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The Skagosi Knight and the White Wolf with Dragon's Blood

Chapter Text

 

 

The bastard was beautiful.  As a child, she had been a skinny, sullen thing, Her hair a mess of curls,  Her knees scraped, and her elbows scabbed

 

Now she was beautiful.  The bastard had grown into her looks and had put on muscle, weight and height.

 

Alysanne Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell, wore a grey and black dress with a fur collar Around her waist was a belt of rune etched  bronze discs and a black cord. There was a sword at her hip and and two dagger of obsidian.

 

Her hair was done up in multiple braids, each lock straightened and as dark as the obsidian her daggers were made of.

 

The bastard dismounted her horse with an enviable grace.

 

At her side was a tall powerfully built man clad in dark scales and ringmail with a shaggy cloak of furs and pelts to complete his ensemble. He had a greatsword at his back, an axe at his hip and  a dagger of obsidian as well. The cloak had a jade pin in the shape of House Magnar of Kingshouse, a lobster clutching a harpoon. His hair was close cropped and his stubble was carefully groomed.

 

Catelyn let out a breath of frustration.   The young man could only be Tyr Magnar, heir to  the lordship of Skagos, why was he accompanying her husband’s bastard?

 

“Father.” Alysanne said.   Ned hugged her. “You’ve grown.” he said fondly. His grey eyes full of love.  He looked the sword at her hip and smiled.

 

“You’re mother would be proud of you Alysanne.”

 

Catelyn felt a cold pain of jealousy pierce her heart.  Yet she hid her frown for her children’s sake as Robb smiled and embraced his sister in a crushing hug and Sansa beamed and asked her sister if she had sewn such a beautiful gown.

 

“You have my thanks for escorting my daughter home.” Ned said with a smile.

 

“She required no escort, but I have business here and at White Harbor.Your daughter is an excellent rider and fighter. My mother and father were both impressed with the amount of free folk that fell to her blade when they tried to raid Deepdown.”  Tyr said with a smile that sent shivers down Catelyn’s spine.

 

“I was not aware women were allowed to take up arms on Skagos.” Catelyn said politely.

 

“Skagos is not like Bear Island.  The Drowned God’s minions do not threaten us,as often as the do the Mormonts.  But when wildlings and Andals come, every blade is needed. Better for a woman to die defending her children and hearth than be carried off as a prize of war.” Tyr said.  The Skagosi’s voice was not deep or guttural, but there was an edge to it. He had a harsh accent, and he made the word Andal sound like scum.

 

“I see your point my lord.”

 

“I am not a Lord my lady.  My father, Ulric is Magnar of Skagos. I am still a boy with much to learn.”

 

“Come, we shall have lunch and then what business you have can be discussed in my solar later in the evening.”  Eddard said softly 


 

Alysanne smiled as the food was brought out.    It was good to be back at Winterfell. Skagos may have been beautiful, but it had not been her home.

 

Bran and Arya bombarded her with questions about Skagos and its people.

 

“Skagos has a harsh beauty to it.  The mountains and cliffs are tall and sharp,  the earth is rocky , with only a few areas where animals can graze and the land tilled,   but the waters teem with oyster and eels and all sorts of delicious creatures.

 

 The Mountains are beautiful.   From the caves carved there by the First Men,  one can see the Wall and what lays beyond. Unicorns still live on Skagos,  and the bones of giants have been found there as well. In Kingshouse, there are murals carved by the Children of the Forest showing the War for the Dawn,The Pact and other scenes.”

 

“That sounds incredible.”  Bran said

 

“Perhaps one day you can come and see them.” Tyr said with a smile.

 

“Is it true the Skagosi ride Unicorns?”  Rickon asked.

 

“Aye, Unicorns are tough and their horns are sharp enough to punch through mail , they are not as fast as true warhorses though.”  Tyr replied cheerfully. 

 

“My Septa said, the Skagosi are cannibals.”  Sansa said.

 

Tyr’s face darkened  and Alysanne could tell he was  was biting back a curse.

 “The Stoneborn have only committed cannibalism twice.   Once was when we exterminated the Skane in vengeance for their crimes. The second was when the Andals invaded.”

 “When the Andal’s came, it was during the finals days of summer, there was a bad harvest in the North.  They tried to burn our weirwoods, and massacre the Children of the Forest who had taken refugee with us. They almost burnt Kingshouse to  the ground. They stole our women to be their brides and stole our children, so they could force them to abandon the Old Gods and the Old Tongue. It would have been a hard winter, but one we might have survived.  But the Andals took everything and left pestilence and famine on Skagos. If those close to death, had not begged their family to eat their flesh to survive, No stoneborn would have still drawbreath today.”

 

The Stoneborn swore to the Gods, they would have vengeance on the Andals. At the Battle of the Weeping Waters we did.  

 

“My namesake Tyr Magnar was one of The Hungry Wolf’s battle companions. He slew two of Argos Sevenstar’s sons and was at King Theon’s side when he sacked Andalos. The Stoneborn rescued their kin that the Andals had taken and the children they forced the women to birth. They took gold and food, fine steel and papyrus.  And when the next Winter came, no one went hungry.   The Andals call us savages, yet we only did we had to do to survive, and get the justice we deserved  Red Wolf. Keep that in mind when your Septa opens her craven, lying lips.”

 

“My apologies Ser.”  Sansa said, her tone apologetic .  

 

“I am no Ser.  The Manderly had not laid his sword on my shoulder yet.”

 

“Your squireing for him?”  Sansa said.

 

“Aye, I squired with him for two years at my father’s insistence before I returned home.  I intend to finish my squireship with him before I return, as my father wished to bring him  some ideas for trade deals and such.   The Manderlys may not have the blood of the First Men, but they are Northmen. Having Ser as one of my titles when I take responsibility of Skagos and her people might mean less haggling with traders from the South.”

 

“Does this mean you follow the Faith and the Old gods? That’s what we do.” Arya asked.

 

“I do not follow the Andal’s gods. I will swear my vows beneath a heart tree, unless I am knighted on the field.    There have been a few Stoneborn who have received knighthood. Mostly sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch, but my great great grandmother married a Stane who was knighted and served as Master of arms for House Karstark.  My mother's great grandmother's great uncle was a knight and served as a member of The Umber’s household guard.”

 

Tyr sipped his glass of mulled wine.  

 

“I apologize again for my rude behavior, Lady Sansa, I do not hate the South but The North Remembers. Skagos will never forgive or forget what the Andals did.”

 

“I understand.” Sansa said softly.

 

Catelyn looked aghast at the young lordling.  While Ned had a bemused expression.

 

“You'll have to forgive Tyr sweet sister.  Honesty like his can be refreshing at times, but he hasn't learned how to mince his words. “ Alysanne said with a teasing glare.

“Its alright Alysanne, better an ugly truth than a pretty lie.” Sansa said softly.

 

A lady’s armor is courtesy .  Alysanne thought.  She could tell Tyr had hurt her sister’s feelings.   In private, she would scold him harshly. Sure Sansa needed to  realize sooner rather than later that life wasn’t a song, but Sansa was pack. And when Winter came, the pack has to  be strong.


 

Tyr grunted as he and Alysanne’s older brother’s locked swords.

 

Tyr was disappointed.   Robb Stark was a good bladesman, but if Tyr was sparring with Alysanne , the wolf maid would have rang his head like a bell and sent him crashing to the dirt by now.

 

“Come on Robb!” Arya cheered her big brother on.

 

“Has someone spent more time with Theon and nor enough time with Ser Rodrik?” Alysanne said with a smile.

 

Robb blocked a blow from Tyr’s sword, than redoubled his efforts.

 

Tyr grinned, as he parried another blow.  His grin vanished a second later as Robb disarmed him and tripped him.

 

Alysanne rose in a flurry of skirts.  “Give me your sword Tyr.”

 

Tyr rose and handed his friend the tourney sword.

 

“Shouldn’t you change into breeches before you make me taste dirt and my own blood?” Robb said with a smile.

 

Alysanne laughed.

 

Brother and sister lunged at each other, the ring of steel on steel filling the yard.

 

Robb cursed as Alysanne drove him back, Her skirts and blade whooshing with every blow.  A minute passed as Robb countered and tried to leverage his height and weight to take the back  the initiative.

 

The boy who Tyr would later  call his king cursed as Alyssane paused in her blow that would have split Robb’s skull in twain had it been a real blade.

 

Alysanne lifted the tourney sword up and laughed.  

 

Robb did too.

 

Alysanne missed this. Sure she had learned a lot and made many friends in her fosterings, but being away from Robb and her siblings was always painful, no matter how good the company was.

 

She looked up and saw her father smiling at her her.

 

She smiled back.  While she hated her father for sending her to  foster with other Lords, she always enjoyed seeing her father smile at her.  He had encouraged her lessons with a sword, let her sit with her siblings at the high table, and he never called Alysanne a bastard or viewed her as a mistake.

 

Alysanne remembered  asking him before she was sent to foster with Howland Reed if she was being sent away because she was a bastard and a stain on her father’s honor.  She was eight years old and she didn’t want to go.

 

Her father had hugged her and kissed her forehead and told her

 

“You are a Stark, You might not have my name, but you have my blood.  One day you will rule a holdfast or a castle at your husbands side. He will look to you for counsel and support. To keep the hearth burning, by  force of arms if necessary. Your Aunt Lyanna was taken before her time, perhaps if my father allowed her to carry a sword, she might have lived to be queen.”

 

“But Aunt Lyanna was trueborn and they say  she was beautiful.”

 

“You will grow into your looks as you grow older child.   Lyanna was not seen as a great beauty, and neither was your grandmother or great grandmother, but they all grew into their looks.   Do you remember when you read the book on Dragons with Maester Luwin? It was said Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon Balerion was born inside an ugly egg, as was his sister Queen Visenya’s  dragon Vhagar’s and  Queen Alysanne’s Silverwing. Yet they grew to be powerful and beautiful creatures. You and your sisters will be the same Alysanne.” her father said with a smile.

 

Alysanne smile vanished when she saw Catelyn Stark glaring at her with stony eyes.   She turned her gaze away from her father and his wife.

 

“Robb, how about I change into  and we can go riding? We can show Tyr Wintertown and the barrows of the First Men.”

 

Robb glanced up,  he knew the way his mother was looking at her.

 

He smiled reassuringly and said that would be a wonderful idea.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Slow down!”  Robb yelled as Bran and Arya raced ahead.

 

Alysanne laughed “I’ll go ahead and make sure they stay out of trouble.”  the she wolf spurred her horse and vanished before her brother could blink.

 

Tyr looked at Robb for a moment, then spoke

 

“Forgive my candidly Lord Robb, I know Alysanne, is a Snow, but does your mother look at her like a pile of horseshit all the time, or just when she beats you in the training yard?”

 

Robb sighed and for moment  Tyr could see genuine wrath in his eyes.

 

“Alysanne's presence in Winterfell is an insult to my lady mother, but that does not give her the right to treat her with  such contempt. Alysanne is my sister regardless of who her mother was.”  Robb said in a tone that would brook no argument. 

 

“My mother  thought it curious that Lord Stark would raise his bastard daughter  among his trueborn children. When my parents received the raven asking if she could foster on Skagos, my parents at first thought it was some calculated insult.”  Tyr said.

 

“I do not know why my father selected Skagos and beyond keeping Alysanne away from my mother,  I have no idea why my father had her fostered in the first place. Neither I nor my sister Sansa were fostered and father never mentioned fostering Bran or Arya.” Robb replied.

 

Tyr chewed Robb's words over.

 

“Perhaps your father was looking for her to acquire new skills?   The She Bears of House Mormont are warrior women , The Crannogmen were taught  the secrets of breathing mud and running on leaves on how to change earth to water and back again with a whispered world of the old tongue by the children of the forest.  Those secrets are passed down on to their children and those they deem worthy.  Skagos is a harsh land, my mother said our people began calling ourselves stoneborn because was had to be as hard as stone to  survive.  On Skagos, we all look out for one another. We slay our foes together, hunt and farm and fish and live together. We keep the right of first night and sacrifices to the gods. ”

 

“Perhaps.” Robb mused as he spurred his horse to  catch up to his sister.




Tyr suppressed a shiver of nervousness as he made his way to  Lord Stark’s solar.

 

“Thank you  for scheduling this meeting.”   Be polite, do not let The Stark believe we stoneborn are unintelligent savages.  

 

You said we had business to discuss.”   Lord Eddard Stark said.


“Aye, my lord.  My father has just finalised a trade deal with The Manderly, and he would like it reviewed,  my father is also requesting the right of crenellation. So he might repair an old ringfort near the Northern coast. The Free Folk’s raiding parties are getting larger and more frequent.  My father fears another King or Queen beyond the Wall will be arising sooner rather than later, and the last thing he wants is a band of Spearwives sneaking into Kingshouse again.”

 

Lord Stark gave the documents a cursory glance.

 

“You can write  to The Magnar tonight, that I approve the rebuilding of the ringfort, and if he needs coin to finance it, I can spare some from our coffers.  I see no problems in this trade deal, but I will have my Steward and Maester Luwin take a look at it before I approve it.

 

Tyr thought of his mother Eydis and how when traders came to Skagos, she circled around them like a crow, a sword slung around the skirts of her dress and his baby sister, Lynara, swaddled and strapped to her back, ready to drive off those who would swindle and cheat, foreigner and stoneborn alike.  He remembered one night, she cut down  a group of slaver masquerading as spice peddlars and bad the servants drag the bodies to  the godswood so their entrails would hang from there as a sacrifice .

 

“Our coffers can bear the burden my lord.” Tyr said with a smile.

 

“Is there any further business you needed to  discuss then Lord Tyr?” Eddard asked.

 

Tyr remembered what his mother told him

 

By the blood of your father you are a Magnar of Kingshouse.  By my blood you are a Stane of Driftwood Hall. By the Old Gods you will be a knight and Lord of the stoneborn when your father leaves this world.  If you truly wish to take Alysanne Snow as your wife, to have her bear you sons and daughter and keep your hearth and your heart, Go to her father and ask for her hand.  Alysanne is clever and kind, and the girl is a fighter. You have my blessing for her to be the next Lady Magnar.

 

I would prefer you wed amongst the Stoneborn, an Umber, Karstark or even a Bolton, over a Snow, but your mother was always wiser than me. His father said gruffly  Go to the Quiet Wolf, and ask for her hand.   What reason The Ned keeps a bastard amongst his trueborn children only the True Gods know, but my only objection to the lass is that she is not trueborn.

 

“There is one more matter my lord.”

 

“And what is it?”  Eddard Stark asked.

 

“I would like to ask for your daughter Alysanne’s hand in marriage.”

 

Ned looked at him in shock.

 

For the briefest of moments, Tyr thought Lord Stark would expel him not just from the solar, but Winterfell.   The quiet wolf’s expression was a mix of anger and surprise.

Tyr’s mind was racing.   For a second he remembered that the girl he wished to be his wife had fostered with House Reed, why would Eddard Stark wed his bastard daughter to him, when his daughter could be the next Lady of Greywater watch and Lady of Crannogmen? Not to mention Theon Greyjoy was Lord Stark’s ward and unbetrothed as well. 

 

He expected the next words  out of Lord Stark’s lips to be  Alysanne may be a bastard, but I can find her a far better match, than a Skagg.   Or  I have already arranged a match for Alysanne.

 

Instead  Eddard Stark said

 

Have you spoken to Alysanne about this?”

 

“No my lord, I was unaware of any plans you might have made for her, and I did not wish for her to get her hopes up. Alysanne is a skilled rider, she’s one of the best fighter’s i’ve ever seen and she can sing just as well.  My parents have no objections with her. ”  

 

Eddard sighed.

 

“Alyssanne has spoken happily of her time on Skagos.  But I will not give you her hand without her consent.  I will speak to her and if she consents I will write to your father will formally arrange a betrothal.”

 

“That is all I ask Lord Stark.” Tyr said as  he suppressed a sigh of relief. He rose, a giddy feeling coming over him.

 




“You wanted to see me Lord Stark?” Alysanne asked.

 

Ned felt his heart break at those words.  His heartache became worse when Alysanne actually entered his solar,  clad in a grey gown with a black velvet sash. Her hair had been done up in  a long braid, most likely by Sansa’s hands.  Sansa always enjoyed running her hands through her sister’s hair, expirminting with different styles.

 

Every day she looks more and more like Lyanna.

 

Ned remembered when Alysanne was ten and twelve, and she was playing with Robb and Bran the day after she returned from Bear Island.    Sansa had done her sister’s hair in a long braid that swung like a pendulum as she ran

 

I’m Visenya Targaryen! She yelled as she chased Bran across the yard, laughing and giggling.

 

I’m  Harren the Black!   Bran shouted back

 

Ned shook off the memory and gestured for his daughter to  sit.

 

“The boy who accompanied you, Tyr Magnar has asked for your hand in marriage.”

 

Alysanne looked shocked.

 

“He has?”

 

“I told him I would not give you his hand without your consent.”

 

“But I’m  a bastard. Tyr will be Lord of Skagos one day.”

 

“He has sung your praises.  Tyr seems like a good lad and I want you safe and happy Alysanne.”

 

 

“Tyr has always viewed me as a person father, which is more than I can say for some of the people i’ve met in my fosterings.  He’s never had a problem with me fighting either. I know that match would be of little benefit, but I would be away from Winterfell.” Alysanne said.

 

Eddard embraced his daughter.

 

“You will always have a place in Winterfell Alysanne.” Ned told her fiercely.

 

“I know, but I can’t stay in Winterfell till I’m grey and shriveled like Old Man.   And Lady Stark will never love me.”

 

Ned wanted to  weep  If I had told Catelyn the truth would she have loved Alysanne? If I had told Robert the truth, would he spare her? Perhaps even take her as a royal ward and wed her to one of his sons?

 

Ned hugged her again  “Cat may never love you, but I will never stop loving you Alysanne.  As for your match if you do not want to wed to boy, you do not have to.”

 

Alysanne looked at him.

 

“I love Tyr as a friend.  I believe I can love him as a husband.”

 

Then I will begin drafting a formal offer to  Lord Magnar.”





Alysanne knocked on the door to  the chambers used for guests

 

Tyr opened the door.    He had shed his ringmail in favor of a dark green doublet and trousers. He was barefoot and he held a polishing cloth in his hand.

 

“May I enter?” Alysanne asked in the Old Tongue.

 

“Of course.”  He replied

 

“My father told me  you asked for my hand.” She said in the ancient language of their ancestors

 

“I did.”

 

“Why?  You’ll be Lord of Skagos,  You could wed from the other houses on Skagos, or an Umber or Bolton.  You could wed Alys Karstark.”

 

“I don’t want Alys Karstark.  I want you.” Tyr said and kissed her.

 

Alysanne had never been kissed before.  Tyr’s lips were warm, his mouth wet and his hands gently cupped her waist.  She felt hot and clammy. She swayed for a moment, then she leaned forward and moved her hands to encircle his waist.

 

When Alysanne broke the kiss she told him   “How could you want me Tyr Magnar? I’m a bastard.  I’m no proper lady either.”

 

“How could I not. Don’t listen to your husband’s wife.  Listen to your siblings, listen to your father. Listen to me, Alysanne.   You are the lovely. You are Lethal Your are kind and clever You deserve a good husband and strong sons and daughters and if you want me too, I will give you what you deserve.”

 

Alysanne kissed him. He made a surprise mmf sound

 

“You know what I really want you to do?” She asked him.

 

“What do you want me to do for you my lady?”

 

“I want you to never ever insult my sister Sansa again without my permission.   Second Lord Manderly is bound to hold a squire’s tourney while you’re there. I want you to win it.  Not for me, but for yourself and your people. Show them what a real stoneborn is.”

 

Tyr kissed her hand.

 

“I will do as you ask My lady.”



Alysanne felt her heart soar.    She kissed Tyr one more time, then turned and bolted to  Sansa’s chambers.

 

“I need your help.” She told her sister.

 

“For what?”  Sansa said looking up from the book she had borrowed from Winterfell’s Library.  

 

“Father’s betrothed me to Tyr and I need to  sew him a favor.”

 

Sansa smiled.


Chapter Text

The Godswood was Alyssane’s favorite place in Winterfell.   Alysanne always felt safe and at peace in the presence of the gods.

 

The fact that Catelyn Stark never entered it unless  her husband was there didn't hurt either

 

She heard the shuffling of footsteps.

 

“If you’re looking for Bran, he’s not hiding in the heart tree.” Alysanne said with a smile.

 

“Bran’s in lessons with Maester Luwin, I was playing hide and seek with   Rickon.” Robb said.

 

“I suppose you are here to enlist my services?”  Alysanne said.

 

“I am, but I was hoping to discuss your betrothal.”

 

“What is there to tell?   Tyr asked Father for my hand. Father asked if I wished to marry him. I agreed.  I'm a bastard Robb it's a better match than I could hope for.”

 

“I like him.” Robb said  “I guess I just don't understand why  father won't legitimize you. If you were a Stark, you could wed Lord Umber’s son or even Lord Renly.”

 

“We’ve been over this Robb, Your mother views me as a threat to you and your siblings.  For the sake of his marriage and the stability of his house, Father will never legitimize me.  And besides you think the SmallJon or the King’s brother would let his wife wield a sword? I spent a year on Skagos Robb, Tyr and his house are good people.    Tyr wants me for who I am and the children I’ll bear him will be Trueborn.”

 

“I know. It’s just. I want you to be happy.  You’re my sister.” Robb said.

 

“I will be happy.” Alysanne said.  “Now come, it shouldn't be too hard to find Rickon.”


 

Alysanne ran her hands across the strings of her harp.  A scroll, a quill and sheet of paper and a book both lay open on the table nearby.

 

Besides her sword, the harp was Alysanne's most prized possession.  It was an old, battered lump of bronze and dark wood. She had found it one day while helping clean a room while she was fostering at Bear Island. Lady Maege Mormont insisted she have it, since the harp had apparently been sitting unused and gathering dust in that room since Maege was her age.

 

“So what is it your trying to do exactly?” Sansa asked as she ran her hands through Alysanne's unbound hair.

 

Alysanne pointed to the old scroll.

 

“This is an epic poem about King Brandon the Breaker and how he slew the Night's King.  Judging by these runes here and here there was meant to be some kind of musical accompaniment.   This book here is a copy of a High Valyrian translation made by Maester Balder. The problem is Balder translated this into the Braavosi dialect of High Valyrian, and I want to sing this poem in pure High Valyrian, so I will have make adjustments both to the lyrics and the musical accompaniment.”

 

“Will you play this song the next time we go to Wintertown?” Sansa asked.

 

Alysanne smiled.  The first time she had visited Wintertown she had brought her harp with her.  She had sat in the square and sang the handful of songs she knew. She made a few stags and coppers, although part of her wondered if it was because she actually sang well or because she was the bastard daughter of the townspeople's liege lord.

 

“Perhaps, perhaps not.   Most people like songs about Lord Cregan and Black Aly and Aemon the Dragonknight  than epic poetry in High Valyrian.”

 

“I wish I could sing as well as you.   You were better with languages too.” Sansa said softly.

 

“Everyone has their talents.   You can embroider better, Robb’s good with a Lance.  Arya-”

 

“Makes mischief and ruins anything pleasant.  I wish she acted like a proper lady like you do.”

 

“I'm not a proper lady.” Alysanne said. She wanted to steer the subject away from Sansa’s  growing distaste for her little sister.

 

“But your a-

 

“ Bastard.” Alysanne finished.

 

Sansa looked ashamed . “I’m sorry Alysanne I didn’t mean-”

 

“And what did you mean?”  Alysanne turned to her.

“Arya is your sister.   You two may be as different as the sun and the moon but you both are sisters.  Yes her interests aren’t the same as your and yes she could be a bit more polite, but you’ve heard Septa Mordane tell Arya her hands are like a blacksmith’s. That nasty woman’s always belittling her.  And you’ve never defended her. Why do you think she’s more comfortable with father and Robb and Bran and I then she is? I’ve helped Arya with her sewing. Robb taught her how to ride. How is it that , I the Bastard of Winterfell have been more of a sister to her than you!” Alysanne snarled.

 

Sansa recoiled back.

 

“I’m her true sister.  You’re her half-sister. That’s all you’ll ever be.  I’ll marry a great lord, and you’re betrothed to an upjumped wildling!”

 

Alysanne wanted to smack her right then and there.

 

“Get out.”  Alysanne said coldly.

 

Sansa’s anger vanished, shame swiftly taking its place. 

 

“Alysanne  I’m sorry I didn’t mean-”  

 

“Get out. Get out right now.  I don’t care where you go, but until I say otherwise I don’t want you in my chambers anymore.”

 

Sansa rose  and left with all the grace she could muster, her red hair flying behind her.

 

Alysanne felt tears building in her eyes.  She wiped them and buried her face in her pillow.  



“How could you agree to this?” Catelyn snapped.

 

“The boy asked for Alysanne’s hand.  No one else has. Alysanne reciprocates his feelings.  I have no objections to it. You had no objections to her fostering on Skagos or fostering at all.”

 

“But the Skagosi have rebelled before Ned.  To give them someone with Stark blood. The second the bastard spreads her legs for that boy the have a claim to Winterfell.”

 

“The Skagosi Rebellion was a century ago Cat.  The Skagosi have proved their loyalty many times since then. Ulric Magnar served in the vanguard at the Battle of Summerhall and at the Battle of the Trident he defended Ser Jonothor Darry’s body from those who would steal it.  He saved Lord Karstark and I’s lives during the Greyjoy rebellion.”

 

“But Ned-

 

“Enough Cat.”  Ned said wearily.   “I know there is no love for Alysanne in you heart, but she is my blood.  It is my duty to ensure her safety and happiness. The same duty I have to Robb, Sansa, Bran Arya and Rickon.  Alysanne will marry Tyr Magnar.  She will be a Magnar and her children will be Magnars.”

 

“I suppose you have written to the king to have her legitimized then.”  Catelyn said darkly.

 

“Alysanne will not be legitimized Cat.  I have given you my word on this many times over.”

 

“When the boy she’s betrothed to returns home, I want the bastard to accompany him.”

 

Ned sighed again.

 

“Alysanne and Lord Tyr will not be wed until they are both of age Cat.  She will remain in Winterfell.”

 

“I have tolerated her presence for long enough Ned.  She is a poor influence on Arya. The only time Robb has ever disobeyed me is when I told him not to treat her like she was his sister.  And what will the other Lords think of Sansa and they way she spends time with her father’s bastard?”

