, but I dare say he'd be dear friends with the oaf. As to the ruling of the realm, well i hardly trust your father to make proper sense in front of the servants. Your Renly is but a boy and Stannis has never been dear to their elder brother. The only one the King truly loves remains in the North."


Loras looked like he might retaliate in fury at the slander of his lover but Willas jumped to become peacemaker.


"Regardless of the reasoning we need to prepare for the upcoming changing of the guard."


Olenna didn't fully appreciate the boy trying to take her insult out of context, but she instead began the affairs she'd intended to discuss.


"You are quite right, and as such it is past time that you wed."


Willas nearly turned pale, she knew that he had specific reservations about his ability to perform in the bedchamber due to his crippled leg, but he was twenty four years old now and had spurned every proposal thrown his way since coming of age. Seeing the horror on his face Olenna thought to ease it by bringing up her second and third topic. Turning to her left to face her beloved granddaughter she spoke.


"As will you. And Loras I'll have needs for you too."


If Willas had looked pale then Loras looked as if he'd been driven to an early grave.


Did he really think he'd spend the rest of his days gallivanting around, playing the part of little rose to the youngest Stag?


Maergaery took the attention away from her brothers as she gleefully proclaimed herself ready for such an arrangement. Olenna looked at her with sad truth, Are you really ready to be away from home my dear? Away from everything and everyone you love?


The girls look was insistent and as such Olenna spoke further.


"I have been searching for matches for each of you. As Garlan took it upon himself to find a wife I'd happily commend him for not being so difficult. The rest of you though, well there truely are not so many matches Left for you. Makes me wonder if you've really been trying to find them on your own."


Only Garlan could meet the Queen of Thorns eyes then.


"As it stands right now their happens to be royalty available to wed. Prince Joffery is a boy of fourteen years now, I know that's a bit young for you Margaery, but he will be the King."


Olenna stopped to give the girl time to think about the match, She wants to be the Queen. Olenna herself remembered a time when she was similarly pondering whether to join the royal family.


"There are of course other nobles available to you" She continued, intent upon her granddaughter not setting her heart aside for one man yet.


"Lord Tywin's heir Tyrion is still unwed, and as of yet is only twenty and seven."


Margaery did her best to not upturn her nose, but her brothers held back no insult of Olenna's suggestion.


"The Imp? To Marge? Have you lost your wit grandmother?"


Olenna stared a whole through her sword swallowing grandson and he returned his tongue unto his mouth. Yet she did consider that since Willas had been opposed she would consider the union no further.


"Lancel, his nephew and the presumed heir to the Rock should Ser Kevan become Lord instead, is only a year your elder Margaery. He would prove a good match should his eventual rule of the Westerlands be ensured."


Her granddaughter nodded, but it was Garlan who interjected.


"I have seen this boy, he is not so valiant nor is he as sightly as his first cousins. Instead I would suggest that he be considered as a lesser candidate."


Olenna did not balk at such an innocent request. Only noting to herself that the boy had never been a front runner.


"What of Lord Hoster Tully's son? He is as yet unwed and he is good man" Garlan offered.


The Queen of Thorns shook her head but decided she would be gentle. Yet it was Willas who provided argumentative words to his brother.


"Edmure is a fellow one should drink with at an event but he is not the heir to the right lands. His people do not follow him with the absolute loyalty that we would desire for our little sister."


Garlan seemed unsure as to his brothers meaning and while Olenna only smiled Willas further elaborated.


"Should Marge wed Edmure his bannerman might be in uproar that one of their own daughters was not chosen instead, the last thing we need is more angsty lords."


That was true enough. Foxes, Cranes, Huntsmans and Oaks. All had taken to gazing towards the Gardens.


Look deep enough and even the Grapes might sower upon the Golden Roses.


Garlan relented and instead Willas offered a suggestion of his own.


"What of Lord Stark's eldest son? Their is no position better than to be wed to the heir, but if we found that union to be unappealing then why not the new Hands son? What better way to secure a voice at the King's court than such a match."


Robb Stark, Olenna had considered the proposition though she was unsure as she had not heard any word of the boys temperament. Yet if he was anything like his father...


Margaery even offered a smile at her brothers suggestion, and she also affirmed that she was interested in such a match.


"I have heard he is very handsome."


Olenna could not be sure of her intent with such short sighted words, she'd regaled her granddaughter with the truth that the handsome men of the world were either oafish beyond repair or could be counted as the most abusive of men. Handsome men had little to worry about in the world so long as they were noble. Olenna knew that the next suggestion would be ill recieved, but she spoke it anyway.


"Lord Renly remains unwed, his brother has named him Master of Laws and at this time he is heir to Storms End and fourth to the throne."


Loras’ liquid gold eyes now bubbled with rage. Yet Willas again interjected on his brothers behalf.


"Loras, if Marge was to marry Renly then you'd have no need to explain your continued presence at his side."


Clearly the thought had not crossed her youngest grandsons mind before, and he stared deeply at his brother but his thoughts were instead upon his Stag.


"Though that might not be what Marge desires." Willas turned to his grandmother and sister asked about their thoughts on Margaery's desires.


"I want to be the Queen, but I'm not so blind as to not look for another option, I'd love to stay close to home though, have you considered someone close to home grandmother?"


Olenna sighed, she didn't wish to give anymore houses a claim upon Highgarden.


"Alekyne Florent remains unwed, but I will not see your union come to fruition. His family has jockeyed for position long enough and though they keep their intentions hidden the Foxes shall soon try to dash out of their Brightwater intent upon plucking Roses from this garden."


Willas and Margaery seemed to come to the conclusion for themselves, yet Olenna continued for her own pleasure.


"They've brought their brood to the homes of several of our other bannerman. The Cranes are bought, as are the Tarly's" Olenna paused for a moment, she knew her next words would find their way to her grandchildren's hearts.


"The Hightowers as well, its no secret Lord Leyton has taken Alester's daughter as his fourth wife."


The children provided her expected out cry, Grandfather?, He would never. It was for this exact accusation that Olenna had not invited their mother.


"At best this is a unfortunate coincidence, yet I dare say that after three marriages and ten children Lord Leyton has no more need for another wife."


The Hightowers were not the only closely wed family that was becoming dangerous.


"His grandchildren are to close a blood to your own for marriage considerations, and regardless of the songs that are song for Baelor Brighsmile, and the noble intentions he has for his children Ormund, Alerie and Bryndon, they will take any opportunity to supplant you."


Loras had the audacity to once more open his mouth.


"Do you think so ill of everyone grandmother?"


"You are a fool to not see the knives drawn to slit your stalk my dear, The Green Fossaways your aunt Janna wed stare at you with lusty eyes. Lord Norcross has wed himself to a Florent. Lord Elwood Meadows has no love for you either, instead the only roses he loves are his sisters children Megga, Raymund and Rickard. The Oakhearts claim that John the Oak was the second son of Garth Greenhand, and that when the Gardner Kings came to a smoldering end that it was they who were the rightful lords of Highgarden."


"House Caswell shall always envy you. Lords Merryweather and Peake will always desire the lands they've lost but will you strip newer houses of their homes to appease the old and unfaithful? Lord Osbert Serry has been slow to pay his annual tribute each of the last three years, and even your dear cousins shall dream of betrayal until they themselves are so impossibly far down the line that their names are unbeknonst to the world."


The next bit hurt, but Olenna was more than suspicious of their dubious doings.


"Even your uncle Paxter is untrustworthy, my brothers son. I was a fool to let your Lord grandfather talk me into allowing his betrothal to my Mina. Now should our branch of House Tyrell fall it shall be one of the twins who shall rule from Highgarden."


"Who can we trust grandmother?" Margaery asked and truly Olenna was unsure but she had a few names.


"Lords Ambrose, Blackbar, Chester, Grimm, Hewitt, Rowan and Roxton, they are good men, and I dare say that the red apple Fossaway's shall follow us until they can leverage Garlan's babe."


Garlan looked astonished, as if it had never occurred to him that spreading his seed could lead to division amongst the Roses.


Having named half noble lords of the Reach Olenna felt her point was made, and so instead continued to pronounce those who could be considered for marriages to her golden flowers.


"Lord Elberts son is too sickly and young for you, and so with that your options are limited. I'd have you keep the Kings heir, the boys uncles, his cousin and the new hands son in mind."


Margaery did not argue though Olenna could discern that perhaps she had a mind too.


"As much as it pains me to say Loras there is only one match for you that I can put forth."


The boys eyes blazed once more, he did not wish to hear talk of marriage between himself and anyone. The Knight of Flowers had found love and that was more than most couples could say.


"Arianne Martell, Princess of Dorne."


Loras and Garlan both cried out in anguish at the notion, the same rejection their father would provide.


"You cannot mean it? Surely you would not reward them after what they did to Willas."


The crippled boy sat quite still considering the option. Even Margaery was apposed to the match, though she kept her vehement rejection to herself and instead offered a frilly response.


"Surely their is someone else worthy of my brother, there must be, right grandmother?"


Her big brown eyes stared at Olenna, searching for an answer, but the Queen of Thorns had no other solution.


She'd considered a union to Lord Balon's daughter, Asha was it? Or was it Yara?, It didn't matter. The idea of a ironborn maid and a knight of the Reach was preposterous.


A union within the Tyrells domain was similarly preposterous. As the third son of the Lord Paramount any within the land who were wed to Loras might one day push for his children to supplant Willas' own.


That could not be allowed.


The bride Olenna had in mind was the only one worthy of him. He would wed into the snakes and this hatred would finally be buried.


"Ariane Martell is the heir to Dorne, her brothers have already accepted their disinheritance as is the way of Dorne and have accepted their roles as political bargaining chips. Would you have me believe the Golden Roses of Highgarden are less civilized than the Desert Snakes?"


Garlan returned to his seat and Margaery put forth no further suggestions. Willas remained quiet yet ponderous.


"The union would be of a matrilineal manner, Loras you are set to inherit no lands but through her you might have some, similarly she would have a way to continue the Martell line. It is the best that we could hope for."


Loras still remained defiant.


"I will never father children" he muttered before raising his voice to a shout.


"If you are so easy to forgive you might see Marge wed to the Red Viper then" he announced before he stormed off from the table and out of the gardens.


Silence reigned amongst the Tyrells until Willas finally spoke sense. Perhaps he’d prefer to join the Nights Watch then.


"Such a union truly would be our greatest option given our current predicament. I shall speak to Loras about it further I promise" her favorite grandson said before turning pale once more.


"Who have you planned for me to take as my Lady wife."


The Perfect Golden Rose, even if he'd been sullied.


"There are few options available to you I'm afraid. I had thought to suggest Prince Stannis' daugher, but she is of Florent blood and though the sudden placement of a Tyrell amongst the lesser tiers of the Baratheon line of succession would not be questioned, she is afflicted with grey scale."


Willas tried his best to not think harshly upon the downtrodden, after all he counted himself amongst them. Yet Olenna could read her grandson unlike anyone else, he shared her ruthless passion for Tyrell ascension, but he also cared for those around him deeply, and so he had not dismissed the match when Olenna saw fit to bring forth another.


“The Princess Myrcella is also similarly considerable. She’s a year younger than Stannis’ daughter, though we shall have to wait to see if the King seeks to see her wed to Lord Eddards son.”

 

Olenna herself was not thrilled at the prospect of being latched to the Lions tail.

 

"There is also the possibility of bringing the eldest daughter of the Hand into our care."

 

The still remaining Tyrells seemed interested.

 

"The girl is reportedly quite beautiful, and of a southern disposition if reports can be believed. She may be the first Stark in history to worship in the light of the Seven."

 

That would make for an interesting story to say the least.

 

"There is only the matter of her being just under the age of marriage though, but only a year or two would separate her from your bed."

 

Willas again seemed uncomfortable with the mention of his nocturnal duties.

 

"Though its not a sure thing, word from our court insiders are that King Robert seeks for the girl to be betrothed to his own son."

 

They stared bewildered, apparently their youngest brother had neglected to inform them of that news. More likely he was too concerned with his own love to pay attention to the forging of others.

 

Yet despite their recent acquisition of that knowledge all her gathered grandchildren knew what it meant.

 

The Tyrells might be excluded from prominence for another generation. Olenna had preached to them as children about how when the great upheavel of the Targaryens had happened that the Tyrells would not pick sides to heavily, and how as such they’d not reaped reward nor drew punishment.

 

Storm's End didn't need to be sieged for so many months, it could've fallen, but then the Tyrells would have fought in the Battle of the Trident, and who knows what would have happened.

 

Roses grow regardless of what stands above them, but if their is no seed their can be no root.

 

Perhaps if Olenna had acted then their might still be a Targaryen on the throne, and Margery could be the queen and Willas might have silver haired children. Olenna had longed wondered what could have been, but she’d decided that this time House Tyrell would take an active part in the Realm.

 

They’d play Stewards one more,

 

And maybe one day they’d find the Golden Rose seated upon the Iron Throne.

 

Urgency was the nature of the gathered Roses now though because time was of the essence, and they wished would not be excluded from this round in the game of thrones.

Chapter Text

King Robert I Baratheon

The trip had been so damned infuriating. After a fortnight of straight travel from Kings Landing the royal party had finally arrived in the Riverlands. Yet it seemed like Robert was being delayed time and time again. I should've just rode to Winterfell myself, curse that woman for her slow pace.

Queen Cersei had insisted upon a retinue worthy of the greatest house in the Realm, and it seemed every lord whom they'd past along their way had been all to happy welcome the King in to their keep.

Robert's ass had only started to chafe when they'd stopped at Lady Tanda Stokeworth's fort. Robert had protested but eventually the Queen had put her own foot down,

Why had she wanted to stop there?

And why in the Seven Hells is she tired?  She's not even riding a horse.

The Queen had instead taken to riding in an incredibly luxurious wheelhouse, one that was drawn by half a hundred horses.

The keep had been nothing of note, and Cersei had seemed unpleased once they'd left. Robert himself had found nothing of worth either, Lady Tanda hadn't even had the grace to present lovely daughters to Robert, instead introducing her thirty five year old lack wit maiden.

From there the King had suffered feast after feast until arriving into the Riverlands proper. After a particularly brief stay in the burned fortress of Harrenhal they'd headed north to cross the Trident's handle.

It was the Kings first trip near the Ruby Ford since he'd won the battle of a lifetime all those years ago.

Yet before reaching the Splitting of the Tridents Prongs Robert had been given the choice between crossing the largest river in Westeros at Darry or Lord Harroway's Town. The decision had not really been one at all.

The familiar surrounding brought back memories of the past. The Demon of the Trident remembered how fiercely the Darry's fought for the accursed dragon. How they'd kept faith till the bitter end, and even forsaken their liege Lord Tully's call to arms. Robert knew he would not be welcome at the keep regardless of the Plowman's oath of fealty after the wars end. They'd been one of the many houses Robert had punished for supporting the Targaryens.

Perhaps too harshly.

Men said that Robert Baratheon's greatest thoughts came when he had his war hammer in tow, but he'd held Donal Noye's creation when he declared House Darry would be stripped of the majority of their lands.

That much was customary. They'd chosen the wrong side.

Yet the sanctions had not ended there.

Lord Raymond Darry had died amidst the Battle of the Trident, and along with him three of his sons had been laid to rest in mass grave, if it could be called such.

The crows had grown fat from their feast.

Raymond's cousin Ser Jonothor Darry of the Kingsguard had been the opposing vanguards commander and was found amongst the pile of corpses. His white cloak soiled by his blood and those whose lives he had taken.

Robert had no authority to strip lands at that time but he'd done it anyway. If Robert hadn't been injured he might've salted their fields to add irony to their sigil. The Storm Lord had been atop the world at that time, he'd practically won the damn war with single swing of his hammer, he never thought their would be repercussions.

Raymond's last surviving son had been brought before Robert and the young Raymun had been every bit as defiant as his deceased father and brothers. He refused to bend the knee, and Robert had held him prisoner until he'd been properly corinated, only afterwards had the new Lord Raymun begrudgingly sworn his fealty.

Robert had not yet ordered the surrender of House Darry's greatest treasure though, in fact Robert had been honorable in returning their Valyrian Steel Sword, but the accursed house proved once more to be Targaryen loyalists.

Ser Willem Darry had been amongst the retinue withing Dragonstone protecting Queen Rhaelle and her son Viserys, Stannis had been able to secure one dragonspawn but the former master at arms of the Red Keep had escaped in the night and set sail for some far off Free City.

When Robert learned that truth of the boys escape he'd flown into a rage and swore he'd see all the Darrys buried within their beloved ground. He'd calmed enough to not rashly end the line of an ancient house, but he'd been spiteful enough to strip them of their pride and joy.

The sword had been nothing too extraordinary, it had the ripples from the foldings, an odd coloration too it, but even as Robert cast his gaze upon the blade he could not think of anything special about it. Even its pommel was plane.

For the lesser houses of Westeros Valyrian Steel would be quite a sight, but Robert Baratheon was surrounded by the mystic metal. House Darry would prove to be only the first house who'd be stripped of their precious blades, and now Kings Landing was the host to atleast nine such swords.

Duty, that was what the Darry's had named their sword. They'd never been Kings and so had always proclaimed loyalty to which ever lord they named their liege. Though since they'd only kneel after being forced to their knees Robert figured the sword wouldn't do them any good any more, and so he'd proclaimed his intent to gift the blade to his Kingsguard.

Now it was Ser Boros the Balding who wore the brown Plowman's blade, the fat bugger rode at Roberts side Duty in tow. The lard had been to fat for his sword belt and so he had tucked it amongst the other belongings his horse was struggling to bear. Ser Boros spent his time either eating or casting a white shadow amidst the Kings own dark one.

Looking at the poorly built knight made Robert wonder what he'd let happen to the most prestigious fighting force in the Realm. The horses that the greatest knights in the realm might have ridden were instead filled with incompetent favor bestowed imbeciles or Knights whose loyalty was dubious at best.

Ser Borros had been raised at Cersei's suggestiom. Robert couldn't remember who'd talked him into giving Ser Meryn Trant a white cloak, and so almost thought to ask the man who rode closest to his left, but the King found himself so disgusted at the mans sight that he quickly pulled away.

Robert was no stranger to brothels, and was the last man in the Seven Kingdoms who could criticize someones attendance at one but...The King had heard awful rumors about the types of company the Trant Knight had been keeping.

Ser Meryn had been gifted the sword Trust, but Robert certainly didn't believe the man worthy of either the sword or the word its name derived from.

Jamie Lannister was off somewhere, no doubt gallivanting his golden lion arse to some bemused peasants, but doubtless he was wearing his white cloak and the sword Honor at his side. He was the children's personal protector. Defending his nieces and nephews was something Ser Jamie could be counted upon doing, but Robert wouldn't trust Tywin Lannisters son with his own care. There had been plenty of occasions that Jamie had been mad with fury, and given his King eyes lit with fire, mostly after Robert and Cersei would have it out over a glass of wine.

The crazed eyes of a hungry lion spoke only one thing,

"I've killed one king, What will they say of another?"

And that was the Man whom the King trusted the most amongst his guard.

Robert had left Lord Commander Barristan Selmy and Prince Lewyn Martell in Kings Landing, intent upon them providing aid to the council during the Kings absence.

The elder member of the Kingsguard had bent the knee after the Battle of the Trident was lost to the Targaryens, but he'd become a legend through his deeds in service to thir house. In reward for his voluntary fealty Robert had granted Ser Barristan the title of Lord Commander and once a blade had been secured Robert had bestowed it upon the former heir to Harvest Hall.

The blade had been pale as milk straight from the utter, and despite Robert suggestion of several unique and incredible names for the blade, Ser Barristan had decided it would be known as "the White Sword," blade of the Lord Commander.

Robert had been disappointed at the mans lack of ingenuity, but seeing how the blade had been a gift Robert had no reason to take the blades naming from him. Ser Barristan had seemed to serve the King honorably and nobly since Robert's coronation, yet he still owed all to the dragons, even his epithet had been bestowed by them.

Prince Lewyn was another story though, he'd never proven to be the most loyal of man to his new king. In fact he'd refused to bend the knee to Robert until Princess' Rhaenys and Elia had been escorted back to Dorne.

Robert had always feared that Lewyn would try to kill him for the fate that befell the male dragon spawn and what had nearly happened to his niece and her daughter, yet despite having every opportunity the Dornishmen had never acted upon his unstated desires. Prince Lewyn had been the last white cloak to gain a blade, but when Lewyn had been gifted a sword he'd named it Justice.

Arys Oakheart might prove to be a loyal man, but in the time since he'd been granted the sword Glory there had been no tribulation to prove upon whose side the man really was.

Perhaps he is just a helpless boy, stuck in the chasing of honorable songs.

The last sword of the White cloaks belonged to Ser Mandon Moore.

The Vale Knight had named his sword Valor, but the King did not know what inspired him to name it such. Robert had never heard of the man before Jon had come to him and suggested the man be appointed to the Kingsguard, and though Robert had thought to honor one of his many gallant friends or win some family over too him, he couldn't well refuse his foster father.

Yet with Jon gone Ser Mandon lacked obvious allegiance.

He may yet prove a Kings man.

Thoughts about the dreary knight led back to the father Robert had lost.

Not the stubborn militaristic brute whose seed Robert had been born from, but the kinder and gentler man Robert had grown up under.

Jon Arryn was my father.

Robert had made his own family in life, but Stannis never failed to remind him of their shared parentage.

The Prince of Storms End had been by Roberts side when their parents were swallowed whole by Shipbreaker's Bay, but Robert could only see Lord Steffon Baratheon sour gaze when ever he looked upon his brothers face, and it enraged Robert to remember what he'd lost.

Poor Renly had it worst of all, he'd never even known the love their mother had been capable of.

Atleast he was spared from our Lord father. Robert wondered if he still held the scars of his childhood upon his person.

The truth was Stannis and Renly could never be Roberts brothers, because all his life Robert had been chasing the family he'd lost, and trying to replace them with one of his own making.

He'd found another father in the Eyrie, and even another brother. The very man whose presence Robert was riding northwards to secure once more. They'd won a war together, surely they could manage the realm they'd earned.

Did we really win? The girl hadn't come home.

In Robert's darkest moments he'd wished Rhaegar had won their duel. If that had happened then perhaps Robert would have found peace.

But it had not been the case, and now Rhaegar rested alongside the girl he'd stolen. Even years after their demise all the ghosts still haunted him.

It had been so long in fact that Robert hardly remembered his mothers face, but he couldn't wait to embrace her once more. Robert had even decided he'd be agreeable to the shaking of Lord Steffon's hand and would be willing to go so far as to thank him for making Robert the man he'd become. Robert would pick Jon up off his feet in the great bear hug the Stag had been known for, and the King would finally claim his rightful Queen. Her face was as much a mystery as his Lady mother's but in her presence Robert would surely remember her lips and where to plant all the kisses he'd saved.

Her remains are in Winterfell, he remembered. He'd have to make sure he visited them.

As his thoughts came to a close the royal party arrived in Lord Harroway's Town. The nobleman had received word of their imminent arrival and so he had an escort awaiting the Kings party. Robert had ridden first amongst the royal family and he waved to the humble commoners who pocked their heads around window frames and alley corners.

From atop his stead Robert saw some lovely wenches that would hopefully find their way to his bed tonight.

As they finally entered the courtyard for Lord Harroway's castle Robert dismounted and made his way over to the royal wheelhouse that his wife had taken. She'd not yet emerged from the carriage and so Robert opened the door to discover what his family was doing.

He saw a tangle of golden hair first, then a blur of white as his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the wheelhouse. They'd had the shades drawn shut to keep peasants from glaring in.

His question about Ser Jamie's whereabouts had been answered as Robert found the White Lion seated next to his royal sister. They were smiling over some shared joke, and their happiness made Robert feel guilty about the distance he'd kept from his own siblings.

Yet even in his wildest dreams Robert could not imagine holding Stannis or Renly as closely as the twin Lions held each other.

They turned to face their King, and Robert was about to ask what they'd been so giddy about but before he could he felt a little babe stealing his heart.

"Papa" she called.

"Cassie" he returned.

Myrcella held her younger sister, Robert kissed both his daughters upon the forehead before making his way to his sons.

Joffrey was a horrid monster, even Robert could not deny it, but the boy Tommen was not so spoiled and so Robert ruffled the boys golden locks.

"Have we arrived at Lord Harroway's Town?"

It was the kind of question one might expect from a youth of Tommen's age, but the voice had come from the golden haired boy, instead it had been his uncle.

Ser Jamie Lannister was widely regarded as the greatest swordsman alive, but the sharpness of his wit was not on par with that of his Valyrian steel blade.

"Are you dense Kingslayer? Why else would we have stopped?"

Jamie nearly flipped the switch to become a lion, but at Cersei's laugh he returned to his calm state.

"More like short sighted."

Robert returned a chuckle.

Despite the rocky first decade of their marriage, the Lioness had begun to endear herself to Robert. At one time they'd been at each others throats to such a degree Robert had thought of setting her aside, but the birth of a child who favored Robert's looks had really aided in their reconciliation.

The King took Cassana from Myrcella's arms before kissing them both once more.

After claiming her as his own Robert heard the knock at the carriage's door.

"Your Grace?" The voice called.

Some lick spittle noble, he knew.

"Come in" Robert bellowed back. Cassana imitated her fathers roar to Robert's absolute amusement. He didn't stop laughing even as the Lord of the town joined their company.

"Your Grace, I am very honored that..."

Robert was still paying the man no mind, instead he'd been too busy tossing Cassana up in the air and catching her.

"Dear Husband" the Lioness called.

Robert rolled his eyes and sweetly Cassana mimicked him once more.

Relenting Robert bid Joff to scoot over and the King sat between his two eldest children. Robert sat Cassana in his lap and placed an arm around her to ensure she could not fall. He placed the other behind Myrcella's head rest and smiled at the girl.

However she did not return the smile, Robert took it to mean she detested the smell of wine upon his breath.

Strange her mother seems to love the wine well enough.

The Towns Lord began once more.

"It is a true honor to host the royal family, and we are so grateful that you have graced us with your presence."

"Indeed and we shall be grateful for what ever hospitality you are able to provide Lord Harroway."

The Lord stared in silent disbelief, and while Cersei snickered the Kingslayer began to burst with laughter.

Robert had half a mind to cut out his tongue, but first he would hear what the Laughing Lion thought so funny.

"My apologies your grace surely you have been misinformed, but I am Lord Leyton Roote."

The Kings face turned red from embarrassment, and all the while Ser Jamie bellowed with laughter, yet it was neither man who spoke up.

"If my father names you Lord Harroway you'll smile and thank him. Or else he'll have your tongue and you'll be nothing to no one."

Robert was unsure whether he should be happy the boy came to his defense or if he should curse him for his empty threat.

Whatever is said of me, I'll not have men say I am a tongue taker like Aerys.

Instead of Robert providing instant discipline for the boy it was Cersei who played the boys threat off as a bad joke to the deeply concerned noble.

"Prince Joffrey meant nothing of it My Lord, you may retain your tongue and your house so long as you'll relieve us from our tiresome travels."

She smiled and really played up her charm for the still shocked lord.

Robert could not tell if her emerald eyes had earned the mans forgiveness because Lord Roote took his leave immediately.

Robert turned to dispel justice upon his wicked son.

"If I mean to silence a man I'll have his head."

The boy was aghast and tried to offer a defense.

"But father I..."

"What you did was threaten a noble who'd welcomed us into his home. You think their will be no repercussions? Would you have them think us Targaryens come again?"

He let his eldest child think a moment before continuing.

"If he doesn't have his sons beat you in the yard come morning then he'll have his servants spit in your cup. I'll not mind, but if I find spittle within my wine I'll see you punished for it."

After Roberts threat the Lioness' eyes boiled a radiant green. She never responded kindly to her cubs mistreatment.

Though the King wondered what his own blood father would have disciplined the boy with, Robert dismissed such a notion and bid the boy to leave his sight.

Tommen followed gleefully after his elder brother and Cersei delivered a scowl to Robert as she chased them out the door. All the while Ser Jamie remained laughing.

When he caught a glimpse of the Kings stare the White Lion revealed what he'd been so giggly over.

"There hasn't been a Lord Harroway in almost three hundred years Your Grace."

Robert felt his blood boiling now. The King wanted to deliver upon that smug lion brood every curse that he could muster, but before he uttered a word a gentle stroke from a tiny hand eased his rage.

Cassana has been named in honor of the only woman who could calm the Baratheon storms, and now Robert found himself at ease.

"You mean they haven't renamed the town?"

The White Lion nodded his head, his laughing at an end but his smug grin only beginning.

"And Lord Roote's ancestors only became the Towns nobles after one of your predecessors personally saw to the extermination of House Harroway."

Cassana tucked her head into her fathers chest as if she meant to hide from the horrid tale. Her gesture helped Robert to forget the insult that Jamie has layered in his statement.

"Which one?"

"Maegor the Cruel I believe Your Grace."

"Then he truly did earn his name."

It has been a Targaryen who'd committed such atrocity. Robert didn't smile but atleast it confirmed his suspicion. Rhaegar had not been singular in his treachery.

For the last three hundred years their realm had seen bloody war after bloody war. The world would be better off without them.

All a dragon needed to do was belch and something would be aflame.

Myrcella and The Kingslayer rose from their seat and after bidding their King farewell they followed out the wheelhouse door, and Robert was left alone with his beloved daughter.

Unlike Joff, Tommen and Myrcella she loved being held by Robert and so he'd given her more attention than the constantly whining Lion cubs. Despite Cersei's protests that Robert didn't know how to raise a child, he did know how one should behave around him. He'd fathered enough of them after all.

Robert had only acknowledged one bastard, but he'd fathered far more than that. His first child had been born when Robert was a ward of Lord Arryn.

Mya, she'd had coal black hair and deep blue eyes.

Robert figured his next child had been the girl he'd fathered at the Starry Sept. He'd never stuck around long enough to meet the girl but he'd later found out that she'd been born with dark hair and blue eyes.

He'd heard rumor that one of the wenches in Kings Landing had even given birth to a son she claimed as his after the war came to an end. Allegedly the boy had become a smith on the Street of Steel, Robert would've cherished the opportunity to gaze upon the boy Lord Varys said resembled Robert so dearly.

"Your spitting image Your Grace."

The only boy Robert knew for certain was his though had been born almost thirteen years ago. Edric had been fathered upon an noble woman and so their was no way to hide the boy in plain site, and to protect him from the Lioness Robert had left the boy under Stannis' care at Storm's End.

The bastard had been afflicted with the prominent Florent ears but besides that all agreed he resembled Robert to an exceptional degree.

"The Jaws and Cheekbones of House Baratheon, Jet-Black Hair and Deep Blue Eyes."

Cassana was far younger than any of her bastard siblings, atleast she was younger than the ones Robert knew about. The King had tried to give up his whoring after her birth, and though he'd could not keep to one bed Robert did his best. Until her birth Robert had always been unsure of Cersei's fidelity,

Why is she having golden haired children? Why do they have exclusively green eyes?

Robert had never seen a Baratheon with green eyes. Stannis' eyes were as dark as the sea at night and Renly had smiling blue eyes that would sometimes shade a bit lighter, but they were not the emerald of House Lannister.

Cassana still shared her siblings eyes to Roberts dismay, but she was indeed his. Only for her birth had Robert remained by the Queens side and when she'd grown thick coal black hair Robert knew it was possible that his elder children could have green emerald eyes.

Though their golden hair was a bit conspicuous he'd accepted them as his own.

Yet as Robert examined her she seemed intent upon studying him back.

Her eyes tore through his heart and they revealed Roberts insecurities and suddenly the King was aware of all his shortcomings.

All the lies he told himself were stripped away. Yet instead of the big truths rushing to him Robert felt suddenly ashamed about something else.

Of all his insecurities Robert counted the pettiest one amongst them to be his unseemly weight gain.

Too many feasts and drinks.

Robert could not deny that when Ned saw him once more he'd note the Kings newfound blubber.

Though he did forgive himself a bit, Robert could have been in worse shape, after all though he was no longer the burly man he'd been in his youth, but Robert still stood at six and a half feet and so looking like a overgrown apple was not a true concern.

Just as he began to dig deeper into thought Robert felt his head beginning to thump and so with Cassie in his arms he set off to find wine for his gullet.

It wouldn't be until after dinner that Roberts thirst has sufficiently dulled his pain once more. The lords castle had proven itself worthy of holding the Kings retinue, and despite their rocky first meeting, through many drinks the Lord had embraced his King as a brother.

Soon enough Robert found that Lord Lorence had drank his fill and found rest under the table. Or was it Leyton?

With no company around him the Lannister Lions found their way to the empty table and sat with Robert.

Ser Jamie walked shoulder to shoulder with his Queen sister, so close were they in fact that they could've held hands under Jamie's white cloak.

"Have you had your fill Your Grace? Or should I fetch you another cup?"

Cersei rolled her eyes at her brothers jest, and though they'd only started their journey a moon or two ago Robert desired only for the journey to be through.

"If we had traveled by sea we might have been there already, and the sooner we should see our selves returned to the Capitol the better. You had plenty of worthy Hands, yet you drag us North regardless."

Oh gods here she goes with her nagging.

She was the one who wanted to travel by land! Or was that me? Robert was too drunk to care or remember.

Robert tried to drown her words with more wine but the Queen remained afloat and insisted upon being heard.

"If you'd been reasonable and named Ser Jamie as your Hand we could have avoided this whole mess."

The smug White Lion looked like he was content with whatever business he'd done prior to this meeting and so remained quite.

Opposed to his silence was laughter that equaled Ser Jamie's own only a few hours prior. When he finally settled down enough to speak Robert offered her words in return.

"You'd have me name your brother as my Hand?! Oh I'd never hear the end of it!" Robert said before continuing to chuckle.

Cersei did not appreciate his laugh, but continued her argument.

"You'll find no one in the Kingdom more noble or loyal to you."

Her words only served to spark Roberts next round of laughter.

"Noble? Loyal? You are speaking of the Kingslayer woman? The man who plunged his sword into the King he'd sworn to protect?"

Robert laughed despite the mans presence, he was to drunk to care if Ser Jamie had some honorable excuse.

The King didn't care about the golden headed Lions threatening stares, the only thing their gaze meant was that Robert would not find the Queen in his bed tonight.

She may be the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms but she was very difficult to sleep with.

As a Lioness she took it as her duty to claim every inch of the mattress that she could and she rarely ever made their night together memorable.

Robert in his drunken state couldn't remember the last time the Lion Queen had opened her legs for him, instead she was always insisting upon using her mouth, and despite the pleasure she provided Robert always found himself hesitant.

Stick Meat in a Lions Mouth and you're at Its Mercy.

The idea got Robert hot for a moment, but he found himself too inebriated to push further, Little Cassie would be the only one to grace the Kings bed tonight.

He'd taken to having his little daughter sleep by his side, Robert had enjoyed peaceful night when she rested in his arms, and even when the Lioness had joined she's seemed to have sweeter dreams.

Cersei's rage made it clear she would not rest well on this night though, and as Robert determined she would only press him further on her brothers behalf Robert saw fit to dismiss her from his presence.

The Lioness began to roar in anger, but as she did Robert saw the footsteps of a small child, though as the boy had golden hair Robert did not concern himself with his sons approach.

Seeing that neither the White Lion or Queen had made off Robert saw fit to ask them questions.

"Did you not hear me? Or are you both drunk? Ahh none of you damned Lannister's can hold your liquor."

Robert took a gulp of his remaining wine and downed what remained.

"I don't know about that Your Grace" the approaching voice said to Robert.

It's not one of the children.

The little feet led to a little man with two mismatched eyes.

"I'd wager I could have you under the table like Lord Leyton."

Chapter Text

Robb Stark

Jon stood behind the boy, lifting his elbow and keeping it in line with the direction the arrow needed to go.

"You've got this."

Theon sat back lazily, finding comfort by reclining himself against a brick wall. No doubt he was day dreaming of who'd he'd find in the Winter Town brothel.

After Jon stepped away the ten year old boy nocked his arrow. Robb stood facing the boys front and so was similarly out of the way.

His younger brother Bran pulled back his bow and let loose. That's a good shot.

The arrow struck dead center on the wooden framed target. There had been a time when Bran would had missed the entirety of the straw padded frame.

The gathered pack began to howl for the success of their brother, even little Rickon, who'd now seen five name days, gave a clap.

A few years ago they'd howled in laughter at the boys apparent lack of skill, but now Bran had really become quite exceptional.

"Which of you had been a marksman at ten?"

Bran had a huge smile across his face, and Jon picked the little boy up. From atop the balcony Lord Eddard, Lady Catelyn, Sansa and Dany cheered him.

The Heir to Winterfell moved forward to join in the congratulation, a huge smile written across his face.

Yet as he did a second arrow whizzed by Robb's head. Without warning her reeled back from it in shock, but found it had missed him entirely.

As Robb watched the arrow go bye he thought for a second it had been meant for him, but when he heard the crunching of one arrow claiming another he knew who'd loosed the bow.

Looking up he saw the shock, horror and then quick formation of innocent smile from Arya, she'd managed to perfectly strike Bran's arrow. Now both could claim the dead center of the target, only Arya was about fifteen feet further back than Bran had been, and she'd nearly taken Robb's head off.

"Arya" He yelled as she turned to run, but she was no match. Robb caught her and held her off the ground in a playful manner. As he gripped her arm she gave up the fight and began to giggle, and when she giggled Jon did so too. Soon enough the pack had begun to laugh loudly.

"Did you mean to put it through my head first?"

"No, you just moved in the way."

"Ahh, put the poor girl down Robb, she had a clear line of sight till you stepped forwards" the Lord of Winterfell chuckled down too them. It had all been done in good fun, and no one had gotten hurt.

Robb carried his eleven year old sister back towards the others, Jon had ceased his giggling, but Theon had only just began to belly laugh. The Kraken had somehow become the best archer in Winterfell and it was clear that only one man could have trained both the master archers.

"I see you've been taking lessons with Theon" Robb looked at Bran,

"Both of you."

They smiled in innocence but then Theon began to brag upon them.

"Aye they have, and now their better archers than you or Jon. Though I must say they had an excellent teacher," For some reason Robb was always brought to laughter by the elder boy, and so now even the Heir to Winterfell was laughing about his former peril.

"That may be but it's all for the better. Every wolf should have fangs."

Robb looked up to see if his father agreed with the sentiment, Robb's mother had been present as well and Lady Catelyn was so busy congratulating Bran that Lord Eddard could not have heard the wisdom his eldest son had repeated.

Theon punched Robb in the arm to see attention returned to the Ironborn.

"Perhaps you'll take up training with me, though I doubt you'll ever be as good as your younger siblings I could probably make you passable."

"What do you know about training Theon?" Jon laughed as he strode over to his elder friends.

"Not all of us have swords like yours Snow" Theon retorted with infinite sarcasm, and notioned to the bastard sword.

Hailstone, the blade had only been acquired after King Robert stripped it from some southern house, but Lord Eddard insured the boys that it was still centuries old and had been wielded by a house of former kings. Ice was too heavy and burly to be wielded in battle despite its lighter Valyrian steel metal, but Hailstone was the perfect sword for a future bannerman to House Stark.

And that future bannerman just happened to be the Warden of the North's bastard.

"A good sword doesn't make a good swordsman"

"No but a good sword makes a good swordsman legendary." Robb said before putting his hand on his brothers shoulder.

Many days had the boys spent playing the roles of better men. Robb had always wanted to play King Stark, he usually chose some variation of the many Brandon's. Most often finding himself cycling between Brandon the Builder, Brandon the Breaker, and Brandon Ice-Eyes. \

Jon's favorites had always been honorable knights like Ser Ryam Redywne, Aemon the Dragon Knight and Florian the Fool. Jon always wanted to be a protector of people. Robb always wondered if that was the ambition Jon had chosen because it would be the only route his life could have taken.

Though the King had decreed Jon would be given lands and a former princess for a bride the boys life had never been easy. Robb's half brother could never be the Lord of Winterfell. Yet Jon had taken everything in stride and promised Robb that he would be his elder brothers most loyal bannerman.

"Well I still need to train like everyone else" Jon said as he put Bran back down.

Robb's half brother had always pushed himself harder than others, it was as if he had a need to prove himself worthy for something.

As Robb eyed his mother from atop the balcony she was still gazing at the boys, she was smiling now, but only a few years ago the very sight of Jon would have given her a scowl. Robb did not know what had caused such a change but he was glad for his brothers sake.

"Not today you don't Snow, today is special. Your last night as a free man!" The ironborn laughed right in Jon's face and Robb was afraid they might come to blows.

Robb had told Theon this wasn't a good idea.

The Heir to Winterfell interjected in this moment.

"Jon, look we are just trying to have a little bit of fun. Why don't you come with us?"

Jon gave Robb a disgusted glance, part of Robb felt some shame but he was a man was he not?

The Heir to Winterfell had the needs of every other man. From the detestation written on his half brothers face, Robb had truly believed that Jon and Dany might have been going at it between the sheets, but he wasn't sure if Jon would dishonor her like that.

"Look, no one is going force you to come, but Dany is turning sixteen tomorrow, and you'll be wed before the Heart Tree and the Old Gods."

Jon looked appalled.

"I'm not going with you" The boy uttered with cold ice upon his tone. His near pitch black eyes stared a hole through the smug grin of the Ironborn.

"So be it, but don't expect a gift from me on the morrow. I was going to buy Ros for you but if you'll not have her..." Theon chuckled before walking away.

Jon Snow boiled at the departing Ironborn, and Robb was afraid Jon might use the famous sword at his waste to detach the elder boys head from his shoulders.

Instead Robb coated Jon with his arm, after a tug at his shoulder Robb turned his brother back to face Daenerys.

Theon might not have a gift, but Robb had something in mind.

He'd found something incredible...but he wasn't certain about its gifting.

Looking up towards Dany revealed that like the youngest son of Balon Greyjoy, Robb's father, mother and eldest sister had similarly departed from the yard.

Lord Eddard had been busy lately with the preparation of the Castle's hosting of the King and Queen, and Robb's mother had been spending day and night trying to mold little Arya into a proper lady.

That's an unenviable task.

Rickon had ran off somewhere and Bran was in pursuit of him, reeling in the youngest brother had been almost as difficult for the boy as wrangling Arya had been for Robb when he was Bran's age.

Though I had Jon.

Dany disappeared atop the battlements but as the brothers stood in the yard she emerged from the stairwell. If Robb couldn't mess with his brother at a brothel, then he might as well mess with Dany.

"Dany, you look lovely today!"

She really did, Jon was quite a lucky man. She was wearing her hair pulled tightly into a proper northern bun and she wore modest clothing but she was quite possibly the most beautiful woman that the Heir to Winterfell had ever seen. Her violet eyes, pale skin and silver hair spoke to her royal birth and the heritage she claimed from Old Valyria.

Robb walked up to her and took his adopted sister into his arms and planted a kiss upon her cheek.

"Brother would you switch brides with me if I made you Lord of Sea Dragon Point?" Robb chuckled and he placed an arm around Dany's shoulder.

Jon was bubbling and too tease him further Dany played Robb's game.

"Oh how beautiful our babies would be. Yet I think I like Jon's dark locks more than your ginger ones." She smiled and now it was Jon who was laughing.

"Ginger? You insult me Dany, now I'll join Theon in absence from the wedding."

Jon punched his brothers shoulder to get Robb to knock it off. Robb smiled at getting a ruse out of the couple, it did him good to see them so happy together.

Robb wasn't sure how an arranged marriage could lead to true love, sure his mother and father had been bound in such a manner, but they were the exception in Westeros. It was no secret that many lords held extramarital affairs.

Even Robb's own father had done as much...

Yet Jon and Dany seemed completely unified as one, as if they were always meant to be together. Robb had and always would love them both, he'd had no choice, they were raised along side him and Lord Eddard had always spoken about how packs took in strays.

That same logic extended to Theon as well, even if he was a hostage kept to ensure Lord Balon's fealty to the throne.

So Robb counted himself blessed with five brothers and three sisters, plus the Heir to Winterfell had been raised alongside his fathers guard Alyn. He'd even grown fond of the master of horses son.

Winterfell was Robb's home and birthright, but what good is a place without the people you loved?

It would no doubt be strange once Jon and Dany had left, Robb's lord father had declared that Moat Cailin would be their seat, but they'd at least be in the North.

Once I become Lord of Winterfell I'll make sure to visit them as much as I can, Robb had decided when the news reached his ears. Yet that was still a ways off. Father had tasked Uncle Ben and his friend Lord Howland to renovate the ancient fortress and if their ravens could be believed the progress had been so far slow moving.

"I dare say father won't let that happen, and besides Jeyne will be there" Jon teased Robb and Dany joined in on their fun. Dany's violet eyes opened wide as she began to smile.

"So that's why you've been accompanying Theon? Trying to make yourself ready for the ride she'd give you?" They both giggled as the Heir to Winterfell's cheeks began to redden from his blushing.

He'd had a crush on the girl near all his life, but it had developed into more than a childhood infatuation when his mother had forbidden Robb from spending time alone with the girl since he'd come of age. It only hurt worse to see her every day at her fathers side, especially when Sansa was feeding him insider information about the girls doings, and from all indications Jeyne shared the infatuation.

The forbidden nature of his crush only spurred him further into desire, but strangely Robb knew Dany and Jon's love had been born from something else.

They were the outsiders. Seperatly they would never tease Robb, but when together the tandem proved a complete handful.

They'd apparently grown incredibly close from all the banquets they'd had to endure together, and they played off each other well. Robb could only shake his head as they continued to share their laughter at his expense.

"They way that girl rides a horse Robb will find himself begging for help"

The Heir to Winterfell couldn't help but blush further at that. Lady Jeyne Poole was amongst the best riders Robb had ever seen, She was a True Natural. Though Robb found himself mounting her defense in his own mind he could not provide his brother words in return. Instead Robb could only deflect his brothers accusations.

"You'd act as if you've never had such happy dreams?"

Though Jon laughed, Dany's giggle seemed to lessen. She loved horse riding too, Robb had seen her atop horses aplenty enough to know that. Yet it was not that which had bothered her.

Her thoughts must belong to the bedding. As he glared her and Jon over Robb couldn't decide if they really hadn't gone at it between the sheets.

Robb had caught them smooching before. It had been no more than a year ago now, so Robb remembered it clearly.

Theon, Robb, Jon, Dany and Jeyne had snuck off from their daily duties and hidden amonst the abandoned First Keep. Theon had brought wine in hopes of getting his younger adopted brothers lucky with their ladies. Robb had drank happily and heavily in hopes of coercing Jeyne into participating.

Jeyne had instead only lightly supped, Jon had taken only a glass and Dany had not drank at all. Robb still remembered his laughter when the Ironborn dropped first, though he had been told he'd lasted only a moment longer than the elder boy.

When Robb had awoken from his drunken slumber he found Lady Jeyne asleep, her head tucked tightly in between his arms as she used his chest as a pillow. Theon had still been off regailing tails of Ironborn glory in his dreams, but Jon and Dany were nowhere to be found. Robb had not wanted to leave Jeyne's side but he couldn't help his drunken curiosity.

Night had fallen since he'd passed out, but there was torch light too guided his way, and so it was in that direction he'd followed. Robb stubbed his toes thrice upon the stones his ancestors had lain, but he'd managed to avoid a drunken cry, and so Robb had taken the pair unaware.

While he had been unable to make a move due to his inebriated state, Robb found Jon and Dany holding each other in the dimly lit corner of the Keep, they had been sharing each others lips and Robb couldn't help but slowly back away, his presence unwanted and unnoticed.

The wine had managed to lubricate Jon's sense of inhibition and Dany had become enamored with his initiation. So it was for the last year Robb knew their love was real, and though he envied their happiness he did not impede upon it, instead encouraging it at every opportunity.

Seeing that Dany was slightly uncomfortable with the things that had been said Robb placed a hand upon her and Jon's shoulder.

"You've found love, not all of us are so fortunate in our youth."

He pulled his half sibling and adopted sister into a tight bear hug that neither could escape from. That seemed to return their spirits to the chipper mood they had been in only moments prior, though each seemed to fully grasp the gravity of their situation upcoming union. Of all their worries the last should have been the bedding.

That was the fun part.

"I know you've got a lot on your minds right now, between the wedding and everything else going on."

Robb released the couple from his embrace and they again stood before him with conversation upon their tongues.

Daenerys had spent the past few turns of the moon working with Lady Catelyn and Sansa in their attempt to make sure everything was planned properly. It had to be extravagant but not expensive, and it could not be so outrageous that it would still resemble a wedding once the King arrived.

The King had not been invited too the Wedding.

"I've spent far to much time working on a dress I shall only wear once" Dany said as she looked at the man who would be her husband soon enough.

"But I think you'll love it."

"I will, as long as your the one in it."

Jon claimed to not be a poet, but he was a hopeless romantic.

Robb's half brother had not found himself excused from the duties an upcoming wedding had entailed either, only last week father had taken Robb, Jon and Theon to the tailor to be measured for proper outfits.

"Make them worthy of wearing in a Kings presence" The Warden of the North had commanded, explaining that these would also be the clothes the boys wore when Robb's namesake arrived in Winterfell.

Theon had made some cruel jest by asking what sigil the tailor should embroider into Jon's outfit, but Robb just took the insult to be born out of jealousy.

The Kraken could bed all the commoners he wanted but he was only Lord Balon's third son and everyone knew true Ironborn women were not as sightly as their mainland counterparts. His match, if he ever had one, would most likely be loveless and too a sea hag.

"Have you chosen a name for your new house brother? Or perhaps a sigil?"

Jon didn't particularly like being reminded he was not a Stark.

Instead it was Dany who answered Robb's question with a giddy smile.

"Well the baby will be at least half Targaryen so we talked about a Valyrian household name."

Robb was perfectly happy with that, most of the names in the North had some earthly flavor to them, it was time for a little diversity amongst the Northmen.

"Have you decided upon one?"

It was Jon who answered this time,

"Aye, but you'll have to wait like everyone else"

The retort brought a smug look to Jon's face but he dropped it once he saw Dany had clearly wanted to exposit further.

"How about this, you tell me now and I'll bring my gift before you today?" It was a bit against tradition, but the gift Robb had acquired was hardly one that held a precedent.

Jon seemed a bit reluctant but Dany desired to know the secret.

"We've chosen the name Calimanenar."

Well it certainly sounds Valyrian. Jon was a little disappointed he couldn't hold the weight of the secret above Robbs head, but he confirmed that they had taken a new sigil for themselves as well.

"We've set a five pointed golden star within Hailstone's pommel, on the banner the blade will be white and it will be on a Sky blue field."

It was for the best that the future house didn't associate itself strongly with the overthrown Targaryens.

"Well, it won't be as fearsome as the Three Headed Dragon but I think it shall be better received amongst the Northerners, and I shall be happy to see your pommeled star flying along side the Direwolf."

"Now for my gift, if you'll follow me." Robb had left the gift hidden.

"Actually..." Jon said before Robb took more than a few steps, he turned around to face his brother and adopted sister.

"Dany has something she would ask of you, aside from the gift you promised."

"Anything" Robb replied openly.

The girl struggled for a moment to meet Robb's blue eyes, yet Jon grabbed her hand and stilled her, insuring her that Robb would no doubt accept the proposition. Her violet gaze was more than a match for the blue eyes of the Heir to Winterfell when she finally did look upon him.

"I would ask that you are the one to give me away."

Robb could hardly accept fast enough.

"I would be honored to give you away my Lady." Dany didn't have anyone else, but it meant a lot to Robb that she asked. The duty might have fallen to him anyway, but it was a relief to know beforehand.

"To the soon to be Lord and Lady Calimanenar of Moat Cailin." Robb said as he took his siblings into another tight embrace, as he let them go he did not hide his happiness for them.

"Ahh, wipe that smug grin off your face, you've spent too much time at Greyjoy's side."

"Perhaps, but he has no gift for you both, while I have one I mean to give today."

Theon would more than likely end up getting the couple a gift, he may have been the outermost member of the pack but he still held them dear. Yet Robb had been sincere about giving his present a day early and so he began to walk off. Dany followed suite without any fuss, but Jon seemed dumbfounded and only followed after his bride had separated herself from his side.

"Where are we going?"

Robb did not answer instead he only kept moving. They need to be quick. They couldn't be caught doing what they were about to do. People would question what the Heir to Winterfell had needed to go underground for. So as Robb made his way towards the First Keep his siblings did their best to keep quite. Yet once they'd reached the sanctity of the square building Robb decided they were private enough.

"You know I caught you two swapping spit here before. It was about a year past now."

The couple didn't give Robb the confused looks he'd expected.

"You mean after you'd gotten too drunk to speak coherently?" Dany chuckled at her betrothed's joke.

"No Jon, I think he meant after he tripped three times trying to get over too us." Now was Jon's turn to laugh.

"That's not how it happened" Robb angrily insisted.

"I suppose you think Jeyne was in your arms when you awoke too" They really bellowed now.

But... she had been.

"You two must've drank after Theon and I because Jeyne was..."

"Was what? Jeyne left once you'd hit the floor. When last we saw you you'd found a hidden bag of flour to snuggle with." Jon was rolling now, Dany even giggled at her own joke, though she seemed a bit nervous.

Almost like she knew why they'd come this way, but that was impossible.

His brothers chuckles were only broken by the memory.

"Aye, you'd covered yourself in it. It was a bit like that time we pranked Sansa, Arya and Bran."

Robb did laugh at that memory. Dany seemed unaware of the incidents occurrence, but then again she had never been down to the crypts before.

The Crypts were for Starks.

A Wolfs Den is no place for a Dragon.

Yet that had been before, when she wasn't part of the pack.

When she wasn't as beautiful.

Robb felt some shame at lusting for his brothers soon to be wife, but if she entered the crypts Robb's eyes would not be the only ones to cast their gaze upon the Dragon.

"There is something down there," the inhabitants of Winterfell were like to say, and indeed their was much and more buried deep within the ground below the ancient fortress. They finally came to the crypts entrance just past the First Keep, and though Jon sought to see Dany comforted she instead rejected her beloveds hand and began her decent into the darkness. Jon then followed after her with his fear either nonexistent or suppressed.

Robb stood outside the entrance for a moment longer, he was amazed that they'd entered without hesitation, torch light emerged from below and Robb realized why they had not been reluctant to enter.

It's not their fate to lie here in rest for eternity. Only Starks rest in the Crypts.

Robb followed them into the abyss and found them stopped at the most recent generations tomb. A larger than life figure sat upon a carved throne, a large direwolf at his feet and an Iron sword placed across his lap. This one had the face of Lord Rickard Stark, Robb's grandfather, and beside him was a weeping statue whose face seemed half gone. It was a woman and so it could only be Lyanna Stark, The She-Wolf. At her side was another statue, this one seated in a more traditional manner, it had been the Heir to Winterfell, Rickard's eldest son Brandon.

Father had insisted upon having a statue for both of them despite neither having been Lord of Winterfell, and though he'd once considered doing the same for his own siblings Robb could almost hear the Kings of Winter wailing from the intrusion. As Robb looked at his fathers deceased brother and sister statues he couldn't help but wonder who the Kings wailed at.

Their intrusion or Ours?

Robb had long been afflicted with dreams of the slumber he'd be afforded after his passing. It is your fate Robb Stark, a voice he did not know had said. And your children after you. A look revealed there were plenty of unoccupied tombs in the crypts.

The Heir to Winterfell had lived as Lord and now Rested as such.

Children came before him, yet they aged as they moved closer and when they reached the Robb they were adults well grown.

Two Sons and a Daughter.

Like Robb they didn't resemble a Stark and so they were not welcomed openly.

White, Grey and Black Wolves all sat next to Robb, and Roses had been placed at his feet. They were not the Blue Winter Roses though, instead offerings of gold had been lain next to his direwolf.

They placed an iron sword across his lap and Robb could move no more.

When he blinked he'd found himself encased in his statue.

When they'd done their duty his children entered the Crypt to Robb's side and the cycle began once more.

That was when Robb would wake up screaming.

Yet he was awake now and he heard his fathers voice.

"The only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid." It was that voice Robb followed, and though Dany and Jon were with him they no longer led him. Instead Robb had taken his place as foremost in the Pack.

It was by Lord Brandon the Boastful's statue that they'd find what they'd came for, and so Robb descended. Passing by Lord Walton who'd been killed by a giant, then by the half brothers Barth Blacksword and Jonnel One-Eye, and past their father Lord Cregan. The man who many hailed as the greatest swordsman House Stark had ever produced. Robb stopped at his statue for only a moment to admire the Old Man of the North, and the last Stark to serve as Hand of the King.

The Only Stark, he thought, Until King Robert bestows the duty upon Father.

The Starks had seen mixed results when they fled the North.

Robb's grandfather and uncle had been burned alive by the Mad King almost two decades previous, but before that Lord Cregan had been the last Stark to range down the Neck and he'd ensured the South would never forget the North's might.

Though it took Cregan till the end of the Dance of the Dragons to muster his forces, the amassed army had all but secured the Black Targaryens victory. The Hour of the Wolf had followed suite and The Northerners brought justice to all those who deserved it. Then after six days he resigned his handship and returned to Winterfell.

Where his people had needed him to be.  Winter had come upon them.

Robb had hoped his father would learn from their ancestor that justice must be served to the South. He also hoped his fathers time at the Royal Court would be similarly short. After Lord Cregan came his grandfathers tomb.

Was it grandfather or uncle? A cousin?

Robb could not be sure here and now. Despite the moniker of The North Remembers, The Heir to Winterfell had found that the Starks of old were infinitely more concerned with surviving winter than recording history. Not a single Stark had ever joined the Citadel.

Wolves don't wear Chains.

Instead the second and third sons of the Kings of Winter saw honor in joining the Night's Watch, and if Old Nan's stories could be believed one had even ruled it as an evil king. She'd regailed him the horror stories of the Long Night when he'd been but a child.

"Maybe he was a Brandon like your brother, Or a Stark bastard like the other."

But it had been a Stark who cast down the Night's King.

"Perhaps it was his Brother. Or Uncle. Maybe his Nephew. His Son. His Father."

His thoughts nearly caused Robb to make a wrong turn. The crypts were not a place that one simply found their way through, it was alive and had a will of its own, and each Lord passed Judgement upon the next.

Yet finally it relented and Brandon the Boastful's statue was before Robb.

He looked further down the hall but only a few more Stark tombs were available to them, The Most Ancient of the Kings had been forever entombed by fall debris. As Robb looked above himself he wondered if the roof above him was similarly unstable. Or perhaps their is something more to be found.

Regardless Robb pushed no further, Jon and Daenerys came to rest beside him. By then the torch light had been singular in providing light and everything had a orange tinge too it. Robb bent down and grabbed the cloak he'd laid atop their present.

Three dragon eggs unveiled themselves to the last person who could possibly hatch them, and she knew instantly what they were. As if she had seen them before.

Dany bent over, picked up the largest of the eggs and skimmed her hands atop it, caressing it as one might a child. When she brought it into the light it remained as black as it had been in darkness, but it also revealed scarlet ripples and twirls.

Dany pulled Robb close and planted a kiss upon his cheek. Her lips left a radiant heat upon his face, but as soon as she had thanked him her attention had returned to the egg. Robb was worried what Jon would think of such a kiss but his brother had become similarly entranced by another egg, Jon bent over to pick it up and when he held it in the light the egg revealed itself to be deep green and with bronze flecks upon it. They held their eggs in amazement but paid no mind to the last one.

So it was that Robb bent over and picked up the egg, he could not tell what had enamored his siblings so, and instead he only beheld a pale cream colored egg, and though the torch light was all they had Robb knew that it was speckled with gold.

Dany looked back at Robb once she'd come out of her trance.

"How did you..."

"I found them one day, Jon and I had been paying respects to our grandfather but we'd started playing a game and well...I hid in this tomb and he couldn't find me."

"Where did..." Was all Dany had time to say before Robb explained.

"There was a story that..." Jon finished the tale.

"Prince Jacaerys Velaryon, eldest son of Queen Rhaenyra... He came here once atop the dragon Vermax, people said that they left a clutch of eggs...But the dragon was a male... it couldn't have."

Dany didn't care for his conjecture.

"They are here though, the story is true!"

Jon didn't look happy, he'd fully snapped out of his trance and returned to his strict sense of duty.

"We should leave these down here."

Robb did not contribute to the lovers quarrel that ensued.

"Leave them down here? They are a gift, we were meant to have them" the Targaryen Princess exclaimed fiercely.

"If King Robert arrives and hears word that you have three dragon eggs he will kill you then and there. And then I'd have to kill him."

Daenerys realized the hard truth of the matter, and her face soured but Jon did not let her frown for long.

"Dany we three are the only ones who know about these eggs. When Robert leaves we will come back for them."

She did not shed a tear when she put the egg she'd held back to the ground but she looked as if her strength had been greatly sapped, and she could not take her eyes from the black and scarlet thing. Jon reached for her face and pulled her towards him and away from the egg.

"We will come back, they are yours. And you were meant to have them."

Jon turned to his elder brother and gave him a hug while the Lords of Winterfell watched.

"I doubt anyone shall give such a gift."

For the first time since they'd entered the crypt Robb had the warmth within him to smile.

"I'd thought these gifts better given now than at the reception."

Suddenly a voice began echoing off the walls, and it reignited the fear in Robbs heart and as he listened to the call he realized it was his younger brothers voice.

Yet he could not tell were Bran had been speaking from.

"Robb, Jon" The voice whispered, and then screamed.

"Father has called for you both."

The voice was no longer so eerie and now Robb could see the light of a second torch. The boy who had innumerable namesakes walked with fear displayed prominently upon his face but Robb sought to scare him no longer, and so he stepped forward out of the shadow the crypt had provided.

"I'm here Bran, what is it?"

"Is Jon here with you?"

"Aye and so is Dany. What need of us does father have?"

"The patrols have caught a ranger from the Night's Watch, a deserter."

Robb knew what that meant. They'd be riding to his execution.

Intent upon not being thoroughly inspected, Robb quickly took the green egg from Jon's hand, placed it and the one Robb carried underneath the cloak he'd hidden them with previously. Masking them once more from the world at large, and though Robb had to pull Jon and Daenerys the first few steps they came they walked with their own legs soon enough. All the while Bran had been none the wiser to the threes activities.

Their exit was not as difficult as the entrance had been and so it was that in no time the suns rays once more struck their faces. Robb welcomed the warm embrace of the summer sun but a sudden breeze brushed him and once more he was cold.

He turned back around and looked one last time into the crypt, it had been there that the wind had come from.

It was like a person had exhaled.

Chapter Text

Princess Daenerys

The last few months had flown by with an incredible speed. Lord Ned Stark had been insistent that the union only be honored upon Dany's coming of age, and today was her sixteenth nameday.

 

After today she would no longer be Daenerys Targaryen.

 

She'd no longer suffer the accursed name that her Mad father had given her. Perhaps she'd be remembered in her own right under the name she'd chosen. Dany would be her own woman and make her own legacy. As an added benefit she'd do it hand in hand with the man she'd fallen in love with.

 

The man she'd been betrothed to all her life.

 

It wasn't the worst thing in the world to not have a choice though, in fact Dany and Jon had made the most of the situation.

 

In their upbringing they'd both found themselves outsiders amongst the larger pack, but they found solace in each other. They always shared a table on the Dais, and even when they were forced to a lower seat they'd sit together.

 

Those feasts had been hard reminders that even though they lived, played and studied alongside the Stark pups, Dany and Jon would never be full fledged members of the pack.

 

As a baby girl Dany had believed Lord Stark to have been her father, but after being made privy to the actions of her real father Dany had truly wished her childhood beliefs were factual. Though despite not being a Stark, Dany had never really known what it meant to be different from them either.

 

She knew her silver hair and violet eyes were unique amongst the people of the North, but Lord Stark had never let anyone treat her as less than his own daughter. A helpless babe to whom he owed nothing, and yet he gave everything.

 

Dany never had to want for anything under the Direwolf banner. She'd learned throughout her life they'd not been the richest house in the Realm, even having to contend with one of their bannerman being wealthier at some point or another, but they'd doubtlessly been the best household a child could be raised within.

 

Lord Stark had ensured that Dany received an exceptional education with Maester Luwin alongside Sansa and Arya. Dany had always been good with numbers, but she'd fallen in love with letters.

 

Letters form Languages.

 

The Maester and Lord Stark had even been so kind as purchase books on High Valyrian solely for her study. Dany had proven herself a natural with the language, and had even begun to teach Jon some of what she had learnt.

 

Geography had not been difficult either, her ancestors had been so skilled with their mapping they'd even carved Westeros into a table at Dragonstone, one that showed the realm in its entirety. Oh how Dany wished she could see that, but she knew it was unlikely to be so she abandoned it.

 

History had been the most difficult topic for her, but only because of her families crucial role in it. She was often amazed at stories of those who had come before her. Four hundred years ago Dany's almost namesake had the premonition that allowed Targaryen survival. Her actual namesake had been wed to the Prince of Dorne in a double wedding that secured Dorne's entrance into the jurisdiction of the Iron Throne.

 

Yet it seemed for every song that was sung for the Dragon Knight, the Old King, and The Conqueror ten times its number revealed the cruelty of Maegor, the greed of Rhaenyra and the gluttony of Aegon the Unworthy.

 

The ones Dany heard most were those about her father.

 

Nearly every major war in the Kingdoms the past three hundred years could derive Targaryens as the driving force.

 

Aegon the Conqueror had begun the spinning of the wheel when he brought Westeros beneath his heel. He and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya forged Seven into One with Fire and Blood.

 

They ended the Kingly line of House Durrandon in the Last Storm, and replaced it with the diluted blood of House Baratheon, the very house who would one day give rise to the Usurper. The Hoare's had been cooked at Harrenhal, and the entirety of House Gardner was extinguished at the Field of Fire. The Lannister Lions were humbled and Aegon made King Torhen Stark bend the knee.

 

His wars didn't end there, and instead the mishandling of the Dornish annexation had gone so awry that there were a further five wars with Dorne. The first ended with Dornish victory after Queen Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes fell from the sky. The second and third had been against some claimant Vulture King, but doubtless men bled and died for the Targaryen cause. The fourth war had been the Dornishmen's making and they paid the price for entering the dragons teeth.

 

Yet it would be a hundred years before Dorne was fully invaded, and by that time their were no more dragons of the fire breathing variety, despite the proud boasts of King Daeron the Young. Instead he'd used his brilliant strategic mind to bring the nobles of Dorne to their knees.

 

Yet Ten Thousand lives had been lost for six months of conquest, and Daeron himself had been killed at the end, slaughtered in a treacherous act by the Dornishmen.

 

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. Dorne could only be brought into the Realm willingly.

 

Yet Targaryen's insisted on not only dying amidst fights with foreign enemies, but against their own subjects. The Anvil had died during the Peake Uprising, Maekar was Dany's second great grandfather, but he'd lost his life during the Storming of Starpike. Yet Dany could not forget that the Peakes had only been fighting for the return of the castles they had lost.

 

Castles taken when they sided with the Black Dragons.

 

Had Aegon the Fourth not been so Unworthy then perhaps many men might still have drawn breath, instead several rebellions had been fought in the name of the Sword Bears.

 

It was said Dameon Blackfyre was Aegon the Conqueror reborn, and that he was noble and honorable but that had not saved him from his half brothers volley. The second rebellion had been snuffed out before it began. The wars might have ended after the third rebellion if only weak King Aerys the First had not showed Bittersteel mercy, the fourth and fifth rebellions had ended when the claimant kings had been slain in battle. The last of which had been Maelys the Monstrous and his band of Ninepenny Kings. With his death the Blackfyre line died out, and the greatest Valyrian sword to have survived the Doom was lost in Essos.

 

Sometimes the Targaryens had fought for no purpose at all, Daemon the Rogue Prince had no throne being a second son, and so waged war against the Stepstones for a Crown that he would eventually surrender to his brother. Men had died in that conflict, yet Daemon abdicated his throne without so much as a reason and the Islands were left to return to the Pirates.

 

Yet the most famous of their wars had been against one another. The Dance of the Dragons had cost the world the most exquisite creature to have ever graced it. So many sons and fathers had also been lost, and the Royal family itself had been decimated. Yet even before then Maegor the Cruel had stolen the throne of Aegon the Uncrowned and ended his life in the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye.

