Chapter 1: Prologue
“In the sight of the Seven, I hearby seal these two souls, binding them as one for all of eternity. Look upon one another and say the words.”
Doing as the Septon told them, they looked into each other’s eyes and repeated the words that would seal their fate for eternity. Neither one hesitated. Leaning down Brandon Stark kissed his bride, Ashara Dayne in front of the Septon that had preformed the ceremony, but also Ser Arthur Dayne, his bride’s brother.
Ashara Dayne was now married to the heir of Winterfell, Brandon Stark and this was their secret. He would not be able to marry the Tully girl since he already had a bride. He was sure that his younger brother was better suited for her, especially since he had lost his heart to Ashara when he met her at the Harrenhal Tournament. It was his intention to only to get her to ask his brother for a dance and nothing more. Only there was something about her purple eyes. She made him want to know her more than any other woman he met and bedded before. That was how it started. For a few months, they met in secret until he told her that he could not marry the Tully girl that his family wanted him to. With her brother’s blessing, they met in Highgarden, away from their families and married.
When the morning came they both knew they would have to go separate ways, but hopefully it would not have to be for long. Brandon had to inform the Tully family of his actions as well as his own family. But he loved Ashara and when they found out that she carried his child, there was nothing left but for them to wed. At least the way the two of them saw it. Nothing would be easy about breaking his betrothal to Catelyn Tully, but in his heart, Brandon Stark knew he had done the right thing. His son or daughter would not be labeled a bastard and he was bound to the woman that owned his heart and soul. He would love her until his dying breath.
The morning came too soon for both Ashara and Brandon. He made love to her one last time before they both dressed to meet up with her brother who would return her to Starfall. She had been in the service of the Princess Elia, but he knew with the way things had been it would not be a good idea. So he would take her home before seeking out his prince for his orders. He didn’t know where he would end up, but as long as his sister was safe, that was all that mattered to him.
He watched as the newly weds were saying their farewells to one another. It was hard watching his sister with tears in her eyes. She was a kind hearted girl, but she knew what was to come and she had to prepare herself for all the outcomes. Finally he watched as Brandon Stark placed a kiss on his own hand and placed it on her still flat stomach. It was only known between the three of them that she was with child. It was one of the reasons that they rushed to a secret wedding. Ashara’s voice was soft, but still so full of love. “Do you think it will be a boy?”
“I hope for a girl that looks like her mother,” Brandon said in a playful tone that he saved just for her. “But with the stubbornness of the Stark blood that will run in her veins.”
“I love you Brandon Stark.” Ashara said, looking into his eyes.
“I love you, Ashara,” Brandon told her. “You have my heart and my world with you. I will return for you. I promise you.”
Before she had a chance to say anything else, he kissed her. His lips touched her softly at first before demanding more. His hand left hers and cradled her head as she opened up to him. They were both desperate for more, but it was Arthur Dayne that brought the two lovers back to reality.
“We must leave now Ashara,” Arthur told her, his eyes full of sympathy for his sister. “Especially with how far we must go to get you home.”
Nodding her head to let her brother know that she understood, she looked into Brandon’s cool grey eyes. “I hope you won’t wait long to come for me.”
“I promise you, my wife, I will come at the first chance that I have.”
“I love you,” Ashara whispered for only his ears to hear as she leaned up and kissed the corner of his mouth. “May the God’s shine down upon you on your journey back to me.”
Placing a kiss upon the crown of her head, Brandon turned and looked at Arthur. “Keep them safe.”
“On my life.”
Nodding his head, he looked back to Ashara and smiled down at her. Placing a gentle kiss upon her lips, he smiled as he backed away from her. It pained them both to do so. “Until we meet again.”
“Until we meet again.”
Neither of them had any idea what was in store for them, but nothing at that moment could take away from the night of pure happiness that they had. It was nothing any other married couple had done, but to them, it was everything they ever wanted.
It had been months since Ashara Dayne had married Brandon Stark in secret. Upon returning to Starfall, she waited for him to call for her. To take her to his home and introduce her to the rest of his family. She knew of most of them, but she had only really known his younger brother Eddard. She had danced with him at the feast where she had met Brandon. He talked to her on behalf of his shy younger brother. But afterwards, that was when she realized he was different then the other men she had met while she was a lady in waiting to the Princess Elia.
Each day that passed by, Ashara started to worry more and more that he would not come for her. Then she would remind herself that she was his wife and he would come for her in time. Maybe he was working things out with the Tully family so that there would be no hard feelings. Placing her hand over the slight swell of her stomach, she closed her eyes and looked out towards the ocean. It was something that was always calming to her. No one knew she was pregnant yet, just Arthur and Brandon. That was how she wanted to keep it for the time being.
“Lady Ashara,” a voice said from behind her. Dropping her hand, she turned and looked at the messenger. She recognized his face from her time in the capitol. “From your brother. He said it was urgent. I’m sorry, but I must return to my post now.”
“Thank you,” Ashara said as she found her voice. “Please let the cook fill your water up and take some food for the long ride home.”
“Thank you, Lady Ashara.”
With a bow, the messenger was gone.
Breaking the seal, she opened the letter.
I fear I do not bring good tidings. Soon we shall be at war. Prince Rhaegar has taken the Lady Lyanna Stark. Lord Stark and your husband came to the capitol. I did not know what was to befall upon them until it was too late for me to help.
I’m sorry but when your husband tried to get his sister back, the King had both him and his father killed.
I am to leave the capitol to protect the Lady Lyanna under Prince Rhaegar’s orders. If the worst should fall upon me, remember me upon our last partying. And let your child know that they have an uncle whom loved it from before it was born.
Be well my dear sister.
Ser Arthur Dayne.
With the letter gripped in her hands, Ashara could feel the pain in her heart. There was nothing she could do to stop the pain. He was not coming for her, he was dead. It wasn’t that he didn’t want her, but it was that he could not get to her. With her back against the wall of her sitting room, Ashara lowered herself until she was sitting down. That was when she really let the tears fall from her eyes. Sobbing into her hands, she was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that she wound never see him again. It was because Rhaegar had chosen someone else as the Queen of Love and Beauty at the tournament where she had met Brandon.