 

“Tolerated her presence?”  Ned said icily. “Alysanne is the sister to your children.  Our children.   Thrice I have sent her to foster far from home for your sake and hers, so you might not find yourself doing or saying something you'd regret.   Do you know when I sent her to  foster with Howland Reed she came to me in tears because she thought she was a stain on my honor?   I sent her to Bear Island so Maege Mormont would deal with her flowering and give her a mother’s love.  I sent her to Skagos not just to bring closer ties to my more distant bannerman but so Benjen could visit it her and she could see more of the North.”

 

“She is a stain on your honor-

 

“She is my daughter! She may be a Snow, but she is my responsibility Catelyn !  The children love her and she will spend her days far from them when she is wedded and bedded.   Alysanne is staying in Winterfell and that is final Catelyn.”

 

Catelyn shook her head slowly.

 

“At least tell me her dowry will not be the same amount as our daughters.” Catelyn said.

 

No it will not.   Ten talents of silver from our accounts in the Iron Bank,  the rest in another ten talents worth of iron and coal from Tyroshi guilds my grandfather invested in.”

 

“That’s more than she deserves.”  Catelyn said. Ten Talents of silver was only a quarter of the coin amount they had set aside for Sansa and that was only part of the total value of the dowry they had prepared for their eldest daughter.

 

“The Skagosi will get more use for the iron and coal than they will the coin.  Skagos has no metal to mine, only dragonglass, and they will need coal when Winter comes.” Ned said.

 

Catelyn sighed and rose.

 

“Catelyn.” Ned said.

 

“Would you be more wroth with me If I said I would wed Alysanne to  Theon Greyjoy?”

 

Catelyn laughed.  “Theon Greyjoy would make for a poor husband even if he didn’t frequent brothels almost every day.”

 

Ned smiled.  “Agreed what Robb sees in that boy I have no idea, but I’ll have no pity for Balon Greyjoy when he begins searching for a lord to offer his daughter to him."

    


 
“Gods how could I be so cruel Robb!”  Sansa sobbed into her eldest brothers lap.

 

“There there. You made a mistake, and Alysanne is right to be upset with you, but that doesn’t mean she won’t forgive you.” Robb murmured

 

“But she’s right!” Sansa hiccuped “Alysanne’s been fostered three times, and she’s been a better sister to  Arya than i’ve been.”

 

“Then why don’t you try to be more understanding of Arya instead of dismissing what she says? Offer to go  riding with her or help her with her sewing.  And as for Alysanne. Yes she’s a bastard, but she’s our sister. We’re family. Maybe one day  Alysanne will be legitimized, maybe she won’t.  But be it Spring or Winter, she’s family. All of us will wed one day and our children will play together and grow up together.” Robb said. 

 

Sansa  rose.

 

“I should go apologize to her.”

 

“I’ll come with you.” Robb offered

 

“No, I need to do this by myself.” Sansa said.

 



Sansa rapped on the chamber door.

 

Alysanne opened the door. Her eyes were bloodshot from tears, and her hair was a mess.

 

“I came to beg your forgiveness.   I was cruel. I was petty and judgmental   I shouldn’t have snapped at you and I shouldn’t have dismissed what you said about me not being a good sister to  Arya. I know we don’t have the same mother, but we have the same father, and that makes us sisters. You being a bastard shouldn’t matter to me.”

 

“Come in.”  Alysanne said softly

 

Sansa tentatively did so.

 

“I don’t regret what I said to you Sansa, but I accept your apology.  It’s just… I’m a bastard. You may view Tyr as an up-jumped wildling but he’s my friend, my future  husband and a far better match than I ever hoped for.  Your mother is your mother, she loves and praises you and kisses you good night, but to me she’s my father’s wife who hates me and would rather I never have come to Winterfell to begin with.  Seven Hells, i’m sure she’d sell me like a broodmare to the brothel in Wintertown if she could get away with that.”

 

“Mother wouldn’t do that.” Sansa said hesitantly.

 

“Don’t lie to yourself Sansa, She would in a heartbeat.   Especially because i’m a girl. Especially because i’m a pretty girl who’s not a proper lady.   Daena the Defiant wasn’t and the second she spread her legs for Aegon the Unworthy, she caused five generations of war and horror not just for House Targaryen, but for Daemon Blackfyre and his family.”

 

“But you’re marrying a Lord, and you’re children will be trueborn.”

 

“You think Lady Stark cares!  If I was a boy, she’d hate me more,  but If I was a boy I could go to the Wall, maybe become Lord Commander one day, I could go  to the Citadel, or go to Essos and join the Golden Company, but it doesn’t matter if I was a boy or a girl, It doesn’t matter who I marry, because to her and all of Westeros i’m just Alysanne Snow,  Eddard Stark’s bastard!”

 

Alysanne let out a sob and buried her head in her hands.

 

Sansa hugged her sister tight.

 

“I don’t care if mother hates you.  I don’t care if people call you a stain on father’s honor.  You’re my sister and I will never say an unkind word to you again.  I’ll protect you from mother and anyone else. I promise.”.

 

“You’re going to be my Ryman Redwyne?”  Alysanne said with a sad laugh.

 

“There are more ways to protect someone then just a sword.  Didn’t Good Queen Alysanne ban the First Night to keep girls being raped by the liege lords?”

 

Alysanne nodded but tried to suppress a chuckle.  On Skagos, the First Night was still kept, although it was more an excuse for threesomes and foursomes than for the purpose of a hero bestowing his seed.

 

Outside the door, Eddard and Robb Stark listened, smiled and left.

 

 



    










 

 

 

Chapter Text

.

Tyr Magnar  staggered to his feet, his body aching from being unhorsed.

Tyr was the only squire in his little group with battle experience, and the best swordsman and tactician in the small army of squires at White Harbor.  

In fact Tyr excelled at most aspects of knighthood.  How to wear and maintain armor, how to be chivalrous, how to be courteous to women and how to determine the ransom for a captured knight.

 

Everything but jousting.

 

Success is measured in blood.  Yours or your enemies.  His Aunt Alys had told him once.  

 

Success was measured in how many times he was unsaddled. Yesterday he had been unsaddled ten times.   Today he had been unsaddled seven times.

 

He got up again and clambered back upon his horse.   

 

Ser Wendel handed him his lance.  While Tyr was squiring for Lord Wyman Manderly, the man’s duties as Lord of White Harbor (and his immense bulk)  meant Ser Wendel handled the more hands on aspects of teaching the young stoneborn how to be a knight

 

“Lean yourself into it Lad.” Ser Wendel said with a smile

 

Tyr adjusted his grip on the lance.    On Skagos, horses were rare, and unicorns were plentiful.  Unicorns were creatures built for endurance and power, to gore foes and prey with their horn in  a short burst of speed. One did not fight atop a unicorn with couched lance, but with axe and sword and bow and arrow.

 

Still Tyr was determined to  succeed. It was true that it was  not just skill with a lance and horse that made a knight, but it was the key part of their military  effectiveness, and mastery of it would lead to victory in the upcoming squire’s tourney.  It was there Tyr hoped to prove to his fellow Northmen that Skagosons were not to be dismissed as cannibals.  

 

He spurred his horse to  his end of the field. He could tell his opponent, Talian Locke was sneering at him beneath his helm.

 Talian was a year older then Tyr. He was one of  the best riders in the group of squires and he knew it.   He was vain too and fancied himself with the ladies.  Although any lady who shared his bed was a whore he probably payed for.

Both squires were clad in thick quilted armor, a greathelm and a tabard in the colors of their house.

 

Tyr shifted in his saddle, than charged.  Time slowed as he drew closer. He followed Ser Wendel’s instructions and leaned into his lance thrust.

 

To his delight, his lance struck Talian Locke clean in the chest and sent him landing on his ass.

 

“That was a beautiful hit Tyr!” Ser Wendel said 

 

Tyr handed his lance to another knight supervising the training and removed his greathelm.  Sweat clung to his brow and his legs were chafed and aching.

 

“Alright Lads, the rest of the day until supper is yours." Ser Wendel said.

 

All the squires smiled and rushed to leave the field.

 

“Ser, can you continue  practice jousting with me?” Tyr asked.

 

“Of course lad, I can spare another hour.”  Ser Wendel said


 

After his extra half hour of jousting practice.  Tyr went out to White Harbor.

 

White Harbor was unlike anything the young man had ever seen.   On Skagos, dwellings were carved into the mountains or made of wood and mud.   The most impressive structure was Kingshouse, his family seat. A great longhall of stone and wood, built atop the highest mountain  it had only been taken once in its history: When the Skagosi rebelled against the Starks of Winterfell.

 

But in White Harbor, even the smallest castle owned by the poorest Landed Knight sworn to Lord Manderly surpassed Kingshouse in splendor.

 

Tyr was terribly homesick.  He had few friends here at New Castle.  Most of the Manderlys and servants were quite polite, but they had little regard for him.

 

Mummers of Little better than a wildling and Cannibal  clung to him like a foul stench. Tyr did his best to ignore them.  

 

Despite this, Tyr's squireship wasn't all that bad, the food was wonderful, and the Manderly's gave him a generous stipend of twenty silver stags every two weeks.

 

This stipend plus the three Gold dragon's given to him by his mother had been put to good use.

 

As  a wedding gift for Alysanne he had a bastard sword commissioned for her and purchased some books he had a feeling she would like.   He had bought furs and spices and two silver ingots for his mother so she might have her Uncle craft wonderful jewelry from it

Summer snow crunched beneath the young Northman's boots as he made his way down cobbled streets.

In the distance he could see the the Wolf's Den and the Sept of the Snow's

Tyr's feet  led him to the Fishfoot yard, where traders and smaller merchants  gathered. In the center of the square, a Septon clad in sealskin and furs preached.  A little redheaded girl of ten and four pushed a wheelbarrow full of oyster clams and cockles.

 

"Baked potatoes! Grown on House Stout lands. Get you baked potatoes here!" A merchant cried

 

"Onions and turnips and  asparagus! Fresh from the lands of House Lake! Get them now before Winter comes!" Another yelled

 

As Tyr  wandered through the market,he saw merchants peddling   Myrish glassware and Pentoshi rugs. He saw everything from woodcarrvings to mustard  seeds being haggled over.

 

Tyr had no particular destination in mind. He was just wandering to kill time before supper.   

 

Tyr let out  a grunt of surprise as he bumped into Lother Burly.  

 

"Sorry bout that." Tyr  said.

 

"Not a problem."  The Mountain Clansman who was one of Tyr's few friends said with a smile.

 

Lother Burly was shorter for a mountain clansman, but he was still a head taller then Tyr.  He had curly auburn hair, cut short and his mother, a crannogwoman of House Blackmyre’s dark eyes.   He was a second son and one of the handful of squires like  Tyr who was betrothed. He was a skilled axe man and javelin thrower.  

"Gifts for your Harclay girl?"  Tyr asked indicating the sheath of arrows and the dagger in his arms.

"Aye, some of your people have come to sell their wares. Good prices too. Told the Flints about it.   Little Brandon wanted to buy something for his mother.”

 

Tyr smiled.  Brandon Flint was a young page of ten from Flint’s Finger.  His older cousin Artos Flint of House Flint of Widow’s Watch  had just turned eighteen, and was expected to be dubbed a Knight in  a few months.

“It would be good to  speak to my people after all this time.” Tyr said.

 

“Enjoy it. I’ve got to  get to the customs master. I’ll see you tonight.” Lother said with a smile.

 

Tyr smiled and made his way to  the where his people were peddling their goods.  Obsidian weapons, unicron pelts and horns, jewelry and raw minerals lay on Lorath carpets.  He could hear the gutteral but sweet sound of the Old Tounge fill the salty air.

An old woman, dark of skin,  her fingers gnarled and her hair stringy peddled cut flowers and herbs.   She looked up at him, a winter rose in her hands.

“ The Magnar.”  The old woman croaked.

“Not yet venerable one.  Just Tyr will do.”

The woman laughed.

 

“Just like your father, and his father before him.”

 

Tyr looked  to his people.   They were a mix of all ages. Some were fair haired, others with hair kissed by fire.  Some had were dark skinned, other light skinned, but all had the blood of the First Men in their veins.  All were Stoneborn. All were his people. His responsibility.

 

“How much for your roses Venerable one?”   

"Wooing a girl  tonight?" The old lady asked him.

"No, I'm sending them to my bethrothed."

"The Ned's Snow is your bethrothed  right boy?" 

"Aye."

 "I saw the two of you at Deepdown, when those Freefolk came to rape and raid.  When I saw her for a second I thought   Poor Lord Rickard's lass hadn't gone to her grave too early.  The girl may be a bastard, but she's a pretty one. Be grateful our fat king or the prince or some other Lord  haven't carried her off."

Tyr pondered  the old crone's words.  The thought of anyone, especially  an Andal king, like Robert Baratheon, who was known for and wide for his lusts trying to take Alysanne made his blood boil.  

"If Alysanne doesn't kill whoever tries to harm her, I will.  She's to be my wife, and I'm to be her husband and a Knight.   I'd be an oathbreaker if I could not keep her safe."

"Fine words. I pray you do not have to prove their worth.  Winter is upon us.  This is no time for a war to break out."

"My mother always said summer was the best time for a war." 

The old woman cackled.  "She would have the right of it.  The weather in spring is too good to waste shedding blood. The gods gave us Spring to enjoy life not waste it."

 


 

Alysanne ran her fingers across the petal of one of the roses.  Her future husband had sent seven of them, along with a dagger of obsidian with  a unicorn horn hilt and a fine red ruby embedded in it.

That makes for a third blade of Dragonglass. Still Lady Maege did say a lady never could have enough blades. Alysanne thought with a smile.

 





    

 


Chapter Text

Benjen Stark let out  a sigh as he entered towards Maester Aemon’s chambers.

 

“Come for more books for your niece First Ranger?”  Maester Aemon asked kindly.

 

“Aye. Alysanne wants to know if you have any books regarding Daena the Defiant.”

 

Aemon smiled.  “I have something better,   A year after Egg’s death Jaehaerys sent copies of a few family journals he had his Grand Maester make.   Princess Daena’s was among them.

 

“She’ll be delighted to hear  of it.”

 

Aemon turned to his assistant,  a new lad by the name of Samwell Tarly,  and bid him fetch the book in question.

 

Benjen did not like this Samwell Tarly, not because he bore the lad any ill will, but because he would be a poor replacement for Aemon.   

 

Aemon Targayen is a great man.  One of the few the Watch has left.  A maester of the Citadel , chained and sworn, and Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch ,  When he was born they named him for a hero who had died too young, but though he lived a long long time, his own life was no less heroic. No man is wiser, or gentler, or kinder.  A dozen lord commander s have come and gone during his years of service, but he was always there to counsel them. He counseled kings as well.   He could have been a king himself, but when they offered him the crown he told them they should give it to his younger brother . How many men would do that?   Benjen thought.

 

But if Aemon had been King, things might have gone better for Westeros.  

 

Alysanne had always been fond of books, and when she discovered the Night’s Watch  had a library of their own at Castle Black, she had begged her Uncle if he could bring her books from there the library at Winterfell did not possess.


Benjen had indulged her, and Aemon was all too happy to run his assistants ragged finding everything from Lord Commander’s journals to  tomes on herbology to ranging reports.


"Something is troubling you Benjen?”  

 

“Many things trouble me, Maester.  Robert Baratheon’s upcoming visit and  My niece’s upcoming marriage is one of them.”

 

“I thought you liked Tyr Magnar when you went to visit her on Skagos.   Not to mention it will be a shorter journey for you to ride to Eastwatch by the sea and take ship to  Skagos, then it will be to travel to Winterfell. As for Robert Baratheon, tell your brother of our needs and  he will deal with the man.”

 

“I doubt time has made him any less disgusting, as for the boy.  I like him just fine, but Ned could have found a far better match for Alysanne, he should have told her the truth. She is almost a woman grown."

 

“The last time we spoke of this was when Alysanne flowered, and your brother came to  visit, First Ranger, and I will say it again. Yes Alysanne should be told the truth of her parentage when the time is right, but a Targaryen alone in this world is a terrible thing, and even if we could prove her heritage, who would support her?  Her relatives in exile? Your Brother’s bannermen? Yes Alysanne, could be Queen one day. Another Visenya or Rhaenys or another good queen like her namesake. Or she could join her older siblings in the grave. Or worse, Robert would destroy your house root and stem and make prizes of war out of Alysanne and your other two nieces.  I’d rather Alysanne Targaryen be happy as Alysanne Magnar then dead and gone like the rest of my family Benjen.”

 

Benjen sighed.  The old man was right.   

 

“The gods have been cruel to you Benjen.   Every year since your niece's birth has tested your vows, and duty is a heavy chain to bear, especially when it is willingly donned.”

 

“Aye,” Benjen said.  

 

Samwell Tarly then returned not just with a copy of Daena the Defiant's hornal  but another tome, a black leather one sealed with an iron clasp in the shape of a raven.

 

A raven with a single red painted eye.

 

"I found this under some old scrolls  Maester Aemon." Samwell said.

 

Samwell gently handed the book to the old man.

 

Aemon ran a gnarled finger over the clasp.   "I thought  he had taken this with him."

 

"You knew who owned this?" Benjen asked.

 

"Indeed. This is the journal of the 994th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Ser Brynden Rivers.  Better known as Bloodraven."

 

Benjen felt his blood run cold.

 

"And you said you thought he took it with him?"  Benjen said.

 

“Indeed, It was the only other possession besides Dark Sister and his bow that he took with him to  the Wall. “ Aemon said with a weary sigh.

 

"Take it with you, Benjen.  You and your niece might find some kernels of wisdom in his scrivenings.”

 

Benjen nodded, and took both volumes.   He made his way back to his quarters. He gently undid the clasp and began to  read the first few entries.

 



It was a fine day  for a tourney in Lord Wyman Manderly’s opinion.

 

From his private box, he hosted some of his more powerful bannermen  and his fellow Lords.

 

Gossip, food, wine and wine flowed in  abundance as the squires broke lance after lance sending each other crashing to  the packed earth.

 

“I didn’t know the Skaggs sent a lad to  squire.” Lord Bowen Ironsmith said.

 

The men and women in the stands cheered as the young Magnar unhorsed Lord Lake’s son Marlon.


“Indeed.  The lad’s name is Tyr Magnar.  He’s serving as my own squire.”

 

“I heard he was betrothed to Lord Stark’s bastard.” Lord Ryan Waterman said.

 

“Aye why Ulric Magnar would let his son wed a bastard, even a Stark bastard I have no idea.”  Lord Rickard Karstark, a cantankerous and somewhat arrogant lout in Wyman’s opinion growled as he popped a grape in his mouth.

 

“Perhaps Ulric decided not to  set his sights so high? Either way Lord Stark will see her well dowered.”  Lord Whitehall said.


Wyman smiled at the subtle jape.  Many Lords had sniggered behind Rickard Karstark’s back  for his failed attempt to broker a betrothal between his daughter Alys and Robb Stark when the two were only eight.  The Karstarks were always an arrogant bunch due to their origins as a cadet branch of House Stark. The Karstarks had looked down on other lords, the Manderly’s in particular.   Rickard Karstark was happy to dismiss Wyman and his house as a “Fat southern tubs of lard, who will never be true Northmen,even if their house persists for another thousand years.”,   but he was more than happy to enjoy the fine food and drink, Manderly wealth had purchased.

 

Wyman found no fault in ambition, only in how one went about it, and how they treated their fellow man.

 

“Tell me Lord Manderly, how many boys are squirting for you?”  Alaric Overton, a tall wiry man with slicked back dark hair asked

 

“Most of them second, third and fourth sons,  Tyr is one of the few heirs.”

 

Alaric Overton winced as his own son was unhorsed by a lance to  the chest.

 

“This boy’s breaking many lances.”  Lord Lightfoot commented, as the squire and his opponent both  spurred his horse back to his end of the field to retrieve a new one.

 

“Wendel said the lad wasn’t a natural rider and more used to Unicorns.” Wyman said.

 

A few lords scoffed at that.   

 

“Unicorns, The Skaggs are full of hooey.  The Starks should have killed them all when they rebelled.” Lord Karstark said with a growl.

 

“Unicorns or no, the lad rides enough well enough I say, even if he’s unhorsing them on the second or third Lance.” Lord Mollen said as he took a sip of mulled wine.


 

Tyr cursed as he broke his final lance against Talian Locke.

 

Tyr was tired, his legs ached.  He was bruised and battered from lance and sword blows.

 

But he had never felt more alive.    It felt good to knock those mocked him, those who teased him for taking a bastard girl to be his wife down a peg or two.

 

He unsheathed his blunted arming sword and spurred his horse again.

 

Talian drew his blade as well.  The arrogant squire raised his blade high, but Tyr was smarter, he kept his blade low, but his arm out like a duck's wing.

 

With one swing, Locke went tumbling from his steed.

 

“Tyr Magnar has won the final tilt!”  The herald screamed.

 

This is just the first step. Tyr thought as the crowd chanted his name.    I must be the best knight  I can be. For my House and my people, for Alyssane, and for the North.


Chapter Text

Alysanne shivered as the King's party entered the gates of Winterfell.  Lady Stark had not wanted her alongside Alysanne’s siblings when the King’s party came, but father had insisted.

 

Truth be told, Alysanne had no desire to be with her siblings.  Not out of any dislike for them, but because she had no desire to be paraded about like some damn monkey.

 

Alysanne was dressed in a  grey and black gown, with fur around the collar.  Over the gown was a black cloak Sansa had done up her hair for her, sliding in a silver hairpiece in the shape of a crescent moon and doing her best to neaten her messy dark curls.    Around her right wrist was a bracelet of hammered bronze, etched with the runes of the First Men, beseeching the Gods for their favor in battle and in life.

 

Both Stark and Snow knelt as King Robert dismounted his horse.

 

The King was not what Alysamne was expecting.  Her father had described King Robert as a tall powerfully built man, with laughing blue eyes who wielded a Warhammer as easily as a man might swing a stick.

 

If King Robert had any muscle, it was shrouded in girth.  He had a scraggly beard that could barely hide his double chin and he was red faced.  He embraced Ned with a booming laugh.

 

He greeted Lady Catelyn like a long sister, and Alysanne allowed herself some satisfaction at her discomfort.

 

“Nine years I haven’t seen you. Where the hell have you been?” Robert said.

 

"Guarding the North for you. Your Grace. Winterfell is yours." Alysanne's father said.

 

Robert smiled as he greeted the children.  He shook Robb’s hand, complemented both Sansa and Arya, and  patted Bran and Rickon on the head.

 

But when he saw Alysanne his smile vanished and pain filled his eyes, as if someone had thrust a spear into his gut.

 

"You… You look like her.  Like your Aunt Lyanna."

 

Father rarely spoke about his sister.   Beautiful willful and dead before her time. He said. Alysanne knew her father let her wield a sword because Lyanna would have wielded one had Alysanne's Grandfather Rickard allowed it. When Alysanne was ten, Eddard had told her and her other siblings, how Aunt Lyanna had chased off three squires who had attacked a young Lord Howland Reed  with a tourney sword.


“ I hope your father finds a good husband for you.” Robert choked out

 

“He… He has Your grace, i’m to marry Tyr Magnar, heir to  the Lordship of Skagos.”

 

“Good good.” The King turned to Ned.  

 

“Take me down the crypts Ned, I wish to pay my respects.” Robert bellowed.

 

The Queen, Cersei Lannister protested   Surely the dead could wait until they had taken some time to refresh?

 

Queen Cersei’s brother, Ser Jaime gently took her by the arm, silencing any further protest Cersei might make.

 

As Ned beckoned for a lantern, and everyone dispersed, Alysanne caught Cersei staring at her, with cold, cruel eyes the color of wildfire.  

 

Part of her wanted to shrink back in fear, but Alysanne was a proper lady, and even if she wasn’t a Stark, she was still a wolf and wolves did not cower when threatened.

 

With every scrap of courage she could muster, Alysanne fixed the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms with a cool, almost contemptuous stare.

 

The queen hid her shock that someone lesser than her met her gaze.   Alysanne wanted to laugh, but she would not stoop to such pettiness.  Instead she turned and went to follow her siblings back inside.

 

Ned cursed himself internally as he ushered Robert deeper into the crypts of Winterfell.   How could he have been so stupid as to expose Lyanna's daughter like that. Now every hedge knight and milk maid would be whispering about how the King had said his friend, Ned Stark's bastard looked like his long dead love.

 

As Robert rambled on about fruits and women in silk and cotton and other matters that almost made Ned wish he could fall on Ice, the stairs leading to the crypts twisted and turned.  The stone Ned and his King trodd on was well worn by time. For over a thousand generations, the Starks had ruled with justice and compassion from Winterfell. Through wars and winters,   the Starks endured.

 

Lyanna's tomb was the most recent addition. Her granite likeness was on her father's right, while her older brother Brandon's statue   was on Lord Rickard's left. At the feet of these granite representations of family members taken before their time were stone direwolves.  The one in front of Lyanna's and the one in front of Lord Rickards were both she wolves. The one in front of Lord Rickard's held a portion of Eddard's mothers ashes.  

 

Eddard always felt a sense of melancholy and anger  when he visited the crypts. Melancholy because he knew like the older statues in the lower levels of the crypts, the faces  of the statues would be worn away by time and the names of the deceased inscribed in the runes of the First men would be rendered ineligible.  Anger because the actions of the honored dead that had contributed to their deaths.

 

When both Alysanne and Robb were both learning to crawl, Eddard had sometimes come down to crypt and brooded over the actions of his Family. He cursed his father Rickard, for his southern ambitions, his brother Brandon for his recklessness, his sister Lyanna for believing sick twisted noble Prince Rhaegar's honeyed  lies.

 

"Why you headstrong fool why? If you had taken a moment to think,  you and Elbert Arryn would still be alive! You think I wanted to marry your betrothed? You think I wanted to be Lord of Winterfell?” He had screamed at Brandon’s statue, tears streaming down his cheeks.

 

Ned felt his choler rise as Robert harped about Lyanna should have been buried on a hill somewhere with the clouds above her.

 

You killed her.  You who professed to love my sister, killed her with your drinking and whoring.  If you had been able to keep to one bed, my sister might not have been swayed by Rhaegar’s horseshit.




 

The feast had been going on for almost four hours.

 

Alysanne was bored and somewhat drunk.

 

The Great Hall of Winterfell was hazy with smoke and heavy with the smell of roasted meat and fresh-baked bread. Its grey stone walls were draped with banners. White, gold, crimson: the direwolf of Stark, Baratheon's crowned stag, the lion of Lannister. A singer was playing the high harp and reciting a ballad, but down at this end of the hall his voice could scarcely be heard above the roar of the fire, the clangor of pewter plates and cups, and the low mutter of a hundred drunken conversations.