 

The cruelest of her ancestors had even declared war upon the Faith, and it had taken the efforts of Jaehaerys the Conciliator to make peace between the Seven and the King.

 

Lord Stark had told her a few years past that there had been call by many of the Noble Lords of Westeros for her to join the Faith, and Dany was able to see the irony in that.

 

One of the Last Three Dragons made a Septa. Maegor would doubtlessly be squirming if he weren't ashes.

 

In addition to her learnings under Maester Luwin, Dany had been given an education in the Faith of the Seven. Septa Mordane was a tutor to Dany, and taught her needle work and the greater mysteries. She also tried her best to instruct Dany in the ways of womanhood, and while Dany was not as difficult a student as Jeyne or Arya, she had been a bit rowdier than the Septa would have liked.

 

She'd also been aghast when she'd learned Dany was allowed to ride horses with the Lord of Winterfell's supervision. Dany had never been trained at arms but no other teaching had been denied her. Instead she'd been confined to the members of her adopted house.

 

When she had been allowed outside the walls, the Starks had afforded her every courtesy that a noble woman could expect, and she was even allowed to ride her horse to her hearts desire so long as she was racing one of the many Stark riders.

 

Though she was not permitted to leave the walls unsupervised, Dany never gained a feeling of stagnation or resentment towards her noble host. Winterfell was so massive it felt like there was always something new to explore. And the company was always sweet.

 

Despite the frigid temperatures of the North Dany had never known what it meant to be cold. There was always a warm fur sewn for her, and her adopted father taught Dany to turn the fur towards the inside in the Northern tradition.

 

"Its warmer that way."

 

Even in the cold summer snows Winterfell had provided. The castle was been built atop some underground hot springs and so the piping of the water throughout the walls of the Keep insured that it never became chilly, and as such its inhabitants did not freeze.

 

Though the North was a traditionally poor farming area Winterfell was never left without the tasty treats of the south. Lady Catelyn had seen to that, she'd grown up a southern woman and she'd imparted her tastes and experiences to Dany and Sansa. So now as Dany stired from her bed she stretched and began to salivate over the upcoming breakfast that she was due to attend.

 

Dany walked over to her dressing room with her small clothes on, the many Stark servants had already arranged her dresses for the day. The first of which would be the one Dany should wear to the breakfast feast. Yet first Dany's handmaids would see her drawn a bath and scrubbed clean, after so many years of service they knew how Dany enjoyed her baths.

 

Scalding, they took great care to not splash themselves with the water as they worked and only after the water had begun to cool did they enter the tub to ensure every inch of her was scrubbed. Dany was as appalled by the touch of cold water as anyone else, but when it came to the heat...She was the only one who could take it.

 

After her bath the servants began to fix Dany's hair. Her silver mane had been quite a mess after arising from her bedchambers, but by now the pale locks had fallen into place. So the handmaids made quick work of straightening, and Dany herself instructed them through a looking glass upon how she desired her hair to be tied.

 

Dany had no shortage of hair and so she liked to experiment with several styles, but she had a specific one in mind for today. She guided her servants as they topped her hair into a small hallo braid, one that resembled a royal tiara. The rest of her silver locks Dany had woven into a zig zag braid and placed amongst the turns were Winterfell's Blue Winter Roses.

 

When the hair dressing had been completed Dany found herself happily content, and so she moved towards the dress she'd designed for the breakfast ceremony. It would be only the women of House Stark, and those subservient to them who would be present for this meeting so the dress was modest. Her kirtle was spun with little weaves of silver and it's rich grey contrasted nicely with Dany's pale complexion. There was no shortage of such grey in the Stark Household and so her skirt had been stitched with the same cloth. After she'd been properly clothed the Handmaidens brought forth Dany's jewelry box.

 

While she had been highborn at birth, Dany had been stripped of her royalty and all the riches it had entailed. When she arrived in the North she had nothing but the blanket the midwives had swaddled around her person. Yet Lady Stark had been so generous as to donate some of her decorative jewelry, mostly pieces that she would never wear, but sometimes she'd have a beautiful piece inset with some precious purple stones.

 

As Dany dug through her belongings she found some items to her liking.

 

Last year on her nameday Jon had gifter her a golden ring with an amethyst set in and so Dany slid it over the fourth digit of her left hand, on her other hand she wore the iolite ring that Robb had gifted her that same day. Of the many pieces Lady Catelyn had given Dany she had two in mind for this mornings occasion. The first was a set of lavender amethyst earings that the handmaidens placed within her ear lobes, the last was a heart shaped purple diamond necklace that Dany pulled over her head without upsetting her hair.

 

Now that she was finally finished with her clothing the Princess truly resembled one. Dany arose from her seat and went about the room planting a kiss upon each servants cheek and thanking one after another. They loved her as much as she loved them. With her look complete Dany sat off to begin the breakfast feast.

 

The men's breakfast was to be served in the Great Hall, but as Dany walked past her window she took delicate care to not glance over that way.

 

It was bad luck to see the groom on the wedding day.

 

She did care to see if the grounds had been soiled by snow.

 

Snow meant a Cold Marriage,

 

And though it had been delivering scattered summer snows these past few weeks the sky offered not a cloud and Dany smiled ever more brightly than before. She continued along her way, the females breakfast had been determined to be served within the Guest Halls. As she arrived Hollis Mason and the man Jon called Fat Tom stood before the doors. They each offered smiles and congratulations to the future Lady of Moat Cailin.

 

Dany bid them thanks and continued on her way, by the time she arrived in the serving room she had long smelled the sweet scents of her beloved treats. As she entered Dany found sat before were the mighty Women of the North.

 

Dany's wedding happened to coincide with the first Royal Procession to the North in nearly a hundred years. As such a bulk of the Northern Lords and Lady were gathered, and it just so happened that they had been taken unaware of Dany's intentionally small invitation list. Yet as host Lord Eddard had seen fit to increase her budget to allow for increased guests.

 

A Lesser table had been filled with the small or younger children of the North. Sansa sat at the head of this table, she seemed to be greatly enjoying the attention her position as head provided her.

 

Around her sat the underage daughters of the North. Closest to the girl was Lysara Stark, the daughter of her Uncle Benjen. She was keeping Arya latched to her side but even still Dany's youngest adopted sister desired to be off anywhere else. When she saw Dany though the She-Wolf turned offered a smile, and when the children at the table saw Arya move they followed her eyes.

 

About the table was the two youngest girls of Bear Island, Jorelle and Lyanna Mormont. Eddara Tallhart was by their side. Wylla Manderly with her green hair seemed very displeased at her arrangement, but as she was still fifteen it would have been improper to sit her with ladies of age. Beth Cassel looked as if she still had her beloved needles working as Dany could hear their click, though the brawny girls sat next to her looked as if they might strip her of that nuisannce soon. Those two would be the daughter of the Lord of Last Hearth, Arrana and Mariah Umber.

 

Dany gave them all a big smile as she passed them by, up ahead was the table Dany would be sitting at.

 

Lady Catelyn was sat at the head of the table as was her right as Lady of Winterfell, but Dany had been given the honor of sitting at her side, and so Dany saw that the two chairs closest to Lady Stark's right were unoccupied. Dany moves to claim the closest.

 

Yet as she took her seat, Dany found she had nearly been the last person to arrive, and as she sat Dany realized that Lady Barbary was sat opposite of her.

 

It was to be expected given her relative closeness to the main branch of House Stark but Dany had never especially been fond of the sharp tonged woman. Yet the woman sipped from her morning wine and spoke of how Dany's beauty irradiated the hall. Dany could not help but to blush at the womans compliment.

 

Wynafryd Manderly tugged at Dany's arm from a chair apart and offered a smile and a kiss upon the cheek to her friend.

 

"My you look so beautiful Dany!" The girl had always been so kind, and yet Dany could not remember the exact beginning of their friendship. Dany instead smiled back and thanked the brown haired woman. It was only then that Dany's attention jumped to the beautiful Lady of Bear Island.

 

Lynesse Mormont, originally of the brood of Oldtown and the Hightower, was in the prime of her beauty at twenty and seven. Though her golden hair was richer than Dany's silver, her cream colored skin spoke to a shared trait amongst them. Yet as Lynesse spoke to Dany of her beauty the young dragon could not help but loose herself in the womans eyes.

 

Is this what my mother looked like?

 

Even though she'd seen Lynesse before she'd never spoken to the woman about their many similarites, but Dany found her tongue twisted as she tried to express herself,

 

"Th..Thank you Lady Mormont, I only hope that one day I shall be as beautiful as you." The lady smiled.

 

"You will child, I'm sure of it."

 

"She's not a child any more Lynesse, it may have taken her longer to wake this morning than the last, but she awoke a woman grown" Her eldest neice Dacey interjected. As the tallest woman at the table by far, Dacey sat above her aunt and was as Dany remembered fairly close in age.

 

Lynesse nodded in agreement and so returned to the breakfast laid before her, giving Dany no time to ask any of the questions she'd wished. Dacey offered her own congratulations before returning to the breaking of her fast. After Dacey, Dany's eyes followed in a row as her younger sisters Alysanne and Lyra gave their own congratulations.

 

Then another soft voice gifted well wishes, and Dany followed it to the seat next to Wynafryd.

 

The pale skinned Alys Karstark shared her complexion with Dany, and while ancient blood was Dany's cause, Alys' had been sun deprivation. Regardless the girl was not unhealthy, for she was the second tallest woman gathered within the chamber, and though she was soft of voice she had been a friend to Dany whenever her father had come to his lieges keep.

 

At Alys' side was Sybelle Glover, Dany was not as familiar with her as she'd been with the other women at the table so far.

 

Sybelle had been wed younger than custom would have dictated but her union with Master Galbart's brother had proved fruitful as she'd born him a son, who was no doubt in the boys mess hall, and the three year old daughter Erena whom she held in her arms.

 

The last two women sat at the table were the Lady's Jonelle Cerwyn and Donella Hornwood. They smiled at Dany but offered little in the way of congratulations outside of what custom dictated.

 

They'd not been invited.

 

Dany had wished to exclude the uninvited from her wedding, besides the intruding Northern Lords, there had been plenty of pleas from former Targaryen loyalist to attend the union, even a letter from Essos telling her not to follow through with the wedding.

 

"Make your way to me, I have a better marriage arranged for you sister."

 

Dany had revealed that letter to Lord Stark and though he'd wanted to burn it, Lady Catelyn had convinced her lord husband to retain it and deliver it to Robert upon his arrival so as to prove Dany's lack of ambition.

 

Dany didn't wish to be forced into anything, but if the marriage was to be arranged she'd prefer it be to the man she'd already given her heart, not some horse lord she'd never met. She wished her brother well and would gladly take up his side if he won the throne but she was not so eager to get herself and the house that had shielded her torn apart by the Stag King and his Lions.

 

The Princess found herself pleased though, King Robert was not making the pace necessary to reach Winterfell before she'd swear her Targaryen name away forever, Lord Bolton and his eerie family would not arrive in time, Dany also did not have to further arrange concessions for Lords Locke or Reed, and The Northernmost clansmen had decided not to emerge for their Kings arrival.

 

Dany leaned in and began to dig at her food when suddenly she felt a set of feminine hands pull her back towards her seat. Based upon the strength of the grip and smell of freshly scrubbed fingernails this could only be Jeyne.

 

When Dany turned her head she saw the wild beauty of her friend, the Steward's daughter bared her fangs and they were spotlessly white. Dany was amazed at how well her friend had cleaned up. Jeyne had worn her thick brown hair in a half halo and so let the remainder of her hair flow wildly. That will drive Robb crazy.

 

"Lady Jeyne please sit down" Lady Catelyn said in a hushed but firm manner. Jeyne gave her a smug defiant look but relented.

 

Dany had noticed that the Lady of Winterfell had mixed feelings about the girl, for some reason she bounced between hot and cold upon Jeyne Poole. Perhaps she knew of Robb's desire for her and intended to keep him away so as to seek more appropriate suitors.

 

Regardless the battle for Robb's heart would not be fought on Dany's wedding day, she simply wouldn't allow it.

 

As such conversation and tempers mellowed, and conversation turned to the wedding itself. Alysanne Mormont asked when the ceremony would begin and her elder sister informed her that the ceremony would only begin once the full moon had risen high in the sky and mentioned that tonight would provide such an spectacle.

 

"How could you be so lucky darling? Blessed with such beauty and a nameday that aligns with the celestial bodies?" The Lady of Bear Island asked with a smile on her face.

 

The woman was as smart as she was awestriking, she'd grown up in Oldtown after all, she had doubtlessly been tutored by the greatest minds the Maester's guild could offer.

 

Her son Dorian was now ten years of age but had not hit his growth spurt, yet should he grow to be as beautiful and intelligent as his mother and as skilled with a blade or lance as his father then the boy might become the most renowned man in the world.

 

Dany's thoughts upon the potential of Bear Island’s heir kept her from responding, and so the duty fell to Jeyne.

 

"She is indeed blessed, the Old Gods have smiled upon her love."

 

Lady Catelyn seemed annoyed, the Lady of Winterfell had always desired for her children to be raised in the Faith of the Seven, much the same as she had been. Yet while she'd accomplished this with Sansa, Arya had all but refused and Robb was intent upon keeping the traditional faith of the Northmen. Dany was interested to see how hard Catelyn would push for Bran and Rickon to be one of the Faiths followers.

 

"I concur, the snows have been about the North for a moons turn yet they have ceased solely for this union" Lady Barbery decided to add.

 

"And you've been gifted child, the fortress of Moat Cailin is the key to the Norths defense from a southern land invasion. May the Old Gods watch over you and bless you with many strong sons to manage it." All in the room seemed to agree upon the sentiment, but that was alot to put on Dany.

 

She'd not even lost her maidenhead and they were granting her wishes for multiple children.

 

Once, Dany had been so horrified of the prospect she'd sworn to never give birth, It was too dangerous, she'd decided. Septa Mordane had told Dany that it was her duty to bear her husband children, and for this reason Dany had never warmed to the Faith of the Seven.

 

Her reasoning might have seemed dubious, after all every religion stated it was a woman's duty to give her husband children, but the Faith also stated that it was wrong for a woman to enjoy the carnal pleasure that her husband could provide.

 

Yet throughout her studies of The Seven-Pointed Star Dany had found plenty of other things she disagreed with the Faith upon.

 

Through the words of their holy book the Septons derived condemnation for many of the atrocities the blood of Old Valyria had committed. The Andals had been threatened by the expanse of the Freehold, with some of their more unfortunate peoples finding themselves amongst those suffering in the mining pits of the Dragon Lords. As such they'd fled Essos and flourished in Westeros, and to such an extent they now found themselves nearly universally worshiped amongst its nobility.

 

Yet the Faith had not fully spread to The North, and had never reached Dany's heart.

 

The Princess had been taught the innate wicked nature of bastards, yet her beloved Jon was a born of wedlock and Dany had never met another man so noble or honorable.

 

Yet even more unforgivable to Dany was the Faith's reinvigoration towards their condemnation of offsprings born of incest since the Targaryen regime had fallen.

 

For nearly three hundred years they'd been willing to overlook the practice of brother and sister weddings, even to such a degree that the High Septon was often the officiator for many of them. The Faith had accepted King Jaehaerys’ Doctrine of Exceptionalism as fact, but now once more they harped that such children were abominations unfit to live amongst society.

 

And that extended to Dany herself.

 

King Aerys and Queen Rhaelle had been brother and sister, as had their parents King Jaehaerys the Second and Queen Shaera. Horrible rumors of the Faiths desire to see Dany and her brothers only surviving child dead had not eluded her in Winterfell.

 

"The incest was the cause of the Targaryen Madness, a sign that the gods despised their ruinous unions. All their kind should be extinguished from the World as the Doom had been sent to evoke."

 

The worst of their preachings laid bare Dany a harsh truth that she had cast upon herself.

 

"Stagnation was their downfall, Rhaella had eight children yet only three survived. At the last the Gods would suffer no longer, and so The Queen Died as Punishment for the Abominations Birth."

 

Dany didn't believe herself to be an abomination, and the stories of her inhumanly beautiful ancestors spoke to them not being abominations either, but the Princess did blame herself for her mothers death.

 

The pain the Faith had placed on her shoulders was too much of a burden to bear and so she'd rejected them, even going so far as to refuse to be wed in Light of the Seven.

 

So it was that when Lord Stark asked which gods he'd have her wed by, Dany had truly struggled to determine one.

 

She'd considered bringing back the traditions of Old Valyria, they'd worshiped countless gods just as the Northerners did, and the Freehold had pushed for religious tolerance and many of the Dragonlords simply accepted whatever gods their conquered peoples favored, adding them to the pantheon they'd held dear. Unfortunately the Valyrians had also been the greatest practitioners of slavery once they'd conquered the Old Ghiscari Empire. Dany had also been disgusted at their acceptance of polygamy.

 

The more she thought about their traditions the more Dany understood why Aegon the Conqueror had agreed to the traditions of the realms he'd united.

 

But that didn't give Lord Eddard an answer.

 

She would not be wed under the horrible Drowned God. The teachings of this God decreed that sacrifices must be made through the drowning of captured peoples, and its priests promoted the raiding and raping the reavers seemed so take such joy from.

 

The Lord of Light had seemed promising, but as Dany read further into their traditions she became unnerved by evocation of the fiery imagery they so proudly displayed. Perhaps in another lifetime Dany might have considered being wed before a Red Priestess, but she couldn't risk arousing the wrath of the Stag King and so had relented upon that desire.

 

Dany did not consider any of the further eastern gods of Essos. Instead there had been only one choice remaining to her.

 

The Old Gods had not been excused from their former evils, after all Dany could not accept the previous practice of First Night amongst the Lords of the North, and so had drawn great pride in her ancestor Good Queen Alysanne's abolishment of the practice. They also cursed incest and it’s produces, but thanks to the Stark's protection most of the Northern Lords would never dare to bring that fact to her face.

 

Yet for their short comings the gods of the North had some honor about them.

 

Of all the laws the Northmen kept too the most sacred was that of hospitality, but they also kept to several practices that most southern lords would consider them barbaric for. They held trials and executions before Weirwood trees in the belief that their gods would reveal the truth of a mans innocence, and they based their conclusion upon if the face bled or not.

 

"No man can fool the Gods, they see our hearts" Jon had once told her.

 

If a man was found guilty then his entrails might be hung from the trees branches in order to give thanks to their gods. The Northmen had no names for these deities, and offered no formal prayers. Instead insisting the Gods heard whatever was uttered and examined them by case. There were also no professional headsman above the Neck, The Starks of Winterfell, and especially their Lord Eddard believed that the man who passed the sentence should swing the sword. Only just yesterday had Lord Eddard dispensed such justice,

 

And they'd come home with such unexpected gifts,

 

"A Blessing from the Old Gods" Jon had called the red eyed pup.

 

To Jon it had always been the clear and obvious choice, His Gods and Those of the Starks before him, and so for his sake it had been that Dany had agreed to wed under a full moon and before a heart tree. It wasn't the wedding of her dreams, but since it would be to the man from them she would allow it.

 

Dany was snapped out of her deep train of thoughs by Jeyne's touch.

 

"Dany..Dany." She gained the Dragon's attention.

 

"Did you hear what Lady Donella said?" Dany did not lie and so Jeyne uttered it once more.

 

"What do you think of your betrothed?"

 

Dany knew she could spend hours talking about the man whom she'd grown to love, about all the sweet things he'd done for and all the honorable promises he'd made to her. There was a time when she wouldn't have spoken about Jon infront of Lady Catelyn, but the woman had seemed to warm the her husbands bastard in recent years and so it was that Dany spent the next long while speaking about the man she was to marry.

 

The gathered women conversed for the next few hours, and before long Dany realized the Day Moon had begun to creep within the sky. When it became time to prepare for the ceremony she'd bid them farewell and set off to ready herself for the wedding she'd been promised all her life.

Chapter Text

Jon

Day gave way to night before Jon ever had the chance to wrap his mind around the brevity of the ceremony he was about to attend.

After tonight he would never be introduced as Jon 'Snow.' No man would have the right to call him the "Bastard of Winterfell,"

Instead they'd be inclined to call him Lord.

Lord Jon of House Calimanenar, Ruler of Moat Cailin, Warden of the Causeway, and Shield to the North.

The last bit had been a personal stylization that Robb had promised to bestow upon his becoming Lord of Winterfell, but he'd said that after a few cups and so Jon could not be sure of its validity.

Yet the rest was set in stone, Father had already worked through the details with the King.

Jon had learned as much during breakfast this morning. With more than half the Northern Lords in attendance Ned Stark had seen fit to promote his bastard as a man of honor.

Not his bastard, "My Second Son."

Never in Jon's life had tears come easily too him, but he could hardly hold them back as his father displayed his pride for the boy he'd chosen to raise.

The Northern Lords had seemed happy enough as well. The Greatjon has shouted for more ale from his foremost seat across from Lord Manderly,

He might have just done that because his cup was empty,

But his sons Smalljon, Harmond and Osric had slapped the newly declared Lord across the back in congratulations.

So hard had they hit him that the rooms smallest Jon had felt ale rush up to his nose. In that sole moment Jon wished he'd still been sat apart from the rowdy company of Lords and their children.

When Jon had come in he'd not been sure where he should find a seat. There were three tables laid out before him as he entered the Great Hall of Winterfell. Furthermost left in front of Bran and Rickon had been the table for the household retinue of Lord Stark. As Jon had approached he'd spotted Maester Luwin nearest the boys, no doubt explaining which sigil belonged to which house.

Across from Luwin had been the fortress Castellan, Vayon Poole. At his side sat Ser Rodrick and his nephew Jory, they toasted to something but Jon could not tell what. Harwin and Alyn had similarly thrown their cups back, but Harwin's father Hullen was only sipping and munching on some of the offered bread. Mikken and Fat Tom were also about the table but Jon payed no further mind as he knew that table was not his place.

Jon looked towards the middle table, and directly in front of Lord Eddard sat several of his bannerman. The closest to the entrance Jon emerged from had been the Ryswell's. Rickard and Roose were at the end of the table and they happily dined on their bites of bacon. Next to Rickard had been his brother Roger, and the heir to the Rills was busy conversing with his mate Lord Denys Dustin. Both were a few years Jon's elders so he'd never become close with either.

The Ryswell's lord father Roderick was beside his son Roose and he was conversing with Lord Halys Hornwood, who Lord Eddard had intentionally kept separate from the Greatjon for fear of the two's antics. Further up the table towards Lord Eddard sat Halys' son nineteen year old Daryn, Jon thought about seating himself next to the man but decided that his friend had dedicated himself to entertaining the audience of Cley Cerwyn and young Gawen Glover.

Daryn made some kind of joke and Jon saw wine fly from Cley's father Lord Medgar's horn. Robett Glover seemed a bit annoyed at Daryn's antics but his brother Galbart only chuckled at the jest. Helmon Tallhart and his son Benfred had paid no mind, instead they'd been looking up towards Lord Stark after noticing his eyes rising from his plate.

Jon knew he'd woken up later than was expected for him but he'd had such pleasant dreams, ones in which he'd mounted a dragon.

She'd been quite the beauty.

Yet the dream had cost Jon because now he found not an empty seat before him.

"Jon" someone had called from the table furthest to the right, the one in front of Robb. It had been populated by some of the more traditionally powerful bannerman of House Stark, and so Jon had not immediately followed the call. Yet a booming voice came from atop the Dais.

"Take your seat Lord Cali..Calimanenar." Though his father had said the name he'd nearly butchered it. His near mispronunciation gave some of the Lords a chuckle.

The Greatjon saw fit to give his liege an excuse.

"It is bloody well tough to say...Did you come up with the name boy?"

"Nay, my wife did." After Jon had exposited the big man laughed once more.

"Ahh, that makes sense of it." After he'd had his bellow Lord Umber made a note to rise from his seat and slide further towards Robb and the front of the hall.

Lord Eddard had decreed that room should be made amidst the nobles for the newest bannerman of House Stark. So the Umbers had scooched as much as their giant frames would allow, and when they did Jon found his uncle amidst their company.

It was at his side that Jon had decided to sit. There had already been a cup of ale before him and so uncle toasted nephew. When Jon lifted the drink to his lips he heard the Smalljon at his other side yell.

"Chug...Chug...Chug"

Jon couldn't tell what had taken over him but he'd done just that, he'd almost had to stop but he drained the horn the best he could. Seeing his success the gathered Northmen lost their minds in cheer.

Jon wiped the drinks remnants from his lips and looked upon the Dais towards his father and brothers.

Rickon had been left a shaggy mess and seemed upset that one of his favorites had been excluded from his plate, but Bran was smiling bright and wildly, sheathing not a fang. Robb had been even more giddy but hushed his laughter, instead allowing himself a small clap so as to keep formality. Even father had cracked a smile.

"He certainly drinks like a proper Lord!" The Greatjon bellowed.

The boast made Jon slightly unsettled. He knew the taint of bastardy would never fully wash away, but in time perhaps Jon could earn enough renown to be remembered for his own worth. Benjen shielded his nephew from further thought.

"Ahh, you'll fit right in Jon. You've been acting a lord since the day you were born."

Across the table from Jon his cousin Cregan had sat. Benjen's son had grown to be taller than Jon since the last time he'd seen him, yet he was not so well muscled.

"You learned how to use that sword of yours yet?" His dear friend had asked with sarcasm.

"Enough to wipe the floor with you Coz," Jon fired back. Robb must've heard because he howled in laughter, no longer intent upon keeping appearances.

"Don't let Snow brag, I had him down in the dirt just yesterday."

Jon hadn't noticed big mouthed Theon Greyjoy sat beside Cregan. For some reason true born Starks loved the grounded Kraken. He definitely shouldn't have been sat amongst Northern Lords. Yet Theon didn't really fit anywhere at this feast, he even worshiped the wrong gods.

"I may have been mistaken, but I believe Lord Calimanenar was the one standing above you in the courtyard yesterday Greyjoy."

The fattest man in the North had come to Jon's defense. Lord Manderly was quite the sight, too heavy to be carried in a litter and took up more seat upon the bench than even the Greatjon. His gods were wrong too. Yet Jon did not hold as much against the Warden of the White Knife, soon enough they'd be close financial partners and Jon would profit from the nearby trade of White Harbor.

Robb really had been listening to the ongoing conversation at the table because he spoke up after Lord Wyman.

"Theon, you'll not call Jon 'Snow' anymore." The ironborn's grin uncurled and he seemed defiant, intent to not be put in his place by a boy who'd counted less name days. Yet just as the Kraken drew in breath to breath life to further insults, Lord Eddard spoke.

"Another word and you'll spend the next fortnight shoveling horse droppings instead of disgracing yourself on the courtyard."

After being admonished by someone he could respectfully be commanded by, Theon uttered no further words and had instead returned his big mouth to the consumption of his breakfast.

Dorian Mormont was seated next to the hushed ironborn and was glaring with his violet eyes upon the situation. As Jon looked at the boys face he couldn't bring himself away from those pupils. They were deep and beautiful just like the woman Jon was to marry. He even saw the smallest bit of resemblance, but it was barely there if Jon was being honest with himself.

Lord Jorah, who'd found himself seated next to gray Lord Rickard Karstark, had been just a bit protective for his son when he pulled Jon away from his thoughts, but as he spoke Jon realized the Lord of Bear Island meant no hostility.

"You'll make the North proud I'm sure" the man smiled and sipped from his cup. Jon greatly admired the most notorious Northern warrior and so had barely even noticed Lord Rickard's attempts at congratulations.

In fact the rest of the breakfast had went by rather fast as Jon found himself applying the layers to his outfit. He'd left the Great Hall not long ago, departing once the moon had first shown upon the sky, and though he'd thought to leave alone he found himself accompanied by his men of honor.

"You look like a twat" Theon had not been one of the men Jon had chosen, but Robb had been adamant.

"He loves you like a brother, truly."

"How would he know what having a brother was like? Wasn't that the point of bringing him to Winterfell? So they'd all be apart?"

It hadn't been the kindest thing Jon could've said. Yet since they'd begun counting the days until the wedding, Theon had no longer allowed his brain to censor what came forth from his mouth. The veracity and frequency of his insults had all increased, but Robb had reasoned that the man was just jealous of Jon's arrangement, and as he'd come to that conclusion for himself Jon tried to allow his childhood companion some slack.

Yet as they got dressed Theon had seen wisdom in further insulting Jon. It had proven a terrible time for such words as Jon could really feel himself bubbling with anger, he was already antsy from the closeness of the wedding.

Jon knew he was going to strike Theon if only the boy pushed a bit further.

If he says a word about Dany...

When Jon turned from his dresser he found himself too late to confront the wise mouthed Kraken, instead Cregan had already jumped down the ironborn's throat.

"You wanna know why people don't like you Theon? You've a mouth on you so wide we could shovel snow from the yard with it. Normally I'd have laughed with you, but today is different. The wolves have returned to Winterfell and you're a fool to speak ill of man with one at his side."

Jon had not seen Ghost this morning, the red eyed pup had instead been kept in the Godswood with his brothers and sisters. Pups of such an age would have normally been kept amongst the kennels but as they were wolves and exception had been made, and so they roamed the acres of Winterfell. Doubtlessly they'd make an appearance before the night was over though.

"Are you so jealous that it was the bastard who gained a pup instead of you?"

Theon had managed no more words before Smalljon cracked him across the face with his massive fist. Blood splattered as the ironborns nose burst, Jon managed to avoid the spray but Theon's cloak and the Umbers fist had been painted red. The Kraken fell to his feet and did not attempt to rise, instead he writhed in pain and squealed for the sake of his broken nose.

"Others Take You Damned Greyjoy! It's Pretty Boys wedding night and you've seen to the first spilling of blood. That was to be his glory upon this moon."

"My fault? Your the one who struck me!" Theon attempted to rise to his feet in order to retaliate, but when Smalljon stepped forward Theon retreated further, flopping once more upon his buttocks.

It was Robb who stopped the mess.

"Enough, both of you. Theon get out, if you can't act noble don't show your face. Otherwise go clean yourself and gather your gift. Jon has no further need of you."

The Greyjoy sat in amazement, Robb had rarely ever sent harsh words his way. For a second the Ironborns rage boiled, but Jon saw reason strike Theon's eye once he realized Robb was the only one keeping the Giant Heir to Last Hearth from pummeling him stupid.

So instead of acting rashly, Theon gathered himself and scuttled out the room quick and silent like. He was gone through the door near as fast as he'd been dropped by the Smalljon's fist.

It was to that hand that Jon's brother turned his attention.

"Did you need to hit him?" Robb seemed angry, well as angry as one could reasonably be with a giant.

"Aye, he deserved it Robb." Cregan saw fit to fit to defend Smalljon.

"Perhaps, but you soiled his cloak, and your hand is stained with his blood."

The Smalljon seemed unconcerned with the blood and whipped it from his hand with a misplaced servants cloth. Robb stared in disbelief at his friends actions, and his refusal to explain himself, yet finally the near seven foot man defended himself before his future liege.

"I grew tired of his mouth and saw fit to plug it." He shook his fist as if to dismiss any notion of pain.

"I just happened to miss the Short fucker."

Now it was Robb who was in a rage, but Cregan and Jon worked together in keeping the Heir to Winterfell from doing anything he might regret.

With a sword in hand perhaps Robb could hope to survive, but without one...well the Smalljon was just to big.

"Robb..Robb, It's my wedding night, leave it alone."

Robb seemed as if his pride was hurt a bit, as if his half brother and cousin had admitted he could not take on the Umber and hope to win.

Smalljon saw the error of his ways and so placed a hand upon his friend and future Lord, then offering his apologies. At that Robb seemed to cool and all returned to normal. Jon however saw fit to get one final dig in at his brothers expense.

"I told you we should have went with Daryn instead of Theon."

"Well...How could I have known what he'd do?" Robb said with a bit of innocence and sarcasm blended together. As everything calmed Cregan had made his way over to the balcony of Jon's room. The air was a bit chilly as could be expected from the dreary nature of the North but the moon was now the most prevalent body within the sky.

"It's time."

Jon felt his blood run cold, and so many thoughts dashed through his head at once.

Yet before he became lost Robb shook him free.

"Are you ready?"

Though he was truly unsure, Jon nodded and followed his elder brother out thechamber door. The four men walked the distance of the courtyard and arrived at the gate leading to the Godswood.

"Last Chance Pretty Boy, you wanna make a run for it?"

Cregan chuckled at the big mans joke, and though Robb would normally have joined his laughter instead he sought to reassure his younger brother and demean the Smalljon.

"Bugger off big man, go stand still and look as much like a tree as you can. Perhaps we'd be spared the sight of you." The Umber couldn't help but laugh and so did as he was bid, joining the previously arrived guest. They watched as Smalljon moved forward to take his place along the innermost ring of gathered peoples. As he did the Smalljon made sure to smile and link arms with Lady Alys Karstark, she'd made her entrance from the opposing gate into the Godswood.

She'd been selected as one of Dany's Maids of Honor. Last Hearth's future Lord walked her to the brides side and placed a kiss upon her cheek, the pale woman blushed as Smalljon made his way to the grooms side.

"That's the most complexion I've ever seen from her, wouldn't you agree coz?" Robb offered, sounding amazed, but really he was poking fun at Cregan. Both the sons of Lord Ned Stark knew their cousin had been afflicted with a never ending crush upon the girl. Yet as Robb elbowed his cousin Jon noticed an evil smile developing on Cregan's face. So it was that after the Greatjon and Alys had become settled Cregan turned from his lustful gaze back towards his cousins.

"Perhaps... but Jon make sure to remember what Robb's face looks like after this." Robb seemed bewildered, and only then did Jon realize his brother had been kept out of the loop. Robb had agreed to give Dany away, but in doing so it meant someone else would be walking with the maids of honor, and as the three wolves looked forward into the keep only Robb's jaw dropped at what he beheld.

Cregan walked forward and met the dark haired beauty, catching her mid stride they immediately began laughing. Jon did as he was bid and gazed upon his brothers disbelief. An onlooker would have thought an arrow had struck the poor boy from the way he reacted when they'd linked arms, yet the worst had yet to come for Robb.

Once the two reached the brides side, Jeyne released herself from Cregan's elbow and planted a kiss upon his cheek. After which the two mischief makers gave sly stares in the Heir to Winterfell's direction. Jon thought that a dagger had been put through Robb's heart as his brother fought back tears of frustration, but Jon could do little to hold back his laughter.

Robb gave up his feelings and instead punched Jon hard in the shoulder, any other time and the two would most likely be going at it, but Robb had a smile upon his face despite his distressed demeanor.

"You stop that or I'll kiss Dany on the lips."

"We both know that won't end well" Jon stilled and grinned at his brother. The corner of Robb's lips shot up.

"Aye your probably right, I'd hate to have a busted nose like Theon."

Seemingly appearing upon the mention of his name the Ironborn once more came into contact with the sons of Lord Eddard. Though this time his head hung noticeably, and the blood had been cleaned from his face, yet as Jon looked upon the man he discovered Theon had not been able to see the red purged from his Kraken sigil. He walked closer to the pair and so raised his head to speak.

"I'm sorry for what I said Jon. It... wasn't right, I've just been well..."

Instead of listening further, the New Lord of Moat Cailin offered a hand upon Theon's shoulder and with it the Ironborn seemed to grow taller.

"I forgive you Theon. Whatever is going on with you we are here for you."

"Aye, your as much our brother as Bran or Rickon" Robb added, the words nearly brought a tear to the Kraken's eye. Jon didn't fully let him off the hook though.

"But you'll only ever be as much a Stark as I am."

"I know" Theon said with disgrace and disdain upon his tongue, yet his inflection led to hope being within his voice.

"I am... Will try to be better though. Perhaps half a Stark is still better than being fully a Greyjoy."

Theon turned and entered the Godswood of Winterfell, something that neither Robb or Jon had ever seen the older man do before. Theon often proclaimed loudly his devotion to the Drowned God of his peoples, yet his affection for Jon and Robb had finally brought him before the Heart Tree of the Starks. Robb seemed amazed as he watched Theon connect with Lady Wynafryd.

"Gods, do you think Theon's been knocked straight?" Jon could only chuckle once more.

"No, but he's lucky Smalljon didn't relieve his shoulders of his head."

The siblings shared one final laugh at someones expense before the moment had come. Robb reached over to Jon, adjusted his outfit so as to keep it symmetrical, and then pulled Jon in for a tight hug. Robb was a few inches taller and so Jon rested his chin upon his elder brothers shoulder, allowing someone else to bare his burden even if only for a moment. They shared Jon's fear and anxiety, and all the other emotions that ran through his head. When they pulled back Robb knew all of Jon's thoughts.

And instead of worry or angst Robb offered a smile.

"You've got it all brother, everything we ever talked about. She's yours, and I'll be the last one to keep her from you in this life. Why don't you get a move on and I'll bring her swift as I can."

The two eldest sons of Lord Eddard Stark embraced once more, and when they parted Jon turned from his half brother and walked under the gate into the Godswood. As he entered Jon found each of the guest arranged around the great white tree, and as he neared Jon felt more than just the Northerners eyes upon him. Despite the eerie feeling Jon instead found warmth amongst the gathered party, every lord and lady faced in attention as he made his way before the central heart tree.

It was just beside the old trees face that Jon found his father, and while the trees face was ever observant Jon only noticed his fathers smile. Jon made his way to him, passing the Glovers, Tallharts, Cerwyns and Hornwoods. Through Lord Dustin, the Ryswells, Karstarks, and beyond honorbale Jorah Mormont. The Umbers cheered and the Manderlys offered congratulations.

In the innermost ring was his family.

Bran kept their younger brother Rickon in check. They were both looking at something though, and Jon didn't realize what until he saw a flash of white.

The Direwolves. The pups had decided to make an apperance after all. Unlike when Jon had found him, Ghost was amongst the pack,

Not off all by himself, Jon wondered how symbolic they really were.

Lady Catelyn had agreed with Jon's sentiment that the Wolves were meant for the Starks.

She'd even congratulated him on having on. For the first time in Jon's life she'd said he was as much a Stark as his brothers and sisters. For the past five years she'd not treated him as her husbands bastard, instead she'd been far kinder and though she didn't love Jon the same way she could love her own sons, Lady Catelyn did her best. Jon had never questioned her change of heart though.

It was just nice to have someone as a mother.

So as Jon approached the Lady of Winterfell he bowed before her and kissed her hand in a sign of fealty and thanks for hosting this event. Jon repeated his affectionate notions to his sister Sansa, who offered the appropriately expected response and thanked Jon by his new Lordly title. Yet when Jon had bent over to do the same thing with Arya she'd pulled her hand away and had instead jumped onto Jon, putting both her arms around his head in a loving embrace.

Lady Catelyn would have normally disciplined the girl but on this occasion she allowed the show of affection. The Northern Lords all awed at the sweetness and sincerity. Arya didn't seem willing to let her elder brother go, but after a few moments it was the Lord of Winterfell who peeled Jon free.

As Jon rose to meet his fathers gaze he saw a tear whelping in the corner of the Warden of the Norths eye. Jon didn't say a word as his father pulled him in for a tight embrace.

"I'm so proud of you Jon. She would be too." My mother? They hadn't spoken of her much, and surely that was whom Lord Eddard had referred too.

In that moment Jon realized where he was, I will never get a better chance. So he asked the one question Lord Eddard had never answered.

"Who is my mother?"

His father froze in recoil.

Jon gave a glance to the Weirwood they found themselves before now, and when Lord Stark took his meaning he knew he'd been trapped.

"No man can lie before the gods."

The Lord of Moat Cailin was sure his father would grow red with anger, but to Jon's surprise the ice he'd expected in Lord Eddard's eyes was melting and he was shedding more tears than Jon had seen him do in a lifetime.

"We will talk about your mother soon. I promise."

No man can lie before the gods. Jon took his father at his words, of all men Jon had met none were more likely to honor such a pledge. After the two broke from their embrace and private conversation, a hushed silence befell the gathered lords. That could only mean one thing, Jon quickly took his place without looking up.

When he did though Jon found a sight so beautiful he could never have expected. Dany walked arm in arm with Robb as she made her way to the Heart Tree, a big perfect white toothed smile across her face. Everyone who'd caught a glimpse of Daenerys before this night had informed Jon of his incredible luck.

"You're marrying the most beautiful woman in the world."

Jon had always chuckled, agreed and thanked them. Yet Jon had always thought himself lucky in that his betrothed was the love of his life, but on this night no man could dismiss the truth of her beauty. Jon even pitied those who'd never live to see such a sight.

Dany wore her hair in what Jon could only describe as a silver crown, and the form of a tiara only caused her eyes to stand out even more amidst the torchlight. It was as if Dany had planted Amethysts within her pupils, and for a moment Jon could not be sure if they weren't.

As she closed the distance to him he found himself speechless. The dress she wore was pale like his brides smooth skin, but she was wearing a red and black maiden cloak. If the wedding had been in the south such a symbol would have been scandalous, but in the North where the Starks reigned supreme amongst the peoples, not a word would make it to the Kings ear. So it was that Dany had placed a single three headed dragon upon her maiden cloak, even from a distance Jon could tell it had been made of silver.

It had been tastefully placed and so the icy dragon rested just atop her breast.

Carnal thoughts began to run through Jon's head about how quickly he would see that broach and cloak removed from her, but he knew he'd have to temper himself. They hadn't even made it to the vows, and he'd have to sit through a feast before he would be alone with Dany. So Jon kept his britches adjusted tight and held his breath as Dany neared the tree with Robb. Their father then began the ceremony.

"I Lord Eddard of House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North ask who comes to be wed on this night?"

Robb smiled as he held Dany's arms in his, and after a nod from her Robb continued.

"Princess Daenerys of House Targaryen, Daughter of Queen Rhaella."

Jon found himself filled with panic,

Why would they say that? None of the Northmen held love for the Targaryen's, and they'd be likely to report this treasonous...

"Who has come to give her away?" Jon's father proclaimed with the same serious tone he was sworn to officiate the ceremony with, his intrusion into Jon's mind woke the boy up to what was going on.

"Robb of House Stark, eldest son to the Warden of the North, Heir to Winterfell, and the Princess' adoptive brother."

Jon realized the brilliance of his elder sibling. Through his proclamation he had insured that the entirety of the North would know that Daenerys was a proper northern woman. That she and Jon were eternally bound to House Stark, and that as a result the Northmen should accept them as their own. The gathered men were loyal and faithful, so the statement was likely to cause little ruckus.

So long as word didn't reach the South no one would ever fault Robb.

"Who has come to claim the bride?"

Jon nearly didn't answer, he'd been too busy staring at the woman of his dreams. Yet as he heard his father draw in breath to ask for a second time Jon hastily blurted.

"Lord Jon of House Cal..Calima..Calimanenar."

It really was hard too say.

The boys stutter had nearly caused laughter amongst the Northmen, but with a single icy glare Lord Eddard Stark silenced them once more. Jon knew he couldn't let the memory of his stutter haunt this occasion and so he spoke further.

"Lord of Moat Cailin by the decree of the King and grace of the Lord of Winterfell. Warden of the Causeway, and Eternal servant to House Stark."

He'd wanted to add Shield to the North, but that wasn't a real title.

Yet.

Jon looked as his father, brother and bride as they smiled at Jon's collection of his words. Jon had never professed to being an inspirational speaker but it seemed some people believed he had it in him.

"Do you take this man to be your husband?"

"I Do."

Jon had never heard such beautiful words. When they reached his ears all anxiety and trepidation faded away into the night.

"I would have you both bow before the Heart Tree and swear to the Gods your oaths."

Jon went to both knees per custom, and Dany followed him. She wasn't a believer in the old gods, but Jon had thanked them every night for bringing the couple together, and now he thanked them one final time.

The silent moment was over and both Dany and Jon rose to their feet, Robb held the bride cloak in his hands and Jon took it from his best friend.

The cloak was blue and white, with a golden star clasp that Jon latched to Dany after he'd removed the scandalous red and black one. She smiled at him when the deed was done, and now they were legally man and wife.

No one would ever have the right to split them apart now.

Jon scooped up his beloved Dragon and whisked her off her feet. She exhaled with sudden excitement and was then in laughter as Jon carried her through the party of gathered Lords. Her chuckles led to the Greatjon's own bellowing.

"Feast! I can't wait to see Lord Halys under the table! Shall you even make it to the bedding ceremony you cabbage toed fool?"

More words were exchanged but Jon didn't care to hear them. He had the woman of his dreams in his arms and she was all that mattered.

He took care to not drop her during their congregation to the Great Hall for the wedding feast. Jon only set her down after running a short distance into the door way, as soon as she was out of his arms the newly weds began sharing their lips. Dany met his passion, and even exceeded it, she looked over to the great door and her nefarious intentions were plain for Jon.

"As funny as it would be to keep the Hall to our selves, I'm afraid it would be bad manners to lock a Lord out of his own keep."

She was playful with her disappointment, reaching with her hand she grasped Jon's nether regions, and Jon could feel the tightening of his pants.

"Are you so sure? We've not taken his bread or salt."

Jon silenced her with a kiss, and they remained united until the first intruder arrived at the door.

Little Rickon had not yet come to understand why girls were so important to his older brothers, and so gave a disgusted face at their sight. Dany only laughed and asked.

"What's wrong little one?"

Rickon said nothing, and it was Bran who arrived next. Immediately upon his entrance he chided his brother for running off, but Rickon didn't seem to understand that Jon and Dany had wanted some privacy. It was alright though, for soon after all the other members of the crowd arrived. As the guest took their seats the servants began to spread food and wine. Jon found himself slowed through time as everything passed, but Robb broke him free.

"What are you doing here? Could you not find your seat brother?"

His tone implied he was privy too something Jon could not have known.

Robb placed his hand on the shoulders of the newly weds and motioned straight ahead towards the Dais' high table,

"Father says your to sit at his side tonight."

Lord Stark entered right after his heir.

"You may not be Starks but you are of Winterfell. I'd have it known that we hold you both in high regard."

Together the conglomeration of wolves and dragons made their way to the high table. The night seemed to fly by after that point, Jon's elation at finally being respected at a gathering feast had left him numb to the food and giving of gifts. He shook his head and gave thanks, even saw who brought which gift, but after he'd come to except his new found position there was only one final thing that Jon knew was coming.

Lord Halys and the Greatjon had drank through most of Winterfell's ale storage, and Lord Wyman had eaten a quarter of the wedding cake when Theon spoke up.

"It's time! Let's see those lovers sent to bed!"

Theon made a few steps in Dany's direction before Jon cut him off. The New Lord of Moat Cailin found that in addition to his recently gifted nobility he'd also acquired a sense of over protection for his new wife.

Jon was deadly intent upon not letting Theon Maiden-Taker's hands find their way through Dany's skirt tails. Yet just before Jon could inform the ironborn that he'd not lay a finger on Dany, Jon himself felt a tug at his tunic.

"Ahh she'll be fine you big lummox. Let's get you the bedroom." When Jon looked he found none other than Dany's wild eyed best friend Jeyne Poole tugging him by his collar. When Jon heard Dany's laughter he knew everything would be alright.

As Jeyne walked him others joined around, the first one Jon saw was Robb. Clearly his brother had intended to prevent the situations escalation.

"Don't worry Jon I'll watc..."

Jon chuckled as he watched his brother trip over his words in favor Jeyne's ass. Soon enough though Jeyne was not alone in her grip of Jon, instead the Manderly daughters and the three eldest bears of Lord Mormont's island were pushing him further. Sansa hung around his back, but Arya grabbed his hand and pulled him onward. Jon doubted that she was even privy to what she was guiding him towards.

As he turned around to find his bride Jon was nearly horrified at the sight.

Cregan and Daryn had kept any stray hands from fondling her, Theon was syill making lewd jokes but Dany was making no progress towards the bedroom. It was like the men at court wanted her for themselves. Robb was trying to guide them forward, but struggled to have his voice heard.

"Fuck this" Jon heard before Dany arose above the crowd. Smalljon's head emerged from between her legs. He'd sat her on his massive shoulders and now was making great headway as no one risked impeding his progress.

Before long the women had ceased their pressure and they found themselves at the bedchamber promised to Jon and Dany. It was in the Stark wing of Winterfell, only a few feet from Lord Eddard's own chambers.

Dany followed suite, and Smalljon kneeled to release his friends bride. The Princess was all smiles and even placed a kiss upon the Umber heir's face before he rose too high for her to do so. His cheeks blushed a shade redder than the ale his father was still drinking.

The lewd comments had not subsided though, in fact Jon only began to hear them once he'd pulled Dany into their sanctuary.

"Do you know where to put it?" said a voice belonging to Cregan.

"What'll happen in nine moons? Don't dragons lay eggs...oww?" Someone had hit Theon.

"Quiet Greyjoy or I'll bust your nose same as Jon will do her maidenhead." Smalljon bellowed

"If she walks tomorrow Jon that means you didn't do it right!" Jeyne yelled right as the laughter began to dissipate.

The crowd followed quickly after, but it wasn't until they'd all gone that Jon stopped barring the door. His forearms had grown white from the pressure he'd kept upon the door in his attempt to keep any from following the lovers. Jon was thanking the old gods that the Smalljon's younger brothers Osric and Harmond had stayed at their fathers side,

I couldn't have kept them all out. Jon wasn't even entirely shore if Smalljon had been the one pushing the door.

"Are you intent upon keeping me waiting?"

Jon turned around to find Dany on their bed. She'd removed her bridal cloak and gown, all she had left were two skimpy pieces of fine silk. Her eyes were illuminating the room, the violet of her [u[ils was quite the sight with the moon drop in their background. Jon could feel himself giving in, but he held back just enough for one more line.

"The only thing I want is you, too myself."

"Then come and get me."

Dany had a mischievous look in her eyes, and Jon could tell she wanted something, and he was intent upon giving it too her.

He speedily walked his way towards the bed and just as he reached Dany she dove for his lips. Jon only had half a second from that distraction before he felt her hands digging through his pants.

Dany didn't dig long before she found what she'd been looking for.

While their lips kept in contact it was the strokes of her hands that drove him crazy, every time her smooth groves caressed his man hood Jon thought himself one step away from a premature end. He'd never felt his heart beat so vigorously, but all at once his wit returned to him.

He pushed Dany from her raised forward facing kneeling position, she fell backwards onto her buttocks and Jon was afraid he might have harmed her. Yet when the dragon again unveiled her violet eyes Dany revealed her intention. She tugged at Jon's half torn collar and pulled him him atop her. She was whispering sweet nothings into his ear about how she was ready.

Unfortunately for Jon he was worried about her comfort, he couldn't help it, that was the way he'd been raised.

"Jon puts others before himself father," that's what Robb had always said.

Why in the bloody hell am I thinking about Robb?

His brother had no place in Jon's wedding bed and so he turned his attention back to the girl who desperately sought it.

"Are you sure? I know that it might be pai..." Jon asked, realizing only two late how stupid he had sounded.

"You know nothing Jon."

Indeed, he didn't have any experience with what he was doing. Instead she guided him and he started slowly at first, unsure of himself and how long he could last. Jon tried to take his time, yet Dany seemed intent upon speeding the process. She hooked her arms around Jon's hips and pulled him tight as she could, Jon tried to resist the pleasure she offered, but Dany succeeded in forcing him deeper.

Jon felt a sudden viscosity upon the tip of his manhood and he knew from Luwin's teachings what the substance was.

Blood. It was the first he'd ever spilt.

She gasped only slightly, she was accustomed to riding horses, Jon figured that was why the experience was easier for her.

Once she gathered her bearings Dany's smile grew from innocent to evil. She realized her beloved was still timid and so she took initiative.

She squeezed her thighs and rolled Jon over himself, Jon was quickly gasping for air as she utilized her mounted expertise to drive him wild. For a moment Jon threw his head back and saw through eyes that were not his own. The sky was above him and everything was red from the blood he'd spilt, the taste had been both bitter and sweet. Jon snapped back at the winds turn and found Dany bent low working her angles.

She nibbled a bit at his ear and he felt the hair on his neck stand up against the bed sheets. She was enjoying his torment too much, and so Jon saw fit to reverse their fortunes. She fought back just a bit, playfully trying to maintain the dominance she'd earned, but by using his brute strength Jon muscled her before him.

Once she'd been put on all fours she fought no longer, instead all she could do was whine and give him pleas of "further" and "don't stop." Jon worked himself up almost all the way but after realizing he'd be the first to finish Jon decided to put all his focus into Dany.

He removed himself from her and she whined as he did, even reaching to grab his head before he could pull away. Yet as she did Jon grasped her wrist and flipped her to her stomach. She dove towards her nether regions, but when she found them already occupied Dany instead reached for Jon's manhood.

She grabbed it, and began to violently caress him. Honestly Jon felt more pain than pleasure from her wrists motion, but he instead took gratification in her bliss. Jon dug his fingers and began to nuzzle her inner workings.

Dany moaned quite loudly when he did that, but Jon sought to see her finished and so he slipped his head between her thighs. Jon felt her nails clawing at his back when his tongue came forth from his mouth. Again though, Jon pursued in the name of Dany's ecstasy.

After half a minute of kissing between her upper thighs Jon felt Dany throbbing. He planted one more lick and tasted a new sensation upon his tongue. Jon was unsure if he was going to be sick, but after a moment he decided the fluid had been sweet. If Jon had any doubts, they were lost when he looked at how Dany now shook,

"I'll give you the ride of a lifetime" she'd said when she was all too sure her husband would be the first to climax. Jon was intent upon showcasing her shortcomings and so crawled up to her ear.

"In this family the women come first." She gave him a sly smile to acknowledge his victory, but Jon had only a moment to bask in his triumph before Dany countered, once more forcing Jon unto his backside.

The night proved to be a relentless battle between the two, yet by the time they had lain next to each other to rest they'd found themselves both victors.

Chapter Text

Lord Jorah Mormont

The Lord of Bear Island had been hard at work most of the morning, his presence had been requested by Ser Rodrick Cassel, and he couldn't well refuse the master at arms given that for the past fortnight he'd been working with Jorah's own son.

The wedding had only been three nights prior and so some of the men had still been groggy from their hard drinking, Jorah himself had drank ale only to relieve his painful hangover. That had been two nights ago though, so Jorah had sobered up since.

While other men might have spent their nights gathered in company around a fire, telling tales over shared wine, the Knighted Bear spent the early ours of the morning getting busy with the most beautiful woman in the North.

He kept the wine away because he favored being able to remember every moment of their encounters, while she didn't partake because...

She was too good for it.

Having grown up in Oldtown as the youngest daughter of Lord Leyton, Lynesse had been gifted everything she could ever have wanted. When she desired a meal, the finest cook in the city made machinations of her own design. When Lynesse longed for the sweet sounds of music, the finest harpist in the Reach would bend over backwards for an audience. When she wanted wine she drank Arbor Gold, and now anything less was not for her tongue.

She had expensive tastes.

Sometimes Jorah wondered why she had agreed to marry him, Perhaps she'd just done as her father had bid.

When they'd first met, Jorah had been awestruck by the Violet eyed girl, and had thoughtlessly begged for her favor, and too his surprise she'd given it.

Perhaps she'd wanted to Marry a Great Knight. No doubt she was a fan of the songs.

Jorah had only become an anointed man after the siege of Pyke, and shortly later he found himself the champion of the tourney at Lannisport. He'd been unstoppable that day, and it seemed every man who rode against was fated to be cast from their horse.

Lord Whent and Ser Boros Blount of the Kingsguard had fallen easy enough, and Ryman Frey was no great challenge either. Yet the last four men he'd faced were not the men Jorah would have hand picked had he been given the choice.

Hosteen Frey had been a great oaf, that much was widely known, but he was not without his strength. The weasel faced knight had been a terror to Jorah, yet he'd held fast when Hosteen's lance had splintered, and it had been the sixth son of Lord Walder who'd eaten dirt.

The Strongboar had been of a similarly muscled build to his cousin, yet he was not so widely regarded for his lack luster thinking as Hosteen. It had taken four tilts for Jorah to finally loose Lyle Crakehall from his horse, yet when he had, Jorah found Lynesse cheering him from the crowd.

That smile...and those eyes. Jorah could be sure he'd remember their sight until his dying day.

The Silver Eagle of House Mallister adorned Lord Jason's chest when he'd lined up against Jorah, but after three tilts the bird was soiled brown. Mallister was humble in defeat and insisted upon buying the victor a drink, the act of kindness made Jorah wonder if he'd ask for a reduced ransom upon his armor and horse, but the honorable Lord of Seagard had not. Instead having his kindness, charity and friendship be a separate offering from the gold he also gave.

Jorah had then faced Lord Yohn Royce of Runestone in the semi-finals. The Lord was renowned for his skill in the melee, and had it been there that they had faced Jorah would have met his match regardless of Longclaw. Yet Lord Yohn did not ride as well as Jorah, and regardless of the runic armor he wore, Jorah had the superior token of luck. With his ladies favor upon his arm Jorah was truly unstoppable. Lord Yohn did not take well to being unhorsed, especially when his ancient bronze armor had been at stake. Yohn nearly pulled Jorah off his horse in attempt to secure its return, yet he'd proven himself to be a good man once the armor had been rightfully ransomed.

The championship had been between the White Lion of Casterly Rock and the Lord of Bear Island. Betters and Spectators alike had pinned Ser Jamie to be the champion of the tourney, having been a renowned knight for the better part of a decade by that point. While the rest of the Kingdom's might have distaste for the man with soiled honor, in his fathers land, Ser Jamie could do no wrongs. The father that had secured his sons love amongst the people sat in the honorable booth with his daughter and goodson, King Robert.

Ser Jamie and Jorah had come together before this booth, they bowed before the King and returned to their ends of the list.

The spectators loved everything about the White Lion, the way his pale armor reflected the suns rays, the way his hair curled like spun gold, they even admired the milk colored mount he rode atop. Jorah had seen none of their love, but he didn't need it, instead he focused upon impressing a single person.

When Ser Jamie placed his golden lion helm on, the women in attendance wailed in sorrow at the loss of his golden hair and emerald eyes, Jorah could only imagine they'd been thankful that he'd placed his balding head back underneath his own roughly shaped bear helm.

The Betters had not been different in their universal praise of Ser Jamie, and before Jorah had bowed before the King he'd heard every song there was to be sung for the man.

By the time the two had met in Lannisport, Ser Jamie had been a knight of great renown for over ten years. Rasied to the Kingsguard as its youngest ever member, and at a time when legends shared his post. He'd been knighted by The Sword of The Morning, and fought the Smiling Knight to a stand still.

Behind only Barristan the Bold, he was the most recognizable Knight in the Kingdoms.

Having heard the incredible odds against him Jorah had decided to wager everything upon his skill. All the ransom Jorah had earned from the previous knights he'd unhorsed was put into betting upon himself. He could still remember the bookers laughter when Jorah decided not to throw the joust, perhaps it had been his northern honor, but Jorah would not let a small portion of earning sway him regardless of the odds.

His gamble was not without risk though. If Jorah bet on himself and lost, he'd have no way to pay ransom for his horse and armor, but that had been the price he'd been willing to pay.

For Lynesse, he'd said after the wager had been made, and Jorah said it once more as he charged forward at the White Lion.

The Lord of Bear Island had to fight for every inch he kept atop his horse, and for nine turns he and Ser Jamie danced with four legs underneath them. King Robert had grown bored from the delay, and was intent upon robbing Jamie of the victory he might still earn, yet since Lord Tywin was host and the real power in the realm, the King had not dared to enrage the Lion in his den.

On the tenth tilt something changed, Jorah had looked out at the crowd who'd been so desperate to see him loose, and he noticed some of them had begun to cheer the every man from the North, they sympathized with the underdog, and while he could never hope to change the betters desires, Lynesse was no longer the only one whose favor Jorah kept.

As he rode towards Ser Jamie it had been Lynesse's eyes Jorah looked for, and when he saw them through his helm he smiled. The thud had hit him only after, both men had been knocked hard by the collision, but when the dust had settled Jorah still held his reigns while Ser Jamie had flown through the air.

Yet the Lion landed on his feet as all cats do, and without breaking a stride he masterfully pulled his helm free. His golden locks had been matted down, and likewise Ser Jamie was humble in defeat.

Despite the ringing in his head and the roaring of the small folk, Jorah could hear only two things. The Kings laughter, and the violet eyed beauties cheers. Jorah rode to her immediately after being gifted the crown of roses, he placed the flowery tiara upon her head and proclaimed Lynesse his Queen of Love and Beauty.

She had nearly kissed him then. It would be that very night that Jorah had requested her hand in marriage. To his utter disbelief Lord Leyton Hightower had agreed.

His daughter had always wanted to be married to a Rich and Renowned Knight, and through his gamble and victory, Jorah had become both.

In the span of a single fortnight he'd become the third most wealthy man in the North, and with Lynesse's financial skills, Jorah had at one time counted himself richer than his liege, yet thanks to his beloved's tastes they once again counted themselves financially beneath House Stark.

Once they'd wed the couple had went on a tremendous honeymoon, and had seen the vastness of the world and the wonders of the many Free Cities. When they'd returned by Oldtown they'd carried with them a child, and despite Jorah's pleas to have the babe born on the Island it would one day rule, Lynesse had reasoned the maesters of Old Town would be better prepared to deliver the babe, and Jorah had been only too happy to appease her.

It seemed he could deny her nothing.

They'd welcomed a son into the world soon after, yet Lynesse had nearly been lost in the birth and so they'd not tried for a child since.

There were already enough cubs on Bear Island, Jorah had reasoned, his aunt Maege had seen too it herself.

The only child Jorah had ever been blessed with stood at his side now, intently watching the elder boys of Winterfell go at one another. The boy had the look of his mother and father in equal parts, and just like his mother he'd been trained by the greatest maesters available to the Hightowers, but Jorah took great care and pride in his martial training. Having himself once been trained by his own father Jeor Mormont, the current Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

As Jorah reminisced upon those days, he realized how much he missed his father and decided it was time Dorian met the Old Bear.

We will make a trip to the Wall. Jorah could only hope his wife would agree. It would do all the male Mormont's good to once more be united, and perhaps father can aid Dorian's swordsmanship.

So far Jorah had done his best to introduce his son to what training should look like,

Yet as Jorah once more returned his eyes to the courtyard of Winterfell he felt very disappointed in what he saw.

Most of the Noble Lords of the North had skipped out on their martial training in favor of gaining a few more hours of drunken slumber. The Greatjon and Halys Hornwood had fallen asleep in each others arms over ale for the third night in a row, and though it had been the loudest laughter Lord Roderick Ryswell had ever uttered, the Lord of the Rills was nowhere to be found either. Of his sons only the youngest, Roose Ryswell had shown his face, but he'd been red from his cups and was battling a headache as he staggered around his slightly more sober friend Lord Denys Dustin. Lord Rickard Karstark had arrived, but he'd grown enraged to learn that his son's had not. Even Lord Eddard himself was not amongst the assembled lot.

Wyman Manderly was nowhere to be found, but Jorah had never anticipated his participation, given the mans age and obesity. Jorah was surprised to learn Lord Helman Tallhart and his son would not be joining them, and that Lord Medgar Cerwyn had taken his son Cley and returned to their keep, promising to return amidst the King's retinue.

Yet there had been a few bright spots though, the guards of Winterfell had proved both resourceful and skilled, and though they were groggy, Jorah had been impressed specifically with the captain Jory Cassel, and his two sparring partners Alyn and Harwin.

Master Galbert Glover had long been hard at work with his younger brother Robett, and now Lord Rickard Karstark and Ser Rodrick Cassel were putting on a spectacle for those who took time to watch.

The master at arms had even been so kind as to let Jorah's nieces train in the yard. Dacey, Alysanne and Lyra had went at each other, and their younger sisters had begged to join but Jorah had been uncomfortable matching girls of such an age with boys who'd just begun to sprout, it would have been a shame for the young boys to have been embarrassed so.

Yet upon the sight of women training in the yard many other girls had made their ways to the courtyard, foremost of them had been the Steward's daughter. The dark haired girl had immediately went before the elder girls and asked to train, and though Alysanne and Lyra had been hesitant Dacey gladly began to spar the new girl. After the wild girls appearance came Lord Eddard's younger brother, Benjen, and at his side were two pups. They both shared the dark haired look of a Stark, and so they were welcome to join. Benjen had properly introduced himself only two nights before, but now they spoke along the side lines.

As they stood Benjen introduced his children, whom now took to the yard looking for sparring partners. Yet they found none until the greater strength of the pack had finally arrived, for with them came the sons of the Greatjon, Lord Eddard's eldest sons and second daughter, and their pet Kraken.

As Rodrick Cassel still dueled with Rickard Karstark it fell to Jorah to find them all matches. Since his nieces had been begging to join the field, Jorah matched them first. Benjen's daughter thirteen year old Lysara Stark was teamed with Jorella Mormont who was of a similar age. After that and despite his better judgement, Jorah allowed his eight year old niece Lyanna spar with her namesakes niece. Their duel quickly overtook Lord Rickard and Ser Rodrick as the most watched spar, both girls had an unimaginable fire unto them, and though neither seemed to have great skill they took pleasure in merely holding something besides a needle in their hands.

"Should you really be letting girls in the yard Ser?" Jorah heard a scraggly voice call from behind him, and when he looked it was none other than the sour puss of Theon Greyjoy who'd uttered such slander. Seeing the retinue at the young mans side Jorah knew at once whom the Ironborn would face.

"So far I've not given you entrance, but if you'll take Smalljon as your partner I may honor you as I have my nieces."

The Kraken clearly fumed at being compared to a girl, yet before he could protest their admission he tried to free himself from the thrashing that would be coming.

"Now you listen hear, Lord Edd..." The boys words were interrupted by an abrupt shove from behind, and as Theon reeled a big blunt sword swung at his face.

"Shut your mouth Greyjoy." The Smalljon could only agree too happily, he eagerly pursued the fleeing Ironborn, intent upon finally pummeling Theon.

"You might have swung the sword your self if you meant to sentence him to death."

Apparently the Heir to Winterfell was similarly mouthy, but Jorah only chuckled.

Robb Stark stood side by side with his younger half brother, the Lord of Moat Cailin. At Jon Calimanenar's hip was the sword Hailstone, and Jorah remembered that it was Valyrian Steel.

"You can't bang it against other swords Lord Jon."

The boy seemed puzzled, no doubt he'd intended upon using the blade.

"I know, I just like the way it feels upon my hip. It's strange but..."

"I understand, probably more than most." Jorah smiled and pulled his own blade from its scabbard. The boys gawked at the sight of the blade Jorah had wielded when he'd breached the walls of Pyke.

"You'll find no better blades than these, but pray you never have to use them."

"They grant you an advantage in battle Lord Mormont." The Heir to Winterfell would never understand what Jorah was speaking of because he'd never carry such a sword into battle.

"Aye, they're as likely to slice through a mans blade as they are to parry it, but when you carry one of these into battle everyone comes for you. What more glory can a man claim than to have slain the wielder of such a blade, and what price could a stray peasant name for a sword whose like the world shall never see once gone."

As he'd expected the former Bastard of Winterfell understood intimately what Jorah had spoken of. That sigil of his isn't much without the sword. Yet even the Heir to Winterfell did seem to understand, but no one would ever come into the Stark's halls and take their precious Ice from them.

"Alright, you two pair up and spar."

Jorah had heard many a tale about the sons of Eddard Stark's proficiency and so he desired to watch both men closely.

Yet the matter of forming comparable matches demanded attention first, and so it was that Jorah hastily assigned Daryn Hornwood with Osric Umber, and Cregan Stark with Harmond Umber. He'd even thought his job done until he felt a tug upon his tunic. When he looked down he saw that a final pup had been left without a sparring partner, and as the boy was of an age with Dorian, Jorah gave his blessing for the two boys to begin bashing one another.

Jorah thought to follow them but Benjen Stark called out from behind and offered himself as an opponent. He considered the match up for a moment but decided instead to play instructor, yet Jorah promised his liege's brother that they would cross blades soon.

After about an hour of drilling the men and women of the yard were seeking relief, and Jorah saw fit to give it too them. Yet as he began dismissing people to go to the shade he felt two men standing at his back.