It would be awhile before she would truly believe that he was gone. When she closed her eyes, she could see his face smiling down upon her. She would have given anything to see it one last time with her eyes open. But it was not to be. Her child would not know her father, but would the Starks know that Brandon was a father? Had he been able to tell them? The only thing she knew was that she was alone and pregnant and everything now seemed a whole lot scarier than it had in the past.
The months came and went. Ashara grew large from the child inside her. She awaited for the end of the rebellion. More than anything she waited to hear of her brother. Between wanting to know of him and waiting for her child to make its entrance into the world, Ashara found herself exhausted. She wouldn’t have to wait long to know if she was having a son or a daughter like Brandon had said it would be.
Three nights later, Ashara started laboring. It was a long and painful experience. She was in her birthing bed for a full two days before the babe came out, not making a single noise. It was believed that the babe was dead at first, but then it started crying loudly. But Ashara didn’t believe her ears. No she truly believed that her husband and child had been taken from her. The world had become a cruel, cruel place.
A week later, Ashara had been told that Lord Stark requested an audience. Her first thought was that it was all a mistake. That her husband had finally come for her. They could start over in Winterfell. It would be just like they planned to do before the rebellion had begun. Only it wasn’t Brandon seeking an audience with her, it was his younger brother, Eddard Stark.
“Lady Dayne,” he said as he looked upon her saddened eyes. “I have come to return this to you.”
Handing her Dawn, her brother’s sword was a hard thing for her to see. It meant that he was dead. “Your brother is dead and now you’ve taken mine. When does it end?”
There was no mistaking the pain in Ashara’s purple eyes. When he had first seen her at the feast at Harrenhal, she had been full of life. In less than a year her whole world seemed to change. “I’m sorry,” Eddard told her. “He told me of your marriage. That he watched as you and my brother married in Highgarden.”
“Yes,” Ashara said, as she stood up and walked to the open doors to the balcony overlooking the sea. “He was going to tell the Tully’s that he had no choice, but to marry me when he discovered that I was pregnant.”
“I married her,” Eddard said, from his seat across the room. “Catelyn Tully. Once Brandon had died. It fell upon me. I didn’t know until your brother told me that you and my brother married.”
“We had been meeting in secret for months,” Ashara admitted. “When I came to discover that I was going to have his child, he would not take no for an answer on whether or not I would marry him. There was no choice for me. I fell for him and he had my heart.”
“You had the baby?”
“Two days in a birthing bed,” Ashara told him. “We had a daughter.”
“Where is she?”
“Ask the maester,” she told him, not even looking at him. “I don’t know what they have done with her.”
“I wish things had turned out differently for you,” Eddard told her, honestly. “I wish you did not have to go through so much pain in such a short amount of time. No one should lose their husband, child and brother in such a short amount of time.”
“Thank you for returning Dawn to Starfall,” Ashara said. “I’ll make sure you have provisions for your journey back.”
Nodding his head, he knew that there was nothing else that he could say to make Ashara’s pain vanish. He could still feel the loss of his oldest brother with him. And now to know that his child had not survived was not something that he was prepared to deal with.
It was the wet nurse. She smiled at him. Only she was not feeding the child that he had brought with him. The child he would have to explain to his wife about.
“Would you like to see her?”
“Your brother’s daughter,” she said quietly. “She survived after everything.”
“I know what you thought,” she told him. “Maybe it would be a good idea if you were to take her to Winterfell to raise her.”
“She is a Stark of Winterfell. She should be raised in the North.”
It was in that moment, that Lord Eddard Stark was going to take his brother’s child home with him. He promised he would raise her along with his own children. She would want for nothing and he would tell her of the man he was and that she had been loved by both of her parents. Lord Stark left the wet nurse with the babes before heading to his men to have them make preparations to make the journey home. They would definetly need a wet nurse along the journey. It wasn’t just one babe they were traveling with now. It was two. His niece had dark hair, but her eyes were that of her mother’s.
Before the journey, he would decided he would seek Ashara out one last time and ask her if she objected to him taking her daughter back to Winterfell. Only he never got the chance to do such a thing. It was a day of mourning in Starfall. Lady Ashara had jumped to her death. Her heart had been broken one too many times. So with a heavy heart, Lord Eddard Stark started his journey home, to Winterfell. He did not know what to expect when he came home. But he hoped that his new wife would understand why he could not leave the infants where they were. One of them he would tell her the story of, but the other, no one would know of. Not until they were old enough to understand the importance of his birth.
On the journey home, Eddard Stark met up with the man that he had not killed at the Tower of Joy. He had taken his sword back to his home, but he did not kill Arthur Dayne. Instead they had stuck a deal and now he was even more grateful that he had. Carefully dismounting his horse, with a babe in his arm, Eddard Stark made his way towards Ser Arthur Dayne.
“I talked with Ashara,” he said as soon as he was in hearing range or Arthur. “She believed you to be dead. I fear that the grief was too much for her. She believed her child to be dead along with Brandon and you. Before I could speak with her again she took her own life.”
“I’m the cause of my sister’s death,” Arthur said, his words filled with pain. The pain in knowing that faking his own death had sent his beloved sister down a path of darkness. He had thought that as long as she had her child, then she would be fine, but now it was too late to correct his mistake. “What of her child?”
“A daughter that does not have a name.”
Bringing the child closer, Arthur saw that this was niece. Brandon and Ashara had a daughter just like he had thought they would. When the little girl opened her eyes, he could see they were the same as her mother’s. The beautiful purple eyes would set her apart from the people in Winterfell. That much he knew.
“What will you tell your wife of her?”
“She is Brandon’s daughter and her mother is dead. She will be raised with whatever children I may have.”
“Including a son that is not your son.”
“He is my blood,” Eddard told him. “That will be good enough. And you?”
“What of me?”
“What will you do now that word has spread of your death?”
Arthur looked down at the child the new Lord of Winterfell held in his arms. “I will take a new name and find a new home where I will be able to watch over the child that my sister and your brother should have raised together.”
“You will be welcomed at Winterfell,” Eddard told him. “What name shall she have?”