 

Alysanne's  brothers and sisters had been seated with the royal children, beneath the raised platform where Lord and Lady Stark hosted the king and queen. In honor of the occasion, her lord father would doubtless permit each child a glass of wine, but no more than that. Down here on the benches, there was no one to stop Alysanne drinking as much as she had a thirst for.

 

The company was half decent, squires ,household knights and grizzled Yeoman all had tales of battle tourneys and the hunt.

She wished Tyr was here.  His letters were long and full of details on his squireship, but they could not fully sate her desire to see him.  She wanted to kiss him again, to spar and go riding with him.

 

If Alysanne had any consolation, it was that Theon Greyjoy looked to be just as bored as she was.   

 

Alysanne once treated the future Lord Reaper of Pyke with a mixture of respect and pity.  Theon was heir to one of the seven kingdoms after all, even if he was Ironborn scum. Not to mention us was an outsider like her

 

That was before he stole her first kiss and dismissed her as nothing more than a broodmare.

 

"Sansa will be my rock wife and you shall be my salt wife. It's the best thing you could hope for Snow."

 

Alysanne slapped him and told him that while yes she was a bastard, she was a still a noblewomen, not some big breasted  peasant girl trying to earn a few extra coppers at the brothel in Wintertown

 

Theon laughed and told her.  "A man has needs Aly, Bastard wenches like you were put on this greenland to satisfy it."

 

Alysanne wanted nothing more then take the sword Lady Mormont had gifted her and cut Theon in half , but Robb warned Theon to mind his tongue.

 

Theon didn't heed the warning, instead he cackled and told Alysanne that her mother was probably a bastard like her. Possibly even a Dornish woman.  

 

"Perhaps Robb will be generous and allow you to remain at Winterfell in exchange for satisfying the needs of his vassals.  Your mother was probably in a similar position."

 

It was then Robb grew wroth, and with a snarl, processed to beat his father’s ward so bloody, Maester Luwin thought the older boy had been mauled by a bear.

 

A few days, later  when the swelling in Theon’s face had gone done enough so he was fit to be in company,  Her father supped with Vayon Poole, Ser Rodrik and his son Jory and Hullen in his solar.  Theon had been invited as well. What words went between them and young Greyjoy Alysanne had no idea, but Theon never said an unkind word about her again.

 

Robb resumed his friendship with Theon afterwards, but their relationship was never quite as warm.  

 

Something rubbed against the leg beneath the table. The young maid  saw red eyes staring up at her. "Hungry again?" She asked. There was still half a honeyed chicken in the center of the table. She reached out to tear off a leg, then had a better idea. She knifed the bird whole and let the carcass slide to the floor between her legs. Ghost ripped into it in savage silence.

.    

Ghost had filed a part of her she didn't know was missing.  The direwolf followed her everywhere, and Alysanne was doing her best  to train the young pup. Alysanne knew the Gods themselves were at work when it came to these creatures.  It made her feel giddy and special, but also apprehensive. Direwolves were as magical as Dragons, and like them hailed from a time of legend.  Direwolves roamed when the First Men and the Children of the Forest lived in Harmony, when the White Walkers prowled the tundra seeking warm flesh to corrupt,  when Valyria still stood and long long before the first Andals brought the Faith of the Seven to Westeros.



"Is this one of the direwolves I've heard so much of?" a familiar voice asked close at hand.

 

For the first time, today Alysanne smiled.  She rose and hugged her Uncle Benjen. His companion, Brother Yoren, a recruiter for the Night’s Watch and a close friend of her Uncle kissed her hand.  Yoren and Benjen’s fellow brothers were always kind and courteous to her and never failed to almost make Alysanne feel like she was a princess

 

“How many cups have you had Aly?”  Benjen asked.

 

She smiled, only Uncle Benjen and Yoren and Qhorin Halfhand  called her Aly.

 

Ben Stark laughed. "As I feared. Ah, well. I believe I was younger than you the first time I got truly and sincerely drunk." He snagged a roasted onion, dripping brown with gravy, from a nearby trencher and bit into it

 

Her uncle Benjen was wiry, but broad shouldered.  There was always a hint of laughter in his blue-grey eyes    Yoren was stooped man, with a coarse brown-black beard that he often had to pick lice out of and stern, beady, flinty but occasionally mischievous black eyes.



Benjen watched Ghost with amusement as he ate his onion. "A very quiet wolf," he observed.

 

"He's not like the others," Alysanne told her beloved Uncle. "He never makes a sound. That's why I named him Ghost. That, and because he's white. The others are all dark, grey or black."

 

"There are still direwolves beyond the Wall. Qhorin and I hear them on our rangings."

 

“And how is the halfhand?” Alysanne asked.  She knew Qhorin was more then just one of Benjen’s friends. Sworn brother’s of the Watch were forbidden to marry, but not forbidden  to love. Especially when it came to their fellow brothers who they stood their lonely vigils with.

 

“He wished he could have come down, but Commander Mallister needed him at the Shadow Tower.  Ser Royce and Brother Will are still missing, and the old eagle says more wildlings are trying to slip past the wall.”  

 

The thought of increased wildling raids troubled her.   The glory days of the Night’s Watch had long since faded.  Once they were ten thousand watchers on the wall, operating from seventeen castles.   Now they were barely a thousand strong, with only three castles garrisoned. Alysanne doubted more than a third of them were men of the caliber her Uncle, Yoren and Maester Aemon were.  

 

“And Maester Aemon?”

 

“The old  dragon is doing  alright for a man around a hundred. Minus the blindness of course.  The bards your father hired are shit, why didn't he just put you up there with your harp and save himself the coin?” Yoren said as he piled his plate with lamb chops and black bread

 

Alysanne looked to the high bench where Lady Catelyn  was glaring at her, no doubt angered that Benjen, her children's Uncle and the de facto second in command of the Night's Watch had chosen to sit and converse with his bastard niece rather than greet her children and the family first.   

 

She thought on Yoren's words.  Her own nervousness about singing in front of so many people aside, there would be no way in the Seven Hells Lady Catelyn would allow her, The Bastard of Winterfell to such a thing. Lady Catelyn wanted  her out of sight and out of mind, isolated as much as possible.

 

"Don't you usually eat at table with your brothers and sisters?" Benjen asked as he sipped his wine.

 

"Most times," Alysanne answered, trying and failing to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "But tonight Lady Stark thought it might give insult to the royal family to seat a bastard among them."

 

"I see." Her uncle glared at Lady Catelyn.

 

Yoren shook his head sadly.  The wandering crow had always done his best to make Alysanne smile with his bawdy jokes and tall tales.

 

"My brother does not seem very festive tonight."

 

She had noticed that too. A bastard had to learn to notice things, to read the truth that people hide behind their eyes. Her father was observing all the courtesies, but there was a mix of melancholy and anger in his eyes.   He said little, looking out over the hall with hooded eyes, lost in his own thoughts.

 

Two seats away, the king had been drinking heavily all night. His broad face was flushed behind his great black beard. He made many a toast, laughed loudly at every jest, and attacked each dish like a starving man, but beside him the queen seemed as cold as an ice sculpture.

 

"The queen is angry too," She told her uncle in a low, quiet voice. "Father took the king down to the crypts this afternoon. The queen didn't want him to go.   The king… He said I looked like Aunt Lyanna. The queen was glaring at me like I had done something to her."

 

Benjen gave her a careful, measuring look. "You don't miss much, do you. Alysanne?”  He took another sip of his wine.

 

“And for once in his life Robert Baratheon is right. You do look like her.  Although you have higher cheekbones and a bit more muscle on your frame. Not to mention unlike her you had formal training at arms. “

Alysanne swelled with pride. "Robb is a stronger lance than I am, but I'm the better sword, and Hullen says I sit a horse as well as anyone in the castle."

 

"Notable achievements."

 

"And  you know I've fought and killed Wildlings before."

 

Uncle Benjen smiled  grimly. He had heard of Alysanne and Tyr's little run in with the Free folk from Lady Eydis, when she had come to Eastwatch to trade.  She was quite proud that her little Tyr had been "blooded". On Skagos a boy did not become a man truly until he had shed blood in battle.  The fact Tyr had slain at least seven wildlings and captured four to be sacrificed to the gods the year before he had reached the age of majority had done much to elevate him in the eyes of his future vassals.

 

Not to mention, Alysanne had amassed her own tally,  silencing any grumblings from the Stoneborn about The Ned’s Bastard fostering on Skagos.

 

“So tell us about the Skagg lad you’ll be wedding, I caught a glimpse of him at the tourney on my way back with fresh blood for the wall.” Yoren said.

 

Alysanne blushed at the mention of  her betrothed.

 

“He never  looked down on me.  Not once. Truth be told I wasn’t expecting him to ask father for my hand.   Tyr doesn’t want me for my body, he wants me for who I am. He… forgive me if this sounds too flowery, but he’s in love with me for me, not some idealized version that only existed in my head. He’s an excellent fighter, he’s kind and honorable, he’ll be called a true knight one day mark my words. The fact he's easy on the eyes doesn't hurt either.”

 

Benjen smiled.  “Aemon was able to find a copy of Princess Daena’s journal  for you. He also wanted me to give you this.” Her Uncle said. He handed Alysanne  the two tomes.

 

“That’s Lord Commander River’s journal, according to Aemon it’s the only thing he took with him to the wall besides Dark Sister and his bow and arrows.”  Benjen told her.

 

“Why would  he want me to have it?  Not to mention if Lady Stark discovered I had Bloodraven’s journal…" She did not even want to think of her father's wife's reaction if she learned something like that was in Alysanne's possession.

 

“Aemon said there would be wisdom in it’s pages, a bleak kind to be sure, but wisdom nonetheless.  And besides what my good sister knows won’t hurt her.” Benjen winked at her and rose to meet with his brother.   Yoren smiled and rose to go relieve himself.

 

Alysanne placed the two ancient tomes next to her and placed some pork chops on her plate.  Yoren was right, the bard was shit. She could sing “The Hammer and the Anvil” far better than the lout sitting near her siblings,

 

A squire garbed in the colors of House Lannister sat next to her.  He was handsome with sandy hair and blue eyes. “So your the bastard, King Robert said  looks like his dead lady love.”

 

Alysanne took a bite of pork.  “And you are?”

 

“Lancel Lannister.  Ser Kevan Lannister's son. I squire for King Robert.”  He took a sip of his wine.

 

“An honor I’m sure.” Alysanne said sarcastically.

 

“Yes it is.”  Lancel said. “My King was not wrong when he spoke of your beauty.” Lancel said.  He inched closer to her "A shame you're a basts

 

“I’m betrothed.”  

 

Lancel laughed.  “To whom?” He said with a laugh.  He moved uncomfortably close. Alysanne shifted away from him

 

"Tyr Magnar heir to the  lordship of Skagos."

 

"Betrothed to a cannibal?  I suppose that's a better match than a bastard like you could hope for."

 

"He's more than just a cannibal. He's squiring under Lord Manderly at White Harbor.  He even won the squires tourney Lord Manderly held a month ago. But I'm sure as a King's squire you've crowned yourself in glory many times."

 

Lancel blushed.

 

"I have not had the opportunity to, my duties as the King's squire keep me very busy."

 

I'm sure. Alysanne thought.

 

"Anyhow, bastard you may be, you're quite comely. Your maidenhead would be wasted on a savage."

 

"My maidenhead is not yours to take."  Alysanne snapped

 

"I have plenty of coin."

 

Alysanne's choler rose. She knew bastard girls were considered lustful. Did he really think just because she was a bastard she'd spread her legs for him for some coin?

 

"Listen well, Lancel Lannister." Alysanne snarled.  "My maidenhead belongs to Tyr of House Magnar future Lord of Kingshouse and Lord of the Stoneborn! I may be a bastard but I am no whore. Get out of my site you cretin, if you want one go to the brothel in Winterfell."

 

Label's face puffed with rage.  "You forgot your place you wench! I am the King's squire and I will not suffer disrespect from a bastard!" He stood with all the dignity of an arrogant teenager and slapped her with enough force to knock her off her bench and down to the floor.

 

Tears welled up in her eyes, not from the sting of the slap, but because she knew no one would come to her defense.

 

No one but herself.

 

Alysanne rose and with all the force she could muster, punched the fucker in the mouth. Lancel's  head snapped back and he cried out in pain. Alysanne seized him by his pretty locks and slammed his head down into his plate.   The wine glass he was drinking out if fell to the floor and shattered. Snatching up a fork, Alysanne buried the utensil into Lancel's right hand, pinning him to the bench and causing him to scream like a cat whose tail had been pulled.

 

She realized the hall had fallen silent.  No one spoke, no one even breathed.

 

"How dare you lay hands on my cousin you lowborn bitch!" Queen Cersei howled, her icy exterior having melted completely.

 

"How dare I!" Alysanne screamed. Part of her realised she should not be talking to the queen this way but part of her did not care.

 

"I told the King myself for all to hear that I was betrothed! And this miserable lout not only had the gall to make  advances on me, but to haggle for my maidenhead as if I was a fisherman's daughter working as a back alley whore! To try and take what belonged to by rights my future husband! Would you yourself allow someone treat you in such a manner Your Grace!"

The Queen made a sputtering, choking sound.   King Robert laughed. "Well spoken lass! Well spoken!"  The King broke

 

"By your leave your Grace, I need some air." Alysanne turned, muttering and whispering following in her wake.

 

The sounds of music and song had resumed, spilling through the open windows behind her.   The shitty bards were the last things she wanted to hear. Furious she had shed tears, she was about to make her way to the Goodwood  when a voice called out to her.

 

Tyrion Lannister was sitting on the ledge above the door to the Great Hall, looking for all the world like a gargoyle. The dwarf grinned down at him. "Is that animal a wolf?"

 

"A direwolf," she answered. "His name is Ghost."  She stared up at the little man "What are you doing up there? Why aren't you at the feast?"

 

"Too hot, too noisy, and I'd drunk too much wine," the dwarf told him. "I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother.  Not to mention I must apologize on behalf of my house for my cousins actions. Might I have a closer look at your wolf?"

 

Alysanne hesitated, then nodded slowly. "Can you climb down, or shall I bring a ladder?"

 

"Oh, fuck that," the little man said. He pushed himself off the ledge into empty air. She gasped, then watched with awe as Tyrion Lannister spun around in a tight ball, landed lightly on his hands, then vaulted backward onto his legs.

 

Ghost backed away from him uncertainty.

 

The dwarf dusted himself off and laughed. "I believe I've frightened your wolf. My apologies."

 

"He's not scared,"  Alysanne said. She nelt and called out. "Ghost, come here. Come on. That's it."

 

The wolf pup padded closer and nuzzled her face, but he kept a wary eye on Tyrion Lannister, and when the dwarf reached out to pet him, he drew back and bared his fangs in a silent snarl. "Shy, isn't he?" Lannister observed.

 

"Sit, Ghost,"  She commanded. "That's it. Keep still." She looked up at the dwarf. "You can touch him now. He won't move until I tell him to. I've been training him."

 

"I see," Lannister said. He ruffled the snow-white fur between Ghost's ears and said, "Nice wolf."

 

"If I wasn't here, he'd tear out your throat," Alysanne said.

 

"In that case, you had best stay close," the dwarf said. He cocked his oversized head to one side and looked  her over with his mismatched eyes. "I am Tyrion Lannister."

 

"I know,"  Alysanne said. She rose and smoothed her skirts.

 

"You're Ned Stark's bastard, aren't you?"

 

Alysanne  felt a coldness pass right through her. One not caused by the night air.

 

"Did I offend you?" Lannister said. "Sorry. Dwarfs don't have to be tactful. Generations of capering fools in motley have won me the right to dress badly and say any damn thing that comes into my head." He grinned. "You are the bastard, though."

 

"Lord Eddard Stark is my father," She admitted stiffly.

 

Lannister studied his face. "Yes," he said. "I can see it. You have more of the north in you than your brothers."

 

"Half brothers," Alysanne  corrected. She was pleased by the dwarf's comment, but she tried not to let it show.

 

"Let me give you some counsel, bastard," Lannister said. "Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you."

 

Alysanne was in no mood for anyone's counsel. "What do you know about being a bastard?"

 

"All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."

 

"You are your mother's trueborn son of Lannister."

 

"Am I?" the dwarf replied, sardonic. "Do tell my lord father. My mother died birthing me, and he's never been sure."

 

"I don't even know who my mother was," Alysanne  said with a mix and wistfulness and anger.

 

"Some woman, no doubt. Most of them are." He favored  her with a rueful grin. "Remember this, girl. All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards need be dwarfs." And with that he turned and sauntered back into the feast, whistling a tune. When he opened the door, the light from within threw his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment Tyrion Lannister stood tall as a king

 




Many men fathered bastards. Catelyn had grown up with that knowledge. It came as no surprise to her, in the first year of her marriage, to learn that Ned had fathered a child on some girl chance met on campaign. He had a man's needs, after all, and they had spent that year apart, Ned off at war in the south while she remained safe in her father's castle at Riverrun. Her thoughts were more of Robb, the infant at her breast, than of the husband she scarcely knew. He was welcome to whatever solace he might find between battles. And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child's needs.

 

He did more than that. The Starks were not like other men. Ned brought his bastard home with him, and doted on her for all the north to see.  He even allowed her to wield a blade. When the wars were over at last, and Catelyn rode to Winterfell, escorted by her Uncle Brynden before he assumed his post as Knight of the Bloody Gate and Lord Bracken, Goodbrook, and Vance, Alysanne and her wet nurse had already taken up residence.

 

That cut deep. Ned would not speak of the mother, not so much as a word, save for that she was dead and her final words were her begging him to protect the girl.

 

But a castle has no secrets, and Catelyn heard her maids and the servant girls repeating tales they heard from the lips of her husband's soldiers. They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys's Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur's sword back to his  beautiful young sister, a woman whose hand in marriage Ned might have asked for. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes.

It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.

 

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. "Never ask me about Alysanne," he said, cold as ice, his grey eyes alight with fury. "She is my blood, my daughter and that is all you need to know. Now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady." He ordered in a half snarl.  She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne's name was never heard in Winterfell again.

 

Whoever  the bastard's mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the  girl away for good. It was the one thing she could never forgive him. She had come to love her husband with all her heart, but she had never found it in her to love Alysanne Snow.  She tried to discourage Robb from being close to her, but he disobeyed her and became an overprotective big sister to the bastard

 

Catelyn had never missed an opportunity to put the bastard in her place, for her concern grew as Alysanne grew more and more beautiful and talented.  Catelyn would never admit it but the few times she had heard the Snow sing had brought tears to her eyes. The girl was a natural with sword and dagger, as well one of the best riders she had ever seen.   Why couldn’t Ned see that marrying the girl, off, to a House with a history of disloyalty no less, was a recipe for disaster? It may have been Bittersteel and Fireball’s poison that swayed Daemon Blackfyre to  betray his king and rise in rebellion, but it was his mother, the whore princess Daena the Defiant, angered and hateful for being passed over for the Iron Throne that had sowed the seeds that would blossom into three generations of strife and bloody civil war. The thought of a daughter of the bastard and her Skagosi soon to be knight, or worse a son, that looked more like a Stark than  Robb claiming Winterfell for themselves filled her with dread and terror.

She might have overlooked a dozen bastards for Ned's sake, so long as they were out of sight, but Alysanne was never out of sight, for long. Her three  fosterings were only a year each.

Her first one, had cut particular deep for Cat. The honor of fostering with Ned's closest friend and bannerman, Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch, Lord of the Crannogman and Warden of the Neck  should have gone to Robb. Her second had been with House Mormont. She remembered how stout, stern Lady Maege Mormont had come alongside a few other Lords and Masters to meet and bring forth their grievances and matters that needed to be settled.   Ned had asked Maege Mormont to guide Alysanne and be teacher not just in the matters of her approaching flowering and how a noble Lady should act, but in how to fight. Her third fostering had been shortly after Lord Ulric Magnar, alongside his good brother Lord Bragi Stane and, Lord Ingjaldr Crowl had come to renew their oaths of fealty.  

 

"Alysanne must go. I will not have her here. She is not my daughter, and this was never her place. Send her to Skagos, or White Harbor " she said.



"Cat I love you with all my heart and soul, but why are you so cruel to my blood? Alysanne has done nothing to wrong you.   It was my actions that shamed you, do not blame her for my sins. " Ned said

 

"She is a bastard, her presence here is not just an insult to me, but to your trueborn children.  She is a bad influence on Sansa and Arya and after such willful behavior at the fest-

 

"Willful behavior? A boy, the King's own squire no less, made unwanted advances on her and struck her in full view of everyone. What if it was Sansa or Arya who was in Alysanne's position?"

 

"Sansa and Arya would never be in such a position-

 

"Enough Cat.  I will not allow Alysanne to be forced out of her home. She is five and ten and will be a woman grown  soon enough. If you no longer can tolerate her presence here she can come to with me to the capital. She can be one of Sansa's companions."

 

"Absolutely not.” Catelyn snapped.   “Our daughter is to be Queen and you would make a bastard one of her ladies in waiting?"

 

"We have no time to arrange for suitable handmaidens for her.  It would only be until Alysanne is of age to wed." Ned argued.

 

He looked to the coded message Catelyn's sister had sent.

 

"Catelyn listen to me.  Winter is coming. In the Winter we must protect ourselves, look after one another.  We can't fight a war amongst ourselves, we have so many enemies now. Please, I have never asked you to love Alysanne as if she was your own…"

 

Ned sighed.

 

...But I made a promise to her mother to protect her and I will keep that promise until the day I die."

 

"And who was her mother?" Catelyn spat venomously

 

Her husband looked ten years older in that moment. A creature  born of grief and sorrow gnawed at him, and it took another large bite.

 

"One day I will tell you, my love.  But not today." Ned rasped

 


 

Bran swung from gargoyle with ease.  He knew this would be his last time for a long time, years maybe he would be able to climb around Winterfell.

 

At least Alysanne was coming along.   The thought of her going away again made Bran want to  cry, but Alysanne told him that she and Tyr would visit when they could and she would send plenty of letters.    He paused before could swing to the next gargoyle.  Someone was speaking.  Someone was in the First Keep.

 

"I do not like it," a woman was saying. There was a row of windows beneath him, and the voice was drifting out of the last window on this side. "You should be the Hand."

 

"Gods forbid," a man's voice replied lazily. "It's not an honor I'd want. There's far too much work involved."

 

Bran hung, listening, suddenly afraid to go on.

 

"Don't you see the danger this puts us in?" the woman said. "Robert loves the man like a brother."

 

"Robert can barely stomach his brothers. Not that I blame him. Stannis would be enough to give anyone indigestion."

 

"Don't play the fool. Stannis and Renly are one thing, and Eddard Stark is quite another. Robert will listen to Stark. Damn them both. I should have insisted that he name you, but I was certain Stark would refuse him."

 

"We ought to count ourselves fortunate," the man said. "The king might as easily have named one of his brothers, or even Littlefinger, gods help us. Give me honorable enemies rather than ambitious ones, and I'll sleep more easily by night."

 

They were talking about Father, Bran realized. He wanted to hear more. A few more feet . . . but they would see him if he swung out in front of the window.

 

"We will have to watch him carefully," the woman said.

 

"I would sooner watch you," the man said. He sounded bored. "Come back here."

 

"Lord Eddard has never taken any interest in anything that happened south of the Neck," the woman said. "Never. I tell you, he means to move against us. Why else would he leave the seat of his power?"

 

"A hundred reasons. Duty. Honor. He yearns to write his name large across the book of history, to get away from his wife, or both. Perhaps he just wants to be warm for once in his life."

 

"His wife is Lady Arryn's sister. It's a wonder Lysa was not here to greet us with her accusations."

 

Bran looked down. There was a narrow ledge beneath the window, only a few inches wide. He tried to lower himself toward it. Too far. He would never reach.

 

"You fret too much. Lysa Arryn is a frightened cow."

 

"That frightened cow shared Jon Arryn's bed."

 

"If she knew anything, she would have gone to Robert before she fled King's Landing."

 

"When he had already agreed to foster that weakling son of hers at Casterly Rock? I think not. She knew the boy's life would be hostage to her silence. She may grow bolder now that he's safe atop the Eyrie."

 

"Mothers." The man made the word sound like a curse. "I think birthing does something to your minds. You are all mad." He laughed. It was a bitter sound. "Let Lady Arryn grow as bold as she likes. Whatever she knows, whatever she thinks she knows, she has no proof." He paused a moment. "Or does she?"

 

"Do you think the king will require proof?" the woman said. "I tell you, he loves me not."

 

"And whose fault is that, sweet sister?"

 

Bran studied the ledge. He could drop down. It was too narrow to land on, but if he could catch hold as he fell past, pull himself up . . . except that might make a noise, draw them to the window. He was not sure what he was hearing, but he knew it was not meant for his ears.

 

"You are as blind as Robert," the woman was saying.

 

"If you mean I see the same thing, yes," the man said. "I see a man who would sooner die than betray his king."

 

"He betrayed one already, or have you forgotten?" the woman said. "Oh, I don't deny he's loyal to Robert, that's obvious. What happens when Robert dies and Joff takes the throne? And the sooner that comes to pass, the safer we'll all be. My husband grows more restless every day. Having Stark beside him will only make him worse. He's still in love with the sister, the insipid little dead sixteen-year-old.  That back talking bastard daughter of the “Honorable” Eddard Stark didn’t help anything else either. Thank the gods she’ll be marrying that Skagosi cannibal."

 

Bran was suddenly very frightened. He wanted nothing so much as to go back the way he had come, to find his brothers and father. Only what would he tell them? He had to get closer, Bran realized. He had to see who was talking.

 

The man sighed. "You should think less about the future and more about the pleasures at hand."

 

"Stop that!" the woman said. Bran heard the sudden slap of flesh on flesh, then the man's laughter.

 

Bran pulled himself up, climbed over the gargoyle, crawled out onto the roof. This was the easy way. He moved across the roof to the next gargoyle, right above the window of the room where they were talking.

 

"All this talk is getting very tiresome, sister," the man said. "Come here and be quiet."

 

Bran sat astride the gargoyle, tightened his legs around it, and swung himself around, upside down. He hung by his legs and slowly stretched his head down toward the window. The world looked strange upside down. A courtyard swam dizzily below him, its stones still wet with melted snow.

 

Bran looked in the window.