When he turned Jorah found the Heir to Winterfell and the Lord of Moat Cailin, both were heavy with sweat but they appeared to desire something, and Jorah was privy to their wish but sought to turn them from it.

"Please Lord Jorah, it would give me great joy to cross your blade with mine." Jon had been the more persistent, evidently Jorah's words had intrigued the boy and fueled him the entire time they'd been drilling.

Despite his trepidations, Jorah had not dismissed the idea outright, and so knew he was interested.

He'd never heard the song of steel played with two Valyrian swords.

Jorah nodded and began to walk into the yard, yet no sooner had he gripped Longclaw's hilt than Ser Rodrick called forth.

"Absolutely not! No live steel."

"Oh please Ser Rodrick, Jon's got his blade and Jorah has his, let them go at it." Robb had tried to save his brothers dream, but it was not to be. Ser Rodrick was insistent that the duel not take place.

"Not in this courtyard, Valyrian steel is the strongest of all and it cuts like no other. Take one slice from it and your likely to loose whatever is bit."

The boys seemed intent upon fighting to the bitter end, but Jorah made the decision simple. He walked over to the table Dacey and her sisters had taken refuge upon, unbuckled his sword belt, and entrusted the eldest daughter of Maege Mormont with the protection of the families blade.

Jorah then returned to the yard proper, taking up a sparring sword of an ideal weight and size, Jorah found that the plain steel was heavier than he remembered, but it would serve its purpose.

Seeing that his challenge had been accepted, and despite the altered terms, the Lord of Moat Cailin took up a sparring sword and entered the yard. Jorah could not have said if he was a better bladesman when he'd been the boys age, but he knew that it was his many winters that caused Jon to have such reluctance in his eyes.

It would not be a difficult fight, the boy had been overwhelmed the moment Jorah accepted.

They sparred for a few minutes, but never once did the boy threaten Jorah. The Warden of the Causeway had improved as time passed, but Jorah knew that was most likely the timidness leaving the boy. His skill was undoubtable, and his movements were fast and precise, but each time an opening showed itself the boy would be either timid with his reach or too slow for the experienced knight to have not countered.

By the time they ended their duel the man had earned Jorah's respect.

Yet Jorah had claimed his life eighteen times now.

Once Jon Calimanenar confessed his defeat his elder brother came to proclaim his own challenge.

Perhaps the Heir to Winterfell had thought Jorah weakened after his time sparring, but the cold winds of winter only aided the Bear's recovery, and as his blood was flowing Jorah did not refuse him.

As he crossed sparring blades with Robb Stark, Jorah realized where the younger brother had been swift and cautious, the elder was strong and relentless. Robb's kind was harder for Jorah because he only had so much strength he could match with the auburn haired boy. Jon had fought much like Jorah, where as Robb fought more like the brutes of the South.

Yet Jorah had plenty of experience defeating their kind. After sustaining blow after blow Jorah found himself relatively unscathed, and found the Heir to Winterfell had exhausted himself. After that point Jorah had no trouble disarming the boy a multitude of times, and after twenty kills Jorah ended their session.

When he looked over to the walls he saw two challengers arise from the seats. The first stood near seven foot tall, and was soon likely to be even greater, while the second was a shorter dark haired boy. Both Smalljon Umber and Cregan Stark requested a turn, yet Jorah had promised himself to Benjen Stark.

They gathered their blades and went to the middle of the yard. Jorah had never seen the youngest son of Lord Rickard fight, he hadn't taken part in Robert's Rebellion or the Greyjoy one that followed, his excuse had something to do with an ancient tradition, but as Jorah sent out his first blow he found no further care.

What he did care for was the single parry reposte that Benjen Stark executed seamlessly. Jorah found the mans blade at his throat, and would have swiftly found himself bleeding upon the ground if Benjen had not held a sparring sword.

"Winter has come for you Mormont."

Jorah gave a half smile as he licked over his teeth in disbelief. He couldn't remember the last time someone hit such a seamless move on him, even more Jorah had thought himself by far the greatest northern swordsman, yet with a single move Benjen Stark had brought question to the assumptions validity.

He was very glad Lynesse had not seen his shame.

Jorah demanded a second go and Benjen gave him distance, and as he was not caught unaware Jorah claimed the second kill, but when they fought for a tie-breaker things changed once more.

After a high block, Jorah found his sword flung from his hands after Benjen Stark punched his grip. Once more he was at the mercy of the Wolf.

How could this be happening? Jorah found himself loosing to a man who had never distinguished himself. He was afraid for a moment that his whole world might come crashing down in the weight of his failure. Yet as Jorah closed his eyes accepting defeat, Benjen Stark demanded the Lord of Bear Islands attention.

"I'll have you some other time Mormont, when my nephews haven't sapped you of your strength. Until that time consider this duel your victory."

My victory? Jorah could understand in his mind that his aging body needed rest more than ever before, but in his heart he was still the young man who'd knocked the White Lion from his horse.

Since that day he'd never aged, or so he'd thought.

Yet Jorah had not a second to debate with the Lord's brother before Winterfell's maester descended upon them, and with urgency in his hushed tone.

"Lord Eddard has requested the both of you attend to his council meeting. I shall be very pleased to see you too him."

Jorah decided his self evaluation would have to happen at a later time, and perhaps with his wife around to give comfort. Until then though, Jorah walked shoulder to shoulder with the man who'd broken him.

Chapter Text

Lord Wyman Manderly

Lord Wyman broke his fast amongst the privacy of Lord Eddard Stark's private council chamber. Bacon and sausage had been placed upon his plate, and with two biscuits and a cup of ale the Warden of the White Knife happily munched on his ration while they awaited the arrival of four more men.

Wyman had awoken early this morning to discretely see to the matters that needed attending. A raven had arrived in the night from his eldest son, the Trident seal had been unbroken since it was poured in White Harbor, and Lord Manderly too great care in not tearing the letter as he opened it.

The message had asked only how the travel had been and how the girls had been doing.

Short, Sweet, Simple. Something that no one would ever bat an eye at if they'd read it first.

It was the exact way Lord Wyman had taught his sons to layer their codes.

The entire point of this journey had not been to meet the King, if that had been the desire then Lord Manderly might have taken one of his sails and traversed the Narrow Sea. Instead the King's march to Winterfell had served as the perfect disguise for his true intentions, and never before had Wyman been so close to seeing his plot to fruition.

"Do you mean to have us waiting here all day Lord Stark?"

The Greatjon was the third man to have sat around the table with Wyman and their liege. It had only been a few minutes since the giant had entered the room, yet he would've had men believe he'd been fastened to that accursed chair for hours.

"Only a few minutes more Lord Umber."

At that the giant acquiesced, and instead turned his ale bottom up in attempt to alleviate the hangover he'd doubtlessly been afflicted with.

The three lords sat around an oaken table meant for the seating of up to twenty people, however only seven chairs had been placed around one end, and as three had become occupied Lord Manderly waited patiently to discover who would be joining them.

He was in no ruch, Endurance happened to be Wyman's greatest strength.

As a boy he had never been renowned for his skill with a weapon in hand, and while he loved riding atop horses, he'd never been so good as the other Northern Lords, and to his further detriment none had considered the Lord of White Harbor to be particularly handsome. So by the age of majority Wyman was widely recognized as a poor fighter and a homely man, but still he'd been the most desirable bachelor in the North.

While other lords might have been looked down upon for their faults, Lord Wyman made the most of what he had. So it was that under his rule the Manderly's had gained more wealth than they'd known since the Peake's had ran them from Dunstonbury.

That fortune had afforded Wyman the beautiful wife he'd long desired, and she'd given him two sons in return. Though they had the misfortune of favoring their father's appearance, Wylis and Wendel had grown to be regarded as similarly desirable by the Lords of the North.

Every House wanted to Marry into Wealth.

Even though Wendel had decided not to wed, there were still offers put forth every year to Wyman for his youngest son, despite the hefty appearance he'd put on in his mid thirties. Northerners resented a man for being obese, but for a different reason than southerners did. In the south a lord like Wyman would be cursed as a slothful glutton, but above the Neck he'd be heckled for the prevalent display of his wealth.

Food costs Gold, was their rationale, and indeed Lord Wyman Manderly had plenty of both. He'd shared his stewardship and glutton with his each of his boys, but to the Lord of White Harbor's delight his granddaughters had not been born so burly.

Instead they had been beautiful and resembled their grandmother a good deal each, it was now their turn to be sought after.

Lord Wyman had received many offers for the hands of his girls, but he'd so far refused to commit, instead he awaited the answer to the sole offer he himself had put forth.

From the corner of his eye, Lord Manderly spied entrance into the chamber, and based on the auburn locks of the individual it could only be the Heir to Winterfell. His sight brought upon the curling of Wyman's blubbery cheeks, and the Warden of the White Knife put down his food only long enough to make the blue eyed Stark welcome.

Almost every House...

"Lord Robb, you looked quite strong from atop the battlements this morning. You are becoming a more ferocious fighter than your uncles or father ever were."

The boy smiled at that, So he thinks highly of himself.

"Your words are kind Lord Manderly, but I've still a ways to go I hope. Amongst my own siblings though I fear I shall never be the most fearsome."

"Did you smack Smalljon around today? He could use a good thrashing, he's been beating on my uncles back home and begging me to take up my own sword against him" The Greatjon bellowed and then looked down at the boy.

"No not today I'm afraid, I sparred with my own brother whilst Smalljon fought Theon."

"Fought you say?" Lord Eddard sounded concerned, The Ironborn's life cannot be threatened, was how Lord Manderly read the look. If Balon's son perishes upon land he might seek retaliation.

"Well, it wasn't so much a fight as a thrashing. Theon spoke ill of Lord Mormont allowing girls into the yard."

"That boy has a big mouth on him, and if it was my son who shut him up, then I say it was all for the better" The Lord of the Last Hearth declared proudly, ending the matter soundly.

The Heir to Winterfell did not acknowledge the man's notion, and instead he walked around the table so that he could be seated to Lord Manderly's left.

"My granddaughter Wyna had spoken of seeking your company today Lord Robb."

The boy seemed a bit reluctant to speak of his plans before Lord Eddard, but since the topic had been broached it could not be denied.

"She has my Lord, I am to accompany her later today as she hawks." His cheeks turned near as auburn as his locks when his father eyed him.

Wyna was doing her part.

"My Wyna has spoken most highly of you Lord Robb, its seems she fancies you fiercely."

It wasn't exactly the truth, But Wyna was very interested in being the Lady of Winterfell.

For many years Lord Wyman had offered his eldest granddaughter's hand in marriage to the Heir to the North, yet every time Lord Eddard had seen fit to put off any acceptance.

Other men that might have dropped the suggestion altogether, but patience was Wyman's strength. His years of dealings with merchants had taught him much about bargaining, and Wyman had learned long ago that each man had a point where they would not negotiate. For Lord Stark that point was in the initial offer, the Lord of Winterfell was not one to barter, if he dismissed a notion his mind would never change.

Yet he'd not refused the offer, only delayed its acceptance.

Perhaps Lord Stark had been hesitant to rush his children into arranged marriages after his own had been hastily made. The new Lord of Moat Cailin was testament that the Warden of the North had been in love before he'd been wed, so it was that Wyman had understood his desire for the boy Robb to find love on his own.

The boy was taking too long though, and apparently Robb had wandering eyes, chasing after each girl who graced the courtyard of Winterfell.

He has too much of his Uncle in him.

Of all the skirts he chased, Wyman had learned the boy was particularly fond of the Steward's daughter. The Warden of the White Knife held out hope that Robb would see the error of his ways, but he doubted that would happen, unless Eddard bent the boy to his will or if Robb's beloved was found in bed with another man.

Though if Wyman had chosen one girl for the boy to grow a crush upon aside from his granddaughters it would be the Steward's daughter. She was undoubtedly unworthy of marriage to the future Warden of the North, and would be widely unaccepted. If instead he'd fancied one of Mormont's nieces there might have been a problem.

Yet Lord Manderly knew how this would end. Whoever found their way into Lord Robb's bed chamber first would be his wedded wife. Such was the honor Ned Stark had instilled upon his son. Rumors had suggested the boy was bedding tavern wenches in the Winter Town, but Robb could not be held to ransom by them.

Instead it would have to be a nobleman's daughter that the Heir to Winterfell deflowered.

"Surely we can discuss such matters later? Perhaps after I've found my way back to bed?"

The Greatjon was an annoyance, but as Lord Manderly had no means of removing him from the room, he bit his tongue.

Of all the Lords of the North, the Greatjon was one of the few whose daughters could not be offered to Robb. Arrana and Mariah Umber were girls of eleven and nine, and there was no chance Robb Stark could keep his britches tied for that long.

"Indeed, talk for another time. Soon as my broth..."

Lord Stark was interrupted by the man who he was about to speak of. Benjen Stark was joined by the Lord to Bear Island, and both men reeked of sweet hard earned from the crossing of swords. The Maester of Winterfell followed them in, and shut the door behind him.

So now we shall learn the meaning of this assembly.

The Lord of White Harbor studied each of the individuals sat around him. Jorah, Greatjon, and Wyman himself had served alongside the Lord of Winterfell during the rebellion, but that much could be said for Lord Rickard Karstark and half the northern lords in the castle. This must run deeper.

Inward reflection should always come before external, the Warden of the White Knife thought of all he new of himself that would be prevalent in Lord Stark's eyes.

Wyman was the Warden of the North's wealthiest bannerman, had declared himself Ned's most innately loyal servant, protected the White Knife River that runs to the heart of the North, and controlled the bulk of the Northern fleet. Wyman also had two beautiful granddaughters he would happily part with, so long as one was wed to a Stark of Winterfell.

Greatjon was Lord Eddard's most beloved bannerman amongst the northerners, his size and humor made him instantly recognizable. Lords would follow his lead, and all the while be reminded why they were doing it. Additionally his multitude of children, nephews and nieces gave him plenty of opportunity to be wed into the Starks.

Jorah Mormont was the Lord of Winterfell's most recognizable bannerman, atleast in the eyes of the southerners who marched to the ancient fortress, he'd been the victory in several tourneys and was wed to the most beautiful woman in the North. Under Jorah's rule Bear Island had become a real fortress rather than an isolated Island, it had few ships, but kept the only sizable fleet on the western half of the North. He also had a ten year old son and five nieces, each of which could be added to House Stark with little resistance.

Robb Stark was the Heir to Winterfell, and as such would be entitled to vocalizing his perspective in a meeting so treacherous as this. Whatever Lord Eddard sowed, Robb would have to reap. Wyman had learned that the auburn haired boy had an incredibly gifted strategic mind, so perhaps his father desired to hear any suggestions he might make. Yet he'd come alone, absent of his younger brother.

Wyman knew the other boy was similarly minded, and had even been named Warden of the Causeway. It's defense would be vital if war broke out with the South. Indeed, the absence of Eddard's other son spoke to the Warden of the North wanting to keep whatever he spoke secret from the boy.

Benjen Stark was most obviously Lord Stark's younger brother, but in addition he'd been made Lord of Sea Dragon Point, and had since begun constructing fortification along the western coast, perhaps Lord Eddard meant to assign him the land defense of the West in case of war while Lord Jorah controlled the seas. Yet that still didn't speak to why they were gathered.

Lord Manderly did not know the Maesters name, but he did know the man had served many years in Lord Eddard's ancient keep. He was most likely loyal to Ned, but he was still sworn to the Citadel, and bound by his word to serve who ever claimed the fortress. Should someone uproot the Starks, this man would be inclined to serve them instead, as such he should not have been included in this meeting. Yet his presence spoke to the man being privy to unsavory knowledge, Lord Eddard was not a man to repeat himself, but if he'd brought the Maester that meant whatever he said was going to be truly shocking. So much so that only a man of the Citadel would be able to reaffirm its validity.

"Very well big brother, I'm here. What need do you have for us."

"As you all may be aware the King is less than a fortnights ride away from Winterfell, he brings with him several dangerous people. I've done my best to protect my son and his new wife but the King has specifically requested to see them upon his arrival."

The other lords seemed confused why Lord Stark was telling them this, but for Wyman it was all too simple.

There was only one man in the North who could drink at King Robert's pace, and but one other who could scarf down a meal with such vigor.

Why Lord Stark needed Jorah eluded him though, and so he listened further.

"I would have you three in particular foremost amongst the King's companions during his time in the North. I ask you to distract him from Lord and Lady Calimanenar."

He doesn't need Lord Jorah, Wyman realized suddenly. Ned wants the mans wife to draw attention from Dany.

Perhaps he thinks the King might mistake her for the girl, it would most certainly be an embarrassing situation...

A scandalous one at that.

"My Lord, I swear upon The Seven-Pointed Star that I shall do what I can."

Lord Eddard acknowledged his oath.

Wyman hadn't read the book since he was a boy, but it was common knowledge the Manderly's still worshiped the Seven, a nd Lord Eddard held no oath as sacred as one made in the name of the gods, regardless if they were old or new.

All other promises would come after Wyman had made his own, he'd been the first sworn and would be therefore the most rewarded.

"There is another matter My Lords, one Lord Stark has only just uncovered." The Maester said with an ominous tone in his voice.

The Lord of Winterfell nearly choked on his words, but eventually he forced them through gritted teeth.

"I've learned a grave secret, a letter from my Lady wife's sister has brought light to the former Hands recent passing."

The words clearly pained him, but he spoke them regardless.

"Lord Jon Arryn wasn't sick, he was poisoned."

The reveal was quite shocking, and while the Greatjon cursed and Robb questioned his father, Wyman saw opportunity to endear himself further.

"My sincerest condolences My Lord, I know he was a father too you."

The ice in Lord Eddard's eyes was melting just a bit, but he did his best to not shed tears before his bannermen.

"He was...And this news does not bring ease to his passing."

"Well the Others take me, what's going on? Who do you mean to point fingers at?"

"Lord Umber, this is a delicate and sensitive situation. I think it best if..."

"Fuck off ya grey rat. If I wanted you to speak I'd shove my hand up your bum and play you like a mummers doll."

"Maester Luwin speaks truly My Lord, and I'll not have you threaten him in this castle. He is every bit a servant of House Stark as you" The auburn hair boy offered in defense of his tutor.

A demonstration of his future leadership.

The Greatjon huffed and puffed, but Lord Robb's insistent and unflinching stare sat the Giant man back into his seat. Wyman could not have been more impressed, He is Worthy of Wyna.

"My Lord, it most certainly cannot have been easy to reveal such treasonous information. I am very grateful to have been gifted this trust, and I assure you House Manderly is yours to command, now and always."

"Bear Island is behind you as well, but I must ask Lord Stark, what need do you have of us?"

"The King means to name me his Hand when he arrives, and I shall travel with him back south. It pains me to ride for the city that cost my family so much, but Robert is in danger. He has become a Stag surrounded by Lions."

"Once I've taken my new position, The North shall then fall under Robb's command, and I would have you all guiding him to the best of your ability, being the acting Lord of Winterfell in my absence shall be no small feat Robb, but you'll manage I have no doubt."

The boy nodded confidently.

"That's all well and good but who did the deed?" The Greatjon had calmed from his fury, but was looking for his next rise.

"Lady Lysa named the Lannister's as suspect, she said Jon had begun opening books shortly before he was...poisoned. And that he was close to some kind of truth."

"Lannisters? I've been waiting damn near twenty years to crack their skulls, say the word Ned and the Umber's will march to war with you once more."

"We have no proof of any wrong doing by the Lannisters Lord Umber, and if we went to war without a just cause then we would be the ones violating the King's peace. We cannot risk such a declaration, the North cannot stand against the might of the Realm by itself."

This was very dangerous talk, and Wyman was incredibly pleased to be privy too it.

"You are very wise Lord Robb, but what is to be done?"

"I must travel down south and be discrete with my investigation, yet I shall not be caught unaware in case of war with the Lannisters. Lord Wyman you are the Warden of the White Knife, and that shall remain your duty, in addition I would have you build your fleet. Greatjon, you shall provide lumber sufficient to see the harbors of the New Castle sufficiently filled."

"Lord Jorah, your fleet shall need to find similar growth, request from Robb any funds you may need. Ben, you shall continue your fortification of the western coast, give them nowhere to land."

"Lets see how well the Lions swim." The younger brother smiled and Greatjon bellowed, Lord Manderly allowed a chuckle so as to fit in, but his mind was serious.

This was truly the worst case scenario.

"I know its preemptive, but war may soon be at hand. I was caught separated from the North once, and we nearly suffered for it, if she should rear her ugly head once more we shall be ready."

"It shall not be a problem my Lord. We pay fealty to the King, but make no mistake, The North is yours."

Truer words had not been spoken this entire meeting.

The Kings of Winter had done more to keep the crowns atop their head than any of the other former Kings of Westeros.

While other realms had been built atop the resentment of conquered peoples and claimant second sons, the North had been built with careful architecture befit the descendants of Brandon the Builder.

Their castle was atop the largest natural underwater hot springs in the World so far as Wyman knew, they'd befriended the nearby Cerwyn's, gave the Reed's prominence after the Marsh King's defeat. Brought the Moose of Hornwood and King Locke of Oldcastle to their knees before raising them back up. They'd given the second son Karl Stark a keep near the Grey Cliffs, and aided the Umbers with wildling raids. They gifted lands to several different sons of House Flint, vassalized the Tallharts and Glovers of old. Justly delegated the transfer of lands from the extinct House Ryder to their cadet branch the Ryswell's. Fought a thousand years for Barrowton, and defeated the Red Kings of House Bolton. They won lands from the ironborn and founded House Mormont, and even sheltered a friendless family thrust from their homes.

For that Kindness the Manderly's would never forget.

"The North Remembers", and the Manderly's had been Northerners for the past Thousand Years.

"Lord Manderly you shall serve as Master of the Narrow Sea in the case of war. The task of commanding the Northern reserve contingent shall fall to you Greatjon, it's not an enviable task, I doubt Lord's Karstark or Bolton will take kindly to this announcement."

"If they don't march to my tune I'll crack some fuckin skulls."

"Very well, Lord Jorah you shall have mastery over the Sunset Sea. Ben you'll command the western ground and it's defense. Robb your brother is to hold the Neck, but make sure Howland Reed is consulted as well. No army shall set itself upon our lands, not by land or sea."

The Greatjon bellowed in a great roar as if he was to march off to war today, and the others finally let out a laugh. Realizing the meeting was at its end, the big man burst from his chair and out through the Lord of Winterfell's oaken door. Wyman was left only to wonder if the oaf would run back to his bed or to the nearest barrel of ale.

Soon after him went Lord Jorah, who humbly dismissed himself, followed by Benjen and the Maester.

Wyman sat still finishing his breakfast as was his right.

"I hope you'll excuse me My Lords" the Auburn haired boy said as he stood up.

"Of course Lord Robb, I would never keep you from my granddaughter."

The boy was a bit shaken but gave his farewells and was on his way. When he was gone, Wyman wiped his mouth free from any crumbs he had missed and began his plot.

"Lord Stark, I wish to offer you once more the hand in marriage of my granddaughter Wynafryd to your eldest son."

There was no smile in Lord Stark's eyes, he didn't want this conversation yet he could not free himself from it without risking Wyman's wrath.

"I've not made m..."

"My Lord it seems quite clear whom the boy should marry. My granddaughter is of an age with him, she's beautiful, and its past time our houses were joined once more. Name your price and I shall see the dowry paid."

Lord Stark wanted to get angry, that much was clear. Evidently the rumors of Lord Hoster Tully's insistence had been true, and Wyman was imitating the Lord too much, he needed to reel himself back or else the easier path would be dead.

"My apologies my Lord. The love I hold bear my granddaughter is undying just like the loyalty I hold to you and your house."

The sincerity of his words made Lord Stark rethink his position, and he began to confide in the Lord of White Harbor further.

"Your granddaughter is indeed a worthy match for Robb, under any other circumstance I'd see them wed upon the next full moon, yet these are troubling times. The King comes to take my daughter, I'm sure you've heard that much."

"A whisper or two makes its way from the Bite."

"Well it is doubtlessly true, and I'm once again to see a child robbed from me. I... with all that has come to light I cannot bear to give you Robb's hand now, there may yet be a grander alliance he must seek."

If Wyman could've swiftly burst through the door he would have, but then he would have missed what came next.

"Your family has given mine a thousand years of loyalty, Give me a further six moons Lord Manderly. Should I prove able to defuse the situation in the capital, and return all to as it should be I will see Robb and your Wyna wed. And to prove my good faith upon the future of such a union, I would offer a betrothal of my brothers son Cregan to your youngest granddaughter Wylla."

He's had a child robbed from him before? What could he be speaking of? Apparently Lord Wyman wasn't as well informed as he should've been, but he swore to see his knowledge's short coming rectified.

"You honor me with a marriage offer Lord Stark, Wylla will be overjoyed to be wed to a Wolf of Winterfell. Have you spoken to your brother of such dealings though? He is the Lord of his own keep is he not? I believe..."

"I will speak to Ben about it, rest assured. Finding a better match for his son shall not come easily, and so I am sure he will agree."

So long as one of them was wed to a Stark of Winterfell. It wasn't the one he wanted but he was sworn to House Stark, the Manderly's owed too much to be rebellious now.

"Your word is my law Lord Eddard, I can only thank you for such an honor. Let us drink to our houses union."

He lifted his mug and clinked it with Ned's, and offered a toast.

"To Cregan and Wylla. To Your Success in the Capital, and To Robb and Wyna after."

They drank on those terms.

Chapter Text

 

Prince Stannis Baratheon

 

There had been half a hundred visitors seeking an audience with the King on this day, a quarter had been admitted only to realize Stannis sat in his place, and immediately they’d make a full retreat, claiming they had no business for the King's brother. The half of those who remained decided to completely change their strategies, while the others attempted to appeal to the other counselors in the throne room.

 

Stannis himself had not been made the King's Hand and so was merely Regent until Robert's return, as such the Prince of Strom's End had refused to place himself upon his brothers throne. Instead he sat below on a councilors chair as was his right as Master of Ships. Unfortunately it meant sitting himself amongst the filth that rounded out the council.

 

Along with him sat the wormy Petyr Baelish, and the treacherous Spider. The Grand Maester had similarly thought himself welcome upon this dais but Stannis had seen to his quick and summary expulsion.

 

"What kind of expert do you claim to be?"

 

"I am the Conclave's elected representative to the King. There is no more worthy a Maester for this post."

 

"Then there are no worthy Maesters. Scuttle off Pycelle, perhaps you'll make yourself of use to someone else. For their sake I hope you provide better care for them than you did Lord Arryn."

 

" I did everything I could to ease his passing once I had sufficiently treated him."

 

"Aye, he died with nary a word on his tongue, as if a bird suffocated in its cage."

 

The Maester had meant to provide further argument but Stannis had gritted his teeth and stared the Maester into submission. The clanking of his old bones and the heavy chain around his neck still rattled somewhere off in the distance.

 

This is the Greatest Maester we could be afforded? Stannis remembered a man from his youth, one who’d been as much a father to him as Lord Arryn had been to Robert.

 

Cressan had been a good Maester, why weren't there more like him?

 

Cressan could've saved Lord Arryn.

 

The Grand Maester had declared the Warden of the East's death to have been sickness, though he would not specify what had been the root cause aside from general old age, yet Pycelle himself had counted more name days, and showed no such symptoms of weakness.

 

Jon Arryn wasn't the healthiest of men, he had no teeth left about his mouth, but he wasn't sickly.

 

He wasn't sick. He was Poisoned.

 

And Pycelle had eased his passing. He might as well have confessed to his treason, Stannis' hadn't been allowed to see the Man before he'd died, but apparently Jon had repeated his final words for the last few hours before his death.

 

"The Seed is Strong."

 

Lord Arryn's damned niece had taken the statement to mean that Elbert and her sickly son would continue their line, and so no one had batted an eye before the man's death. Yet Stannis knew the truth.

 

He spoke of the golden haired children.

 

Stannis had seen the bastards and read the damn book, there was no way to dispute the similarities hadn't matched up. Only Cassana could be Robert's child, but it had been for her sake the Jon Arryn hadn't declared his findings to Robert, and with his death it seemed Stannis was the only man alive who knew the secret.

 

That meant Stannis was in danger.

 

His initial reaction to Lord Arryn's death had been to flee to Storm's End and hold himself up in the impenetrable fortress, but when Robert declared his intent to ride North, he’d also sworn Stannis as Regent.

 

As such Stannis could not leave, and Renly decided he would not leave the Capital. Stating that he would not abandon Stannis to the Lions who encircled Robert.

 

Yet Stannis could not ignore what he knew, and he'd pondered day and night how to inform Robert of the treachery. Yet when the time had come to see Robert off for his northern ride he'd all but dismissed his younger brother, and Stannis had found himself so angry with his rejective elder brother that he'd not performed his sworn duty.

 

The information cannot come from me, he decided after they’d set off.

 

Edric Storm had been the inspiration behind the conspiracy and the other children would provide further proof, but Jon Arryn was the linchpin, he was the only person Robert trusted fully, Besides Ned Stark. It had to be from him that Robert learned the illegitimate nature of his children.

 

Yet whoever had killed Jon Arryn had ended that possibility forever, and Stannis was at an impasse now as to what should be done.

 

If Stannis informed his elder brother personally how would he take it? The two weren't particularly close, and even if Robert bought into the conspiracy they would still have to deal with the Lannisters.

 

Many men would also speak out against Stannis' findings, after all if confirmed as truth it would make Stannis heir to the throne not Joffrey.

 

Danger lurked in the Darkness that surrounded him, and if Stannis wasn't careful Knives might fly forth at him.

 

Since Lord Arryn's death Stannis had been having a reoccurring nightmare of his own demise.

 

He'd wander down a dark hallway illuminated by flame alone, and as he ran towards the light Stannis would see the crooked nose of a man he did not know, and the steel blade he'd plunge into Stannis fiery heart.

 

It was always then that the dream would end.

 

Faded to Black.

 

Stannis did his best to shake off his many thoughts and decided to request the next entrant into the Throne Room.

 

The guards at the door opened the golden archway to reveal three merchants from the Narrow Sea.

 

One had fashioned his beard into three prongs and dyed his locks green, another was missing an eye and so covered his socket with a patch, the last had skin pale in the Lyseni fashion. With his milky white beard Stannis' recognized the central man at once.

 

"Lord Salladhor of House Saan, Warden of the Stepstones."

 

That was embellishment, Salladhor had once been a pirate and friend to Davos. Yet after the Greyjoy Rebellion Robert pardoned the man in exchange for his fealty. The two had grown to be friends since, but Warden?

 

Salladhor by rights controlled a sole island, and by force he’d gained three others.


That was still hardly enough to be a Royal Warden.

 

"What a pleasant surprise My Lord Saan, we are most pleased to greet you. What gifts have you brought with you today I wonder?"

 

The eunuch had a talent for the theatrical, Stannis had to admit.

 

"Ahh, My Lord Varys, it's once more good too see you. And you Lord Baelish I believe you've grown stronger since the last I saw you."

 

"You gracious gift no doubt increased my bulk."

 

"Excellent, though I must say I am most pleased to see you Prince Stannis', and your brother Prince Renly of course."

 

Renly had grown fond of the gift giving pirate, but Stannis was still somewhat distant from the man, despite Lord Saan's insistence upon forging a friendship.

 

"I spoke with the Onion Knight when I stopped at your castle Prince Stannis, and I must say it is a mighty fortress, yet it looks so accursedly dreary. You must allow me to help you decorate, my lovers have a keen sense of interior and exterior furnishing. For only a small fee I would be happy too..."

 

"Your whores shall never mar Storm's End while it is still my keep."

 

"Ahh, my apologies Prince Stannis, I forget your seven gods are far more restraining than the ones held by my family." The formerly self titled Prince of the Narrow Sea bowed his head asking for forgiveness. Another mummer.

 

"It's not the gods who decree this."

 

The look upon Lord Salladhor's face seemed upset, but Stannis could tell the man had remained indifferent towards the insults thrown his way.

 

"Lord Salladhor while it is a pleasure to see your face, I must ask what business would you have with the King's council?" Renly asked to diffuse the awkward situation.

 

The former pirate strode forth closer to the throne, and instinctively Ser Arys Oakheart and Ser Mandon Moore jumped forward, ready to unsheath their Valyrian swords, Glory and Valor. Beside them their sworn brothers Lord Commander Barristan Selmy and Prince Lewyn Martell remained still however, they'd dealt with the notorious Lyseni Lord long enough to know that he was no threat.

 

Treason was bad for business, Salladhor was known to say.

 

He knelt before the dais,

 

"I've no business with the King, but instead with his leal younger brothers. I wish to open trade lines with Storm's End and Dragonstone, ones that would see my cargo less taxed so that I may make more profit. Increasing business is increasing coin in our pockets."

 

"Increased trade would be a great benefit to Dragonstone. Very well I shall agree to your proposal, what say you though brother?”

 

Stannis nearly scoffed, was the boy and his pale haired friend so naive. Could Renly have forgotten?

 

"Nay, Have you forgotten the name of my harbor? Or has the truth of Shipbreaker's Bay elluded you. I would not sink investment into goods I'd have to pry from the seabed."

 

"Prince Stannis, this is Salladhor Saan's ships we are talking of. There are no better crews in all the world. When we cross the water you shall be so filled with joy at the wealth and lavishings you stand to gain that you'll rename her Shipbuilder Bay."

 

"My answer is No."

 

"My Prince..."

 

"I've watched from atop the battlements as ships were swallowed hole. I'll not have men risk their lives delivering goods I've bought, if you would prefer tax alleviation with Tarth or Estermont I shall gladly see to it, but Storm's End shall remain the isolated fortress Durran Godsgrief intended."

 

“Tarth and Estermont then if you’ll hear me no more.”

 

The Former Prince of the Narrow Sea rose from his knee and thanked the gathered council for their audience, before abruptly seeing to his exit.

 

"Was that so wise Prince Stannis? Increased wealth to your own coffers shoul..."

 

"Silence Lord Baelish, you manage my brothers finances, not my own." The dejected lord sat bubbling in his seat as if he were still the sickly child he'd been at birth.

 

The doors opened once more and revealed a man who resembled the Last Targaryen Prince. His pale complexion made him seem almost a ghost as he neared the Dais, his silver golden hair blown lightly across his shoulders and his beard seemed as rich as the royal treasury. Stannis thought the man Rhaegar all the way until he could see the narrowness of his face and the grey-green of his eyes.

 

"Who comes before the Small Council and the throne of King Robert Baratheon, first of his name?" Called Lord Commander Barristan Selmy, his words were tradition but it seemed the Bold Knight had recognized the uncanny resemblance himself.

 

"Aurane Waters, half brother of Lord Monford Velaryon, the Master of Tides and Lord of Driftmark."

 

"Ahh, Lord Aurane, so good to see you once more. How is your brother?" Renly was always trying to play himself up to the few vassals who Robert had allotted him.

 

"He calls for your return to Dragonstone Prince Renly, claims that the reasonable state you left the Gullet in has fallen to madness in your absence. Pirates have been afloat around the Blackwater."

 

Stannis never laughed, but he almost let one loose. Renly however did not hold back,

 

"You've brought true words to our council Aurane, but I'm afraid if you've searched for Pirates then you've just missed Lord Salladhor."

 

Aurane chuckled just a bit, though Stannis could tell he wasn't sure why, Perhaps it was just the way Renly made people feel.

 

"You've been sent to chase a man who came before us, but he is no pirate. Atleast not anymore."

 

"Very well, since that matter has been solved I also come with an invitation for you Prince Stannis. My Lordly brother requests your presence on Driftmark, Monford hopes to feast you, your lady wife and your daughter soon."

 

"You mean he desires to see his son betrothed to my daughter." Stannis never hashed around meanings when blunt words would provide the truth quicker.

 

"Per..Perhaps my Prince, but I could not say. Yet he would host you regardless of any..."

 

"As the multitude of common folk learned this morning, I am not Robert. I requested no feast, and I shall not leave the Capital until my brother returns."

 

Renly nudged his elder brother, a simple reminder to try being more friendly. Stannis clenched his teeth, but knew that the situation could be handled a bit more delicately.

 

"I suppose you could inform your brother that upon my owns return we could begin arrangements. It shall take no less than three moons though, for Robert must return from Winterfell and I must gather my wife and daughter from Storm's End."

 

"That shall be no problem my Prince, the longer we have to prepare the grander the feast shall be. You have my thanks, as well as Lord Monford's. Farewell Prince Stannis, and Prince Renly, I should hope you'll be in attendance as well."

 

"My eldest brother is the one you should worry about attending, but if I'm free and my brother will have me, I'll gladly entertain the possibility."

 

On those terms the Bastard of Driftmark bowed his head before turning to leave the throne room.

 

"Oh Prince Stannis, the Heir to Driftmark is a most fascinating boy indeed. True enough your daughter is four years his elder, but the match would be quite fitting I should hope."

 

"My daughter is the Princess of Storm's End, not a bargaining chip to be sold from one house to another. She is a Baratheon, and I'll not have her give up that name, unless I am to have a son."

 

"Well then the matter is settled brother, but let us feast with Lord Velaryon regardless."

 

"Speaking of marriages Lord Renly, when do you intend to settle yourself? You are quite the bachelor, and would be a catch for any family. I should think your frequent dealings with Lord Mace Tyrell's youngest son must surely concern his sister."

 

"Oh Lord Varys. They must be in deep negotiation, what with the long evenings they spend together. I dare say they'll announce the betrothal soon enough though."

 

Renly was beginning to steam with anger, but decided to hide it amidst his own instult.

 

"Lord Baelish, its good to know you're still interested in weddings, I'd feared you'd given up on love all together."

 

"Ahh, love perhaps, but should I find a maiden or a widow who'll have me, I shall not mind."

 

"Its good to see you've kept nobility on your mind, what with all the time you spend in your brothels."

 

Stannis wished to silence both men now, but he was not the King or the Hand.

 

The only power he held over them was gifted on a piece of paper.

 

So it was that the Mockingbird and Stag danced whilst the Spider watched from afar, his treachery forgotten by all save Stannis. The Stag could swat with his antlers, but he could never land a blow. The Bird could shit from above onto the Stag, but he could never hope to bring the creature down on alone.

 

The dialogue continued between them until the throne room doors opened once more.

 

"Tycho Nestoris, Distinguished Representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos."

 

The man drew near to the Dias, and as he did Stannis studied him closely. This banker was a tall, thin and gaunt man. His beard was skinny and black as night but it reached down to his hip, and the man was stroking it all the while as he strode forward. Finally when he stopped directly before Stannis and beneath the Iron Throne, the Prince of Storm's End could see the darkness of his eyes.

 

Cold, Cunning and Calculating. Such was the nature of the Iron Bank of Braavos.

 

"Greetings Lord Nestoris, to what do we owe the pleasure" Renly said with cool courtesy.

 

"I doubt my presence is a pleasure Prince Renly, I've come to receive word of the Thrones payment to the Iron Bank."

 

"Yes of course, the payment shall be made in full as per usual" Lord Baelish said. His voice and urgency spoke to a desire for the matter to be dismissed entirely.

 

What could he be trying to hide?

 

"Why have you been sent in person Lord Tycho? Would a raven have not serviced?"

 

"Prince Stannis, the Iron Bank of Braavos is not merely some meek organization that rests upon its laurels. I've been sent here to organize further loans, and discuss the tremendous debt of the Throne as well."

 

The Weaselly Baelish seemed to squirm in his chair, from the look of it this meeting was normally held between the two, in private.

 

There was no doubt that at the first sight of a money lender Robert would've redirected the man to Lord Baelish. Yet as the King was not present the man was inclined to bring the matter before the gathered council.

 

"You speak of a tremendous debt, I would know how much."

 

"Prince Stannis, when you informed me that you'd not heed my advice with your own pouch, you also stated that your brothers coffers are my concern."

 

"So I did, but this debt doesn't solely concern Robert, instead it is a balance atop the entirety of the Realm."

 

Lord Baelish could provide no further argument with Stannis, and so the Prince of Storm's End asked once more,

 

"What is the amount owed?"

 

"Over Three Million Gold Dragons Prince Stannis."

 

The Paramount Lord of the Stormlands felt his jaw hit the floor, he'd not been privy to this knowledge. His brother was massively in debt, and the Iron Bank always had its due. If they don't have their gold they will support another claimant.

 

Stannis hadn't forgotten the boy who'd escaped him all those years ago. Prince Viserys was off somewhere in Essos, and the Iron Bank would not think twice about funding his restoration.

 

"Tycho Nestoris, I would have you return to Braavos tomorrow with twice what is due for this payment, I will supply sufficient gold from my own coffers so as to make up one quarter of what has been promised. After that we shall immediately begin implementing a plan to sufficiently decrease the Throne's spending. Tell you masters beneath the Titan that the Iron Throne and the King himself shall take on no more debt past what is owed."

 

"I thank you for your generosity Prince Stannis, this action shall not be forgotten. Some of our more intricate members will be displeased, they'd grown so fond of calculating the interest upon the debt."

 

"The debt will be paid, I would sign it in my own blood."

 

Renly nudged him as if the notion had been too much, and the banker realed slightly as if the notion did sicken him a bit.

 

"That won't be necessary I assure you, but the Iron Bank does thank you for your time today my Lords."

 

The banker swiftly turned himself around, and strode forth till the end of the hall before departing for the chamber he'd been allotted.

 

"We shall see no more audiences today."

 

"My Prince..." The Spider tried to cry, but Stannis hardly heard him. He walked from his booth and strode towards Lord Baelish who realized the crazed look in Stannis' eyes. Yet he had no where to go as the bigger man stood over him as he sat.

 

"How did you earn this position? Are you such a dolt that you've driven us to ruin or are you a traitor to the Realm?"

 

"I am but a humble ser..."

 

Stannis grabbed the Mockingbird by the scruff of his neck with one hand,

 

"A humble servant? You are an up jumped commoner! An ambitious peasant only a step up from the sellsword who was gifted lands upon the Barren Fingers of the Vale. Too long have you hosted brothels in this city, and too long have you been welcomed at Jon Arryn's invitation."

 

The weasel was beginning to turn the color of his gray-green eyes, as the air escaped his lungs.

 

"You must have some talent though? Perhaps you sing, I'd say after a week in the black cells you'll find your voice."

 

"Release Him Now...At Once."

 

Stannis felt the presence of gathered men at his back, and the out held spear of the closest man.

 

The Prince of Storm's End half turned to face the man, keeping one hand on the Master of Coin. The stout man was clad in a golden cloak, his face reminded Stannis of a frog whilst his build resembled a drinking keg. Three other men were at his side and all told twenty five were in the Throne Room, including the guards who held the doors.

 

"I said Release Him."

 

Stannis recognized the man as the Captain of the City Watch, Janos Slynt.

 

"You would threaten a Royal Prince?"

 

"No more.. than you threaten.. the Master of Coin" The Reeling Bealish muttered through his gasps for air.

 

The onrushing guards were beginning to formulate around the Dais, Stannis was hopelessly outnumbered.

 

"Lower your spear, you shall not threaten the King's brother" Called Ser Barristan the Bold.

 

At his side Prince Lewyn Martell had already drawn his sword, Justice, and was ready to begin painting. Arys Oakheart stood at the Lord Commander's other hip, whilst Ser Mandon was further back.

 

The four great knights were comforting backup, but not even they clad in their pale armor could fend off twenty five men. Stannis looked towards Renly who sat bugeyed and terrified in his chair. The boy was tall and strong like Robert, but he'd never become the warrior Stannis had envisioned him being, and he was unarmed.

 

Stannis had similarly left his sword back in his chambers.

 

War had begun once more, but this time Stannis found himself trapped in the Castle he held in Roberts name.

 

The Prince of Storm's End expected blood to soil the golden banners of House Baratheon, yet before the fighting could begin Stannis felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.

 

It was so soft that at first the Storm Lord thought his mother had returned to him, yet in her stead was the Spider. Varys had seen fit to undo the web he had spun, and he offered a way for violence to be avoided between the two groups.

 

So it was that Stannis removed his grip from the Master of Coin, the guards stepped down and everyone in the room hastily departed from the treachery the site had bore witness too.

 

Baelish was quite possibly the first to exit the room, despite his apparent oxygen deprivation. Varys guided Stannis out of the throne room, through the main door they departed. The Spider led Stannis down to the gardens, it was the stench of the city that shocked him back to reality.

 

The first thing he noticed was that the eunuch had his arm on the Prince's shoulder. He sorely dismissed the stray hand with a scowl, and Lord Varys seemed aghast for a moment, He had no guards to protect him.

 

"Prince Stannis, the Master of Coin is a very dangerous man. Littlefinger has the entirety of the City Watch in his pocket, he controls the Capitol itself, you must flee or else wise no one may be able to prevent the conflict that is about to erupt."

 

"I will not see myself through the city gates until Robert returns, I am not afraid of this up jumped lordling."

 

"Then bolster your protection, I beg you."

 

"Very well, I am not above reason. I shall send for men from Storm's End, and until they arrive I shall join my force with Renly's."

 

"That is most wise Prince Stannis."

 

The Spider then bowed and bid his farewells as he slunk into the gardens thick fauna. It wasn't until the Master of Whispers had disappeared the Stannis realized the Sun was soon to set, realizing how tired he had become from the ordeal and the days worth of work before it, Stannis began his walk back to his solar.

 

As he walked he tried decided what he must do.

 

Guards shall be doubled and posted around my person, I'll not be caught unaware like that again. Renly will need a better force as well. How will the payment be organized? I could have someone present it before the banker, but I'll not hand the gold over to Littlefinger.

 

I need the Onion Knight, Stannis had left Davos at Storm's End, named him the fortress' Castellan and charged him with protecting the boy Edric. Both important tasks no doubt, but the former smuggler might prove a keen eye in the Capital. As the Storm Lord walked he could not decide upon the matter.

 

There was more that held his mind though, Stannis was filled with dread at the thought of his reoccurring dream, and after the days ordeal he doubted sleep would come easy. The Prince felt neither hunger nor thirst and so resolved himself to his Solar, there he would be secure.

 

It would also give him a chance to resume his readings of The Lineages and Histories of The Great Houses of The Seven Kingdoms.

 

When he arrived into his solar he found his small retinue of guards posted in the same place Stannis had left them, they gave him courtesy which he returned with silence. He was in no mood for words, but as he entered his study Stannis found it already occupied.

 

"That was quite a scene you made today" The smiling blue-green eyes of his younger brother met Stannis' own dark pupils. For a second he relaxed and let the weight he'd been carrying go,

 

Renly and Shireen were the only people who could have lightened his mood.

 

Stannis stood in silence for a moment, allowing clarity to return to his cranium. Renly seemed concerned with the silence.

 

"Are you alright brother?"

 

"Aye, I hadn't expected you though. I'd almost forgotten the Knight of Flowers had ridden from the Capital."

 

Renly had never been a fan of teasing, and Stannis wasn't overly fond of his nocturnal activities, but they were brothers.

 

Real Brothers could Forgive each other Anything.

 

The Prince of Dragonstone rose from his chair and met his elder in a reciprocated embrace.

 

"I thought you were going to kill him, and that you'd die in return."

 

"I was going to kill him, but I'd never abandon you. We've lost to much to loose each other."

 

The two sat down and began to discuss the consequences of this outburst.

 

"Once Robert returns I dare say he'll relieve me of my duty as Master of Ships, but so long as that weasel goes down with me the Realm will be all the better for it."

 

"We need more guards."

 

"Agreed, I'll write to Davos in the morning asking for as many hands as he can spare. What about you?"

 

"I can have a hundred men here by tomorrow, but I don't think it will be enough. Baelish controls the might of the City Watch, perhaps we should flee the city."

 

Stannis gritted his teeth once more.

 

"I will not leave this city, not until Robert returns."

 

Renly knew better than to argue with his elder brother, When Stannis set his mind too something he could not be dissuaded.

 

"Why are you so stubborn?" Renly asked only half joking.

 

"Brother there is something I need to tell you."

 

Stannis hesitated for moment while Renly searched for answers. It was a dangerous thing he was about to unveil to his brother, and it might mean their demise, yet it was as much Renly's right to know as Stannis'

 

The Prince of Storm's End reached down beneath his desk into the cupboard he'd stashed the book in, Stannis pulled it free and unveiled Grand Maester Malleon's work. He laid the book down before his younger brother, and began turning to the marked pages.

 

"Jon Arryn was looking into something when he was suddenly taken ill."

 

Renly read over the pages though nothing seemed to stand out to him, he even gave Stannis a ponderous look.

 

"What do Robert's children look like?"

 

Renly took it as an odd request, but at Stannis' insistence the boy provided rough descriptions.

 

"Emerald Eyes, and except for Cassana, Golden Hair."

 

"And what does every Baratheron born in the last three hundred years have in common?"

 

Realization came to Renly's eyes in that moment, his face became awestruck, and the same cognitive dissonance that Lord Jon Arryn had displayed was plain on Renly's face. Stannis pushed no further and allowed his brother to come to his own conclusion.

 

"How did you find out?"

 

"I know your face, and I've seen my own, but it was the bastard who sparked the idea. Edric is Robert's son and none can deny it, yet he doesn't resemble the first three of Cersei's children at all."

 

"You cannot mean to suggest.."

 

"Only Cassana could be Robert's."

 

"That makes you the Heir to the Iron Throne."

 

"So it does, but it also makes you second behind me."

 

"Why are you telling me this Stannis?"

 

"Because Jon Arryn wasn't sick, he was poisoned."

 

Stannis gave his younger brother a moment to accept that notion, Renly seemed to wrestle with it in his head.

 

"This is treason."

 

"Indeed, and it means War is coming little brother."

 

"What do you mean to do?"

 

"I hadn't quite..."

 

"Lord Stark..."

 

Both brothers suddenly realized what could be done.

 

They had to bring the New Hand into the Conspiracy,

 

Only he would have enough of Robert's ear to convince the King.

 

"There is something else bothering me little bro..."

 

Stannis was interrupted by the rapidly raising voices of the hallway.

 

"FIRE! FIRE! There's a Fire in the Red Keep."

 

The brothers jumped from their seats as smoke began to fill the air, Stannis saw light emerging from the courtyard below his solar's window. Without thinking Stannis threw his door open and chased after the source. Renly bolted behind him, but he could not keep up with Stannis' mad dash, and soon enough the Prince of Storm's End could not hear the Youngest Stags footsteps.

 

Too late did Stannis realize that he was charging headlong into his nightmare.

 

The Prince of Storm's End rounded a corner, and through the moonlight a figure he'd seen only in his dreams appeared.

 

The shadow was dark and nearly as tall as Stannis, and its smooth skin was unobscured by facial hair,

 

But it's most prevalent feature was it's Large Crooked Nose.

 

Stannis realized too late what was happening, and he felt the punch to his gut. When he looked down he realized to his horror that his dream had come true, when the man pulled back steel protruded from Stannis' abdomen, and he felt blood begin to run down his sides.

 

The man did not flee, instead he stood to admire his work, but in that moment Stannis' gathered his strength and struck his assailant. The Prince of Storm's End bludgeoned the Curved Nose with his fist three times, and then smashed the man's head against the nearby wall.

 

Yet once he fell separated from Stannis' arm, the Prince lost track of the man.

 

The Storm Lords strength was fading fast, but Stannis did his best to keep from closing his eyes forever.

 

In his dream the Prince had faded to black, but instead the light had come towards the Wounded Stag. As it neared he realized the flame was kept by his brothers hand, and though Renly wailed, Stannis could only hear screams of anguish off in the distance.

 

Voices no longer seemed human, instead they chirped like birds,

 

And the squawking of Ravens was deafening despite his distance from the burning rookery, but as he listened to their fuss, Stannis realized they were not squealing for the loss of their home.

 

Instead they cried for Stannis.

Chapter Text

Prince Lewyn Martell

The meeting was held in the White Sword Tower, but only four of the sworn knights had remained in King's Landing. Whilst the White Lion and the Lannister cronies had ridden with Royal Retinue, the remainder found themselves gathered around the pale oaken table.

Their mission had been simple, Guard the King's Younger Brothers.

Yet somewhere along the lines they'd failed that prerogative, just yesterday had Lewyn stood in defiance of their bloodshed, only to wake in the night and realize the sworn brothers bravery had been all for not.

When the fire had begun Lewyn had only just removed his white armor and sat upon his bed, he'd not wanted to acknowledge their was anything wrong. Yet when he'd heard the screams and smelled ash amongst the reeking feces, he could deny it no longer.

The barking of the Bold Lord Commander filled the air now, but Lewyn could not hear him as he gazed down into the courtyard. The fire had set the rookery alight, charring everything held within the stone fortress, miraculously though the fire had spread no further.

While the castles inner workings had never been threatened by the flame, Lewyn had feared the godswood and gardens might have been set alight by a change to the wind. The Prince of Dorne was no particular fan of the fauna of the Red Keep, but it did remind him of a simpler time.

As he looked upon the dense inner workings of cobblestone and floristry set down below him, Lewyn remembered his home. Not the chambers that he'd been afforded for so many years, but the halls of Sunspear. The Seat of Dorne's power was far more eloquent and ancient than this fortress, and the accompanying water gardens had seemed so big by comparison.

Those had been the days that Lewyn missed, when he could find himself bathing amongst the Martell Household, and finding relaxation amidst the hot summer sun.

The White Knight knew those days had come to an end when he'd donned the pale cloak, but for a little while after, King's Landing had felt like home. There was once a time when the gardens of the Red Keep were not the trampling ground for Stags, but instead a delicate place maintained by Dragons.

A time when Dornish wine flowed, and the Martells were welcome friends in the Capital. The King had always been sour upon his Dornish vassals and later grandchildren, but Queen Rhaella had ever been a friend to Lewyn's elder sister. It had been she who'd brought him to King's Landing all those years ago, and it had been for the former Princess of Dorne's sake that Lewyn had been made a sworn brother.

Yet when his sister had left family still remained, her daughter Princess Elia had been particularly present amongst the King's court, but Oberyn and even sometimes Doran would make the trip up from Sunspear.

But now Lewyn was the only Martell the Capital could claim.

"We shall double our efforts to protect the Royal Family" the Bold Lord Commander stated, he'd declared the fire a diversion, but had taken the attempt on Prince Stannis' life as a personal offense to his honor.

The words brought back a particularly harsh memory for Prince Lewyn,

Ten Thousand of his country men had ridden up from the Prince's Pass behind Rhaegar, they had been armed to the teeth and ready to protect the Throne that was baby Aegon's birthright.

It just so happened that in doing so they were fighting for the Mad King and his son.

Lewyn had at first been spiteful of Rhaegar's actions. He'd never been close to the boy, but when Lewyn heard that Rhaegar had stolen the Stark girl and annulled his marriage with Elia, well the Dornish Knight had been in such a rage he would've killed the Crowned Prince himself.

Yet Elia had informed him that she had agreed to the dissolution of their union, and that she'd only accepted once it had been made clear Prince Aegon would be heir to the throne regardless of any other children.

"The Maesters say I am not to have another child, yet Rhaegar insists the Dragon has Three Heads."

When she'd finished putting her words together Lewyn had decided to spare the Future King the treasonous death he so rightfully deserved, but by no means had Lewyn desired to serve at his side.

The Mad King had insisted the Dornish Army would be lead by two Princes, and he declared Lewyn would ride at Rhaegar's side as his sworn shield alongside Ser Barristan and Ser Jonothor Darry.

The Prince of Dorne had spoken in defiance at the notion.

"Allow me to stay in the Capital Your Grace, Princess Elia and her children are mine to protect! They are my blood!"

Mad King Aerys had lit an allegedly treacherous merchant aflame only that morning, but Lewyn had no fear. The King, even in his greatest delirium would not risk losing the Dornish support, not when their army had been the only one unspoiled by the war.

While Lewyn stood defiant, unwilling to bow before the King's command, it had been Rhaegar who'd spoken against the White Prince's unbending perspective.

"Ser Jamie Lannister shall be their shield."

In all the years since Lewyn had wished day and night that the White Lion had been the one to travel at the Prince's side, he knew the Kingslayer had done his best to protect the remainder of the Royal Family,

But Perhaps Lewyn Could've Done A Better Job.

Instead of guarding those he loved, The Dornishman had ridden off to war.

Prince Rhaegar had an army of forty thousand men at his back, whilst the Rebellious Allied forces had been tired and of a lesser number. Rhaegar's confidence in the certainty of their success and subsequent speedy return, had even transfixed to Lewyn's own mentality.

It should have been a decisive victory for the Loyalists.

But it had not Been. Instead the Battle was a Crushing Defeat.

Prince Rhaegar had given the Vanguard to Ser Jonothor Darry, and he'd charged head long into the river with his cousins, brothers, and nephews at his side. The left flank consisted of mostly Reachman, and too this day Lewyn could not remember who'd been tasked with their lead. Rhaegar had fought long and hard for his father to command Lord Randly Tarly be relieved his duties at Storm's End and be brought to command the sizable Reachman host.

He'd been the only man to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle. Yet the King had denied this request, stating that the taking of Storm's End would signify the end of the rebellion.

"How can he claim himself a King when he holds no Castle?" The Mad King had smiled with sinister intent, convinced that he'd somehow undermined Rhaegar without hurting his own cause.

The King also thought he'd be reborn a Dragon.

As to the Battle, only the night before had Rhaegar formally given Lewyn control of the Dornish right flank, yet he'd rallied himself and led the forces to the best of his ability.

For Prince Aegon, he'd said in his mind before charging into battle. It was for the boy that Leywn fought, and it would be the boy who willed the Dornishmen to carry the day. Lewyn had been so certain of it, but fate had proved herself a cruel mistress.

The White Knight had seen himself amongst the thick of the fighting, and all along the battlefield he could spot the rebellions prominent leaders.

The Tully Trout fought on the right flank of the Rebellious Army, and though they faced a strategic numerical disadvantage, under Lord Hoster's command they provided worthy opposition for the Reachman who found themselves lacking critical cohesion.

Due to their subsequent stalemate, the greatest area of importance had fallen under Prince Lewyn's command. It had been Jon Arryn and the Valeman that matched themselves against the Might of Dorne.

Prince Lewyn fought tooth and nail to gain every inch of ground, and midway through the battle Dornish forces had proved more than a match for the Vale Knights, with Prince Lewyn himself having personally cut a pathway through several lords and their sons. The left flank of the Royal Army was about to overtake the Allies, and Lewyn had centered in upon the Lord of the Eyrie himself.

Meanwhile, Upon the center of the field a Direwolf had flown, and a great Stag roamed the battlefield screaming commands.

Rhaegar had observed from behind the field, intent upon participating, but waiting for the opportune time for his reserve force to join the fight. Yet the moment Robert had screamed for the Prince to Come and Die, Rhaegar had charged headlong into the battle.

Even from afar Lewyn could feel the energy of the Royal army surge at the sight of the Golden Prince charging into danger,

The day would be Won if they'd merrily push but a bit farther.

So Leywn had taken heart and followed his Princes lead, he ran through the storm of swords and fought his way to the toothless falcon, Bronze Yohn Royce had stood in his path, but another man crossed his blade first.

As he passed the Vale's greatest Knight, Lewyn could taste victory. The Falcon's Knights would dissipate and loose heart if only they saw the man dead upon the ground.

For Prince Aegon.

Yet the White Knight was intercepted upon the battlefield, kept from his target by a knight with ravens and hearts upon his sigil. They crossed blades only twice, and Lewyn could feel Valyrian steel clashing with his own sword.

Knowing that a prolonged encounter would leave his steel dull and chipped, the Prince moved to disarm the man who had stood in his way. A slice under the armpit had done the trick, and Lewyn flung the blade from the Lords hands.

Yet before the killing blow could be struck, an arrow found its way through Lewyn's pale armor, plunging itself into his stomach. Lewyn suddenly felt weak. He looked for his assailant and saw a man at Lord Arryn's side, the figure was cast in grey plate with a dark scaly fringe to his armor, and a black trout was upon his breast. As he drew another arrow, Lewyn no longer saw a man but instead the Stranger had come before him.

The Prince of Dorne was not willing to accept his meager fate though, and so resolved to charge at the bowman, yet before he could build up steam he felt the kiss of steel upon the back of his left leg. His armor had been strong but no metal could withstand Valyrian steel, and as he fell to the ground Prince Lewyn looked up and found three more ravens holding hearts.

A ruby had been set in the pommel of the smokey grey blade, and it was wielded by a younger man now.

At the sight of the fallen White Knight the Dornishmen lost hope, their progress was made mute in retreat, and the battle shifted to favor the Rebels.

Perhaps they'd thought Lewyn dead.

"I shall accept you surrender Ser."

Lewyn had found himself unable to rise to his feet, and in that moment he was given the choice of death or submission.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. Those were his house words, he'd lived his life by that code, and he began to resign himself to death. He need but swing his sword and the humiliation of defeat would know him no further.

What of the Children?

He saw his niece flash before his eyes, and in her arms were the babies Aegon and Rhaenys. Lewyn had promised his departed sister that he'd protect them.

Today is not the day I die.

"I yield Ser."

The Prince of Dorne had fought till he could stand no longer, given all he'd had, but when the debt was totaled it had not been enough. With his submission, Lewyn had failed Rhaegar.

It was not long after that news reached his ears that the Crowned Prince was dead, his breastplate shattered and the rubies of his dragon scattered amidst his watery grave.

When the battle was done the vanquished loyalists were brought before the Rebellious army heads, Ser Barristan had seen numerous injuries and had been captured after falling from Rhaegar's side. He'd submitted afterwards and Robert had spared the valiant knight.

Yet the Usurper had required his fealty, and the same offer was made before Lewyn as he was held in Corbray's custody.

It hadn't been a difficult decision, Lewyn had made his mind up as he laid bleeding in the dirt, yet from his wound he'd been unable to physically bend the knee. Robert could only laugh while Lewyn gave his oath seated.

A Man's Word Is His Law, yet ironically the White Prince had almost kept faithful to his houses moniker.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

He'd never knelt after he'd healed, nor had he wavered in the oath that been given, but his heart had shattered when he'd returned to the Red Keep and found blood upon the Clegane brothers.

The Blood of Prince Aegon.

Yet he did remember joy, for he'd learned that the White Lion had saved Princess Elia and her daughter from a similarly gruesome fate. Soon though that joy would be taken from Prince Lewyn, for the remnants of the Royal family were shipped to Dorne whilst he was to remain in the Capital, ever vigilant in his guard of the man who'd seen to the death of the rightful Heir.

"Ser Arys, Ser Mandon, you shall see to Prince Renly's protection. I dare say Stannis is the more at risk, but you'll shadow him nonetheless. Ser Lewyn and I shall take turns in guarding the Prince of Storm's End."

With that their white brothers bowed and returned to their chambers, taking the chance to prepare themselves before they set about their sworn duty. Their absence left Prince Lewyn alone in the room with Ser Barristan the Bold.

"What is it old friend? You've seemed heavy in thought all morning."

"Do you ever think we chose the wrong side?"

The Lord Commander seemed aghast at the suggestion, Barristan had always been a mindless soldier.

In the days of The White Bull, council would be held between the sworn brothers, and whilst the Lord Commander always had the final say, each man held a voice.

Yet Ser Barristan had very rarely aired his, He'd always been a better follower than Leader.

Ser Gerold Hightower had taken pride in attending the Small Council meetings, offering the King advice whenever he could. Such a tradition had begun with Ser Corlys Velaryon the first Lord Commander, and was adopted by every one of his successors during the Reign of the Dragons.

Barristan the Bold however, did not dabble in politics, and so had shriveled from the responsibility. He would rather stand idly by and guard the Council than have his voice heard.

Lewyn had long wished he'd been named Lord Commander, the Prince would've happily voiced his opinions often and openly. Yet the duty had eluded him, and should Ser Barristan see the end of his days before Lewyn, the honor would probably fall to the White Lion.

A Kingslayer as the Lord Commander, Lewyn could hardly imagine such a thing.

"More than you know."

The reveal shocked the Prince of Dorne, he felt his eyes widen at his sworn brothers voice.

"I've served four kings in my life, and more princes than that have proceeded me into the grave," there was true depth to his sadness when he continued.

"Should a Kingsguard outlive his King?"

They had both sworn oaths, and so had upheld by them, regardless of any trepidations. After so many years of not seeing his family, the Prince of Dorne had begun to lose sight of his purpose. Yet it was good to know that Prince Lewyn was not alone in his uncertainty.

"I think day and night about what could've been, If I hadn't fallen on the Trident we might've won."

The Lord Commander resembled the White Bull for a second, as he placed a firm hand upon Lewyn's shoulder and offered reassurance.

"For a long time I thought that too, but the battle was lost the moment Rhaegar charged towards Robert. I couldn't make it to him, and no one could've stopped the Demon of the Trident that day, Justice was on his side."

Justice. What could Ser Barristan the Bold know of it.

"Was it Justice that saw Prince Aegon splattered in Maegor's Holdfast? Was it Justice that Queen Rhaella be so distressed that she pass in childbirth? Was it Justice that my niece lost her son?"

The Lord Commander's face went blank as Prince Lewyn brushed the hand from his shoulder.

"We should not have survived the battle, I see that now. I would have rather died along the Trident than live to see these tragedies befall my family. So no Ser Barristan, I say you do not know justice."

For the first time in Prince Lewyn's life he saw the unwavering knight hesitate, his pride would allow no tears to flow, but he broke all the same.

"I may not know justice, but I know struggle same as you. I kept silent my voice for so many years, and fought back the urge to avenge Rhaegar's son. He may not be my blood but know that I ache for his loss regardless. The Mad King demanded unwavering loyalty and so I followed his orders, but that does not mean I know only cruelty. I still remember the days of Aegon the Unlikely, and I feel for his descendants lost throne"

"But We Swore Oaths."

"So We Did" The Prince of Dorne could only muster through gritted teeth.

Lewyn had no more words for the Lord Commander, he'd gotten everything he'd needed. Lewyn could feel his blood boiling now, and so burst from his seat and through the nearby exit. The White Prince had not calmed down by the time he left the tower, in fact as he dug deeper into repressed thoughts rage only took further hold on him.

What was he doing guarding the Usurper and his treacherous brothers? Why had he wasted his life away in this stinking ship pile of a city?

Why had he not died upon the Trident?

In that moment Lewyn gathered all his frustration and let out a tear for all the hardships time had brought upon him. He walked over to the battlements of the Red Keep and looked down at the cliff that led towards the Blackwater below.

How long would it take for me to reach the bottom if I jumped?

Yet death was not the answer the Prince of Dorne sought, instead Lewyn tugged at the blade he kept sheathed upon his hip. Bearing the blade to the sun revealed a conglomeration of magenta and violet, the results of thousands of folds during the steels forging. Lewyn thought back to the day such a gift had been given.

"A blade such as this requires a name, but what shall it be Prince Lewyn."

"Justice"

That was what Lewyn had been seeking all along, and its pursuit would be his life's summary.

Prince Doran had come too King's Landing but once in the past twenty years, he'd asked for no audience with the King, nor did he have business about the city. He'd come to the capital to collect his sister with her daughter and speak with his uncle, and once those two things had been completed he was once more off.

Even in those days Lewyn had felt old, and though now he truly was, he still remembered what had been promised.

"One day the Dragons shall fly once more over the Red Keep."

Prince Lewyn began to make his way to the guard post he'd been assigned, yet on his way he thought more upon the proposal his nephew had made.

"Stay in Kings Landing, you are the most trustworthy informant I could hope to have."

The White Prince had done as he was bid, and all the while had been learning about the people around him. Tonight he'd have new information to write back to his family.

The Lord Commander sends his condolences.

Should Lewyn be able to bring Barristan the Bold into the plot it would add more legitimacy to their scheme.

Doran had seen to so much already. Rhaenys had been raised with Arianne, the two were sisters now as much as cousins, and they were both ready to play their part. It had been a hiccup that Quentyn had been fostered outside Sunspear, but it would be all the better for unity,

He shall do his part, as we all must.

The Spider claimed himself the Master of Whispers, but none could've realized it was the Dornish who pulled the strings.

There was a reason his little birds couldn't find the Prince in Essos.

There was a reason Duran had married a Norvosi woman.

There was a reason Oberyn had traveled the world, studied at the Citadel, founded Sellsword companies, and fathered so many children.