“Name her for her mother,” Arthur told him. “Ashara Stark. After all, she is no bastard. They were married before her birth. They might not have had much time together, but they were man and wife.”
“And what of you?”
“I shall have to learn a new trade,” Arthur smiled, slightly. “I will be known as Lucan the horse master.”
“Is that what you wish?”
“It is how it must be,” Arthur told him. “I will protect her from afar.”
“When she is old enough, will you tell her who you are?”
“Only time will tell us that.”
Thank you all for the kind reviews, the kudos and the bookmarks. I'm so glad that you like the start of this story. I hope you'll continue to read it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Six Years Later
It had rained for six consecutive days and Ashara Stark had been forced to stay inside and do needle point with Septa Mordane. But that would not be her fate today, no it would not. The ground was still wet, but the rain had ceased in coming down. Ashara knew exactly what was going to happen on this day the moment she caught her cousin’s eye as she came to break her fast that morning. As soon as she had finished breaking her fast with her family she had snuck back up to her room and taken off her dress and changed into a pair of leggings and a tunic. Her hair was already braided so it was perfect. Finding her riding boots, she slipped them on before there was a knock on the door.
Swiftly making her way to the door, she opened it only a crack to look at the person behind the heavy. Seeing a pair of bright blue eyes, she opened the door further and let him enter her room before shutting the door.
“You are getting faster at sneaking off before your Septa can collect you after breaking your fast.”
“Like you wouldn’t have done it,” Ashara said with a roll of her eyes as she laced her boots as her cousin sat on her bed. “I have been stuck doing needlepoint for days.”
“I thought you liked needlepoint.”
“At times,” Ashara admitted. “But there are the days I just want to run free. Or ask Lucan to saddle a horse for me to ride until the sun will set.”
“You would grow bored eventually,” her cousin said. “Finish getting ready. We have a game we are going to play.”
With a grin, Ashara grabbed her cloak and followed him out of her room. “What game are we playing Robb?”
“We told Theon to meet us in the stables, but we are going to run and make him find us.”
“Brilliant,” Ashara said, her smile reaching all the way to her purple eyes. “This will be fun. At least until he tells your father that we are outside and hiding where the wildlings could come and kidnap us.”
“You listen to Old Nan too much.”
“Her stories are fascinating.”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. They met up with Robb’s half brother, Jon Snow. Then the three of them saw Lord Stark’s ward looking for them and when he saw them, they took off in different directions of the forest. Ashara couldn’t help but laugh as she jumped over a fallen tree.
Running through the damp forest, she could see her breaths puff in white clouds in front of her in the chilly air. She was thankful that she had the sense to grab a cloak before leaving with Robb. Hearing Theon calling out their names, she grinned and went into another direction. Most days she did not care for the ward, he made her cousin feel horrible about his status. Jon Snow might be a bastard in the eyes of those at Winterfell, but to her, he was one of her best friends. Slowing down, she couldn’t hear Theon or any of the other boys, so she started to walk in another direction.
Growing up in Winterfell is where she belonged. That is what everyone had said, especially her uncle. He seemed happy that she was there, but where else could she go? Her parents were gone and she had no other family that she knew of. Except her Uncle Benjen, but he lived at the Wall as a member of the Night’s Watch. It was because of him and men like him that they were able to live the way they did. She did wish she could visit him, but her Uncle Ned said that the Wall was not a place for little girls.
Peering around, Ashara felt confused. Instead of paying attention to where she was going, she had gotten lost in her thoughts. Thoughts that made it so she didn’t know exactly where she was. There were dangers in the woods, everyone said so. Ashara wasn’t afraid, she was brave just as her father had been. At least she wanted to be. More than anything she wanted to be a daughter that he would have been proud to have.
As soon as she made that realization, she heard a deep growl behind her. Turning quickly, Ashara shrieked when she saw a massive bear mere steps away from her. Feeling her heart start to beat faster and faster, she slowly backed away from where the bear was watching her. The fear that she would not be able to escape from the bear made her once again neglect her other surroundings. It was too late for her to do anything as she lost her footing on the edge of where there was a large drop. Screaming as she fell, Ashara’s only thought was that she wished she hadn’t played this game with her cousin.
Gingerly opening her eyes, she let her eyes wander around. She was definitely lost. Uncle Ned would surely find her though, because he would notice that she didn’t come and see him after the mid day meal like she always did. Slowly, she moved into a sitting position and looked over herself. She didn’t feel as if there was anything broken, but when she put her hand to her head it stung, badly. Quickly removing her hand from her head, she saw the blood upon her hand. When she stood up, she gripped the tree that was behind her once she felt dizzy. Sinking down to her knees, she prayed that her uncle would find her soon.
Opening her eyes once again, she cautiously looked around. She was no longer out in the snow by the tree from where she fell. Ashara no longer felt cold. Turning her head, her eyes went wide. She wasn’t back in the safety of Winterfell, but still somewhere in the forest. She remembered becoming dizzy when she stood up, but nothing after that. Now she was in the den of an animal, but not just any animal. Ashara was laying next to a very large direwolf.
Unlike when she saw the bear, Ashara did not fear this animal. The direwolf was the sigil of her house. She had wolf’s blood in her veins, at least that was what she had always been told. It ran in all the Stark’s, but her uncle had told her that it ran in hers just like it had ran in her father’s. It was something that made her happy at the time, it was something she had that none of the others seemed to have.
“You won’t hurt me,” Ashara said out loud to the sleeping direwolf as she laid back down next to it so she could keep warm. “You saved me and you are keeping me safe.”
Looking out the window of his study, Lord Eddard Stark could see his eldest son not paying as much attention to his archery lesson as he should. It was obvious that he was distracted. The ground was muddy, but the rain had halted and it did not seem that it would hold for awhile. He was surprised that Ashara had not come to see him as she had after mid day meals for the last few years, nor was she watching Robb with his lesson. He knew that she had been sneaking off before her Septa could find her for lessons and that her cousins would sometimes take her on an adventure that she couldn’t say no to. It didn’t sit right with him that he had not seen his niece since she broke her fast this morning.