 

Inside the room, a man and a woman were wrestling. They were both naked. Bran could not tell who they were. The man's back was to him, and his body screened the woman from view as he pushed her up against a wall.

 

There were soft, wet sounds. Bran realized they were kissing. He watched, wide-eyed and frightened, his breath tight in his throat. The man had a hand down between her legs, and he must have been hurting her there, because the woman started to moan, low in her throat. "Stop it," she said, "stop it, stop it. Oh, please . . . " But her voice was low and weak, and she did not push him away. Her hands buried themselves in his hair, his tangled golden hair, and pulled his face down to her breast.

 

Bran saw her face. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was open, moaning. Her golden hair swung from side to side as her head moved back and forth, but still he recognized the queen.

 

He must have made a noise. Suddenly her eyes opened, and she was staring right at him. She screamed.

 

Everything happened at once then. ‘ The woman pushed the man away wildly, shouting and pointing. Bran tried to pull himself up, bending double as he reached for the gargoyle. He was in too much of a hurry. His hand scraped uselessly across smooth stone, and in his panic his legs slipped, and suddenly he was failing, but a hand snatched him by the wrist, leaving him suspended in midair.


"He saw us," the woman said shrilly.

 

“Are you completely mad?!”  Jaime Lannister snapped.

 

“He saw us!” the Queen repeated.

 

"I heard you the first time.”  Jaime said dryly.

 

He stood Bran up on the sill. "You’re quite the climber aren’t you lad.” he said with a dry smile.  “How old are you, boy?"

 

"Seven," Bran said, shaking with relief.  Thank the gods the Kingslayer had been wrestling with his sister or he would have fallen  to his death. Robb and Alysanne and Arya had sometimes wrestled and sparred in the First Keep so mother would not  yell at them and make Alysanne cry.  Although why the Kingsguard and his sister were doing it half naked Bran had no idea.

 

The man looked over at the woman. "The things I do for love," he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.

 

Screaming, Bran went backward out the window into empty air. There was nothing to grab on to.  Why had Ser Lannister pushed him? He wasn’t going to tell anyone they were wrestling in the tower.  After all he had kept Robb and Alysanne’s sparring matches a secret. Bran vainly tried to reach for something but he was falling too fast   Oh Gods, he was going to die he was going die and mother’s and fathers heart would be broken and his brothers and his sisters would cry and-

 

Brandon Stark hit the courtyard with a sickening crack.  Agony flooded his body, and unconsciousness took him into its arms.

 

The last thing he heard was the howling of his wolf, and the cawing of a crow.

 

Chapter Text

Alysanne climbed the steps slowly, Ghost padded silently beside her. Outside, snow swirled through the castle gates, and the yard was all noise and chaos, but inside the thick stone walls it was still warm and quiet. Too quiet for her  liking.

 

Alysanne reached the landing and stood for a long moment, afraid. Ghost nuzzled at his mistress' hand and she took courage from that. She straightened, adjusted  the black fox fur shawl she has draped over her riding gown and entered the room.

 

Lady Stark was there beside his bed. She had been there, day and night, for close on a fortnight. Not for a moment had she left Bran's side. She had her meals brought to her there, and chamber pots as well, and a small hard bed to sleep on, though it was said she had scarcely slept at all. She fed him herself, the honey and water and herb mixture that sustained life. Not once did she leave the room.  So Alysanne had stayed away.

 

But now there was no more time.

 

She stood in the door for a moment, afraid to speak, afraid to come closer.

 

Lady Stark looked over. For a moment she did not seem to recognize her. Finally she blinked.  "What are you doing here?" she asked in a voice strangely flat and emotionless.

 

"I came to see Bran," Alysanne told her

 

"To say good-bye."

 

Her face did not change. Her long auburn hair was dull and tangled. She looked as though she had aged twenty years.

 

"You've said it. Now go away."

 

Part of Alysanne wanted  to flee, but she knew that if she did she would never forgive herself.

 

"Please."  Alysanne said.

 

Something cold moved in her eyes. "I told you to leave," she said.  "We don't want you here."

 

Once that would have sent her running. Once that might even have made her cry. Now it only made her angry.

 

Alysanne would be the Lady of Kingshouse soon.  She had fought and killed wildlings, slain a bear with nothing but a dagger during her time with Maege Mormont. learned how to breath mud and run on leaves from Howland Reed.   Alysanne knew she would face worse dangers in her life than Catelyn Tully Stark.

 

"He's my brother," she said.   

 

"Shall I call the guards?"  Catelyn Stark threatened.

 

"Call them,"  Alysanne snarled.  "You can't stop me from seeing him."  She crossed the room, her fur lined skirts billowing behind her.  She leaned over Bran and ran a hand through his soft red hair.

 

"I have to go now," Alysanne said. "Father is waiting. I'm to go South  to be one of Sansa’s ladies in waiting till I’m of age to wed Tyr."

Oh why were the gods so cruel?  Bran could have been a Kingsguard as great as Corlys Velaryon or Ser Arthur Dayne, and now he would never walk again.  It was more than she could bear, and she knew if she had been in Bran’s position, her sweet little brother would never have left her like this.  Alysanne brushed away her tears, and kissed her brother on his forehead.

 

"I wanted him to stay here with me," Lady Stark said softly.  "I prayed for it," she said dully.

 

"He was my special boy. I went to the sept and prayed seven times to the seven faces of god that Ned would change his mind and leave him here with me. Sometimes prayers are answered."

 

Alysanne felt a pang of sympathy for the woman, who had hated her just for being born .  "It wasn't your fault," She forced herself to say.

 

Her crystal blue eyes stared at her.  "I need none of your absolution, bastard." She said in a poison laced tone, her eyes held nothing but the utmost contempt and the vilest of hatreds.

 

For a second  Alysanne thought her father’s wife would strike her.  She had done that to Alysanne once. She had been seven years old when she had committed the most grievous crime a bastard like her could commit.

 

She had asked Catelyn Stark since Robb was her brother, did that mean Alysanne could call her mother?

 

Alysanne was reading a book  and Lady Stark had been knitting a scarf.  She had been waiting for Robb to finish up his lessons with Maester Luwin, so  they could play monsters and maidens. Lady Stark needed to review some figures with Maester Luwin

 

Lady Stark put down her needles, rose and  struck her with the back of her hand.

 

“My son is trueborn, you are not.  You are not his sister. You are not part of this family.  Your mother was some whore my husband took pity of in her final moments, and that is the only reason you are in this castle instead of the gutters or dead beneath her corpse like you should be.  You will never be kin to House Stark, and you will never ever call me mother. Do you understand me bastard?”

 

Alysanne could only nod, doing her best not to  cry. When Robb had asked where she got the bruise Lady Stark’s knuckles had left on her cheek.  She had lied and said she ran into a wall.

 

Alysanne bit her lip and summoned every ounce of courage she had.

 

“Goodbye little brother.” She told Bran.  Alysanne than rose and turned to leave.

 

“Alysanne?”   Catelyn said in a hoarse tone.

 

The young she wolf turned to Lady Stark.

 

"Yes?" she replied

 

For a second Alysanne felt a moment of pity.

 

For a second it seemed that Lady Stark might rise and apologize.

 

"It should have been you," she told her.

 

Alysanne exhaled slowly

 

"It shouldn't have been anyone, but the Gods are cruel just as often as they are benevolent.  I know that far better than you ever will."

 

Before Catelyn Stark could reply  Alysanne strode out. She would not give the woman who despised her for existing the last word.

 

She made her way down to the yard, where she found Robb shouting commands.   Since Bran's fall, Robb had seemed to grow into an adult almost overnight.

 

"Did you see him?" Robb asked.

 

" I did." Alysanne said softly.

 

"He's not going to die." Robb said fiercely.  

 

"I know." Alysanne said.  She wished she could believe her brother, share his faith that everything would be alright.

 

"My mother . . . "

 

"She was . . . very kind,"  Alysanne told him.

 

Robb looked relieved. "Good." He smiled. "The next time I see you, you'll be a proper Lady ."

 

Alysanne forced herself to smile.

 

"You seem to have mistaken me for Sansa."

 

Robb laughed and  embraced his sister fiercely. "Farewell, Snow."

 

"And you, Stark. Take care of Bran."

They broke apart and Alysanne strode across the courtyard.    It didn't take her long to find Old Nan. The ancient woman and closest thing to a mother besides Lady Maege Mormont the Bastard of Winterfell had was sewing a scarf and sitting in  a rocking chair.

 

“Hey Old Nan.”  

 

“I figured you would have left by now.”  she croaked.

 

“Without saying goodbye to the woman who told me about  Symeon Star Eyes and Sara Snow?”

 

Old Nan gave a rattling laugh.

 

“Old Nan, I-  I’m terrified about going to King’s Landing.  Besides Lord Cregan, none of the Starks have done well there.   I- I don’t know how to explain it, but finding the direwolves, Bran’s fall, maybe it's because I'm getting married in a year, maybe it's just me being-  I don’t know. Paranoid, but I feel like something bad is going to happen. Like there’s something lurking in the bushes. And I don’t have a sword to cut it down.”

 

Old Nan took Alysanne’s hand in hers.  

 

“Winter is coming child.  The Stark words have always been a warning.  A warning against many things. The Others, The selfish and vile nature of humans,   war and bloodshed. Your moth- My Apologies child, your Aunt Lyanna was a fierce beautiful girl , like you.  She was protective of her pack, she was not afraid to answer a challenge. She spat at fate itself. What makes Winter bearable is warmth.  And warmth can take many forms. You were forced by circumstance to grow up too fast, and become wise for you age. Trust no one but those you love, Alysanne.  Be defiant when others yield, be kind when others are cruel. “

 

“ I don’t feel wise.” Alysanne admitted,

 

“You’re marrying a Skagosi.  A wise choice for any noblewoman with the blood of  First Men, cannibalism aside of course.” Old Nan said with a sly smile,

 

Alysanne laughed. "I wish I had believed your tales about the unicorns."

 

Old Nan laughed.  "You were a child when I told you of Skagos. And the strangest  truths are the hardest to understand."

 

"Like you getting kissed by Duncan the Tall." Alysanne muttered.

 

The old servant laughed.

 

"He and I did much more than that my little wolf queen.  Now run along now, don't you have a blade you need to pick up for a certain little sister?"  Old Nan said with a twinkle in her eye.

 

Alysanne pressed a kiss upon Old Nan's forehead and turned to leave.

 

"Oh sweet Dunk, if only you could  see your squire's great great granddaughter.  You and Egg would be so proud of her. So proud." Old Nan muttered shortly after Alysanne left.

 

When Old Nan, was young and buxom and a council of she wolves ruled Winterfell, the Stoneborn had been rebels.   Now a Magnar, one training to be a knight no less, was to unknowingly marry a princess of House Targaryen and Stark.

What a story that will be.  What a shame this is likely to be my last winter.  I would have loved to tell the tale of Alysanne Targaryen Stark  and her lord husband Tyr Magnar. Old Nan thought.



Chapter Text

Alysanne smiled as she watched Arya and her new friend spar.  As much as the Bastard of Winterfell preferred to have remained in Winterfell or gone to Skagos or White Harbor.   She would not deny the journey to King's Landing had been pleasant so far.

 

Minus the heat of course.  How these Southerners could handle it  Alysanne had no idea. She was grateful for shade provided  by the great oak she sat under.

 

Her sword lay nearby, along a basket with two  apple's, a peach and some bread and cheese.

 

Alysanne dainty  turned the page of Bloodraven's journal.

 

Her Uncle Benjen was right when he said there was a bleak wisdom in its pages.   Brynden Rivers seemed to have been deeply unhappy and unpleasant person, whose sole joy was his paramour and half-sister Sheira Seastar and  his victories over his half brother Ser Aegor "Bittersteel" Bracken and the traitors of House Blackfyre.

 

Still the journal was deeply fascinating.  In his red curling script, the most infamous of the Great Bastards provided a fascinating insight into House Targaryen.  

 

As fascinating as it was, the journal did not make for light reading.  Alysanne did not touch the journal for two days after reading the entry dated at the start of the Blackfyre rebellion, for Brynden Rivers wrote a single sentence.



The brother I love, is now my enemy.



Of particular fascination to the warrior maiden was Bloodravens entry’s reagarding his time in the Night’s Watch.  One entry was of particular interest to her.

 

I had the same dream again.  I dreamt I was a Raven, soaring high above the Wall.  When I awoke the taste of carrion was on my lips

 

Ever since Maekar’s son, sent me to the Wall for helping to make sure his half a peasant ass sat the Iron Throne, something inside has me awoke. Spells, I would have needed Sheira's aid for require little effort.  When I rest my eyes I have flashes of flying as an eagle or prowling as a wolf.

 

Alysanne shuddered when she read this.  She too had similar dreams. She too had awoken with the taste of blood on her lips.

 

Old Nan had spoken of skinchangers and wargs, those who could share a bond with animals.   Bloodraven was said to be a sorcerer, could Alysanne possible posses such abilities? Could they have come from her unknown mother who her father said he would tell her about after Tyr claimed her as his wife? Could her siblings posses such abilities?

 

Alysanne clasped the tome shut as she heard the sound of approaching horses.

 

She looked up and  saw Joffrey and Sansa approaching.

 

And that’s when everything went wrong.



“My decesion is final.”   Robert said.

 

“Robert please for the love you bore my sister please don’t do this.”

 

“One of the wolves bit my son Ned.  Send them back to Winterfell, and be grateful I did not agree with my wife to take their heads.”  He snarled.

 

“Your grace-“

 

“Enough  Ned. The wolves will leave.”

 

Alysanne sucks in a breath.    Ghost and Lady did nothing wrong, neither did Nymeria.   

 

Every instinct in her body screamed at her to grab her sisters, grab her father and ride back to Winterfell.

 

Instead. she and her sisters listened to their father arrange for an escort for their wolves to go back to Winterfell and then cried themselves to sleep.















 

Chapter Text


Sansa felt terrible as the entered the city of King’s Landing.  Sansa had lied.  She had betrayed her sisters and for that their wolves had been sent away.  Alysanne has explained why she had had to lie to Arya and Arya understood, but Sansa felt soiled and unworthy of her sisters love.

 

She turned and saw Alysanne shudder.

 

“I don’t feel safe here.”   Alysanne told Sansa.

 

“But father is here and all his guards.  Jory and Alyn and Hullen. And besides your good with a sword.  No one would dare hurt us. Not when father is the Hand of the King.  “ Sansa said. She squeezed Alysanne’s hand.

 Alysanne nodded but did not appear reassured in the slightest.

“ I’m not going to lie sister, the air here smells like pig shit.” Sansa said.

They both laughed and Alysanne saw her father’s lips quirk in a smile.

 


Tyr rarely dreamed, but when he did it was usually flashes of color, the howls of animals and a feeling of falling.

Now he stood  in the throne room, before the metal chair of the  Dragon Kings. Except there was a woman, a frail small breasted Dornish woman with a strong focused glare in her eyes.   Standing to her right was a knight in the white and enamel armor of the Kingsguard, a sword with a blade the color of milk.    

His mother had told him tales of this knight.  His name was Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. 

There was a second knight,  no a woman dressed as a knight.  She was a head shorter than Ser Dayne and clad in mismatched plate and mail.  Her shield bore the sigil of a laughing weirwood tree.

 

The woman looked like his betrothed with the same dark hair and  grey eyes.

 

“So you’re the boy Ned arranged to marry my daughter.”  

 

The  Dornish woman smiled mischievously at the woman who looked like his betrothed.

 

“You’re Alysanne’s mother?”   Tyr asked

 

“I am,   You’ll learn who I am soon enough.” She said with a sad smile.

 

“Why am… I here.   Is this a dream?”

 

“Of sorts.  The gods work in mysterious ways my lord.”   The woman sitting the Iron Throne said.

 

“You are here because Winter is coming Tyr Magnar, and true knights will be needed.   Your are here because your betrothed has a role to play in the days ahead. It is her you will fight for.  It is her you will bleed for. It is her you will kill for.” Arthur Dayne said

 

“What role?”  Tyr asked.

 

“All will be answered in time.  The truth will be a balm, but it will also be painful.   Just as a fire can bring warmth or bring agony. Just as stone, can shield or it can hurt.”

 

“Why me? Why not speak to Alysanne if she’s so important?”  Tyr asked.

 

There was a chill in the room.   All three of them smiled sadly.

 

“The gods will not allow it, Not yet. Soon they told us.”

 

“What do the gods have to do with this?”

 

“You ask this? You are stoneborn.  The last of the pure blooded First Men.  Your people remember the old customs and rights.  The traditions other Northmen have forgotten and shunned.  Have faith in your Wife. Have faith in your blade and your gods.   Have faith in your kings Tyr Magnar.”

 



Tyr awoke with a gasp.  He has come to the small godswood in New Castle to pray after dinner, but his exhaustion from his duties must have caused him to pass out.

Gods that was a strange dream.  Tyr rose and stared at the heart tree.  It’s thin face and sad eyes had become familiar to him, but looking at it made him miss the heart tree at Kingshouse with its beard and  kind, contemplative eyes.

 

Tyr sighed and rose, unable to suppress the sudden shivering of his body.  







Chapter Text

Alysanne hated King’s Landing.   The summer heat made her feel sticky,  The people here masked their disgust for her beneath empty courtesies, The role of the Hand of the King was clearly a frustrating one for her father. 

 

As the prince’s betrothed, and the daughter of the Hand of the King, Sansa was treated with the utmost respect.  Alysanne was happy for her older sister, and Arya was having fun with the Bravossi fencing master her father had hired her.

 

Alysanne on the other hand was miserable.  Sure the libaray was wonderful, and she could practice her swordplay without fearing Lady Stark’s cruel tongue, but she longed for the North.  For Wintefell and Skagos. At least the letters Robb and Tyr sent indicated they were both doing well. 

 

She sighed.  Here in the Godswood, she had foundsome measure of peace.   She had the journal of Bloodraven open on her lap, here eyes scanning the curling, crimson script.

 

I am 77 years old now.  I am tired. So very tired.  Yet I cannot, rest. My dreams rob me of rest, for I see what is to be the future.  I see a great war The true war. Life and death. Fire and Ice. The Raven sing a dirge of doom.   And all portents… Damn the portents! Damn the Raven! Yet I cannot deny the truth. I cannot lie about the song I hear.   This is more important than the Wildlings, more important than culling the pathetic remnants of Daemon’s line. I must-

 

Bloodraven had switched from writing into the common tongue to a mix of the runes of the First Men and High Valryian.  His penmanship lost its elegance and became erratic scribblings. Much of it was gibberish that Bloodraven had scrawled out in a black blue ink, but a few of the words were eligible.

 

Wolves,  Lightbringer,  Princess, Others, laughing tree Dragon

 

Alysanne sighed and closed the book.  Of course, the last entry would be the scrivings of a mad old man.  Still, she knew the Maesters at the Citadel would be quite willing to kill for the tome she had in her possession. 

 

She heard her father shuffle into the Godswood.  He smiled wearily at her.

 

Alysanne rose.  "I can leave so you can pray-"

 

Eddard waved his hand.  "I see so little of you outside of meals Alysanne.  Stay." 

 

He sat down next  to her.  

 

"Was Benjen right when he said there was a bleak wisdom in that tome's pages?"

 

Alysanne nodded.

 

"Benjen was the wisest of my siblings when it came to such matters." Eddard said dryly.

 

Her father looked at Alysanne's harp, which lay on a blue and green blanket alongside a few other tomes, and Tyr's most recent letter.

 

"Perhaps you shall make more coin from the commoners with your songs in the day instead of the middle of the night," 

 

Alysanne's cheeks reddened.

 

"Calm yourself Alysanne, I am not angry with you.  I share your discomfort of the Red Keep and its persons. I understand your need to get out, your mother was much the same." 

 

 "It was not my intention to worry you."  Alysanne said in a hollow tone.

 

"I know, but we've come to dangerous place.  There is treachery afoot, and I want you and your sisters safe." 

 

"Does this treachery come from the Queen's family?" Alysanne asked before she could think.

 

Eddard sighed.  "You are too clever sometimes sweetling." 

 

"Are you going to break Sansa's bethroarl and send us back to Winterfell?" Alysanne asked hopefully.

 

"As unworthy as Joffrey is, I cannot do such a thing without rousing the Queen's suspicion." Eddard whispered  sadly.

 

Alysanne felt a pang of fright.  She knew Cersei Lannister hated her for actions during the feast.

 

"Do not worry Alysanne The Queen will not harm you. Not as long as I Iive. " Eddard said with a kiss to her forehead.

 


 

Cersei Lannister watched with curiosity  as Alysanne Snow sat down with her half sisters  to a picnic lunch in the royal gardens. 

 

She herself was sitting at a round table overlooking the gardens, a goblet of Dornish red.in her hand.  Robert was off on another hunting trip, Ned Stark, her brother and her son accompanying her fat fool of a husband. 

 

Ned Stark's bastard was an enigma to Cersei.  Whoever had been the girl's mother, she was certainly no commoner, the insolent harlot was too beautiful to have been sired by some camp follower. The Snow was as beautiful as her sweet, naive half sister Sansa.   

 

Had Alysanne been born on the right side of the bed, she would have had no shortage of suitors.  Her dark locks framed a beautiful face, her grey eyes were mesmerizing and her bosom was a perfect size.  Large enough to grope and knead and small enough so it did not appear that someone had sewn a pair of melons to her chest.

 

   And as much as Cersei hated to admit it, Robert was correct in Alysanne's resemblance to her sire's sister Lyanna.  Cersei felt a pang of jealousy.  Why had Rhaegar kidnapped that wild she-wolf? Cersei would never admit it, but the beauty of Robert’s beloved came close to rivaling her own.

 

You'll be queen, for a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear . The prophetess she had visited as a girl said

 

Cersei shuddered.  

 

Not while I draw breath. I am Queen. Not Elia Martell, Not Lyanna Stark. Rhaegar is dead and Robert will soon join him in the Seven Hells. No one will stop my children from sitting the Iron Throne. Cersei vowed.

 

She was broken from her thoughts by the sound of a harp.   The bastard girl was singing in Valyrian. Judging by the words and the melody, it was a love song, one  of equal parts melancholy and hope.

 

Cersei found her eyes watering.

 

“She’s almost as good as Rhaegar,” her twin said from behind her.  He moved to sit across from her, watching the bastard’s hands glide across the harp.  He was trying to remain stoic and proud, but even the Kingslayer was not immune to the swirling emotions the girl’s song conjured.

 

Cersei watched as Sansa wiped tears from her eyes.  The girl her son was to wed was too stupid, too gentle to be her downfall,  even though her namesake had been a fierce, black hearted Queen of Winter.

 

But Alysanne Snow…The bastard  had a queen’s name  just like her half sister and Cersei herself.  How she defended her actions at the feast was clever too. And that longsword resting next to the picnic basket was as sharp as the wench’s tounge.   Were it not for Robert, Cersei would have had it yanked out and sent the girl back to the frozen hellhole she called home. What had possessed Ned Stark to raise a bastard amongst his trueborn children?  To make her a lady to her half sister? To let her wield a sword no less?

 

Cersei sighed.   The girl was stringing a more jolly melody now.  Something about mountain clansmen and she wolves coming with peace and happiness in one hand and an axe for taking heads to mount on spikes in the other.  

 

“I wonder who her mother is?” Jaime said aloud.  “Robert mentioned it was some whore named Wylla.   I think it was the sister of Arthur Dayne, my maid’s gossip says she spread her legs for both our Lord Hand and his dead elder brother.”  Cersei replied.

 

Jaime’s face darkened.  “ Alysanne doesn’t look Dornish.”  He said diplomatically.

 

Cersei wanted to laugh as she took a sip of her wine.   Her brothers queer devotion to the dead knight and his sister was always amusing.  He would brook no insult to them,Aerys’ dead pitiful wife Rhaella, or the vixen Elia Martell, even though the latter had stolen what belonged to Cersei.

 

“Her betrothed is quite lucky though.  The wench is pretty enough to invite into my bed.” Jaime said slyly.

 

“Would you really bed her?” Cersei asked.

 

“Oh yes. No doubt she would draw that sword of hers.  She would snarl and kick and scream, as I fucked her, but it would be so worth the look on dear Ned’s face.”

 

Cersei laughed.

 

“Would you really fuck her just for the look on his face?”  

 

“Come sweet sister, we’ve both done worse things for less.” Her twin said with a conspiratorial smile.




 

 

 











 




 











Chapter Text

From high above, Alysanne and Sansa watched their father do his duty.

Eddard Stark sat  the immense ancient seat of Aegon the Conqueror, an ironwork monstrosity of spikes and jagged edges and grotesquely twisted metal.   Even in his simple brown leather doublet and grey tunic, he looked every inch a king. His body strong, his features stern but kind, his eyes attentive.

"You are quite certain these were more than brigands?" Lord Varys asked softly from the council table beneath the throne. 

Grand Maester Pycelle stirred uneasily beside him, while Littlefinger toyed with a pen. They were the only councillors in attendance. A white hart had been sighted in the kingswood, and Lord Renly and Ser Barristan had joined the king to hunt it, along with Prince Joffrey, Sandor Clegane, Balon Swann, and half the court. As the King’s Hand, Alysanne and Sansa’s father sat the Iron Throne in his absence.

 

Their father  Save the council, the rest must stand respectfully, or kneel. The petitioners clustered near the tall doors, the knights and high lords and ladies beneath the tapestries, the smallfolk in the gallery, the mailed guards in their cloaks, gold or grey: all stood.

 

The villagers were kneeling: men, women, and children, alike tattered and bloody, their faces drawn by fear. The three knights who had brought them here to bear witness stood behind them.

 

"Brigands, Lord Varys?" Ser Raymun Darry's voice dripped scorn. "Oh, they were brigands, beyond a doubt. Lannister brigands."

 

Alysanne and Sansa’s  eyes widened in shock.   Sure Sansa’s mother’s actions had led to bloodshed behind House Stark and the Lions of the Westerlands, but why would the Lannisters break the King’s Peace by attacking the Riverlands, 

 

\"This is all the remains of the holdfast of Sherrer, Lord Eddard.”  Ser Kyle Vance said sadly. The rest are dead, along with the people of Wendish Town and the Mummer's Ford."

 

"Rise," Ned commanded the villagers.  Alysanne’s father had told her never to trust what someone said when they were on their knees.  "All of you, up."

 

In ones and twos, the holdfast of Sherrer struggled to its feet. One ancient needed to be helped, and a young girl in a bloody dress stayed on her knees, staring blankly at Ser Arys Oakheart, who stood by the foot of the throne in the white armor of the Kingsguard, ready to protect and defend the king . . . or in this instance, the King’s Hand.