Prince Lewyn entered the chamber Stannis had been placed within, the Storm Lords guards did not impede his entrance, not after they saw the white of his cloak. Over the years Lewyn had grown to despise his position amidst the court, but he had to admit it, was easier to come and go when no one could question your doings.

Stannis was asleep, he'd doubtlessly refused the Grand Maester's aid after his summary dismissal from the council yesterday, instead he probably rested in comfort at the behest of the younger brother who had remained by his side.

Renly sat and only glanced at Lewyn so as to make sure the White Knight was not an assassin meant to finish the job. Though the two had to die in the end, Lewyn couldn't help but feel some semblance of sympathy for their suffering.

Stannis had shown mercy where Robert would've had none, and Renly had been but a boy when the war had occurred.

Perhaps he could be...

No, he thought further.

So long as he lives the boy will own a claim upon the throne.

For the Martell's to see Justice done, everyone had to be punished.

Lewyn sat himself beside the conscious Prince, offering every apology that he could, and promising that they would find who had perpetrated the act.

There was a deep sadness in the boys normally smiling blue eyes, it was as if there was something deeper, something beyond his brothers misfortune. Lewyn did not know what it was, but he could tell it was something big.

Yet now would not be the time to push further, Renly was not likely to reveal that which bothered him, and Lewyn had secrets of his own.

War was coming back to Westeros,

And the Stags could not know about the Vipers at their feet.

Chapter Text

Tyrion Lannister

The journey up from Casterly Rock had seemed to become a never ending trail, luckily Tyrion had procured several of his favorite books from his personal study. Many men would have rather spent their time plowing through harlots or drowning their sorrows, and while Tyrion partook more than his fair share in those endeavors, he found the most gratification in accumulating knowledge.

From the Westerlands to Lord Harroway's town he'd favored tales that were to his personal interest, firstly he'd reread Ser Russell Stillman's account of Lord Alyn Velaryon's life.

The tale of a bastard raised to Lord of Driftmark was always a thrilling read, but Tyrion found it especially satisfying when he thumbed through the gossip about Lord Alyn's many loves.

Tyrion happened to believe the Oakenfist was actually the Sea Snake's son, and that the Princess Alaindra Martell had indeed been using the Master of Tides trips at sea to mask their love making.

Despite his love for the eccentric, Tyrion always brought himself back to reality whenever he read a fanciful tale, he enjoyed exaggerations, but needed facts. Maester Bendamure's Six Times to Sea: Being an Account of the Great Voyages of Alyn Oakenfist, was widely considered to be a far more authentic telling, and though less drama occurred within said telling, the tale itself was still a wonder to behold, particularly as Tyrion himself was on the first great adventure his father had ever allowed him.

Next came Maester Eon's Account of the War of Nine Penny Kings, it had ever been one of Tyrion's favorites.

A band of outlaw rogues unite in attempt to see the final Blackfyre seated upon the Iron Throne, as he read the book Tyrion would be enthralled by tales of gallant vigor from Brynden Blackfish and Ser Barristan the Bold. The tragedy that befell Lord Ormund Baratheon, and the son whom held his dying father in his arms always brought a tear to the Little Lions eyes. After Tyrion's grand uncle Ser Jason Lannister fell upon the battlefield, Lord Roger Reyne had taken command of the Westerman and led them to many great victories, If only he'd known what father had in store for him.

What had amazed Tyrion the most was the unity with which the Kingdoms fought, King Jaehaerys II had not been a particularly strong king, yet it would be during his reign that the realm had become one. The Great Lords had finally fought side by side, Quellon Greyjoy had provided ships, the Princess of Dorne sent spears, and Tyrion's grandfather Tytos gave a thousand knights from the Westerlands.

Hoster Tully, Jon Arryn, Rickard Stark all fought side by side, and yet the greatest trio of the war had been Crowned Prince Aerys Targaryen, Steffon Baratheron, the grandfather of King Robert and Tyrion's own father.

The most powerful man in Westeros had once been the greatest friend to his King, and their friendship had been born upon the battlefield. Yet while the war had solidified friendships between the Seven Kingdoms, it had also ensured doom for the final dragon lords of Old Valyria.

Yet Maester Eon's book didn't cover that period, and so it was that Tyrion had turned to Maester Yandel's telling of The World of Ice and Fire. The tome had a multitude of tales, but after reading about the War of Nine Penny Kings, Tyrion had desired to read Yandel's account of Roberts Rebellion.

The Heir to Casterly Rock had lived through the war, but in such an isolated manner that he was not privy to what had not been written. Jamie was of no use, everyone was aware of his wartime exploits, and the Lannisters had kept out of the war for so long they'd missed the most glorious parts of it, and to make amends his father had sacked the city he'd once been sworn to protect and see prosper.

The book provided the same information it had given Tyrion's first three readings, but this time he'd kept a skeptic eye upon the actions of his elder sisters husband, he'd done this in preparation for his attempt to befriend the oaf. Tywin had long denied Tyrion a place of importance amongst Casterly Rock, and had so far refused to acknowledge Tyrion's legitimate claim upon the fortress by naming him the undisputed heir, so it was that Tyrion sought a place at the Royal Court alongside the King, the Queen, his brother and their children.

After meeting Robert they'd become fast friends over their shared enthusiasm for fine ale, and as such Tyrion had spent his nights drinking with the King. Yet while Robert road along with his retinue of Knights, Tyrion had the day to himself, and he spent his time nose deep in the stories about The Dance of Dragons.

This was Tyrion's fourth time reading both Maester Munken and Mushroom's accounts entirely through. Last time Tyrion had read his fellow dwarfs tale first, and the Maester's account later, yet this time he decided to reverse their roles so as to possibly perceive something from a different perspective.

The Dance of Dragons, A True Telling was as much a straight forward tale as one could expect from a Maester who put no faith into hyperbolic instances.

The cold hard facts that Munken always claimed were the most reasonable version of the events, and while Tyrion appreciated the straight forward storytelling, the self proclaimed and rightful Heir to Casterly Rock had always favored Mushroom's telling.

The Testimony of Mushroom may have been deemed an erratic and inaccurate piecing together of improbable events by the Maesters, but having been a dwarf himself Tyrion could speak to the validity of Mushroom's greatest truth.

People loosen their tongues in a Dwarfs presence.

Additionally Mushroom had been present amongst the Royal Court during the trying time, where as Munken had only been assigned to serve the King after Aegon III had taken the throne and war had been ended. Obviously though it was the flights of fancy that Tyrion found himself enthralled with though.

Among the claims that Mushroom made Tyrion drew the greatest joy from his accounting of actually being a dwarf. The Little Lion empathized with his trials and tribulations. Mushrooms claims of having hidden within a barrel of flour after King Aegon II had been murdered most certainly could've been true, if the man had been anything comparable to Tyrion he would've certainly fit.

While Munken disputes who actually provided the idea of searching for Dragon seeds, Mushroom providing the outlandish idea seemed logical to Tyrion, Dwarves can be intelligent, The Little Lion was himself proof of that.

Mushrooms claim at nearly drowning after attempting to mount the dragon Silverwing made perfect sense, Tyrion himself was a relatively weak swimmer due to his short limbs and great head. Aside from the realism of drowning, when Tyrion had first read the story he'd found great sadness within himself, The tale made it seem like the dragon refused him for being a dwarf, and that idea was too close to home for Tyrion.

In subsequent readings he'd realized that the root cause had been Mushroom not being of valyrian descent, but Tyrion would never forget his first conclusion.

Yet other tales did bring a smile to the Little Lion of Casterly Rock's face, the story of Mushroom making the dying King Viserys laugh was one, it was proof that dwarfs could provide laughter where others would not. Many times in his own life Tyrion had been given the benefit of a doubt upon an dark jest due to his stature, and perhaps his father's reputation.

Unlike the Maester's, Tyrion discredited none of the claims of his fellow dwarf. Not even the widely disregarded deflowering of a maiden Alicent Hightower by the Rogue Prince Daemon Targaryen.

Throughout his readings only a single tale of Munken's had Tyrion preferred, and that had been the kinslaying of the Cargyll brothers, Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk. When he envisioned their fates Tyrion had always imagined tears flowing their cheeks as they mortally wounded each other, exhausted and heart broken they'd died each others arms, having been cursed by the gods for their deeds. That had been the story Munken had told, but Mushroom had insisted he'd been present for the duel. Even claiming that it only lasted a few moments beyond the identical twin brothers furiously denouncing the other as a traitor.

Jamie had never read the book, and Tyrion wasn't sure if he'd heard the story, but he'd asked his brother which was more realistic once. A duel lasting an entire hour between single combatants, or the quick bloody and lackluster exchange Mushroom described. Jamie in the prime of his knighthood would know surely, he'd been in duels and fought with a blade in his long arms.

"It would've been quick most likely, duels don't usually last more than three blows little brother."

When he'd heard that Tyrion had nearly lost heart, Were all the Songs Lies?

He'd finished the tale before they'd crossed Lord Frey's bridge, but he thought about it now as the ancient fortress of House Stark began to expand upon the skyline. Mushroom claimed so many different things, and they all seemed to be dismissed in their time. He found Ser Harwin Strong in bed with Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, but only those who opposed the woman would accept his testimony, and it was never considered truth despite the burly First Men appearance of the false Velaryon children.

People especially debated Mushroom's sexual prowess, they dismissed his claim to a member the size of his overlarge head on account of his three foot long body, but Tyrion himself was proof that a dwarf could be well endowed, no whore had dared name Tyrion "Smallcock" after their sexual escapades. The Little Lion of Casterly Rock was especially fond of the tale of Rhaenyra and Daemon's special need for that member.

Daemon had been insistent upon Rhaenyra learning how best to touch a man so as to bring him pleasure, but she was no common woman, she could not be found abed with any man, so they'd turned to a dwarf. Specifically one with a member large enough to make most grown men jealous, and it helped so much more that the Jester had been perceived as Lack witted.

Tyrion could hear their voices even though he'd not been there.

"No one will belief him, he's just a dwarf."

Despite how they clearly looked down on Mushroom, It gave Tyrion endless pleasure to read of a dwarf fucking a Targaryen Queen,

If only it had been me.

Yet there would never be another chance for such an opportunity, for there were no more Dragon Queens, instead it was Tyrion's own sister who had replaced them.

And The Heir to Casterly Rock would never find himself between her lips or legs.

I'll not Fuck my own Sister.

Tyrion often turned to his elder brother for wisdom, with the intent being to never exclusively deny a thing, but upon this he'd firmly decided.

As Tyrion began to put away his most recent read, he found a Golden Haired Boy over top of him. A hand came flying down and smashed the books out of his grip.

"What are you doing Imp?"

The squirmy worm, Tyrion did not hesitate. Instead he Immediately retaliated upon his prickly nephew, landing a clean blow with all the might Tyrion could muster, the boys face was instantly and recognizably red from the slap.

Evidently it had also been particularly audible, for only a few moments later the Lioness herself descended upon her brother. She gripped her eldest son by the shoulder and turned him in such a manner that his swelling cheek was visible to her. When she had sufficiently examined the mark, Queen Cersei bared her fangs.

"Why have you done this."

"How about ask your son?"

"Joffrey what is the meaning of this."

"I...Well..Uncle Tyrion was ignoring me, and I'd asked quite kindly mother."

With his poorly constructed lie the boy had escaped any further fault in the situation. Cersei began to fume and her head turned nearly as red as the boys face.

"Oh sweet sister, you must calm yourself. Winterfell is less than an hours ride. Would you have the new Hand finding you so temperamental? Look nephew, can you see it from the window? There are plenty of people there who would happily smack you as well."

"Tyrion!"

Her screams always meant she wanted him to get out, but where was he supposed to go? He had no horse to ride, and he most certainly couldn't walk behind the caravan. Instead of listening to her further Tyrion finished packing his books and moved from his spot along the window.

All the while his sister was moaning, groaning, and cursing him with everything from greyscale to impotency. Tyrion didn't acknowledge her musings any further, and instead he wobbled over to his older brother.

Jamie had a smug satisfied grin upon his face, and Tyrion knew that he'd observed the entirety of the event.

"Did she run you off little brother?"

"Indeed! She even threatened my life. Oh wait till King Robert hears about this treachery."

"I dare say he's grown more fond of you, but between you and me, if the King had to pick who he's sleeping with..."

"I would say that you two are more alike than you might admit."

Jamie's look soured, That was dangerous talk, but Tyrion enjoyed having power over people, even if it was one of the two people in the world who treated him with kindness.

Realizing the error of his ways though Tyrion quickly apologized, and Jamie must've been in a particularly good mood, because he removed the frown from his face and ruffled his brothers hair before scooting enough to provide him shelter from Cersei's seething cries.

Tyrion began to pull the books from his satchel, and Jamie eyed them over his little brothers shoulders. It was odd for Jamie to show interest in anything that didn't regard swordplay or the center of Cersei's legs. So unnerved was the younger Lannister that he turned to his elder brother.

"You do know how to read don't you?"

"Brother. What kind of brute do you take me for?" Jamie was smiling, he'd taken no offense.

Yet part of Tyrion legitimately desired to know if Tywin Lannister's golden child had ever actually learned to be literate. There had been rumors that perhaps Jamie was dyslexic, and his elder brother had told tales of the hours their lord father had forced him to work on honing his skills.

Though for all their troubles, Tyrion had never seen his only brother with so much as a pen in his hand or a parchment in front of him.

If Jamie was given a letter fresh from a raven, he would demand the parchment be read by its deliverer, and should the messenger be illiterate Jamie would ask for another reader.

There was no doubt that his elder brother knew how to swing a sword, he was widely revered as the greatest living fighter in Westeros, and Jamie was comely were Tyrion was unsightly. Yet should it be true that his elder brother could not read, well that would prove a major deficiency.

Illiteracy may not have been a problem for a smaller house, and certainly not one to concern themselves with if their son was an excellent fighter such as Jamie,

But amongst the golden halls of House Lannister?

The very family whose founder had been dubbed by history as 'Lann the Clever'

Jamie could not be a worthy successor to such a man.

"I merely wished to know what you've been reading brother."

"Well since you've asked," Tyrion unveiled the four books he'd read during their slow days through the Northern Causeway. The first had been a copy of Maester Kennet's Passages of the Dead, Tyrion had made sure to read it first so that should they stop by the Barrowlands on their way to Winterfell, Tyrion would be well informed upon their holdings so that he might buy his entrance through gold and sworn precaution.

He'd hoped to see the tombs of Giants.

Tyrion had been disappointed to learn that his hopes had been for not, they'd rode through the Barrowlands without being feasted, apparently Lord Denys Dustin was to meet their party in Winterfell.

The next three books had concerned themselves with the people Tyrion was about to interact with.

"I've been studying our Northern compatriots, this book is Maester Egbert's Justice and Injustice in the North: Judgements of Three Stark Lords. This tome is Maester Childer's Winter's Kings, or the Legends and Lineages of the Starks of Winterfell. This last book is a copy of Archmaester Fomas' Lies of the Ancients."

Jamie had obviously never read any of these works, but it seemed that Tyrion had overwhelmed his brother by simply providing him with their titles.

"What could you possibly need with all those?"

"Oh brother, you have your sword and a whetstone. I have my brain and these books. Both can be weapons."

Jamie clearly didn't agree with that sentiment, but would have never degraded his brother by dismissing him as a useless dwarf. They loved each other far too much for that, and so it was that Jamie continued to feign interest in Tyrion's readings.

"Have you learned anything?"

The younger Lannister didn't mind, since he'd left their father's keep no one besides Jamie and the drunken King had cared to listen to Tyrion, and neither had ever expressed interest in his daytime doings.

"Indeed, these Starks have a sense of honor that would put any High Septon to shame, though I dare say the fat head in particular would be disgraced."

"Should you really be mocking hi..."

"Have I ever told you about the time..."

"That you found him in the room next door at a brothel, Yes. You have little brother."

Tyrion could only smile, besides their mother, Jamie was the only person the Little Lion could confide in.

"Well did you know that the Northerners, House Stark in particular, treat Violating Guest Right the same as treason. They view only kinslaying as a worse slight against their gods."

Ser Jamie Lannister, wielder of the Valryian steel sword Honor, was quite obviously unconcerned with such a finding. He tossed his head to the side in order to send his spun gold curls to the other side of his head, then matted them back into their perfect position before continuing.

"So you mean to tell me they won't murder us once we've taken their bread and salt?" Jamie said through a chuckle and subsequent smile.

"Well no I suppose they won't."

"And you had to read this in a book to find out?" Tyrion could see what his brother was doing, but he would defend the honor of his precious books same as Jamie might defend Cersei.

"Well did you know that the Stark's founder Brandon the Builder learned how to commune with the Children of the Forest?"

"And Lann the Clever impregnated every maiden in Casterly Rock...What good is knowledge thousands of years removed from relevancy?"

If Jamie was critical of the generally accepted stories about House Stark he would never listen to the heretical tales of Archmaester Fomas. The ones that said the Others from the Long Night were merely a numerically and technologically superior northern tribe instead of the mystic conglomerate of pale shadows and ice spiders that wet nurses were so fond of speaking of.

It would surely be to Tyrion's best interest for him to disregard Fomas' claim that the Stark's were not the Northern saviors they'd been declared. Such heresy had insisted that instead of saving the whole of humanity they, along with Night's Watch, had instead made themselves heroes befitting legends and stories through the alteration of history.

Tyrion was not sure what he believed, on one hand he'd grown beyond grumpkins and snarks, but on the other how would the Stark's discredit or change southern accounts of the events?

And how were there similar tales from across the known world?

Such questions, and the hypothesis Tyrion had attached to them were far above Jamie's comprehension, so he did not offer to share them.

"Very well, did you know that nearly every recorded Stark for the past eight thousand years has had some variation of a very specific gene?"

"Oh really?" Jamie said only half allowing himself to sound interested.

"Truly, almost every Stark born since the Age of Heroes has invariably been long faced, dark haired and grey or blue eyed."

"Yes and every Lannister had emerald eyes and golden hair. Tyrion next you'll tell me they have some mystical power." His brother said in utter disbelief,

Yet once upon a time it had been true. There were tales aplenty of Skinstealers amongst the Northmen, and the Stark's professed victory over a man who named himself Warg King. There was even a rumor that was particularly interesting to Tyrion regarding the current generation, and while he hoped it was true, Tyrion would have to see the wolves with his own eyes before he'd believe it.

So it was he decided to reveal the more indisputable of the two anachronism's that befell the current generation of Starks.

"The true born children of Lord Eddard favor their mother, they are the first Stark in over a millennia to have the prevalent genes of another house. It's said all but the youngest daughter hold the auburn hair of their Tully grandfather."

Jamie was characteristically uninterested in their genetic makeup.

Perhaps he'd be interested to know what else they're the first Starks in a thousand to have.

Yet Tyrion decided once more to keep that information to himself, Jamie would doubtlessly see it when Tyrion did, If it was true at all.

"Well what else do you have in that satchel?"

Tyrion lifted the other two books he meant to read, he had saved them for his continued journey, but Jamie wasn't privy to that secret yet. Only their mother was, but Tyrion trusted Jamie would not deny his desire.

"This book is by Archmaester Harmune, it's Watchers on the Wall, and this is by Maester Herryk, The History of the Kings-Beyond-The-Wall."

"What do you need those books for?" Jamie said with a curious eye raised in Tyrion's direction.

"I'm planning to visit the Wall once our business in Winterfell is complete."

"Tell me you don't mean to take the Black brother?"

Now was Tyrion's turn for laughter at his brothers expense.

"And leave Mother to Father's trifles and dreadful company? Never. And what of the whores, from Oldtown to Lannisport the brothels would find themselves in dire need of coin. Celibacy shall not be my fate I am afraid."

"Then what do you intend with your trip?"

"I seek to see from atop the great wall, and I mean to piss from its edge."

Jamie snickered at his brother.

"Very well, but how do you mean to travel? I'll have to return with the retinue."

"No worries, their will doubtlessly be a Night's Watchmen traveling down to meet King Robert and beg for more men."

"And you mean to ride with them?"

"You sound so shocked brother, but you must remember the North is vast and unpopulated, should we be come upon by riders they'd most likely be half starved and no threat to the men around me."

"Well just in case I'll make sure you receive sufficient protection on your journey."

"How considerate of you, but if you'd come perhaps I'd have time enough to teach you proper literacy."

"Tyrion, I know how to read."

"And I always take you at your word."

Jamie provided a single high pitched laugh before pulling his brother in and scuffing up his hair. The two laughed and carried on until their elder sister interrupted them.

"If you two are quite done,"

The brothers separated, Tyrion was breathing just a lit bit after exerting himself fully to contend with his full grown brothers strength.

"Jamie, King Robert requests you at his side. Says you need to take up your horse, he's just sent Lancel to fetch your mount."

"Good man that Robert, and I'll have to thank coz."

Jamie turned to walk towards the door, he eyed Cersei longingly the entire way but she gave him not a scent, she was apparently upset with his chumminess towards Tyrion.

She'd only been in such a foul mood because of Joffrey.

Tyrion only ever wished for two things, firstly that his bones would miraculously grow to full length, and second that someone besides Tyrion would smack the little bastard.

Neither was likely to happen, but if they did perhaps the Lannister's would be a perfect family.

Or perhaps the Bastard boy might be your son.

Cersei might've opened her legs for you if you'd resembled Jamie, his innermost demon retorted.

He put the disgusting thought out of his mind as his elder brother stepped from the still moving wheelhouse. Riding in a wagon with the Royal Family was not the luxurious fate that so many in Westeros might name it.

Yet his brother and his books provided him alleviation from the troubles that long days of travel would inflict upon others, and while everyone else was ready for the long progress to be over, Tyrion found himself ecstatic for the journey ahead.

It was only a little while longer before they were in the courtyard of Winterfell.

The carriage was set down and the horses came to a stop, his elder sister was the first out of the cart, the sleeping three year old Cassana was in Cersei's arms, and she was followed closely by her eldest and youngest sons. Princess Myrcella came afterwards, and only once she'd climbed down into the muddy courtyard did Tyrion step out of the wheelhouse.

As he looked before him Tyrion saw a legion of northerners lords who'd doubtlessly been ordered by rank or importance. The Little Lion of Casterly Rock was no stranger to such arrangements, as a boy he'd always been stood at Joanna's side, perhaps his lord father thought he could mask Tyrion as a small child if he was beside his crippled mother.

Once he'd stepped out of the liter he felt eyes glaring at him, but they did not stare at him in disgust like the southern lords might have, instead they looked upon him with wonder.

Perhaps they've never seen a dwarf before.

More like they've never seen a dwarf grow to manhood.

Tyrion found their stares to be a refreshing change from those he received in the south, and so he did not hide his mismatched eyes, instead he combed through the crowd for fellow interesting faces. All the while he was testing his knowledge about the Northern houses.

The Little Lion had long learned that the people who stood furthest back were likely to be the most interesting,

Those lined near the end are those the Lord wishes to hide but cannot.

So from his meager vantage point Tyrion surfed through the crowd with his green and black pupils, looking for those Lord Eddard Stark would hide.

The assembled Northmen were lined into uneven rows. The furthest from Tyrion was doubtlessly filled with high ranking household servants, among them Tyrion spotted the Master at arms first.

Ser Rodrick Cassel, the big white whiskers had made it clear. At his side was a girl only a little older than Myrcella, when Tyrion first beheld her the Little Lion could not believe it to be the Master at arms daughter, she was far to young to have been his. Yet she did resemble him, and Tyrion could see how perhaps Rodrick's faded grey had once had the auburn of his daughters.

The man and his daughter had been at the end of the largest row, clearly meant to have been seen due to their extension beyond other peoples, yet Tyrion continued down their line. Next to the Master at arms stood a man who could've been his son, yet Tyrion knew from his specific styling that this individual was instead the knights nephew, and the Captain of Lord Stark's guards.

The line continued further with several other important servants such as the handmaidens, master chef, kennel master, and master of horses. Tyrion glossed over their mugs. Save for a single man who stood great and wide, with only a quick glance Tyrion could tell this one was indeed the largest man in attendance, and though he had a simple aspect to him, it was clear even from a distance that the man was almost seven and a half feet tall.

After gawking at the potential stable boy, Tyrion looked towards the end of the guards, finding that there stood two men with dark brown hair and grey pale eyes, the stillness of their stance seemed to eat at them. They were everything that Tyrion had read about in Maester Childer's book, and at their side was a girl who wore her kirtle as if it suffocated her. They all shared a particular look, and so must've been siblings.

The differences between their physiques spoke to them being more half than full though.

To the girls left stood the Steward of Winterfell, he was unmistakable due to his stiff posture and proper attire. Yet he stood seemingly alone, Tyrion had read that the Steward had a daughter. The Little Lion of Casterly Rock looked at the girl to the Steward's right and decided it could not be her, she looked only passably like the man, whilst favoring the men to her own right.

And the Steward wasn't old enough to be their father.

Winterfell's Maester was at the far end on Tyrion's right hand side, infront of him stood three pairs of triple sentinel trees, green on brown.

The Tallharts, he knew at once. Helman, his son Benfred and daughter Eddara.

The silver fist of House Glover was to the girls right, and there stood the Master of the Wolfswood, alsongside his younger brothers wife. She was particularly young looking to Tyrion's eyes, especially as he glanced at the two children who stood by Robett Glover's side. The oldest of them was no less than four years old, and the former Sybelle Locke could not have been twenty.

They must like their brides young in the North.

The sixth line of Lords was ended on Tyrion's side by the silver battle axe of House Cerwyn, the Lord Medgar had ridden with the Royal retinue to Winterfell, and so Tyrion had already been greeted by him and his children Jonelle and Cley. Tyrion was still amazed at how spacious Lord Medgar had been with the distancing of his children by age.

Jonelle was a woman of thirty and three, while Cley was only just a man grown at ten and six. With Medgar at the age of fifty they'd been spread out in a manner most southerners would expect three generations instead of two.

At the Lord of Castle Cerwyn's side was a tall girl pale as milk, with three brothers and a father to her left. The white sunburst on their breasts could only mean they were the Karstarks of Karhold. Should be Lord Rickard, his heir Harrion, later sons Torrhen and Eddard.

That makes the girl Alys Karstark.

Their house had been founded when Karlon Stark, a second son to a King in the North, put down a rebellious lord.

There had once been a slew of cadet Stark branches, the Greystarks in particular had ruled for over five centuries from the Wolf's Den before allying themselves with the Red Kings of House Bolton, after which they'd been put to the sword by their cousins from the main branch.

The Greystarks had not been alone in their treachery though, history had repeated to a lesser degree several times, and it seemed destiny that the younger sons would rise up against their elders line. Tyrion was curious to see if there was any infighting amonst the current generation of Starks.

In front of the Suns of Winter, were the Ryswell's of the Rills. They'd come forth in almost all their might, only Lord Rickard's daughter Bethany was absent, and thankfully her son and lord husband Roose Bolton was similarly missing from the gathering.

The Lord of Barrowton, Denys Dustin, stood next to the Lord Roderick.

The Remaining Stallions, heir Roger, and his younger brothers Rickard and Roose, stood next to the Bull Moose of Hornwood.

Lady Donella is a Manderly by birth if memory serves.

At her right was Lord Halys and their son Daryn.

In front of the Moose herd was a conglomeration of Merman and Giants.

The Umbers of Last Hearth stood out first to Tyrion, closest to him had been the nine year old Mariah and eleven year old Arrana Umber. Though both were still children. the girls were taller than any of the gathered woman Tyrion had so far seen, and amidst the unkept hair of the Northmen it would have been impossible to distinguish them from men had they not been forced into overlarge kirtles.

As Tyrion allowed his eyes to wander further rightwards, he found himself looking upon ever increasing sized men. Harmond Umber was a boy of ten and three, yet he stood to Tyrion's guess at six feet and four inches, whilst the boys elder brother Osric, himself ten and five, was akin to King Robert.

Perhaps greater even, Tyrion decided the nearby boy was at six feet and seven inches.

To Osric's side stood two men grown. The Heir to The Last Hearth was more broad chested than even the Strongboar, and he was tall as the Hound. Tyrion looked back and forth between the two men, initially trying to discern heights before trying to decide who was the uglier of the duo. Had Sandor's burned half faced the Little Lion, it would be no contest, yet since it did not Tyrion varied his glances.

Finally he decided they were equal in measure, Six foot Ten inches, and equally hard to look upon.

Next to the "Small" Jon, stood his father. The man Northerners had named Greatjon was indeed quite large, this man was both burly and huge. In fact Tyrion decided Lord Umber was the third largest man he'd ever seen, after the stable boy behind him and the Mountain, Ser Gregor Clegane.

Yet even at a full seven feet in height, the large man stood a foot short of Ser Gregor, and atleast six inches less than the giant behind him.

Tyrion returned his eyesight closer to ground level so he could examine the Manderly's who stood beside their northern counterparts. While Greatjon Umber had fallen short of being the tallest man Tyrion had ever seen, Lord Wyman Manderly was doubtlessly the most obese.

He'd heard rumor that the Lord of White Harbor could no longer mount a horse, yet Tyrion had not believed it until this moment. He'd though that if a stallion could hoist a fully armored Ser Gregor up off the ground, than surely one could be found for a rich lord like Wyman. Yet after seeing the multitude of Lord Manderly's chins Tyrion abandoned all hope as the man must've himself.

Yet at Wyman's side stood his two comely granddaughters, Wynafryd was a girl of ten and nine, Tyrion had learned. She was the most likely woman from the North to be wed to the Heir to Winterfell, and at her side was the younger sister Wylla. The girl had for some reason dyed her hair a green shade similar to the beard upon the Merman of her houses sigil.

The row forward from them contained a sloth of Bears. The Little Lion of the West had taken particular interest in learning about this House Mormont. They'd become frequent trading partners with Lannisport, and by proxy Casterly Rock, since the end of Greyjoy's Rebellion. The House was particularly old by Northern standards, but legend said that the King of Winter Rodrik Stark had defeated an Ironborn champion in either a wrestling match or a test of words. Regardless of the truth, this generation was distinguishing themselves from those who'd come before.

The closest to Tyrion was the youngest daughter of Maege Mormont, even at eight years of age it was rumored young Lyanna had killed two raiders with an axe, and while the validity of the claim was questionable, the intensity in her eyes was undeniable.

At her left stood her thirteen year old sister Jorelle, she'd earned a reputation as a tomboy and everyone around the girl called her Jory instead of her given name. At her left was the eighteen year old Lyra, and Tyrion observed the girl to be equal parts lovely and ferocious.

Alysanne Mormont came next, she was now twenty years old and frequently made trips to Lannisport to deliver timber from her uncles Island, it was rumored the short stocky girl had given birth to a bastard boy and girl, and many men from the Westerlands claimed to be the father, yet Tyrion doubted any merchant in Lannisport had been brave enough to handle the beastly woman.

Despite her crooked teeth and calloused hands, Tyrion could see why some men might claim her, she was strong no doubt and had large thighs to proof it. Her breasts were also ample for any man to handle, and Tyrion wondered if given the chance would he have mounted the Bear.

He decided he'd not try, for fear of his well being.

The eldest daughter of Maege Mormont was also the tallest. She was over six foot and a woman of twenty and two years, she was far more fair than her younger sister Alysanne, and so more songs were sung of Dacey than any of her sister.

Tyrion had even conversed with her once, she seemed elegant in both mail and the silk dress he'd gifted her. She was kind, gentle and friendly towards him, and had left the impression that she was as innocent a woman as had ever lived.

Yet he'd also heard a tale that when a drunken man coped a feel upon her breast, the Bear had taken such offense she'd relieved the man of the offending hand soon after pinning him to the ground.

Regardless, Tyrion would happily converse with her once more.

Next to the great woman stood a boy with brown hair and violet eyes, the ten year old was a wonder to behold. This boy was the fabled Dorian Mormont, heir to Bear Island. The boy was not the stout beast Tyrion had expected, instead he seemed almost sickly and his bones were far skinnier than even his eight year old cousin Lyanna's. Perhaps with time he shall grow, Tyrion thought as he looked at the boys father.

The Greatest Knight in the North, Lord Jorah Mormont was not the grand sight men liked to speak of. By now he was nearly a man of fifty years, his black beard held strong whilst his remaining hair was declining, but he kept a certain strength and fitness unto his person. He was neither so tall as Jamie or King Robert, but he was muscled similarly. He wore on his person a dark green tunic with the black bear of his house in its standing position.

At his hip was his families pride and joy, the bastard Valyrian steel sword Longclaw. Even while sheathed its mere presence was an attraction for eyes to behold, for in this day of age most Lords would not risk a chance upon such a precious artifact being stolen from them. Yet Jorah wearing the proud bear head pommel upon his blade spoke to his courage and mentality,

If you want this blade, you'll have to take it from my cold dead corpse.

Tyrion's own lord father was of a similar mind in most regards, yet his father had not risked removing Lion's Tooth from his mantle in many years. Before him, Tyrion's grandfather Lord Tytos had not allowed any of his own sons to wield the blade, even as they marched off to war in the Stepstones. Not since Lord Gerold the Golden had a Lannister worn the blade upon their sword belt, and that had been Lord Tywin's own grandfather.

Yet Lord Jorah proudly displayed his skill, valor and grace by merely possessing the sword upon his person. It seemed that besides their Host Lord Stark, of the gathered northmen all others had allowed their steel to remain held within their own fortresses.

While Archmaester Thurgood's book Inventories, claimed over two hundred Valyrian steel blades remained in Westeros, Tyrion's own fathers book, The Valyrian Steel Of The Seven Kingdoms, put the number at eighty eight, though not all were swords.

Indeed, several gathered Lords were in possession of such artifacts. The Ryswell's had a full set of horse armor they called Steeds Heart, while Lords Cerwyn and Dustin had axes made from the metal, from his fathers findings, he knew the axes were named Finality and Reckoning respectively.

House Hornwood claimed a Valyrian steel spear named Antler, the Glover's had a pair of gauntlets made from the mystic metal, while the Tallharts kept a shield they'd named Evergreen. Lord Karstark also had a shield, and it was named Sun Daze.

The Manderly's housed a Trident made of the substance, and the Greatjon had a two hand sword with enough steel for two blades, he'd even named the reportedly six foot long weapon Behemoth.

Yet all had left their steel to gather dust upon its mantle, save Brave Lord Jorah.

There could be little doubt as to why the Lord of Bear Island was so audacious with his brandishing, Jorah Mormont had gambled upon himself and won. Tyrion had been ten and six when the Knighted Bear won the Tourney of Lannisport.

The Little Lion had placed a small bet upon his own brother Ser Jamie that day, he'd thought to place some wager against his elder brother since the odds had been so high, but Tyrion decided he would never bet against his own family. So it had been that Tyrion had missed out on a chance to enrich himself that day, when after ten tilts Jorah unhorsed Tyrion's white armored brother. Not long after his victory the Lord of Bear Island was wed to the woman standing to his left.

A beauty like Lynesse Mormont, formerly of House Hightower, was as rare a sight as could be imagined in Westeros. Her long golden locks had been gracefully braided, and the violet of her eyes awed Tyrion.

The family of Bear Island could be spoken of for days, and perhaps it was there that all gazes had gone, but Tyrion broke his sight from them as the Oafish King strode forward.

King Robert moved forward and the gathered Northmen immediately knelt, when they did Tyrion saw that even upon a knee none of the Umbers were shorter than he. The Stag didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, in fact he immediately motioned for the party to rise.

Ned Stark rose first amongst them, Robert looked his old friend over and declared that despite the passage of time, little had changed regarding his childhood companion. The grey eyed Lord of Winterfell spoke only that Winterfell was King Roberts to command.

Tyrion didn't think Robert enjoyed the coldness of the celebration, yet regardless of the King's feelings, Cersei strode forward and Lord Eddard once more dropped into the snow to kiss the ring upon her finger.

Robert instead moved to the auburn haired woman who could only be Lady Catelyn Stark, the Daughter of Lord Hoster Tully, and Lady of Winterfell. Despite Tyrion being able to detect Catelyn's distaste for the King, Robert embraced her as one might a long lost sister.

Following this quite the scene began, as Robert made his way down the line of gathered Starks and they introduced themselves.

The King began his personal parade by scuffing up the hair of Lord Eddard's youngest son, five year old Rickon. He then moved to the boy who'd been named in his honor.

"You must be Robb."

They shook hands, and the boy confirmed that he had indeed been Eddard's eldest son.

"You've got quite a son Ned, you must be very proud."

"Thank you Your Grace" The Lord of Winterfell responded solemnly, in a manner one might reply with if they were being lectured instead of praised. The King moved forward to the oldest daughter of House Stark.

This pretty red head was the fourteen year old girl Sansa, and her sight must've greatly reminded Robert of the girls lady mother, for he turned his head back to face his old friend.

"Gods Ned, could you find nothing to give the poor girl? Your Sansa has her mothers eyes, ears, nose and smile! With her auburn hair she is Cat's spitting image!"

The Lord of Winterfell did not laugh as the King had intended, instead he seemed paralyzed for a moment, and after realizing that his words could've been perceived as some backwards insult, Robert clarified his intended meaning.

"She's Beautiful is all I'm saying" The King lifted the girls hand to his mouth as he bent over to accommodate her still growing body. For though she was tall for her age, Robert was a man grown, and at Six foot and Six Inches was greater than all but five men in attendance.

The King rolled his eyes and puffed his way to the little girl at her sisters side.

"Your name is?"

"Arya" the girl spoke back after a moment of consideration. Robert chuckled and seemed delighted by her existence, Perhaps she reminds him of the girl he'd lost. This Arya did have a certain wild aspect to her, and her hair had been matted in a way that spoke to her not being much of a southern lady.

"Well I see where the resemblance went Ned, you saved it all for this one I think. She's every bit a Stark."

"Than...Thank you Your Grace."

Robert then moved to Lord Eddard's second youngest son.

"Show me you muscles."

The boy lifted his arm and rolled his sleeve for the request.

"Ahh, you'll be a soldier. Reminds me of your father, perhaps I'll take you for a squire!"

Lancel seemed rather insulted at the suggestion, he was the Kings squire after all, and had been waiting for his spurs for some time now. Yet Jamie had said their cousin was unworthy of knighthood, saying he fought as if his sword was a snake that he had no desire to hold, and that Lancel was only interested in brandishing it for his own pride.

The young auburn haired boy seemed ecstatic at such a suggestion, but his father seemed mortified. Eddard was hiding his displease very well, but Tyrion had learned from his father that every man had a tell, and Lord Stark's had been easy enough to find.

Robert then walked back towards Ned, clearly intent upon disregarding the silver haired woman until it was necessary. From behind the adoptive brothers stood Lord Eddard Stark's last living brother.

"You must be Benjen," The King said as if he was the first to deduce the dark haired man's identity. He stuck out his hand, and the deceased Lord Rickard's youngest son met the Kings outstretched grip.

"Aye, I am my fathers son, same as Ned. Lord of Sea Dragon Point and what not, It's an honor Your Grace."

"I haven't seen you since well...it doesn't matter. Why has it been so long, near twenty years i'd say?"

The youngest son of the deceased Lord Rickard turned to face his own family. He pointed to them as if to explain his absence from both Rebellions.

"I've a family of my own, and there must always be a Stark in Winterfell."

Robert was lost on the hyperbole of the moniker, and so instead concerned himself with meeting the family. Benjen Stark introduced his wife as Lady Barbery, and while Robert wasn't particularly interested, Tyrion himself knew the woman was Lord Roderick Ryswell's daughter by birth, and had allegedly at one time been intimate with Eddard and Benjen's deceased elder brother.

Tyrion had seen stranger unions be enacted though and so was not fazed by their marriage, what the Little Lion did find interesting was the appearance of the couples children.

"This is my boy Cregan, he's turned fifteen on his last nameday, and this beauty is my daughter Lysara, she is thirteen now."

Robert seemed to fixate upon only one of the children, but Tyrion found himself buzzing back and forth between them, and eventually he'd broaden his scope to the children of Lord Eddard.

Cregan and Lysara both had the dark hair and pale eyes of a Stark, Benjen had been successful in passing his genes to both his children, whilst all but one of Ned's children had been born with Tully looks.

The King clearly saw Lysara's resemblance to the girl he'd once loved, his lust was plain to see and Tyrion hoped for the girls sake that she was not forcibly brought to the King's chambers.

Yet Robert seemed to stir himself from his own desire, because instead of inspecting her figure further he kissed her hand and moved himself to rid the girl form his sight.

Robert found the shit eating grin of Balon Greyjoy's third son next to the girl, the Ironborn was a few inches shorter, yet that did not rob him of his cocky demeanor.

"So this is Lord Balon's son."

"Aye, I am Your Grace. Loyal and Humble ward to House Stark and Lord Eddard." The man stuck out his hand, holding out hope the King might shake it.

Tyrion thought for a moment that King Robert meant to spit in the Ironborn's hand, and curse him as the spawn of a treacherous Lord, but Robert accepted the Kraken's tentacle before quickly moving on.

Apparently he could contain himself no longer.

The girl was right in his sights now, and Robert tromped his way to her. For a moment Tyrion was afraid he might strangle the girl, such had been the intention he'd seen behind Roberts eyes. Yet the King of the Seven Kingdoms stopped before her to examine the former Targaryen Princess.

She was indeed beautiful, no man could deny her of that, yet it was quite well known that Robert Baratheon detested the looks of Old Valyria, and had in fact personally killed this poor girls elder brother at the Battle of the Trident. Tyrion expected harsh words to be flung, and so they were.

"So you've seen to this dragon spawn's upraising Ned?"

"I have Your Grace, She's as much my daug..." Robert nearliy exploded.

"You'd Name Her A Daughter? As if She Were Your Flesh and Blood?" Lord Eddard Stark stood silent, but Tyrion could tell the Lord of Winterfell wanted nothing more than to mash his old friend in the mouth.

"Have you Forgotten what Her Father did to Your Father? To Your Brother?"

"Are Northmen so Easy to Forget?"

"Your Gra..."

"I know that I Shall Never Forger what Her Brother did to your Sister." At that the Lord of Winterfell's booming voice finally came forth, and he retorted Robert's rambling.

"She Wasn't Even Born when such a Thing Happened Robert! How can You hold Her to Blame for What Others have Done?"

The King began to froth at the mouth in his anger, and Tyrion thought for a moment that Robert might spit upon the girl in his rage.

Yet before he had the chance, a Dark Haired man pulled the former Princess behind him.

"My wife, Lady Calimanenar has nothing but condolences to offer for your loss Your Grace. I Pray that you may find mercy and forgiveness in your heart."

Robert seemed dumbfounded at the mans appearance, and at his plea. The King stopped dead in his tracks, as if he'd seen a ghost.

Tyrion quickly began to examine the boy before further action could be taken. This newly made Lord Jon Calimanenar was ten and seven now, and recently wed in the tradition of his father.

The former Bastard of Winterfell did have the look of a Stark, his night brown hair complimented his dark grey eyes, and he was about five foot and ten, perhaps a bit shorter.

At his hip hung a sheathed Valyrian sword that had been given to him by his father upon his coming of age, and Tyrion knew that the blade was itself a gift from King Robert to his most leal friend Lord Eddard. The sword was named Hailstone, and though its pommel paled in comparison to Robert's bedazzled sword Reignmaker, its blade was still the steel of Old Valyria.

It would've been sweet to hear their song.

Yet it was not too be, for the King seemed dazed by the boy. Apparently the sight of Lyanna's nieces and nephews had proven to much for the Stag.

This must've been the first time Robert had seen anyone who reminded him of his lost lover.

"My Gods Ned, this is your bastard? He looks just like..."

"Lord Jon Calimanenar is no longer a bastard Your Grace. He is by your Royal Decree, the Founder of a New House, and his Lady Wife is no longer a Targaryen."

"They've wed already?" Robert said with hardly more strength to his voice than a whimper.

"Aye, Your Grace. We wed upon the last full moon, and... I've soiled her."

It clearly pained the boy to say such a thing, he'd quite obviously fallen in love with the girl by Tyrion's estimation, and so he pitied them.

Tyrion knew More than Anyone how much Pain Love could cause.

The former Targaryen Princess was similarly sour, and she clearly desired to be set free from this awkward situation. Yet no one but the King could see to her dismissal, but it seemed that Robert had been frozen in the past, and he stood paralyzed save for his eyes that darted between the Lord of Moat Cailin and the Daughter of Benjen Stark.

Finally though he loosed himself from his trance, and he'd decided he wanted no further part in the affairs of this meeting. He freed his lips and turned to the Lord of Winterfell.

"Take me down to your crypt, Eddard. I would pay my respects."

Tyrion heard Cersei begin to protest, arguing that they'd only just arrived, that they should instead be rested before supper. She yelled for reason, but in actuality she cried in anguish for his betrayal.

Once more she'd lost Robert to the Ghost of Lyanna Stark.

Yet Robert heard not a word that she said, and so it fell to Jamie to comfort her, and he end the golden haired Queen's protest.

Ned Stark stood frozen now, clearly he'd been alarmed by what was asked of him. Robert could not have known that only Starks were permitted into the Crypts by tradition, yet it had been a command by the King. So tradition or not Lord Eddard was inclined to do as he was bid, and so it was that The Protector of Realm and the Warden of the North set off.

Whilst the remainder of the gathered party stood amongst the falling summer snows.

Chapter Text

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen

Mother and daughter strolled arm in arm much like they had that fateful day in the capital, the one where they'd finally been allowed to leave. Walking onto her Uncles flagship was the only thing Rhaenys could remember from that day, she'd learned everything later of course, but that was not what they were speaking of now.

"These gardens were a gift from our ancestor Prince Maron Martell to his lady wife Princess Daenerys Targaryen, they were your third great grandparents on my side. On your fathers side, it was a double marriage you see, and so Maron's sister, Princess Myriah was wed to King Daeron the Second, Daenerys' brother... Are you still listening Rhaenys?"

"Wh...Yes of course, the gardens."

Rhaenys could not deceive her short, olive skinned mother.

"Gods, you are your fathers daughter."

Was that an insult?

The Princess could never be sure when it came to her sire. Those around her varied in their perceptions so drastically, that while one man would name him an Honorable Knight, another would curse him in entirety for the worlds evils.

All that Rhaenys knew to be true about him was that he'd had eyes of alluring indigo, and luminescent silver-gold hair.

"What's on your mind my sweet?"

Rhaenys looked upon her mother, and saw that even at the age of forty and three Princess Elia Martell was still so beautiful.

Everyone said she'd been sickly in her youth, and that child birth had only weakened her further, yet before Rhaenys stood a strong and caring mother.

"Well, when you said Daenerys..." Rhaenys had indeed been in thought about the aunt she'd never known.

"It's said she's quite the exquisite sight now. Reportedly she's charmed the entirety of the North with her violet eyes, and the silver hair of her father."

Violet Eyes and Silver Hair, the look of Old Valyria, and something that had not been fully afforded to Rhaenys herself.

Instead the Princess had been born favoring her Martell heritage, but small remnants of her patrilineal descent were present.

The most prominent of which was a single streak of golden hair, placed perfectly symmetrical atop her widows peak. Rhaenys wore the band of strands long and down below her shoulders, allowing them to mingle with the remainder of her dark brown ringlets.

Her father had also contributed to her above average height, Yet she'd taken after her mother in several other ways.

Princess Elia Martell's daughter had been born with eyes so dark that if they were indeed a shade of purple, no one could tell.

Rhaenys was not so darkly colored as her mother though, instead her skin was golden beige, something she could only imagine had been a compromise between her parents complexions.

Regardless, She was envious of Daenerys.

Her look was the first thing Rhaenys could ever remember wanting.

Yet she felt shamed at such thoughts, and so tried to abandon them.

The Princess knew her aunt had been born after the fall of their house, and so they'd never met, but that didn't matter.

We're family, and Rhaneys could only think about how her aunt had grown up without kin around her.

Maybe she's accepted the Starks as family, that could very well be so she decided.

But she didn't have any blood relatives in Winterfell.

Rhaenys herself had been far more lucky in that regard.

"You'll see her one day, I'm certain of it."

"You think so?"

"I don't see why not, she's family, but back to the lesson. It's said of Ser Daemon Blackfyre that he was power hungry, that he wanted to usurp his brother's throne."

"But the truth is this, King Daeron kept Ser Daemon's true love from him. The Black Dragon loved Daeron's sister Daenerys more than the world itself, and so his heart broke at her loss, but only after eight years did he act, and do you know why?"

Rhaenys shook her head, she knew that King Daeron called for his brother's arrest and that the incident had led to war, but Rhaenys was interested to hear what tale her mother would weave.

Instead of answering immediately though, the Princess of Dorne turned to her daughter and reached upwards towards her face. The hand was small, and no longer so smooth as it had once been. Time had made Elia Martell strong, but it hadn't been easy on her.

"Because Daeron took who Ser Daemon loved he desired revenge. He never wanted the throne, but he wanted to hurt Daeron the way he'd been hurt, but the best way to do that was to have a plan."

"But Ser Daemon's plan failed him, he died upon the Redgrass, slain by his own half-brother."

"Ahh so you do learn! I knew you to be your father reborn, knowledgeable even when not paying attention. Ser Daemon did not fail because of his plan, he failed because of its execution. It could never have worked how he'd intended after Daeron called for his arrest."

Rhaenys mother pulled her in close,

"But a perfect plan, executed at the right time, will provide every expected result."

"Why are you telling me this mother?"

Princess Elia Martell planted a kiss upon her only daughters cheek.

"Because all that we do is done for the sake of family."

With that the two girls entered into Prince Doran's private lounging chambers, once inside Rhaenys eyes shot up in excitement.

Around a large oaken table her favorite people in the world had convened.

Doran sat straight forward from the entrance, his face turned upwards just a bit from the head of the table. At his side stood the white haired and broad shouldered Norvosi axeman, Areo Hotah. His pale smile spoke to true happiness,

"Little Princess" he said in his native accent.

Obara sat to Doran's right, her close set eyes smiled at the sight of her younger cousin. Yet it was Nym who was upon Rhaenys first, beautiful black braided hair swung behind her as she approached the Targaryen Princess. They traded hugs in greeting,

"You are so beautiful Rhae, and it has been far to long."

After her came Tyene, and she brought elegant kisses which she planted upon each of Rhaenys cheeks. Tyene then gave similar comments to her elder half sister, but added that Rhae smelled like dessert marigold.

Tyene obviously knew that was Rhaenys preferred scent, for it was also her favorite flower, but Rhaenys took the complement without issue.

As they congregated back towards the table Rhaenys noticed Prince Trystane standing at his father's side, but there was someone missing.

Where is...

There was suddenly a kiss planted upon her neck, and Rhaenys felt a soft feminine grip around her waist. She turned around swiftly and to great excitement saw her best friend, The Heiress to Dorne, Arianne Martell.

"My Gods Rhae, you've grown! I can't believe how well you've filled out! And how beautiful you are!"

The last time Rhaenys had seen her cousin was near two years ago now, they'd corresponded through ravens, but it was so nice to finally see her beloved Ari's face once more.

Ari herself had grown quite a lot, well not in height, by Rhaenys guess she was no more than five feet and two inches, but Ari was a woman proper. The flat chested and chubby girl was no more. Now she was fully breasted, and her skin was a rich olive shade, but it was her big eyes that drew in Rhaenys.

Ari's pupils were so dark, yet under great scrutiny they almost showed purple, a side effect of her diluted Targaryen blood no doubt.

Behind her strode a tall pale shadow, and when Rhaenys met his gaze she found lilac eyes staring back at her,

"Viserys!" she called out, incredibly pleased to see her uncle after the six months they'd been apart.

"Rhae!" he took her into his arms and spun her about the room twice, when he sat her down Rhaenys pulled him into a deep hug, she was all the family he had left to him.

His silver blonde hair had begun to grow out, and he'd went unshaved. While his beard was still quite weak she held out hope it might be magnificent, some day.

Rhaenys looked upon his face and body once further,

Gods why couldn't I have been born looking like that?

Pale skin, a variant of purple eyes, and silver hair.

To be fair to herself, not a person she'd met had ever failed to mention Rhaenys great beauty, but even with the golden streak of hair amidst her dark ringlets,

She would never be so beautiful as Viserys.

"You've grown little sister" he said lovingly, it was true, Rhaenys had grown several inches in the last few moons. She was now almost five foot and nine inches, taller than most men around her, but Viserys had grown as well. When he'd left the Water Gardens he'd been about two inches shorter, but now he towered over her at six foot and one,

He must've been eating better. Rhaenys knew he'd often starve himself, for his agony was great.

Rhaenys had been lucky enough to not remember what they'd lost, but Viserys wasn't afforded such a luxury.

Ari came over and planted a kiss upon Rhaenys cheek before planting one of Viserys lips, Rhaenys thought for a moment that they were playing some game, but no, it turned out they'd been wed in some secret ceremony.

After that revelation Viserys hugged Rhaenys own mother, and for a moment it seemed like all they had lost was restored.

Elia had her son and Viserys had his past.

Prince Doran then bid them all to sit, Viserys did so at Doran's left hand side, whilst Arianne took company next to her husband. Rhaenys sat next to her best friend, and the Princess of Dorne pulled a chair at her daughters side, whilst the Sand Snakes sat opposing.

There was but one more chair unoccupied.

Rhaenys was so excited to have almost all her favorite people gathered that she didn't even know where to start.

"So... how were your travels?" It wasn't directed at anyone in particular, instead she just wanted to hear all of their voices.

Arianne grabbed her hand and held it in her own,

"Well, Viserys and I came from Sunspear, Obarra and Trystane rode with us, but we had our own carriage of course." She glanced at her father to see if she'd made him uncomfortable, but Ari had not.

Doran Martell was a man of stoic faces, one could hardly tell what he was thinking at a given moment.

"Jeyne and Jennelyn send their regards Princess Rhaenys, they'd been so graciously hosting me at Skyreach."

"Oh! How were they?"

"Well last I saw them frowns and tears had spread across my face, we'd become so close once more, but their father was all to happy to see me go. I suppose he grew tired of the mischief I brought upon his girls."

Taking the answer at its face value, Rhaenys turned towards the youngest gathered daughter of Prince Oberyn Martell, Gods I hope he comes.

"What about you Ty?"

"I was visiting my mother in the Reach, I had the pleasure of seeing some other family as well. The voyage wasn't completely smooth sailing, but things have turned out alright, and I'm quite happy to once more be in your presence Princess."

"Now that we've all been reunited, there is a reason for our gathering. Words have been flown all across the Kingdoms by now, the Usurper rides North, his brother has been immobilized left in critical condition, and the former hand is dead. The Capital is in disarray, and those in the Red Keep would murder each other given only a chance."

Doran turned particularly to face his niece and her uncle,

"Princess Daenerys has been wed." There was testing in his voice, as if he meant to know their reactions, both would weep for the Dragon they'd lost but neither had ever known the girl, it was a personal loss in the least personal way.

"We will see everything made the way it was intended, but their will have to be sacrifices."

"What shall I grow tired of first? The constant feasting or the delivering of my daughters to their husbands?" The voice could only belong to the Red Viper, Prince Oberyn himself,

Uncle Oby!

At his side strode his youngest daughters, Gods its been so long, Rhaenys brushed her chair back and hugged Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza all in turn.

"You've all grown so big, by the Seven I've missed you."

After she'd hugged each of them they ran over to their beloved elder siblings, by the time Rhaenys had finished greeting Ellaria, all the children were sit in the laps of their sisters. Obella and Loreza sat in Obarra's lap, while Elia sat in Nym's and Ty held Dorea.

Rhaenys confronted their father.

"My Gods Elia, your girl has grown! I've never seen a woman of such nobility and beauty. I intend no offense of course." He pulled her into a tight embrace, before making his way to Arianne, intentionally skipping over Elia. He placed kisses onto Ari's cheeks, and then took note of his daughters.

"Well if we are all going to be sitting in our sisters lap..."

He pulled back Elia's chair and placed himself across her handlebars. She screamed in laughter, begging him to get off before the chair broke. When finally he'd grown tired of the jest Uncle Oby walked around, first reaching the Norvosi's side and shaking hands, then scuffing Trystane's hair, finally he wandered over to his gout ridden brother, circling behind him before he started rubbing his shoulders.

"Big Brother, you've grown so stiff, have you not taken my advice." Doran smirked but he didn't speak, he clearly had something else on his mind.

"Ahh fine, how goes the plotting brother?"

"It would go better if you'd take a seat."

Oberyn rolled his eyes at the suggestion, the seven of his gathered children alongside his paramour and sister all chuckled at his antics, Rhaenys held in her laughter so as to not insight Prince Doran's gaze.

The Red Viper encircled his brother before taking his place though,

"But Dear Doran, you're the one who wanted to do the sitting remember? You've had me roam the world for the past twenty years, and now you call me forth to discuss your scheme."

Doren did not speak, he merely held out a hand in the direction of the open seat. Finally Oby took what was offered, placing himself directly opposite to his elder brother, but directly next to Rhaenys' own mother.

Yet just before he sat himself, Oby walked to the chamber door.

"I almost forgot, we've brought guests from Starfall."

Princess Elia Martell turned as if an arrow had been flung by her head, and Rhaenys watched in amazement as her mother rose from her chair, then darted towards the entering woman. She must've been dear to Princess Elia for the embrace seemed years due.

The woman Rhaenys' mother hugged was far taller, her hair was black as night and hung to her upper back. Rhaenys did not notice as the two embraced, but when the woman broadened her gaze there could be no mistake.

This woman had haunting violet eyes,

Behind her was a tall muscular man with the white sword and falling star of House Dayne embroidered upon his tunic, his hair was pale cream and his pupils were pale blue, but at his side stood the most beautiful woman Rhaenys had ever placed eyes upon.

This girl could not have been older than the Princess, but she was a woman more than any Rhaenys had ever seen. Every feature of her body had been sculpted by the Smith himself, and not a strand of her thick dark hair was misplaced. She was taller than even the woman who she stood behind, perhaps five feet and eleven, but she was more haunting by half. Her eyes had been mismatched, with her left being bright violet, and the other a silver gray.

Yet the duality of her pupils did not serve to drive Rhaenys from her gaze, instead the eyes worked in tandem to allure. For a moment Rhaenys forgot all about the arrival of her cousins, and now each question that hung on her tongue asked who this girl was.

But the happiness of the encounter did not remain long,

"Where is he Lord Adrian?" Prince Doran sounded quite frustrated about something.

The Lord of Starfall did not speak, and instead the woman with two haunting violet eyes spoke for him.

"He's gone North, said he was going to protect the rightful heir to the Throne, the one he swore to protect."

Rhaenys didn't know who they were talking about, but the woman's statement didn't make any sense.

Viserys was the rightful heir by the Targaryen laws, Daenerys is his younger sister, she cannot come before him.

Or even I.

Doran was quite clearly disappointed, and he did not veil it as he normally would have.

"Lord Adrian, you must be quite tired from your journey, I'll have you rested and fed before I speak to you, enjoy the Gardens if you can."

The Lord attempted to reason with Doran, stating that he was not too tired for what the meeting entailed, yet Doran dismissed him regardless. The haunting figures followed suite despite Rhaenys nonverbal hope that they would linger.

No sooner had the Lord of Starfall been dismissed than Prince Oberyn spoke to his paramour and young children,

"The Water Gardens really are quite stunning this time of year girls, why don't you go enjoy them? Ellaria this trip has been especially tough for you too I know, having to wrangle four miniature's and one life sized me." He smiled lewdly after finishing, yet she didn't seem to take the hint.

Whatever was about to be said, she couldn't be a part of.

The children were all to thrilled to be dismissed, and it helped all the more that Doran sent Trystane to lead them out the door, Ellaria remained still however. She was unwilling to move without an explanation, but Oberyn was in no shape to give her one, and so it was that he came to her and nestled his head with hers.

"I need you to go my love, please."

He looked like he might cry. It was like his heart had broken in his chest, that he was going through the most painful experience of his life.

Ellaria saw the pain upon her lovers face and so did as she was bid, begrudgingly Ellaria found her exit and the plotting began.

"The Time is almost Nigh, soon the Dragon shall once more fly over the Red Keep. The Lord Hand's death provides opportunity not present for several years, Lewyn has assured me that his demise was not natural, but that he'd been poisoned. All signs indicate the Lannister's as the culprits, and there could only be one reason to have the Hand killed. The Usurper has been undermined by his Queen, apparently only a single one of the Usurper's children resemble him, I have little doubt that the Toothless Falcon found the truth, and paid for his knowledge."

"So war shall come?" Doran nodded at Obarra in conformation.

"Eventually, it is but a matter of time, and they shall soon be a plague upon the Seven Kingdoms, but when the dust settles all shall be as it should have been."

"We have eyes were none can see now, for a Targaryen lingers amidst the furthest reaches of the world. This Black Dragon breaths no flame, but in his wisps of smoke lie symbols. A line of communication has been maintained with this Aemon since before the wars outbreak, Elia has continued correspondence, and to great fruition. What has the chained dragon said of late sweet sister?"

Princess Elia must've sensed the surprise within her daughter and adopted son, for it was to them that she spoke.

"Aemon Targaryen is a chained maester, and sworn brother of the Nights Watch. Yet he is a dragon nonetheless, and a descendant of King Maekar same as you both, He was King Aegon the Fifth's elder brother.

That makes him Almost a Hundred Years Old!

"Maester Aemon didn't take kindly to the summary mistreatment of his brothers descendants, and so has sent words of great importance to us alone. The wildlings have once more banded together behind a self proclaimed King-Beyond-The-Wall, and this Mance Rayder intends to make war upon the Nights Watch."

Viserys chuckled,

"History proves repetitive once more. These savages only name one of their number King when they mean to move southwards." He turned to see if others would find his humor, and indeed Arianne did laugh, and as she did so to was Rhaenys. Prince Oberyn chuckled as well, but his was darker, as if he knew or thought something they could not, but he ended his laughter with a question to Doran.

"Will the Wall hold?"

"The Wildlings have never breached it before, but Aemon claims that the Night's Watch has never before been so poorly manned. He affirms that for each mile of Wall, the sworn brothers could place a man atop it at every third."

Numbers like that made it clear that the Watch could not be held.

"So its but a matter of time then? They cannot hope to combat a host when spread so thin." Rhaenys felt like she must be right.

"Do not discredit the Wall Sweet Princess. I've seen it's base with my own eyes and I desire not to gaze from its apex. Many who do climb are fated to fall, and all who brave it freeze sooner or later."

When did Oberyn visit the Wall? It was no secret he was well traveled, but the Wall seemed a whole world away from Dorne.

"Rhae is correct though father, surely such numbers provide a substantial advantage to the Wildlings." Oberyn seemed proud of Tyene for speaking up more than he was upset she disagreed with his assertions.

"It doesn't matter who wins the fight, all that matters is that Aemon will send to the Starks soon, and they'll doubtlessly answer his call for aid. When Lord Eddard calls his bannerman the war shall begin."

"Arianne, your mother shall be coming home soon. Though I dare say she won't be alone, we'd best prepare a big welcome. She'll bring Ten Thousand Unsullied and Bearded Priests, while the Sealord of Braavos promised the ships Oberyn secured so many years past. Areo and Obarra I've given you this command, what have you agreed?"

"The entirety shall arrive in White Harbor under the guise of Iron Bank affiliates, its known Lord Manderly has a debt, and so to refuse harbor to our ships would be ill conceived. From there we shall split the force, I shall take my fellow axeman to Winterfell and lay siege to the Northern Capital."

"And I shall march the Unsullied to Lord Stark's rear, what howling should befall that night?" The close eyed girl laughed, as did her father.

"Very well, the Lord of Winterfell should be in the South by this point though, so his son and vassals will have command."

"A shame his first defeat shall be his last!" Uncle Oby raised his hand, and his girls once more went wild with laughter. Doran however paid no mind.

"Use his inexperience and their diversity to your advantage. Don't let them consolidate, harry their supply lines. When you confront them allow time to form ranks, Lord Bolton will ensnare them from behind."

"What did he want in return?" Oby asked.

"He was insistent upon the Unsullied remaining in the North to maintain his rule, evidently the Northmen are too loyal to the Stark's to see them deposed without a fight. That shall not be a matter of importance though, Areo shall also stay. Lord Roose Bolton shall rule the North from the Dreadfort, while our beloved Obarra takes Lord Stark's own home."

"Who is to be her groom?" Oberyn was gritting his teeth.

"Lord Bolton's son Ramsey, he will be made Lord of Winterfell and given official legitimization by the Crown. The Leech Lord has decided Sansa Stark shall also be his captive, I agreed of course. She is nothing to us, but he means to see her wed to his heir Domeric."

"I've heard whispers about this boy..."

"I know, they've reached my ear as well father, but I won't let him torment me. He pushes to far and I'll kill him, you gave me a choice of weapon long ago, and I made it then same as i'll make it now. Let him life in fear of the beatings I might dole out upon him."

Oberyn smiled proudly.

"Surely if you slew him and escaped South your crime would be forgiven."

"While we speak of the North, have you concocted an idea upon how to see my sister returned to our midst?" Viserys asked,

"Your sister will be coming home" Oby said with absolute certainty.

Yet Rhaenys couldn't help but wonder, Would she even want to come South?

"What if Daenerys loves her husband and the Starks?"

Rhaenys almost felt stupid for asking, but it needed to be done. It was a real possibility.

The notion was indeed not well received, Doran openly frowned, the Sand Snakes all looked away, Uncle Oby put his head down, and Viserys stared at Rhaenys as if it was her who'd been treacherous.

It was Princess Elia who actually spoke though, but first she gripped her daughters hand.

"Now Rhaenys, Princess Daenerys is your aunt, and she is Prince Viserys sister, we will not abandon her to the dreary North." She turned back from her daughter and faced her elder brother.

"But have you a plan for this brother?"

Doran continued his frown, No he doesn't, he thought she'd just flee happily into our custody.

He remained still for a moment, and silence took the room, yet his eyes calculated all the while. Patience was his strength, and so too was his intellect, Prince Doran Martell had never seen defeat in Cyvase and played life as if it was a game where each move mattered.

Finally he did speak, though his voice was coated in somber.

"I've no guarantees, but if the opportunity arises we shall swap hostages."

Princess Elia sat forward in her seat,

"Who are you intending to trade?"

"We have someone that Lord Stark will want just as we desire Princess Daenerys."

"What if she won't agree?"

"Her loyalty is to Dorne."

"A Mother's Loyalty is to her Children."

The two siblings stared hard, but eventually Obara broke the silence.

"There might be no need for a trade off, if we take the North we can take the Princess." The siblings seemed to have peace on those terms, so any more concern was not raised, and Doran spoke further of his master plan.

"The Riverlords are likely to wall themselves in their keeps should the Trident become a battle ground once more. Yet should war arise between the Starks and Lannisters, the Tully's will fall behind the Direwolf. If the Northmen ride south before they can march North though our priority is to hold their lands from above the Neck, do not seek battle with the Crannogmen in their own turf. Instead hold the Barrowlands with ground troops, and have the seas controlled by the Bravossi armada. Nor should you ride North to aid the Nights Watch, allow the Wildlings south until they impede upon you. We can deal with them once the dust has settled."

"What about what they're running from?"

"Aemon didn't say anything about.."

"But Rhaegar did, and I've told you what he told me."

"Then its even more important that we unite Westeros once more."

Elia Martell nodded in agreement, while Rhaenys tried to piece together everything they were implying. Her father's mention had concerned her, but they did not pause to allow for further questioning.

"Should our war happen first, many of the Riverlords will side with the Usurper, but the most important of them is as yet undecided, it's known that Lord Walder has no love for his liege. The Lord of the Twins won't stir himself on our behalf though, proactively at least, but once we show him our side is the righteous one, he's like to set his men to our cause."

"What would he want in return?"

"His positioning his vital, if the Northmen are in the North he can bar their crossing along the Green Fork, and if they are in the South then that keeps Northmen forces separate from any Lannister hosts until they can square off head first. I'm merely asking Lord Walder to keep his eyes open, but he'll of course be rewarded with the title of Lord Paramount to the Riverlands."

"So he asked for no marriage?"

"He offered several, and I think it best to accept. The most interesting was his offer for Nym, for her he'd see his great grandson and namesake Walder finally wed."

Rhaenys knew their were a multitude of Frey's with that name, but she didn't know which was which.

"You mean Ryman's son?" Doran nodded at Oberyn's question.