Walking out of his study, Ned made his way to his son. If anyone would know where she was it would be him. The two of them were close and if one of them disappeared it was likely that the other one knew where they were. As he made his way down to his son, he could saw his wife, heavy with their next child. It would be their fourth child and if any of the past pregnancies were anything to go by, he was starting to think this one would be a boy. Another son.
“I thought the maester told you to rest.”
“Ned,” Catelyn Stark smiled at her husband as she placed her hands on her large stomach. “I just woke up and I just wanted to check on the girls.”
“And how are they?”
“They are a handful,” Catelyn smiled. “But Ashara was not at lessons today. Did she sneak off with Robb again?”
“Robb is at his archery lessons. I am on my way to ask if he has seen her.”
“Did she not come see you after the mid day meal?”
“No she did not,” he told her. “It will grow dark in a few hours and I do not wish to find out if I must send riders to find her in the dark.”
“If she is lost…”
“She will be found,” Ned promised his wife. “I must talk to Robb and find out what he knows.”
“Go, please,” Catelyn told him, worry for her niece written as plain as day upon her face. The young girl might not be hers, but she was family and she would always worry about the young girl. “I need to know that she is alright.”
Nodding his head, he left and made his way outside to where his son was practicing with bow. “Robb.”
“Father,” Robb said as he turned and looked at him. “I think I’m still better with a sword, but you said that it would be best not to limit myself to just one weapon.”
Nodding his head, he acknowledged that he had told his son that. It was something his own father and brother had told him when he had been the same age as Robb was now. “I need to know Robb.”
“Know what?” he asked, although his eyes were telling another tale.
“Where is Ashara?” his father asked. “She was not seen at the mid day meal nor have I seen her since she broke her fast this morning. Do you know where she is?”
“I think I have an idea,” he said softly, looking down at his feet. The guilt that was residing inside of him was coming out as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “It was my idea. I thought she was right behind me when we left, but she wasn’t.”
“Where did you go?”
“The forest,” Robb said. “I told Theon to meet us in the stables, but when Jon, Ashara and I got there, we took off for the forest. I guess we separated and I just thought she would make it back on her own.”
“Run to the stables and have Lucan, the horsemaster ready my horse as well as Theon’s and some for a search party. The sun will be fading soon, we will need to find her.”
“Will she hate me father?”
“Go, Robb,” he told him, his voice stern as it hid the worry that he felt for the young girl in the forest. “If you wish to come, have yours saddled as well.”
Nodding his head, Robb ran as fast as his legs would carry him to the stables to relay the message. Once he was done, Robb went to find his father and ask what else he could do to help, but stopped short. He watched as his mother met his father in the courtyard. Both of them had worried looks upon their faces. Robb wasn’t close enough to hear the words that were being said, but he knew this was his fault. If Ashara was hurt, that would make it his fault. He just hoped that she was just lost and nothing bad had happened to her. She was his friend and his cousin, he didn’t mean for something like this to happen. He knew that he had to go with his father to try and find her.
As soon as the men were gathered with their weapons, torches and horses, they were off in the direction Theon had seen her running towards. Soon Lord Stark realized that there were a few tracks and he sent his best tracker to see where it led to while he sent other men in the opposite direction just in case she had doubled back.
“Father.” Robb said as he got off his horse and motioned for him to follow. “Those weren’t made by Ashara. A bear?”
“It would seem so,” Lord Stark agreed. “We will need to be very careful. Especially since the sun has started to set. There is no telling what wild animals will be roaming right now.”
“I’m sorry father.” Robb told him.
“I know you blame yourself for your cousin being lost,” he said as he placed a hand on his shoulder. “But do not fear, we will find her.”
Nodding his head to show that he understood what he had been told, Robb walked over to the bear tracks. They were larger than he thought they would be. Putting himself in Ashara’s place, he knew that once she saw the bear that she would have been scared. He would have been as well. There was no way to know how a wild animal would react, especially if it were hungry. Glancing around, he wondered where she could have gone to if there was bear so near to her. Her track just disappeared, but Ashara wasn’t someone that knew how to conceal her tracks. Backing away from the tracks, Robb suddenly felt unbalanced and called out to his father.
There was no time for anyone in the party to get to the young boy before he fell. As soon as he had stopped at the base of a tree, he could see his father’s worried look from above. Shaking his head to get his bearings straight, he looked around. Maybe this is what happened to his cousin. But if she had fallen off the hill, then why weren’t there any footprints? As soon as he looked in the other direction, he got his answer.
Standing up, he made his way to the base of the hill so he could speak to his father easier. “I’m alright.”
“Are you sure?” Lord Stark yelled down to him.
“Yes, just a bit sore,” he admitted freely. “I think Ashara fell down the same way I did father!”
“Are there footprints down there?”
“No, none. But there are tracks for someone being dragged away.”
Nodding his head, he informed his men of the new information. They would find a way down and his son would stay put until they arrived there. It was sheer luck that he had fallen down and come across the tracks. But that didn’t matter to Robb, all that mattered to him was finding his cousin. More than anything he wanted to leave the area and just look for her. What could have dragged her away?
It didn’t take long until his father was back with his men not far behind him. Lord Stark motioned for his son to follow him as he and the men started looking for Ashara. In the distance he heard the men calling out for her, but if she heard them there was no reply. Maybe it was because she didn’t recognize the voice calling for her. Then Lord Stark started calling for her and Robb followed suit. Maybe if she heard his voice she would come out from wherever it was she was.
After walking for what seemed like an hour, Robb noticed a den. He didn’t know why, but he knew that his cousin was in there. So without saying anything to anyone he took off running. He ran as fast as he could. Lord Stark was right behind him and some of the men also followed while the others continued to scout the woods for any other sign of the young Stark girl.
Stopping short at the entrance, Robb saw her and breathed a sigh of relief. There his cousin was, asleep in a den that looked to be abandoned. He went to go to her, but his father put his hand up and stopped him. Looking at him in confusion he shook his head and with a nod of his head told him to go get the horses. Robb didn’t understand why he had to get the horses, he just wanted to go and wake up Ashara. When he saw that his father was not going to budge on this, he went without saying a word.