 

"Joss," Ser Raymun Darry said to a plump balding man in a brewer's apron. "Tell the Hand what happened at Sherrer."

 

Joss nodded. "If it please His Grace—"

 

"His Grace is hunting across the Blackwater,"   Their father boomed. 

 

 "I am Lord Eddard Stark, the King's Hand. Tell me who you are and what you know of these raiders."

 

"I keep . . . I kept . . . I kept an alehouse, m'lord, in Sherrer, by the stone bridge. The finest ale south of the Neck, everyone said so, begging your pardons, m'lord. It's gone now like all the rest, m'lord. They come and drank their fill and spilled the rest before they fired my roof, and they would of spilled my blood too, if they'd caught me. M'lord."

 

"They burnt us out," a farmer beside him said. "Come riding in the dark, up from the south, and fired the fields and the houses alike, killing them as tried to stop them. They weren't no raiders, though, m'lord. They had no mind to steal our stock, not these, they butchered my milk cow where she stood and left her for the flies and the crows."

 

"They rode down my 'prentice boy," said a squat man with a smith's muscles and a bandage around his head. He had put on his finest clothes to come to court, but his breeches were patched, his cloak travel-stained and dusty. "Chased him back and forth across the fields on their horses, poking at him with their lances like it was a game, them laughing and the boy stumbling and screaming till the big one pierced him clean through."

 

The girl on her knees craned her head up at Ned, high above her on the throne. "They killed my mother too, Your Grace. And they . . . they . . . " Her voice trailed off, as if she had forgotten what she was about to say. She began to sob.

 

Alysanne felt her heart break for the young no longer maiden.   Not everyone was lucky to have a father or family to protect them.

 

Ser Raymun Darry took up the tale. "At Wendish Town, the people sought shelter in their holdfast, but the walls were timbered. The raiders piled straw against the wood and burnt them all alive. When the Wendish folk opened their gates to flee the fire, they shot them down with bolt and arrows as they came running out, even women with suckling babes."

 

"Oh, dreadful," murmured Varys. "How cruel can men be?"

 

"They would of done the same for us, but the Sherrer holdfast's made of stone," Joss said. "Some wanted to smoke us out, but the big one said there was riper fruit upriver, and they made for the Mummer's Ford."

 "What proof do you have that these were Lannisters?" he asked.  Alysanne could tell he was trying to mask his anger. "Did they wear crimson cloaks or fly a lion banner?"

 

"Even Lannisters are not so blind stupid as that,"  Ser Marq Piper, who according to Sansa was a dear friend of her Uncle Edmure bellowed.

 

 

"Every man among them was mounted and mailed, my lord," Ser Karyl answered calmly. "They were armed with steel-tipped lances and longswords, with battle-axes for the butchering." He gestured toward one of the ragged survivors. "You. Yes, you, no one's going to hurt you. Tell the Hand what you told me."

 

The old man bobbed his head. "Concerning their horses," he said, "it were warhorses they rode. Many a year I worked in old Ser Willum's stables, so I knows the difference. Not a one of these ever pulled a plow, gods bear witness if I'm wrong."

 

"Well-mounted brigands," observed Littlefinger. "Perhaps they stole the horses from the last place they raided."

 

"How many men were there in this raiding party?" Ned asked.

 

"A hundred, at the least," Joss answered, in the same instant as the bandaged smith said, "Fifty," and the grandmother behind him, "Hunnerds and hunnerds, m'lord, an army they was."

 

"You are more right than you know, goodwoman," Lord Eddard told her. "You say they flew no banners. What of the armor they wore? Did any of you note ornaments or decorations, devices on shield or helm?"

 

The brewer, Joss, shook his head. "It grieves me, m'lord, but no, the armor they showed us was plain, only . . . the one who led them, he was armored like the rest, but there was no mistaking him all the same. It was the size of him, m'lord. Those as say the giants are all dead never saw this one, I swear. Big as an ox he was, and a voice like stone breaking."

 

"The Mountain!" Ser Marq said loudly. "Can any man doubt it? This was Gregor Clegane's work."

 

Ned heard muttering from beneath the windows and the far end of the hall. Even in the galley, nervous whispers were exchanged. High lords and smallfolk alike knew what it could mean if Ser Marq was proved right. Ser Gregor Clegane stood bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister.

 

He studied the frightened faces of the villagers. Small wonder they had been so fearful; they had thought they were being dragged here to name Lord Tywin a red-handed butcher before a king who was his son by marriage. He wondered if the knights had given them a choice.

 

Grand Maester Pycelle rose ponderously from the council table, his chain of office clinking. "Ser Marq, with respect, you cannot know that this outlaw was Ser Gregor. There are many large men in the realm.  Lord Stark’s sworn Bannerman Lord Umber for example. "

Alysanne looked at the Grand Maester.  Something about him ticked Alysanne off.  She wasn’t sure what it was, but something in her blood sang that he needed to  die. On Skagos and Bear Island she had learned to listen to that voice.

 

"As large as the Mountain That Rides?" Ser Karyl said. "I have never met one."

 

"Nor has any man here," Ser Raymun added hotly. "Even his brother is a pup beside him. My lords, open your eyes. Do you need to see his seal on the corpses? It was Gregor."

 

"Why should Ser Gregor turn brigand?" Pycelle asked. "By the grace of his liege lord, he holds a stout keep and lands of his own. The man is an anointed knight."

 

"A false knight!" Ser Marq said. "Lord Tywin's mad dog."

 

“Aye, We all know it was he who doth murdered, Queen Elia and her babes.  A man like that would have no problem slaying innocents or setting them a flame”  Ser Darry declared.

 

The court broke out into mummerings and mutterings. 

 

"My lord Hand," Pycelle declared in a stiff voice, "I urge you to remind this good knight that Lord Tywin Lannister is the father of our own gracious queen."

 

"Thank you, Grand Maester Pycelle," Ned said dryly. "I fear we might have forgotten that if you had not pointed it out."

 

“If the L-L- Lannisters, were to order attacks on the villages.under the King’s protection.”  The old Maester babbled.

 

“That would be almost as brazen as attacking the King’s Hand in the streets of the capital.”  Lord Baelish replied.

 

Lord Baelish was another man, Alysanne’s blood stirred at the sight of.   Sansa did not like him either.

 

Alysanne winced.   Ser Jaime would answer for attacking her father and killing Jory, Wyl and Heward.  The Kinglslayer was another Criston Cole, a false Kingsguard, and Knight. Once a man broke his oaths, there were only two paths open to him, the chance the atone in the ranks of the Night’s Watch, or death.



At the council table below, Petyr Baelish lost interest in his quill and leaned forward. "Ser Marq, Ser Karyl, Ser Raymun—perhaps I might ask you a question? These holdfasts were under your protection. Where were you when all this slaughtering and burning was going on?"

 

Ser Karyl Vance answered. "I was attending my lord father in the pass below the Golden Tooth, as was Ser Marq. When the word of these outrages reached Ser Edmure Tully, he sent word that we should take a small force of men to find what survivors we could and bring them to the king."

 

Ser Raymun Darry spoke up. "Ser Edmure had summoned me to Riverrun with all my strength. I was camped across the river from his walls, awaiting his commands, when the word reached me. By the time I could return to my own lands, Clegane and his vermin were back across the Red Fork, riding for Lannister's hills."

 

Littlefinger stroked the point of his beard thoughtfully. "And if they come again, ser?"

 

"If they come again, we'll use their blood to water the fields they burnt,"



"Ser Edmure has sent men to every village and holdfast within a day's ride of the border," Ser Karyl explained. "The next raider will not have such an easy time of it."

 

Alysanne frowned, Lord Tywin was both cruel and crafty, what if the noble action of Lord Edmure and his Knight’s were playing into whatever the Lord of Casterly Rock’s plans were?

 

"If your fields and holdfasts are safe from harm," Lord Petyr was saying, "what then do you ask of the throne?"

 

"The lords of the Trident keep the king's peace," Ser Raymun Darry said. "The Lannisters have broken it. We ask leave to answer them, steel for steel. We ask justice for the smallfolk of Sherrer and Wendish Town and the Mummer's Ford."

 

"Edmure agrees, we must pay Gregor Clegane back his bloody coin," Ser Marq declared, "but old Lord Hoster commanded us to come here and beg the king's leave before we strike."

 

Grand Maester Pycelle was on his feet again. "My lord Hand, if these good folk believe that Ser Gregor has forsaken his holy vows for plunder and rape, let them go to his liege lord and make their complaint. These crimes are no concern of the throne. Let them seek Lord Tywin's justice."

 

Alysanne and Sansa both snorted.

 

"It is all the king's justice," Ned told him. "North, south, east, or west, all we do we do in Robert's name."

 

"The king's justice," Grand Maester Pycelle said. "So it is, and so we should defer this matter until the king—"

 

"The king is hunting across the river and may not return for days," Lord Eddard said. "Robert bid me to sit here in his place, to listen with his ears, and to speak with his voice. I mean to do just that . . . though I agree that he must be told.”

 

“Ser Robar!” their father called.

 

Ser Robar Royce stepped forward and bowed. "My lord."

 

"Your father is hunting with the king," Ned said. "Will you bring them word of what was said and done here today?"

 

"At once, my lord."

 

"Do we have your leave to take our vengeance against Ser Gregor, then?" Marq Piper asked the throne.

 

"Vengeance?" Lord Eddard said with an arched eyebrow. "I thought we were speaking of justice. Burning Clegane's fields and slaughtering his people will not restore the king's peace, only your injured pride." He glanced away before the young knight could voice his outraged protest, and addressed the villagers. 

 

"People of Sherrer, I cannot give you back your homes or your crops, nor can I restore your dead to life. But perhaps I can give you some small measure of justice, in the name of our king, Robert."

 

Eddard rose slowly. 

 

"The First Men believed that the judge who called for death should wield the sword, and in the north we hold to that still. I mislike sending another to do my killing . . . yet it seems I have no choice." He gestured at his broken leg.

 

"Lord Eddard!" The shout came from the west side of the hall as a handsome stripling of a boy strode forth boldly. Out of his armor, Ser Loras Tyrell looked even younger than his sixteen years.

 

"I beg you the honor of acting in your place. Give this task to me, my lord, and I swear I shall not fail you."

 

Littlefinger chuckled oily. "Ser Loras, if we send you off alone, Ser Gregor will send us back your head with a plum stuffed in that pretty mouth of yours. The Mountain is not the sort to bend his neck to any man's justice."

 

"I do not fear Gregor Clegane," Ser Loras snapped.

 

Liar, you all but pissed your breeches, you gilded pretty-boy.     Loras Tyrell may have looked every inch a knight, but he had not shed bloo on the field of battle, nor was he known for any acts of the selflessness that made a knight. 

 

"Lord Beric Dodarion," he called out. "  Thoros of Myr. Ser Micheal Wheeler " The men named stepped forward one by one. "Each of you is to assemble twenty men, to bring my word to Gregor's keep. Twenty of my own guards shall go with you.  Lord Beric, you have the command. Ser Loras shall accompany you as well.”

 

\"As you command, Lord Eddard." The Lord, who Sansa’s friend Jeyne had a crush on replied.

 

 Lord Eddard raised his voice, so it carried to the far end of the throne room.

 

 "In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, his Hand, I charge you to ride to the westlands with all haste, to cross the Red Fork of the Trident under the king's flag, and there bring the king's justice to the false knight Gregor Clegane, and to all those who shared in his crimes. I denounce him, and attaint him, and strip him of all rank and titles, of all lands and incomes and holdings, and do sentence him to death. May the gods Old and New take pity on his soul."

 

Eddard turned to  the Grand Maester Pycelle.   “Grand Maester Pycelle, send a raven to  Casterly Rock, inform Lord Tywin, he has been summoned to  court to answer for the crimes of his bannerman. If he does not arrive, within the fortnite, he shall branded an enemy of the crown and a traitor to the realm. “







“ A bold move, my lord,  and an admirable one.” Petyr Baelish said slyly as Ned watched his two daughters depart from the balcony.  

 

“But is it wise to  yank the Lion’s tale?” Baelish asked as Eddard increased his pace.   Ned’s leg hurt like hell, but he’d rather deal with the pain, than the Valeman and his forked tongue.

 

“Gold wins wars. Not Soldiers.”

 

Eddard paused in midstep, he thought of three true knights, who  served an unworthy king and an unworthy prince. He thought of his dead friends,  Jory’s father, kind hearted Mark Rysell, the gentle giant Hugo “Buckets” Wull, his brother’s squire Ethan Glover,  Lord Dustin who swore to return to his wife on that fine red stallion of his.

 

He thought of the man Robert once, and the truth he might have told him in  a better world.

 

“Than how come Robert is king, and not Tywin Lannister?”  Eddard asked as he limped back to the Tower of the Hand, determined to spend some of the day with his daughters before duty called again.    

 

Chapter Text

“I’m glad father decided to send Ser Loras.”  Sansa said aloud.   

 

Alysane nodded along as she sipped her black tea.  She hadn’t slept well. Her dreams had been terrible, frightening, frustrating  things.    

 

She dreamt she was on Skagos with Tyr,  a babe in her arms as they walked along the black sands   For a scant few moments she was happy, only for the babe to be snatched from her arms by Lannister men with  eyes blue as frost. She went for her sword, only to be stabbed seven times by men in the garb of the Night’s Watch.   She fell only to rise again, this time she was on the battlements of the Red Keep, a sword in hand, fighting alongside a man whose face was a shifting shadow and held a flaming sword. 

 

She felt a spear enter her back, and again she fell only to rise in the yard of Winterfell.  Alysanne was surrounded by the dead, some were Stoneborn and Northmen, others she recognized as Ironborn reavers    She heard a crow cawing. She turned and saw a crow with three eyes perched on the railing where father would look down on her and Robb when they sparred

 

“Snow.  Snow.” It cawed.  “Go away.” Alysanne told it.  “Queen of Ice and Fire Queen of Ice and Fire.” It replied.  “Speak sense or shoo!” Alysanne snapped.

 

“It is speaking sense.” Alysanne turned to face a an old man, his long hair white as Ghost’s fur, his eyes purple, his face kind and strong.  He wore a gold band atop his head he sat in a plane wooden chair.   

 

“I’m glad the gods gave me this chance to meet you Alysanne.”  he said with a kind smile.

 

“Why? Who are you?”  she asked

 

“A ghost.  A ghost made by fire and blood,  A Grandfather who allowed his son to have his daughter marry the wrong man,  A son who failed his father, A Squire who failed his Knight. A brother to a dreamer, a madman, a drunkard, and a wise man who counsels a lone wolf who took a crow’s form for the sake of his pack and his sister’s cub.  I visited Winterfell when She-wolves ruled it, I traveled the land and earned the love of the people I was to rule, with ease and squandered it just as easily. I lived I loved, and I died a man who tried to grasp something just out of reach. I died screaming.”

 

“Will no one in this dream speak sense!” Alysanne raged. 

 

“Wisdom and truth do not always make sense.”  The man said.

 

Alysanne felt a hand on her shoulder she turned, facing another man, He was undeniably a Stark, steel eyed and blackbearded.  He wore archaic armor of bronze and held a flaming sword in one hand. The Crown of the Kings of the North lay atop his head   A woman, purple eyed with silver hair clad in armor of bronze scales and a circlet of silver stood beside him.

 

The woman kissed Alysanne’s forehead.  Alysanne wasn’t sure if she wanted to push the woman away or embrace her   “She’ll finish what we started my love.” the woman said 

 

“Shame the god’s won’t let me give you this.”  the man said gruffly

 

Alysanne stared at the flaming sword.

 

“They work in mysterious ways my king.”  The woman replied.  

 

“You have a good heart, don’t ever listen to anyone who tell you that’s a bad thing.” The long dead King of Winter said.   “A good heart is essential when Winter comes.”

 

The man and woman vanished and Alysanne found herself falling.  She landed in the crypts of Winterfell. The statue of her Aunt Lyanna loomed above her.

 

Then she awoke, her sheets sticky with sweat.   Despite the bad dream, her day had been well. She and Sansa watched a song come to life as Lord Dondarrion, his best friend Throros of Myr and Ser Loras set out to bring Gregor Clegane to justice.   Yoren had come to clean out the King’s Dungeons and take as many recruits for the Wall. Alysanne made sure her Uncle’s lover left the Tower of the Hand, with the best Sourleaf gold could the Royal food stores.  

 

But Alysanne had a matter she had to settle with her sisters  after they broke their fast on bacon, blood oragnes, apple, pears, peaches and steak and chops from last night’s dinner.   The three of them sat in Alysanne’s chambers.

 

“There’s a few matters we need to settle.”  Alysanne said as she ran a whetstone over her sword.

 

Arya glanced at Sansa.  “What am I about to tell you must not go outside this room unless our father asks us.  Swear by the Old Gods and the New.”   

 

Arya did so immediately, but Sansa arched her eyebrows in a way that reminded Alysanne of Lady Stark. 

 

“Why do we need to  swear an oath?” Sansa questioned.

 

“Because we’ve come to a dangerous place.  Because father is surrounded by as many foes as he is friends.”  Alysanne answered in a soft but stern voice.

 

Sansa exhaled sharply.  She regarded Alysanne for a second.  Than smoothed her skirts and complied.

 

“Tell me everything.”  She commanded.

 

“Father, suspects the Queen’s family has committed treason.  My guess it may have to do with the death of your Uncle Arryn.  No doubt he’s planning to send us back home.”

 

Sansa opened her mouth to protest.    “He wants us safe Sansa. And Joffery’s unworthy of your love and loyalty.   Look me in the eye and tell me he is as devoted to you as you are to him, that you would honestly by happy married to him.” Alysanne said in a voice as cold as the ice that made up the Wall itself.

 

“I… I could be happy in my marriage to him.”  Sansa said weakly.

 

“Could be isn’t would be.” Alysanne replied.   She hated this. She hated having to tear Sansa’s carefully constructed golden veil that made life a song, but it had to be done. Sansa’s mother, the circumstances behind her birth and her fosterings had made Alysanne grow up too fast and to accept that hard truths had to cut both ways.  Sansa had to accept this too. Winter was coming, and in the winter, the lone wolf died.

 

Alysanne turned to Arya.  “And you need to stop being angry with  Sansa, Arya. What happened with Lady wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t your fault, it was Joffrey’s fault,  The both of you have to accept each other’s differences and cease squabbling over every little thing. You know Sansa is trying to be better.”

 

Arya’s expression became downcast and ashamed.  “I- I’m sorry Sansa…” Arya said.

 

Sansa hugged her.  “So am I.” When they broke the embrace, Arya perked up.  

 

Alysanne smiled than hugged both her sisters.


Gods willing we’ll be home soon. Alysanne thought  I can see Ghost again, and Tyr and will be wed.  Father can have someone else do King Robert’s job for him and everything will be alright.

 


 

 

Ned hated everything about King’s Landing,  but he could not deny that the sunset’s here were beautiful.    He leaned back against the heart tree and stared at the sky. It made him think of simpler times,  before that fucking godsdammed tournery at Harrenhal, before his fostering at the Vale, when he and his brothers and sister played and sparred. When his Grandmother Arya Flint still lived, they would sometimes  have a picnic supper in the godswood. Benjen would sit in her lap and Lyanna in their mother’s and the two of them would point out all the constellations in the stars. Grandmother would tell them stories of her and her husband’s travels.  Sometime’s she made bawdy jokes that made Eddard’s father Rickard, a stern man laugh so hard he cried.

 

 Cersei Lannister came alone and unarmed.  For probably the first time in her life she was dressed simply, in leather boots hunting greens and a roughspun cloak the color of clay.   For a moment Eddard wondered where Cersei had acquired such garb, than remembered if his suspicions bore fruit, she would have been in need of such clothes...   

 

"Why here?" Cersei Lannister asked as she stood over him.

 

"So the gods can see."  He answered. Cersei scoffed.   Ned knew many scoffed at the Old Gods, but than again if Ned had said it was so the Seven could see, she would have scoffed at that too

 

“Beware the one who believes them above the gods, for fear of their wrath will not stay their hands.”  Jon Arryn had told him and Robert once.

 

She sat beside him on the grass.  Ned knew Cersei was beautiful, but she did hold a candle to his own wife, or the dead Princess Elia or her handmaiden Ashara Dayne.  Still he could not deny she was beautiful. His brother Brandon would no doubt have tried to claim Cersei’s maidenhead, and Eddard would have been sorely tempted himself to have done the same

 

"I know the truth Jon Arryn died for," he told her.  He said this calmly, almost casually. He did not impart gravity or anger into his tone, for he knew one must keep their humors in check when they invited a foe to parly.

 

"Do you?" The queen watched his face, wary as a cat.

 

 "Is that why you called me here, Lord Stark? To pose me riddles? Or is it your intent to seize me, as your wife seized my brother?"

 

"If you truly believed that, you would never have come." Ned touched her cheek with a gentleness that surprised himself  

 

"Has he done this before?" Ned asked he'd  He had taken a small measure of pride for Robert striking her when he awoke after Jaime and his men attacked him and slain Jory, but now that pride was a bitter one.  Even a cruel and wretched woman like Cersei Lannsiter, who would have had Sansa’s Lady made a corpse and a pelt and would have let her cousin’s unwanted advances to his betrothed, most beloved daughter go unanswered did not deserve to be beaten like dog.  

 

"Once or twice." She shied away from his hand. "Never on the face before. Jaime would have killed him, even if it meant his own life." Cersei looked at him defiantly. "My brother is worth a hundred thousand of your friend."

 

"Your brother?" Ned said. "Or your lover?"

 

"Both." She did not flinch from the truth or provide some denial. This surprised Ned, he had expected, wrath and indignation at such  an accusation.   

 

"Since we were children together. And why not? The Targaryens wed brother to sister for three hundred years, to keep the bloodlines pure. And Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We are one person in two bodies. We shared a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot, our old maester said. When he is in me, I feel . . . whole." The ghost of a smile flitted over her lips. 

 

"My son Bran . . . "

 

To her credit, Cersei did not look away. "He saw us. You love your children, do you not?"

 

Robert had asked him the very same question, the morning of the melee. He gave her the same answer. "With all my heart."

 

"No less do I love mine."

 

Ned thought, If it came to that, the life of some child I did not know, against Robb and Sansa and Arya and Bran and Rickon, what would I do? Even more so, what would Catelyn do, if it his gentle but fierce Alysanne's life, against the children of her body? He did not know. He prayed he never would.

 

"All three are Jaime's," he said. It was not a question.

 

"Thank the gods."

 

The seed is strong, Jon Arryn had cried on his deathbed, and so it was. 

"A dozen years," Ned said unable to suppress his anger any longer. "How is it that you have had no children by the king?"

 

She lifted her head, defiant. "Your Robert got me with child once," she said, her voice thick with contempt. "My brother found a woman to cleanse me. He never knew. If truth be told, I can scarcely bear for him to touch me, and I have not let him inside me for years. I know other ways to pleasure him, when he leaves his whores long enough to stagger up to my bedchamber. Whatever we do, the king is usually so drunk that he's forgotten it all by the next morning."

 

How could they have all been so blind? The truth was there in front of them all the time, written on the children's faces. Ned felt sick. Had all  he had fought for since Jon Arryn had gotten the Mad King’s Raven been for naught? All the death and disillusionment he had experienced? the anger and the pain?  The fear that he would never return to Cat and their children when he set off to bring fire and blood and justice to Balon Greyjoy and his accursed people? Did Cersei realise what she had done?  The stability and peace the Seven Kingdoms so desperately needed would perhaps never come to pass because of her selfishness. 

 

 "I remember Robert as he was the day he took the throne, every inch a king," he said quietly. "A thousand other women might have loved him with all their hearts. What did he do to make you hate him so?"

 

Her eyes burned, green fire in the dusk, like the lioness that was her sigil. "The night of our wedding feast, the first time we shared a bed, he called me by your sister's name. He was on top of me, in me, stinking of wine, and he whispered Lyanna."

 

Ned Stark thought of pale blue roses and for a moment he wanted to weep. "I am not blind to  Robert’s flaws or failures, but for the life of me I cannot decide which of you I pity most."

 

The queen seemed amused by that. "Save your pity for yourself, Lord Stark. I want none of it."

 

"You know what I must do."

 

"Must?" She put her hand on his good leg, just above the knee. 

 

"A true man does what he will, not what he must." Her fingers brushed lightly against his thigh, the gentlest of promises. "The realm needs a strong Hand. Joff will not come of age for two more years. No one wants war again, least of all me." Her hand touched his face, his hair. "If friends can turn into enemies, enemies can become friends. Your wife is a thousand leagues away, and my brother has fled. Be kind to me, Ned. I swear to you, and you and your kin shall never regret it."

 

"Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?" Ned said with all the cold, furious anger he could muster.   He thought of Cat’s sweet sister and her only son. He had tasted the fear in the letter she had sent to Winterfell.  He knew not even the Knight’s of the Vale could assure Lysa Arryn would be safe from the Lions of the Westerlands.

 

She slapped him.

 

"I shall wear this as a badge of honor," Ned said dryly.

 

"Honor," she spat with all the fury of a lioness

 

 "How dare you play the noble lord with me! What do you take me for? You've a bastard of your own,one you gave a queen’s name and dote on as if she slid from your trout of a wife’s shriveled cunt!  Who was the mother, I wonder? Some Dornish or Cronwlander peasant you raped while her holdfast burned? A whore from the Stony Sept? Or was it the grieving sister, the Lady Ashara? She threw herself into the sea, I'm told. Why was that? For the brother you slew, or the child you took from her arms?  Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?"

 

"For a start," said Ned, "I do not kill children. You would do well to listen, my lady. I shall say this only once. When the king returns from his hunt, I intend to lay the truth before him. You must be gone by then. You and your children, all three, and not to Casterly Rock. If I were you, I should take ship for the Free Cities, or even farther, to the Summer Isles or the Port of Ibben. As far as the winds blow."

 

"Exile," she said. "A bitter cup to drink from."

 

"A sweeter cup than your father served Rhaegar's children," Ned said, "and kinder than you deserve. I would take you, your father’s head and both your brother’s heads and not shed a tear, but both my fathers taught me the value of my mercy.  Lord Tywin, Tyrion and Ser Jaime would do well to go with you. Lord Tywin's gold will buy you comfort and hire swords to keep you safe. You shall need them. I promise you, no matter where you flee, Robert's wrath will follow you, to the back of beyond if need be."