"Ahh I've heard tale of this 'Black' Walder, he is high in the line of succession, conceivably enough so to become Lord given the right circumstance. Yet I've not known him, and I dislike his lordly ancestor. Is their no other who can be called upon?"

Doran shook his head,

"Lord Walder's aid shall help us bottle neck Southern land support northwards, and it could also stop the passing of returning Northmen. Besides, apart from his strength and positioning, the resentment he holds towards his liege gives him reason towards our cause. The Bracken's are ambitious, but the Blackwood's shall never follow them, and the statement can be reversed while still holding true. If the Tully's are to face Justice it must come from Lord Walder."

Oberyn submitted upon that but turned to his beautiful daughter Nym, and she stroked her long black braid as her father spoke.

"What have you thought of this my lady?" Nym smiled at her father in reassurance.

"I should think one doesn't get the moniker 'Black Walder' from his timid nature. He sounds dangerous father, and for that I like him all the more."

Uncle Oby acknowledged his daughters willingness, and gave his blessing.

"At least he consulted with you upon this decision, it's more courtesy than he gives your sister" Oby's black eyes stared deep at his elder brother.

Doran exploded to his feet, anger stifling the pain he felt from his gout ridden toes.

"We can't face Tywin in the Field! We don't have the Numbers, Too many Fronts shall be Our Doom!"

"I've heard this argument from you time and time again, So I ask you once more, what is my little girl being sacrificed for? Huhm? The greater good?"

"Gods Oberyn! She's not dying, the Kindly Man I spoke to in Braavos said..."

"I know what he offered you! A life for something precious, but you've taken something that was not yours to give."

"The decision's not been made yet, we could..."

"There is to be no discussion for this matter Doran, shall we throw away my daughters life while we seek vengeance for our sister's son? Where should it end? Surely we must avenge her next then, hmmm?"

By this time Doran had been overcome by his pain, and so had sat back in his chair, but his gaze had not faltered.

If it weren't for his ailment, the brothers would be at each other right now. And who could separate the Red Viper from his prey?

"I will not Lose this War Oberyn! If we fail it will be the end of House Martell, I shall not watch a United Lannister Baratheon force march upon Sunspear with your head on a pike!"

"She Won't Even Have A Name!" Oberyn screamed at the top of his lungs.

Doran knew he could not muster such veracity, and so he lowered his voice to barely a mumble.

"Then we'll honor the one you gave her."

"If the Great Lion of the West cannot stir then the war is won. Tywin dies and the Rock falls to his son the Imp, the Realm loses its greatest leader, and perhaps the Lions fight for scraps."

Oberyn reeled in rejection.

"Ser Kevan has ever been loyal to his elder brother."

"Indeed, yet that loyalty is to Tywin, whether it shall follow to his brothers son remains to be seen, perhaps given the chance to see his own children as Lord of the Rock after him, Ser Kevan shall prove so ruthless as Tywin."

"And if he doesn't?" Oberyn uttered, clearly unconvinced.

"With Tywin dead the West will never be as great a threat."

Now Princess Elia voiced her own concern.

"What of Casterly Rock after we've won?"

"Peace my sister. We make Peace. Tywin gave the order and I'll see him in the ground for it, but it would be idiotic to think we could extinguish th..."

"You mean to let them live?" Viserys asked with rage plain in his voice. Doran remained cool to his daughters husband,

"Prince Viserys, with all due respect who would you supplant them with?"

Rhaenys uncles held silence between them, yet just as Viserys was about to speak Doran went first.

"Your pause pleases me My Prince, for I've similarly failed. The Crakehalls are to boorish and southern. The Farmans, Baneforts and Westerlings are ill positioned. Lords Tarbeck and Reyne worship Tywin, and they've lost much of their former strength. Only the Marbrand's could rise as a new Warden of the West, yet they've little ambition about them."

"I say that it could only be the Lannisters to hold the West, and if Ser Kevan shall become Lord of the Rock then I mean to wed his son Lancel to Obella."

Oberyn rose form his seat and pointed a finger at his brother.

"So with one hand you'd cast Loreza to a fate of death, and with the other you'd send Obella to the Lions?!" The Red Viper uttered with murderous intention.

"I've given everyone a choice to the best of my ability, Loreza doesn't need to leave us. Assassins could be sent, but if Tywin lives the war is lost."

Oberyn bubbled, and Rhaenys thought he meant to leave the room, yet Elia released her daughters hand in favor of her brothers.

"We need you Oby, I need you."

The Red Viper looked docile for a moment, his black eyes were suddenly misty, but he turned back to Doran.

"I will never agree to those terms."

The Ruling Prince of Dorne uttered not another word on the matter,

Doran was his brothers liege and it was his right to make of what he will with his subjects, but he pushed no further now.

"Has Sarella taken up residence in Oldtown?"

"Why? Do you mean to further bargain her?"

Doran ignored his brothers insolence, and instead turned to Sweet Tyene, who indeed confirmed that her younger half sister had enrolled in the Citadel.

"Good, she's where she needs to be. We won't be caught unaware of the rats conspiring again."

"And what of the Foxes' folly? Shall she be safe from their war?"

Elia Martell was not one to abandon people to their fates, that was one of the things Princess Rhaenys admired most about her mother.

"Lord Leyton has taken a Florent to wife, he'll likely side with her family, and if he does the Citadel should be safe. Lord Alester has secured positioning with many of the Southern Reachman houses. Yet we shall supply him with forces form the Pass."

"Oberyn, you shall command this host, and with any luck the Reach shall fall."

"Has Lord Alester agreed to see Ser Alekyne wed to Tyene? She's been praying night and day for his hand." Nym asked while Tyene blushed a shade redder than any wine.

"Indeed, all shall fall into place, and the Florent's shall be the loyal Lords Paramount of the Reach."

"The Tyrell's were gifted Highgarden by my ancestor King Aegon, they've been ever loyal to my house. Give them but a chance to call their banners" Viserys said, optimism stained upon his tongue.

"The Florents would have war regardless Prince Viserys, They've felt slighted for the past Three Hundred years."

"But to revoke something given in good faith, when they've committed no treason?"

"The Tyrells will not side with us Prince Viserys, Lord Tyrell holds Prince Oberyn accountable for his eldest sons misfortune, and their youngest boy is reportedly quite fond of the Usurpers youngest brother. It would be foolish to believe them still Targaryen loyalists solely for an ancient gratitude."

"Everyone wants something, that much is true enough. The question is how much they desire, I am fond of Willas, but regardless his father will not suffer Martell power. I do not know this Lord Alester though. What assurances can you have that after the war is won, he won't make himself into a King of his own?"

Doran's lips curled into a sinister smile, He'd already thought about this possibility.

"Simple brother, we will have consolidated power by that time. His loyalty shall be to the Crown, and it will be by their grace that he holds Highgarden."

"You mean to say we shall have won the larger war by the time Lord Alester takes the Reach?" Princess Elia seemed deeply unconvinced by her elder brother. Neither was her daughter.

"How can we do such a thing?" Rhaenys asked in pursuit of further clarification.

Dorne wasn't that powerful.

"We have more friends than you know My Princess."

"Across the sea there are men who've similarly been displaced by misrule, they ache for a return same as you, and so it shall be given. My friends in Volantis have agreed to provide ships in exchange for future trade opportunities."

"Indeed, some of my friends in the Second Sons are all too excited to return to this continent, but we've contacted a much bigger host as well. The Golden Company has swelled since the Usurpers Rebellion, and they've become the most formidable free lance fighting force in the World. Twenty Thousand men they say, and Two Dozen Elephants!" The Red Viper exclaimed with great joy.

"I've bid them leave the elephants for now, they're bad for sailing. Yet Ten Thousand Men have been brought to the Dragon Banner, they follow Ser Harry Strickland. They'll sail for and breach the Vale of Arryn from Gulltown in the guise of merchants, in return I'll see lands restored and Ser Strickland made Warden of the East."

The Triarchs of Volantis were quite rich its said, but would they have warships? Rhaenys couldn't help but think Doran was forgetting about a potential ally, who had quite a few.

"What about Lord Balon and his ironborn? It's said he's begun rebuilding his armada, have you sought an alliance from him?"

"Sweet Princess, the Ironborn are still weak" Her mothers younger brother finally uttered after a moment of silence.

"They have ships though, surely they could ravage coasts in the Westerlands or North."

Doran answered her whilst her other uncles pondered upon the possibility.

"You are quite right My Princess, Lord Balon holds no love for the Lannisters, Starks or Tully's for that matter, and the Usurper embarrassed him only years ago, and so upon war he might've conducted raids, yet his sons are captives. If they were not I fear he'd only declare himself a Driftwood King once more."

"We aren't going to war with intent to see the Realm split, we mean only to suture it back together as it was under your great-grandfather."

She understood the logic behind his assumption, But wouldn't that mean war with the Ironborn?

"So who's side are you counting them on?"

"No ones, Lord Balon will not likely be called upon for support, at least until its to late to make a difference. Their fleet shall be on the wrong side of Westeros, and by the time they could reach the Eastern face our forces shall have long been on land."

"Kraken don't fair well out of the Sea" She finished for herself. Same as Starks in the South, or Golden Roses in Dorne. After she leaned back into her chair, Ari at her side brought her own question.

"What of the Stormlands father? And Uncle Lewyn in the Capital?"

Her cousins question was received far better.

"At the outbreak of war Lord Anders will march into the Boneway and face any who'd give him battle."

"Assless Anders? You'd give him this command?"

"Yes Oberyn, Lord Anders has been a loyal man to me, and his heir Cletus is fond of Quentyn, they dine together as we speak."

"Crooked Cletus can neither see straight nor think for his foolish father, and besides a diverted force won't be able to match a united host."

Obara agreed with her father.

"Why not hold up in the Boneway? It seems more likely we could keep them from entering Dorne entirely."

"Because our Florent entanglement and multiple strategic placements provide us unique opportunities. Prince Lewyn has sifted through the Capitals filth and found diamonds amongst the rough, he'll give us King's Landing or important hostages. Additionally Prince Oberyn's traveling companions happen to have a sister and son amidst Blackhaven, should they prove able to sway Lord Dondarrion, we will pass into the Stormlands unnoticed for a time."

"Beric the Lightning Lord is a honorable man brother, I do not think he shall be so easily swayed" Elia said unconvinced.

"Neither do I, but it shall not matter if the Florent's deliver upon their promise. They've found themselves welcomed into Storm's End, when war breaks out Lord Alester shall command his niece to surrender her daughter and the Usurper's Bastard."

"And what will you do if she doesn't?" Uncle Oby asked equally suspicious.

"Lord Florent's younger brother Ser Axell is the Captain of Guards, and Lord Alester swears his brother shall comply if his niece should not."

"What will you do with the children?" Asked sweet innocent looking Tyene.

"Per our agreement with Lord Alester they shall not be harmed. The girl and boy are both half Florent, so they'll be used to further our alliance. Trystane will marry the girl, and your sister Little Elia shall wed this Edric Storm."

"it's known that Shireen is marked with Greyscale" said the little girls Princess namesake.

"We must all make sacrifices, Trystane will play his part, and so will Little Elia, hers will be less dire though. I've heard talk that this Edric is quite handsome, and by the Crown's grace he shall be legitimized then made Lord Paramount of the Stormlands."

"What if the castle shall not surrender them even to this Ser Axell? Or if conflict should be drawn out?" Asked Little Elia's eldest sister Obara.

Doran pondered for a moment, before finally speaking.

"When I reached out to the Golden Company I sent specifically for Ser Jon Connington, he was a staunch loyalist, and one of Rhaenys' fathers closest friends. I offered him Lord Paramountcy of the Stormlands, Yet it was Ser Harry who responded with a counter offer. When I asked of Ser Jon's doings Commander Strickland informed me that the Griffin had flown with Ten Thousand men to Pentos. The only reason Ser Harry indicated for Connington's actions was confliction upon his duties."

"I remember good Ser Jon, he was ever by Rhaegar's side, but father named him incompetent. It's said the Battle at Stoney Sept changed the course of the war, so in the event of his intervention can we be sure of his leadership? We can't risk giving another major victory to the Usurper."

"Ser Connington has not accepted our offer, instead he's taken his swords to a Magister's palace in Pentos. He will not answer our call at all" Oberyn said confidently.

"Well what do you intend to do if he doesn't join his men to our cause?" Viserys said, clearly displeased.

"I intend to leave both options available until one is fulfilled, but in the event of neither plot coming to fruition then the time table for our other fronts must be sped forward, specifically war in the Reach. If no swords come from Pentos then the Florents can be counted upon to push for the boy Edric's claim and legitimization."

"What of Uncle Lewyn? How is he to hold the capital? Or do you mean to have him hold up in Maegor's?"

"I'd intended to purchase the City Watch, but Lewyn has informed me they've already been bought. Instead we must rely on Lewyn himself, yet Our Uncle knows the Red Keep as few do Elia, he'll take what and who he can then flee to Driftmark."

The Velaryons. They'd been loyal to Targaryens for the better part of four hundred years,

"What assurances can you have of his protection?" But they'd surrendered as every other House had.

"In exchange for granting Lewyn asylum and using his fleet too Strangle the Gullet, Lord Monford will be made Lord Paramount of the Gullet, and Dorea will be betrothed to the Master of Tides son."

"What of Dragonstone?"

"It shall remain property of House Targaryen as it has for near Four Hundred years My Princess, but its holder shall pay tax to Driftmark."

"The King is to pay taxes to one of his vassals?"

Uncle Oby burst into laughter, Rhaenys looked at him and then around the room. The Sand Snakes and Ari made no move, but Viserys was squeezing his free hand against the armrest of his chair. Finally Princess Elia took her daughters hands,

"There isn't going to be a New King, You are the Rightful Heir to Westeros."

Chapter Text

Queen Cersei Lannister

 

The hall was filled with dozens of screaming Northmen, feasting had only begun a few hours prior, yet the hearth already stunk of their piss and wine.

 

And despite his rocky first impression, Robert was already winning over many of the unkept northerners with his drunken antics.

 

Cersei looked over at her husband now, for he'd wandered from the Dais they'd been sat atop.

 

Robert had lowered himself down to the level of a tall burly giant and the fattest man Queen Cersei had ever seen. They reveled together as if old friends, and it reminded her of the antics he kept in the Red Keep with that drunken priest.

 

The North had been its own form of suffering though, it didn’t help that Cersei only had uncomfortable furs to dress herself in for nigh on a moons turn. It was too cold for anything else though, Cersei had not even wanted to make this trip, but being separated from her stylish southern gowns had made the journey even worse.

 

And since they'd crossed the Trident, Robert had showed her almost no attention, he'd not visited her chambers in this accursed fortress for the past two nights they'd been in Winterfell. The King had not found himself dutiful in the past few moons, and had only slept at her side when Cassie rested between them.

 

Jamie had provided comfort in his place though, so at least it had been bearable.

 

But here in Winterfell, Robert had even been neglectful of her.

 

As she looked over to the dutifully seated hosts, Cersei couldn't help but think

 

It was Roberts beloved Starks that had stolen him from her once more.

 

There was once a time that she'd have chosen no other to wed, for when Cersei had first laid eyes upon the Stag he was still in his prime.

 

He'd been tall, dark, and handsome, muscled in more ways than even Jamie. Then for the entirety of their wedding Cersei had thought of nothing else but what he could give her.

 

At the time she’d fantasized over two things, firstly his large plump member, and being the Queen of Westeros.

 

With the later desire being something she’d aspired towards since before she'd flowered,

 

And her dreams were so close to being fulfilled.

 

She was the most beautiful woman in the world, and her husband was gallant, strong, and so handsome. They'd rule the Kingdoms together, and songs would forever be sung in honor of their love.

 

Yet everything soured as the damned frog woman had said so many years ago.

 

Robert had been everything she'd hoped, yet when they started getting hot and heavy he'd done something Cersei had never forgotten.

 

"Lyanna." He'd drunkenly whispered into her ear, How was she too take any pleasure from a man who'd desired another woman.

 

That had been the only consensual encounter they'd had in the first ten years of their marriage, after that there had been no love in her heart for the oaf.

 

Instead, She'd found solace in Jamie's arms once more, and she'd given her lover three beautiful golden haired children. For a long time Robert had allowed Cersei the space she'd desired, and it only served to further her resentment of him.

 

He wasn’t even going to try winning her love.

 

The Queen had even once planned to see him dead, but then something happened that she'd not expected.

 

Robert came before her sober, and claimed her with a passion the Lioness had never expected from him. She hadn’t known what happened by the end of their night, only that she’d finally enjoyed their intercourse.

 

Yet it was not enough for forgiveness, not after long years of slights, she would have never bore his child knowingly.

 

But fate was cruel every bit as it was kind.

 

Jamie had lain with her only a fortnight earlier, and Cersei had been certain the child couldn't have been her husbands. She'd not drunken moon tea, and so the babe had grown within her, Cersei had expected another beautiful emerald eyed baby, and she had been.

 

But she didn't have golden hair.

 

The little three year old girl that sat in her mothers lap had done so much to reconcile Robert and Cersei. For the first time a newborn from her womb had not cried when Robert held them, and he'd loved the babe more than any other child.

 

Cersei saw that love, but she couldn't condemn his favoritism because the Queen felt such passion for the girl

 

She is my daughter, as such Cersei had little choice but to love the girl.

 

The Lioness stroked her youngest girls night black hair, while she gazed down at her oafish husband. As she did Cersei couldn't help but wonder what could have been.

 

If he'd never uttered her name, would all the children look like Cassie?

 

For so long the Queen had been resentful towards her husband, and while she did not love him, they now had something they could share.

 

Yet it was not enough.

 

For Cersei could never forgive him for the many bastards he'd fathered, there was the girl in the Vale and the boy at Storm's End, But how many more were there?

 

Red haired Catelyn Stark leaned over and whispered something into her husbands ear, the two smiled and shared a laugh.

 

How can she not hate him?

 

Lord Stark had dishonored her even more so than Robert had done Cersei, the Queen looked back towards the halls end, and after a second of combing through the ruffians she found the Bastard of Winterfell.

 

Honorable Ned Stark broke his vows. Most lords had been shocked by the revelation, but Cersei was not taken unaware,

 

He was Robert's best friend after all, they had to have bonded over more than similar upraising.

 

Yet the Northern Warden had been so unwise that he'd brought his home, there had once been word in Kings Landing that the woman had detested this bastard boy. Cersei could most definetly see why, besides her retched youngest daughter, Lady Catelyn's children did not resemble their lord father.

 

Only the bastard had resembled Lord Eddard.

 

Perhaps that was why Cersei found herself inconsiderate, it was reminiscent of her own situation.

 

Joff, Tommen, and Myrcella had all resembled their father, as did Cassie.

 

As Cersei looked upon the new Lord of Moat Cailin's face, she did find him uniquely handsome amongst the gathered Starks. He was long faced, but it seemed no detail had been spared, he was slender but well built.

 

The boy had quite a smile on his sullen face now as he shared a laugh with his wife, it vaguely reminded Cersei of someone she'd known, but she thought nothing of it.

 

Instead she focused upon her hypotheticals, and so Cersei asked herself what she'd have done if Robert had brought a bastard before her.

 

I'd have had the boy strangled if Robert had done such a thing.

 

Thoughts turned to the first time her husband had ever struck Cersei. They'd been fighting over Robert striking Joffrey, and for some reason her husband thought bringing his eldest bastard from the Vale would aid his upraising.

 

"Give him a positive example of what he could be."

 

Cersei had rejected such an insult outright and threatened the girl when Robert seemed insistent.

 

He'd not appreciated her insinuation, and only a second later Cersei had been struck by his backhand. Never in her life had the Queen taken such a hit, for a moment she'd thought he'd slapped the teeth from her mouth. He was a huge burly man and renowned warrior, in that moment Cersei knew why.

 

If he could deliver such a slap, it was little wonder how he crushed Rhaegar's breastplate with a hammer in hand.

 

The King had only been lucky that Jamie had not been on duty,

 

"He'd already killed one king, another wouldn't have been so great a deal." That was what she'd imagined he would've said,

 

Yet she was returned to the present by the sight of Lord Eddard's bastard's wife. She was truly and undoubtedly a Targaryen.

 

According to Jamie, Rhaegar's daughter had resembled her mother, and the boy Viserys was hiding somewhere in Essos, so Daenerys was the last visible Targaryen.

 

It had been nearly twenty years since Cersei had laid eyes on someone with Valyrian features, for Robert had done all but lawfully forbidden their presence in the Capital.

 

Yet she'd not forgotten how haunting their eyes could be, nor how inhumanly beautiful they could appear. This Daenerys was every bit so stunning as her elder brother had been in the prime of his life.

 

If the Mad King had only seen wisdom Cersei might've been his wife, and the Last Dragon would have never been.

Would our children have looked like her?

 

"Who are you staring at mother?" The voice was Joff's

 

"No one my Darling." Joff gazed around the hall as he made his point,

 

"They’re all quite unsightly aren't they? Like oafish versions of Uncle."

 

"Indeed."

 

"Except that one."

 

He pointed directly towards the girl Cersei had been staring at.

 

"I quite like the look of her." Cersei could feel herself frowning.

 

"Looks like those are only trouble Joff."

 

"As you say, but whats her name Daella? Was it Danella? Oh what's her name?"

 

"It's Daenerys my love."

 

"Then it was Dany, pretty girl. So she's the last Targaryen? Well I suppose she's not anymo... "

 

"Yes she is Prince Joffrey! So long as the girl has looks of Old Valyria she'll be a Targaryen." Cersei covered her mouth for a moment, she was afraid she'd spoken to loud.

 

Yet under the banquets noise she decided no one had heard. While Cersei looked around for any stray stares, Joff was puzzling his way through a conundrum.

 

"Well should we shave her bald and carve out her eyes?" His voice was almost innocent to her ears,

 

"If your grandfather had gotten his way she'd have been smothered in her crib. He said that girl would always be a threat to your throne."

 

"Grandfather said that?" The boy looked concerned, in Joffrey's eyes his grandfather had never once been in the wrong.

 

Cersei nodded and took another sip of her wine,

 

"He said that, and much more after she'd been whisked away to this frozen wasteland."

 

"Well shouldn't we do something? Maybe sick the Hound on her?"

 

The Queen rolled her eyes, she was proud that Joff had developed her sense of vengeance, but he'd not learned subtly yet.

 

"Something that straight forward would be ill advised. Not even your father could defend such an action."

 

"Well we can't just let this Dragon fester here in the North, then the threat will never go away."

 

"There isn't much too do Joff, you could speak with her though. Perhaps you'll convince her to fully reject any treasonous ideals she might be fostering."

 

The boy seemed pleased with her suggestion, and returned to his meal. No sooner had Cersei returned her gaze back to the girl than she felt a tug on her shoulder. It was to small to be Robert's or Jamie's, but it was indeed family.

 

Tyrion was at her side, and he lifted himself into the King's empty seat. Cassie smiles at his sight, while her mother did not. Cersei was about to question him but Lord Stark beat her to it.

 

"Lord Tyrion, that is King Robert's seat, You cannot claim it." Tyrion grinned smugly before turning to face Lord Eddard.

 

"Oh is that so, lets see what the King has to say."

 

Tyrion spun back to face Robert who sat with the Drinking Party.

 

"King Robert do you mind?"

 

Robert miraculously heard him,

 

"I'm not using it" the Drunken Oaf went back to his doings, but the Giant at his side spoke.

 

"Get the fuck back down here little one! We're not done drinking, and I’ll not be out drunk by a Dwarf!!"

 

Tyrion chucked, but whether it was at their rambling or his manipulation Cersei could not say.

 

"Send my next drink up here, I'll be back down shortly." He smiled as his newfound friends returned to their doings.

 

Lord Eddard scowled with his icy grey eyes, Perhaps he wishes to be down there. Yet the Lord of Winterfell had hardly consumed any ale, she couldn't imagine him hanging in with Robert and his companions.

 

Her youngest brother then turned to face Cersei, his smug grin still fresh upon his oversized head.

 

He didn't seem red faced or drunk despite how vigorously they'd been drinking down below. Cersei found herself quite ponderous and so asked,

 

"How do you drink with them? They’re far larger than you."

 

Tyrion's smile renewed itself.

 

"Years, upon Years of built up tolerance Sweet Sister. And I run it through my system so fast that I must piss twice the amount of any other man."

 

Cersei chuckled, he'd always been funny.

 

"What happens if you can't make time for your frequent trips to the privy?"

 

Tyrion lifted his eyebrows in consideration, before refocusing his mismatched gaze.

 

"When a dwarf pisses his britches its no greater a sight than a Noble Lord doing the same."

 

Cersei exhaled in laughter and looked down to see if his trousers had indeed been soiled.

 

"It would be quite the sight!”

 

Her youngest brother placed a finger under her chin and prevented it from lowering. She stopped in surprise, and he leaned towards her ear.

 

"Lets not, I wouldn't want Jamie to be upset."

 

Cersei had not meant it in such a way, she felt her cheeks flush red with both embarrassment and anger. She thought for a moment about gripping his tiny worm cock and peeling it from his misshapen body.

 

What was he doing saying things like that?

 

She pulled away from him and stared with her own emerald eyes, but she was no match for his horrendous pair.

 

"You notice how I whispered? You'd do well by doing the same."

 

Did he mean he'd heard? But no one else did. Surely he couldn't have.

 

"Whatever are you talking about?" She tried to play perfect Queen Cersei, yet the charade was lost upon her youngest brother.

 

"Fine, I know, but it didn't seem like anyone else heard. In fact how did you hear?"

 

"I've grown quite attuned to your screams, I’ve to thank all those years of Jamie and I playing childish tricks upon you. Our brother could run, but I had little choice but to hide if I couldn't reach mother. As such I am privy to your every cry."

 

Cersei wasn't sure how to respond, but luckily Tyrion received a drink from the table down below. The Giant stood almost at Tyrion's level even from the Dais, and he observed that her younger brother had indeed emptied his cup before returning to his seat.

 

This interaction gave Cersei the time she needed, and they continued their hushed exchange.

 

"Everything I said was true, our father wasn't wrong about her continued existence being a threat."

 

"Maybe so, but you can't say that aloud, not here. We’re not talking about some serving girls bastards you can have murdered in Lannisport, her death would have significant repercussions."

 

"How significant?" She asked in spite,

 

He didn't answer, instead Tyrion bubbled.

 

Sitting right beside Lord Stark meant that any word could find his ear, they had to be careful what was said.

 

"If you'll not manage what you say, could you at least do the Realm a service by observing who you say it too? Your son has a very hedonistic imagination, and he doesn't need more ideas up in his head."

 

She couldn't stand how he'd once more slandered Joff.

 

"He will rule the Kingdoms one day, wisely and justly. Prosperity shall be universal, for my son is capable of more than you would ever dare dream."

 

"That's what I'm afraid of."

 

Tyrion slumped from the Kings chair without giving her time to retort his statement. As the dwarf walked away he passed Joffrey, but nuzzled Tommen's hair and kissed Myrcella upon the cheek, before making his way back to his drinking companions.

 

Cersei could really feel herself bubbling now, she needed fresh air to alleviate her anger, but she was the Queen and her sudden disappearance at such a feast would not go unnoticed.

 

There was only one way she could reasonably be dismissed.

 

"Lady Catelyn, I'd like a walk around your keep. Would you be so kind as to accompany me?" She asked in her practiced soft queenly voice.

 

The Lord of Winterfell seemed suspicious, and his lady seemed as if she'd rather remain atop the Dais, but they couldn't rightly refuse her. So it was that Lady Catelyn joined arms with Cersei and together they made their way from the Great Hall.

 

They ventured out into the cold summer night, and when Lady Catelyn asked where it was that Cersei desired to go she had little in the way of an answer. Luckly though the Sept was nearby and so it was there that they walked.

 

From afar it seemed such a small and rickety thing, especially as Cersei had lived for so many years with the grandeur of Baelor's Sept in sight of the Red Keep.

 

Surely Lady Stark must've grown up with a respectable Sept in Riverrun. She must've been disappointed to find this so far from home.

 

The Queen looked around as she entered, it was indeed feeble, but it had seven walls and the appropriate number of representational artwork. It seemed ancient from the way it had been battered by weather, yet Cersei could distinguish it as significantly younger than the surrounding keep.

 

"It's quaint" She said, it was about the only positive thing she could muster.

 

"Thank you My Queen. It's made my stay in Winterfell far easier."

 

"It most certainly couldn't have been easy giving up everything and everyone for this place. From what I understand you knew your groom no more than I'd known Robert."

 

"Indeed, I had only met Eddard just before we were wed, and before him I'd known his brother for only a fortnight."

 

"That's quite right, I'd forgotten you were betrothed to his elder brother. If you don't mind my asking, how do they compare?" The Queen put forward an easy smile so to provide comfort to the Lady of Winterfell.

 

Instead of answering immediately, Catelyn Stark looked about the Sept, seemingly in search of her words.

 

"Well, Brandon was taller than both his brothers, and his hair was longer and darker too. Brandon's eyes were warm where Ned's are icy, and I've heard from my husbands mouth that his elder brother was a far better sword and lance."

 

"Seems you lost out on quite the man, My sincerest apologies."

 

Catelyn once more searched the room for answers.

 

"I thought that once too...but I've learned since then that I got a good man in return for the Legend I'd lost."

 

"Is that so?" Cersei tried to hide her disbelief behind intrigue.

 

How could this woman think so highly of her husband after what he's done?

 

"Indeed, he's not perfect by any means. In fact for a long time I resented him. See I'd had Robb at my breast when he'd returned to me at the wars end. By then I believe Robert had already been crowned, but Ned had ventured south in search of his sister."

 

Not that bitch again...

 

"And well, on his way back Ned picked up a child he'd fathered in his grief for Brandon and Lord Rickard. My boy had auburn hair and blue eyes, the child with Ned was dark haired and near black eyed, it looked so much like him that I feared I'd never give birth to such a child."

 

"He dishonored you, kept the babe ever present as a reminder, and yet you've forgiven him? Even claim him a better man than his brother?"

 

That makes no fucking sense. Cersei would've strangled the boy after smashing Lord Eddard upside the head.

 

"I hated that boy for so many years, I'd come here and I would...well pray for the gods to make him go away. A motherless child, and I prayed for his death."

 

I'll bet Lord Stark never heard those prayers.

 

"Robert has many such children, I've told him that none shall ever stand in my sight or I'll see them flung from the nearest cliffs. I've known what you've gone through as well. Yet how could you ever forgive him?"

 

Lady Catelyn had a tear in the corner of her eye. Cersei wanted to reach out and hold her, for she knew such pain, but she did not.

 

"That boy grew to be my sons best friend, and he treats all around him as they deserve. He's a good man, and he'd do anything for his family. How could I not do the same?"

 

"Not the boy, your Husband."

 

"Eddard? I never hated him, plenty of men have bastards. My brother has several, and yet I still love him, it was the boy I took issue with. I could've forgiven Ned a hundred bastards if he'd only kept them from my sight."

 

Her words only enraged Cersei, How weak is this woman? She'd suffer slight after slight with no recourse?

 

The Queen would've personally strangled all her husbands bastards if she could, and the reverse would probably be true. Yet Cersei's mind would not allow her too comprehend its hypocrisy any further.

 

"And He's done so much to make amends. He brought a Septa along with us when we ventured back here after the war. Ned had this sept built so that I could continue to honor the gods, and so that my children might do so with me. My Lord Husband has never failed in his duty, and he's been ever faithful since we've returned from the South, Ned even surrendered a woman he loved for me."

 

If only Robert had done the same.

 

"So all that he did was done in order to make amends for his betrayal." It was not a question, yet Lady Catelyn took it as one.

 

"Perhaps, but I could've done worse, his brother Brandon would've proven more like Robert I'm afraid. His wolves still howl when the night comes."

 

"His bastards are in Winterfell?"

 

"Ned would never see them sent away, you've probably seen some of them around Your Grace.”

 

"You're quite right, I would've never known, so many long faces around here."

 

Cersei felt the burn had went right over the woman's head, Lady Catelyn only smiled innocently. If she had an ill reaction she hid it well.

 

"I saw that you were speaking with Lord Tyrion, may I ask what you spoke of?"

 

Now Queen Cersei was on the defensive, What should I say? She pondered for a moment, yet the red haired woman gave her relief.

 

"Could it have been upon Robert's betrothal offer?"

 

Cersei smiled,

 

"Indeed it was, Tyrion was telling me of how beautiful your darling girl had looked from below, and how handsome a couple they would make."

 

"That's quite kind of him, I do thank you for this offer. It's Ned's decision, but for my part I'd gladly accept, all Sansa has ever wanted was to be Queen."

The Queen felt her smile fall, She knew what that was like.

 

It had been all she'd ever wanted too. Yet she did her best to maintain appearances,

 

"Well the first few years of everyone bowing before you are a bit strange I must say."

 

Lady Catelyn laughed,

 

"I dare say they might be. Your Grace I'm not sure that I'll travel to the Capital, my eldest son Robb must remain, and his youngest brother is not ready for such a journey. I should remain by their side, whilst the oth..."

 

"Have no fear Lady Stark, I swear to see that every courtesy is afforded to them."

 

"If your husband behaves there'll be no problem," she wanted to say. Yet if Lord Eddard didn't he, and his children, would certainly have special treatment within the Black Cells.

 

Cersei felt very pleased with her clever word play, and Lady Catelyn seemed to buy it wholeheartedly.

 

"I must thank you, Sansa is a lady if ever there was one, but Arya...well she's got a bit of her aunt in her."

 

Then I'll see her treated especially well.

 

"Your Sansa is so beautiful as she is noble, I shall gladly shape her into full womanhood, and the youngest will have every tutor imaginable to straighten her out."

 

"I shall pray to the Seven for such an event. When do you imagine a wedding might take place Your Grace?"

 

"Well Joff is now ten and four, is Sansa of such an age? And has she flowered yet?"

 

"She is and has Your Grace."

 

"Then she might be wed soon." Lady Stark looked horrified, Cersei could not blame her, For a girl to have never known love before marriage is a terrible thing.

 

"You seem opposed?" It was clear from her face.

 

"Well no Your Grace, its just she's so young I thought they might be given more time before..."

 

"The sooner they wed the sooner the realm has more heirs. A strong line of succession never hurt anyone so long as it was clear cut."

 

"Indeed Your Grace, my apologies."

 

"There is no need for such, a mother will always have trepidations about giving her children away. They might be the only thing you love in this world, yet you cannot control them forever."

 

The Lady of Winterfell nodded in agreement.

 

It had done Cersei good to have such a discussion.

 

"I'm ready to return back to the feast if you'll walk with me."

 

"If it would please Your Grace."

 

Two mothers walked back through the light summer snows, giving small talk regarding gossip about the castle. Cersei was specifically interested in an abandoned keep that Catelyn spoke of.

 

As they strode into the Great Hall, it reeked of the same piss it had before they'd left, and so they made way for their seats upon the Dais.

 

Looking upon their table though there was something wrong.

 

Where is Joff?

Chapter Text

Prince Joffrey Baratheon

The entire journey into this frozen wasteland had been judged a mistake by Prince Joffrey's eyes, for in addition to reuniting with his old friend Lord Stark, Joffrey's father had wanted to show his heir the vastness of the lands he'd one day rule. Yet the Crowned Prince had found few things worth excitement or of importance since they'd left the Red Keep in King's Landing.

His mother had called the trip the folly it was several times already during their many long hours in her wheelhouse.

"He should've named your Uncle Jamie as his Hand. What better man besides your grandfather could hold such a position? When you're King Joff, remember family are the only ones you can trust."

Queen Cersei's sentiment was something her eldest son had begun taking to heart ever more for each day that passed.

She'd been critical of this Lord Eddard who sat near him now, and his mother had spoken openly about the distrust she held for the Dragon they housed.

This Daenerys Targareyn could be a problem,

And the Prince did love coming up with solutions.

Joffrey's Grandfather, Lord Tywin, had wanted the girl dead from the start, his Mother concurred by saying she would prove to be trouble. Ser Jamie had famously slain the Mad King, and Joff's own father had seen an end to her treacherous brother.

All had taken precautions against the Dragons, but none of them had traded words with the girl.

That should be what I could do, he decided.

It would be justice for Joffrey to be the One who kept her from ever questioning his superiority and legitimacy. For if he didn't act, then perhaps things could indeed escalate in the manner his elders envisioned.

"Her existence will always be a threat to the throne."

Not only her, She was going to have children sooner or latershall they rise up in opposition of me?

Joffrey had heard the stories of Ser Daemon Blackfyre, and how King Daeron the Second's premature call for his brothers demise led to five subsequent rebellions.

If Daeron was so good then why did he not talk to Daemon?

To Joffrey's emerald eyes, the outbreak of war amongst the Seven Kingdoms was a weight that could only be laid upon Daeron's hands, but the treachery of a brother was no fault of his.

Joffrey decided he could learn from his predecessors and keep history from repeating, this time the rightful ruler would secure a claimants fealty.

No Blackfyre's shall haunt my reign.

The North could not be allowed to foster such a treasonous brood, so should her personage prove to be that of a low quality he might end the threat here and now regardless of what mother said.

Yet this girl was singularly intriguing, never before had Joffrey seen such an amalgamation of wretched abomination and unnatural beauty.

This Daenerys looks like a Princess.

He'd never seen her like in Kings Landing, the capital had been rid of such desirable filth before he'd been born. So it was that he'd been taken aback by her haunting visage. This Daenerys' violet eyes shined as if amethysts had been placed within them, her fur cloaks seemed to drip from her pale milk skin in the most satisfactory ways, and the silver of her hair could only compliment his own golden curls.

Why is she wasted on a bastard?

This Lord Calimanenar was nothing spectacular, none would pick him out amongst the crowd. Not with his similarly long faced personage to every other bloody northerner in the hall,

She should have been mine.

That would've been more justice than death or dishonor.

As the night had worn on the Prince had felt himself a great thirst, and so he'd downed many rounds of wine in attempt to satiate his desire, yet they did nothing but fill his bladder and swell his manhood.

His emerald eyes had not yet glazed over when opportunity presented itself though.

One of the common girls this violet eyed Princess had been seated next too had begun retching, and the girl had fled the Great Hall of Winterfell. After her had went Daenerys, and so of course Joffrey would follow suite.

It might be my only chance to confront her.

While the Princess had fled to see for her friends health, she'd left her base born husband at their table, and Joffs own mother had been similarly absent.

With her gone, and his father busy drinking with the Imp no one could've stopped him. As he rose he noticed another exit from the Dais but paid it no mind, after his fathers departure it seemed anyone was allowed to come and go from it as they pleased.

Joffrey brushed past his younger brother, clipping the boys shoulder and making Tommen spill his mug. The chubby nine year old instinctively shoved his eldest sibling, and Joffrey let his emerald eyes light up threateningly. The boy reeled back in realization at what he'd done, and the recognition of his inferiority to Joffrey filled his face.

"Stop it Joff!" Myrcella screeched at him,

"Quiet, he shoved me!"

"Don't hit him or I'll tell Mother!" she threatened, but Joff only smirked.

"Mother's not here right now" Joffrey thought to further torment them, but when the Prince looked up he realized his prize had exited the hall,

He would lose her if he wasted anymore time.

So Joffrey lifted his hand, and Tommen reeled to cover himself.

"I'll not forget what you did."

With that Joffrey strode forward to exit the Dais, allowing his younger siblings to think over their misdoings.

As he stepped from the table his White Uncle approached.

"Where are you going My Prince?"

Joffrey didn't feel a need to answer, but did so anyway.

"I'm the Crowned Prince, I go where I please."

The answer was apparently inadequate for the White Lion of Casterly Rock.

"Not here you don't, this isn't the Red Keep. The cold could take you should the night prove treacherous, Ser Boros and Meryn are indisposed from their drinking. I'm to remain at the King's Watch, so it would be better if you'd remain here for the time being."

The Crowned Prince couldn't hope to shove past his stronger uncle, instead he thought back to something his mother had once said.

"Your uncle is brave and beautiful Joff, but he's not so bright as you"

Joffrey had to be clever here, Just like Grandfather.

He did have a need to relieve himself.

"My wine has flown and now I seek to find the privy."

"That seems a good reason, but I'll not let you go alone. Since I can't abandon my watch you'll have to take the Hound."

What an idea! Joffrey readily agreed.

The Dog was less enthusiastic though, he'd been half drowned by his cups and so was in no mood to see himself separated from them.

Yet with the proper threatening he did his duty.

Together the Prince and his dog wandered in search of the Pale Princess, by the time his sworn shield had roused though Joffrey had little idea where the girl could be. As they searched he felt his dome beginning to ache in frustration, and his bladder swelled almost to bursting.

While they walked Joffrey stared down many an unmarked passage way, most were likely servants doors, so he paid them no mind. The corridors of Winterfell weren't much in terms of glamour, especially compared to the Red Keep Prince Joffrey had been brought up in. Yet while less spacious they most certainly allowed for privacy or secrecy.

They wandered only a little bit farther before coming upon a horrid stench, Joff had been at his fathers side long enough to know the smell of regurgitated wine. Finally just short of a patio, Joffrey's search came to an end.

The common girl was keeled over above a puddle of her own making.

"Mo..mom is that you?"

His violet eyed Princess only chuckled, Her silver hair was quite the sight in the wake of moonlight behind her.

"Indeed it is, and I've come to take you to bed." So she's got a sense of humor.

The drunken woman wailed and rolled to her back.

"I..I don't wanna"

Daenerys let forth the cutest little giggle.

"You've drunken to much."

Joffrey began towards them. Despite the thumping of his head and bloating of his bladder, he walked with righteous purpose.

The Hound lagged back though, faltering in his nonexistent determination, and so he did not keep by Joffrey's side as his Prince approached the luminescent Dragon spawn.

He's afraid of beautiful women. Can't say I blame him though, I'd be timid too if I had his ugly half burned mug.

Yet instead Joffrey had no such trepidations, for the Prince was not ugly. Indeed he'd been born with the golden hair, emerald eyes, and beauty of his mother. He was also brave like his father.

"So you're Daenerys?"

The girl turned around startled, perhaps from the revelation of her having been followed, but the fear in her violet eyes only grew after they'd realized who had strode behind her.

He's scaring her.

"Stay back Dog, I'll not have you frighten my lady."

The girl was not relieved, and still held horror within her amethyst pupils.

Joffrey inched closer to her, it was doubtless that his handsome visage would comfort her, same as it did the many fair maidens of Kings Landing.

"Th...Thank you My Prince."

"So you do have some manners about you after all, we'd been so worried in the South that you'd be but another treacherous Dragon."

"N...Never My Prince, I'm but a disgraced Princess, and one who draws breath by the grace of your Kingly father."

This dragon breathed no flame, She's meek and mild. The thoughts only made his head ache more.

"Indeed, I must say you're quite beautiful, and you've the look of what a Princess should be."

Daenerys seemed confused, but she responded as was his intention.

"Thank you My Prince, You're quite handsome as well" she mouthed.

Joffrey smiled, So the girl is charmed by my sight.

He reached forward for her hand, and while she did not resist, this Princess did not bring it to his lips of her own volition. The gesture did not go unnoticed by Prince Joffrey.

"What's wrong girl? Do they not teach you proper courtesy in this Northern Wasteland?"

She was startled.

"N..No My Prince, they are plenty kind and proper. The Starks particularly"

"That may be. Yet I think they've set you to the wrong purpose. Surely you must realize the dishonor they've given you."

"They raised and housed me, and my husband has forever been by my side, our match was even made by your Kingly father."

"Well my fathers not exactly the greatest betrothal maker in the world." The girl seemed aghast.

"He made the request for you to wed Sansa."

"So he did, but it's not exactly the most original idea he's had."

"But she's to be your wife."

"Perhaps i desire someone else, why should I let my father stop me from taking what I want."

The Prince tried to lay down hints but they seemed to go above the girls head.

"Not even the King can do as he pleases, and expect no repercussions. Let my own father be an example."

Was she comparing him to the Mad King?

She sounds rebellious, perhaps I should put the girl in her place.

"My grandfather called for your death, but I find that solution ill suiting, and my father has done you no kindness either."

The girl stood silent and pale as milk.

"You were born a Princess, Why disgrace you with a bastard groom when you could be my pillow maid? That seems right, your brother took my fathers betrothed, I should take you as repayment."

Fear consumed the girls face, but there was something else too.

Perhaps she means to hit me.

"My father was an evil man, b..but I...I'm wed brave Prince, my husband has claimed me and I am forever shamed." Her words seemed to bring about pain, and so the Heir to the Iron Throne sought to alleviate her trepedations.

"You need not be though, I'll have him killed and then you'll take your place in my chambers!"

It was a perfect idea, But why was she not smiling?

Daenerys instead stood in silent defiance, finally the Princess did make move though.

She turned as if she meant to leave, as if he'd not even spoken to her.

Evidently she's not been taken aback by my offer of mercy,  So be it.

He could not suffer such a slight. So it was that Joffrey grasped her around the wrist and prevented her attempt at fleeing.

"Where are you going? I've not dismissed you from my person!"

The girl wriggled and writhed within his grip, but she could not free herself. The Prince was far too strong,

Once caught in a lions jaws, a thing could never hope to see itself freed. Not even a Dragon.

"Stop..Please..Let go of me." She was trying to call for someones help.

"Shut your mouth, or I'll cut your tongue from it."

She continued her attempts to free herself, yet nothing would spur Joffrey to release her.

She'd insulted his authority, and so she had to pay for her insolence.

"Swear you'll never rebel against me, give it perpetuity or I'll cut out your womb!" He demanded, whilst his head pounded in agony.

The girls narrow violet eyes expanded exponentially as she realized the danger he posed.

"Wha..."

He jerked her back and forth before allowing her descent to the cold stone ground, she landed upon her side in manner that would doubtlessly leave bruising.

"Despite your parents abominable practice of Incest, some of the more rebellious subjects still see you as a claimant to My Throne. If you were a boy I'd have you castrated and sent to the Wall, but instead I might take your cunt for my own."

It was then that Joffrey felt feet charging towards him, he looked to his left and saw that the downed friend of this dragon whore was racing in his direction.

The commoners grey pupils and dark brown hair were but a blur in Joff's emerald eyes, yet he saw none of her hand, or the nails that dug down into his skin and slashed across his face.

Her cut was clean and true, for blood soon erupted from his wound, after which Joff's vision and judgement were further clouded.

The Dog was then upon them, in his struggle he pulled the girl so as to remove her from the Prince, but The Hound received a face full of what Joffrey had only just begun to feel.

Winterfell's retched whore had scrapped the Dog across his burned half, and so he'd lashed out in anger. Joff heard only the thud of his fist smashing her face and the lump of her body hitting the ground.

Afterwards the Dragon bitch screamed in anguish, whilst her friend muttered tears and cries through hands holding a mashed face,

But Joff felt no pity.

Instead he sensed only the ever increasing burning sensation that had overtaken his face. Blood washed over his brow and into his eye, and he feared she'd claimed his sight.

"My eye...My eye!"

He wailed before his vision returned.

The girl was laid out before him, and she had given up movement, blood flowed from her broken nose and pooled upon the ground.

Yet Joffrey decided she'd not had enough.

A drop of King's Blood is worth a thousand pounds of a commoners,

And this common whore had the audacity to spill it.

Joffrey mustered what saliva he could and spat down upon the downed wench.

Daenerys rose to her feet and tried to stop the Prince, but Joff grabbed a handful of her silver locks and cast her to the ground. He kicked at her legs, and so she began to scuttle away. Finally the pale dragon settled up against the wall cowering and sniffling from her suffering.

Yet Joffrey ignored her for now, she'll get what's coming to her,

Instead he moved towards the downed common bitch.

The Hound stepped forward and put a hand on the Prince's shoulder,

"My Prince, please don't, the girls had enough."

He would obscure my justice? Once more the Prince felt burning amidst both his head and pelvis.

Joffrey shook himself free from his sworn shields grip, and spat venom at him.

"Fuck off Dog, I decide what is enough, and this bitch hasn't had it yet!"

The Hound soured and seemed to retreat from his sworn duties, even slinking from the corridor.

It didn't matter, Joffrey could protect himself.

Moving his eyes from the Hounds ugly mug, Prince Joffrey returned gaze towards the downed commoner.

She should die for what she's done. Yet Joffrey had not but his hands to do the deed with.

The Prince changed his tone as a sinister thought came to his mind, Dishonor should befall her first.

And so he called forth to his sworn shield to inform of his intentions.

"After all Dog, don't you remember? We left the dinner so that I might relieve myself."

Joffrey unlaced his trousers, and freed his 'massive' cock from them. He lowered his britches just enough so as to prevent any dripping.

The cider stream began to flow easily and continuously then, while the slut bitch whined as her Prince relieved himself. From across the corridor her silver haired friend gawked at the sight of Joffrey's 'large member'.

Behind him strode more footsteps but the Prince had not finished relieving himself, and so paid them no mind.

He'd covered this dark haired harlot in his piss, and she did not wriggle to see herself freed,

She must be used to this, stupid cunt that she is.

Just after he'd finished his endeavor the Prince felt a tug on his shoulder, a hand that did not belong to his sworn shield forcefully turned the Prince, whilst another battered his perfect face.

As Joffrey fell to down and away from the girl he felt the sudden jarring of his mouth, it felt as if teeth had been relieved from him.

He hit the ground and immediately coughed, two white chunks were spat out of his gullet, and there was little doubt what they had been.

The Prince tried to reel himself forward, but quickly his assailant was upon him once more. Joffrey saw only auburn hair between bouts of a fist mashing his face, after three or four titanic blows the beating was at an end.

By then Joffrey's left eye had been blackened and swollen shut. He could not draw smell from his nose, and the taste of blood was upon his mouth. The cut above his brow had similarly soiled his right eye, but the Prince could vaguely see a dark haired man freeing him from his assailant.

Prince Joffrey's pain had abandoned his bladder and since migrated to every corner of his face, he felt at his lips and knew from the moisture that they had been busted. He could hardly form thought, but his ears had stopped ringing after a moment of solitude, and he wiped his clogged eye of blood. It did little to help though.

He dared not sit up, but from the corner of his gaze he saw fuzzy figures. Their words were plain too observation though.

"Let me go Jon! I'm going to kill him!"

"Robb...Robb listen to me! Stop it!"

"Look what he did to Jeyne! I should see him removed of his cock if that's how he'd use it."

"His father will kill Dany!"

"He'll not dare with the might of Winterfell around him!"

"Will you two stop arguing? Someone needs to get Luwin, she's hurt."

"I'll go get him, I'm faster. You stay with Jeyne and Dany."

"But Jon.."

Then there was a voice that Joffrey knew.

"What in the blazes? Joffrey!"

A tall pale shadow cast itself over him, and the battered Prince recognized his uncle.

"What happened here?"

Joffrey felt the numbness of his mouth and knew he could not speak, instead he raised his hand to point towards the girl.

His uncle seemed to understand, and so the Prince allowed himself to rest.

He closed his eyes and began to dream of the sweet vengeance that he'd dole out upon them all.

Chapter Text

Lord Eddard Stark

A long night had befallen Winterfell, yet the Warden of the North had been near sleepless. Fell deeds had arisen within his own walls, and they'd been perpetrated by his own guests, and upon his own blood.

Were it anyone else Lord Stark would've drawn Ice from its sheath.

But he couldn't well behead the Crowned Prince,

Without the Kings approval at least.

The Warden of the North had reviewed everything that transpired in his head over and over, but no sense came from analyzing the boys actions.

Only a sycophant could justify such evil.

Ned had been dutifully sat atop his own Dais, and it had been from there he could see the comings and goings of all throughout the hall. The Lord of Winterfell had first watched as King Robert fled from his seat upon the pinnacle, heading down to be where he'd forever felt the most comfortable,

Drinking with brothers in arms.

In truth Robert was good with little else, besides war and whores. The King's antics had thus won over many of Lord Eddard's northern bannerman.

Amongst them had been the Lords of Last Hearth and White Harbor. By the nights end Ned couldn't tell if Greatjon or Lord Manderly had deeply internalized their mission, or had become close with his childhood friend.

Regardless they'd spent the evening hours talking amidst heavy drink.

It had all been in good fun till that point.

Then Lord Stark saw his deceased brothers daughter exit the hall, sick from the wine she'd drank at the side of Jon and Dany. He'd thought nothing of it though,

Brandon would've hurled what he couldn't down before rejoining for the next round.

Such was the ways of his brother, The way of the Wolfsblood,

Ned Stark looked at the lower seated Benjen and wondered,

Did it skip us? Was it split solely between Brandon and Lyanna?

Thoughts about his two departed siblings made the icy eyes of the Quiet Wolf almost water, but he had been atop the dais and in front of his own bannerman.

"Don't ever show them weakness, We can't let them think less of you or your brother." That was what Lord Eddard's father had once told him, and as he looked once more around all the men sworn to him Lord Stark couldn't help but think,

It was all meant for Brandon.

As he rose from his bed, Ned wondered what vengeance his brother would call upon the man who dishonored his daughter.

Daenerys had wandered out after Jeyne, and again Lord Eddard had thought nothing of it at the time.

Soon enough Robb had seen himself from the Dais, and the boy had went to his brothers side to share drinks and laughter, Ned had not forbidden it,

How could he forbid his children from wandering if the King had done so?

Even when the accursed Prince had risen to his own feet only moments after Robb, the Lord of Winterfell had felt no ill intentions.

But what happened was unspeakable.

Ned had not learned about the event until after Jon came running into the hall and calling for Maester Luwin, it was only then that the Lord of Winterfell had known something was wrong.

Jon was screaming about Jeyne and he half drug the Maester from the Great Hall. Ned had feared that perhaps the girl had taken a drunken fall, but what he'd found was far worse.

Her face had been shattered, and she swam in a pool of piss and her own blood.

Soon after War had nearly erupted throughout his castle.

The Lord of Winterfell would've seen the Crowned Prince imprisoned for his heinous act, but that damned Lannister woman fought with every ounce of her being to keep her dear bastard abreast.

Robb had fought with similar vigor to confront his counterparts assailant, with tooth and nail he'd inched ever closer to the golden haired ingrate, and it had taken the combined efforts of Winterfell's three Jon's to see him parted from his impassioned pursuit.

None had shared such fury as his eldest son, but there were plenty about the Ancient home of House Stark who called for justice.

If only they knew the truth...  The Prince did not assault the Steward's daughter, instead it had been the natural babe of their rightful Lord Brandon.

That knowledge would've meant blood.

A battle might've ensued had the Warden of the North not compromised his position, so it had been that the Queen called her son to bed. Her majesty had insisted upon merely seeing the golden haired devil to his chambers, the madwoman went so far as to claim her son was merely tired.

As if that had been the root cause of his cruelty.

She had named assault as mere child's play, that or perhaps she thought her son so highborn that he could ravish whom ever he pleased.

How could a mother forgive such an act? Why was this woman so reluctant to accept the hedonism of her son? How could she not condemn him?

The boy had broken Lord Stark's bread and salt, yet unknowingly spilled his families blood.

Vengeance had been what Lord Eddard truly desired, but since Robert had been indisposed their was no one within the Keep who could dispense proper justice.

Any contemplation of a trial, or consultation upon the wrongdoings, had been named matters for the morrow. So the snarling Lion's had retreated into the very den Lord Eddard had allowed them.

Ned himself had returned to his chambers and found no peace, even with Lady Catelyn at his side he struggled with the weight of unshared knowledge. A greater secret he'd kept to a smaller circle, yet still only few knew of the girls true parentage, or that she had two half brothers around her in Winterfell.

Eddard had spent nearly ten years in the Vale for his fostering, and during that time his brother had begun letting Snows fall where they may. He'd seen the faces, beheld their eyes, and felt dark brown locks, but he'd not believe it.

Catelyn had seen it once she'd entered the gates, but she'd met Brandon only weeks before his demise.

She could not have known for certain.

Only after Benjen affirmed that Brandon had indeed fathered children did Lord Eddard allow himself to hope once more.

Not all of his brother had been lost,

Instead the Wild Wolf had fathered children upon the Master of Horses wife, with a common serving girl, and the Steward's young love.

Both Hullen and Vayon lost their wife's, and they'd both been so young. Neither had taken a wife to bed since, and Ned would not see them robbed of their memories.

So he'd kept the truth silent for their sakes,

Yet the question had remained though, What would he do for them?

Ned had decided upon a familiar pledge.

I'll protect them Brandon. I promise.

What little sleep Lord Stark had that night was of his elder brother, and in his fever dream Brandon had named Ned a failure.

The image had been haunting, for Brandon still reached for the accursed blade and Ned could smell the charring bones of their father. His families greatest injustice returned to him upon the aftermath of another.

As he kneeled before Eddard, ever reaching for what he'd never grasped, Brandon was in the prime of his life once more.

The tallest Stark in living memory, musled in a way that made hime every maiden's fantasy. His night black hair had been matted under the Tyroshi noose. He gazed forever forward, silently screaming through his  struggles

Yet right before his life drained from him he stared at Ned.

"You've let them dishonor my daughter, shall you fail Lya's son too?"

It had been a nightmare unbecoming of the peaceful dreams Ned had been having the past few moons, but when he'd woken up in a cold midnight sweat he'd made his decision.

Never.

When day finally broke, Lord Eddard found that the suns rays did him no favors either, instead grim anger had taken apart his cold demeanor. Today he could not be the quiet Lord of Winterfell,

Today Ned would speak with Brandon's voice.

Once more the Great Hall had been filled to the brim with nobles, and the gathered might in Winterfell came to a silent hush when its Warden arrived.

Before him sat Robert, unnerved and alone atop the Dais as was his place as overseer.

"The only man who can judge a Prince is the King" read the law.

But This is my home, he violated my niece. The boy should answer to me.

Below the King stood his Queen, and she held her eldest son within tightly bound arms. Behind her stood a smugly grinning White Lion.

It did not seem so many years ago that Jamie Lannister had sacrificed his golden faced reputation to save the denizens of King's Landing from the Mad King's wildfire.

And Ned would never forget how Ser Jamie had gallantly defended Rhaegar's wife and child.

He refused to surrender them, even  against his own fathers commands.

Yet he still stood at his sister and nephews side, in their defense.

How could a Man of such Honor stand against Justice?

Too Ned's left was the might of Winterfell, and near to the King were Jon and Dany, alongside a dismayed looking Vayon Poole.

Robb and Brandon's daughter sat opposed from the lawless lions, yet something seemed to be holding them...

Chains bind them, and they were held at the wrist.

"Your son assaults my people, and you'd have them in chains?! Have we abandoned Justice in the Name of Madness?!"

"Your 'people' viciously attacked The Crowned Prince Lord Stark." Ned frowned at Queen Cersei's unwavering arrogance.

Robert seemed similarly miffed, he was not a judge, and had the incident only been minor he would've seen it dismissed in entirety, but this was not something that Lord Stark would ever let go away.

Not while his brothers daughter had been forced to cover her face.

By the time Luwin reached the girl she'd lost a fair amount of blood, and they'd nearly lost her in the night. Yet she survived,

She'd proved just As stubborn as her father,

Though her face was fractured, and she could muster only a whisper through shattered teeth.

The Prince and his Dog had truly and utterly dishonored Lord Eddard's kin.

If his friend couldn't see that then perhaps they'd never been friends at all.

"What in the gods name have you done boy? I've not seen Lord Eddard so irked since that time we went riding around Iron Oaks and.."

"This is not a joke Robert. I've suffered a serious offense, and you slight me further by having my son set in chains. In a Keep that he shall one day rule from!"

"Ned it's not m.."

"You're the King! Make your own decisions!"

"Well then, take the chains off the boy" Robert waved his hand as if to dismiss the matter.

"No. Off them both." Ned's icy tone was the coldest he could muster.

Two gaoler's stepped forward but they fell back at the Lannister woman's cry.

"They assaulted my son! Look at the poor boy's face! Joffrey shall bear these scars for the rest of his life!"

Careful detail had been taken to see the Prince's noble image restructured, but none could deny that Robb and Jeyne had done upon him quite a number. Joffrey's nose had been made crooked in the attempt to reset it, and his left eye was swollen shut, he was black and blue from Robb's fist. He had clear and obvious scratch marks atop his brow, the Prince had been lucky he'd not lost an eye.

Eddard had doubts that the boy truly knew where he was at the moment.

But that didn't make him pity the boy in any fashion.

"I would see them both freed Your Grace, the girl was acting in defense of My second's son wife, and My eldest son was acting solely in the purpose of protecting one of his people."

"Free? Your son shall be let loose when the hand he so maliciously beat Prince Joffrey with is relieved of him, and that wretched whore...She'll never know freedom again."

"Seven Hells! That's enough from both of you! I'm fucking tired of this nonsense, Joffrey you shouldn't have been stalking the dragon spa...I mean Lady Calimanenar, and dammit girl you shouldn't have struck my son. Wherever the Hound is he's in the wrong, and Ned your boy shouldn't have hit mine. Can't we fucking forget about all this already?"

Their silence and intense glares must've undercut any thought of such a thing transpiring.

"I will not take further slight Robert, I'll see my son and his companion released from their chains now."

Several northmen behind Eddard rose to the occasion, chanting for Robb's release and demanding the wretched boy to pay penance. The Queen did not rise against them with her cries, instead she only looked around taking note of their faces. Almost as if she meant to remember them.

The gaoler's did as they were bid, so it was that Robb and Jeyne were released from their confinements.

The Heir to Winterfell did not make a beeline for Robert's boy as Ned had feared, instead he began consoling the shattered girl.

"Those two are criminals against the throne, I'll see them punished as such" said the Queen once the crowd had quieted back down.

"It shall be Your Prince who is judged guilty. Robert you rode North to return House Stark to your side, named me Hand of the King in the process, as my first act I would call for justice."

Cersei merely laughed,

"This is not the Hour of the Wolf Lord Stark, I'm sure you Northmen have given life to the rumor that your ancestor Cregan won the Dance of Dragons by himself but the truth is.."

"The truth is that your son violated guest right, Prince Joffrey could have done no worse an offense to me and mine. As such he should be flung from Winterfell's gates."

Lord Stark could hear the roar of his bannerman's applause, but the only voice that mattered was Roberts.

"Ned please, be reasonable."

"Reason was abandoned when your son assaulted my people. I will have justice now."

Robert boiled,

"Ned what do you want from me? Would you have me officiate the trial of my own bloody son? I'm no happier with him than you are, but..."

"There will not be a trial! Joffrey is not guilty of any wrongdoing, he went to speak with Lady Calimanenar with friendly intentions. Yet she began to seek advancement upon our son! She would've whisked him to her chambers if given half a chan..."

"I'll not here another word from you Cersei, do you take me for the oaf others name me? I've not forgotten what Joff has done before." Robert was no longer red faced from his wine, instead his cheeks soured from anger.

She seemed similarly upset with him, and so spoke with vile upon her tongue.

"Our son is innocent, and if there is to be a false trial then I would only see it after justice has been tolled upon the true wrongdoers."

The Queen pointed at Robb and the girl he'd been consoling.

"They have not denied the assault upon Prince Joffrey, guilty shall be their plea Dear Husband."

"Well hang on Cersei, its all about why..."

"No, the law is clear. None may strike a member of the Royal family save in a joust or melee. Those are the rules sat down on parchment, shall we abandon justice for madness?"

Now the woman mocks me.

Robert seemed to mope around for a second, he understood law no more than a babe understands farming. He was used to others telling him a verdict.

If only Jon Arryn were here. But he wasn't and so Lord Stark fell back on the lessons of his youth.

"One must uphold his own honor Eddard,  For others are likely to let their's down."

"I demand that the crimes committed within my keep are treated as such. I will accept no hasty judgement Robert."

"You will accept whatever the King decrees Lord Stark" called out droopy eyed and red bearded man in a white cloak.

Ned turned to face the Kingsguard member, he meant to disgrace him, but the Lord of Winterfell did not speak quick enough.

"I suggest you shut your fucking mouth, or I'll see your pretty white cloak soiled brown and red" Bellowed the largest man in the room.

Meryn Trant turned like he meant to charge at the Greatjon, but the Lord of Last Hearth overturned the table he'd been sitting at.

"You want a fucking piece of me? Gods I've been waiting for this day."

Greatjon had no sword, and he kept no armor on his person at the moment. Yet he was near thrice the size of Ser Meryn and would've battered him silly regardless of a steel jerkin.

Behind the Greatjon rose his three sons, and they would've made quite an impressive shield wall. Yet it was not to be.

"Stop This Madness In The Name Of Your King!" Bellowed Robert.

Ned looked back and forth between the two gigantic men, Ser Meryn was clearly outclassed, but the other two combatants would've made quite a spectacle.

Who would've won in their prime? Robert or the Greatjon? Ned could not decide, instead he moved too stop the big mans pursuit with a glare.

Upon seeing his lords ire the Lord of Last Hearth dropped any intention of fighting, and instead stood the ground he'd already gained. He looked away from Ned and faced directly towards the King,

He did not kneel.

"The North remembers wrongs done, and we demand justice!" The Seven footer called forth before returning to his seat.

It was customary to kneel before addressing ones King, but the Greatjon had made a show of not doing such courtesy. In fact he'd done quite the opposite,

He'd stood in open defiance of the King, if only for a moment.

The Lannister woman fumed at his slight,

"Guards detain him! He cannot speak in such a way to Your King!"

Ned looked around the room and not a single guard moved towards the Lord of Last Hearth,

No one in the keep was brave enough nor stupid enough to try him.

"Shut it woman, no one is detaining anyone right now. I've made my mind upon nothing, and I'll hear what needs to be said. But First fetch me some wine!"

Robert's adult squire started to shuttle off, but Lord Stark bared his passage.

"No Robert, you'll suffer this sober just as everyone else. I'll not have you drunkenly sentence anyone, today justice shall be served instead of ale."

The King fumed, he was angrier at the loss of wine than he'd been at his sons crimes.

"Well dammit, who wants to speak first?"

Ned drew in a breath, but the Lannister woman had held long enough.

"I, Cersei of House Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, accuse Robb of House Stark and Jeyne of House Poole with assaulting the Crowned Prince."

"What would you carry as punishment?" Asked Robert. Perhaps he does know something of being a judge.

The Queens emerald eyes lit up at such a suggestion,

"Penalties for such crimes are clear, but I found it within my heart to see that Joff's assaulters are not equal in level. Lord Stark's son deserves different treatment, as such I would ask only that his offending hand be amputated, Should he refuse this punishment I'll accept his joining of the Nights Watch."

She allowed no time for anyone to speak against her before she began again, this time with more hatred upon her tongue.

"This wretched whore shall suffer though. I'd have her walked through the Castle's entirety without a covering, let her unmask her shame the same as Joff shall bear his wounds, construct a scaffold as well. There are no shortage of trees in the North, and she should hang for her treason."

The gathered Northmen gasped at such indecency.

Amongst them cried several voices, yet one arose above them all.

"Your Grace" called forth a smaller voice, Ned was shocked, for it was Benjen who spoke.

"I remember a day not so long ago, one where my own brother and father had been called to answer for dubious crimes, same as has befallen now. The Mad King thought he was giving them justice, but I'm sure you've heard of such a tale. I've little in the way of details to offer, but I have heard Ser Jamie was present, perhaps he'd be so kind as to educate us all."

The White Lion spoke without anyone having to ask him to do so.

"Aye, I stood the same distance from Aerys as I do now from Robert. Brandon had arrived in the capital screaming for Rhaegar's death, and was imprisoned justly. Afterwards your father rode south to answer the Kings summon, Lord Rickard demanded a trial by combat instead of a drawn out ordeal, all of that was justice."

Benjen turned deathly pale,

"And what about after?"

Jamie did not speak, and Benjen did not allow him the chance.

"Would you call a man being suspended from the rafters and left too burn justice? Aerys did chose fire as his champion didn't he? And Brandon was brought in too wasn't he?"

Again the White Lion was silent.

"I heard a story that a noose was placed around my brothers neck, and a sword was put before him. I heard that he strangled himself trying to save our father. I'm sure the Mad King had been waiting long years to try out such a device, but could any instance be justification for such a usage? Did my brother and father deserve to die the way they did?"

Benjen turned from the Kingslayer, and instead faced Robert.