As soon as he was sure that his son was out of hearing range, Lord Stark went to the young girl’s side. Ashara looked peaceful, but it was odd that she had not heard any of them calling for her. Taking a glove off his hand, he placed it upon her head and let out a sigh. She was burning up with a fever. Not a good sign at all. As far as he could see there were no serious injuries, but that was when he saw the dried blood on her forehead. Pulling the glove back onto his hand, he picked up his niece before addressing his second in command.
“She has a fever and needs to be looked over,” he told him. “Send someone to inform Maester Luwin that he will be needed in Ashara’s chambers upon our return. We will make haste.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
Exiting the den quickly, Lord Stark’s second in command did exactly as he was instructed to. After the man had left, he went back to his lord’s side to help him. He knew that he would ride with the girl but there was no way he could mount with her in his arms. That is when would offer to aid him. The help was appreciated, he knew without having to hear the words. With everyone in their saddles, they made their way back to Winterfell with hopes that the young Stark girl would live through her ordeal.
Pushing their horses harder on the return home, they made it back quicker than they would have otherwise. Lucan had made his way out and helped Lord Stark with the young girl in his arms. He took her while he dismounted and as he handed her back to him, they shared a look between them that escaped the attention of everyone else in the yard. Once Ashara was back in Lord Stark’s arms, he made his way inside and to her bedchambers where he hoped that Maester Luwin would be waiting for him.
It didn’t take long for him to reach the bedchambers that belonged to his niece and he was thankful that the door was already opened and not only was the Maester there waiting for him, but so was his wife. Making his way to the bed, he set Ashara down as gently as he could before he turned to look at the both of them and then back to Ashara. No one saw that Robb was standing in the doorway of the chambers.
“What was her condition when you found her?” Maester Luwin asked as he placed a hand upon Ashara’s head and then her neck as well.
“She was resting in a den. If it weren’t for Robb we wouldn’t have found it. There were bear tracks and when he looked close enough he must have lost his footing and fell down the hill. That is when he say that there were no footprints but there were drag marks as if she was dragged into the den for safe keeping.”
“Was there any sign of an animal or person?” Lady Catelyn asked as they watched as Maester Luwin continued his examination.
“None that we saw. We did not linger there for long,” Lord Stark said as he looked at her and then back to Ashara. “I wanted to get her here as fast as possible.”
The couple watched as Maester Luwin continued to work on the young girl. He found the wound in her head was deep, and said it would likely scar, but what Lord Stark was not ready to hear was that there was a deep gash on her right hip that was very deep and looked as if it had already started to fester with infection. It was with sad eyes that he looked at the Lord and Lady and told him the honest truth.
“If she can survive the fever and wake on her own then she will live,” he told them. “I will give her something to ease the pain and help the infection. But the rest is up to her and the gods.”
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Silently walking into Ashara’s bedchambers, he slowly made his way towards the bed. When he looked upon her sleeping face his stomach fell. She still hadn’t woken up. It had been two weeks since she had been brought back to Winterfell, but she hadn’t woken up yet. His father said that they were lucky that Maester Luwin had been able to kill the infection from a wound that she received somehow. But it was only after that infection had left that another had surfaced. It was much worse and it had all the adults in Winterfell worrying over the young lady.
Peering over at his cousin, Robb saw that she had what looked like to be a scar on her forehead. It would be his reminder of how this was his fault. He wanted to play a game on his father’s ward and he brought her into it as well as his own half brother. The only one that truly got into trouble was his father’s ward for not letting anyone know that Ashara had not come back after the little game was over. She had spent hours out in in the cold hurt and most likely scared before the infection took over.
Gathering Ashara’s hand in his own, Robb sat in the chair that his mother used when she would sit with Ashara while everyone went about their daily lives. It was hard for him to concentrate on anything knowing that his cousin was suffering for his mistake. There was no way he would able to forgive himself until she woke from her slumber. Each day that passed by without her waking up was just another day he feared that she would never wake.
“Ashara,” Robb said looking down at her face. She was being fed broth and honey by his mother and the maester to keep her strength up. They all wanted to give her the chance to come back to them. But Robb knew that she had to come back, there was no other choice. At least that is what he had been hoping for. “I’m sorry that I haven’t been back in a few days, but mother has been watching over you. She sits next to you and even though the baby is due soon, she refuses to leave your side unless someone is with you. She doesn’t want you to be alone.”
Robb was familiar with how his mother felt. Ashara might not be her daughter, but she was family and Catelyn Stark formerly of House Tully still lived by her house words. Family, Duty, Honor. So it was to no one’s surprised that she had stayed beside the young Stark girl until her husband came to take her to bed. That was when a guard was posted outside the door and Old Nan would come and sit inside the bedchambers. There was no one in all of Winterfell that hadn’t prayed for Ashara to wake.
“You need to wake up Ashara,” Robb said as he squeezed her hand in his own. “You were never supposed to get hurt. I just wanted to cause some annoyance to Theon.”
Running his free hand through his hair, he blinked away the tears that he felt coming. “I promise you that if you wake up, I’ll protect you. Never again will I let anything happen as long as I can prevent it. You can marry for love instead of duty, I’ll make my father agree. No matter what it takes, just please wake up. I miss you. Everyone misses you.”
“When she’s ready,” Lord Stark’s voice came from the doorway. “She will wake. Her body is still healing.”
Dropping his cousin’s hand, Robb jumped to his feet. He had forgotten that his father would be coming soon to sit with her. Since she could no longer visit him in his study after the mid day meal, he had started coming to her. No one disturbed them until he came out and resumed his duties for the day. All of the Stark children could see the guilt of what happened laying upon his shoulders. No one voiced an opinion about what happened.
“I believe Maester Luwin is missing a body for today’s lesson.”
Quickly, Robb left the room, but as he got to the door way he turned back and looked at his father who was making his way to the seat he had just been in. “Father?”
“What is it?”
“You won’t tell mother will you?”
“As long as you don’t make a habit of skipping out on your lessons. You will be Lord of Winterfell after me. It is your duty to know what Maester Luwin has to teach you.”