 

The queen stood. "And what of my wrath, Lord Stark?" she asked softly. Her eyes searched his face. "You should have taken the realm for yourself. It was there for the taking. Jaime told me how you found him on the Iron Throne the day King's Landing fell, and made him yield it up. That was your moment. All you needed to do was climb those steps, and sit.  Your wife could have been a queen, you could have given that beautiful bastard you love so much the name Stark, and she could have wed a Lord Paramount instead of a savage from an island near the wastelands beyond the Wall. Such a sad, sad mistake." Every word out of her lush, full lips dripped with mockery and false pity.

 

"I have made more mistakes than you can possibly imagine," Ned said.  "but that was not one of them."

 

"Oh, but it was, my lord," Cersei insisted. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They came for Sansa on the third day.

 

She chose a simple dress of dark grey wool, plainly cut but richly embroidered around the collar and sleeves. Her fingers felt thick and clumsy as she struggled with the silver fastenings without the benefit of Alysanne or a servants help  Jeyne Poole had been confined with her, but Jeyne was useless. Her face was puffy from all her crying, and she could not seem to stop sobbing about her father.

 

"I'm certain Lord Poole is well," Sansa told her when she had finally gotten the dress buttoned right. "I'll ask the queen to let you see him." She thought that kindness might lift Jeyne's spirits, but the other girl just looked at her with red, swollen eyes and began to cry all the harder.

 

Sansa had wept too, the first day. Even within the stout walls of Maegor's Holdfast, with her door closed and barred, it was hard not to be terrified when the killing began. She had grown up to the sound of steel in the yard, and scarcely a day of her life had passed without hearing the clash of sword on sword, yet somehow knowing that the fighting was real made all the difference in the world. She heard it as she had never heard it before, and there were other sounds as well, grunts of pain, angry curses, shouts for help, and the moans of wounded and dying men. In the songs, the knights never screamed nor begged for mercy.

 

The doors had been flung open, and Alysanne, her brave sister had set upon the Lannister Men-At Arms with her own sword, she slew seven of them and wounded an eighth before the Hound had come with his Greatsword and knocked it of her hand, and lifted her by her throat with one hand. With a snarl, not too distant to that of Ghost,  Alysanne had drawn the dagger, her future husband had given her and buried it in Clegane’s eye, the one on his burned side of his face. 

 

For a second,Sana though they might escape, that her fierce sister would lead her to  safety. That they would find Arya and her Bravossi Dancing master she loved like another Uncle and Father and they would escape from this terrible city and the terrible people, each one worse than any villain the songs conjured.   Instead the Gold Cloaks had surrounded Alysanne and clubbed and hit her with the butts of the spears. Her valiant sister had bit and stabbed and punched and kicked, but they bound her in irons like she was a wretched peasant who had stolen from a sept and carried her off.  

 

The second day was even worse. The room where Sansa had been confined was at the top of the highest tower of Maegor's Holdfast. From its window, she could see that the heavy iron portcullis in the gatehouse was down, and the drawbridge drawn up over the deep dry moat that separated the keep-within-a-keep from the larger castle that surrounded it. Lannister guardsmen prowled the walls with spears and crossbows to hand.  There was no sign of any of the House Baratheon knights and guards Lord Renly brought with him. Nor the retinue of Lord Royce or any other Lord for that matter. 

They were fed—hard cheese and fresh-baked bread and milk to break their fast, roast chicken and greens at midday, and a late supper of beef and barley stew—but the servants who brought the meals would not answer Sansa's questions. That evening, some women brought her clothes from the Tower of the Hand, and some of Jeyne's things as well, but they seemed nearly as frightened as Jeyne, and when she tried to talk to them, they fled from her as if she had the grey plague. The guards outside the door still refused to let them leave the room.

 

"Please, I need to speak to the queen again," Sansa told them, as she told everyone she saw that day. "She'll want to talk to me, I know she will. Tell her I want to see her, please. If not the queen, then Prince Joffrey, if you'd be so kind. We're to marry when we're older."

 

At sunset on the second day, a great bell began to ring. Its voice was deep and sonorous, and the long slow clanging filled Sansa with a sense of dread. The ringing went on and on, and after a while they heard other bells answering from the Great Sept of Baelor on Visenya's Hill. The sound rumbled across the city like thunder, warning of the storm to come.

 

"What is it?" Jeyne asked, covering her ears. "Why are they ringing the bells?"

"The king is dead." Sansa could not say how she knew it, yet she did. The slow, endless clanging filled their room, as mournful as a dirge. Had some enemy stormed the castle and murdered King Robert? 

 

She went to sleep wondering, restless, and fearful. Was her  Joffrey, beautiful as he was evil, the king now? She was afraid for Alysanne, Arya and for her father.   If only they would tell her what was happening . . .

 

That night Sansa dreamt of Joffrey on the throne, with herself seated beside him in a gown of woven gold.  She too wore a crown, a band of red gold with iron spikes like the King and Queens of Winter’s crown on her head, and everyone she had ever known came before her, to bend the knee and say their courtesies.  Alysanne was there too, with a gold band atop her brow and clad in a dress of grey and black with a crimson girdle and a fine shawl of blue green fur. A beautiful sword with a bejeweled guard and a slender hilt lay at her side.   Father and Mother, her brothers and Arya were there too, as was Tyr Magnar, who wore a long coat of mail and green surcoat and held a greathelm in his hand.  

 

The next morning, the morning of the third day, Ser Boros Blount of the Kingsguard came to escort her to the queen. "You look very handsome and splendid this morning, Ser Boros," Sansa lied to him  A lady remembered her courtesies, and she was resolved to be a good lady like her mother and Septa had taught her. But Sansa knew the Lannisters were not her allies, father thought them to be thrice dammed traitors, and their men had dared to lay hands on her sister.  

 

She thought of the Queen’s cousin, the squire who tried to bed her sister as if she was a whore plying her trade in Wintertown  Alysanne may have been a bastard, but she as much Lord Eddard Stark’s daughter as Sansa was. Not to mention she bethrothed to a lord, one who came from a people considered as savage as the wildlings her Uncle Benjen and the brave Black Knights of the Wall protected the Realm from, but still a Lord of the Noble blood of the First Men.  A Lord who would also be knighted no less. 

 

"And you, my lady," Ser Boros said in a flat voice. "Her Grace awaits. Come with me."

 

There were guards outside her door, Lannister men-at-arms in crimson cloaks and lion-crested helms. Sansa made herself smile at them pleasantly and bid them a good morning as she passed. 

 

It was the first time she had been allowed outside the chamber since Ser Arys Oakheart had led her there two mornings past. "To keep you safe, my sweet one," Queen Cersei had told her. "Joffrey would never forgive me if anything happened to his precious."  “And what of my sisters Your Grace?” Sansa had said. “Your sister and half-sister will be kept safe as well.” the Queen said with a polite smile.

 

Sansa had expected that Ser Boros would escort her to the royal apartments, but instead he led her out of Maegor's Holdfast. The bridge was down again. Some workmen were lowering a man on ropes into the depths of the dry moat. When Sansa peered down, she saw a body of Stark Household guard with a Serjeant’s sash and gorget impaled on the huge iron spikes below. She averted her eyes and silently prayed that the gods rewarded the man justly for his service

 

They found Queen Cersei in the council chambers, seated at the head of a long table littered with papers, candles, and blocks of sealing wax. The room was as splendid as any that Sansa had ever seen. She stared in awe at the carved wooden screen and the twin sphinxes that sat beside the door.

 

"Your Grace," Ser Boros said when they were ushered inside by another of the Kingsguard, Ser Mandon of the curiously dead face, "I've brought the girl."

 

 Prince Joffrey was not there, but three of the king's councillors were. Lord Petyr Baelish sat on the queen's left hand, Grand Maester Pycelle at the end of the table, while Lord Varys hovered over them, smelling flowery. All of them were clad in black, she realized with a feeling of dread. Mourning clothes . . .

 

The queen wore a high-collared black silk gown, with a hundred dark red rubies sewn into her bodice, covering her from neck to bosom. They were cut in the shape of teardrops, as if the queen were weeping blood. Cersei smiled   radiantly, s if this was a joyful day and not one of Sorrow and Lamentation.

 

 "Sansa, my sweet child," she said, "I know you've been asking for me. I'm sorry that I could not send for you sooner. Matters have been very unsettled, and I have not had a moment. I trust my people have been taking good care of you?"

 

"Everyone has been very sweet and pleasant, Your Grace, Minus the men who knocked down our door and dared to harm my sister and I.  That terrible brute, Snador Clegane would have choked Alysanne to death with one hand had she not stabbed him in the eye with the Dragonglass dagger her bethrother Lord Magnar sent with a Bouquet of Winter Roses.” Sansa said sweetly."  “That and well, no one will talk to us or tell us what's happened. "

 

"Us?" Cersei seemed puzzled.

 

"We put the steward's girl in with her," Ser Boros said. "We did not know what else to do with her."

 

The queen frowned. "Next time, you will ask," she said, her voice sharp. "The gods only know what sort of tales she's been filling Sansa's head with."

 

"Jeyne's scared," Sansa said. "She won't stop crying. I promised her I'd ask if she could see her father."

 

Old Grand Maester Pycelle lowered his eyes.

 

"Lord Poole is well, isn't he?" Sansa said anxiously. She knew there had been fighting, but surely no one would harm a steward. Vayon Poole did not even wear a sword.

 

Queen Cersei looked at each of the councillors in turn. "I won't have Sansa fretting needlessly. What shall we do with this little friend of hers, my lords?"

 

Lord Petyr leaned forward. "I'll find a place for her."

 

"Not in the city," said the queen snapped  "Do you take me for a fool?" shot back as he combed a hand through his hair. 

 

The queen ignored that. "Ser Boros, escort this girl to Lord Petyr's apartments and instruct his people to keep her there until he comes for her. Tell her that Littlefinger will be taking her to see her father, that ought to calm her down. I want her gone before Sansa returns to her chamber."

 

"As you command, Your Grace," Ser Boros said. He bowed deeply, spun on his heel, and took his leave, his long white cloak stirring the air behind him.

 

Sansa was confused. "I don't understand," she said. "Where is Jeyne's father? Why can't Ser Boros take her to him instead of Lord Petyr having to do it  Where is Alysanne? Some Gold Cloaks acted like wildlings and carried her off?!" She had promised herself she would be a lady as strong as her mother, the Lady Catelyn, but all of a sudden she was scared again.   For a second she thought she might cry. "Where are you sending Jeyne? She hasn't done anything wrong, she's a good girl like my sisters and I."

 

"She's upset you," the queen said gently. "We can't be having that. Not another word, now. Lord Baelish will see that Jeyne's well taken care of, I promise you." She patted the chair beside her. "Sit down, Sansa. I want to talk to you."

 

Sansa seated herself beside the queen. Cersei smiled again, Varys was wringing his soft hands together, Grand Maester Pycelle kept his sleepy eyes on the papers in front of him, but she could feel Littlefinger staring. Something about the way the small man looked at her made Sansa feel as though she had no clothes on. Goose bumps pimpled her skin.  She felt the urge to slit Lord Baelish’s throat, but dismissed it.  

 

"Sweet Sansa," Queen Cersei said, laying a soft hand on her wrist. "Such a beautiful child. I do hope you know how much Joffrey and I love you."

 

"You do?" Sansa said, breathless. The way the queen said it almost made her believe her.  But something told her she was being lied to . The queen smiled. "I think of you almost as my own daughter. And I know the love you bear for Joffrey." She gave a weary shake of her head. "I am afraid we have some grave news about your lord father. You must be brave, child."

 

Her quiet words gave Sansa a chill. "What is it?"

 

"Your father is a traitor, dear," Lord Varys said.

 

Grand Maester Pycelle lifted his ancient head. "With my own ears, I heard Lord Eddard swear to our beloved King Robert that he would protect the young princes as if they were his own sons. And yet the moment the king was dead, he called the small council together to steal Prince Joffrey's rightful throne."

 

"No," Sansa blurted. "He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't!"

 

The queen picked up a letter. The paper was torn and stiff with dried blood, but the broken seal was her father's, the direwolf stamped in pale wax. "We found this on the captain of your household guard, Sansa. It is a letter to my late husband's brother Stannis, inviting him to take the crown."

 

"Please, Your Grace, there's been a mistake." Sudden panic made her dizzy and faint. "Please, send for my father, he'll tell you, he would never write such a letter, the king was his friend  Lord Arryn raised them together since they were boys And even though he never married my Aunt, Father always treated His Grace as if he were his own brother."

 

"Robert thought so," said the queen. "This betrayal would have broken his heart. The gods are kind, that he did not live to see it." She sighed. "Sansa, sweetling, you must see what a dreadful position this has left us in. You are innocent of any wrong, and I know your half-sister was misguided enough to think harm would come to you both- We all know that.  Yet you are the daughter of a traitor. How can I allow you to marry my son?"

 

"But I love Joffrey.” Sansa said wincing internally. She knew that was a lie.  

 

“And if my Lord Father was arrested on charges of treason.” she continued  He has a right to a trial, and if he be found guilty the right to demand a trial by combat, and let the gods decide his fate.” 

 

"The poor child," murmured Varys. "A love so true and innocent, Your Grace, it would be cruel to deny it . . . and yet, what can we do? Her father stands condemned." His soft hands washed each other in a gesture of helpless distress.

 

"A child born of traitor's seed will find that betrayal comes naturally to her.  The Blackfyres, the Darklyns, The Reynes and the Tarbecks are just some examples, " said Grand Maester Pycelle. "She is a sweet thing now, but in ten years, who can say what treasons she may hatch?"

 

"No," Sansa said, horrified. "I'm not, I'd never . . . I wouldn't betray Joffrey, I love him, I swear it, I do."

 

"Oh, so poignant," said Varys. "And yet, it is truly said that blood runs truer than oaths."

 

"She reminds me of the mother, not the father," Lord Petyr Baelish said quietly. "Look at her. The hair, the eyes. She is the very image of Cat at the same age."

 

The queen looked at her, appearing to be troubled, and yet Sansa could see nothing but contempt behind those jade eyes of her. "Child," she said, "if I could truly believe that you were not like your father, why nothing should please me more than to see you wed to my Joffrey. I know he loves you with all his heart." She sighed. "And yet, I fear that Lord Varys and the Grand Maester have the right of it. The blood will tell. I have only to remember how your sister set her wolf on my son."

 

"I'm not like Arya," Sansa blurted. She felt ashamed for saying such a thing.  

 

She felt the weight of Cersei's eyes as the queen studied her face. "I believe you mean it, child." She turned to face the others. "My lords, it seems to me that if the rest of her kin were to remain loyal in this terrible time, that would go a long way toward laying our fears to rest."

 

Grand Maester Pycelle stroked his huge soft beard, his wide brow furrowed in thought. "Lord Eddard has three sons."

 

"Mere boys," Lord Petyr said with a shrug. "I should be more concerned with Lady Catelyn and the Tullys."

 

The queen took Sansa's hand in both of hers. "Child, do you know your letters?"

 

Sansa nodded nervously. She could read and write better than any of her brothers, although she was hopeless at sums.

 

"I am pleased to hear that. Perhaps there is hope for you and Joffrey still.”

 

"What do you want me to do?" Sansa asked.   She was in the lioness’s pit now, she had to play the part of the compliant, proper young lady, who wanted nothing more than to marry her one true love.

 

"You must write your lady mother, and your brother, the eldest . . . what is his name?"

 

"Robb," Sansa said.

 

"The word of your lord father's treason will no doubt reach them soon. Better that it should come from you. You must tell them how Lord Eddard betrayed his king."

 

“But father has not had a proper trial.  What am I write your grace?”

 

The queen patted her hand. "We will tell you what to write, child. The important thing is that you urge Lady Catelyn and your brother to keep the king's peace."

 

"It will go hard for them if they don't," said Grand Maester Pycelle. "By the love you bear them, you must urge them to walk the path of wisdom."

 

"Your lady mother will no doubt fear for you dreadfully," the queen said. "You must tell her that you are well and in our care, that we are treating you gently and seeing to your every want. Bid them to come to King's Landing and pledge their fealty to Joffrey when he takes his throne. If they do that . . . why, then we shall know that there is no taint in your blood, and when you come into the flower of your womanhood, you shall wed the king in the Great Sept of Baelor, before the eyes of gods and men. And as compensation for the wrongs dealt to to your beloved half sister I will have my gallant Joffey legitimize her as a Stark and I will personally find her a much better match than some cannibal from Skagos. One of my cousins is a Lannister of Lannisport, and he Commander the  City Watch and He was knighted for his bravery in the Greyjoy rebellion by my own father. He would be a splendid match. Or perhaps one of the Lords here in the Crownlands "

 

Sansa hesitated.   "Perhaps . . . if I might see my father, talk to him about . . . "

 

"Treason?" Lord Varys hinted.

 

"You disappoint me, Sansa," the queen said, with eyes gone hard as stones. "We've told you of your father's crimes. If you are truly as loyal as you say, why should you want to see him?"

 

"But he has not had a trial! " Sansa felt her eyes grow wet. "He's not . . . please, he hasn't been . . . hurt, or . . . or . . . "

 

"Lord Eddard has not been harmed," the queen said.

 

Sansa knew that was a lie.  She didn’t know how she knew, but she did. 

 

“If my father… If he did such a horrible things as you claim what is to happen to him?”

 

“Claim  Do you think I am lying to you Sweet Sansa?” 

 

"  No your Grace.   I'll . . . I'll write the letters,  but I want to see Alysanne and Arya.  And I want them to share my chambers. And I want you to swear by the Old Gods and the New that your men have not tried to  defile or harm her because she fought back. The Same goes for Arya. Otherwise I Shan’t and you or Joffery must write them. I love you and Joffrey with all my heart, but this is my father and my House you speak of.  The first word of my mother’s house’s motto is family Your Grace. Surely you, the eldest trueborn daughter of a Great House understand the position I have been placed in?"

 

The Queen’s eyes narrowed into slits. He eyes were now cool and reptilian, even as a smile as bright as the sun remained plastered across her face.

 

“The little dove is just like her mother.”  Lord Baelish said in an oily tone.

 

Varys chuckled.

 

“I do my darling  We had to put Alysanne in a cell for the hurts she inflicted on the brave men of the City Watch, but due to the terrible circumstance we have found ourselves in  I will grant the request for your half sister to share quarters with you. I can assure you she remains a maiden, but I cannot assure you the Gold Cloaks did not have to beat her to ensure her compliance.   As for the Lady Arya, we have no idea where she ran off to. Ser Meryn was forced to kill the dancing master she was with. But she will be found and brought to you safe and unharmed and undefiled.

 

In the end, she wrote four letters. To her mother, the Lady Catelyn Stark, and to her brothers at Winterfell, and her aunt and her grandfather as well, Lady Lysa Arryn of the Eyrie, and Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun. By the time she had done, her fingers were cramped and stiff and stained with ink. Varys had her father's seal. She warmed the pale white beeswax over a candle, poured it carefully, and watched as the eunuch stamped each letter with the direwolf of House Stark.

 


 

After the letters were done.   Sansa was escorted back to her room, although  Sansa knew it was a cell now. A gilded cage was still a cage.

 

The Queen had kept her promise though.  Alysanne was waiting for her. Her dress, the one she wore when she returned to Winterfell with Tyr was torn and tattered in several places.  One of the bronze disks that made up its belt was missing. Her sister looked worse than that one time she got into a brawl with a few Mountain Clansmen.  Her arms and legs were mottled in bruises and she sported not one, but two black eyes and a split lip.

 

Tearfully, Sansa embraced her sister.  She asked the guards to bring some ice and wet rags and thanked the gods when a servant brought a bucket of ice and a small basket filled with clean white and blue linens.   

 

Carefully, Sansa did her best to relieve the hurts Alysanne was dealt.

 

“I’m going to kill them.” Alysanne said softly  as Sansa gently cleaned her and bound her cuts.   

 

“One of the Lannister men laughed about killing Vayon Poole. Sansa.  And one of the Gold Cloaks… He touched my butt, tried too... “ Alysanne trailed off.   “I bit out his throat, tried to strangle another one with my bonds, but they kicked me in the back and stomped on my chest.  One o-of them groped me before they gagged me and threw me in a cell.”

 

Sansa thought of Jeyne.  Many in the court muttered how unvirtuous it was for a nobleman like Lord Baelish  to own brothels in the city. Did Lord Baelish imprison Jeyne in one? Jeyne may have been of lesser nobility, her families holdings small, but she was still a highborn lady.  And a virgin. The thought of Jeyne forced to give her virginity to some peasant who saved a few silvers and coppers or a merchant or false knight in a whore house, was too terrible to comprehend. Or worse, being little better than a slave to Lord Baelish himself.  Was the Master of Coin raping her closest friend?

 

“At least Arya managed to slip away.  If she’s lucky she’s with Yoren. He’s still in the city,  He’ll get her back to Winterfell, keep her safe.” Alysanne said with a groan. 

 

It was in that moment, Sansa realised House Baratheon and Lannister had begun fighting an undeclared war against House Stark.  If she, father and Alysanne could not escape, or father could not win a Trial by Combat to prove his innocence, he would be sent to  the Wall or executed. Worse Robb would have no choice but to raise arms or surrender.  

 

Eitherway, Sansa and Alysanne would remain prizes of war.  Hostages to ensure the North’s submission. Sansa would be forced to wed Joffrey and bear his children, or worse, they may break their betrothal  and make her wed, his Dwarf Uncle, who would be Lord of Casterly Rock when Lord Tywin died. Or she would be forced to wed the Dwarf and they would use her to claim Winterfell for themselves and have Robb,  Bran and Rickon murdered. As for Alysanne… Cersei could have he legitimized and wed to one of her cousins or Joffrey’s vassals,or she would remain a Snow and forced to serve the Lannister’s men as a servant girl, forced to bed whomever the Queen wished.   

 

She could even give Alysanne to the Ironborn.  Sansa remembered Robb beating Theon bloody for his jape about how Alysanne could be his salt wife.  Lord Varys could easily send a letter to Theon and convince him to betray Robb. Theon may have been her brother’s friend, but he was a hostage to  stay his father and the Iron Fleet from reading the North and the other kingdom. And Theon’s father was still alive, as were his Uncle’s. Alysanne could be a coin used to buy the Ironborn’s support against the North. After all, many a Lord Reaper of Pyke or Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet had taken a Stark daughter or bastard daughter of a Stark as a salt-wife. One Ironborn King had taken all three of King Rickard II’s daughters as his brides and four bastard daughter of other Starks  to put his children in their bellies. The thought of such a fate befalling Alysanne was too much for Sansa to bear. 

 

Sansa held her sister close. “Everything will be alright.” Sansa said aloud.  Although whether she was trying to convince herself or Alysanne’s she did not know.   “Father will prove his innocence and we can all go home.” Sansa whispered shakily.

 

Chapter Text

The walls of the throne room had been stripped bare, the hunting tapestries that King Robert loved taken down and stacked in the corner in an untidy heap.

 

Ser Mandon Moore went to take his place under the throne beside two of his fellows of the Kingsguard. Sansa hovered by the door, for once unguarded. The queen had given her and Aly freedom of the castle as a reward for being good, yet even so, she was escorted everywhere she went. "Honor guards for my daughter-to-be, and her beloved half-sister" the queen called them, but they did not make Sansa feel honored.

 

"Freedom of the castle" meant that she could go wherever she chose within the Red Keep so long as she promised not to go beyond the walls.   She couldn't have gone beyond the walls anyway. The gates were watched day and night by Janos Slynt's gold cloaks, and Lannister house guards were always about as well.  So Sansa and Alysanne observed all they could the guard routes and such. They prayed for father, and for their siblings. Alysanne would string her harp, but played no music or sang.  When she was not looking out the window of their quarters, she stared at the crown of the Winter Roses, and read the two books Uncle Benjen had given her.

 

This was the first court session of Joffrey's reign, so Sansa looked about nervously. A line of Lannister house guards stood beneath the western windows, a line of gold-cloaked City Watchmen beneath the east. Of smallfolk and commoners, she saw no sign, but under the gallery a cluster of lords great and small milled restlessly. There were no more than twenty, where a hundred had been accustomed to wait upon King Robert.

 

Sansa slipped in among them, murmuring greetings as she worked her way toward the front. She recognized black-skinned Jalabhar Xho, gloomy Ser Aron Santagar, who was Master of Arms for the Red Keep, the Redwyne twins Horror and Slobber . . . only none of them seemed to recognize her. Or if they did, they shied away as if she had the grey plague. Sickly Lord Gyles covered his face at her approach and feigned a fit of coughing, and when funny drunken Ser Dontos started to hail her, Ser Balon Swann whispered in his ear and he turned away.

 

And so many others were missing. Where had the rest of them gone? Sansa wondered.

 

Grand Maester Pycelle was seated alone at the council table, seemingly asleep, his hands clasped together atop his beard. She saw Lord Varys hurry into the hall, his feet making no sound. A moment later Lord Baelish entered through the tall doors in the rear, smiling. He chatted amiably with Ser Balon and Ser Dontos as he made his way to the front.  His gren-grey eyes studied Sansa for a moment, as if she was a fine hare. 




A herald's voice rang out. "All hail His Grace, Joffrey of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister, the First of his Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. All hail his lady mother, Cersei of House Lannister, Queen Regent, Light of the West, and Protector of the Realm."

 

Ser Barristan Selmy, resplendent in white plate, led them in. Ser Arys Oakheart escorted the queen, while Ser Boros Blount walked beside Joffrey, so six of the Kingsguard were now in the hall, all the White Swords save Jaime Lannister alone. 

 

Jofrey took the steps of the Iron Throne two at a time, while his mother was seated with the council. Joff wore plush black velvets slashed with crimson, a shimmering cloth-of-gold cape with a high collar, and on his head a golden, gaudy  crown crusted with rubies and black diamonds.

 

When Joffrey turned to look out over the hall, his eye caught Sansa's. He smiled, seated himself, and spoke. "It is a king's duty to punish the disloyal and reward those who are true. Grand Maester Pycelle, I command you to read my decrees."

 

Pycelle pushed himself to his feet. He was clad in a magnificent robe of thick red velvet, with an ermine collar and shiny gold fastenings. From a drooping sleeve, heavy with gilded scrollwork, he drew a parchment, unrolled it, and began to read a long list of names, commanding each in the name of king and council to present themselves and swear their fealty to Joffrey. Failing that, they would be adjudged traitors, their lands and titles forfeited to the throne.