"Especially when their deaths came from Prince Rhaegar's treason, how could that be justice Your Grace?"

The King seemed specifically weighted by this testimony.

"I can do nothing for Robb, the law mandates he lose his hand if found guilty, but this girl shall not be tortured. If she will accept her guilt I'll see her life spared. She could join the Silent Sisters."

Robert foolishly offered compromise where none could be had.

"I'll not accept these terms Your Grace, she is my daughter and we do not worship the Seven" Vayon had finally drew enough ire from the Lannisters, and so now had joined Ned's side.

"What would you see as justice should your daughter be found guilty? Would you accept the swiftness of a headsman's axe?"

"My daughter is innocent of any wrong doing, and we keep no headsman in the North." Vayon declared.

"Seven Hells! Does everyone think me so incapable of providing justice? I've decided there shall be no damned trials by the Crown. Instead justice shall be served the old way, trial by combat."

"How do you propose to see justice done? Are you so great a fool as to thi..."

The Stag interrupted the Lioness.

"I have decided that the trials shall occur in the order of occurrence. Joffrey attempted to assault the Lady of Moat Cailin, and regardless of my feelings towards her former family, she deserves an opportunity at justice."

Robert turned to face the ruling house of Moat Cailin,

"Name your champion."

Jon stepped forward while his wife kept his hand.

"I shall stand for my lady wife, and for myself. Let it not be forgotten that alongside my wife's womb and tongue, he threatened to kill me. I shall stand for both of us."

"Who shall stand opposed as champion for the Crown?"

There seemed to be a bit of whispering amongst them as they deliberated, Ned knew that Jon having Hailstone meant the Kingsguard's blade advantage would be useless. Instead they tried to figure out who in their midst could out duel Jon.

"We would call for Prince Lewyn Martell to ride North to answer our call. With him we'd ask Ser Arys and Lord Commander Barristan to travel."

Robert's eyes nearly jumped out his head.

"You mean to keep us in Winterfell for that much longer?" Ned agreed with the sentiment.

"I'll not allow a delay Your Grace, I desire to see this matter settled at once."

"Agreed, You'll have to choose a champion from our midst."

The White Lion spoke with his sister, and finally they came up with an answer.

"Ser Boros Blount will stand for the Crown."

The ugly bald headed man turned with eyes wide as a full moon, he stared down Lord Eddard's second son with fear clearly written upon his face.

"Very well, and for the crime of Jeyne striking Prince Joffrey who should stand in the Crown's defense?"

This time the Lannister response was much quicker.

"Lancel Lannister shall stand for the Crown," called forth the Queen, and her cousin stood stiff as frozen meat.

The squire was similarly stunned as his white companion,

"The boys not even been made a knight." Robert tried to protest,

"Neither has Lord Calimanenar, and besides you don't have to be a knight to fight in a trial by combat." The Lioness responded.

"And my cousin is more than ready to finally earn his spurs."

"If you say so, and the boy agrees. Who shall stand for Lady Jeyne?"

The boy seemed to disagree, yet Ned knew not whom his champion would be.

Ned turned to his Steward in search of Vayon's thoughts.

"I won't fight a boy Ned."

"Even with your daughters life on the line?"

"Especially with her life on the line! I can't hesitate, I'm not a natural fighter like you."

Vayon had him mistaken for Jeyne's real father.

"I'll stand for the girl."

Up rose Benjen from behind them,

That should work, she's his blood same as I. And he's already questioned the cruel fate Queen Cersei would have of her.

No one would doubt this selection.

"And upon the matter of Sandor Clegane versus House Poole... where is the Hound?"

"Sandor Clegane surrendered himself last night Your Grace, he came back to the Great Hall and drowned himself amidst heavy drinking. He has confessed to his crimes." called Vayon

"I shall not see him given unjust punishment. I demand he be given the same trial as all the other accused, since he shall no doubt wish to fight, the Hound shall stand for himself. That seems just."

"Then I shall stand against him" the Steward of Winterfell said.

Ned turned to his foolish friend,

"What are you doing?"

"She is my daughter. That monster is the one who harmed her so, and if not for him the Prince would not have seen any opportunity to dishonor her."

"I understand Vayon, but he will kill you."

"No he won't, justice is on my side." The Steward returned himself back to the King.

"I stand firm in my decision, it shall be me who faces the Hound."

"Personally I would've picked...anyone else, but its your funeral." Ned could tell that's what Robert wanted to say, but instead he acknowledged the deceleration and began with the next.

"Who shall stand for the Crown in the accusations against Prince Joffrey by Lord Poole?"

"Ser Meryn Trant." The White Lion said proudly, almost as if he'd mastered some plan.

"Then who shall stand for..."

"I'll stand for old Vayon's girl!" The Greatjon stood at his self nomination and eyed the red bearded white cloak.

Meryn provided a gulp of hesitation when the big man turned to him, but did his best to look stern afterwards.

"My boys are plenty happy to be rid of me should I lose. But I should reckon they'll have to suffer me yet."

He bellowed laughter while remaining intimidating.

Robert would've laughed with his new found drinking companion only hours prior, but now he sat in silence.

"Very well, who shall be the Crowns champion against Robb Stark?"

The White Lion strode forward,

His white cloak spoke to his honor, while his actions provided malpractice.

"I will stand for my nephew Your Grace."

Ser Jamie was smugly grinning the entire time once he'd moved in front of his sister.

It was as if he knew something the rest of us don't.

Yet all knew Ser Jamie to be amongst the greatest swordsmen who still drew breath.

He was equal parts legendary for his skill as he was infamous for his deeds. Only a swordsman the likes of Ser Barristan the Bold or The Sword of the Morning could defeat him,

"But you defeated Arthur," Brandon's voice whispered.

That was years ago, and I wasn't alone.

"Who shall stand for Robb Stark?"

It should be me, I will stan...

"I'll stand for myself Your Grace."

Ned felt his eyes bulge from within his head, and so made his way over to his eldest boy. He meant to clap him upside the head,

"What are you thinking?" Ned finally asked once he'd reached his side.

"That I am innocent father, that the Old Gods will protect me. Where the Gods have eyes they have power."

"And if they should fail you?"

Ned realized his boy had fully weighted such an occurrence.

"Then you'll still be alive, and Lord of Winterfell. If I chose a champion and they lost I would take the black, but if that champion were you then the North would be lost. Should you fight for me and lose, then Bran becomes Lord of Winterfell as a boy of ten, and he is not ready to rule in the case of both our absences."

He is a strategist, far better than even Brandon had been when cool headed.

"Why not name anyone else then? Theon, or Smalljon, even Lord Jorah would surely fight for you. Why does it have to be you?"

Ned had already lost his father, mother, brother, and sister. He'd left a girl behind in Dorne, was he going to lose another child now to?

He wasn't sure if he could suffer anymore loses. He didn't want Benjen or Jon to fight, even though he knew they'd win, but Robb was different.

Jamie will kill him, and everyone will name it justice.

The boy smiled then as he brought a hand to his fathers face.

"Because I'm the only one we can afford too be at risk."

"And I'm the only one who can beat him."

Chapter Text

Sandor Clegane

Night had fallen and day seemed to have never broken. There was little in the way of light for Sandor as he awoke from his drunken slumber, yet strangely his head did not hurt, and he was somewhat aware of his surroundings.

He could feel the iron biting at his wrists and the shackles around his ankles. The Hound was among the strongest men in Westeros but even he could not hope to rip iron chains from the wall.

And even if he did where would he go?

The door was undoubtedly locked, and he wasn't particularly interested in showing his burned mug to the world right now. Not after what he'd done.

Sandor had stayed too far back from his Prince's side, he couldn't stand to look at the poor dragon girl after what his brother had done to her nephew. Gregor was always the root of his brothers problems, the day they'd scaled Maegor's Holdfast they'd had a mission, but that didn't mean Sandor wanted to succeed.

In fact he'd hoped Gregor would prove too large, and his climbing spike might fail him, then I'd be rid of him.

Yet it had not happened, and Gregor had crushed the poor babe's skull before Sandor could get a word edgewise. The blood had splattered all over a twelve year old Hound, but he'd been shocked that his brother could commit such an act.

Sandor knew his brother was a monster, but to the world at large surely it could remain no secret. Gregor had swore his oaths before the man whose babe laid lifeless in the Mountains grasp. It had been for Gregor that the Hound had never swore such oaths.

He was a fucking knight, and they were supposed to be the best of us.

The brothers had been about to fight once more when Ser Jamie came in through the window and sliced off the little piggy's arm.

Sandor had done his best to prevent what happened, but it didn't matter.

And once more his good intentions had failed, but this time it actually cost Sandor personally.

This time he was the one who'd done the smashing.

Joffrey, the little shit that he was, deserved every bit he was being given. Besides his size, he's no different than Gregor.

A Monster through and through. If anyone would know it to be true it had to be his sworn shield, the man who acted as executioner to the Princes perverted judge.

Men were one thing, men are meat and I'm a Hound.

But Sandor had done his best to not harm undeserving woman, and until last night he'd done a fine job of it.

He'd seen the entirety of Joffrey's confrontation, and yet he'd acted once more too late.

The girl had been to quick and close for Sandor to intercept her, else wise he might've been able to save her hand from the Queen. Yet after the first blow to the Prince he managed to wrestle her away.

Sandor had done his best to be gentle with the girl, she was not but ten and seven, and in his arms she'd felt as light as Ellinor.

It had been so many years, but the Hound had never forgotten her face. She was good, kind and innocent, and Gregor...

Killed her. He had no proof but if their older brother had been willing to force Sandor into the fire over playing with his toy, what would he do to a girl whose screams kept him up at night...

She was dead and gone, but Sandor had dedicated his life to being what Ellie could have been.

The Hound looked up to his pitch black ceiling, searching for her in the eternal abyss. He wanted to speak with her just once.

" I'm sorry Ellie, apparently it  turns out I'm just as much of a cunt as our big brother"

He'd never meant to harm the poor girl, but in his effort to be gentle with her, Sandor had left himself vulnerable. She'd wiggled an arm free of his grasp, and flailed like a rabid wolf.

When the girl scratched his burned half his vision had blurred and his mind clouded, Sandor couldn't think or feel. All that he knew was pain in that moment, and so he lashed out like the dog he was.

In that instant he'd been no better than Gregor. His fist cracked her square in the face and once more blood had splattered onto his mug.

Except this time it wasn't his brothers fault.

He could only look on in horror as the girl thudded with the ground, her face a broken and mangled mess. She'd been pretty before, but she wouldn't be again. 

By that point he could see nothing but Ellinor and Prince Aegon, both victims of Clegane savagery. Maybe all we are good for is butchery.

Sandor had only wanted the moment to end, he desired to turn and run away just like he'd tried to do all those years ago.

This time though, it was Sandor himself who'd put his head in the brazier. I've forever shamed myself.

His horror had only been exacerbated by what Joffrey had done afterwards, yet the Hound had done nought to stop his Prince. Instead the near seven foot tall Sandor Clegane had cowered in the corner much like the frightened dragon girl.

Just a scared little kid who grew to be big, that's all I am.

A tear worked down his face, and it bit into the cut upon his burnt side. The sting felt righteous.

Jeyne, that was her name. In the aftermath of their actions, Sandor had sought solace from the situation. Everyone had begun running and screaming, the entirety of Winterfell charged into where he'd only just been.

No one stopped him though, as he walked unopposed Sandor had little in the way of an idea.

He had no where else to go in the Keep so he returned to his seat in the Great Hall and once more began drinking.

The wine had only brought back memories though,

After a time the Lannisters and Starks had drawn battle lines, they each retreated to their corner whilst Sandor sat alone in the Great Hall.

Soon enough though he found himself surrounded by northmen, they had drawn weapons and called for his surrender. Sandor was to drunk and emotional to care at that point, they meant nothing to him, and only death would relieve him from the pain.

Yet they'd not ended him there and then, instead they'd drug him down into the darkness. Bound him by his limbs, and spat before closing the door.

He began to role his wrists around when he heard mumbling,

"Should we be down here? The King said he's to have a fair trial."

"Shut up we are almost there."

Finally, surely someone will kill me.

"Shhh"

Sandor heard the key turning its lock, and when the door sprung open he found himself once more blinded by torch light.

When his eyes adjusted he saw five men standing in the light of flame. They had steel and he knew at once their intentions, and though he had begged for death only moments prior, his innate reaction was to be defiant.

"Are you going to do it, or shall I die from waiting?" he wailed at them.

"He's awake."

"Great observation dumb ass! How about you unchain me and lets see if your man enough to not shit your britches."

One strode forth from the torchlight until Sandor could no longer see his face clearly. The man stopped just short of Sandor's person, and the shadow drew a knife as it spoke.

"For my daughter."

The kiss of steel was cold, but never so much as the reasoning. His plunge was deep and true, Sandor could feel himself leaking like a wet bag. Yet the shadowy figure did not repeat his actions. Instead he sat in reflection, and he left the knife thrust into Sandor's gut.

"I never meant to..." Sandor wheezed out.

"Doesn't matter. There is to be a trial today, one by combat. Lady Jeyne deserves a far chance, and King Robert decided you'd stand for yourself."

Sandor understood why they'd come.

Not to kill me, but to make sure I died.

They would have him slowly bleed until he passed from his wounds. The pain increased as the man jerked the knife from his side, through torch light Sandor could see the man glaring at the knife. The Figure looked like he wanted to finish it.

"Do it you coward. I'll not lose to any fucker in Winterfell, even with a hole in my belly. DO IT!"

Yet the taunting did not work, instead the figure returned himself from the knife.

"I'm the coward? You're the one who forever marred the face of a unwed girl. You're the one whose responsible for enabling the Prince's actions. None could deny your involvement yet you're to receive a trial as if there were reasonable suspicion towards your guilt."

Sandor did not waste another breath, nothing he could say would change the truth.

He was guilty.

"There is someone coming, we need to go" said a labored voice.

After him the other figures strode, whilst the one nearest to Sandor lingered for a moment longer.

"Die in here if you wish, but make it to the field and I'll not give you a quick death" It said before retreating from the cell.

The door clanked shut after his assailant fled from the room. Sandor could not tend to his wound with his hands bound, and so it was that blood let from his cut and leaked down unto the floor.

By the time another torch gave him vision, the blood had pooled just like the girls.

"Gods he's been wounded! What should we do?"

"We need to get him to the courtyard for the trial, he deserves to die anyway!" said the same labored voice from earlier.

When they unshackled him Sandor though to fight, but what difference would it make?

He couldn't fight himself free from Winterfell. The only way to live was by winning.

So he let the false guards walk him up to the courtyard of House Stark's ancient fortress. When he saw light again he remembered warmth, despite the summer snow. As he was scuttled across the yard Sandor could see the multitude of gathered guests, it was clear to him that his trial was not the only one to occur on this day.

After marching him across the courtyard, his escort finally released him into the custody of Lannister men. They immediately noticed he'd been wounded and questioned the retreating Stark men.

"What happened? Why is he injured?" cried Vylarr, Captain of the Red Guard.

"He put up a fight last night, took a stab in the gut for his part."

They left without further word, and Vylarr began calling for a healer.

By the time they'd attended to him Sandor had lost enough blood to render a normal man useless. Yet he was no ordinary man.

He sat from his accused booth, and beheld the spectacle that was about to commence.

King Robert sat atop the battlements of Winterfell and raised his voice for all to hear.

"In the case of Prince Joffrey versus House Calimanenar, champions present yourself."

Out strode the dark haired bastard of Winterfell, he looked a pretty sight in his dark plate armor. Across his breast plate a golden star had been painted, and from the distance Sandor thought the boy was someone greater. Almost like a King.

From the other end of the yard strode a pale shadow, the sun caressed a balding head and Sandor took the man at once for the cowardly Ser Boros Blount. The man latched his helm, but even from the distance they'd been separated the Hound could smell the fear emanating from the retched craven.

Piss had not yet run down his leg though, Sandor concluded.

Yet the white knights bladder held by a thread.

The two champions met before the Stag King, and he bestowed upon them the rules and judgement that would be doled.

Would you get on with it already.

"House Calimanenar charges Prince Joffrey Baratheon with attempted assault and threats against their well being. Both sides have put forth their claims, and now the Gods shall judge the truth. This trial shall not end until one man submits or perishes upon the field of battle. Do you both understand?"

Both champions lowered their heads in acknowledgement. The Lord of Moat Cailin was of a decidedly cooler temperament to the shivering Ser Boros.

"Should Prince Joffrey's champion be victorious then all guilt of wrongdoing upon the Lord and Lady of Moat Cailin shall be forgotten as if it never happened. However should House Calimanenar's champion be victorious none shall bare their tongues to the tales, and due to my close ties with the accused I shall offer one boon should the chance arise."

"Kneel before your king and let the trial commence." Both did as they were bid, before separating from one another. Both champions stood before drawing blades, each man wore heavy armor but with the swords they were swinging helms or breastplates wouldn't last long.

As Sandor finally received the medical attention he needed, he saw that in Ser Boros ever shacking right hand was the valyrian steel blade Duty, yet he looked like he wanted no part of what his Queen desired.

Opposed Jon Calimanenar had the dark rippled blade Hailstone, each had been folded a thousand times. Sandor had always desired a valyrian steel sword, but he'd never had the chance to kill a man with one.

It seemed like people who had those things deserved them. Yet as the two moved towards each other it was clear that one man who held one clearly wasn't worthy of the blade.

They clashed and with a quick parry Jon Calimanenar was on the offensive, never did he relent his fury and Ser Boros was driven ever backwards. Finally after Jon had whittled the white cloaks shield into a toothpick, the craven began to openly circle the Lord of Moat Cailin in an attempt to find salvation.

Yet the fat man had not the stamina to continue his own chase, and soon he fell to the ground. He laid there for an entire moment to the delight of the Stark crowd and chagrin of the Lannisters. He must've been out of breath, and though his opponent had been unworthy, Jon Calimanenar seemed every bit a proper warrior.

Even once the pale shadow had been downed the Lord of Moat Cailin kept his distance, weary of any false pretense. When he drew in close the white snake latched out with a last ditch strike attempt,

Yet the two blades sang as Jon parried his blow, and with his momentum the Warden of the Causeway flung Ser Boros blade from his hand. In that moment the duel was decided. The boy needed but to thrust his sword a single more time and the false knights armor would give way like parchment before his valyrian steel.

But instead the Lord of Moat Cailin put the blade to Ser Boros throat,

"Do you yield?" he yelled out for all to hear. Should've killed him.

Yet evidently that was not this boys way. Ser Boros was most obviously in tears at the thought of losing his life, and perhaps it was the Queen whom he looked at instead of the King.

You should be worried about what she'll do. We are supposed to win or die. That's the only way to escape her wrath.

"Do you yield?" questioned the Lord of Moat Cailin once more.

The pale shadow sat backwards upon his ass in submission, staining his white cloak with the cold brown dirt of Winterfell. He was most certainly in tears beneath his helm when he called forth his submission.

"I...I surren..surrender. Please don't kill me."

How could this man be worthy of knighthood?

Why were men like this allowed to swear the vows?

Cravens or Monsters, those seemed to be the only Knights these days.

The Lord of Moat Cailin accepted his surrender and returned himself before King Robert. He knelt down into the milky summer snow, and removed his helm.

Robert seemed thrilled that the boy had been victorious.

"You've raised a proper soldier Ned, you must be proud."

"You speak highly of me Your Grace, and I am therefore flattered. I pray you'll keep me in your good graces."

"My word is the law, Lord Jon Calimanenar you may ask anything of me, so long as it is within my power. So what would you have of me?"

The boy rose to his feet, and from Sandor's perspective he looked more a King than Robert had ever been.

He could ask for Joffrey's disinheritance.

"It is no secret that my Lady wife's family has been disgraced, rightfully cast down from the throne they held so precariously. We would've once settled with fading into obscurity, we had all but forgotten where my lady wife Daenerys had come from. But with the gods as witness Prince Joffrey has seen to forever ensure that all remember our future children's heritage."

"And I am now of a mind with him, our children should not be ashamed of who they descend from, they shall wear no crowns Your Grace, but I ask that you allow the honorary title of Prince or Princess to be bestowed upon their birth."

Sandor could not tell how the King took such a request. Robert had fought a damn war to see the Targaryen's extinguished, yet he'd failed and now he was being forced to recognize that.

It wouldn't have come as a surprise to Sandor if the King requested their heads right now. Yet something stifled the King's rage. Perhaps it was something about the boys look...

"I..This is within my power, and I have no right to deny you such a request. I, King Robert Baratheon, first of my name, forever decree that the children of House Calimanenar shall be given the honorary title of Prince or Princess. So long as they continued to serve fealty to House Stark and the Iron Throne."

The Queen was very displeased and she would've splintered her arm chair had she been so strong as Sandor. Yet the Northmen as a whole cheered for their champion, and it seemed to them at least that justice had been done.

Yet there were more trials.

"In the case of Jeyne Poole versus the Crown, champions present yourself."

Ser Boros had fled without Sandor noticing, He'd best march his ass to the wall. Else wise the Queen might have him mutilated.

So instead from that direction walked the King's own squire. Lancel Lannister strode forth from the Lions ensemble,

He was strong and many a maiden fawned over his emerald eyes. He was a few inches shorter than his famous cousin, and a far worse swordsman.

Yet he strode forward nonetheless, covered from head to toe in black and crimson plate armor. Perhaps it will hide the blood he's about to spill.

Cheers went with him though and they hollered of "Ser Lancel!" and when Sandor asked the meaning of such a title the Maester informed him that only this morning had Ser Jamie graced his cousin with the vows.

Opposing the overwhelmed boy was a long legged figure, clad in dark grey armor. A white tree had been painted upon his breastplate, and his face guard was painted the color of milk with a red smile upon its lips.

From within the helm were haunting grey-blue eyes.

They were almost the same eyes as the girls. Perhaps he is her father?

Yet the man did not have the rough look of his assailant.

"The Crown accuses Lady Jeyne of House Poole with assaulting the Crowned Prince Joffrey Baratheon. Both sides have put forth their claims, and now the Gods shall judge the truth. This trial shall not end until one man submits or perishes upon the field of battle. Do you both understand?"

Both champions lowered their heads in acknowledgement.

"Should The Crown's champion be victorious then the punishment shall be death for the Lady Jeyne, as no other form of penance was accepted. Should Lady Poole's champion prove victorious then all shall know her innocent of any wrongdoing."

"Kneel before your king and let the trial commence."

After doing as they were bid, The tall shadow strode backwards from his crimson counterpart. Lancel was clearly scared, yet he'd hidden it better than the craven white cloak who'd dueled before him.

"Lay down your arms and let justice be had for the wrongdoings! I swear to the Seven that I shall be merciful and honorable! I don't want to harm you Ser!"

Only fucking Lancel would try to talk his way through a trial by combat.

"I'm not a Knight." That was a sentiment Sandor could get behind.

The two began combat, and this time neither had a valyrian steel sword. Instead they swung plain live steel at each other. Before either of them could bleed though Sandor himself felt his own would flow.

His vision once more became foggy, and he struggled to tell the combatants apart for a moment.

The crimson child was forever flailing his blade at the pale northerner, yet when he managed to make contact the youthful lion found only his opponents blade. His opponent however was blocking or parrying each of Lancel's strikes, and he forever pushed forwards.

Soon enough this smiling tree had forced the baby Lion against a brick wall, the eldest son of Ser Kevan Lannister must've realized that he'd been backed into a corner for he brashly tried to free himself.

Lancel forced an idiotic flee attempt, he held back the northerners blade with his own, and then began his go by kicking at his assailant's knee. He gave himself just enough room, and then tried to slide through the White Tree's trunk.

The cub was neither as skilled as the Kingslayer, nor was the newly made knight so clever as the Imp.

When he dove down the northerner smashed him with a tremendous knee to his helm, the boy's brain must've rattled within its steel cage for Lancel fell face first to the ground.

In this moment the Northerner gave room so as to reset his feet. Lancel attempted to use his swords hilt in aiding his arising. Yet the Northerner booted Lancel's sword from his hand, and it went tumbled away from the boy.

"Yield!" the Northern Lord commanded, yet Lancel was not one to disappoint the Queen.

Instead the cub crawled swiftly, and reached once more for his sword.

A moment later and his pursuit ended.

The Northerner brought his sword clean and through the gap in Lancel's gauntlet, and a hand fell from within its metal sheath once the steel had struck dirt.

Lancel cried at the top of his lungs in anguish, he reeled over onto his stomach and clutched at what remained of his stumped left arm.

When he came to a stop in his whining the boy found a blade at his throat, ready to finish the job.

The Lion Cub screamed quickly for help, yet only laughter and cries came to him. He was losing a lot of blood very quickly, and the boy seemed to faint from his shock.

The Maester abandoned Sandor in favor of the downed boy.

His northern opponent paid no more attention to the grounded cub, instead he returned to the King's grace and knelt down below him.

"I accept his defeat."

The Queen seemed sly, but Robert reasoned that Lancel was either dead or defeated.

"He can't fight with one fucking hand! He could barely fight with two."

Needless to say the Royal couple were not happy with each other.

"I, King Robert Baratheon, first of my name, declare Lady Jeyne Poole innocent of any charges by the Crown."

The Northerners thundered cheers at the notion, and the tall Lord returned to the side of his Stark pups.

Once he'd arrived amongst them the white tree removed his helm and kissed the veiled cheek of the girl whose honor he had defended, and whose life he had saved.

Lancel however was whisked away for treatment, Sandor no longer saw the Maester, and he'd only wrapped Sandor's wounds. Masking them from the outside world.

Whether it had been done so intentionally the Hound could not say, yet regardless of the truth destiny came.

"In the case of Sandor Clegane versus House Poole, champions present yourself."

Sandor felt himself being risen to his feet, and from behind several hands quickly outfitted him in his soot colored armor, threw his olive green cloak about his person, and fastened his dogs head helm to his cranium.

Vylarr placed the Hound's longsword into his hand before guiding him from the booth.

Upon being forced to stand on his own power Sandor immediately fell down to his knees, blood was soaking into his undershirt, but it would not seep through his armor.

"He's drunk!" One voice cried.

"I would be if I looked like that." Another said.

"He's about to meet the Gods, who cares how he goes!" Yelled one more.

After that Sandor sounded them all out, he fought to free himself of his burden, and rose to his feet.

Where movement might have once been impossible, steps eased to becoming difficult soon after. He found that his blood was now flowing, and not just to his wound, but throughout his body.

It'll be only a matter of time before I bleed out.

Sandor finally had the strength to lift his head and he met the gaze of his opponent.

The shadowy figure, he recognized at once. Light had deprived this man of any mystique, and now he was what Sandor saw of nearly every man.

Yet something was strange about the man, for as The Hound gazed into his eyes he did not find those of the girl. This isn't her father.

After the conclusion he wearily looked the man up and down.

His assailant was dressed in thick dark armor, such the like that Gregor might wear.

That was all the Hound could see before he fell to a knee once more, and though the dark figure was uninjured it followed him to the ground.

It was only after Robert began speaking that Sandor realized he'd made it before the King.

"House Poole charges Sandor Clegane with the use of unnecessary force against the Lady Jeyne Poole. The gods alone know the truth of the matter, and as such it is they who shall judge. This trial shall not end until one man submits or perishes upon the field of battle. Do you both understand?"

Sandor stared at the ground, trying to pull himself together, but he imagined Lord Poole had done as was bid.

"Should House Poole's champion be victorious then all shall know of Sandor Clegane's misdeeds. Should the accused survive this incident he will join the Nights Watch per Lord Stark's request. However should The Hound prove victorious none shall carry the tale upon their tongues."

I'm not swearing any vows. He felt himself bubble, the anger he held for everything that had soured in his life was upon his mind now.

"Let the trial commence."

His assaulter stepped backwards to allow the Hound room to find his footing, yet Sandor was still slow to reach his feet. When at last he did the Steward ran forward and kicked at the Hound's legs. The man threw enough weight around that Sandor flopped to his back.

The sight must've been hilarious for laughter went up all around him, Sandor did not immediately regain his composure, instead he gripped at his wounded belly.

A shadow loomed above him, and it came dropping towards him with great speed. The end of a sword reached forth towards him, intent upon claiming what no other had before.

Yet Sandor managed to wrestle his blade into a block, and with the might he could muster he pushed the Steward onto his heels.

The Hound managed to find his way back to a single knee base, yet before he could press himself to stand the Lord of House Poole returned upon him with thrice the intensity of before. He swatted at Sandor's blade as if he meant to drive through it and into the Hound's shoulder, but the man was not strong enough for such an endeavor.

Instead he delivered a devastating kick to Sandor's injured stomach. The Hound fell back to both knees, reeling from the pain of his wound. Following that Lord Stark's steward drew back before smashing his greave alongside Sandor's hound helm.

Ringing over came his hearing for a moment, and he felt his sword being knocked away, but when his ears returned to him he found the Steward mocking his downed opponent.

"This is for you baby girl!" He stared in the direction of his veiled daughter, she smiled no more than Sandor who gazed upwards towards the heavens.

What would death feel like? He'd given the gift for so long, but it was something he himself had never tasted.

Will I see Ellinor again?

No. She was an angel, and I'll be going somewhere else.

I need to earn her presence. I can't do that if I'm dead.

Perhaps I should join the Night's Wa...

That was the last thought on his mind before the Steward stabbed at his armor, the tip broke through the corner of Sandor's soot plate, and sliced at his breast. Sandor winced at the additional pain, lowering his head to the ground.

Yet the Steward took it for a debilitating blow, and as such his inexperienced opponent looked once more towards the gathered lot.

Without hesitation Sandor used this lapse in judgement for his advantage. He pulled at the Steward's foot and with the strength that remained to him yanked the man down.

The Hound forced his opponent to a knee and so rose with the tides. He sat up and delivered a devastating punch to the Steward's mug.

Not so different from what he'd done only the night before.

Yet this time he'd meant to strike, and he had not hit so hard as before.

No teeth came shattering from this mans face,

But once more blood had splattered onto Sandor's mug.

He fell on top of the Steward and went to placing his thumbs at the downed mans eyes. Yet Sandor hesitated, it was not so different a thing than what Gregor had intended for the Princess.

Instead the Hound gave the man a chance his brother never would have.

"Yield! Fucking Yield!" He demanded,

The man laxed for a moment, and Sandor thought he'd submit.

Yet a punch befell his gut, and blood ran from his armor. Several more cold plunges were placed in his side before Sandor realized the Steward had pulled a hidden dagger from his person.

"FOR JEYNE!"

The Hound cried out in agony as well, but still he pushed down,

And collapsed Lord Vayon Poole's head into itself.

His death was thunderous, and the cracking of his skull could be heard by all in attendance.

Sandor fell from atop the headless splatter and found himself cuddling amongst the mud and blood. Sandor rolled onto his stomach, and began to force himself to his knees. The courtyard had gone silent with his victory, until a single voice broke through the summer snows.

"The Hound Sandor Clegane is innocent in the eyes of all our gods. Let him be so to in the eyes of men."

What do the gods know of my guilt?

They're the ones that claimed a vengeful father, and not his daughters assailant.

Sandor then fell back to his former state and laid there staring into the heavens where his sister had gone so many years ago.

Others rushed forth towards him, but he was concerned only with the smiles she sent down to him.

I'll be better. He thought once he closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

Ser Jamie Lannister

The day had not begun well for the Golden Lions.

Jamie had awoken to his sister's mumblings about their son, evidently she'd not slept the entirety of the night.

Cersei was always a bit overprotective of that boy.

As he ruffled through her golden curls Jamie had thought for an early morning round, but she'd not been in the mood. Instead Cersei had seen herself from his side so soon as she learned his ease in the moment.

He'd tried to stall her by claiming it would bring about good luck, but she knew better than to believe that plea.

"You're the best sword in the Seven Kingdoms,"

"You don't need luck."

Perhaps not, Jamie had thought as he'd lain back into the straw bed they'd shared in the night.

Once finally arisen for the day, Jamie had taken his breakfast with Tyrion.

"So what do you think of your opponent?"

Jamie hadn't really even paid his brother any mind, instead he'd concerned himself solely with filling the appetite Cersei had worked upon him. So instead of answering his younger brother, The White Lion ripped through another slice of salted beef, it seemed to be the only thing they had in Winterfell.

If it was the only thing the Stark's had Jamie wouldn't doubt it, but more likely it was the bare minimum rations they were required to serve for guests who'd broken their sacred rights.

Out of all the men in the Seven Kingdoms, not one could know more about broken oaths than Ser Jamie Lannister.

Kingslayer, Oathbreaker, Man with Soiled Honor.

For the White Lion life had become so grey where once it had been only black and white. The days of knights in songs seemed to have been at an end.

There are no more good men, only lions and meat.

There was a time though, a time when Ser Jamie had believed in becoming greater than himself, and in his brightest hour it had been that righteousness with which he fought.

The King was going to order the death of every man, woman, and child in King's Landing.

Jamie Lannister had done what he thought, knew, was right.

Yet it seemed some people still despised him for it.

The Northerners had been more accepting than any of the other kingdoms though, Perhaps Lord Stark spread the real truth.

It had been to the Warden of the North that Jamie had revealed the Mad King's cache's of wildfire, and the Lord of Winterfell had in turn found the accumulation of such wretched alchemy.

Honorable Lord Stark had heard that Jamie slew the King, yet he only judged him for his protection of the city, and the last remaining Targaryens.

The White Knight had never understood why the other Lords Paramount had never given him such a benefit, It was no surprise that the Lords of the Reach had hated him for his actions, they'd been staunch Targaryen loyalists.

Jamie had not traveled to Dorne since the incident, but surely Elia and Doran have not forgotten.

In the West Jamie was still the hero he'd been since childhood, a golden lion with a white mane.

Yet lords in the Riverlands and Vale had spat at his apparent dishonor,

"Even Ser Brynden..." thought the sixteen year old boy.

"Perhaps they were jealous they'd not been given a chance to kill the king himself," thought the Kingslayer.

Such a moniker might have been revered had it been bestowed upon anyone else, but for a sworn member of the Kingsguard...

"Jamie. Did you hear me?"

"Sorry little brother, I was enjoying our breakfast."

"Rather hard to enjoy. Especially with the lack of wine, but I fear it is all the courtesy we shall be afforded."

"Can't say I blame them."

"Nor can I, but it will only get worse if you slay the Heir to Winterfell."

Tyrion was staring now, his mismatched eyes spoke a truth Jamie had known since he'd walked into the horrid situation. Joffrey may cause the collapse of the Seven Kingdoms.

"What do you think of this Robb Stark?"

"I know nothing about him, he's a boy of seventeen I believe?"

"Jamie, you must have some sort of pl..."

"That's were you're wrong little brother. Having a plan is pointless in a duel, everyone has some idea of how they'd like to fight, but after the first clash of swords. Well everything is in the air."

"So you mean to feel the boy out? Search for any weaknesses?"

"I will do what I must little brother."

"And what will that be Jamie? If you kill the boy then Winterfell might rise against us. They say you are the more martial of us two, so answer me this. If Ned Stark imprisons us in this fortress and calls his banners, revolts against the Iron Throne what should happen?"

"Tyrion, you're being delusional. Ned Stark would ne..."

"Joffrey has violated guest right! The gods should decide the truth of it, but you yourself told me of his guilt. If you'll not consider the event a possibility then humor me."

"Very well, I'll hear what you have to say."

"Thank you. If the North revolts against the South how shall we see to it's submission?"

"Father would see Winterfell burnt to the ground."

Tyrion continued his mismatched stair.

"With us inside? Were you at Duskendale? I've forgotten, regardless Lord Stark would not do such a thing without taking this retinue hostage."

"You're being paranoid." Jamie took a sup of his drink,

"Am I? Think about it strategically, where would an invasion have to come from?" He was hitting a little to close to Jamie's own fears.

"It doesn't matter, besides the North couldn't hold out forever, the combined armies of Westeros..."

"Doesn't matter? Brother have you forgotten father's teachings? The North is vast and its people resourceful. They live and die through winter, and not the mild snows we get at Casterly Rock or in the Capital, these are hard men and we'd be fighting on their turf."

His little brother was starting to sound like their father.

"Only from the Neck could a southern army hope to march into the Stark Lands, they've the crannogmen there, did you see them brother? As we entered and exited the swamp, and all throughout it. Eyes watched our ever move. Any army that hopes to cross that bog would be drained of blood for every inch taken. Not to mention they've made a lordship of Moat Cailin, a fortress so mighty it's never been taken from the South."

"It was little more than a ruin when we passed Tyrion..."

"So it was, but the placement of it would give cause for hesitation on its own. Yet now they mean to have it manned by a Lord, and even if we pass it, whose to say that our supply lines aren't cut off after our crossing? How well equipped could father have his men when he's never seen this land? It will certainly take more than a few blankets."

"Also you would be a fool to count on the entirety of the kingdoms to come for our rescue. The Tyrell's do not love Robert, The Tully's and Arryn's are still wed to the Direwolves, and the Martells will not back us, not even after what you did for them."

It was all true.

"The North is also going to be difficult to assault by sea, White Harbor is the most strategic point of course, but it is strong in defense. The western front could be secured, but the only feasible area to land is now controlled by Lord Stark's younger brother! And how would we traverse the Wolfswood in a timely manner?"

"Tyrion" Jamie interrupted.

"What would you have me do?" He was getting off topic.

"I don't know, Not die I suppose. If you win the North shall be in uproar. Even more so if you kill the boy, but should he lose a hand they'll never forget either."

"That makes sense Tyrion, yet you've given me no reprieve."

His younger brother searched around the room for a moment, trying to draw a conclusion from the madness that surrounded them.

"I'm no swordsman, so I won't tell you how to approach this situation. You must do whatever it take big brother. I just hope you won't fail to take this case serious."

Jamie gave his brightest smile, and as his lips curled he spoke.

"Oh brother, I'm quite renowned for taking things seriously."

Tyrion's frown paralleled Jamie's warm gesture.

"I'm serious, If Robb Stark is half the swordsman his father is then he may be dangerous."

Lord Stark slew Ser Arthur Dayne in single combat.  The greatest swordsman who ever lived, defeated by a Northmen.

The Sword of the Morning had been amongst Jamie's greatest heroes, right alongside the Blackfish and Ser Barristan.

Men Knights should aspire to be like. The White Lion had once thought himself capable of becoming such a Legend, but after what he'd done there would be no unanimity about the songs written for him.

"More dangerous than me dear brother?" Jamie flashed another smile at his brother, an attempt to ease both their minds.

Yet Tyrion remained resolute.

"Should you fall, shall it be I who avenges you?" He meant such a statement in earnest, yet Jamie couldn't help but take a laugh.

"That would be quite the sight."

"I'm not entirely kidding. I couldn't bear this world without you or mother."

"Father would be insufferable alone, that much I'll give you. Tyrion no one is going to die..."

That had been the last thing he'd told his little brother before they made way for the courtyard, and until the third fight Jamie had proven himself a wise man.

Ser Boros was unbecoming of a white knight, unworthy even of the his sworn vows, and irredeemable in his cowardice.

He didn't deserve to wear the same cloak as Ser Arthur Dayne.

"You're the one who opened the door for dishonorable men," the ghosts of Jamie's past had told him once in his dreams.

Cersei had questioned his decision for allowing Ser Boros to defend their sons honor, she'd known that should that bout be lost it would mean Joffrey's conviction. Jamie had been fully aware of the consequences but then again,

He also knew the truth of Joffrey's guilt.

When he'd been in bed with Cersei the night prior, right after they'd seen Joffrey to his room, she'd spoken of how to cover up what he'd done.

"How do We clear his good name?"

For the first time in his life, Jamie Lannister had thought to strike his sister.

He doesn't have a good name. Our son is a monster.

Yet he'd not brought himself to do or say such a thing, it would've been outright rejected by his elder sister. She could never give up on one of her cubs.

Just like Mother.

Jamie saw the truth though, Joffrey could not sit the Iron Throne.

He would be no better than Aerys.

If Joffrey sat the throne, and did took the same actions as his father's predecessor would Jamie still take the same recourse?

Could he slay his own son?

Jamie had decided he'd not be a Kinslayer in addition to his regicide.

The trials had always been fated to fail though, Jamie had reasoned in the night. It wasn't like they had many choices, for Boros and Meryn had traveled northward with the King, whilst Barristan and Lewyn had been left in the South.

The best Joffrey had to work with was his uncle Jamie and sworn shield Sandor Clegane.

Yet the Hound was forced to answer for his own crimes, and only a kingsguard could stand as champion for an accused member of the Royal family.

At first his sister had requested Jamie to fight in each of Joffrey's trials, yet he'd reasoned with her that it was more important to see punishments done against the offenders.

"No one will believe the tales about Joffrey, they're too outrageous," he'd said. Many still didn't believe Jamie saved King's Landing.

Now Joffrey is tainted.

So Boros had fought and lost, yet that was to be expected. He was too great a coward to have actually stood a chance in victory, many a squire might have hope in defeating the balding fool.

Lancel had played his part as well, Jamie had never intended for his boy cousin to be maimed in such a degrading way.

If Ned Stark really killed Ser Arthur, could Benjen be a similarly skilled warrior?

It was no secret that all the Stark's were fighters.

Jamie's cousin could not reason how outmatched he'd been, and so the boy had not yielded when given the chance. Instead he fought when no experienced swordsman might have.

Who could blame him? He'd only sworn the vows this morning. Jamie himself had done the dubbing.

And what had his newfound pride cost him?

Jamie could not imagine life without his sword hand.

With Lancel's defeat the innocent girl had been found such, and despite what the cost had been, things unraveled as Jamie had intended.

The Hound had been a different story though,

Had the White Lion been able to enforce his own will, the Steward of Winterfell and younger Clegane brother would've never dueled. Sandor was nearly as much a victim of Joffrey's cruelty as the girl he'd struck.

Yet the Northerners had demanded justice, and in their pursuit had seen the Steward rid of his life.

It had been a gruesome sight.

The trials had not ended though, and instead the King called forth for the next champions.

From the Lannister camp strode forth the red bearded Ser Meryn Trant, a knight known as much for his droopy eyes as his skill with a blade. He had a darker side though, and could've been a dangerous fighter.

But his opponent wasn't a little girl.

Instead from the Stark crowd strode forth the third largest man Ser Jamie had ever seen. At seven foot tall he was quite the sight, but this muscle bound northerner was barrel chested as even the Mountain himself. His sword was nearly so tall as Jamie, and the hands that held them were thicker than any ham he'd dined upon at Casterly Rock.

Greatjon Umber was one of the few men in Westeros who truly stood a chance against Ser Jamie,

The inclusion into such a distinguished roster was not a thing Jamie took lightly,

And Meryn Trant was not on that list.

Robert spoke up so too begin the trial.

"House Poole charges Prince Joffrey Baratheon with assault and besmirching the Honor of Lady Jeyne. Both sides have put forth their claims, and now the Gods shall judge the truth. This trial shall not end until one man submits or perishes upon the field of battle. Do you both understand?"

Ser Meryn lowered his head, whilst the Greatjon stood defiant. Robert had lost Lord Umbers respect. Yet the big man turned to the Lord of Winterfell and nodded his head in the Warden of the North's direction.

Someone from the Lannister camp shouted that the Lord needed to acknowledge before the King.

"I understood what came from his fucking mouth. This isn't the first trial by combat I've been apart of."

Meryn was shacking less than Boros had been, yet he had far more to fear. The Lord of Moat Cailin had mercy in his veins, yet the Lord of Last Hearth would not offer such a way out.

It was death or victory for Ser Meryn Trant. Despite the underlying protest Robert continued.

"Should Prince Joffrey's champion be victorious then all guilt of wrongdoing upon the Lady Jeyne of House Poole shall be forgotten as if it never happened. However should House Poole's champion be victorious none shall bare their tongues to the tales, and due to my close ties with the accused I shall offer one boon should the chance arise."

The same promise he'd offered earlier to the Lord of Moat Cailin,

How did that turn out for Robert?

"Kneel before your king and let the trial commence."

Meryn did as he was bid, but instead the Greatjon turned from the King and assumed his spot away from Jamie's sworn brother.

Both champions stood before drawing blades. Meryn wore pale enameled scale armor, with an pure unemblazoned shield, and the same white cloak that Ser Ryam Redwyne, Ser Corlys Velaryon and Ser Aemon the Dragonknight had.

Opposed to him, the Greatjon wore mundane armor.

Yet the Lord of Last Hearth's plate was thicker and doubtlessly heavier. If Meryn could get the Greatjon tired he may yet stand a chance.

The Knight of Gallows had at his side the Valyrian Steel sword Trust,

And Jamie had done so with Meryn. Same as Boros had done his Duty.

Greatjon Umber drew his longsword and began to speak.

"I hope you've made peace with your frilly gods boy."

He did not give Ser Meryn a chance to verbally retaliate. Instead the Lord of Last Hearth was upon him within the blink of an eye.

Lord Umber went about thrashing the white oakenshield Ser Meryn so perilously held gripped.

"How do you like this you tiny fucker?"

Meryn had turtled behind his shield after the fourth vicious strike, and Greatjon realized such cowardice. He placed a massive kick to Jamie's sworn brother's cover, and from its force Ser Meryn fell to his ass.

Seeing his opponent crumple before him Lord Umber began to bellow, and he turned away from his opponent as a sign of disrespect.

"Is he truly amongst the greatest knights of your Southern Kingdoms? How could this fool be tasked with guarding the King?"

The red bearded knight became enraged at such a slight, and so he charged forth in a vain attempt to subdue his turned opponent.

Yet the Greatjon's ears perked, he knew exactly what the fool would do.

Meryn drew a great downward slash with his valyrian steel sword, but he only cut at the air for Lord Umber side stepped the man. As the Gallows Knight went past the limber Greatjon extended his massive foot outwards, tripping Ser Meryn.

White became further marred with brown as the Trant knight fell onto his helm. The Greatjon once more turned from his opponent, this time he faced the Northern crowd.

"I wouldn't trust him to guard my pantry!" The Lord of Last Hearth sent out a great laughter, and it was echoed by his fellow northmen.

Ser Meryn rolled around in the mud and his shame for only a moment more. Yet he growled with murderous intent, and strode forth more cautiously towards the Greatjon.

"Want some more do ya? Stupid boy."

"I'm No Boy!"

The Gallows Knight drew his sword forth and attempted a sideways slash at the Greatjon's belly, but the Lord of Last Hearth parried almost lazily, yet the Valyrian steel bit into Lord Umber's sword.

His longsword did not snap though, instead the mystic steel buried itself halfway through the blade. Both men gazed upon the shattered mess that rested within their hands.

Meryn tried in vain to see the sword removed from its nontraditional sheath, yet Trust had been sunk deep and true. With horror shinning through his helm the Gallows Knight realized his sole advantage had been claimed. The Greatjon's eyes spoke to his own disposition though.

"You bastard! You've ruined my fucking sword!"

With that deceleration Greatjon pulled the crossed blades towards him with one meaty fist, whilst freeing his other to deliver a massive blow to Ser Meryn's helm. The ring of steel came forth with clear precision. Lord Umber proceeded to land two more devastating strikes before Meryn threw his half splintered shield in front of a mailed fist.

The Greatjon did not yield his onslaught though, instead with a particularly hefty blow, the Lord of Last Hearth punched through the oaken shield. Seeing no other opportunity available to him Ser Meryn desperately bit at the exposed wrist that lied before him.

He tried in vain to bite at the gap between Lord Umber's vanbrace and gauntlet. The Gallows Knight sunk his teeth in but a single time before the Greatjon retaliated.

"Ohhhwww, YOU FUCKING CUNT!"

Greatjon stepped around the shield he'd impaled and delivered a ham fisted left hook upon Ser Meryn's helm. The Gallows Knight fell to a knee from such force.

"I"M GONNA KILL YA YOU WHORE SON!"

The Lord of Last Hearth tore at Ser Jamie's sworn brother's helm until it popped off and revealed a mix of tangled red hair and crimson splattered blood.

Lord Umber then punched downwards towards his opponent, and out from Meryn's mouth came several of his teeth. He knelt low to the ground and Jamie knew his life was soon to be at an end.

No one Had to die. Yet fate had not been so kind as Jamie Lannister.

However the Greatjon did not allow his victim to go in peace, instead he meant to shame him further. Lord Umber returned his gaze to the King's booth, and he dragged his opponent back before His Grace's view.

"I'm not sure he's capable of screaming out his surrender."

"Ser Meryn shall you submit?" asked Robert in an attempt to save his guards life.

The Gallows Knight might've shook his head, but the Greatjon had gripped him tight before such a thing could be done. Instead it was the Lord of Last Hearth who spoke.

"But Your Grace! We aren't finished yet! I've half a mind to throw him from Winterfell's highest wall. Or I could crush his eyeballs in like your Hound done to old Vayon. Regardless of what happens Your Grace know that we Northerners don't take kindly to Southern slights."

With that the Lord of Last Hearth brought Ser Meryn to his feet, upon standing of his own power Greatjon dealt a blow to the knights abdomen. The force from such a strike was severe enough to mar the steel plate of Jamie's sworn brother. His insides must be bouncing around like a barrel of wine.

Jamie heard the gasp for air, then witnessed the conglomeration of teeth and blood come pouring from Ser Meryn lips. This is my fault.

My plan got Ser Meryn killed. No one would weep over his loss though, he'd been a horrid man.

Yet Jamie alone would know the truth.

The Lord of Last Hearth then booted his downed opponent, and the strike returned Meryn to the dirt.

"I'll start thinking about that boon now Your Grace!"

Now the Greajon was merely playing with his downed opponent, for every time that Ser Meryn moved to rise Lord Umber would place a hand or foot to the back of Meryn's neck and force him back down. Once he even sat on the poor man's back.

All the while Meryn tried to force words from his mouth, yet he could not suck in wind fast enough before it was driven from him once more.

Finally he mercifully rolled away from the Lord of Last Hearth, creating enough distance for him to form a breath.

"I..."

He had no time to utter any further wording, for it was that the Greatjon utilized his unexpected quickness to latch meaty fists around the white cloak's paltry neck.

The Lord of Last Hearth lifted Ser Jamie's sworn brother from the ground then, and it was an incredible sight. With both hands The Greatjon lifted a near fully armored man up off the ground, and by his throat no less.

Once upraised Meryn began trying to kick at the Giant's massive legs, yet it proved to be of little consequence. For the Lord of Last Hearth had a death grip upon the unworthy knight, and little would free him from such.

"Don't worry it's all over you miserable shit."

Finally after a horrid moment of struggle Ser Meryn's legs went lax and they dangled lifeless for all to see. It was only after admiring his work for a second, that the Lord of Last Hearth finally put down his deceased opponent.

The trial was over, and so too was Meryn Trant's life.

Lord Umber dropped his opponent face down into the cold dirt so as to rid himself of the dead weight, and he strode back over towards the makeshift dais. He stood for a moment before anyone acknowledged him.

"Are you not entertained Your Grace?" questioned the smug giant.

Jamie's sister, Queen Cersei had transfixed her emerald gaze upon the man, and hatred consumed her face.

Had Cersei been privy to the means, she might've strangled Lord Umber herself.

Finally after a moment of silence, Robert rose up to deliver the verdict.

"The gods have decreed the guilt of Prince Joffrey Baratheon in his case against Lady Jeyne of House Poole. As promised I shall bestow one boon so long as it is within my power. Would the Lady Jeyne like to..."

Lord Umber interrupted the King,

"Our dear sweet Lady is unable to speak from what your sons Hound did to her, and she wishes to remain silent until such a time as her offenders are rid of her sight. She's given me power to speak with her voice and so I shall."

Jamie looked over to his sweet sisters side, and she held ever tighter onto the boy whom she'd loved since birth. Nothing in the world will see him from her arms.

"All the gods have decided your sons guilt, and as such I could request a great many things of you Your Grace. Lord Vayon's last thought on the matter was to have me punch the Princes face in like his daughters had been. Yet many before you wish your Joffrey to take the black,"

Cersei lashed out with her emerald eyes, yet she did not speak. Lord Umber was trying to goad her into rejection.

If she had that might've been what punishment they'd chosen.

"But I'll not have a cruel boy his like manning the Wall. The Old Bear wouldn't take him, most like he'd just see him pushed from atop the Wall once your boy starts throwing around orders to seasoned men. Personally I think chopping his cock off might do the trick of tempering the boys dark impulses, but then he still might rule the Kingdoms for a time."

The Greatjon smiled once before concluding his request.

"So instead per Lady Jeyne's request, I ask you to attaint your eldest son. The Gods have decreed his guilt and I require that he hold no lands and claims no throne. He's not fit for service as a Maester, nor as a Septon to your faith, and he shall not serve on our Wall. So he should live out the rest of his days forever close to that which he'd lost, only so he could be reminded of his horrid nature."

Cersei let a tear flow down her cheek, and Robert sighed,

Yet he could not refuse.

"Very well. I, King Robert of House Baratheon, first of my name, hereby attaint my eldest son and agree to disinherit him, whilst removing him from the line of succession."

The King's voice nearly quaked as he spoke, it wasn't an easy decision to be sure.

Robert might've never shown the boy any affection, but he still believed Joffrey to be his son.

Lord Umber finally bowed before his King, and turned to face the Warden of the North.

"Your lady Sansa is free from this wretched boy Lord Stark, I would ask that as such you consider marrying her to my eldest son."

The Lord of Winterfell was silent and did not speak, yet his largest bannerman took no offense.

Instead the big man returned to the Northmen benches and was celebrated amongst them as a mighty champion.

Chants of "Greatjon!" rang out over the courtyard nearly in unison, and yet before he embraced even his sons, The Lord of Last Hearth made sure to pay his respects to the Lady Jeyne.

Whom still sat veiled and broken.

Yet while the Northmen remained in their momentary triumph, there was an undercurrent of false pretense amongst them.

They were still fearful for the Heir to Winterfell.

And it was time.

"In the case of Robb Stark versus the Crown, champions present yourself."

Two men made a rush to see Ser Meryn's broken body from the battlefield, and they returned his valyrian sword to the Lannister camp.

Tyrion pulled at Jamie's tunic and hugged him,

"Thank you for everything, I love you Jamie."

The White Knight couldn't help but smile.

"Why are you telling me this now Tyrion?" He placed a brotherly punch onto his younger siblings arm as they released from one another.

"Just in case."

As he turned away he found that Lord Stark's eldest son had not yet moved, and so Jamie decided to step forward first.

He moved downwards from his Grace's side, but before he left Cersei had grabbed him by the arm and stared into his emerald eyes.

"Don't die" her gaze whispered with heavy desperation.

I won't, he replied with sincerity.

He continued down towards the lower courtyard, all the while thinking about what had to be done.

Once, In his brightest hour Jamie Lannister had worn his golden armor, yet that was many years ago. For so long he'd been hated for his greatest deed.

But now he'd wore the pale enameled scales of the Kingsguard. With the unemblazoned shield at his left, and the crimson blade Honor at his hip.

None shall forget what I do on this day.

This shall be my finest act.

Robb Stark came forward from the Northern booth, and at his side strode his younger half brother. The Heir to Winterfell had already armored himself in thick scale plates, and adorned it with a kingly fur, but besides those adorning's his armor was of little note.

Yet what his brother handed him was not.

The Lord of Moat Cailin bestowed upon his elder half brother the sword he'd won his own victory with, and the mystic folded steel shown like fire from the suns rays.

After tightly embracing his younger brother, Robb Stark sheathed the ancient blade and strode forth from his ensemble, and stood opposed to Ser Jamie upon the ancient courtyard of Winterfell.

"The Crown accuses Robb of House Stark with assaulting the former Crowned Prince Joffrey Baratheon. Both sides have put forth their claims, and now the Gods shall judge the truth. This trial shall not end until one man submits or perishes upon the field of battle. Do you both understand?"

Jamie fully understood, and the boy he was fighting lowered his head despite not knowing what he was getting into.

Robert continued regardless.

"Should The Crown's champion be victorious then the punishment shall be dismemberment of the offending hand for Robb Stark, however the Crown would be willing to accept Robb's joining of the Night's Watch if he were so inclined. Yet should Robb Stark be victorious then any wrong doing of his shall be proven false forever in the eyes of men."

"Kneel before your king and let the trial commence."

Both men knelt, and after having done so they strode apart from each other.

"You are very brave Lord Robb, most men would've put another's life on the line."

The boy snickered, and curled one side of his lips.

"That's were your wrong Kingslayer, We Northmen don't trade lives."

With that the Heir to Winterfell drew his brothers sword from its sheath, and as such Jamie was inclined to mirror such an action.

Robb Stark had only just strapped on his helm, but Jamie could still see his face. It imprinted upon his mind, and he could not imagine forever closing those deep blue eyes.

Winterfell's heir charged forth at Ser Jamie and began his assault. They met for the first blow and the White Knight was pleased with his opponent apparent strength.

The Boys talent was in his ferocity and relentlessness.

Robb Stark bashed at Jamie's shield, yet after a third strike the White Lion put forth his own blade. The youth did not fail to meet him with a parry, yet he was too slow for a counter and so Jamie backed away unscathed.

Next Jamie fainted a swipe at the boys feet before redirecting to an upwards slash. Though he'd not been fighting at full speed Jamie was still impressed that the boy had not fallen for such a tactic.

Yet the youth's footwork was still unrefined, Jamie could've planted hard and slipped the boy towards his own dirt.

Instead the White Lion slid backwards to refrain from a test of strength, the Heir to Winterfell took this opportunity to fix his own strides, and now they were more adequate to what esteem Jamie might've held him in.

The Lord of Winterfell's eldest son fought like Lord Stark's elder brother,

And as Jamie met the next vicious strike with an angled parry, he wondered who was the better fighter between the Heir and his bastard half brother.

The Lord of Moat Cailin fought like Lord Stark's younger brother.

But how does Ned Stark fight? How could he have defeated Ser Arthur?

Jamie wasn't sure if fighting Ned's son would help him learn such a thing, but it most certainly would be a stepping stone.

Robb Stark then countered Jamie's reach, and pushed Jamie's sword to the ground before going for a strike himself. The stab was towards Jamie's emerald eyes and might've found its mark had a lesser swordsman been his opponent.

Yet Jamie flashed his unemblazoned shield before Robb's blade, the sword cut through his cover like a knife through butter. So Jamie discarded the useless weight from his arms and stood opposed to Robb Stark with only Honor in his hands.

"You've lost your shield Kingslayer, shall I lose mine to make it even?"

Jamie smiled from beneath his helm, the boy is cocky.

The Heir to Winterfell unlatched his own cover to the protest of many gathered Northmen, he tossed it aside and was even so bold as to remove his helm.

"I'd have a better look at you Oathbreaker." He hollered out attempting to goad Jamie into mirroring such a foolish action,

And it worked. Yet Jamie removed his helm so that all could hear his words when the time came,

No helm would obstruct the truth.

"Have it your way Lord Robb. I'll not deny you the courtesy."

Jamie cast his own lions head helm to the ground, and he unveiled his golden curls once more to the world, even ruffling a hand through them.

The White Lion then pointed his sword in the boys direction.

"Let every man sing your praises Lord Robb, you are a better swordsman than any man has a right to believe. I want you to know that I hold you in high esteem."

His opponent laughed.

"You honor me Kingslayer."

They both redirected their swords towards one another before charging.

Robb continued his merciless assault, yet he could never hope to land a blow upon Jamie. The White Lion moved with the swiftness befitting his houses sigil and with each parry he tested the boys defense.

He might have hope to one day defeat me. But he is not yet ready.

This wolf is still a pup.

Jamie continued his all encompassing defense for a moment, and he had once more a chance to see Robb Stark rid of his blade, but chose to continue the duel. He crossed swords with the wolf pup and stood in stare as the boy fumed with rage.

His cause is Righteous, and the Gods give him Strength.

As he looked down to study his opponents hold footwork the youthful pup saw an unintentionally gifted opportunity. Robb Stark released a hand from his blade and struck Jamie across the chin, the boy was strong yet Jamie found he lost no teeth.

Blood would not mar his white armor.

Jamie turned from the ensuing clash and narrowly avoided the full brunt of his opponent's blade. Yet he did not escape unscathed, for the young pup managed to strike forth at Jamie's sword hand.

The flat of Robb's blade struck Jamie's gauntlet and smacked Honor from his grip.

A different angle and the boy would've claimed Jamie's sword hand.

Yet as the White Lion reeled, Robb Stark moved to capitalize. Jamie managed to grip the falling hilt of Honor with his unoccupied left hand, and he brought the sword back to block the Heir to Winterfell's strike.

The blow would've taken Jamie's head clean, even through the helm he'd discarded.

Silence went through the crowd in that moment, and Jamie was on the defensive for the first time. Yet only for a moment was such an arrangement true, for Jamie realized that his opponent was indeed dangerous.

Ser Jamie pushed backwards then, and rolled beneath Lord Robb's next slash.

With the next strike Jamie finally countered the boy, let's see how tight his defense truly is.

Jamie began to light the boy up with faints and slashes. He started out simple enough, and the boy had a basic understanding of how to maintain repose.

Yet as Jamie pressed farther into the combinations he'd become so accustomed with he found half a dozen holes in the boys stance. With each strike the Heir to Winterfell was tiring, whilst the White Lion remained strong.

It is nearly time.

Jamie slowed his pace so that the two could once more cross blades for a moment, Robb Stark again tried to land a punch across Jamie's mug, but the White Lion would not fall for the same trick twice.

And so he tugged at the boy and switched places with him, Jamie continued in his momentum's direction and created space between them.

Such a distance would allow Robb time for a reprieve, and grant Jamie the ability to speak.

"You've fought well Lord Robb, but you have more to learn."

"That's true enough, but you've nothing to teach me." He refrained from insult, Jamie might've won the boys respect.

"Perhaps, but I think our duel is at an end."

The boy continued to circle, unaware of Jamie's intention.

Ser Jamie raised his blade towards the young pup, and began to admire it before speaking.

"A fine blade she is Lord Robb. Upon receiving her I dubbed the blade Honor, for men throughout the Realm deny that I retained such a thing after my actions in King's Landing. Yet your father has spread no ill word, have you heard what transpired there boy?"

"I'm not your boy Lannister, but aye. All know of your doings."

"Then you know what Honor means to me, you've doubtlessly heard that I threw it away when I killed the King I'd sworn to protect, but such a thing was not given without proper reason. Ask your father what I did, then you shall know the truth."

"I know the truth."

Robb Stark began to close the distance, but Jamie was not finished speaking.

"As do I."

Jamie released the mystic blade of valyria from his grasp, and when the ancient steel struck the snowy grounds of Winterfell a harmonious ring filled the air.

Brandon the Builder's heir charged no further, and instead stood with silent understanding.

The White Lion turned from his opponent and knelt in the King's direction.

"I, Ser Jamie Lannister officially yield. I cannot in good conscious continue to stand for an action so heinous that the Gods themselves have condemned. Robb Stark is innocent of any wrong doing!"

Silence fell upon the gathered parties, and shock was plain to see around both camps.

Cersei stared with hateful intent upon one eye, and fighting back tears from the other. Joffrey frothed at the mouth for his uncles treason, yet Jamie would never have to worry about vengeance from the boy. Now that he could not provoke retaliation upon others,

Perhaps someone could teach him how to behave.

Tyrion was the most excepting of the brood, but Jamie wondered what Lancel would think for his part.

Would he be angered that he'd lost his hand in this mummers farce?

Robert arose from his seat, and called forth to all in attendance.

"The duel is hereby over. Ser Jamie has yielded his defense, and in the eyes of the gods Robb Stark is innocent of any crime. As such he shall forever be so in the eyes of men and before the Crown."

King Robert turned to face his dear friend Ned Stark, and proceeded to congratulate him on raising such bold fighters for children.

"Your boys have grown nicely Ned! And who would've thought your eldest pup could've stood against Ser Jamie?"

"He's No Pup Robert, My Son is a Young Wolf."

Lord Stark's booming voice spread across the courtyard in an unnatural fashion, as if all within Winterfell could hear its Lord's voice.

From somewhere within the keep Lord Stark's children's wolves began to howl in unison, and many northmen took up such a cry with rather poor mimicry.

Greatjon was not amongst their number, and instead the largest man in attendance began bellowing,

"To The Young Wolf!" it was a chant that many soon got behind, and quick enough the courtyard of Winterfell was overrun with such a cheer.

Jamie stood in shock for a moment, but felt a hand upon his shoulder. He turned to find the auburn haired Robb Stark at his back with sword in hand.

Yet it was not the sword of his brother, but instead Jamie's Honor.

Robb thrust it forth and placed the hilt within Jamie's hand after a moment of shared stares.

The boy seemed still confused at the manner of his victory. Perhaps he'd sensed that there was little chance for such an outcome.

"Why did you drop your sword?"

"Because if I'd slain you I wouldn't have its namesake. There is no justice in our fighting, for I beheld the scene with clear vision, and yet I still hold contempt for it same as you. Had someone done that to my sister Cersei then I'd have done no less than what you'd did."

"Lady Jeyne's not my sister." The boy was smart.

"You're right, she doesn't look like you. Then again she didn't look much like her father either."

Robb Stark remained silent.

"Regardless, it was just a point, anyone you love could've been a stand in."

The Heir to Winterfell stuck out his hand, whilst many throughout the crowd began to watch.

"Very well. You have my respect Ser Jamie."

Jamie took the outreached wrist and grasped it within his own.

"And you have mine Young Wolf."

The stares were every where by now, and Jamie could be sure that he'd failed to please everyone.

But it didn't matter, he'd done what was right.

Chapter Text

Tormund Giantsbane

No sooner had the Tall-Talker finished his song than the party arrived at the Northern Village. They'd made haste down from Thenn after collecting the last of their people, and been intent upon making a final stop along the western face of the True North.

From there it would be back to the forest for a final regrouping, and then

We March South.

Mance had spared no expense in bringing the greater strength of the free folk together over the past two decades. In his time so many had been brought together that none might've believed it possible before.

Not bad for a Flown Crow with a Skinny Cock.

In truth Mance was more than just a man, he had to have been for such a diverse multitude of people to follow him. Tormund had once aspired to call himself King among the Free Folk, yet Mance had earned that title and put the Giantsbane into place. Many might've hated a man for such displacement, yet the Hornblower was happy to call his King a friend.

Some of the others might've had second thoughts though.

For while Tormund had followed the former crow for years by this point, some had followed Mance for less than the past six moons. Some hardly followed their King at all, yet sooner or later, everyone would fall in line.

The Husband of Bears had! Such a thing might've been the greatest testament to Mance's leadership and patience.

In truth though Mance hadn't become King for personal benefit or selfish ambition, but out of singular necessity.

Not everyone knew it, but Tormund Tall-Talker could keep a secret,

And Mance had trusted him with a tale he'd not shared with another soul.

Not even Dalla whom Mance had taken to wife, nor the babe he'd named in honor of some Crow who spared his life. Instead the King-Beyond-The-Wall had entrusted his most loyal lieutenant, and the first man whom had fallen behind Mance.

Our Kings seen whats out there. Saw it good and close. Not just in the dead of night...

Such thoughts were out of place, and due for another time.

It was then that he remembered his place, and Tormund found that the free folk party had been approached by three village elders.

A half giant stepped forth and made the strength of his voice clear.

"Halt, come no further. State your business from afar before you enter Kikur's Brood!"

Their party slowed, but did not halt. Time was of the essence.

And It was the King who spoke in response.

"Greetings, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking too?"

From beside the large man strode a moon pale maiden, with hair milkier than that of the ground around her.

"I am Nerva by the grace of my mother, but my dear husband has named me Snowbraid."

Nerva Snowbraid.

Such a sight was she with her long milky hair and large brown eyes that Tormund might've risked his life for a woman one final time.

Who is her weakly husband? And where is he so that I might steal her from him?

"This is my husband, Konungur Stor Pikk" she pointed to the massive man who'd called forth before.

I'm a bit to old for all that, Tormund decided. Perhaps Toregg could take her though.

He'd not wish such upon his son, for even though his eldest boy had been renowned for his great height, this man stood clear above him.

And if Tormund had not ridden with a Giant, he might've mislabeled the man before him as one.

Yet another stood next to the couple, and though the Snowbraid was about to grant him his due courtesy, it was he who spoke next.

"I am Mikhail, brother to Nerva and leal chieftain of these lands."