Nodding his head, Robb left the room. Instead of going to lessons, he waited outside the room. He was curious of what he would say to Ashara or if he even spoke to her. Either no one knew because they stayed away or they just would not say. But Robb wanted to know what his father was saying to her.
“He worries for you,” Ned told her as he made himself comfortable in the chair next to her bedside. “More than anyone else. He feels the guilt on a higher level than anyone else. He blames himself and until you wake up he won’t forgive himself.”
Ned took his hand and brushed a lock of hair that had flown loose from the wind that had come in. Looking down at his brother’s daughter, there was no mistaking the Stark in her. But there was one thing he wanted to do and that was to keep her away from the king. Robert Baratheon might be his foster brother and his friend, but if he saw Ashara’s eyes he knew that he would believe that she was a Targaryen without asking any questions. But she wasn’t. Ashara was a wolf of Winterfell as well as the star from Starfall. If she woke up he would be just like his son, promising things that would get her to stay in the land of the living.
“You’ve grown up to be a beautiful little lady,” Ned told her, a sad smile upon his face. “Your parents would be happy with how you’ve turned out. But I wonder if I have done you a disservice by keeping you as a foster in Winterfell.”
Rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, Ned stopped and just thought about what he wanted to convey to his sleeping niece. “When I was a boy I was fostered. It was something I had not thought of doing with you since your father was not here, nor your mother. But perhaps we should speak of it. There are no other ladies your age around for you to make friends with. My girls are still too young for you to truly play with.”
“Father you can’t!”
Snapping his head up, Ned saw that his son had not gone to his lessons as he was told, but stayed and listened as he talked. He wasn’t sure if he was more proud or angry. He was proud that his son wished to protect his cousin from many things, but he could not deny that he was angry that Robb disobeyed his order. He was supposed to go to his lessons just like his half brother was. He knew the guilt was not helping his son with her still asleep, but now was not the time to talk about it.
“Robb,” he said with a sigh seeing that his heir had tears in his eyes because he thought that if she woke up they would send her away. “Go to your lessons. Now.”
It was obvious that Robb wished to say something else, but he knew better. He had not done as he was told earlier and he did not wish to anger his father anymore than he had. With a sigh, he lowered his head and left Ashara’s bedchambers and went to join his half brother in their lessons before he got into anymore trouble by not listening. He wanted to tell his father that he couldn’t keep his promise to his cousin if she wasn’t in Winterfell. Shaking his head, he walked slowly to his lessons as he thought about how he could convince his father to let Ashara stay. It was after all her home as it was theirs.
Ned Stark shook his head, looking at Ashara. “Your cousin is adamant that you do not leave Winterfell. He will rule Winterfell one day, but you would not be happy to live here without a husband and no children of your own. I would not condemn you to that life,” he told her as he watched her sleep. “You have much of your father in you. I can see it every day that you are here. You might have the hair of the Starks, but you also have much of your mother.”
It was hard for him. To speak to the sleeping girl about her mother. It might have been years ago, but he could remember his brother Brandon speaking to Ashara Dayne on his behalf. The lady was beautiful there was no denying it, but Ned had believed that there was no chance that the Lady of Starfall would ever dance with the shy wolf. But she did. She had been kind that way, but even though she had done him a kindness, she had no feelings for him. But that could not be said for the Stark brothers. He didn’t know it then, but that was when Ashara Dayne and Brandon Stark had started their affair and fell in love.
“Whenever I speak to you and I see those purple eyes, I see your mother. She had the same eyes and she was a beautiful and kind lady. I know you will be too one day.”
Thinking back of the last topic Ashara had asked him about, Ned leaned back in his chair as he continued to watch over her. Ashara Dayne would always be a tough topic for him to discuss, but he could not deny her the knowledge of her mother. But he wasn’t the one that knew her the best. That would be Arthur Dayne who lived in Winterfell under a different name so he could watch over his niece without the knowledge of being found out he was alive. As the story went Ned had killed him when he went to get his sister from the Tower of Joy where Rhaegar had left her to fight Robert. The guards that had been with him had been killed and his men did not know what had happened so it was a secret between him and Arthur who now went by the name of Lucan. He was the horsemaster in Winterfell and seemed to be content.
“You asked me if you had any other family besides the Starks. You asked me this the day before what happened. I never gave you a true answer and I’m afraid that I still cannot give you the truth. I don’t believe you are ready for such an answer. But I will promise you in time I will tell you everything I know of your father and your mother. There might even be someone else that could fill in blanks if you asked politely,” Laughing softly, Ned shook his head at himself. “I never have had to worry about that with you, have I? You, Ashara have always acted like the lady you will one day grow to be.”
“She will be a Lady of Winterfell with ties to Starfall,” Catelyn Stark said speaking up from the doorway. “One day she will a true Lady with the honor of the Starks, but she will be her own woman.”
“I look at her and I see Brandon in the way she talks Robb and Jon into getting things for her so she does not get caught.”
“Yet she does not lie,” Catelyn said as she walked into the room and sat in the chair on the opposite side of the bed that her husband was sitting in. “And that is nothing we did. She learned that from being a Stark and seeing you deal with our people.”
“It was never supposed to be mine,” Ned sighed. “It was always meant to be his. Brandon was born to be the Lord of Winterfell and fill the halls with his children.”
“But he fell in love and his honor had him go with your father to demand your sister back.”
“Once Ashara had night terrors. She kept dreaming of someone believing she was a Targaryen and killing her.”
“What would give her that idea?” Catelyn asked, taking Ashara’s hand in her own. “She is safe her. No one will harm her while I draw breath.”
“Too many of Old Nan’s stories,” Ned told her. “I talked to Old Nan about not speaking deeply about the Targaryen’s in her presence until she has come of age. It seems that she still seeks out the stories Old Nan tells.”
“She is a curious girl,” Catelyn smiled. “She is a Stark after all.”
“There is no doubt about that.”
“You will tell her one day, won’t you?” Catelyn asked looking at her husband. “About her parents. If you don’t she will always wonder.”
“When she comes of age,” Ned told her honestly. “Right now she is too young for such talks.”