 

The names he read made Sansa hold her breath. Lord Stannis Baratheon, his lady wife, his daughter. Lord Renly Baratheon. Both Lord Royces and their sons. Ser Loras Tyrell. Lord Mace Tyrell, his brothers, uncles, sons. The red priest, Thoros of Myr. Lord Beric Dondarrion. Ser Micheal Wheeler and his wife Lady Eleanor of House Hopper, a powerful family of Landed Knights with ties to House Longwaters and House Brune.  Lord Harrington of Hawkins. Lady Robin Buckly of Starcourt. Ser William Byers of Mirkwood Keep. Lady Lysa Arryn and her son, the little Lord Robert,. Her Grandfather Lord Hoster Tully, his brother Ser Brynden, his son Ser Edmure. Lord Jason Mallister. Lord Bryce Caron of the Marches. Lord Tytos Blackwood. Lord Walder Frey and his heir Ser Stevron. Lord Karyl Vance. Lord Jonos Bracken. Lady Sheila Whent. Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, and all his sons. So many, she thought as Pycelle read on and on, it will take a whole flock of ravens to send out these commands.

 

And at the end, near last, came the names Sansa had been dreading. Lady Catelyn Stark. Robb Stark. Brandon Stark, Rickon Stark, Arya Stark.  Her father’s bannerman were announced as well. Jon Umber, Maege Mormont, Rickard Kartark and Wyman Manderly. Master Sinclair and Master Henderson, both sworn to House Flint of the Mountains.  Lord Hugo Wull, Lord Ashwood, Lord Marsh and Ser William Mayfield, sworn to House Ryswell,   

 

Grand Maester Pycelle rolled up the list, tucked it up his left sleeve, and pulled another parchment from his right. He cleared his throat and resumed. "In the place of the traitor Eddard Stark, it is the wish of His Grace that Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport and Warden of the West, take up the office of Hand of the King, to speak with his voice, lead his armies against his enemies, and carry out his royal will. So the king has decreed. The small council consents.”

 

"In the place of the traitor Stannis Baratheon, it is the wish of His Grace that his lady mother, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, who has ever been his staunchest support, be seated upon his small council, that she may help him rule wisely and with justice. So the king has decreed. The small council consents."

 

Sansa heard a soft murmuring from the lords around her, but it was quickly stilled. Pycelle continued.

 

"It is also the wish of His Grace that his loyal servant, Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch of King's Landing, be at once raised to the rank of lord and granted the ancient seat of Harrenhal with all its attendant lands and incomes, and that his sons and grandsons shall hold these honors after him until the end of time. It is moreover his command that Lord Slynt be seated immediately upon his small council, to assist in the governance of the realm. So the king has decreed. The small council consents."

 

Sansa glimpsed motion from the corner of her eye as Janos Slynt made his entrance. This time the muttering was louder and angrier. Proud lords whose houses went back thousands of years made way reluctantly for the balding, frog-faced commoner as he marched past. Golden scales had been sewn onto the black velvet of his doublet and rang together softly with each step. His cloak was checked black-and-gold satin. Two ugly boys who must have been his sons went before him, struggling with the weight of a heavy metal shield as tall as they were. For his sigil he had taken a bloody spear, gold on a night-black field. The sight of it  made Sansa’ skin crawl She did not not why, but she felt the urge to run to Janos Slynt and take his head off with the biggest axe she could lay her hands on. 

 

As Lord Slynt took his place, Grand Maester Pycelle resumed. "Lastly, in these times of treason and turmoil, with our beloved Robert so lately dead, it is the view of the council that the life and safety of King Joffrey is of paramount importance." He looked to the queen.

 

Cersei stood. "Ser Barristan Selmy, stand forth."

 

Ser Barristan had been standing at the foot of the Iron Throne, as still as a statue, but now he went to one knee and bowed his head. "Your Grace, I am yours to command." One of the truest knights who ever lived said in his Stormlands brough.

 

"Rise, Ser Barristan," Cersei Lannister said. "You may remove your helm."

 

"My lady?" Standing, the old knight took off his high white helm, though he did not seem to understand why.

 

"You have served the realm long and faithfully, good ser, and every man and woman in the Seven Kingdoms owes you thanks. Yet now I fear your service is at an end. It is the wish of king and council that you lay down your heavy burden."

 

"My . . . burden? I fear I . . . I do not . . . "

 

The new-made lord, Janos Slynt, spoke up, his voice heavy and blunt. "Her Grace is trying to tell you that you are relieved as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard."

 

The tall, white-haired knight seemed to shrink as he stood there, scarcely breathing. "Your Grace," he said at last. "The Kingsguard is a Sworn Brotherhood. Our vows are taken for life. Only death may relieve the Lord Commander of his sacred trust."

 

"Whose death, Ser Barristan?" The queen's voice was soft as silk, but her words carried the whole length of the hall. "Yours, or your king's?"

 

"You let my father die," Joffrey said accusingly from atop the Iron Throne. "You're too old to protect anybody."

 

Sansa watched as the knight peered up at his new king. She had never seen him look his years before, yet now he did. "Your Grace," he said. "I was chosen for the White Swords in my twenty-third year for the act of slaying the false king Maelys Blackfyre . It was all I had ever dreamed, from the moment I first took sword in hand. I gave up all claim to my ancestral keep. The girl I was to wed married my cousin in my place, I had no need of land or sons, my life would be lived for the realm. Ser Gerold Hightower himself heard my vows . . . to ward the king with all my strength . . . to give my blood for his . . . I fought beside the White Bull and Prince Lewyn of Dorne . . . beside Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning  True Knights and heros in their own right! Before I served your father, I helped shield King Aerys and saved his life during the Defiance of Duskendale I served his father Jaehaerys the Second before him . . . three kings . . . "

 

"And all of them dead.  And given the action of Ser Dayne,  Ser Hightower and Whent, to express admiration for , men who aided Prince Rhaegar in kidnapping King’ Robert’s betrothed, does leave you loyalty in question." Littlefinger pointed out.

 

"Your time is done," Cersei Lannister announced. "Joffrey requires men around him who are young and strong. The council has determined that Ser Jaime Lannister will take your place as the Lord Commander of Sworn Brothers of the White Swords."

 

"The Kingslayer," Ser Barristan said, his voice hard with contempt. "The false knight who profaned his blade with the blood of the king he had sworn to defend.For such a man, to lead the Brotherhood of the White Swords would insult all who died loyal and true. "

 

"Have a care for your words, ser," the queen warned. "You are speaking of our beloved brother, your king's own blood."

 

Lord Varys spoke, gentler than the others. "We are not unmindful of your service, good ser.  Lord Tywin Lannister has generously agreed to grant you a handsome tract of land north of Lannisport, beside the sea, with gold and men sufficient to build you a stout keep, and servants to see to your every need."

 

Ser Barristan looked up sharply. "A hall to die in, and men to bury me. I thank you, my lords . . . but I spit upon your pity." He reached up and undid the clasps that held his cloak in place, and the heavy white garment slithered from his shoulders to fall in a heap on the floor. His helmet dropped with a clang. "I am a knight," he told them. He opened the silver fastenings of his breastplate and let that fall as well. "I shall die a knight."

 

"A naked knight, it would seem," quipped Littlefinger.

 

They all laughed then, Joffrey on his throne, and the lords standing attendance, Janos Slynt and Queen Cersei and even the other men of the Kingsguard, the five who had been his brothers until a moment ago. Surely that must have hurt the most, Sansa thought. Her heart went out to the gallant old man as he stood shamed and red-faced, too angry to speak. Finally he drew his sword.

 

Sansa heard someone gasp. Ser Boros and Ser Meryn moved forward to confront him, but Ser Barristan froze them in place with a look that dripped contempt. 

 

"Have no fear, your king is safe . . . no thanks to you. Even now, long past my prime, I could cut through the five of you  like carving a cake with my shield hand and pardon my foul language, taking a piss with my right. If you would serve under the Kingslayer, not a one of you is fit to wear the white. If I were you, I would set out for Castle Black and die reclaiming what paltry honor you all have accrued.  Perhaps the cold air would clear your head and allow you to remember your vows. Each and everyone of you is an insult to Kingsguard. Corlys Velaryon would weep to see what kind of men were judged fit enough to don the White Cloak. If Lord Commander Duncan the Tall still drew breath, he would slay every single one of you for dishonoring the Brotherhood with every breath you took!"

 

He flung his sword at the foot of the Iron Throne. "Here, boy! Melt it down and add it to the others, if you like! It will do you more good than the swords in the hands of these five! Perhaps Lord Stannis will chance to sit on it when he takes your throne!"

 

He took the long way out, his steps ringing loud against the floor and echoing off the bare stone walls. Lords and ladies parted to let him pass. Not until the pages had closed the great oak-and-bronze doors behind him did Sansa hear sounds again: soft voices, uneasy stirrings, the shuffle of papers from the council table. 

"He called me boy," Joffrey said peevishly, sounding younger than his years. "He talked about my uncle Stannis too."

 

"Idle talk," said Varys the eunuch. "Without meaning . . . "

 

"He could be making plots with my uncles. I want him seized and questioned." No one moved. Joffrey raised his voice. "I said, I want him seized!"

 

Janos Slynt rose from the council table. "My gold cloaks will see to it, Your Grace."

 

"Good," said King Joffrey. Lord Janos strode from the hall, his ugly sons double-stepping to keep up as they lugged the great metal shield with the arms of House Slynt.

 

"Your Grace," Littlefinger reminded the king. "If we might resume, the seven are now six. We find ourselves in need of a new sword for your Kingsguard."

 

Joffrey pouted like a child.  “I would have given Sandor Clegane the honor, but  Lord Stark’s bastard daughter killed him. Than again if my dog was pathetic enough to die at the hands of a woman, then he wouldn’t have been much good as a Kingsguard!”

 

The court laughed. 

 

 “My sister feared for her life and mine own Your Grace! Ser Sandor is a frightening man, and rumors of him and his brother’s cruelty did not make for an endearing portrait!”  Sansa said before she even realised she had spoken.

 

Every eye in the court was now upon her. 

 

 Sansa rose and smoothed down the cloth of her skirt nervously. Sansa’s gown was the ivory silk that the queen had given her, the one Arya had ruined, but she'd had them dye it black and you couldn't see the stain at all. She had fretted over her jewelry for hours and finally decided upon the elegant simplicity of a plain silver chain and one of Alysanne’s bronze bracelets engraved with the runes of the First Men that was supposed to bring the wearer good fortune. 

 

. I must be as strong as my lady mother.  I must be strong and brave like the Queens in the North.  "Your Grace," she called out, doing her best not sound timid.

 

The height of the Iron Throne gave Joffrey a better vantage point than anyone else in the hall. He was the first to see her. "Come forward, my lady," he called out, smiling.

 

For a moment, the smile almost convinced Sansa that Joffery truely loved her. She lifted her head and walked toward him at a steady pace.

She stopped under the throne, at the spot where Ser Barristan's white cloak lay puddled on the floor beside his helm and breastplate. "Do you have some business for king and council, Sansa?" the queen asked from the council table.

 

"I do apologize for shouting out before being permittred to speak Your Grace." She knelt on the cloak, that only moments ago that was worn with pride   by a true Knight.

 

 As it please Your Grace, I ask mercy for my father, Lord Eddard Stark, who was the Hand of the King." She had practiced the words a hundred times.

 

The queen sighed. "Sansa, you disappoint me. What did I tell you about traitor's blood?"

 

"Your father has committed grave and terrible crimes, my lady," Grand Maester Pycelle intoned.

 

"Ah, poor sad thing," sighed Varys. "She is only a babe, my lords, she does not know what she asks."

 

Sansa had eyes only for Joffrey. He must listen to me, he must, she thought. The king shifted on his seat, "Let her speak," he commanded. "I want to hear what she says."

 

"Thank you, Your Grace." Sansa smiled, a shy secret smile, just for him. He was listening. She knew he would.  She had to charm him.



"Do you deny your father's crime?" Lord Baelish asked.

 

"All I ask is that he be given a fair trial and if he wish for Trial by Combat he be allowed the chance to prove his innocence"  Sansa said as evenly as she could. 

 

 "I know he must be punished if he is guilty.. All I ask is mercy. I know my lord father must regret what he did. He was King Robert's friend and he loved him, you all know he loved him. He never wanted to be Hand until the king asked him. They must have lied to him. Lord Renly or Lord Stannis or . . . or somebody, they must have lied, otherwise . . my father would have no reason to do what he did.. "

 

King Joffrey leaned forward, hands grasping the arms of the throne. Broken sword points fanned out between his fingers. "He said I wasn't the king. Why did he say that?"

 

"His leg was broken," Sansa answered By a man in service to your Uncle.  Sansa did not add, not atter how much she wished she could.  "It hurt ever so much, Maester Pycelle was giving him milk of the poppy, and they say that milk of the poppy fills your head with clouds. Otherwise he would never have said it."

 

Varys said, "A child's faith . . . such sweet innocence . . . and yet, they say wisdom oft comes from the mouths of babes."

 

"Treason is treason," Pycelle replied at once.

 

Joffrey rocked restlessly on the throne. "Mother?"

 

Cersei Lannister considered Sansa thoughtfully. "If Lord Eddard were to confess his crime," she said at last, "we would know he had repented his folly."

 

Joffrey pushed himself to his feet. Please, Sansa thought, please, please, be the king I know your supposed to be, good and kind and noble, please. "Do you have any more to say?" he asked her.

 

"Only . . . that as you love me, you do me this kindness, my King." Sansa said.  She made sure to put as much emotion in those words, to let her eyes water with tears

 

King Joffrey looked her up and down. "Your sweet words have moved me," he said gallantly, nodding, as if to say all would be well. "I shall do as you ask . . .Lord Stark will be given a fair and just trial and a chance to confess his treason ."

 

Sansa’s heart soared. "His Grace is very kind and just.” She replied. 

Chapter Text

They had buried him with his king. 

 

“Ahh, Robert," Eddard murmured as his groping hand touched a stone wall, cold as ice.  He remembered the jest the king had shared in the crypts of Winterfell, as the Kings of Winter looked on with cold stone eyes. The king eats, Robert had said, and the Hand takes the shit. How he had laughed. Yet he had gotten it wrong. The king dies, Ned Stark thought, and the Hand is buried .

 

Ned damned them all: Littlefinger, Janos Slynt and his gold cloaks, the queen, the Kingslayer, Pycelle and Varys and Ser Barristan, even Lord Renly, Robert's own blood, who had run when he was needed most. Yet in the end he blamed himself

 

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die," Cersei whispered in the back of his mind.   Ned had lost, and his men and House had paid the price. 

 

His leg was healing well, but it still throbbed.   When he slept, he dreamed: dark disturbing dreams of blood and broken promises. When he woke, there was nothing to do but think, and his waking thoughts were worse than nightmares. 



 The only sound was his breathing. After a time, he began to talk aloud, just to hear a voice. He made plans to keep himself sane, built castles of hope in the dark. Robert's brothers were out in the world, raising armies at Dragonstone and Storm's End. Alyn and Harwin would return to King's Landing with the rest of his household guard once they had dealt with Ser Gregor. Catelyn would raise the North when the word reached her, and the lords of riverlands and the Vale would join her.

 

He found himself thinking of Robert more and more. He saw the king as he had been in the flower of his youth, tall and handsome, his great antlered helm on his head, his warhammer in hand, sitting his horse like a horned god. He heard his laughter in the dark, saw his eyes, blue and clear as mountain lakes. "Look at us, Ned," Robert said. "Gods, how did we come to this? You here, and me killed by a pig. We won a throne together . . . "

 

I failed you, Robert, Ned thought. He could not say the words. I lied to you, hid the truth. I let them kill you.

 

The king heard him. "You stiff-necked fool," he muttered, "too proud to listen. Can you eat pride, Stark? Will honor shield your children?" Cracks ran down his face, fissures opening in the flesh, and he reached up and ripped the mask away. It was not Robert at all; it was Littlefinger, grinning, mocking him. When he opened his mouth to speak, snakes emerged  to slither around Ned, before they vanished into thin air. 

 

Ned was half-asleep when the footsteps came down the hall. At first he thought he dreamt them; it had been so long since he had heard anything but the sound of his own voice. Ned’s mouth was dry with thirst and his belly rumbled.. When the heavy wooden door creaked open, the sudden light was painful to his eyes.

 

A gaoler thrust a jug at him. The clay was cool and beaded with moisture. Ned grasped it with both hands and gulped eagerly. Water ran from his mouth and dripped down through his beard. He drank until he thought he would be sick. "How long . . . ?" he asked weakly when he could drink no more.

 

 "No talking,"  the gaelor snappedaas he wrenched the jug from Ned's hands.

 

"Please," Ned begged him  "My daughters . . . " The door crashed shut. He blinked as the light vanished, lowered his head to his chest, and curled up on the straw.  He thought of his dead father and brother. Of three true knights forced to serve an unworthy liege, but most of all he thought of Lyanna.

 

Promise me, Ned, his sister had whispered from her bed of blood. 

 

"Gods forgive me," Ned said unable to hold back his tears.   

 

I have failed the living and the dead.  I have failed my own blood.  

 

From outside his cell came the rattle of iron chains. As the door creaked open, Ned put a hand to the damp wall and pushed himself toward the light. The glare of a torch made him squint. "Food," he croaked.

 

"Wine," a voice answered.  This gaoler was stouter, shorter, though he wore the same leather half cape and spiked steel cap. "Drink, Lord Eddard." He thrust a wineskin into Ned's hands.

 

The voice was strangely familiar, yet it took Ned Stark a moment to place it. "Varys?" he said groggily when it came. He touched the man's face. "I'm not . . . not dreaming this. You're here." The eunuch's plump cheeks were covered with a dark stubble of beard. Ned felt the coarse hair with his fingers. Varys had transformed himself into a grizzled turnkey, reeking of sweat and cheap sour wine. "How did you . . . what sort of magician are you?"

 

"A thirsty one," Varys said. "Drink, my lord."

 

Ned's hands fumbled at the skin. "Is this the same poison they gave Robert?"

 

"You wrong me," Varys said sadly. "Truly, no one loves a eunuch. Give me the skin." He drank, a trickle of red leaking from the corner of his plump mouth. "No where near the equal of the vintage you offered me the night of the tourney, but no more poisonous than most," he concluded, wiping his lips. "Here."

 

Ned tried a swallow. "Dregs." He felt as though he were about to bring the wine back up.

 

"All men must swallow the sour with the sweet. High lords and eunuchs alike. Your hour has come, my lord."

 

"My daughters . . . "

 

"The younger girl escaped Ser Meryn and fled," Varys told him. "I have not been able to find her. Nor have the Lannisters. A kindness, there. Our new king loves her not. Your older girl is still betrothed to Joffrey. Cersei keeps her close. She came to court a few days ago to plead that you be spared. A pity you couldn't have been there, you would have been touched.  As for your bastard, you’d be quite proud of her. She put a dagger in Sandor Clegane’s eye and out the back of his thick skull. She killed quite a few men as well. The Gold Cloaks threw her in a cell not far from yours. They would have put her to good use sating their lusts but Sansa convinced Cersei to have Alysanne brought back up to the Red Keep.

 

 Varys leaned forward intently. "I trust you realize that you are a dead man, Lord Eddard?"

 

"If that is true, slit my throat and  be done with it." He was dizzy from the wine, tired and heartsick.  The thought of Alysanne, his daughter His sister’s daughter being raped  while he was just out of reach flooded him with anger and despair at his own stupidity and helplessness.

 

"Your blood is the last thing I desire."

 

Ned frowned. "When they slaughtered my guard, you stood beside the queen and watched, and said not a word."

 

"And would again. I seem to recall that I was unarmed, unarmored, and surrounded by Lannister swords.” Varys said in a sad pitying tone.

 

 "When I was a young boy, before I was cut, I traveled with a troupe of mummers through the Free Cities. They taught me that each man has a role to play, in life as well as mummery. So it is at court. The King's Justice must be fearsome, the master of coin must be frugal, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard must be valiant . . . and the master of whisperers must be sly and obsequious and without scruple. A courageous informer would be as useless as a cowardly knight." He took the wineskin back and drank.

 

Ned studied the eunuch's face, searching for truth beneath the mummer's scars and false stubble. He tried some more wine. This time it went down easier.

 

 "Can you free me from this pit?" Ned asked.

 

"I could . . . but will I? No. Questions would be asked, and the answers would lead back to me."

 

Ned had expected no more. "You are blunt."

 

"A eunuch has no honor, and a spider does not enjoy the luxury of scruples, my lord."

 

"Would you at least consent to carry a message out for me?"

 

"That would depend on the message. I will gladly provide you with paper and ink, if you like. And when you have written what you will, I will take the letter and read it, and deliver it or not, as best serves my own ends."

 

Ned felt his heart sink.  

 

"Your own ends. What ends are those, Lord Varys?"

 

"Peace," Varys replied without hesitation. "If there was one soul in King's Landing who was truly desperate to keep Robert Baratheon alive, it was me." He sighed. "For fifteen years I protected him from his enemies, but I could not protect him from his friends. What strange fit of madness led you to tell the queen that you had learned the truth of Joffrey's birth?"

 

"The madness of mercy," Ned admitted.

 

"Ah," said Varys. "To be sure. You are an honest and honorable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life." He glanced around the cell. "When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why."

 

Ned Stark laid his head back against the damp stone wall and closed his eyes. His leg was throbbing. "The king's wine . . . did you question Lancel?"

 

"Oh, indeed. Cersei gave him the wineskins, and told him it was Robert's favorite vintage." The eunuch shrugged. "A hunter lives a perilous life. If the boar had not done for Robert, it would have been a fall from a horse, the bite of a wood adder, an arrow gone astray . . . the forest is the abattoir of the gods. It was not wine that killed the king. It was your mercy."

 

Ned had feared as much. "Gods forgive me."

 

"If there are gods," Varys said, "I expect they will. The queen would not have waited long in any case. Robert was becoming unruly, and she needed to be rid of him to free her hands to deal with his brothers. They are quite a pair, Stannis and Renly. The iron gauntlet and the silk glove." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You have been foolish, my lord. You ought to have heeded Littlefinger when he urged you to support Joffrey's succession."

 

"How . . . how could you know of that?"

 

Varys smiled. "I know, that's all that need concern you. I also know that on the morrow the queen will pay you a visit."

 

Slowly Ned raised his eyes. "Why?"

 

"Cersei is frightened of you, my lord . . . but she has other enemies she fears even more. Her beloved Jaime is fighting the river lords even now. Lysa Arryn sits in the Eyrie, ringed in stone and steel, and there is no love lost between her and the queen. In Dorne, the Martells still brood on the murder of Princess Elia and her babes. And now your son marches down the Neck with a northern host at his back."

 

"Robb is only a boy," Ned said, aghast.

 

"A boy with an army," Varys said. "Yet only a boy, as you say. No doubt your Bastard’s betrothed, rides in the host as well.  I would bet a very large pot of gold and silver he would eat both Cersei and Joffrey’s hearts if given a chance. But the king's brothers are the ones giving Cersei sleepless nights . . . Lord Stannis in particular. His claim is the true one, he is known for his prowess as a battle commander, and he is utterly without mercy. There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man. No one knows what Stannis has been doing on Dragonstone, but I will wager you that he's gathered more swords than seashells. So here is Cersei's nightmare: while her father and brother spend their power battling Starks and Tullys, Lord Stannis will land, proclaim himself king, and lop off her son's curly blond head . . . and her own in the bargain, though I truly believe she cares more about the boy."

 

"Stannis Baratheon is Robert's true heir," Ned said. "The throne is his by rights. I would welcome his ascent."

 

Varys tsked. "Cersei will not want to hear that, I promise you. Stannis may win the throne, but only your rotting head will remain to cheer unless you guard that tongue of yours. Sansa begged so sweetly, it would be a shame if you threw it all away. You are being given your life back, if you'll take it. Cersei is no fool. She knows a tame wolf is of more use than a dead one."

 

"You want me to serve the woman who murdered my king, butchered my men, and crippled my son?" Ned's voice was thick with disbelief.

 

"I want you to serve the realm," Varys said. "Tell the queen that you will confess your vile treason, command your son to lay down his sword, and proclaim Joffrey as the true heir. Offer to denounce Stannis and Renly as faithless usurpers. Our green-eyed lioness knows you are a man of honor. If you will give her the peace she needs and the time to deal with Stannis, and pledge to carry her secret to your grave, I believe she will allow you to take the black and live out the rest of your days on the Wall, with your brother.  She even offered to legitimise that baseborn daughter you love so much. "

 

The thought of Alysanne filled Ned with a sorrow too deep for words. If only he could see t her again, sit and talk with her.  Tell her and her beloved Tyr the truth of Alysanne’s parentage. 

 

 "Is this your own scheme," he asked  Varys, "or are you in league with Littlefinger?"

 

That seemed to amuse the eunuch. "I would sooner wed the Black Goat of Qohor. Littlefinger is the second most devious man in the Seven Kingdoms. Oh, I feed him choice whispers, sufficient so that he thinks I am his . . . just as I allow Cersei to believe I am hers."

 

"And just as you let me believe that you were mine. Tell me, Lord Varys, who do you truly serve?"

 

Varys smiled thinly. "Why, the realm, my good lord, how ever could you doubt that? I swear it by my lost manhood. I serve the realm, and the realm needs peace." He finished the last swallow of wine, tossed the empty skin aside and unhooked another from his belt. . "So what is your answer, Lord Eddard? Give me your word that you'll tell the queen what she wants to hear when she comes calling."  Varys took a swig. 

 

"If I did, my word would be as hollow as an empty suit of armor. My life is not so precious to me as that. Your grew up around mummers.  You learned their craft well. But I grew up among soldiers, Knights and good men and women who fought to the end to protect people and for what they believed in.  I learned how to die a long time ago. "



"Pity." The eunuch stood. "And your daughters’ life, my lord? How precious are therirs?"

 

A chill pierced Ned's heart. "My daughters . . . "

 

"Surely you did not think I'd forgotten about your sweet innocent daughter and the not so sweet and innocent bastard, my lord? The queen most certainly has not."

 

"No," Ned pleaded, his voice cracking. "Varys, gods have mercy, do as you like with me, but leave my daughters out of your schemes. Sansa's no more than a child And Alysanne flowered only a year ago.  She is barely five and ten, not yet a woman grown."

 

"Rhaenys was a child too. Prince Rhaegar's daughter. A precious little thing, younger than your girls.  You remember her don’t you? She had a small black kitten she called Balerion, did you know? I always wondered what happened to him. Rhaenys liked to pretend he was the true Balerion, the Black Dread of old, but I imagine the Lannisters taught her the difference between a kitten and a dragon quick enough, the day they broke down her door." Varys  took another swig of wine.