He's the chieftain? Tormund nearly bellowed at so much irony. How could he defend his land, I know he didn't defend his sister when the beast next to him came calling.

Mance was of a different temperament to Tormund though, and so he remained composed and spoke.

"Do you know who I am Good Chieftain Mikhail?"

The man shook his head, almost like he knew his time as High Lord of these Lands had come to an end.

Never before had Tormund ventured this deep towards the Shivering Sea along the Haunted Forest.

As such all people here were foreign to the Giantsbane's grace, but he felt a certain compassion for them, something that Mance probably felt ten fold.

All he wanted was to save everyone.

"I do. You're Mance Rayder, a deserted crow and you've made yourself King."

"Make no mistake, my wings were clipped if every the existed. And I never asked for any title, everything I've done has been born of necessity friend."

"Then we are likely to be of a mind then?"

"If you'll hear me out."

The Chieftain looked at his two companions and nodded.

"We shall, but we've no food to spare such a party."

Mance smiled at them, and probably flashed them his bard brown eyes.

So it was that they rode into the villages heart. Mance had brought a company of twenty to this meeting, yet the hearth that they entered could've fit them all, had one among them not been a giant. So it was that Tormund's shit speaking friend remained outside.

He's probably more comfortable there, and his Mammoth most certainly wouldn't have fit.

It was the largest hall Tormund had been sheltered under since they'd departed from Thenn, yet it was not so great as Mance's polar bear pelted tent.

But it had a fire, and the party had brought there own mead.

So it was adequate enough.

Among the participants had been several of the most notorious members of free folk society. Half a thousand chieftains might've kept Mance's company at all times had he allowed such, yet he preferred to keep them separate enough so as not to kill one another. Instead he'd brought with him the more troublesome figures, and so amongst them were many infamous individuals.

Yet instead of keeping their company, The three village representatives sat opposite Mance's collective as they all took place around a central fire pit. Before they'd been to far away for Tormund to get a good look at them, yet now with nothing obstructing his view, the Tall Talker could purposefully gaze them over.

Naturally his stare had fallen upon the milky figure of this Nerva Snowbraid.

Deciding that he could not have her though, Tormund began to wonder.

Whomever her mother was must've been quite the sight, Perhaps she's lonely and needs a man for her bed.

Such wishful thoughts were Tormund's favorite.

Besides her synonymous hair, which was curled into a half halo, the girl had a slender figure with lively brown eyes. Her hands were small, as the gloves upon them proved testament. Yet when she looked upon her husband the width of her mouth far surpassed them in size. The teeth in her mouth were plentiful, and near so pale as her skin. And it was that she smiled long and often.

How could one blame her? If Tormund had looked as such he might've strode the world grinning ear to ear as well.

Yet the bulk of her smiles came from the sight and sounds of her husband. Several times she busted into laughter, whilst also consistently groping the lucky fellow.

Tormund wasn't so great a speaker of the Old Tongue as Mance, but he knew the words well enough.

Stor Pikk might've been a title the Giantsbane could've been bestowed had his people spoken the Old Tongue more. Instead though Tormund had too spread about the truth of his members size himself, rather than being given a title for it.

She must be very pleased,

Yet she seemed to be walking perfectly fine, so Tormund was unsure as to the mans skill with his sheathed blade. Perhaps I could show her what he's supposed to be doing...

The burly monster moved to gaze at Tormund, and so the Giantsbane gave a hardy laugh, raising his mug as he did so.

At first he'd thought the man dense, yet this Konungur raised a horn of his own and together they gulped down that which they drank.

Fine fellow that one. Aside from his great height, the chieftains good brother had the look of a proper fighter, with long dark black hair that curled ever so slightly at the end, hazy green eyes and at his side was a real sword.

Not the cheap brass kind that a Thenn might've crafted, but proper castle forged steel.

The kind you could only get by killing someone important.

Tormund truly wished to observe such a man more, yet the villages nominal leader finally spoke.

"I know not who has traveled with you, and I know little of you Mance, save that you would see me depart the lands of my ancestors."

Mikhail was a stocky man, and he'd been born with normal looking brown hair, evidently the magic of his parents had only went to one child.

This man before them hardly resembled his sister, for where she was slender he'd been thick, where she'd been beautiful he'd been plain, and yet his eyes haunted in a way that could not be said of hers.

For instead of the lively brown eyes of the sister had been replaced with cold pale grey, the kind that might've brightened the room had fire been denied.

Yet at such a sight Mance did not balk.

"That's fair enough, and I could see how you would be led to believe such a thing. Doubtlessly though you'd feel more at ease should my companions be introduced, and so I'd see that done before we talk further."

Kikur's chieftain nodded with no sign of hesitation.

"Very well, for such a task there could only be one man worthy."

Mance pointed directly at Tormund, whom had been just about to knock back another horn of ale.

"This gentleman is known by many names and even more monikers. I style him Tall-Talker, Horn-blower, Breaker of Ice, Husband to Bears, Mead-king of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods, and Father of Hosts. But he's earned the titles of Giantsbane and Thunderfist, though most name him Tormund."

After such a round of niceties Tormund belched once, and while the chieftain did not laugh, his sister, good brother and Mance had a chuckle.

"That's the name me mother gave me after I'd weaned one tit down so far that she'd lost her balance for all time."

"So Tit Milker it is then, here's to you!" said the half giant whilst raising a horn and downing it.

Fucking cunt, better not steal my thunder.

Yet Tormund bellowed at the prospect of having another moniker.

The Giantsbane rose from his seat, and began a round about the room in response to the prior request from his King.

He moved first to his son,

"This fucker right here is me eldest boy, Toregg the Tall folks call him." Tormund shook his son by the shoulders, whilst the man laughed.

Gods the days have gone by, seems just yesterday he was sucking at the She-Bear's teat.

Tormund didn't stay long though, instead he circled around the crowd.

"This axe toting hooligan is none other than Soren Shieldbreaker. He's not much to look at I know, but a man'll shit his breeches if he gazes upon him in battle. And this old sack of shit is my dear friend Ygon. Oldfather we named him, he's got a fighting force of near one hundred men, almost all fathered from his saggy trousers. He's taken no less than eighteen wives don't you know! I can hardly stomach one, yet time and time again he's scaled the damn wall in search of somewhere to stick his prick!"

Next came the fourteen year old boy Quort.

"So this strapping Lad is named Quort, yet I've dubbed him Youngfather. Four and Ten he is, yet a wife and two babes does he have! If we had more fathers like Old and New they'd be the only ones we need to supply our damned free folk fighting force!"

Tormund desperately wanted to call the next man by his mocking epithet, yet he knew that starting a fight wasn't what Mance desired from this mission.

"It would be detrimental to the cause Old friend." He'd been like to say.

So it was that Tormund lessened his tone and gave no affection to the man whom he called forth.

"This it the Lord of Bones, he's a goat horse to him, and indeed that is a giants deteriorated skull that he's taken for a helm. Just don't tell the big man outside."

"I'm certain you didn't miss our large friend, and he most likely can't hear from in here, but he deserves all the songs we sing of him. Mag the Mighty his people have named him, and..."

"You've brought Giants to your cause?" asked the Snowbraid.

"It's not just my cause. I've not come to you with selfish ambition, I only desire two things from you and your people. First is that you allow my friend to continue, he's quite entertaining I'm afraid."

Tormund nodded at the gesture, and so once more made his way about the room.

"This is Alyfn, he's been dubbed Crowkiller for his past deeds. Yet he's more of a threat to father children on your wives than any man I've ever met. By the Gods, A son in each village he has! Next to him are the mighty warg sons Vaeron and Vaekar, and their father Varamyr whom you might know as Sixskins. You probably saw him ride into the village though, hard to miss the giant fucking polar bear he was mounted atop!"

Giantsbane was now well within the territory of people whom he had a distaste for, yet he harbored such notions within his throat, and did his best to show unity amongst people who, but through Mance, could've never been such.

"Gerrick has been kissed by fire, as have all his children. Gerolt might make for a great man one day, and I've been hoping my sons might take a crack at his daughters Genna, Gael, and Galenna for a time now. They claim Kingsblood about them you see, for Gerrick is the great grandson of King Raymun Redbeard's younger brother."

Tormund had never thought Gerrick anymore a King than a Giant might've, yet all he did was flaunt his heritage.

Yet what good was it to be descended from the King's younger brother? Especially when the Red Raven earned his epithet because it was the only thing that rhymed with Craven?

"Here is the great spearwife Harma, she hates hounds so keep her from the kennels. This blonde watery eyed man is the Weeper, he's renowned for his great scythe and for claiming the eyes of his victims. The earless cunt beside him is Styr, and yes he can hear you, surprising as it may be. You might know him as the Magnar of Thenn."

Finally Tormund returned to those whose company he enjoyed keeping. He strode right up between the love birds and decided to introduce them separate like.

"This dark haired raider is Jarl, he's a veteran of half a dozen climbs and I'm not talking about the Wall, I mean he's scaling his way past men like me own son by finding his way into bed with this beauty!"

Giantsbane pulled the two together as they smiled,

"Here we have the honey golden haired Val, whom stole Jarl right from his village! She's also A capable rider, or so I've heard!" Tormund smiled and reeled away before she had a chance to hit him.

"Her sister this one is, Dalla their parents named her. The babe at her breast is Aemon, named so for a man whom once spared Mance's life."

"And of course we have our King-Beyond-The-Wall, Mance fuckin Rayder. Who through twenty long years brought us all to where we are now."

Mance smiled and thanked his dear friend for the theatrics. Whilst the King and lieutenant exchanged pleasantries the burly half giant laughed before downing another horn. Yet his wife seemed intent upon something else.

"You spoke of desiring another thing from us and our people."

Mance turned back to face her, and he once more became the deathly focused King he needed to be.

"I did, and since you were so kind to alot me my first, I hope you'll hear out my second. What I want is for your people to travel with me and mine, I would see you leave these lands not for my sake but for that of yours. I would see your children live to have their own, and I'd see them spared what's coming."

She seemed pleased by his manner of speech, yet she also saw fit to push further.

"Our people have never ferried themselves from these lands, they know nothing but the life that has been put before them. The coast has provided well enough, yet you speak with compassion for our people, whose like you've never known."

The King could only curl his lips at such a statement.

"You're husband is quite the lucky man, to have someone so beautiful and intelligent is a rare enough thing." Mance turned to his own wife and hugged her, before planting a kiss upon the babes head.

"I would count myself in similar company, and I've a family of my own now. I may not know the everyday dealings of your people, what they drink, how they eat, or when they make jokes but I know that your blood is every bit the same as mine. That our knees don't bend, and we are damn proud of it. I will never ask anyone to kneel for me, and I wouldn't ask for your people to pack their things for my sake."

"No, there is something far more worrisome out there, and I mean to save your people along with my own. You've an understanding I'm sure, seeing as how you'll be a mother soon."

Snowbraid seemed shocked, Tormund hadn't noticed such a thing, and he'd most definitely looked at the girl more than Mance had.

"How did y..."

"Simple!" Mance smiled,

"I've seen what beauty such a phase brings!" Once more the King planted a kiss to his wife's lips.

Konungur looked shocked as well, even frightened. This was his wife though, he'd doubtlessly stolen her and would not be likely to leave her. Such was the great beauty she possessed, that finding another like her might prove more difficult than imaginable.

"What else can you tell us Rayder? Shall it be a boy or girl?"

"Ah friend, no man can know the truth of such a thing, but rest assured revelation shall come soon enough!"

For his part the big man leaned over and pulled his wife into a tight embrace, before finally releasing her and returning to the business before them. It was the man's wife who spoke though,

"So you would swear that as King, our people would be protected? That you would see us spared the coming storms?"

"I'll fight for your family same as I shall do for my own."

Snowbraid rose to her feet, and proclaimed her allegiance to Mance.

"I shall not take such a thing lightly, and will do all within my power to see the intended outcome done."

Yet now Mance had to face the Snowy haired woman's burly wife in a battle of words.

"Indeed, yet I must know what you intend for our crossing to the South. How many of our people must march with arms to see warmer days?"

"The people of your village will do no more than any other, what we are doing is a risk in of it self, yet a necessity at that. No longer can we remain in these lands, and as such we should be willing to do whatever is required in the process."

"How many men are available to you?"

"Over One Hundred Thousand people travel among my camp."

"Of those, how many could bear arms?"

"The true number doesn't matter, instead what's important is that the Watch shall be overwhelmed at such a host's approach. In addition the Stark in Winterfell cannot supply a force sufficient enough to risk battle with such a large contingent. Regardless of the legitimate size of our fighting force, By the time they could realize such a thing we'll have crossed the Wall and anything is possible then."

"Very well, yet would you risk combat for the elderly or woman folk?"

"I seek no combat, yet as a realistic man I must plan for such an inevitability. I shall let those who wish to fight follow their desire. With that said, I would not put untrained soldiers on the front lines, rather have them stand amongst reserves and bolster our numbers."

"So you mean to allow glory for those who seek it, whilst allowing honor to still be kept for those who don't?"

"We all desire something, many want to be remembered forever, others want a memorable death, all I want is to live long enough so I can see my boy have one of his own."

The half giant looked down towards the floor in acknowledgement of such a statement, Mance you fucking genius.

Only the King-Beyond-The-Wall could be so clever and on the spot regarding a transgression.

Who knows if she's actually pregnant, it only mattered that they could sympathize with Mance because of it.

Had this been another village, or this burly Konungur not been so lovingly wed, Mance might've had to fight such a man for the villages submission. Despite his Kings skill, Tormund doubted that such a victory could be an expected outcome.

"Honor resides upon your tongue Rayder, I've half a mind to follow you now. Though I'll let it be known now that I alone shall muster our peoples forces, and it should be I who leads them into battle."

"So long as your command does not deviate from my battle plans I shall allow it, same as I've offered for the multitude of tribes who've joined before you. I will not deny you such a thing, and I shall offer your people weapons should the need arise."

"We have weapons, a great many in fact, yet we have little skill about our village. No less than five thousand live amongst us, yet only half that number are fighting age, and even less are true warriors."

"That is not a problem friend, many of my lieutenants shall be available for your peoples instruction. As I've said, I will not throw unskilled men onto the battle fields forefront."

After such a statement the Half giant agreed before the fire that he would follow Mance Rayder into battle, and call him King if need be.

Still though, the most important figure in the hall had as of yet been unconvinced.

"You are very wise for this Mance, I can deny you no courtesy in such regard. Everything you've said is true, yet I must ask how you plan to see us south of the Wall. It's no secret that free folk armies break upon that icy monstrosity like waves along a shore. And we've never left these lands since our ancestors first settled it. Not when Joramun rallied against the Crows, nor once Gendel and Gorne shared the title of King. We did not stir for the Horned Lord whom offered a magical passage, and Bael the Bard did not lull us into his camp with the frivolous songs he made for his southern exploits. You even brought Raymun's blood before us, yet we once turned him down as well."

"No pattern has eluded us Mance Rayder, the Free Folk gather before a singular leader, and march southwards. History has provided varied results with the Crows, yet always has the Stark in Winterfell come to break us."

Tormund looked at his King, such a problem was the type of thing Mance was an expert in.

It was the exact reason he'd been made King, instead of the Giantsbane.

Had Tormund been in charge he might've done exactly what so many had tried before, but Mance had cunning.

And he'd once been a Crow himself, So it was that he had insight no other King could've.

"As I am so often reminded, I was once a sworn brother of the Nights Watch, despite my taste for all things free folk. With experience comes knowledge though. The Wall is not manned so well as it had once been. Now there are too few Crows perched atop her frozen peak to defend its entirety. Along its length are nineteen castles, but never in its history has the Watch manned more than seventeen. Yet when I flew down only three were still kept."

"And is that your intent? To sneak us through where they shall not be present?"

"No, I'm aware that such a tactic was used by the Redbeard not so long ago. No Giants shall scale the Wall, nor their mammoths, and to ride without them would be a folly. Only through a main gate could we hope to bring a unified army to the South."

"So you mean to take one of the utilized castles by force?"

"I don't want to take anything, but we must get south before the Cold winds blow harder. Else no one will ever hear of our traditions, and it would be as if none of our ancestors ever lived."

"Your meaning is not lost upon me Rayder, but the lands is..."

"Land is Land! There is plenty of it south, but your concern is not an unusual thing. Yet I would tell you that should your ancestor be forced to chose between the lands which he cultivated or the descendants he fathered, then that would be no decision at all."

For a moment it seemed the two had reached an impasse, yet finally with a sigh the village chieftain spoke once more.

"Long have my ancestors withheld from offers of allegiance or fealty, yet if you speak truly then you stand alone amongst your predecessors."

Mance laughed at such an analysis.

"Truly I'm an amalgamation of them! Joramun did not ride south for selfish ambition, but instead he meant to see an end for the treacherous thirteenth Lord Commander, and it was that the Stark of Winterfell joined in arms with him as it was the King's own brother whom ruled the Watch its said. I would see myself on Lord Eddard's side when the time came to face what cold awaits us in the woods, yet I must see our people safe from harm first."

"Gendel and Gorne could be said to be inspiration for my plans, for it was they whom sought underground passage through the Wall. Yet I know of such treacherous caverns more than they might have ever, and for the Horned Lord I've not forsaken magic. I am not weary of wargs or skin changers, and yet I would not use that which might cause our destruction, for such a bellow would hearken the end of man."

"The Bard is truly whom I desire to emulate, for he was a free spirited fellow much the same as myself. And like him I've visited the ancient home of House Stark, in fact twice now. Once as a sworn brother, and another time as a traveling singer just like Sygerrik of Skagos. I've plucked no flowers, nor seen the crypts though, the later I might seek to rectify."

"Like Raymun I seek to take advantage of the Watch's dissipating numbers, yet I know that Sleepy Jack Musgood is no longer in command, and the Lord of Castle Black shall instead be a watchful old bear. Nor should i allow my host to become divided or slack discipline until our mission has been complete, and our people saved."

"So you see, I too have learned from the pattern of those who came before me."

After such a monologue Tormund thought he'd fallen asleep, yet the mention of old bears had made the grizzled man's member throb for one he'd known. Yet Mance was captivating despite his long spiel, and Mikhail, chieftain of the Kiruk's brood seemed resolute.

"Glory, Riches and Fame are not desires that you would seek on our journey?"

Mance did let out a chuckle at the notion.

"If a pot of gold fell in my lap I doubt I'd deny such a favorable occurrence, but I'd not risk the lives of yours or mine for such a stake. Only for survival would I risk this venture, and that alone is my desire for our people."

Such an exchange brought about recognition to the chief's face, and he knew what must be done. He rose to his feet, much like his sister and good brother had, and offered once more allegiance.

"You are truly a singularity amongst the True North Mance Rayder. Not since the Wall's construction have our people followed a King southwards, and for no other have we answered a call. Yet righteousness is at the core of what you seek, and so it should be that we shall march behind you."

He continued on with more offers of fealty and oaths of allegiance, yet he finished strongly.

"My people are under your protection now Mance Rayder, do not fail us."

"I won't."

They rose and shook hands upon a bargain well struck, sincerity upon both of their faces as the act occurred. Chieftain Mikhail would abandon the soon to be overrun lands of his ancestors, in the process taking Mance for his only superior, and in return the King would work tirelessly to see the village folk protected.

"We shall all see a sunnier tomorrow" Mance might've said, yet Tormund bellowed at the joyous occasion and raised a toast to their newest companions. The call was well met, and ale went up throughout the hall. Instead of drinking, Mance went forth to Dalla and took his son within outstretched arms, holding him in place of a mug.

Such a gesture was symbolic of course, for Mance was nearly so double layered with his actions as he was his words.

As a King everyone of Mance's subjects where his children, each a cranky babe constantly stepping in or out of line, and despite the ass pain they must've brought upon the Flown Crow, it was for there survival that he fought for.

And that is exactly what a King should do.

That's why Tormund followed Mance.

Because only he held the larger collectives best interest at heart.

Chapter Text

King Robert Baratheon

Every night had been torment for Robert, he'd lost his foster father only moons ago, and had meant to find comfort in the renewed companionship of his adoptive brother. Yet since the King's arrival everything had turned to shit before his eyes.

Indeed Lord Eddard had been a different man than the Ned Stark Robert had grown to know in the Vale.

When the royal retinue had arrived in this cold dreary place Winterfell's Lord had been of an equally icy disposition to the man he'd once held as a brother.

Ned hadn't been initially warm to Robert's paying respect for the Love of his life, and he'd not taken immediately to the idea of becoming the King's Hand.

Once upon a time Ned might've jumped at the opportunity to join Robert's court, he was a second son after all. Brandon was to have Winterfell, and Robert had meant to take Ned and Lyanna. It was certainly a more honorable position for Ned than joining the Night's Watch.

And Ned might've accompanied his sister south had Rhaegar not abducted her. Yet even now, after so many long years things had not returned to the way they'd been before. The Way Robert wanted them to be...

The War had changed everything.

Robert became King after taking the Capital, But what did it matter?

In the ensuing war he'd lose his best friend, and the love of his live.

Now things had gotten even worse.

Joffrey, the King's eldest son, had always been a monster. That much Robert had known since the day that his golden haired boy cut open a pregnant kitchen cat.

Such a cretin had the boy been that he'd found pride in his act.

Robert had been so disturbed by his son's action that he'd knocked from his mouth two teeth. He learned swift enough that even parenting his own children had repercussions.

Cersei was so enraged by Robert's striking of the boy that she threatened to see ill done towards Robert's eldest bastard.

She'd have never done as Lord Steffon's wife,  not after the way he'd beaten and disciplined Robert.

Yet those thoughts had given way to the threats upon little Mya's life.

"You can't touch her." He'd wanted to say, The Eyrie was impregnable and Jon had given the girl every hospitality since Robert had taken the Crown.

But such an assertion would've only fueled her more.

That had been the worst their relationship had ever been, no longer had they merely suffered each others presence, but actively sought to avoid one another. It had taken little Cassie's birth for reconciliation to begin.

Yet now Joffrey had ruined all that which Robert had for so long worked.

Robert's Queen was once more up in arms against him after the sentencing. At first she'd been inconsolable, even to her bloody brother, but now she'd sworn open vengeance, and declared that her son would not become the Kingdom's mockery.

For the King though, his eldest son had ruined plans long made.

He'd had never sought the throne, but Robert had always meant for his children to wed Ned's own brood.

We could've really been family.

Yet the boy had proven his cruelty ever further and forever more by having assaulted the dragon spawn and her middling born friend.

Never before had Ned stood in such defiance of Robert,

And not once had his friend ever made a demand. Not even when they'd been boys in the Vale.

But Lord Eddard Stark had called for justice, and seen it done.

One member of the Kingsguard, Ser Meryn Trant, was dead and would be needing replacement. Another had proved himself an utter craven. Ser Jamie Lannister, the White Lion of Casterly Rock, had also submitted in acknowledgement of Prince Joffrey's guilt.

The Steward of Winterfell was dead, Sandor Clegane was near death, and Lancel Lannister had lost a hand.

As such the Northerner's had seen vengeance enacted whilst embarrassing the King's host.

There would be plenty of problems when they returned south, Tywin will not be happy that his grandson had been disinherited, and Ser Kevan will not be pleased that his eldest son was more crippled now than he'd been before. He would've never been a great fighter, but possessing both hands meant he could be passable.

Yet it was not their allegiance with which Robert concerned himself, for instead he thought only of the here and now.

A proposed betrothal had been broken, and with Guest Right having been violated, their alliance and even Northern fealty might've been at question had Ned and Robert not once been as brothers. Yet everything was up in the air right now, with even the smallest detail of their continued friendship able to be questioned.

Ned had been silent, and so Robert did wonder.

Where does that all leave us?

The King meant to find out such a thing.

So it was that Robert sat within one of his formerly dear friends council chambers. The room was not so great a sight for King Robert, especially after living many years within the Red Keep. In truth though this fortress was of a far superior quality.

For while the Red Keep might receive more prestige for having been home to Westeros greatest dynasty, it was poorly designed relative to Winterfell. The innumerable amount of people whom the city below it housed caused the reeking of air within Robert's home, yet here in Winterfell fresh air was available to all whom inhabited.

It was by no means more luxurious, but the castle also housed a underground hot water supply that maintained the castles internal temperature, allowing House Stark to forever fend off the long freezing winters.

It's just cold enough here to do some fucking though, and surely after eight thousand years of breeding the Starks did plenty of that instinctively.

What Robert would've done to have lain with Lyanna but a single time...

The only girl to have ever been denied him.

Winterfell was the home to House Stark, and as such had a certain prestigious mystique to it.

Of all the Great Lords Robert had visited, Ned's home was sure to standout in his mind once departed from. For despite a relative lack of glamour, so well as the eight millennia since its inception, such a fortress was one of the most architecturally sound castles in Westeros.

Nothing less could be expected for a House whose founder had been named "The Builder."

Casterly Rock was a sight for certain, standing near nine hundred feet high, overlooking the quaint city of Lannisport, and being near two leagues across from ends. A natural harbor was in the Lion's mouth, and the Lannister's themselves were far better off than the Starks. Yet it had been the Stone Hill they'd tunneled into that had made them into the great house they'd become.

And where the Lannister's had the Hall of Heroes, House Stark had the Crypts. Similarly ancient, yet not close was the intrigue could Casterly Rock conjure as to what one felt when entering the Stark resting place.

House Tyrell similarly had a beautiful set up about their fort. Highgarden was surrounded by three rings of white stone whose crenelated curtain walls increase in height. Between the outer and middle walls was a famous labyrinth of brier's which would work to entertain guests while slowing would be invaders. Such a place was undoubtedly more beautiful, and riddled with life throughout. House Stark was blessed with a glass garden though, one that allowed for fruit and other such niceties to be raised where they might not be otherwise.

Yet regardless of the fortress status, Highgarden was not made for nor designed by House Tyrell, and they'd only came into possession of it after Aegon the Conqueror had brought Westeros to heel. In addition it was not so well regarded as impenetrable, for it had once before been sacked utterly by Dornishmen, with their mighty Oakenseat destroyed, and the castle burnt.

Winterfell had allegedly been sacked by House Bolton, but surely such defeat was not similarly severe, and doubtlessly less memorable to the South.

Riverrun was the seat of House Tully, yet it was not considered a great castle, even being lesser in its own lands to Black Harren's seat. Yet Riverrun was not without a certain critical featuring much like Winterfell. For on each side of the three walls could a river be found should House Tully chose to isolate themselves. Such privacy was something that Robert might've made had he designed some great castle.

Pyke was a shit show through and through. Robert had determined such when he'd bashed down Lord Balon Greyjoy's great gate so many years ago, but to dismiss the castle entirely would've been disingenuous. Yet it could no longer be considered stable, after thousands of years the cliff that it had been built atop was waning and had fallen into the sea bellow. Now House Greyjoy itself held on similarly to prevent their decline into obscurity.

Robert had never visited the home of House Martell in Dorne, and he doubted he would ever receive such a chance after what had transpired during the Rebellion, yet regardless there was no way Sunspear could stand in the sight of Winterfell and hope to receive favorable comparison.

As he gazed out an open window Robert decided that Winterfell was far larger than the castle he and Ned had grown up in. For indeed Lord Jon's Eyrie was the smallest of all great castles in Westeros. With only seven slim white towers, such a fortress could house no more than five hundred men, and it was once the home of first men for its central garden had been intended for a Weirwood.

Yet none would take hold, and neither too did the Old Gods linger once House Arryn had taken the Vale. Though despite its small size, the Eyrie had ways of tormenting its prisoners more than any castle in Westeros. With the Moon door being used as capital punishment, and sky cells as holding facilities, many men might have rather not been taken so far into the air at all.

It was strong though as well, indeed with the Bloody Gate guarding their high road and the Gates of the Moon sat beneath the Giant's Lance none could hope to impregnate the Eyrie without dying at her hand.

But still even Jon had stated that Winterfell was a life long home, whilst the Eyrie itself was only suitable for spring, summer and fall.

Only Storm's End could hope to stand in the light of Winterfell.

Durran Godsgrief's fort came with its massive outer curtain wall, which was one hundred feet high and forty feet thick on its thinnest side, whilst remaining eighty feet thick facing the sea. A single drum tower reached forth towards the heavens, and it was similarly plain but sturdy to Winterfell.

It should be, after all it was Brandon the Builder whom helped Durran Godsgrief build such a holdfast.

Robert had always taken such a tale as example for what the Stark's of Winterfell and Lord of Storm's End could do once allied.

Ned had always been meant as my best friend. Nothing will change that. I won't allow it.

So it was that the Warden of the North arrived within his own private chambers and greeted his king.

"Your Grace" he said solemnly, as if he were in trouble.

Gods I might've smacked him around back in the day,  used to be that Ned was excited to spend time with the slightly older boy.

Ohh what mischief we used to cause...

"Ahh sit down Ned, I know things have been tough lately, but it's us! Jon would've locked us in a room until all of this ugly business was fixed!"

Ned Stark reeled in pain and frustration. When he made such a face the icy grey eyes of Lord Stark became those of his long lost sister.

"Ned I..."

"Robert you must understand, these past few days have been incredibly difficult and at their center has been your family!"

Finally, after all these years he's starting to let loose.

I knew he was Brandon's brother.

Truth be told Robert had befriended the elder son of Lord Rickard Stark, but Brandon had been much like Robert. Tall, handsome, a future great lord, even if they'd become good friends such distance between them would've prevented fraternal bonding. Yet Ned was unlike his brother, biological or adoptive. He needed to be pushed into social situations, and who better to do that than Robert?

"You are right, I've done your family a wrong by coming here. But I need you Ned, you're the only one I could hope to trust with running the Seven Kingdoms."

Ned turned as he blew a breath out in disbelief.

"We won the damn thing now I'd have you help me keep it."

Icy eyes were no longer cold, but instead angry. Almost like those of Cersei.

"This burden you've brought upon me Robert, I've to chose between my home and running your Kingdom."

"Once upon a time it might've not been so difficult a choice but now..."

Robert saw his friend falter for a moment, Ned had never believed himself a worthy lord, and so always hesitated with thoughts of what Brandon might've done.

"Did you know that after my sixteenth name day, when I became the actual acting Lord of Storm's End, I meant to have you serve at my court?"

Ned Stark looked for a moment as if he'd suspected such a thing. It was most definitely a topic of their youth.

"Such a thing might've been fit for another life time Robert but..."

"Well let me life in that moment for a minute damn it. I'm the King after all, hear me out." Such was not a command, yet Ned became quite as if it had been one.

"Stannis was always going to be my Steward, but I'd have given you the title of Master-at-arms, or anything you might've liked instead. I meant to have you there as my best man when I wed your sister, for you to be the one whom closed the door on our wedding night. I knew that Lyanna wasn't my biggest fan, but you were her brother and having you by my side might've aided our relationship to no end."

"I'm a Stark of Winterfell, my place would've been here."

Blind Honorable Fool.

"Brandon might've been Lord had the treacherous Rhaegar not done what he did. Yet what need would he have of you? If your Lord Father had lived he might've married you to a northern bannerman's daughter or sister to make amends for Brandon wedding Cat."

"Such a thing doesn't matter now Robert." Ned was about to shut down.

"I'd have never done that if you'd have come into my service. Any match you might've made would've been suitable for me, so long as the lady made you happy. There would be no need for you to fend on your own, no reason for you to seek the Night's Watch as an honorable reprieve, nor a reason to travel Essos along with the Company of the Rose or Second Sons." His friend was hooked once more, and all that Robert spoke was true.

"I would have let you marry Ashara."

"What? Ash.." Ned clearly thought Robert had either never known or long forgotten.

Yet how could a good friend forget the singular time that his adoptive brother sought a girls attention.

"Truth was I'd drunk quite a bit with the Knight of Skulls and Kisses, even stared at a few wenches that had not been your sister, Ashara had been foremost amongst them, but I'd not given thought to dance with her. Only Lyanna would receive such an honor, but she was entranced by that damned Prince, and I should've known it then, yet I focused on you instead. I was not lost to my cups when Brandon abandoned our drinking table for the corner that you had been huddled in. None had missed your gaze and it was truly a sight to see."

"Eddard Stark, Lord Rickard's quiet dutiful pup, lust stricken. I had thought to see whom you were giving favor, but Brandon beat me to it. He knew whom you lusted for, and so made such an ordeal that Lady Ashara agreed to dance with you."

It wasn't anything that Ned hadn't known before, yet Robert was about to drop that which he could not know.

"Ashara was a beautiful woman Ned, second only to your sister herself among those in attendance. Any man might've been lucky to claim her, but she fell into your arms." Ned's eyes began to widen, and he almost denied such interaction, yet Robert cut him off.

"Do not deny it Ned, I've known that look aplenty. Given it out myself many times, but upon your face I'd never seen such desire. Ashara fell for your rigid sense of honor by the nights end, and you took her to bed. But you did not dishonor her my friend! You would've married her had the chance been given to you, I know such to be true! And you'd have never given into lust if you'd not conjured thoughts of continued fucking!"

Ned squirmed just a bit, he was getting a little too uncomfortable.

Yet Robert was not finished.

"That boy of yours, the one you came back to King's Landing with all those years ago. He was the offspring of the union you started at Harrenhal. That's why you went to Starfall yourself, it had nothing to do with honoring Ser Arthur, but everything to do with that babe. You might've left it in the South, but after you'd been forced to wed Cat, well...Ashara couldn't live without you and her brother." Pain was welling on Ned's face. The truth must be hard upon him.

"And so the child's upraising fell to you."

"Why are you telling me all this Robert." The ice in his eyes had finally melted.

"Because things shouldn't have been this way. You should've been by my side these last twenty years, and you might've held your lady love forever amidst my company. I wouldn't have denied you a wedding by the Old Gods, and you might've had as many or so few guests as you desired. You are my brother Ned, always have been since those days in the Vale, and you always will be. I can't stomach the thought of losing you, and I've let it rest within me for far to long now."

Ned straightened up then, and returned to the Lord of Winterfell he'd been only moment's prior.

"We might've had it all, but that was another lifetime Robert. One that never came to pass, and now we are our own men, as such decisions made must take into account the welfare of our family."

"So shall you abandon me and return your position of Hand?"

"I will never be one to refuse a royal command, so long as it comes justly."

Robert felt his heartbreak at such a cold response. Then the blood within his veins suddenly began to boil.

"Dammit Ned, I'll not force you to do anything, especially not now. But I need you in the Capital, I've no friends even as the King. Too many around me seek only privilege or gifts, they flatter me to no end and bring before me daughters that I might deflower. I've decided to make something of my reign Ned, but I cannot do it alone."

Lord Rickard's second son remained distant, yet Robert asked once more if the Northern Lord would refuse his formerly accepted offer.

"No. I will serve in Jon's stead."

"For that I am grateful. So long ago I meant to have you in my court, and now it is reality. If you really will return back down south with me then I'd have you speak about your plans regarding the family you mean to bring."

Ned Stark was sullen at the mention of his children. As if he knew Joffrey would once more be exposed to them.

"I'll keep the damned boy away from your party Ned, you've nothing to fear from him."

"Perhaps not, but if the Capital is so dangerous a place as you've said, then I'm concerned for their safety."

Normally Robert might have laughed, no one was more highly guarded than the King himself, but if Robert was in search of true help then why would he overlook that friends household sanctity.

"I can promise you the finest guards that money can provide."

"That's the problem Robert, money. I have enough of it for sufficient protection, yet not so much of it that I could outbid Tywin Lannister. No instead of gold I require loyalty, so it shall be that I provide my own guard."

"Well and good old friend, I take your meaning. The Tower of the Hand is quite spacious, though a bit monotonous, but it's sufficient for Cat to ride southwards with us."

"Catelyn will be remaining in the North so that she might aid Robb in ruling from Winterfell."

"Nonsense, I'll not have you go without a wench to warm your bed, and I know you'll take no other. I now it is not my place, especially after everything that's happened, but should I command it would you be inclined to bring her?" Robert said the words in jest, and finally Lord Eddard Stark cracked a smile.

"You must understand Robert, Robb is just a..."

"The pup you've raised is being hailed as the Young Wolf Ned! He's seventeen years of age, a man grown indeed. Ashara's son shall doubtlessly remain by his side until such a time that his own castle is complete. Benjen will be close enough, and the Northmen are already falling to his command more than your own. It's time to let him roam on his own Ned. I mean for fuck's sake he defeated the White Lion of Casterly Rock in single combat!"

"What? Ser Jamie..."

"Doesn't fucking matter how it happened Ned, word'll spread and men will jump to conclusions for themselves. If your boy never fights again many will still hail him as the greatest swordsman of his age. Same that's true of you, in the South men sing of how you slew Ser Arthur Dayne, who was greater than any that wielded a white cloak in Aery's guard."

Robert leaned in, holding within him his laughter for the moment.

"Though I know it's all horseshit. Even now, after decades of feasting I'd demolish you in your prime."

"Don't be so sure old friend. You're wrong about more than you could know. Yet I must learn what proof you could have that Jon is Ashara's son to make such claims."

So I was right. Ned did have a child with her. He wouldn't have brought it up otherwise.

"Simple enough really" Robert said with great pride prevalent for his deductive skills.

"Your ba...boy's eyes are nearly black. Only way that could've happened to deviate from your own icy grey pupils might be if someone with an exotic color came along and took your seed. Everyone remembers what beauties had been laid within Ashara's eyes, and the faintest hint of them remains to this boy. I'm glad that after so many years I've finally solved such a mystery. But for my respect of her and you I shall tell not a soul the truth. I swear it so Ned, as your King and friend."

Once more the Lord of Winterfell gave a smile, he'd finally begun to win his adoptive brother back.

Yet more must be done to make amends.

"Ned, I know it will be no easy thing, but I must make right what had been wronged. Long have I desired to see our two prestigious houses sworn as one in matrimony, I'd meant it to be Joffrey yet such an evil I would never force upon you now. Instead I mean to offer you something different."

His friend seemed at least like to listen.

"With my eldest son gone and the betrothal to your eldest daughter with it, I seek to forge another betrothal. My heir is now the boy Tommen, I know he's not much to look at right now, but he is of an age where perhaps your Sansa might still consider? If she truly desires to be the Queen, yet if you find my boy to young then I'd propose Tommen to your second daughter Arya."

Ned took that statement into deep consideration, perhaps he'd given up on betrothals.

"Sansa has been put through a lot Your Grace, I desire for her to find love of her own volition, as I would see done for all my children. Yet I will speak to her about such a thing, Arya though...She is a lot like her aunt. Willful and curious. She would not submit to such an arrangement unless she took a certain liking to Tommen."

"Then we shall do everything in our power to see such a thing done! Should the betrothal be accepted of course. If your girl really is like Lyanna then tell her she won't be marrying the Prince, then perhaps she'll find her way to his bed."

Robert laughed despite the real pain he'd inflicted upon himself.

"I'm as yet not ready for such a talk, but I promise a time will come. I've not made my decision regarding my children yet Robert. Robb must surely stay in Winterfell for one Stark must always remain, such is known to us as truth. Yet Sansa is a girl nearly grown and she desires to be fostered in the South, whilst her little sister seeks for nothing but our family to remain in Winterfell. Young Bran is ready to become a man, but he's still years away. Little Rickon is but five, and of an ill temperament much the same as my elder brother."

Robert's friend was frozen in his indecision, and so the King sought to free him from such.

"If you'll not bring them all to King's Landing, then you should foster them out."

Such a thing brought about distaste from his best friend, yet Robert was insistent.

"The Realm would not be what it is today had our fathers not lent us to the Eyrie. We would not be the men we are today without Jon. I'm not suggesting you send them to Tywin Lannister, not the Lion's jaws, but perhaps you could send one of Lord Hoster Tully's grandchildren to him at Riverrun. There is no limit to what you can do old friend, but do not slink back into doing nothing. The North must once more reenter the fold."

"I know, it might've been something that Jon told me to do himself. Yet I've..."

"You are worried about your families well being, such is understandable. Here is what I would tell you, if you are afraid to freely send your children from your hearth then ask for wards in return. Many would be willing to serve as the Hand's squire, or else be raised in Winterfell amidst the companionship of your Robb."

"Did Jon tell you that?" Ned smiled with warm icy eyes.

"Indeed he did. Even told me whom you might consider fostering or taking as ward."

"Truly? If so I would hear that which he said."

Such a thing would take the weight of Eddard's mind, it was indeed he who'd learned more from their adoptive father. So it was of little surprise that Ned could be made agreeable to Lord Jon's last piece of advice.

"Jon made it clear that what ever you chose was likely to be the correct decision, yet he himself stated that if he'd been Lord in your stead he might've fostered your daughter Sansa with House Tyrell in Highgarden, he said that despite their Targaryen loyalist roots they'd be like to treat your southern favoring daughter with the experience she'd so long desired. In addition, if she'll not marry Tommen then she might find company in the arms of Ser Loras Tyrell, or even better his elder brother Willas."

"Jon said this?"

"Indeed he did. You know how he was Ned, always trying to bring the realm into one. He said Highgarden and a marriage to Willas would be better than marriage to Joffrey, said that Tyrell loyalty was of more question than the bond between you and I."

"Such is true but..."

"There is no need to make a decision now Ned, not while we have many moons of riding before us. Yet in addition to his suggestion for your eldest girl he gave possible foster homes for your other children. For the wild girl he suggested bringing her to King's Landing."

"Did he really?"

"No, but if at all possible I'd see her wed to Tommen when they come of age."

Ned rolled his eyes, but was clearly still interested in what Jon had actually said.

"What was really advised?"

"That you take your youngest daughter to Bear Island so that she might be around women who hold her standard, or even Martell Dorne but I wouldn't ask that of you. Regardless she must be at a place that allows her to become who she desires, else wise she might never find happiness."

Such had been the wise council of a dying Jon Arryn.

"What of my younger sons?"

"Jon advocated for Lord Hoster Tully to be entrusted with one of his grandchildren, preferably the second son. Yet for Brandon, who aspires to be a great knight you might entrust with Lord Bronze Yohn Royce, though I know you hold dear to that Crannogman of your's and so might foster him there."

Ned turned to look from the window, it must've been a lot, yet Robert had not finished Jon's final offer.

"I know that you are hesitant to bring a five year old boy to King's Landing, but as the boy is so young, and I would see Cat come with you. I think it best if little Rickon comes to live within the Red Keep."

"Robert..."

"Listen Ned, I've an offer of my own for you. I know you'll always be hesitant now to give one of yours to my court, and so I'll be the one to give first. I am willing to give the hand of my beloved Cassie, young as she is, to your little one."

"They are so young, such a thing..."

"I betrothed your Jon to that Daenerys girl when they were both only a few moons old, and from what I've seen and heard they are infatuated with one another. Let such a thing happen between our children. For the love I bear you and the sister whom was stolen from us both, let this be a thing as it was always meant too transpire."

A little bit of hesitation came forth from his friend, but Robert continued.

"Since the truth is upon my tongue I'll reveal you this. Jon had recommended that ties as yet unbound needed to be solidified first, he said that since you and I had become brothers there was no need for a marriage between our families. Instead the realms loyalty needed to be secured. He wanted me to have Joffrey betrothed to Margaery Tyrell, Lord Mace's youngest child. In addition, Jon desired for Myrcella to wed Trystane Martell, and for young Tommen to wed Lord Balon's daughter."

"If I'd done such then I would've had not a thing to offer you, and so I required of Cersei one more child. It was the first time I'd done my husbandly duty in quite some time, yet it was not insufferable, and indeed led to a daughter I might offer your son."

"Well thank you then Robert, I..."

"I hope you'll take this quite seriously Ned, it's not something I've given lightly. My Cassie is everything to me, for some reason I've grown more fond of her than my others, but I love her deep and true just like Jon told us a father should. I would entrust her care with no one else."

Ned Stark smiled at such words, yet Robert had promised to tell his childhood friend all that Jon had said in his final days.

"Like I said though, Jon also desired for you to take wards of your own. He recommended bringing some of Lord Walder Frey's brood into Winterfell so they might become close with your Robb, and that any of your bannermen whom have children of such an age should be fostered for safe keeping. According to Jon several houses from the Vale might be willing to have a child fostered in the North, his explicit examples were Lord Grafton's son Gyles, Terrence Lynderly, one of Lord Triston Sunderland's young boys, or a grandson of Lady Waynwood."

"That could be arranged, yet what would Jon have asked of me, knowing that I was coming to take his place?"

"Ned, as I've said you are considered alongside Ser Barristan Selmy as the greatest fighter alive today. Many even name you better than me, but that's beside the point. You are known to have defeated Ser Arthur Dayne in single combat, and with your son having defeated Ser Jamie, regardless of the manner of his victory, people will say that House Stark indeed breeds the greatest warriors unto the land."

His old friend seemed a bit clueless to the point. Such a hard headed fucker.

"It means that any noble lord might be jumping at an opportunity to have his son squired by Lord Eddard Stark. Jon mentioned recruiting several sons since you are not a knight, saying that as you don't follow the Southern traditions, you wouldn't have to abide by our rules. As such you might turn the Red Keep into a place filled with those whom could be trained."

"And who did Lord Arryn feel compelled to have me train?"

"He mentioned Willem and Martyn Lannister, the younger sons of Ser Kevan, Tywin's brother. In addition he thought bringing a son of Ser Baelor Hightower to the capital might bring about increased relations with the Reach. Monford Velaryon could be another, whilst still you could bring in Tytos Blackwood's sons, they follow the Old Gods same as you. I've even heard the Lord Bronze Yohn wishes for his youngest son Waymar to learn at your side, and Jon did wish for you to take on at least one of his countrymen. Though he did mention entrusting you with his nephew Sweetrobin's upraising should Elbert be willing. Trystane Martell might be brought to King's Landing and could serve you as well."

"So Jon would have me take all these children as hostage?"

"No dammit! Not hostages, they would be your wards. In the south people don't see fostering children as handing over hostages, though true enough that might be what it boils down to most of the time. But it need not be, especially after we've experienced a proper youth in such a situation."

Ned Stark silenced himself, and so Robert spoke.

"I'll not ask anything of you right now, but I desire for you to think upon these things."

"Then I shall Your Grace."

"Will you fuck off with that shit already? It's starting to make me uncomfortable, I don't like hearing it from your lips."

"My apologies...Your Grace." The corners of his friends mouth began to curl.

"Damn you Ned." Robert bellowed as the chuckles came forth onto his tongue.

The two shared a long and deep laughter that had been many years overdue.

"I do have one thing I would like your opinion on though Ned, with Ser Meryn Trant dead I will need to replace him. I know that as a follower of the Old Gods you probably don't give two shits about knights, but I need to find one who is actually worthy of this position, and might be loyal to us."

Such pondering would require time though, yet they didn't have anything else too...

"Your Grace!" came a half winded call, as if whomever sought to deliver the message had ran a great distance.

In strode the Winterfell Maester, and within his hand was a open parchment with a broken Baratheon seal.

"You've unsealed a letter addressed to your King?" Robert asked.

"No Your Grace, instead it had been the Queen who'd done such. I merely read it on my way here."

"Well then what does it say?"

"The Raven brings word of your brother Stannis, it says he's been injured by a would be assassin, and that he lies near death."

What in the Seven Hells has been happening in the South?

Chapter Text

Prince Renly Baratheon

The Prince of Dragonstone found himself walking into his brother's healing chamber. Stannis laid motionless upon his bed, head pointed so that he might gaze out his window when awake, doubtlessly replaying within his mind the events that had befallen him.

He'd remained in such a shape for nearly two weeks now, perpetually falling in and out of consciousness. Renly had not allowed Pycelle the opportunity to provide care and so had instead saw that his own maester arrived from Dragonstone.

After his arrival Stannis' health had begun to see improvement, yet still his brother could only mumble words, and most often they made no sense.

"Night is dark. Full of terror."

Yet when asked about his assailant Stannis had only one thing to say in reply.

"Crooked nose."

Well that could be nearly anyone big brother.

So many men in the Capital could fit such a description that it was nearly impossible to search even the Red Keep.

As such there had been no progress in finding Stannis' assailant, and given the amount of time that had passed such a man would've surely fled the City.

Despite their lack of success, Renly was thankful the hired assassin had been a poor one. Stannis had taken a deep stab, but it might've been worse had his brother not been such a man.

While not built like Robert or himself, Stannis was powerful and more stubborn than Renly by half.

He refuses death, and it has not the will to call for him now.

Renly entered the room proper, but was not met with movement from his brother. Instead the Prince of Storm's End remained unto his slumber.

Yet commotion was not denied the room.

For out of the corner of his eye Lord Steffon's youngest son witnessed a shiny bald head ducking through a small side door, one that before now Renly had not seen.

Quickly was the scent of lilac upon the Prince's nose, and he knew at once whom had come.

But the Spider had not arrived without bearing gifts.

For behind this eunuch strode a most magnificent sight.

Beauty such the like this world has never seen...

This handsome man was adorned with lazy brown curls, and their ringlets fell over into his liquid gold eyes. Such a sight was not unknown to Renly, yet he'd not been expecting his Rose to return so soon.

"Loras!" he said half in shock.

In truth Renly was astonished that such a thing might've been done. It was well known that the Knight of Flowers held a place at the King's Court, but the guards had been instructed to allow no one in or out until after Davos and Ser Axell arrived.

As they neared each other Renly might've held his lover within open arms, such would've been a greatly needed embrace.

Yet the eunuch remained between them, and so they acted cordial. After gathering his excitement Renly spoke again.

"It's so good to see you Ser Loras. I'd feared you'd be gone far longer."

"The road was kind, and Highgarden had little to offer me on this trip."

Renly and Loras could've gone on for hours, and perhaps the Spider knew such for he said his part now.

"I'm so happy that I could reunite you two. I know it's been a struggle these last few weeks with Stannis being so ill, and especially hard on you Prince Renly, having to organize and search for his assailant."

"Thank you Lord Varys, you've indeed done me a favor. I had it on good authority though that the castle was to be shut down for entrance or exit."

Instead of the Spider responding to such a comment it was Loras who spoke jokingly.

"Are you not happy that I am here?"

Renly wanted to roll his eyes about his skull, Of course I'm happy to see you.

But how did Varys smuggle you in? There must be some secret passages I'm not privy too.

"Ohh yes, My apologies Prince Renly. I know such things can be a bit sensitive, especially right now. Yet I thought a friend such as Ser Loras to be a welcome guest, and I simply couldn't stand to see him held up at the Gate."

Varys was beginning to overstay his welcome. Renly held no animosity towards the eunuch, and had even thanked him for escorting Stannis from the predicament he'd found himself in the Throne Room near two weeks ago.

Renly sighed, and responded to the Master of Whispers.

"That is understandable, and I'm glad you took it upon yourself to see him admitted."

"It was my pleasure Prince Renly."

With that the Eunuch spun on his heels and retreated from the room in a different manner than he had entered. The guards he passed seemed amazed at his presence, and so gawked at the eunuch as he strode forth between them.

The Prince of Dragonstone had only stares in response, but Loras approached the oaken door and closed it to the outside world.

"What are you staring at? The eunuch? He doesn't seem much your type."

"Shut up" They both smiled after that.

"It's good to see you Loras. I really hadn't figured your return would be so swift."

Loras seemed a bit down at such a suggestion. Yet he smiled with his eyes before responding.

"Well truth be told what I rode to Highgarden for ended up not mattering so much. And besides, from the looks of it I'm needed here instead."

"You have the truth of it most certainly."

"Then tell me what has happened? Why was I almost denied entry? And why was it the eunuch who smuggled me in? Why does Stannis lay in bed?"

The Knight of Flowers strode over to the Prince of Storm's End's side, and looked him over twice. He must've noticed the wound's severity, and to make from commenting on it instead jested regarding Stannis positioning.

"I don't think I've ever seen Stannis laid down."

Renly was confused, he'd sent a letter to House Tyrell asking for Loras' return, but that wouldn't have been long ago enough for the Knight of Flowers to have resumed his presence in the Capital. Word would've only reached them a week ago, and the North bound Raven would've only just reached Winterfell.

"So you did not receive the Raven I sent?"

Loras shook his head.

"Then I am to blame for the Eunuch's dealings. I had no idea you'd returned, and not expected such a thing for a fortnight to come, yet it does please me that you've returned."

Upon his former squires face grew a big bright smile.

"I've always aimed to please you."

Anywhere but here. They certainly couldn't do everything they wanted with Stannis in the room. Regardless of whether he was conscious or not.

"Stannis became enraged to learn the truth of our elder brothers debts, and so saw fit to confront Lord Baelish upon such a matter. It might've ended rather poorly for all involved had Varys not smuggled Stannis from the room."

"So what then? Did he take a wound during the confrontation?"

"No, that came later in the night. We'd been speaking upon a confidential matter when all at once the Rookery went alight. We fled the tower so that we might provide aid, but Stannis dashed as if possessed by the Warrior, and I lost sight of him for a moment. Yet in that time a crooked nosed man managed to stab Stannis."

"I found him in a pool of blood with Raven's cawing everywhere within earshot."

Loras was a bit slower with rendering information, but he did eventually piece everything together. His eyes were not just beautiful, but intelligent, and despite the categorization as a dull brute, Loras was indeed a smart man.

"An assailant with a crooked nose. Might be anyone, but I think you've missed the point. If Lord Varys spoke true that Baelish controls the City Watch, it should be his treason that we attend to."

"Until Davos arrives from Storm's End with his levy there isn't much we can do. My guards can only do so much, good men that they are."

"Very well. When shall they arrive? I know Varys said the Keep is to remain on lock down till..."

"They are scheduled to arrive in the City today."

"Oh. Well that seems convenient."

"Indeed, but so was your arrival. You've yet to tell me what business was required of you."

Loras' big golden brown eyes looked elsewhere as if he meant not to have this conversation, yet Renly was persistent. So finally they did speak on the matter.

"My grandmother has big ambitions for our family Renly. You kno... It's jus..."

"Aww come on now Loras, what ever it is we will work through this. The Queen of Thorns has set trouble at your feet, so be it. You help me with my problems, I help you with yours."

Renly offered a smile at his lover, but it went unrequited. Loras was stern and stoic with his next few words.

"Our meeting in Highgarden was regarding the arrangements of House Tyrell."

Loras so often spoke as if he was not a member, especially as a third son with no land to inherit. Perhaps he might've struggled with such a truth alone, but Renly had known such a position, and he was a Lord.

He'd forever host his dear Rose at Dragonstone if such an arrangement could be made.

"What of it? Anything worth listening too?"

"A lot of plotting. Lady Olenna means to see weddings, and soon at that."

"Whose?"

"Not Garlan, she doted on him for his matchmaking."

"Always thought Lady Leonette was quite the sight."

Loras hated when Renly had eyes for others, but all the Prince of Dragonstone had meant was the compliment. No lust or envy was due, and Renly indeed only had eyes for his rose. When that flower began to wilt Renly found himself prompted to raise it once more.

"Yet she's not half so lovely as you. I'd still know of these arrangement's you speak of though."

"My grandmother means to have Willas betrothed to the Stark girl if at all possible."

"Such will be impossible, Robert meant for the girl to wed Joffrey. May the seven bless and protect her."

"Well, if that option's not available she means to seek the hand of Myrcella or Shireen for my eldest brother."

"Both my nieces are too young for Willas. He's what now twenty and four?"

"Indeed, but that doesn't matter. He's not like to find himself in a brothel, nor abed with another woman anyway. He's waited this long, and grandmother didn't seem to mind waiting a little longer."

"If that's what he wants so be it. I don't think anyone would bat an eye at him marrying either of my Nieces. Though I think Robert has plans for Myrcella, or at least his dear Jon Arryn did. Shireen will be open though, but I fear Stannis will have her become Lady of Storm's End."

"Instead of you? Why would he do such a thing?"

"No need to be offended. Stannis only meant for me to retain Dragonstone should he pass. I pray we don't have to argue over such necessities, and I'll gladly have his little girl take the Keep if it means honoring my brother's last wish."

Stannis must've heard from his slumber, for he groaned long and deep. Renly came to his side, yet the Second son of Lord Steffon did not wake.

"That's not all though. I mean about Willas it is. He is my father's heir and has refused to seek love for too long."

"Perhaps, but it's not love that he will be swearing vows to. He might live his life without ever knowing such a thing."

Loras smiled, but it seemed sadly written upon his face.

"Indeed."

Renly found that he was tired of this cowedness from his lover. He would know what unsettled his Rose's mind once and for all.

"Well then, whom did she have in mind for you?"

The Knight of Flowers seemed aghast with such a question, even blushing. Loras would never seek another's bed.

"I'm... Well..."

Dragonstone's Prince pulled his lover into open arms and kissed him to settle unjust nerves.

"Better?"

This time Loras smile was legit.

"Yes. My grandmother means to offer me to Arianne Martell..."

Renly couldn't help but laugh before his lover finished speaking. Such a suggestion sounded more like a jape than a true plot. The Tyrell's hate the Martell's. Such was known from Sunspear to Castle Black.

"It's not really funny Renly."

"Yes it is. Of all the suggestion's she could make. From every match she might've made, your Grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, chose such a solution. I know we've hated this family for generations, but lets marry the most beautiful man in the world to a dull olive skinned girl."

Loras was still appreciating the compliment, and so might've not replied. Instead Renly continued.

"I cannot see such happening, regardless of the reasoning. You'll not be forced to marry, that I promise you Loras."

The Prince of Dragonstone gripped his best friend,

"You will always have a place at my court."

His Rose seemed elated and dejected with such a statement.

"I'll not abandon my family, but I don't want to marry. It's like you said, what is marriage without love?"

"Well, I shouldn't know. But I would say that if you find yourself in bed with someone other than me, make quick work of it."

Now it was Loras turn to laugh,

"I should say the same to you. Olenna means to have you really join our family!"

Renly knew what that meant. Yet he couldn't help but question anyway.

"Your sister and I? Would she even submit to such a match? Surely there are bet..."

"There is no one better. Not a person in this world might treat her kinder than you, and of course you're worthy of her. Renly, you are the Prince of Dragonstone and by my count fourth in line to the Iron Throne."

"It's not that simple."

"It really is."

"But she is your sister. Don't you think that..."

"Willas mentioned that if you wed Marge then no one would question my frequenting your keep."

Again the Knight of Flowers smiled. Renly had but one question he meant to lovingly ask.

"Wait a minute, which of us is against this arrangement?"

"Both of us. I don't want anyone but you."

"And I you."

They stared deep into each others eyes now, and so it was that they began to come together.

Yet before their lips had a chance to meet, a groggy voice spoke up.

"Not in here please."

Stannis! Renly moved to face his elder brother.

The sickly Baratheon had lost near ten pounds since his injury, and looked as close to death as he'd once been at Storm's End. Yet he refuses to die.

And instead forbids me my love. Renly would've laughed at the irony had such a situation allowed for it.

What he did instead was grip his brother's dangling arm.

"Where is Davos?"

"Your Onion Knight has not yet arrived, but he shall come before sundown."

Stannis seemed to settle upon such an arrangement, and he leaned once more back into his pillow.

"You get some rest big brother. We will take this somewhere else."

The Prince of Storm's End spoke no further, and so returned to his sleep.

Renly made motion for their exit, and so Loras followed suite.

Not long had they been gone when word came that a force meant to enter the Red Keep, so it was that Loras and Renly took break from one another's private embrace and engaged with their arriving reinforcements.

Not so long ago Renly had his castellan ship near two hundred men into the capital, yet Ser Davos had arrived with a force over twice their number. Indeed the Onion Knight had followed orders.

Lord Steffon's youngest son now strode forth to make such an acquaintance. They'd met a hand full of times in the near twenty years since Ser Davos had saved Storm's End, but never before without Stannis present.

"Ser Davos, I'm very pleased that you've finally arrived."

A man with sharp ears and in heavy steel strode forth,

And it was his voice that responded to the Prince.

"Apologies my Prince, we might've come sooner had Ser Davos quickened our pace on the rode."

Renly observed as the Onion Knight's face became that of a man who'd clearly become tired of this knight's shit.

"I'm sure that Ser Davos did all that could be done Ser Axell" Loras felt compelled to respond.

This could be dangerous. It was known to Renly that the Tyrell's and Florent's had no love for one another, particularly in this day of age.

I'll have to diffuse this now or we might have another war in the capital.

"Regardless, we are all here now. That is what matters. Stannis is stable..."

"So Our Prince still draws breath?"

The Lord of Dragonstone could only grimace as the words finished exiting the man's double chinned mouth.

"A Prince stands before you Ser Axell. But You've not the eyesight to see it with your great nose and close set eyes."

They might've drawn steel had Ser Davos not spoken up.

"If Stannis were out here he'd tell you that dueling between civilians is called murder in the Capital."

Both men stepped down just a bit, though it was indeed enough for Renly to see the matter abandoned.

"My brother should be unconscious for a while yet, he needs his rest, but you may visit his chambers should it do you good. I have more pressing matters to discuss should you be willing though."

"Have you captured Prince Stannis' assailant yet?"

"Do you know how to keep your mouth shut?"

Again hostility.

"Both of you will remain quiet. And if you'll not act like anointed knights then I'll petition Robert to see your titles stripped."

Each man became eerily silent after such a statement.

"We are searching Ser Axell, we've had the Keep on lock down but no one has been captured yet. Though now that there is sufficient force about the castle we should have little trouble."

"You mean that all these men we've passed haven't proved sufficient? Have the Goldcloaks fallen so much in quality after all these years?" Ser Davos rose in question.

"It's not their quality Onion Knight, but instead their loyalty" Loras added, For some reason he looked down upon the common born Davos.

Yet Renly would never forget being handed an onion after eating nothing for nigh on two days.

To him Davos would always be a hero.

"Petyr Baelish controls the City Watch, he's bought and paid for their Commander Ser Janos Slynt."

"Then we must find our own man in the Watch. One whose loyalty might be to you Prince Renly."

The Prince of Dragonstone felt his eyes raise as clarity came too him.

"Such quality about your ideas give reason for why Stannis keeps you around Ser Davos. Once more I find myself indebted to you."

"Don't mention it My Prince. Your brothers made me what I am, and so I shall defend House Baratheon with all that I have."

After such a conversation the four men split, for Davos and Axell made way to Stannis bedside. Whilst Renly and Ser Loras made their way to a different place. Indeed now that the Onion Knight had arrived, men with appropriate credentials might be allowed in or out of the Red Keep.

They made from the Targaryen fortress, and instead worked their way to the Street of Steel.

Loras was dragging behind the entirety of their way, unsure as to where they were heading, but still he labored with his Stag. Finally they came upon the shop Renly had intended.

From outside words could be heard.

"Do you mean to deny me service?"

"I say that no more of my swords shall you burn. Not until I receive payment for them at least."

"You know that I burn them to honor my god. Would you draw the Lord of Light's ire?"

"Fuck the Lord of Light. There are greater gods than you're R'hllor, in Qohor this we know."

"Regardless of your blasphemy, I find the steel you make to be of top notch quality. And so I would have some for my usage."

"I'll not sell another sword to you on credit. Would that you not burn them perhaps I might rethink, but as it is you've not even the ability to display my steel's quality!"

Renly decided this was when he should burst in.

"Don't worry about coin. I'll make sure that it arrives at your doorstep. Have no worry Thoros, your next fifty swords shall be on me."

The Red Priest gave a theatrical bow before his King's brother. At his side stood the master at arms Ser Aron Santagar.

Evidently he'd been dragged down to a brothel before the castle had been locked up.

Loras liked neither of these men, for he held distaste in Thoros drinking habits and despised the Dornishmen for his sleazy ways.

Regardless, Renly needed these men.

"May the Lord of Light cast his gaze lovingly upon you My Prince!"

"Yet what brings you here Prince Renly? It can't have been the fresh air."

Thoros bellowed, and so in response Renly chuckled in hopes of winning his favor.

"I've only one thing I seek, and that should be the two of you. I'd have you dine with me tonight. A leal gathering if you will, and a return to the Keep for those who found themselves locked out."

"Well, no one's ever accused me of missing a feast. I'd be happy to grace your supper Prince Renly."

The Dornishmen also agreed to such an arrangement, stating simply that he was happy to see a return to the Keep. Yet Renly heard little of what he said, for in place of using his ears, the Prince's gaze took over all senses.

Near to the back of this Qohorik's forge was a man striking steel with a hammer. This smith stood near so tall as Renly, and seemed almost a plain copy. Spit might've shined this one so that he was more muscular, but the youth had big blue eyes and thick coal black hair.

This one does not look so much like me, but...

He looks like Robert did.

Renly had known the boy Edric, and aside from the great Florent ears, this one was undoubtedly their King's offspring.

There is no part of him that looks like Joffrey, Tommen or Myrcella.

Only Cassie.

Loras stared in disbelief as well, but he couldn't have known what Robert's children should look like.

It was more likely he was gawking lustfully.

Renly might've felt cheated on had he not so blatantly gazed at the man. So many questions did the Prince have, but now was not the time.

We still have so much to do.

A task for another time, he finally decided before bidding his farewell to the Smith's forge.

They returned thusly to the Red Keep, all the while Loras asked what they were doing. Yet Renly meant to have him unaware of the manner of his doings until such a time as they came to fruition.

But the Rose finally did show it's thorns and threatened to take no further step until he was justly told Renly's intentions.

However, the Prince of Dragonstone had his ways of getting around his stubborn Rose.

"Oh Loras, where is your sense of adventure? Have you so little trust in me that you should hesitate to walk where I do?"

"I shall follow you to the ends of our earth if needs be, but I..."

"That's all I needed to hear."

With that Renly had solidified Loras' company, and so they marched into the Red Keep. The Prince of Dragonstone had a specific company that he meant to seek right now, and so he found Lord Paxter Redwyne's two sons working together in the practice yard.

Neither was half so skilled as Loras, but perhaps one day they might be great soldiers. Yet one was to be Lord whilst the other would be his heir, such a strange thing it was to be a twin.

Only minutes or seconds might've separated them, and with them being identical they might've been mistaken at birth. So much controversy might've begun from such an issue, but Renly prayed it did not come to that.

Especially not here and now. For Renly could really use the extra eyes and ears. They spoke quickly enough, and Loras was cordial towards his first cousins. So indeed by the end of their discussion Horas and Hobber had agreed to take up Renly's station.

They'd make valuable allies, and in a pinch their father's ships could come in handy. He'd learned about the Redwyne fleet's power long ago.

Indeed they also agreed to join Renly for the dinner party he'd been planning tonight, yet they knew about so much as Loras regarding such an affair.

Next up the Prince of Dragonstone dragged his lover to the White Sword Tower.

Together they strode up to the four storied structure. Such a thing stood a pale shadow casting over the Blackwater below. The winding steps were a bit much, but still not worse than his climb might've been had Robert really named him Hand.

It would've been a true honor, Renly was beloved by the people and could play politics like no other member of House Baratheon.

The Prince of Dragonstone was everything Robert could not be.

Yet it was not his position to be given. So much as Renly wanted that coveted title, there were more deserving men about Robert's realm. Lord Stark who he'd ridden North to collect had been Robert's eldest friend. Lord Tywin Lannister was debatable as the greatest ruler in the history of Westeros, and had served for twenty prosperous years as Hand.

But even those men where undeserving in this circumstance.

The man who should've been made Hand laid half dying upon a bed in the castle proper.

As he approached the final step Renly reflected upon how he'd once thought of joining the Kingsguard. As the third son of a Major Lord there would've been a good chance, and he'd always wanted to be a great knight, yet he'd never received the all inclusive training that Robert had, nor even that which Stannis endured.

Men always said Renly looked the part of a warrior. So tall as Robert, and more even than Stannis. People loved him for the further great looks that had been bestowed upon Renly, and his voice was fair to such an extent that singers would quiet their own tones. He was strong and a skilled hunter, but not the physical brute his eldest brother had become, nor the brilliant military strategist Stannis was to be.

Indeed Lord Steffon's third son had never faced their father's training regiment, and Robert had even once said that Renly was coddled where Stannis and he had been beaten.

Yet Renly could not even remember their father's face, and hardly enough of their mother remained to him.

Stannis had raised Renly, so any shortcomings he might've had as a warrior were faults of his elder brother.

But Stannis had done more than his share regardless, he'd given Renly food when he was hungry, provided family where none others could or would, and been a genuine friend to the young boy more so than anyone save the Knight of Flowers.