Catelyn agreed with her husband. Ashara was a child and what befell her parents were not for ears as young as hers. It would be hard enough to tell her what happened, but if they did it too young then it could cause her unwanted pain. As a mother herself, Catelyn did not wish that upon anyone.
When her husband had come home with two babes, she did not know what to think. At first she thought they were twins, but Ned had told her that the little girl was the daughter of his brother Brandon and Ashara. It surprised her when he also told her that they had married in secret and so the baby named for her mother would not bare the name bastard. He had explained what he knew about the birth and why she was to be raised in Winterfell and not staying with her own mother. When hearing about the death of the baby’s mother she agreed that they would raise her as if she was one of their own. They would not take away the title of her parents, so it was agreed that she would be their foster.
After that was settled, she looked upon the other baby that Ned had brought back from the war and knew that he was a Stark. Well not officially. He was her husband’s bastard. He looked just like the Stark’s even at such a young age. It broke part of her heart that her husband had fathered a child with another woman after riding off to war with his friend and she had no idea. What her husband did not know was that while he went to war, she also had a child. Their child. His heir. At first, she told herself that she would love this motherless child that her husband brought home. Only she found it to be more and more difficult with each passing day. It reminded her that her husband had been unfaithful to her.
“Ashara?” Ned’s voice brought Catelyn’s thoughts back into the room. “Can you open your eyes for me?”
“Ned?” Catelyn questioned him.
“She squeezed my hand,” he said with a real smile. A smile that no one has seen since before he brought her back home. “Talk to her Cat, I need to fetch Maester Luwin.”
Looking down at Ashara’s face, there was a bit of moisture upon her forehead. It was something she had not noticed before when she first came into the room. Running the back of her hand down the girl’s face, she spoke calming words to her. She hoped that she would open her eyes before Ned returned, but it did not look like she would. That was when she felt it, Ashara was squeezing her hand now. So Catelyn kept talking to her, trying to get her to wake up.
When Ned returned, it was without Maester Luwin. Which meant he informed the man of what was happening and raced back before Maester Luwin could even utter a word in response to him. It was not surprising. This little girl was his last connection to his brother Brandon and everyone knew that she meant a great deal to him.
“Has she done anything?” he asked, taking her hand once again.
“She squeezed my hand,” Catelyn told him. “I think she will wake very soon.”
No sooner were those words uttered, did Ashara Stark open her eyes.
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A/N: So sorry about the delay, but don't worry I haven't forgotten about this story! I hope you enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sitting up in her bed, Ashara looked towards the window with longing. She had slept for two weeks, but it had been three days since she had awoken. Yet the Maester and her Uncle Eddard refused to let her leave her bed chambers. She was starting to feel as if she was a caged bird looking for someone to open the door to let her out.
“Ashara,” Lord Stark said as he entered her chambers and closed the door. “You should be resting.”
“I think I’m done resting,” she said with a small smile upon her face. “May I go outside today?”
“Not today little one,” he told her as he took a seat next to her bed. “Maybe soon though.”
“Robb and Theon came to see me yesterday,” she said. “He says I’m not a Stark because no Stark has purple eyes.”
“Who told you this?”
“Theon did,” Ashara answered honestly. “He thinks because he is older than me that he knows everything.”
Eddard Stark let out a short laugh and allowed a grin to reside on his face. “Ashara, do you remember what happened to you?”
“You mean when we were hiding from Theon?” Ashara asked, looking at her uncle with her purple eyes. “I remember.”
“I want you to tell me everything that you remember that day,” he told her. “Start with the first thing you remember.”
Nodding her head, Ashara looked towards the window, before looking back to her uncle. “Will I be able to play outside afterwards?”
“Not today little one,” Eddard told her as he watched her longing to go outside with the others. “Perhaps soon if that is what Maester Luwin says.”
“It had been raining all week, but that morning it wasn’t. I remember rushing through my meal because I wanted to get back upstairs to my room before Septa Mordane saw me. If she spotted me she would have made me do needlework and I just didn’t want to do it.”
“Lady Stark and I are well aware of the times you have not shown up to your lessons,” he told her. When her eyes went wide, she didn’t show fear just surprise. It was something he had seen come across his brother’s face many times. Ashara Stark was truly Brandon Stark’s daughter. Not that he ever had any doubt, but the way she looked just kicked it home for him. “Please, continue.”
“I was going to ask Master Lucas to saddle a horse I could take on a ride into Winter Town so that maybe I could find a gift for Aunt Catelyn and the new baby. At least I think that was what I was going to do, but I had changed into riding clothes when Robb came to my room and told me that he was going to play a trick on Theon. I never pass up the opportunity to join because Theon is a mean boy.”
Smiling, Eddard could see the Stark temper coming from this small child. He knew that her temper would only continue to grow fiercer as she got older. Seeing that her uncle wasn’t going to say anything, Ashara kept going about that day.
“After I had my boots on we made our way outside to meet up with Jon. He was there too, but it wasn’t his fault what happened to me. Please don’t punish him for it.”
“Jon and Robb both have asked to take the punishment if there was to be one,” Eddard told her. “But do not fear. They have told the truth and they have felt the guilt of what happened as you slept. They will not be further punished at this time.”
Nodding her head in understanding, Ashara kept going. “After we were outside, Theon saw us. That’s when we all took off to the forest and then split up. Usually I stick with one of the boys, but I was just so happy to be outside that I ran and ran. I should have paid more attention to where I was going. I got turned around a few times, but I never heard Theon call out or his footsteps. He stomps around when we play this game because none of us ever have to find each other.”
“Is that the right thing to do?”
“It is when he’s a mean boy!”
“Keep going Ashara.”
Nodding her head, she smoothed out the fur that was on top of her bed before looking back at her uncle. “After I got turned around a few times I tried to figure out where I was, but I just didn’t know. I wanted Robb or Jon to find me, but I didn’t know which way they went and I wouldn’t have found them since I didn’t know where I was. I kept moving and when I looked up I saw a bear. It was really big and it looked hungry.”
After a moment of silence, Eddard looked as niece. He could see her emotions were genuine. Ashara had been very scared and he hadn’t been there to protect her when she needed it the most.
“I walked backwards, but I didn’t look backwards because Robb and Jon always say never turn your back on an hungry animal. And I know you said it too. So I didn’t realize there was no more space to walk and I fell down the hill. I hit my head. There was blood, but she saved me. Did you find her?”
“Find who?” Lord Stark asked, confused. “Who do you speak of?”
“The wolf. The direwolf that saved me. She dragged me to a cave and kept me warm until you could find me. Did you find her?”
Eddard Stark was at a loss for words. How could what she said be possible? She had to be mistaken. She had hit her head so maybe it was something else?
“Ashara there are no direwolves south of the wall, not for a long time.”
“Yes there was!” Ashara said raising her voice. “I saw her. She saved me and protected me!”
There was a moment of silence where Eddard did not know what to say to his young niece.
“You don’t believe me do you?” she asked him as she looked at him.
“There was no wolf,” he told her. “We found no wolf in that den nor anywhere while we looked for you.”
“I’m not lying! There was a wolf! A direwolf! You must believe me, Uncle. It’s a symbol of our house.”
There was no way he could talk any more about this mysterious wolf that saved her life. He needed to speak to her about another issue.
“Ashara, look at me.”
It took her a few moments, but she looked at him in the eyes and she could see that something was bothering him.
“You play with your cousins and they love you very much.”
“They are my best friends.”
“Wouldn’t you like to have friends your own age? Little girls like you?”
“No, I love being at Winterfell. This is my home,” Ashara slowed down when it dawned on her where he was going with his new questions. “You want to send me away. Because I got lost and hurt. I promise I won’t be bad anymore. Please don’t send me away Uncle.”
As hard as she tried to fight it, she couldn’t hold the tears back from spilling down her face. Eddard watched as the tears trailed down her face. Her purple eyes blurry from the tears and the pain upon her face was to see as a full moon on a clear night.
“When I was a young boy, I was fostered and that is where I met Robert Baratheon who is our King.”
“I’ll go to all my lessons with Septa Mordane. I won’t do anything bad. Just don’t send me away, please.”
“Why do you not wish to travel?”
“It would not be traveling. I would have to live there. Please don’t make me go.”
Getting up, Lord Eddard Stark kissed the top of her head before glancing down at her worried face. “Don’t think of it as you doing something wrong, but think about it. It might be good for you to get out of Winterfell for a time.”
A week passed before Ashara was allowed to leave her bedchambers and true to her word, she went to her lessons and didn’t cause any trouble. It was hard for her to ignore Robb as he begged her to come and play with him and Jon. There had been a time or two where he requested her presence in front of her septa, but she knew that she couldn’t. At dinner that night, she could feel her uncle’s eyes on her. He was watching her, but she was keeping to her promise. After all, she didn’t want to be sent away. If that were to happen, she feared she would never see her family again.
Pushing her food around on her plate, Ashara let out a long sigh. She didn’t think it would be this hard to make her uncle believe that she would be better so she wouldn’t be sent away. She had heard the stories of her Aunt Lyanna and how she was the wild wolf of Winterfell. Some of the older people in the village had made the comparison of them, but that was something she needed to make sure her uncle never heard those comparisons again.
“If you don’t want to play with us anymore because you are scared of something happening-”
Snapping her head up, she glared at her cousin. “I’m not scared.”
“You haven’t come out with us since father let you out of your room,” Robb pointed out. “If you aren’t scared, then why do you ignore us?”
Ashara kept moving the food around her plate. There had been a million times that she wanted to tell Robb and Jon the real reason why she was acting so different, but would they understand? Or would they think that she was being stupid? Would they want her to go and live somewhere else?
“We didn’t mean for you to get lost,” Jon said speaking up. “We won’t let anything like that happen again.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ashara told them as she took the untouched roll off Robb’s plate. “You wouldn’t want to know anyway.”
“Hey!” Robb protested as he watched her take a bite from the roll and then offered it back to him. “You keep it.”
“Ashara, we promise you won’t get lost again. No bears either.”
“I can’t,” she told them in between bites of the roll she took from Robb’s plate. “It just doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It matters to us,” Robb told her as Jon offered her his roll. Taking it she smiled at him before turning her attention back to Robb. “Trust us please?”
Nodding her head, she took a drink of her water that was in front of her. Then she took another. “Uncle Ned asked me about what happened. I told him everything and asked him not to punish either of you because it was my own fault that I got lost and everything that happened after that.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Robb stated.
“After that, he mentioned that he wanted me to think about being fostered somewhere else. I know he was fostered, but I don’t want to go. I told him that I would be better if he didn’t make me go. So that’s why I stay at my lessons with Septa Mordane.”
Not waiting for either of them to say a word, she got up from the table and ran out of the hall. Refusing to look at anyone, Ashara moved as quickly as possible to avoid anyone stopping her, but also so they wouldn’t see the tears that were threatening to fall from her eyes. It didn’t take her long to reach her bedchambers, but when she did, she slammed the door shut as fast as she could. Throwing herself onto her bed, that was when she allowed the tears to come down her face. Laying her face on her pillow, she wished everything had been a bad dream or one of Old Nan’s stories.
It wasn’t long before there was knocking on her door. She hoped that the person or persons on the other side would take the hint and just leave her alone. But she should have known better, especially if it was Robb. He never could let things like this be unsettled between them.
Hearing the knocking, she tried to hide her face in her pillow and ignore who was at her bedchamber door. She loved her family dearly, but right now she just needed to be alone. She didn’t need the time to think about what he uncle suggested. That answer was as clear as the stars in the night sky. Ashara did not wish to leave and be fostered elsewhere. What she wanted most was to be around her family, the only people she felt comfortable with.
When the knocking on the door did not cease, she groaned and rose to her feet. Making her way door, she flung it open and was surprised that it was not Robb or Jon standing on the other side. The confusion must have been written clearly on her face, because her visitor just smiled at her.
“May I enter?”
Nodding her head, Ashara opened the door wider so her visitor could enter. It would seem that her dilemma was no longer as secret as it had been earlier in the day. But then again, she doubted her uncle kept such secrets from his wife.
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