For that he would always love Stannis.

There had been another knight though, one whom was definitely a worthy warrior to the Kingsguard, and it had been for Renly that such a man had been squired. Loras was everything that might be sung about in songs, beautiful, skilled, and highborn.

It would be all for not though, as Loras would not join the Kingsguard save to watch over Renly even closer. There were now plans that would prevent even that though, for the Queen of Thorns almost always got that which she desired.

Neither of them would Join the Kingsguard, Renly decided.

After entering through a large oak door the couple found three sworn brothers sat about a Round Room, which was their common area.

Towards the left was old Prince Lewyn Martell, his tired brown eyes shined to life when he saw the Prince and Knight of Flowers though. It seemed old age had not robbed him of the fiery passion of his youth, and his Dornish flame held heat for House Tyrell.

Loras avoided his gaze so as to not provoke conflict here and now, but the Dornishmen did not offer such a generous compromise.

Yet he did not speak, for instead Ser Arys Oakheart approached. The knight of Old Oak was not so tall as Renly, but about equal to Loras. He was handsome, but not quite beautiful. His looks seemed that of a lesser Loras to be honest.

"My Prince. Ser Loras it is good to see you again! How was your trip home?"

"Fair Ser Arys. Yet a matter for another time."

"What matters of import do you have?" Arys spoke to Loras, but he meant the question for Renly and so it was the Prince of Dragonstone who spoke.

"Ser Davos the Onion Knight has arrived with reinforcements to garrison this castle. You've no more need to take turns guarding Prince Stannis."

Sad Pale Blue eyes looked up from a massive book placed upon a large weirwood table. After granting a chuckle, The greatest knight within the realm spoke.

"Prince Renly, it is our sworn duty to guard the royal family. Our only other goal was to be in search of Stannis' assailant, and we've little else to do right now whilst our sworn brothers are off guarding the King."

"Very well Ser Barristan. You are wise even beyond your years, Stannis has protection for now though. Instead of him, I'd have you guard me tonight."

"Plan on getting into trouble?" Ser Arys asked jokingly.

"Possibly. I've invited several guests to a dinner tonight, and with it I mean to root out whom might know something of my brothers attack."

Lewyn Martell stirred within his chair, quite obviously intrigued.

"What could you mean to do? Is it chaos that you would have in the Capital?"

"Not chaos my good man, in it's place I seek order. Yet first I must know who is bought and who is not. Baelish controls the flow of money within our fair city, and as such likely holds control of all the Goldcloaks. Now I know the Kingsguard shall remain by my side, yet there are other men about the court with dubious loyalty."

"So you mean to gather us all for a dinner then, and there you should incite conflict?"

"You are truly the sharpest blade known to our city Ser Barristan. Loras has wandered this place with me all day and not pieced together such a plot. Indeed, I've invited the members of our small council, the commanders of the City Watch, my brother's leal white cloaks, and various members of the Royal court for a feast. None have as yet denied, nor would it be sightly for them to do such. The Spider will leave from his web, and even the Mockingbird shall abandon his brothels for a time."

"Would you have anyone die tonight?"

"No Prince Lewyn, I would not. I'm critical of loyalty, not hunting for convictions. I'll see my brothers assailant hang for what he's done, not die in a ill conceived slaughter. Clear suspicion point's to Baelish hiring the assassin, yet I'm unconvinced."

Loras spoke in outrage.

"How could you be unsure? Stannis meant to do him harm and as you've said these great knight's had to come forth in his defense. Else wise there would've been blood spilled in the Throne room."

"It's not a perfect conclusion, but think about it. Would Petyr Baelish, a man whose rose from nothing to becoming Master of Coin, really try a blatant assassination attempt on the same day he was openly threatened by Stannis? Such a thing would be ill conceived, and quite hotheaded for a man who has manipulated everything to get where he wants to be."

"Sounds like you almost admire him."

"Ser Loras, of course I admire the cunning about Littlefinger. Were that more men thought like him, Robert might've conquered Essos if they'd be loyal thinkers. Yet Baelish is dangerous, he commands the largest force about our capital, and without the King they shall have divided loyalty. That should be Petyr's downfall though. Men will take coin when given the chance, but they should always pick their lives when made to choose."

"What do you mean?"

"I am of a mind that we root out those who would be loyal to Petyr Baelish, and replace them with men who shall follow the lead of our King's Will. Ser Janos Slynt will be among those in attendance tonight, and he can no longer be allowed to command the City Watch, not after he openly endorsed the Mockingbird in favor of Stannis."

It was now Barristan the Bold's turn to ask a question.

"So what all do you intend for this evening?"

"That's quite simple Ser Barristan, I shall host a feast befitting our reopening the Red Keep. There should be drinking and many courses, I suspect words should also be exchanged. Wine shall run red, whilst hopefully no blood shall be shed. I've hardly the stomach for it's sight, but I shall speak with Petyr Baelish, reason with him if I can and negotiate with him if I must."

"Why would he bargain if he holds the greatest force?"

"Because he values his head, and if I told Robert that Lord Baelish was the one whom ordered Stannis' death, well then Robert would see him flung into the Blackwater without any due diligence."

The entirety of this Round Room went silent in contemplation, yet seemingly they had all fallen in line with his thinking. As such Renly saw fit to ask one final time if the Sworn Brothers would be at his dinner.

And indeed Lord Commander, Ser Barristan the Bold, ensured that the White Cloaks would fall into such a meeting with the pretense of dinning, whilst secretly guarding their Prince.

With that the Stag and Rose left their angled tower and returned to the Baratheon courtiers.

After spending an hour talking about incomprehensible ideas and long gone memories the two finally began to get ready for the dinner party. Loras wore a green tunic with gold lined throughout in a majestic weave that culminated at his collar in the form of a golden rose. Renly wore a blue flavor to the normal Baratheon green, so that it might bring about his smiling eyes, but also adorned it with two stag broaches.

Once they'd emerged from Renly's chamber the sun had begun to fade in the West. They began the long trip to the Keep's dinning hall and along such a journey they found Ser Davos Seaworth and his youngest son Steffon observing a performance of the court fool Moon Boy.

"Ser Davos have you prepared for the dinner party?" Loras sounded shocked when he spoke. It was an unfair question, as a son of Mace Tyrell, Lord Paramount to the second wealthiest Kingdom, Loras could afford, and was often times given for free, the nicest clothes available.

Yet Ser Davos was only a landed knight, And A War Hero, but a poor one nonetheless.

"Indeed I have Ser Loras, I'm but allowing my youngest boy the opportunity of watching a performance before I join the festivities."

The Onion Knight thinks himself unworthy of being in such noble company. Stannis had once told Renly of his friends low self esteem, yet the Prince would simply not allow such a man to feel unwelcome.

"My apologies Ser Davos, I've forgotten what a joy it is to behold our jester. Loras I hope you'll watch as well." The Knight of Flowers begrudgingly fell in.

Lord Seaworth had only viewed the performance so as to give his son a joyful experience whilst he calmed his nerves, but Ser Loras actually began to enjoy such a spectacle as the acrobatic jester performed several feats. Even granting a few giggles as the boy did his jokes.

Renly paid little mind right now though, for he needed to speak with his one time savior.

"Your sons name is Steffon?"

"My youngest boy is indeed."

"I am flattered that you would honor my father with such a naming. I've heard tell that you've an older boy named after my brother as well?"

"That's true talk. I named my sixth son Stannis to honor the man who gave him a chance at a decent living."

"So you've seven sons about you Ser Davos? The gods have certainly seen to your blessing."

"They've been kind, and I am thankful."

"Indeed. You saved us at Storm's End. We'd only just began to run out of dogs and cats. Had you come only a week later we would've had to eat our dead. I shall forever be in your debt for the service you did."

"W...I...Thank you Prince Renly, but I was just doing the right thing."

"That's true enough, but Stannis has repaid you with Lands and Robert with a title, yet I've not repaid my dues."

"You don't owe me a thing Prince Renly. I've all that could be needed thanks to your brother's generosity."

"But I do Ser Davos. I was in that siege same as Stannis, it's true that I have little to offer you that others have not given first. Gold I could give, yet you've known more since the war than you might've in your life as a smuggler, but what I can do is give your sons the opportunity to become great warriors in addition to knights. If that doesn't suite them then I'll arrange for highborn beauties to be there brides, enough of them follow me that I might spare seven."

"Th..That's very kind of you Prince Renly. Nothing would please me more than to see them given chances I never could've imagined."

"Speak your wish for all seven sons and I shall see it done Ser Davos. On my word as Prince of Dragonstone I shall do what I can, seven debts for the seven days I might've been from eating the dead had you not come along."

"Well...I've not really thought about such a thing. Dale is knighted and wed, he's a captain to his own crew upon Wraith."

"Tell me then, does he wish to sail? For if such a thing is his desire than I would make him my master of trade on Dragonstone."

"Tha...That's very kind Prince Renly. If you'd do such a thing I'll consider the debt repaid."

"Nonsense, I'll hear a wish for each of your children, and I will not let you escape my company until such a time."

"My son Allard, he's the most rash of my children, I've often said to his mother, my beloved Marya, that had I remained a smuggler he might've been sent to the Wall for such a crime. He's not got the temperament for that job, he's a bit hot headed, there's also a lust about him for women, but he's a good enough captain, and knighted as well."

"Sounds to me that what your Allard needs is not marriage, but position. Turns out I'm just now looking for a man to hire as a commander of the City Watch. What would you say Ser Davos for your son to join the guard that once hunted you?"

"I'd say it sounds like the smugglers in King's Landing are about to face one of their own, and be fucked by it."

"Wonderful, I shall speak with your Allard on the matter. Have all your sons accompanied you on this journey Ser Davos?"

"Dale, Allard, Matthos, Maric, Devan, and Steffon have indeed my Prince. Stannis has remained at home with his mother for the time being. She won't risk losing all her boys, even on a trip such as this where we are armed and protected, but I'll not take away what little comfort I can give her."

"You are a good man Ser Davos, and a Hero for me. Matthos and Maric are grown are they not?"

"Close enough, yet neither have sworn vows."

"Then I shall have them sworn on the morrow, and I'll do the dubbing myself. If you believe them not ready for such a position due to some flaw in their sword play we stand amongst the greatest swords in the realm."

"You'd really do that?"

"And More. When the time comes I'll find all your sons who wish it highborn beauties. If Matthos and Maric wish to join the City Watch then they shall fall into Allard's command, or leads of their own should they prove loyalty and worth."

"They are good boys, on that I would swear."

"Excellent. Now tell me of young Devan, what is his wish to be?"

"Stannis had previously agreed to squire my fifth son, but he spoke nothing of finding him a bride. If you should do that then consider his wish complete."

"Very good Ser Davos, and I shall. Yet that leaves only your last two sons. If your Lady wife requires one son to remain unto her person then I shall send my greatest knight at Dragonstone to aid in his upraising, and I shall make sure you have a proper maester sent to your lands with him."

"Thank you Prince Renly! We've been meaning to take on a Maester, but it's been difficult to make the coin necessary for upkeep in the Rainwood."

"Have no worry for that Ser Davos, I shall make sure every need is paid for from my own coffers. Dragonstone may seem a isolated fortress, but trade does come through such an area, and I profit greatly off the ships that visit Driftmark, Claw Isle, Sharp Point, and Sweetport Sound."

Davos nodded his head in recognition of the good fortune.

"Your boy Steffon must be what now Seven?"

"Indeed he is My Prince."

"Then it is time he is taken as a squire Ser Davos. And I've a great knight in mind."

The Onion Knight questioned only for a moment, yet Renly's eyes gave direction, and Ser Davos pieced the rest for himself.

Steffon Seaworth would squire for one of the most renowned knights in the Seven Kingdoms.

Ser Loras Tyrell, The Knight of Flowers.

"I cannot thank you enough Prince Renly, truly you've been too kind."

"Nonsense, I can never repay you for that which was done so long ago. Yet I will try Ser Davos, on that you have my word."

Lannister's aren't the only ones who pay their dues.

"Now come, I've seen one debt begun repayment now I mean to see another."

Renly rose from his seat and gathered the Onion Knight. Loras came after noticing their departure.

"You must watch this fool Renly!"

"He is no fool Loras, look at his eyes, behind the costume and within those big brown pupils is intelligence. I suspect he is less a fool than anyone realizes."

With that they entered the Long Dinner Hall and found many guests already arrived.

Time to pay another debt.

Chapter Text

Ser Davos Seaworth

The Onion Knight gathered his youngest son Steffon and entered the Hall of Kings. Many times in his youth had Davos seen the Red Keep, he'd lived in the poorest district of Flea Bottom as a boy after all, and as such he'd seen the nobility ride in their carriages about the city,

But never had Davos imagined being hosted in the Red Keep.

People spoke about the Onion Knight as if he'd single handedly saved the Baratheon war effort during Robert's Rebellion, yet Davos had done nothing more than what should've been done anyway.

Davos had went hungry plenty of nights, even been so skinny he'd have like to died, and no one deserves that torment.

Regardless what side of the Law they were on.

Robert and his two brothers had been every bit the outlaws that Davos had been when he aided Stannis. If they'd got captured though they'd have suffered a worse fate.

Some of the more snotty nobles held Davos as up jumped, claimed that he'd fallen in good graces with the right people, that he knew exactly what he was doing.

Yet Davos had never asked for a reward, and been hesitant to except once given. I was happy as a smuggler,

As he looked around the room though, seeing five of his seven sons happy, fed, and well dressed, Davos knew that this life was what he'd always hoped for them.

The Onion Knight followed his King's youngest brother into the Hall, finding that it had been elaborately set for the dinner party.

Seven tables decorated the Great Hall, and Davos couldn't help but hear Renly's voice even though the youth did not speak.

"Seven Tables for Seven Gods! With Seven Chairs each to Honor them Doubly!"

Renly loves his symbolism.

Well if there is a table for each God then which belongs to whom?

Three tables lined the left and three lined the right side of this Golden Hall, but a seventh table lied straight ahead, all were set around the room in a star formation, and each table was circular.

Davos found the first table on the left hand side to be near full, Renly doesn't mean to sit me there.

Instead the King's brother made motion for Steffon to take the last available seat at such a table. Renly guided him over there, and even had the decency to push Davos' youngest son's chair up against the table. Steffon had been seated next to his elder brother Maric, and around them were four frog faced children, the eldest might've been Maric's age, but the youngest was a girl closer in age to Steffon.

Once his duty had been done Renly then walked back around, yet as he circled the table he acknowledge the largest person unto the room. She was the greatest woman Davos had ever beheld, taller than most men and a better sword as well.

Brienne of Tarth had not originally been a part of Davos' company, but upon receiving word from her father's isle that Renly might be in danger, she met their party only days from the Capital. She'd at first been refused by Ser Axell, whom had apparently told her to settle down and be the woman her father always desired. The result of that confrontation had left Ser Axell's foxy garments dirtied.

When she attempted for a second time to join their party she'd lucked into confronting Dale, whom had taken great joy in the sullying of Ser Axell, Davos' eldest son gave her housing for the night before reporting to Davos come morning. The Onion Knight knew that Renly was fond of this astonishing woman, and so allowed her to continue with them.

Now here she sat in the Great Hall, and as Renly spoke with her Davos saw a smile come to the maid's face for the first time since she'd joined them. Everyone might've deemed her ugly, but the Onion Knight could tell that on the inside she was beautiful. Davos had known many terrible people from his smuggling days, the kind that would cut a man into pieces then fling them overboard for failing to deliver a shipment, but he'd known some good in his time too. Salladhor became a friend.

Perhaps this Brienne would become a similar acquaintance. Yet for know she remained seated amongst children, though she was well into her majority, and she wore boiled leather and mail instead of a ladies gown.

Men looked her sideways for such a instance, but Davos did not judge, he'd known what it was like to be wearing something different. The first feast he'd ever attended Davos wore raggedy cloth with several holes set about it.

Almost everyone who'd been in that hall had laughed at the Onion Knight's outfit, the jester included.

Yet Stannis had not laughed.

Though that was not a strange occurrence, the emotion that Prince Stannis put into his condemnation of such behavior was indeed uncharacteristic. His defense of the Onion Knight had been that unlike the stuck up nobles Davos had made something of himself, came from nothing and was now a landed knight for his efforts.

They'd shut right up after that. Yet Davos didn't want people to be embarrassed, and he certainly didn't want any resentment to follow him or his children.

Perhaps that's why Renly sat Maric and Steffon so far from the head table, To keep the highborn nobles from scoffing at his children.

But that can't be right, where are Dale, Allard and Matthos? Devan he'd begun his squire duties by remaining at Stannis' side for this occasion, but Davos was sure the rest of his children were about the hall.

He glanced to the table at his right whilst Renly made his way from the Sapphire eyed Brienne.

At this table sat Three hooked nosed men, Was it hooked nose or crooked that Stannis spoke of? Could the Prince's assailants be in this very hall?

Davos didn't imagine such a possibility could be a reality,

I'm barely qualified to be in here, surely a would be assassin isn't noble enough to be feasted in the King's Hall.

These three seemed as much brothers as Dale, Allard and Matthos. All three were draped in golden coats, and must've been City Watchmen. They drank together now and looked warily at Davos, signifying that he'd stared for too long.

So it was that the Onion Knight moved his gaze along to another gold clad individual. This one was not nearly so comely as his comrades, indeed ugly might've been a more apt description, and as he observed the table as a whole Davos found a great divide to be among them.

For while four seats belonged to men Davos could not name, the last three had been received to faces he could place.

Renly's maester, Pylos, had been sat facing inwards where the others had their backs turned. Such a man could have only been twenty and five, yet from all indications he'd proved diligent and kind. He was comely enough for Renly, but with the Knight of Flowers about the room even a well shaped man might be out shined.

At his right hand were two men who had traveled with Davos. The first was a familiar sight in Ser Andrew Estermont. Such a man was he that when rose upon his feet he stood a head above the Onion Knight. A smile was upon his face now, and ale was about his long pointy beard. At his side was Lord Bryen Caron's bastard son Ser Rolland Storm.

Too what god does this table owe thanks? It was not a thought he'd given Brienne's table, but Davos found himself intrigued by this group. It might've been where I was supposed to sit.

He knew little enough about the Gold cloaks, but from Davos' own experience he knew that while captains and commanders might be highborn, their grunts were most often the cityfolk of King's Landing. People who work just for a meal, or too support their families.

Davos had himself once thought of joining their ranks, a dream that had lasted until someone found out he had a talent for smuggling.

So these men might've been born so poor as he'd been, or they might be hand picked cutthroats.

That was so often how men moved up in the world.

Yet Davos knew enough about the other three to have not jumped towards a conclusion. Indeed Maester Pylos was of common birth, but had achieved much for himself from his studies as a maester, and Ser Andrew despite having been born into Nobility, was the first born of a second son, not likely to ever inherit, as a result everything he received in life would be his to struggle for. Finally the Bastard of Nightsong, he'd won a reputation as a skilled rider, and was heralded as a great warrior with sword in hand.

All these men are self made. With this table Renly intends to honor the Smith.

Such a thought did make Davos wonder what his sons Maric and Steffon's tables were intended as.

With Brienne as it's head the table might've been meant for the Maiden, but regardless of its symbolism the truth was that their table had to be a safety shelter for if conflict erupted.

In that instance Davos would be grateful that Brienne of Tarth had joined them.

"Are you coming Ser Davos?"

Snapping out of his deep fixation the Onion Knight realized that it was Renly who was calling for him.

"Yes Prince Renly, my apologies I was admiring the tapestries."

A big smile erupted upon the Prince of Dragonstone's face, and he turned to Ser Loras ever so slightly.

"Finally, someone appreciates my interior decorating."

What ever that was about Davos could not, would not, speculate upon. Who was the Onion Knight, a flea bottom survivor, to judge?

Davos followed behind his Prince, and they strode past two more sets of tables in their doing.

The one to Davos left was filled with court miscreants, one among them was a red priest, another had the pigmentation of a Summer Islander. Another was olive skinned as if Dornish. He did recognize the ginger haired Redwyne Twins though, and their sight brought back memories of the fleet Davos had bypassed on his way to Storm's End.

With them sat a thin beardless man, pale colored his eyes, and he appeared almost half a ghost. He did not eat or drink whilst Davos watched, and only when they locked eyes did the Onion Knight turn away.

Such a man had the look of an Executioner.

All of the seated men where known to be fixtures of the Royal court, they might even prove friends to Renly given time and favor.

What can they do for Renly? All at once the Onion Knight realized that his Prince meant for them to be his eyes and ears around Robert's court.

He seeks wisdom and guidance, a lamp to light his way...

Renly meant for this table to be his dedication in honor of the Crone.

Davos looked to the table adjacent and found an even clearer analogy.

For at such a seating could be found Westeros greatest knights. Among them was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy. At his left were the Bold Knight's sworn brothers Prince Lewyn Martell, Ser Arys Oakheart and Ser Mandon Moore.

Yet more interestingly sat alongside them were Ser Guyard Morrigen, whom had dressed himself in the green tunic he seemed to love so dear, Ser Balon Swann, Lord Gulian Swann second son, and the finest archer Davos had ever seen.

Both were renowned fighters in their own right, and so did not cause a glaring issue with Davos.

This table represents the Warrior.

But there was one strange inclusion that Prince Renly had made, for at Ser Barristan's right hand side sat Ser Axell Florent.

Lord Alester's younger brother was not worthy of such positioning, regardless of what his high birth entailed. He'd never proven himself able to best Davos, who himself hardly knew how to wield a sword, and had not gripped such a thing until coming of age. Neither of them could hope to best Dale, Allard or Matthos, So why was Ser Axell sat along with the Great Knights of Westeros?

Perhaps Renly had no where else to put him?

Nonsense, the Florents are an incredibly old an honorable house. If Renly meant to honor Ser Axell he could've put him closer to the head, so it must mean he intended to deprive him of placement, but in a way that seemed not so.

After thinking upon it for a moment longer Davos decided that his brain just didn't work the way that Prince Renly's did. It's hard enough to understand the logic of these Nobles, now I'm trying Royalty.

Davos still strode behind such a man, but as they neared the head table Davos was really looking for his seat. Yet as he gazed upon the last side tables he found that each had been filled.

To his right sat Davos' three eldest sons, whom all greeted their father warmly, and he might've sat with them had a chair been available. Instead, the four other chairs had been claimed and among them sat Ser Richard Horpe, and Ser Narbert Grandinson.

Along with them was Ser Alyn Estermont whom would one day be Lord of his namesake island. Davos hoped that his sons might leave a good impression upon such a man, for friendship with Estermont would be incredibly helpful for future trade between the Cape and Isle.

The final man sat around the table was Ser Cortnay Penrose. When Renly had mentioned finding new captains for the City Watch Davos had instinctively thought to this man. Lord Penrose's son was as good and courageous a man as could be hoped for, and had Davos not been named Castellan of Storm's End then Stannis might've honored such a man with that position.

Whom does this table honor? With the Maiden, Smith, Crone and Warrior already honored, and the Father doubtlessly being the head table, this must be either the Stranger or Mother.

Yet all these men were known to Renly, and each of them were born in good standing, even Davos' sons who might've been smugglers themselves had no war ever broke out.

This table means for the Mother. It has too, and Davos stuck to such a conclusion, even finding it reaffirmed once he gazed upon its opposite.

Sat at the sixth table were six gold cloak captains and their Commander. It had been so long since his smuggling days that Davos knew none of their names save one alone. For Ser Janos Slynt sat highest among them, and his frog face had not been forgotten. Those children seated with Maric and Steffon are his, he realized all at once.

Davos had minimal encounter with the Gold Cloaks Commander, but the Onion Knight had once memorized the daily patterns of each captain, even the one whose domain fell upon the Iron Gate. But never had they encountered one another.

Word had not escaped Davos though, this Janos was a cruel toad, and if Renly could be believed, had been bought by Littlefinger. Even to such a degree that he threatened Prince Stannis in open court.

Renly means this table for the Stranger.

It was the only possibility, he doesn't trust any of them, and means to find out which among them might be loyal to him.

And if Janos Slynt is lost then one among them might stand to benefit from loyalty to Renly.

The table housed six more men, and any of them might win the Prince's favor. The eldest among them seemed quite tall even while sat. His nose was hooked much like the youths Davos had passed at the entrance. Perhaps he is their father. He was of an age near Davos, and his sons with the Onion Knight's own brood, perhaps this man might prove loyal to Renly.

Yet Davos knew next to nothing about him, save what he could tell by the mans dress and physique. Upon his body he wore a personalized sigil, and it was crude much like the one Davos had made so many years ago. It was a black kettle set with a black orle on a red field, and from his huge knuckled hands and crooked teeth Davos could discern that this man had served many moons as an enforcer.

But to who does his loyalty lie?

At his side was another seemingly middle aged man, this one with nappy grey hair in place of white though. Strong and stocky was his build, and with a squashed nose and square jaw did he come. This man is a fighter, and one whose learned the hard way.

Yet he was not lowborn, for he too had a sigil at his breast. Davos knew not which house he represented but this plain faced man bore a brown bear paw set on a white field. Still though, this man did not sit at attention like might've been expected one of higher birth,

Perhaps he is a lesser son of the lords cousin?

Nobility was so strange in that way. It seemed after a few generations people only cared about the eldest branch, Davos hoped such would not be the case with his own house.

Hopefully Dale takes care of his brothers, and their sons after them.

Next was a man Davos did not recognize, but by the designation of his uniform this man was the Dragon Gates captain. Davos remembered some muttering about a Humfrey Waters, and perhaps that name matched this man.

Davos did know the next face though, for such a mug belonged to Lord Jon Arryn's old squire, the now Ser Hugh of the Vale. This formerly moon clad knight was wearing golden enamel now, but to Davos recollection such a position had only recently been granted.

Before joining the Gold Cloaks Ser Hugh had retained in Jon Arryn's personal guard. It could've only been since Lord Arryn's death that the youth joined the City Watch.

Perhaps he means to seek out the truth of Lord Arryn's demise, much like we look to oust Stannis' would be assassin. Such a goal would align with ours.

He might yet be an ally.

At his side was a Lannister. Such a look was plain for this boy, as he bore gold spun hair and emerald green eyes. Lions have overrun this City.

Davos remembered a time of Dragons, but it seemed the age of House Lannister had come.

This one was a cousin to the Queen, but not of Ser Kevan's brood. Instead it seemed the relation came from their mothers side of the family. Perhaps her half brother's son? Davos could not be sure.

It was difficult to discern who was whom when the family had grown so large that they intermarried one another. Davos had known many women, but none had been of a relation that he'd known, and his Beloved Marya was certainly not kin to Davos.

How hard could it be to find a significant other who isn't related to you?

Lastly at that table was a man with an iron right hand. Salt and pepper adorned his scalp, with close set eyes pairing and a prominent brow resting above them. This man was another fighter who'd been rewarded for his deeds, and so might be amiable to Renly's cause.

Finally though Davos came to a horrifying conclusion. There aren't any seats left for me...Where does Re...

"Ser Davos please come take your seat."

To the Onion Knight's horror his suspicion had been confirmed. I'll be sitting at the head table.

Such a position he most certainly felt unworthy of, yet he strode towards it regardless.

Indeed on this night Davos found himself dining with members of King Robert's Small Council.

Among them were old Grand Maester Pycelle, Foreign eunuch Varys, the High Septon, and Lord Petyr Baelish.

Loras Tyrell sat at Renly's right whilst Davos sat at the Prince's left.

Finally once all had been seated the dinning commenced. Davos had been fed great meals before, but never on such a scale nor in the King's court. So he found himself nearly overwhelmed by his situation, and for a while refused to indulge himself in the pleasures other men might've reveled in.

Yet Prince Renly finally moved his eyes from his Rose and gazed upon Davos.

By this point Pycelle had fallen asleep from a full stomach, and the High Septon had taken his leave as he'd downed to much wine. So all that remained to the table were Loras, Renly, Davos, Varys and Lord Petyr Baelish.

"Have you had your fill my Onion Knight?"

"No. I've...Um, well to be honest it's all a bit surreal my Prince." Yet it was not the Prince who spoke back to Davos.

"It is quite grand is it not? Overwhelming even, especially for a man whose origins begin in Flea Bottom. You must've grown up staring at Aegon's fort, watching noble after noble stride about the walls, and dining on food you could only imagine. I'm sure that you feel quite strange Ser Davos, but know that you are not alone, even at this table. I was born in Essos with similar lands and titles to my name as you, that is to say none, yet I've found myself in the Red Keep of King's Landing regardless."

"Well... thank you Lord Varys, I ...suppose that I'm not so much an outsider as I might expect."

Petyr Baelish chuckled at such a conclusion before himself speaking.

"Right you are. My own great grandfather was of no nobler birth than you Ser Davos. He was a sellsword from Braavos who came to these lands with little to his name other than the steel in his hands. He served many long years under Lord Corbray before finally being given a piece of land upon the smallest of Fingers. As I understand it you've similarly been given some land have you not?"

"Yes, Prince Stannis saw fit to reward me with a keep along the Cape."

"Ahh so you were similarly gifted with meager lands then. No offense Prince Renly, I've always found you to be the superior gift giver amongst your brothers."

Renly chuckled and supped on some wine, intent to let such a statement go, but Davos refuted him.

"Well it's not so bad. The Keep's nothing compered to Robert's but I've got little to complain of, there is a roof over my head and food on my children's plates. Not much more could I desire as a father."

Littlefinger smiled at such a notion.

"As a father perhaps, but every man must desire something for himself, and all he needs to do is find himself in bed with the right people. You most certainly made well with your selection Ser Davos. Tell me if you will, how you deduced whose side to fall upon during the Rebellion."

"I didn't fall upon any side Lord Baelish."

"Sure you did Ser Davos! There would've been little reason to risk your life at the Siege of Storm's End if not for a reward. And beside Mad King Aerys would've had more than just your finger tips if you'd been caught, as I heard King Robert was so pleased he dismissed any former wrong doing!"

"Ser Davos asked for nothing Lord Baelish, everything that he's received was given as recompense" replied Renly.

"Perhaps, though I must say for a smuggler then you've a heart made from gold about you Ser Davos."

"Just because you've never done anything for anyone else doesn't mean everyone is similarly cold hearted Lord Baelish" Renly responded.

"Tsk. You've misread me Prince Renly, I'm a selfless man if ever one did live. I want only two things from this life, and everyone else is welcome to what they will."

"Indeed, and I assume then that the first of these desires is the hand of a woman whom you cannot have."

"Perhaps, Lady Catelyn is a women the likes of which you've never beheld Prince Renly. I'd say for certain her like you shall never know, but I know her carnally for it was I whom took her virginity."

"And fought for her hand did you not? How did that end up for you Lord Baelish? And you are one to speak of gifted opportunities! If not for your father befriending Lord Hoster then you'd still reside on your little rock." Loras Tyrell was a bit red, whether from wine or anger Davos could not tell. Perhaps both as he stared at Littlefinger with murderous intent.

The master manipulator only upturned one corner of his mouth before bringing them back to center.

"Ser Loras I'm not sure how you can speak of my opportunities with privilege so prevalent upon your own tongue. The gods themselves made you beautiful, and chose you to be born unto House Tyrell with all the honor and prestige that implies. Any whim that you've ever had, every desire, all of it fulfilled at your leisure. Have you known struggle Ser Loras?"

"I've known hardship Lord Baelish."

Littlefinger abandoned words for laughter,

"Suppose that you do. How shortsighted of me, I see now though. You have, and shall forever be, denied that which you desire the most. Ser Loras you chase the sun but cannot hope to capture it. Love is a beautiful thing, but get too close and you'll burn. I know this to be true, dueling for Lady Catelyn's hand was the most gallant thing I've ever done, and I nearly paid the ultimate price for it."

Loras leaned forward onto the table,

"You were a fool to duel Brandon Stark. Were that he'd killed you the realm might be better off."

Have we abandoned subtlety at this dinner?

But Lord Baelish simply chuckled and then downed a sip of wine.

"Close enough he came. It was that day I learned I'm no fighter. I've never been fond of the feel of cold steel, suppose that I always favored the warm kisses of Lord Hoster's daughters. But I have a weapon all unto my own Ser Loras, one that no other may wield."

"And what is that?"

"My mind."

Loras Tyrell laughed unknowingly, but Davos eyed Renly and it seemed the youngest Baratheon was rightly concerned.

"No one's ever killed another with their mind Lord Baelish, if it were such then my Grandmother would reign as Queen and only House Tyrell would remain as her subjects."

"Your Queen of Thorns is witty as they come, but she's barely managed her own vassals, how could she hope to rule a realm?"

The Knight of Flowers seemed to freeze at such a question. Apparently Lord Baelish knows something he's not supposed too.

"And a great expert upon managing vassals are you then Lord Baelish? I forget, how many hold fealty to you?" said a sly spider.

"More than you Lord Varys. Though it's true enough that I'm undermanned, but eventually fortune may favor me same as its done my forefathers."

"So you'd assign good fortune as the reason you've land to call your own?"

"No, fortune is merely a byproduct of success, in this world you either climb to the level you desire to be on or you fall to your breaking."

"That's a very dark view of the world Lord Baelish."

"Perhaps for a Eunuch, you've no family to fight for and little ambition necessary to your happiness, but take our Onion Knight, had Ser Davos been contempt with his positioning as a common piss drinker and smuggler then never could he hope to dine with the Small Council. Yet he took a great risk in delivering food to Princes Renly and Stannis, now he has lands and titles to his name. Even his sons shall benefit from his actions, and their children after them."

Such a vile man Davos had never seen before in his life, but he had a point.

Life was a bit like climbing. There were ups and downs, people who rose and people who fell.

"Honestly you are quite right, it seems that men either make something of themselves and are rewarded for it, or they rest upon previous laurels."

"Finally! It only took me a decade to find another man who understands such a truth."

"A man is worth more than his birth."

Lord Baelish smiled, and raised his cup to such a notion.

"Well said Ser Davos. Let us drink to that kind of wisdom."

The Finger Lord toasted with no one in particular, for none at the table drank with him, but he gobbled down what was poured regardless.

"You've thrown a fine feast Prince Renly. Though I really must be returning to my doings now."

"Off to run amongst your whores Lord Baelish?" questioned Loras. Renly turned wide eyed to his Rose, but the words could not be returned to whence they'd came.

Petyr remained seated and smiled at the Knight of Flowers.

"I know more about whores than the entirety of House Tyrell, that much is true. Perhaps its a bit to dirty a business for Golden Roses, but we serve all kinds Ser Loras. Poor or Noble, and I cater to all desires, regardless of my personal opinion on them."

"We've no need for your whores Lord Baelish" Loras responded defiantly.

"Such a shame, many girls in my brothels desire only to stroke your ringlets, but I fear they shall live, grow old, and die before you'd visit their bedside."

The Knight of Flowers was now boiling, but Renly spoke in his friends defense.

"Loras is above the use of your girls Littlefinger, only the fairest of maidens could hope to have him."

Petyr Baelish let out a laugh louder than any he'd given before.

"Your brother named you Master of Laws Prince Renly, but I'd have you serve as Master of Irony."

Silence overcame the table, and eyes dotted from around the room. An all out fight in the King's Hall became a horrifyingly realistic possibility, and if Davos didn't do something soon then his sons might be right in the middle of it.

"Lord Baelish I've a question for you,"

For the first time this evening Littlefinger seemed confused. He was the one who asked the questions,

Yet he did not hesitate to give Davos approval for such a incursion. Baelish thinks he has all the answers.

"As an eligible bachelor yourself you've chosen to remain unwed. If I am to believe what I've heard you have eyes only for Lady Catelyn Stark, there is no gossip of you taking a lover, and word has reached my ear that you take none of your employees to bed, but as the Master of Coin you could set an appropriate marriage for yourself, so why haven't you?"

The implications made Baelish smile, almost if he'd conceived the notion as well played.

"I'm beginning to see why Prince Stannis has kept you by his side Ser Davos. Its true I lost my heart to Brandon Stark, and as you said I've lands that someone must inherit. It is also truth that I must acquire some sons for such a thing, but I've plenty time left unto me."

"Indeed Lord Baelish, you've time much like my dear brother Stannis. Thankfully the assailant was unsuccessful in their attempt upon his life, it's only a shame that my brother shall wake without such a hint towards the identity of his attacker. No sight of him have we managed, but there are few in this city who have knowledge of it's inter workings. Even fewer who know about this castle's secret passages."

Baelish gave a sly smile, He must know something. Yet Littlefinger refuted such knowledge with his words.

"There is little doubt that you blame me for what happened to Prince Stannis."

"So you deny any connections to Stannis' assault?"

"With every ounce of my being Prince Renly! If someone wanted your brother dead they'd desire someone to frame as well, and why not the master of coin who'd just been assaulted by Stannis?"

"You're the only one with a motive!" bellowed a definitively drunken Loras Tyrell. Men began to stir around the hall as if conflict truly was about to begin.

Yet somehow Lord Petyr Baelish stilled the room with only a gesture of his hand.

"Many about the Capital and Realm as a whole would claim benefit with Stannis' demise. Let it not be forgotten whom tempers Robert's gift giving, there are those who remember Stannis' abolishment of brothels in the Stormlands, and those who've lost loved ones from his unwavering judgments."

"And you'd name these things sufficient to see my brother's life at an end?" Renly asked with cool courtesy. Davos was very impressed with the Prince's temperament, he'd managed to stay cool and level headed where his brothers would've fallen short such an example.

"Not I Prince Renly, yet I'll acknowledge that men do wicked things when their coffers are in question. Look at what Stannis did to me once he learned of King Robert's spending."

The Vale Lord tugged at his neck collar as if to show some sign of bruising.

Yet all that could be seen were the ends of his battle wounds.

"You're enabling him!" Loras cried, but this time his words did not go unanswered.

"Ser Loras, manage your tongue better or see yourself from this hall. I'll not have you throw one more insult in Lord Petyr Baelish's face."

For a moment Prince Renly sounded like his brothers, and the stern look he cast gave every indication of a true Baratheon.

The Rose wilted just a bit in his pride, but sprung back in vengeance. He upturned his comely nose and rose from the round table before flapping his flowery coat and bidding them all farewell as he retired from them.

He stormed out of the Great Hall, and all the while Renly rolled his eyes in disbelief and annoyance.

"I should pray that no one attempts to enter his bed chamber on this night, I've heard the Knight of Flowers can be particularly prickly when in a drunken rage. There's even a juicy rumor from Highgarden that he once killed a man he found abed in his nightly residence."

Baelish was clever with his insults, Davos would give him that.

Still Renly remained poised though, and so did not allow his emotions to overtake him.

If Renly assaulted Baelish then this room might become a riot, and with Robert gone and Stannis laid up who controls the castle?

Davos had more men in the Red Keep, but Littlefinger held the greatest force in King's Landing.

"What talk of reconciliation can there be between you and Prince Stannis?" asked the Spider, whom was almost clearly trying to maintain order here and now.

"Reconciliation? My dear Varys you've read me all wrong! I hold no enmity for our Prince, he simply had a poor reaction to a rather inconsequential truth. It's his brother that should concern him, I'm but the Man our King sends to find gold after all."

"And so you wave your hand about his head, pull money from the Iron Bank, and then display it as Robert's wealth."

"Not entirely Prince Renly, should we limit spending for the remainder of this year then our debt should be manageable once more. The Iron Bank is flexible on it's terms for such an entity shall never know an end, so long as we continue payment they shall not fault us."

"You mean to say the Iron Bank is patient for what it's due?" Davos had never lended money, but he'd also never known a Braavosi who was gifted with great patience.

"Indeed Ser Davos, so long as the Throne continues to pay off what is owed they will happily collect interest."

Renly smiled and drew his hands together at such talk.

"Very good, Stannis may forgive you yet! Though I should think that if you'll bring him his assailant that he may even gift you a hug. A rarer thing I've yet too know."

Baelish chuckled, but a realization was behind his eyes.

"Indeed. I've little desire for further conflict with the Royal family, so to prove my devotion I shall double the City Watch's efforts in locating this assailant."

"Could it have been a faceless man from Braavos Lord Baelish? Perhaps only one of such skill might've been able to breach the Red Keep?"

Why was Lord Varys asking this question?

"I dare say it was not. If it had been then Prince Stannis would be dead, and I dare not even think of the price they'd have asked for. If it had been a man from the house of black and white we'd have no chance of capturing him, and might so well name the next man we find on the streets as the culprit, for that would be so close as we might come to the truth."

"Thank you for enlightening me Lord Baelish, I'm more antiquated with the southern free cities, and Braavos still seems a strange place to me."

"One more favor I should hold for you Lord Varys. Yet I think instead that I'll take my leave if the Prince shall permit it this time."

Renly supped on one final sip of wine, before smiling and bidding Lord Baelish a fair evening.

As the Master of Coin established his retreat from the Hall several other men began to do the same.

"Wh..Wha..What's going on?" Finally the Grand Maester had awoken from his slumber.

Yet none at the table paid him attention for in such a commotion Prince Renly turned towards Davos and began to speak smilingly.

"If Stannis' assailant remains in the Capital then we shall soon have him."

"But what of Lord Baelish? Won't the immediate capture of such a man prove that he knew whom it was whilst he sat here?"

"There is no chance that Littlefinger shall be around when this man is brought to justice, rather it shall be one of the City Watch captains who presents him. The better for us as Ser Janos Slynt gains no glory, and we might make an ally out of whom does present us the culprit. I'm now mostly certain that Petyr Baelish is at most only partially involved, or that he learned of such a plot after its occurrence."

"So this night was meant only to bring Littlefinger to our side."

"Were that every member of our guard had your critical mind Ser Davos, Lord Baelish is far to influential to be brought down right now. Only with Robert on his throne could we hope to have the legitimacy needed to sway the goldcloaks to our side. Until then Littlefinger is irreproachable."

"But I promise you this my Onion Knight, if Lord Petyr Baelish did have something to do with Stannis' assault then I'll see him hung for it."

He has his brother's strength.

The Prince of Dragonstone turned and faced the Eunuch,

"I'll see anyone involved hung for it."

Lord Varys hid a mortified look behind an unflinching face. Davos wouldn't have recognized such a look if he'd not spent so many years a smuggler.

Does Renly think Varys had a hand in this? The Onion Knight had not come to such a conclusion, but it was possible, and the Grand Maester might've been a part too. After all he'd been denied the right to treat Prince Stannis.

Perhaps the plot had been for Baelish to hire the assassin, Varys to smuggle him in, and Pycelle to make sure the Prince succumbed to his wounds.

Such a scheme made Davos rethink everything he'd held true about this evening, yet before he could fully wrap his head around such a thing the Prince of Dragonstone arose from his seat.

"If you'll excuse me gentlemen, there are matters I must attend too."

Renly bid his farewell and strode forth from the room whilst several eyes followed him.

Yet Davos was stuck in his seat, still contemplating all the things that had fallen before him.

"So are you to stay long in our midst Ser Davos?"

"At least till Prince Stannis is back upon his feet."

The Spider smiled politely on this occasion.

"Very good. Your presence has been a welcome relief, King's Landing has been made brighter by your presence. Are your sons to remain with you as well?"

Davos looked around nervously now, if only a few minutes ago such a conversation had taken place then Davos might've revealed Renly's plot to see Dale, Allard and Matthos placed in the Goldcloaks.

Yet with his suspicions against the Spider now prevalent upon his mind Davos made sure to keep a hold on his tongue.

"They'll be lodging in the Keep no doubt. But I pray they'll return home and see there mother soon enough. She grows to miss them more and more each day that they are away."

"Indeed. A mother's love is the most tender and sweet. Yet she does have reason to fear their loss."

The Spider rose from his seat with elegant ease, and for a moment he looked the image of a much greater man.

"As you and I know, King's Landing is a dangerous place. We shall have to be extra careful to ensure their safety."

With that said the Eunuch spun from his chair, and walked briskly away from the Onion Knight.

Was that a threat? So many possibilities came to Davos in this moment that he ignored whatever the ancient Grand Maester was muttering, eventually only one thought remained in his mind after winning out above all others.

"Keep our boys safe."

I will Marya.

Chapter Text

Lord Eddard Stark

Morning came quicker than Ned had expected, but when he'd woken the Lord of Winterfell found his loving wife wrapped within his arms. She'd not slipped back into her evening gown after they'd made love last night, and so she rested next to him nude.

Even after all these years of marriage, and despite the five children she'd given him, Catelyn felt her duty was not done. She'd give me one more if she could. Ned was finding his hands full with the children he already had, and so wasn't sure how he could manage one more.

Yet gazing upon her sleeping body Ned found the same woman he'd married so many years ago, she'd hardly aged since then, the cold has preserved her.

After a while of stares Catelyn must've felt his eyes weighing upon her, for the Lady of Winterfell did rouse from her slumber. She opened her deep blue Tully eyes and gazed back up into her husbands.

Soon enough a smile formed upon her lips, and she spoke for the first time that day.

"How long have you been staring at me?"

"Just long enough to admire your beauty."

She pulled up from the bed, keeping her body lustily tucked in with their sheets as she did, and planted a warm kiss upon his lips.

Ned might've tried for more if he'd had enough time, but he knew the morning had already started later than he'd hoped. His eyes went around the room and he took recollection of all the things he'd be leaving behind.

Catelyn must've caught his gaze for she raised a question too him.

"Are you ready to leave?"

"I never thought I'd have to again. Figured I'd call the North home till my days came to an end."

His wife pulled up into his chest, hugging him as she did and doing her very best to comfort the man she'd come to love.

"The south's not so bad. Have you forgotten it's where I hail from?"

Ned rubbed her back as he gazed out the bedroom window, snow was falling from the sky with gentle ease, and in this moment he desired to be nowhere else.

But after an instant of relief did the nightmares come. The ones that haunted his day rather than those of the night, and so upon him once more were the visages of his past.

Lyanna, and Brandon appeared before him. Then father after them. One in a pool of her own blood, another dead upon the ground strangled too death, and the last burnt till nothing remained of the suit he'd been encased in.

That was their fate when they went South.

And Ned had been forced to bury them all.

Only Ben had escaped unscathed, but he'd not went south.

He'd never meant to once again travel below the Neck, yet there were his things, packed and ready for the long journey they were too take.

Into the most dangerous place in the world.

The Lord of Winterfell had been prepared to die for a long time, but he would not let his children fall victim to the same fates of his siblings.

"Ned, have you thought any more about where the children should be fostered?"

It was something that they'd spoken at length about several times, but as she said, Ned had never come to a formal decision.

Had he been given his choice then perhaps Sansa might've gone to the Last Hearth, Catelyn favored the Smalljon above all other Northmen as her future husband, and Arya could've gone to Bear Island so that she might be raised like the warrior women she idolized so much. Bran would've gone down to Moat Cailin, for Ned had a debt to pay Howland, and perhaps they might've solved it through marriage. Bran would like Meera, she's pretty enough for him. Surely he could get past their odd customs and take her for what she is.

Yet at Rickon Ned had always faltered, no where could he see his youngest son being fostered. He was far to rowdy and temperamental for anyone but Catelyn to handle, but it didn't matter. None of his planning really mattered right now.

They'd all have to travel south towards King's Landing.

Perhaps after a while they might desire a northern return...

"I have thought about it. But I'm still having trouble Catelyn, Rickon is to marry a princess and he can hardly sit in a room for more than a minute without growing impatient, and Arya is now to be the Queen one day!"

"They'll grow into it Ned. You have to remember they are just children, you were not so well spoken when of their age I'm sure."

Ned laughed and kissed her forehead,

"Now how could you know such a thing."

"Because when we first met you were far more timid then even I'd been."

"Well, we did get married in your home."

Catelyn laughed at his jest, but once she'd calmed her breath she brought up a point she'd been meaning to make.

"Speaking of my home Ned, I want to travel back there. I've been apart from Riverrun so long I can hardly remember it, and I wish to hug my brother and be kissed by my father."

Ned had no problem with her traveling, she was Lady Stark and so could do as she pleased.

"You know it's not on the King's road?"

She looked half annoyed, as if it had not been a legitimate question.

"I know it's a bit off course, but I'd really like to go. I know that Robert wants Arya and Rickon to be with their prospective significant others so much as possible, but he has no plans for Bran nor Sansa."

Catelyn must've read some criticism that Ned did not mean for she continued trying to convince him.

"Neither has ever seen my childhood home, and my father's not seen either of them in five years."

This time Ned would be more direct.

"You have my permission Catelyn. I shall not keep you from doing this thing, but you must promise to be careful."

"My father shall protect us, and the Riverlords know me, despite these many years away they'll recognize me at first glance, I sat with my father on many an occasion and learned of each man."

"Such was your duty then?" Ned smiled,

The Lady of Winterfell rose from their bed and planted a kiss upon her husband.

"Thank you, now it's time to get ready. Else wise we shall be late."

She departed from his bedside and went about getting ready for their departure, yet Ned remained under his covers for a few moments more. Thoughts swirled of those he'd lost, but the most recent stood out upon his mind.

They'd held Vayon's funeral only a few days ago.

He'd died not knowing the truth.

A casualty of Ned's many promises.

Robert would've never called for a trial by combat if he'd known that the girl Joffrey assaulted was Ned's own blood.

His King might've sentenced the boy to a life of labor on the spot had he known what pain the Prince had actually inflicted.

Finally Ned Stark did rise from his false slumber, and he found himself soon dressed and on his way to breakfast. Many goodbyes would he say on this day, but the first would be too his brother.

Ben sat unaccompanied in their private dining solar. After a few minutes of scarfing down the present food they began to speak properly.

"Be careful down there Ned."

Ned had wrestled with this journey for so long, and even as he was about to take his first steps the Lord of Winterfell was hesitant.

Yet Benjen provided words of encouragement.

"Remember this brother. You are not Father, nor are you Brandon. You've a different temperament about you then they had, one that might lead to your being remembered like Cregan Stark himself!"

Such a name brought pain to Lord Rickard's eldest surviving son, for that name brought back the deal Eddard had made with Lord Wyman Manderly.

A thing he'd still failed to speak with his brother upon.

Benjen read whatever pain was on Ned's face and so asked what could be wrong.

"We have something to speak of, I spoke with Wyman Manderly, and his loyalty and desire lie on Robb wedding his eldest granddaughter. But such a thing I cannot give him right now, and so I compromised in my struggle. I am sorry."

The youngest of Rickard's brood seemed more intrigued than angry as Ned revealed what he'd done.

"So Cregan is to marry Wylla Manderly?"

"I've given such a thing, even when it was not mine to give. For that I can only apologize Ben."

Yet Benjen still seemed unfazed.

"Well it's a good match, though I should think Cregan might be disappointed. He had his heart set on Lord Rickard Karstark's daughter, but I'm sure he'll warm to this match."

"You're not upset? I mean as a lord you've the right to make your own matches, and I took that from you."

Benjen laughed right after his elder brother finished speaking.

"Of course I'm not mad! You've made my life easier brother. I'm certain Wylla Manderly will come with a rather helpful dowry, one that might enable me to finish the fortification's we've been discussing. Besides, you've a talent for matchmaking. Found that out first hand, and I've two beautiful children with my lady wife thanks to it."

Ned was then toasted by his brother and so they both supped on morning ale. Yet after their gulp Benjen sat his mug down and became serious.

"I'm more concerned for the boy though."

Without any thought Ned knew of whom he spoke.

"You're going to be away for quite a while, will you tell him before you go?"

Such a thing had not come close to being considered, Ned had so much else going on right now that he'd allowed his sister's son to revel in the marriage he'd found great happiness through.

I can't upturn his world right now, not when I'll be leaving and unable to explain everything in great depth. Ned couldn't stomach the thought of his adoptive son festering hatred for him.

None of that reached his throat though, and what did made Ned sound stubborn as all hell.

"I'll tell him. But not now."

"So be it, but the boy deserves to know who his mother was at least, even if you don't tell him who his real father is. Longer you wait the more it will hurt."

Benjen rested his argument with such a statement, and they spoke no more on the matter for just then did his younger brother's family enter the room.

Cregan and Lysara strode through first, and the girl hugged her departing uncle, followed by a manly handshake from his nephew.

Yet as Ned looked upon his brothers grey eyed son he couldn't help but wonder how angry the youth should be once he hears of what Lord Eddard had arranged for him.

Long ago Ned himself had struggled with the concept of an arranged marriage, but everything had worked out for him.

The Lord of Winterfell continued on his way so that he might take his leave, but the Lady of Sea Dragon Point stopped him with an out held hand.

"Everything will be alright, and you come home understand? Don't leave us like Brandon did."

Ned couldn't even muster words for his eldest brother's former lover, she'd grown to be House Stark's most vocal supporter during her lifetime and even found love again with Benjen.

But instead he offered her a hug, and she accepted such a thing.

Afterwards Ned strode forth from the Keep of his forefathers, and gathered before him were the mass of vassals who'd made there way to Winterfell in preparation for the King's arrival.

Ryswell, Dustin, Hornwood, Karstark, Tallhart, Cerwyn, and Glover all received a turn to wish Lord Stark safe travels. Yet Ned found himself going through the motions with them until he reached his maester and master at arms.

"How is Lady Jeyne?"

"I've given her what care that I can. She'll never recover what external beauty she had before, but I dare say that she'll regain speech and smell soon enough, And then the true beauty about her will shine once more."

News like that was what Ned needed.

"Make sure that Robb is informed of such a thing, he worries day and night for her sake."

"Yes My Lord." The Maester bowed and saw himself off.

"Are my guards well prepared Ser Roderick."

"Indeed, better trained than you that's for certain. I'll question till my dying day how you managed to best Ser Arthur Dayne."

"And I'll keep that secret from you till my dying day."

The two embraced like the brothers they'd become.

"Jory leads them, and he's brought his best."

"Alyn and Harwin are among them?"

Ned had originally desired for the two living sons of his brother to remain in Winterfell, but as Ser Roderick had said they were the very best fighters available to Jory's retinue. They'd taken their fathers innate talent for swordplay in equal measure to their looks.

"Indeed, and they've both sworn to see Jory returned to me. He's all that I have left of my brother."

"I remember him, and I'll make sure his son is safe just as he shall me."

The Master at arms nodded at such an oath and so Ned was allowed to move on.

Through the crowd he continued to work until he came upon the Umbers, Mormont's and Manderly's.

Ned gave them each the time they were due, but to Lord Wyman did Ned speak words other than those custom dictated.

"My brother has agreed to your proposal Lord Manderly, soon we shall be bound in matrimony."

His richest vassal might've jumped up into the air if he'd not been so hefty. So instead he smiled and told Ned that with luck on their side there would be more than one wedding to come.

"Please allow my son some time Lord Manderly, he griefs day and night for the girl, let him fall gently I beg you."

"Your son shall be allowed every comfort My Lord, and should the open arms of Wyna be those he falls into then we shall all be more happy for it. That said I dare not go against your wishes Lord Eddard, I shall make no mention of such a thing right now."

Very good. Wyman Manderly was honest and loyal if nothing else.

"Excellent, thank you Lord Manderly, and I have it on good word then that the wedding of Cregan and Wylla shall take place in due time."

"Indeed Lord Stark. You will be invited of course, I intend to host a large reception in White Harbor. From there they might visit where ever Benjen's son's heart desires!"

What his heart desires is to abandon White Harbor in favor of Karhold.

Yet Ned kept this too himself, and so thanked the Warden of the White Knife before continuing on to Ned's own family.

His eyes beheld them all at first, but Ned could only stand to look upon those who were traveling with him first.

Rickon stood with far too little in his hands, no bags were about him, and on his person only a few wooden toys remained. The clothes he wore had become so dirty that Lord Stark might've doubted they'd been cleaned at all if it had not been he who'd washed them. A shame I labored for such a thing.

At the boys feet was his dark haired wolf pup, it's green eyes emulated anger her and now. As if it knew the boy would be riding in a separate carriage. Yet Rickon needed to be social with Robert's young daughter, and it's presence would do the scraggly youth no favors.

Behind him Bran hugged his silver haired sister before turning to face his father. The boys clothes were also dirty, though their filth was a grey that might've only come from the youth climbing.

Catelyn caught his stare,

"Bran was starting to climb the broken tower when I found him."

"Why would you do such a thing Brandon? It's crumbling, you might've taken a fall my boy."

"I know...it's just well, I had a dre..."

"What Bran?"

"Nothing. It's just the only place I hadn't climbed in Winterfell. I wasn't sure if I'd get another chance, I know we're going to be gone along time."

Arya punched her little brother in the shoulder, and when she did the two direwolves at their feet began to growl at one another.

"Shut up! We're not going to be gone that long! I don't even want to leave. Why can't I stay? I'm a Big Girl!"

Robb leaned into comfort his little sister, but the youth swatted at him in return. The auburn haired Stark reeled back, and so she came short of hitting him.

"Enough" Ned bellowed.

Arya fell to her bussom, and laughter erupted adjacent to her. Ned did not look but he knew such sounds were a combination of wolves, dragons, and krakens.

Yet Arya, the wild daughter, was his concern. After a bit of fatherly chiding she fell into line though.

Such a spot happened to be next to her elder sister.

Sansa was the picture of a southern lady, and had favored her mother more than any of her siblings. She'd taken the Tully blue eyes and thick auburn hair, even the high cheekbones she wore so proudly came from her mothers half.

Ned had left little of himself in her, and would wonder if any was given at all if not for the pup that lied at her feet.

This grey furred wolf was the most behaved of her brood and so sat patiently for her litter.

Both were bright eyed and excited for the journey to come, unaware of what they were leaving behind.

Catelyn stood by her after further scolding Arya and it seemed she was now eager to become the Hand's wife over Lady of Winterfell. It will do her good to travel south once more, and see her father and brother once more.

After gazing upon those who'd be coming with him Ned finally risked a glance upon his elder children. Men would say Ned Stark fathered four sons and two daughters, but that was not the truth. For the Lord of Winterfell counted a far larger family as his own.

It was true that he'd fathered six children himself, but one was not in their midst.

Would she even recognize me as her father?

Dyanna... The girl he'd left in Dorne.

It was doubtlessly for her sake that Ned had fostered such a large pack.

To make up for his failing her,

Ned had made sure the rest of his Stark brood was never left wanting.

Six children had he fathered, but eight more did he count as his own.

Cregan and Lysara were Stark's every bit so much as Robb and Sansa, but along with Dyanna there were those who did not live as the Stark's they were.

One was the broken girl who rested even as her uncle departed, but with him did travel her two unknowing elder brothers. The sons of Lord Eddard's own.

Ned had taken care of them as best he could, and would continue to do so for Brandon's sake.

Harwin and Alyn shall be by my side, nothing should happen to them.

Yet three more there were, and he looked first too the eldest among them. At twenty and two Theon Greyjoy had spent twelve years in Winterfell.

Two longer than he'd spent at Pyke.

The youth had grown to see his captor as a father, and the Lord held his hostage as a son. Theon reached outwards a hand so that he might shake, but Ned took him into a hugging embrace. Ned released the lad, but the boy lingered in his shock for a moment.

When finally he did let go, his eyes kept hold and followed as Ned moved to the silver haired dragon and her half blooded groom.

Even after all these years violet eyes stood out as a true spectacle, but long ago had Ned given up seeing Dany for the woman she'd been born as, and so instead Ned held Daenerys as a daughter.

Upon returning her freedom Ned was met with the grip of his sisters son.

Their embrace was warm, yet always would there be something between them.

Forever would Jo... Prince Aemon, think bastardy the root cause of such distance.

But Ned had long withheld the real truth.

As he gazed into the ever so slightly indigo eyes Ned saw not just Lyanna, but Prince Rhaegar staring back.

Such resemblance was haunting, and these ghosts beckoned for truth.

Ned remembered his promise under the weirwood, and the one he'd made in Dorne, yet Lyanna's boy turned his back like he'd forgotten entirely what was owed.

"Jon."

The youth turned back to face his adoptive father. A smile on his face after glancing at his lady wife.

"I loved your mother, same as I love you. She's gone, has been for a long time. I brought you back North because she couldn't."

Such words brought pain to both speaker and listener, and the youth lowered his head towards the ground.

But Ned raised such a gaze with an outreached palm.

"She made me promise as she bled out that I'd watch over you, and so I have."

Ned released his embraced son and gazed towards his bride and the Kraken.

"You are all Starks, you might not have my name. But you are all of Winterfell, and none shall ever deny you that."

As he finished Catelyn came to them,

"Indeed, it shall always be your home."

She hugged the boy she'd once hated, and then placed kisses upon his brides cheeks, before finally coming to the Kraken.

He smiled widely and proclaimed he'd miss such great beauty being about Winterfell's halls.

Catelyn bid him hush that talk, but whilst everyone chuckled she blushed and hugged him as if a Stark rather than Greyjoy.

With his adoptive children taken care of Ned strode towards his eldest son.

On his way the Lord of Winterfell stopped to pet both Robb's direwolf, and the red eyed pup that Jon had named Ghost.

Now firmly looking upon his eldest son, Ned found Robb to be every inch what the Lord of WInterfell should.

Strong, Confident, Firm, and Warm towards those he loved.

An Auburn Haired Brandon, though a few inches shorter.

Yet something was cold about his eldest son, he;d hardly spoken since Heyne was assaulted, and even less since dueling Ser Jamie.

Even as men hailed him "The Young Wolf" or a rare chant of "Liontamer", Robb refused to to revel in their admiration.

Such pain Ned knew, yet he'd never released himself from such a burden, So how could he ease his sons?

Despite any trepedations Robb and Ned embraced warmly., and for a moment icy hearts melted.

"I'm sorry to leave you this burden."

"I'd have been Lord sooner or later, I'm happy that I'll get to learn while your still alive." The youth smiled and so too did his father.

"I'm only a raven away, but I'm leaving you well prepared."

"Yes, I'm too hold a meeting with the gathered nobility once you've departed."

"Smart, let them know a Stark remains unto Winterfell. And you must remember that Robb, should you have need to leave these walls then Jon, Benjen, Cregan or Lysara must be present in your place."

"Yes father I understand."

No you don't, not yet.

Ned had heard word that Robb was having dreams of late, the same ones Ned once had, but the boy did not know their importance yet.

For now Robb would remain out of a sense of obligation much like Benjen had,

But that was good enough.

They began to wrap up their goodbyes, and once that had been done Ned found two lions in their midst.

One was a misshapen pup whilst the other was clad all in white.

The Sons of Tywin Lannister.

Robb strode over and so Ned quickly followed.

His eldest son reached out a hand, and such a thing was met with a gauntleted paw. The two shook on terms of mutual admiration, Jamie for his recognition of Robb's potential, and the Auburn haired Stark for this Lannisters sense of honor.

The White Lion's hair was ever so wet, just enough that Ned could tell he'd been hard at work with something before this.

Ned didn't recall Ser Jamie to be a morning spar attendee during his stay, but perhaps the departure had roused him from his bed.

But it was the Little Lion who spoke.

"You've been far kinder to us than we'd have any right to expect my Lord Stark, but I'd ask for another night about Winterfell if I may."

"Such a thing is Robb's decision, as he shall be acting Lord in my absence."

Robb desired to see crimson about their home no more, but asked only why Tyrion wished to stay.

"I mean to ride northward and see your great wall."

"It's not ours, she's manned by the Night's Watch."

"True enough, but a Stark raised the Wall, and a great number of his descendants have manned it. More so than any other house I'd wager."

"Mean to join the Watch do you Lord Tyrion?"

"No. Merely to see one of the worlds wonders, and report on it's state. Might be that through my visit I can accurately report on the Watch's condition, and so see them once more properly manned, given good recruiting of course."

Robb seemed thoroughly pleased with such a response and so motioned for Lord Tyrion to walk with him.

The last thing that Ned heard of their conversation was a mention of Lord Jorah Mormont.

Yet the White Lion interrupted his focus and asked if Ned was ready to depart.

"Are you so ready to depart my home that you've come to here to rush me?"

Ned meant such a thing in jest, but his northern tone must've overwhelmed Ser Jamie, who responded with

"No. I've been given the first watch over your protection. Robert awaits you and he desires for your children to join his own. In addition my sweet sister seeks Lady Catelyn's company."

Eddard's pack began to walk but he stopped them with a question,

"All of his children?"

The Lannister finally smiled,

"Don't think we gathered them all, nor do I believe we could stuff them all in one liter. But no, Joffrey is among those absent since I know that's what your asking."

So this Lion has a sense of humor.

"Walk with me Ser Jamie." The White Knight did as he was bid.

"Have all the arrangements been made?"

"Well we are cleaning out what mess we made if that's your meaning. My brother shall remain with a small retinue if your son allows, but the Hound's been carted so we can haul him back south."

"What of your cousin? Has he healed well?"

"The wounds not festered, but his spirits are not high. Lancel's having a tough time with it, never was he going to be a great knight, but now he has little chance of being passable."

"And your sworn brothers?"

"Ser Boros rides with bruises all about him, most lie on his pride though. But Meryn's been properly embalmed so that his remains might return to his brother. As I understand it the hanged man has a gallow much like you've a crypt."

"Who should take his place among the seven?"

"That's for you, the King, and Ser Barristan too decide. Or at least that's how it's supposed to be, of late it seems the White Cloak doesn't mean so much as it once did."

"I've little knowledge of Southern Knights, tell me Ser Jamie if you were to pick then whom would you grant Ser Meryn's sword and cloak?"

"If he weren't a lord, but instead a knight then I might slap it on your Greatjon if such a clasp would fit."

"He's not a man to give up his revelry."

"Indeed, most who wear this cloak aren't." Ser Jamie sighed at such a notion.

"Barristan's the truest knight our order has left, and before him Ser Arthur. Yet I fear the order shall never regain it's former glory. The knights of yesteryear were made from different stuff than this lot."

"Perhaps, but if it must be resurrected for the King's benefit then we must be diligent in each selection from here on out. Ser Meryn might not have been a great knight, but his death gives opportunity, one specifically for the righting of wrongs. So I ask again, who would you see named to the Guard?"

"Well. The realm isn't without great fighters, plenty enough of them really but it's about finding the right type of knight. Preferably they should be handsome, noticeable, highborn, and skilled. There have been commoners rise to the rank of Kingsguard, but not recently."

"Then we shall choose from the nobility, give me three names so that I may run them by Robert."

"Very well. If I were to choose three knights then I might say Ser Loras Tyrell, Ser Robar Royce, and Ser Bryndon Hightower."

Ned knew little enough about the men's skill at arms, but he did know that each was a house worthy of being honored with such a position.

Loras was Lord Mace Tyrell's third son? That seemed right. Ned knew Ser Robar was Lord Yohn's second son, but all that Ned knew about Bryndon Hightower was that he was Ser Baelor Brightsmile's second son.

Robert will know more about them.

Further contemplation came with their walking, but no more did they speak. Finally the reached the royal liter.

Inside were Robert's Queen, her second son and both daughters. Ned saw his family join them, before taking his own leave.

Catelyn joined Cersei, but the golden haired Queen stared only at her brother while Ned and Jamie remained.

The children seemed more interested in one another's company though, for Sansa soon lounged with the Princess Myrcella. While her brother Bran sat with Prince Tommen, which was good for then Arya joined them.

A great surprise was this, yet greater still was Princess Cassana's reaction to Rickon.

She walked right up to him, the little three year old she'd been, and began to marvel at his curly auburn hair. The likes of which she'd evidently never seen up close before.

The little Princess reached forward to grasp a strand, but Rickon pulled away, yet in her imbalance the girl tripped forward into a hug from Ned's five year old. She smiled brightly at the boy before he set her down, and when he tried to walk away she followed.

Such an innocent infatuation reminded Ned of how Robert had been so enamored with Lyanna.

Thoughts of his King reminded Ned that it was he who now held their party from departure. So the Lord of Winterfell bid his family farewell for now, and then returned to Ser Jamie's side. Not long did they walk before two stallions were presented for them too mount, and so Ned rode his way up towards Robert.

Ned had not spoken to his king since the news had broken of Stannis' predicament, but the reaction he had seen was not one of inaction for certain. Robert had refrained from breaking anything that belonged to his Warden, but Robert had absolutely thrashed the courtyard practice dummy in a way that not even Jon had managed.

Eddard thought to speak with his friend, but before a word could be given the King began to ride forward.

Robert was as keen to leave Winterfell as Ned had been upon staying.