 

"The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that's true, Lord Eddard, tell me . . . why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones? Ponder it, if you would, while you wait upon the queen. And spare a thought for this as well: The next visitor who calls on you could bring you bread and cheese and the milk of the poppy for your pain . . . or he could bring you Alysanne’s head.”



"The choice, my dear lord Hand, is yours.”

 

Eddard leaned back and sighed the sigh of a man who knew his death would accomplish more than his life. 

 

“Tell Lady Cersei I demand trial by combat.”  Eddard said.

 

Varys laughed. “I shall do as you ask. Whether she will listen, I cannot promise.”  

 

She will.” Eddard said as Varys turned to leave. 

 

Eddard sighed again  He knew he was going to die.  He did not want to die, and he would not deny his fear of death, but he accepted it nonetheless.

 

Cat gave you a strong daughter,  As did Lya, They will find someway to escape and make their way back home. Eddard tried to console himself

 

 And Varys does not know the truth about Alysanne.

 

Eddard threw back his head and laughed a long bitter laugh. 

 

Chapter Text




Ulric Magnar sat in a throne of stone veined with obsidian.  Above him was the ancient faded green carcass of a great lobster with a bronze harpoon blackened by age driven into its claws lay mounted on the wall behind him.   

 

The great hall of Kingshouse  was full of mutterings and mummerings. Stoneborn sat on benches or chairs or  on pelts and imported rugs brought from home. Those who had brought their children with them placed them as close as they could to blazing hearths, while the old clustered near the front so to might hear and lend their wisdom if necessary.  Fireballs sputtered in braziers, illuminating the ancient skulls of long dead foes. resting upon high wooden shelves. They were many skulls from many different Houses. There were skulls from Flints and Numbers, Stark and Karstarks, Boltons and Hornwoods.  Their were skulls of Ironborn Captains and Andal Warchiefs as well. There was the skull of King Tywin II, a King of the Rock, who had been beheaded and had his skull dipped in the gold his armor had been gilded in. There was even the skull of one of Gaemon Targaryen's sons, a trophy that had been shown to Aegon the Conqueror and his Sister wives as a reminder that even dragonriders could be slain.

 

Seated on Ulric's right was his wife Eydis.  On his left was where his son and successor Tyr, would have sat.  But his boy, no his son had been blooded in battle, he was no longer a child, was at White Harbor still.

 

Ingjaldr Crowl had not been pleased at his decision to send Tyr to squire for The Manderly or Ulric's  announcement that he arranged a bethroaral between The Stark's bastard and his heir. Nor was he pleased to hear the words from the Raven bearing news from Robb Stark from Ulric’s lips  

 

"My Lord, is that what we've been reduced to? Begging For The Stark's leavings? We are Stoneborn not curs  slinking about for scraps and serving at their beck and call!"

 

“Leaving?  Is that how you would refer to a woman Crowl?”  Eydis Magnar snapped at her good brother by marriage.

 

'My husband has a point." Eydis' sister Largathea, Crowl nee Stane replied.

 

“The Stark’s son calls the banners because his father and his sisters was imprisoned,if Alysanne Snow had wed your son, that would be one thing, but they are only betrothed,  and ink and words are wind compared to consummation in front of a heart tree.”  

 

A few of the lesser chieftains and elders muttered in assent. 


Ulric sighed.  “My son remains at White Harbor, and he has likely received news of what happened.   I will not abandon him to die surrounded by strangers.”

 

“He may  been blooded and a man grown, but he is not The Magnar, you are,  send a raven and bring my nephew home. Winter is coming and the wildlings are increasing their raids.  We have a ringfort to repair and crops to gather. Let the Ned’s half trout son make war without us. Not a Stark since the King who knelt like a bitch gave a damn about us or gave us our due. ” Ingjaldr Crowl said.

 

“So you suggest we stick our heads in the snow? If the Fat Stag’s son had the balls to imprison the Lord of Winterfell on charges of treason what’s to stop him from doing the same to us?  Rememebr this Joffery Baratheon is half Lannister like his oathbreaking Uncle and his child murdering father The Lannisters are just like the Arryns, masking how fucking Andal they are beneath their wealth and thier pride and this honor they claim to have.  Cept for the Brackens I never met an Andal who knew what honor was. The Southerners boast of the knights  and such, but save for the dead Sword of the Morning and The Bold, have you ever met a True Knight? I say we march to war.  For Glory’s sake, for the Honor’s sake. For Alyanne Snow who was my sister and husband’s ward and future wife to my nephew's sake.”    Bragi Stane, Eydis’ twin brother and Lord of Driftwood Hall roared. Bragi was a big man with a big heart, generous to friends and terrifying to his foes. 

 

Ulric regarded his goodbrother thoughtfully.  He looked to his wife, who nodded slowly.

 

Ulric sighed, part of him wanted to burn the letter Robb Stark sent, recall Tyr back from Whiter Harbor and tell him he would be marrying The Crowl’s daughter instead of the bastard that had wormed her way into his son’s heart and his.  

 

But as Lord of Kingshouse, Ulric had learned from his mother that hard decisions had to be made.   The Skagosi could not isolate themselves from the rest of The North and Westeros and brood on old slights and wrongs dealt to them year after year, decade after decade, century after century.  That’s why Ulric had sent his Eldest son to squire at White Harbor and why he had allowed his son to wed Alysanne.    

 

“Winter is nigh.  Winter is death. It comes for us all.  Some of us are lucky and it comes after we’ve long and happy life.  Sometimes it comes before our time. It is inevitable” Ulric said a loud.

 

The hall went silent. 

 

“The Stane speaks with his heart, but he speaks true.” Ulric said as he rose from his throne.  “When the Ned called the banners to aid him in making the Mad dragon answer for burning The Rickard and murdering  his heir, and his no less dishonorable son for forcing good men bound by oath to aid him in carrying off Lady Lyanna and defiling her I answered the call. When he called us to wage war against the Ironborn, how could I refuse a chance to wage a holy war against those who defile and twist our most ancient traditions to suit their cold, cruel hearts?  I saved him and the ungrateful cunt The Karstark during the siege of Great Wyk and slew the Farwynd of Lonely light with my axe and brought his skull back for my wife”

 

“Now his son calls us to aid us in rescuing his father and sisters, one of who was mine own ward.  One who my son loves with all his heart. I have no love for the Starks, no love for Umbers or Boltons or Flints or Dustins or even the fucking Manderly’s as good as they’ve been to my own son.  Skaggs our fellow Northmen call us. Most of Westeros regard us, who keep the old ways and traditions alive as little better than savages I say we prove them right! For our sons and daughters, our grandchildren and nephews and nieces,  for this very island we once shared with the Children of the Forest, let there be blood! For honor and glory let there be war! Let us tramble them beneath the hooves of our unicorns and cleave and smite them with axe and sword, dagger and javelin!  Let us eat their flesh to warm our bellies when winter comes, Let us hang the entrails of every fucking Andal man and woman and Ironborn who takes up arms against us from the Heart trees! Let us take their steel and silver, their stone and their gold,  for we could put it to much better use than they when Winter comes! I think I shall make the skull of this Joffery Baratheon into a drinking cup for my future good daughter and give the skull of the Old Lion to The Martell. A gift from Magnar to Magnar!  What say you Stoneborn!”

 

The hall erupted into  cheers and roars.

 

“To war my people!  Gather your arms and armor, kiss your husbands and wives and children, don your mail and leather, your furs and coats of plate! Eat hearty and pray to the Gods that you do not die with a clean blade.  As your Magnar, THIS I COMMAND!” Ulric boomed.

Chapter Text

It felt good to ride aside his father again.  Good to ride a unicorn again.

 

Although he was still a squire, Tyr Magar felt like more of a knight as the Army of the North marched to war, than he did when he won the tourney at White Harbor.

 

“If  Alysanne was with we could have some proper goodfather in daughter bonding!  Drinking, hunting, poetry slaying Andals! All the good things the gods gave us in life.”  His father said with a smile.

 

“Aye.” Tyr said.  Although he did not smile.  

 

“Don’t worry Tyr.  We’ll get her back from this Joffery Baratheon.  She and as much gold, grain and loot we can fit in out ships.” his father replied.

 

“Eager for Grandchildren father?” Tyr asked

 

Ulric laughed.  “Eager to come back home.  Honor and love demanded we ride to  war. Were my son’s future wife not a hostage of this stag king, I would have led half of what could be spared for war, not eight hundred men and hooves. But the Gods have their reasons for the way things are going.”  

 

His father regarded him for a moment.

 

“I’ll make you proud.  And Alysanne will give you grandchildren for you to be  proud of.”

 

“You and her have already made me proud son. She may not be trueborn, but she’s just as much Stark as the one leading us.”  Urlic said

 

“It is a good thing Lord Robb’s mother is not around to hear that.”

 

“She seems like a good woman, lack of skill at arms and being a bit of a cold fish aside.  Imperfection highlights the better qualities the gods gave us.” Ulric said as the column came to  a grinding halt.

 

“Seems we’ve arrived at the Weasal’s den. Come, The Stark may need our wisdom.” Ulric said.   Tyr moved to follow as did Tyr’s Uncle and Lord Crowl.

 




"Late again," Catelyn Stark muttered as Tyr and Ulric rode up,  Tyr did his best to ignore 

 

"Four thousand men," Robb stated as he scratched his stubble. 

 

 "Lord Frey cannot hope to fight the Lannisters by himself. Surely he means to join his power to ours."

 

"Does he?" Catelyn asked rhetorically.  “Expect nothing of Walder Frey, and you will never be surprised."


"He's your father's bannerman My lady.  If The Tully called him to war should he not answer it?” Tyr. asked

 

"Some men take their oaths more seriously than others. Lord Tyr. And Lord Walder was always friendlier with Casterly Rock than my father would have liked. One of his sons is wed to Tywin Lannister's sister. That means little of itself, to be sure. Lord Walder has sired a great many children over the years, and they must needs marry someone. Still . . . "

 

"Do you think he means to betray us to the Lannisters, my lady?" Master  Robett Glover asked gravely.

 

Catelyn sighed. "If truth be told, I doubt even Lord Frey knows what Lord Frey intends to do. He has an old man's caution and a young man's ambition, and has never lacked for cunning."

 

"We must have the Twins, Mother," Robb said heatedly. "There is no other way across the river. You know that."

 

"Yes. And so does Walder Frey, you can be sure of that."




That night they made camp on the southern edge of the bogs, halfway between the kingsroad and the river. 


"I must have that crossing!" Robb declared, fuming. "Oh, our horses might be able to swim the river, I suppose, but not with armored men on their backs. We'd need to build rafts to pole our steel across, helms and mail and lances, and we don't have the trees for that. Or the time. Lord Tywin is marching north . . . " He balled his hand into a fist.

 

"Lord Frey would be a fool to try and bar our way," Theon Greyjoy said with his customary easy confidence. "We have five times his numbers. You can take the Twins if you need to, Robb."

 

"Not easily," Catelyn warned them, "and not in time. While you were mounting your siege, Tywin Lannister would bring up his host and assault you from the rear."

 

Tyr’s mood darkened.  Sieges were not how Stoneborn waged war.  They way was to bleed and harry the foe, sap his strength and force him  to a pitched battle on the Skagosi’s terms that left the foe broken and terrified, ripe to  be feasted upon

 

"What would my lord father do?" he asked his mother.

 

"Find a way across," she told him. "Whatever it took."

 

Later that evening it was Ser Brynden Tully himself who rode back to them      Ser Bryndend was the kind of knight Tyr wanted to be. A true knight who was as chivalrous as he was cunning.  The Blackfish wore the scaled mail of an outrider with a cloak of Tully red and blue fastened by an obsidian fish . 

 

The Knight’s face  was grave as he swung down off his horse. "There has been a battle under the walls of Riverrun," he said, his mouth grim. "We had it from a Lannister outrider we took captive. The Kingslayer has destroyed Edmure's host and sent the lords of the Trident reeling in flight."

 

 "And my brother?" Catelyn Stark

 

"Wounded but alive" Ser Brynden said. "Lord Blackwood, Bracken,  Dary and the other survivors are under siege inside Riverrun, surrounded by Jaime's host."

 

Robb looked fretful. "We must get across this accursed river if we're to have any hope of relieving them in time."

 

"That will not be easily done," her uncle cautioned. "Lord Frey has pulled his whole strength back inside his castles, and his gates are closed and barred."

 

"Damn the man," Robb swore. "If the old fool does not relent and let me cross, he'll leave me no choice but to storm his walls. I'll pull the Twins down around his ears if I have to, we'll see how well he likes that!"

 

"You sound like a sulky boy, Robb," Catelyn said sharply. "A child sees an obstacle, and his first thought is to run around it or knock it down. A lord must learn that sometimes words can accomplish what swords cannot."

 

Robb's neck reddened at the rebuke. "Tell me what you mean, Mother," he said meekly.

 

"The Freys have held the crossing for six hundred years, and for six hundred years they have never failed to exact their toll."

 

"What toll? What does he want?"

 

She smiled. "That is what we must discover."

 

“Lord Stark.”  Ulric said. “I may have a solution that would mean we could avoid paying this toll the old weasel wants.  Tis a black night, and the moon it not at her fullest. Make a showing of sending an envoy, while my stoneborn swim in and scale the walls   This Blackfish of your knows the Twins does he not? He can lead us in and as long as you do not take bread and salt, you shall not be breaking guest rights.”

 

The Blackfish scratched his greying red stubble.

 

“It's worth a shot, if you Skagosi can swim.”


“We live on an island Ser, save for the old and babes every Stoneborn can swim.”  Tyr answered.

 

“We have not heard their terms, and if  you'll sneak in it would seem dishonorable, it could put us on the wrong foot if we need to negotiate.” Robb said as he glanced at the battle maps and tactical displays.

 

“We face dishonorable foes, Stark.  No doubt this Late Lord Frey wants you to  sire a litter with a daughter of his, maybe even ask for one of your sisters.  Every day we wait, is one more day my future goodaughter languishes in a gilded cage  with your sisters and father.”

 

Robb looked to his mother, than back at Ulric and Tyr.

 

“Whatever it takes.” he said aloud.

 



Stervron Frey sighed as he rode out to meet Lady Stark and her son .

 

I am too old for this shit.  Why the fuck do they want to parly in the dead of night?

 

“Lady Stark  ,My lord.” he greeted them both  wearily. They were some forty armed men accompanying them   Stervron had only brought a dozen of his relatives. In the torch light both the little lord and his mother were pale as milk. 

 

“Apologies for the late hour Ser, but we have decided that it be best to negotiate with Lord Frey, now and get it over with so we can proceed to  Riverrun.” the boy said.

 

“My Lord father and myself are pleased to hear it.” Stevron said as he wheelled his horse around. They rode a few yards in silence.

 

“My lord father will be in poor humor to be awoken at a later hour, but he will be glad for the toll to be paid and the terms of our alliance to be hammered out.”

 

Before Stevern could continue speaking, a warhorn boomed and the gate to the Twins began to open.

 

“What in the Seven Hells is going on?!”  He shouted.

 

A crossbow bolt in the back was his answer.   Stevron fell off his horse, and landed on his head. 

 

Stervron  gasped and grunted in pain, the fires of agony flooding his body

 

He did not linger long as the last thing the Frey knight saw was Robb Stark’s horse bearing down on him, ready to trample him to death. 

 



Tyr yanked his greatsword out of another dead Frey.   It had been glorious at first, but now the killing had become boring,   through the windows and portholes of the crossing he could see morning light rising.  The Twins had been transformed into a hunting ground and there was no shortage of foes for his blade.   It was good to have an outlet for the anger that had been building in him since Lord Manderly summoned. With Uncle Bradi by his side he made his way back to the Great Hall of the Crossing.

 

The Skagosi and their fellow Northmen had splattered the walls and tables with blood and corpses.  His father dragged the Old Lord Walder himself before Robb by the Greataxe he had buried in his back.

 

“Why?” The Late Lord Frey wheezed as Ulric Magnar yanked  the axe out of his back.

 

“The Toll you were going to offer was too high to pay.  You should have rememberd your duty to my mother’s House.” Robb answered

 

“Fuck you little wolf!  All I was going make you do was wed one of my daughters that was all!” Old Walder rasped

 

“And all you had do was open your gates and let us pass.” Robb said as he bent down to open Lord Walder’s throat with his dagger.



Robb sighed as he sheathed his dagger and looked among his Lords.

 

“Take half the gold and food from their vaults.  All their horses and arms and armor as well. Any surviving male Freys over six and ten I want bound in irons, so  they can be delivered to Castle Black.” Robb ordered.

 

Robb looked to the body of Lord Frey.

 

“Lord Bolton have your men begin digging graves for the dead.”

 

“We can save The Bolton some work My lord. Leave the corpses for us. It would be a waste when they could fill the bellies of my father’s men.”  Tyr said.

 

Robb looked at the squire in shock and anger.

 

“How could you train to be a knight and advocate eating the flesh of the slain?”  Robb asked incredulously. Many of the Lords broke into angry mummering.

 

Tyr remained unmoved.  “Winter is coming Lord Robb. Not all of us can have glass houses and the coin to import food. Our opportunities to forage actuall food will be limited with  the Lannisters raiding and setting fire to the Riverlands, Better to dine on the flesh of Freys and Lannisters and save the supplies we brought with us.”

 

“Your sister and father  understood this.” Ulric added.

 

“My lord you cannot be seriously thinking of allowing this.”  Lord Cerwyn piped up.

 

“Allowing it?  This is what we Stoneborn have done for centuries.  This is what your ancestors did too Cerwyn.”

 

The Lord looked aghast at Ulric's words

 

Robb sighed.   

 

 “You may not consume the flesh of Freys, it would likely make you sick.  Take the bodies of Lord Walder’s bastards and vassals and Household if you must.  And when we face the Lannisters on the field I shall not object to you sating your belly with lion flesh.”

 

Ulric nodded. “My thanks Lord Stark.”

 



Robb dry heaved into the bucket he had for Grey Wind to do his business in.

 

He knew they were rumors of the Skagosi eating people, but he hadn’t given them much thought. 

 

Now he couldn’t get the thought out of his head.  The thought of his sister eating people made him vommit agian,     As much as he understood the necessity of such an act, it didn’t mean he had to like it.

 

“Whatever it takes.” Robb muttered to himself.

 

Chapter Text

Alysanne stood next to her sister in her best gown.   It was a light grey with silver embroidering and a black silk sash.   Concealed beneath her left sleeve was a bronze armband with runes meant to bring good luck.   Sansa had done up Alysanne’s hair in braids and wrangled her black curls into ringlets to frame her long face.   Sansa had forced her hair into the same style as Cersei and her southern harpies. It broke Alysanne’s heart that something Sansa had taken such pride in perfecting now had to be twisted and robbed of all pleasure.

Alysanne should have brought the dragonglass dagger she had been able to hide.   They had taken the one Tyr had sent her, the one she buried in Sandor Clegane’s eye,  but not the one she had taken from the small armory at Kingshouse during her fostering.  She had hid it in a pile of her smallclothes along with Bloodraven’s journal.   

Joffrey  may have looked every inch  a king, in his crimson and gold, but Alysanne saw none of his Baratheon father in him.  Truth be told, now that she thought of it, neither Tommen or Myrcella looked like their father either. And Joffery reminded her of the Kingslayer, although truth be told if the Kinglsayer had his curls trimmed he’d look far comely in Alysanne’s opinion.

Sansa squeezed  Alysanne’s hand as their father was dragged to the pulpit. Their father looked awful. They’d given him back his fine white and grey furlined cloak her wore, even though it did not match his studded leather vest and did little to disguise his thinness. 

 

He looked at them sadly as the Gold Cloaks released him.   His eyes lingered on Alysanne and for a moment she thought her father might burst into tears.

 

Cersei looked at Eddard with velied, baleful contempt.   The bitch had a smirk across her full pouty lips that were as crimson as the silk that lined her black mourning gown.

 

His father looked at her and Joffrey with pure undisguised loathing, than back to her and Sansa.

 

He smiled a sad smile.  

 

“I’m proud of you.  Alysanne. I know your mother is too. The same goes for you Sansa. I love both of  you with all my heart my sweet she wolves.” He told them. 

 

A gold cloak pushed father forward and he had to brace himself on the white marble and crystal pulpit to prevent himself falling.

 

“Get on with It!” A peasant hollered.

   

“SILENCE!”  The High Septon, the fattest man Alysanne had ever laid eyes on boomed.   His many chins jiggled. The High Septon could make Lord Manderly look thin, and he was too fat to sit a horse. 

 

“I am Eddard Stark” he began.   Louder!” Another peasant cried.   The Lord Commander of the City Watch prodded Eddard sharply.

 

“I am Eddard Stark!  Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North and Hand of the King.  I have come to confess a terrible truth to you all Let the High Septon, Baelor the Beloved and the Gods Old and New bear witness to the truth of what I say!”

 

Alysanne saw Cersei smile.

 

“King Robert was murdered while hunting by the plots and trickery of his own wife!  She drugged his wine, so he would be slain by a boar he would have killed with ease.  She murdered my foster father, Jon Arryn Lord of the Eyrie and Warden of the East because he discovered that all three of  the children the Queen says were his were not of Robert’s seed! They are bastards born of incest between her and her brother, the Kingslayer!”

 

Cersei’s smile vanished.

 

“On her orders does Tywin Lannister bring devastation to the Riverlands!  By her orders Lord Commander Barristan Selmy , a true knight was stripped of his White Cloak!  By her orders good men and women babes and children have been murdered! She is a traitor to the realm!  A tyrant and a mad, murderous queen!” One of the Gold Cloaks dragged Eddard from the pulpit.

 

“I demand Trial by Combat!” her father roared.   “I will not go to the Wall for a false crime! I will not have my daughters be made Prizes of War!  If the Queen had nothing to hide she has nothing to fear from a Northern savage with an injured leg!  

 

Lord Slynt smashed his fist into Eddard’s back.  The Crowd was in an uproar

 

“SILENCE!” The High Septon boomed for a third time.

 

Joffery looked at Eddard, his face red as his doublet.   He was no King. Just a petulant, angry spoiled, simpering boy   Cersei looked at Lord Eddard, her green eyes blazing with fury.

 

“There will be no trial by combat!  You are a traitor. Confess your treason!  Your King commands it!”

 

“You are not my King!  You are Aerys the third Joffrey Hill!.” Eddard said in a voice as cold as ice.

 

The crowd was roaring again.   Again the High Septon called for silence.  The Gold Cloaks pushed the crowd back with mace and spear

 

The High Septon knelt before Joffrey and his mother. "As we sin, so do we suffer," he intoned.   "The gods are just, yet Blessed Baelor taught us that they are also merciful. What shall be done with this traitor, Your Grace?"

 

A thousand voices screamed, but Alysanne did not never heard them.   Her eyes were fixated on her father, whose grey eyes were cold with defiance.  In that moment he was a King of Winter come again. Fierce, indomitable, cold as ice toward his foes, but warm as a blazing hearth to his kin and those he was sworn to lead and protect. 

 

Joffery stepped forward. 

 

 "My mother bids me let Lord Eddard take the black, and Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father."  The boy looked back to the crowd and said, "But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”

 

No! Alysanne thinks. No! No! No! This can’t be happening!   

 

“Somebody stop him!” Sansa cried.  Alysanne thought of Ser Barristan in that moment.  Maybe he would come and cut down all these Lannisters and their cronies and save father.

 

Alysane  and Sansa found themselves held  by enameled plate clad arms. “Let me go!” Alysanne screamed.  Her elbow smacked against the cheek plate of one of the false knight’s helm.

 

“Shut up girl!”  One of the Kingsguard bellowed.   

 

“I will not be murdered the way my brother and father were!” Eddard snarled in reply.  Alusanne's father struggled against his captors, but his time in the Black cells and his injury left him weakened and unable to resist.  Lord Slynt and his Gold Cloaks began to pummel Eddard until he struggled no more, but Eddard refused to be silenced.

 

“DAMN YOU  AND YOUR BROTHER CERSEI LANNISTER!” DAMN YOU BOTH TO  THE SEVEN HELLS FOR YOUR ACTIONS! MY ANCESTORS AND I SHALL SMILE  WHEN FIRE AND BLOOD COMES FOR YOU BOTH AND YOUR CHILDREN! ”   

 

Janos Slynt belted Eddard across the mouth as they flung him to the block. Ser Illyn stepped forward and Alysanne felt her gut lurch as she realized the King’s Justice held Ice.   

 

Eddard smiled with blood stained teeth.  

 

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword boy!” He called with the last of his strength.   His eyes turned from Joffrey and his mother to Alysanne and Sansa.   

 

Alysanne realized her father’s  eyes held no sadness, no anger. Only a deep, unconditional love.

 

Joffery grinned, walked over to the block and  accepted the Greatsword from Ser Ilyn. The Queen said something and Lord Varys waved his arms, but Joffery ignored them.  Eddard’s gaze remained fixated on his daughters. His grey eyes unwavering even as death approached him.

 

But that was but for a moment.

 

Joffery raised the sword high and brought it down.   Eddard’s legs jerked as the blade descended. Blood spattered across the boy’s fine doublet.

 

With both hands, Joffery raised the blade he held no right to wield.   Even wet with her father’s blood, Ice looked ridiculous in his hands.

 

He handed Ice back at Ser Ilyn,  and smiled at Alysanne and Sansa, 

 

Then he lifted up their father’s head, laughed and tossed it into the baying crowd.




Chapter Text

 

Tyr Magnar’s first duty as a Knight was standing vigil over his father’s body.   The victory Robb won at the Whispering Wood had been a great one, but Ulric Magnar’s death at the hands of Jaime Lannister had soured it in Tyr’s mind.   His father had carved a crimson path to the Kingslayer, a dozen knights and lord dead by his axe.

 

The false knight plunged his golden sword into his father’s throat.  Tyr had been too far away, dueling with a Lannister of Lannisport. By time the Kingslayer had been disarmed and  captured, his father had bled to death. Drowned by his own life blood, slain in the first battle of the war.

 

It was no way for the saga of Ulric Magnar to  end.

 

 After the battle, Tyr had been knighted by his master, Lord Wyllis Manderly, and been duly raised to Lord of Kingshouse and Skagos.

 

Tyr was now The Magnar.    It was his duty to lead his people to victory or defeat.   To rescue his betrothed or die trying.

 

It was a duty he was not sure he was ready for.

 

Tyr stood over his father's body. Bbeside him were his Uncle Bragi and Lord Ingjaldr Crowl. Alysanne's direwolf Ghost had slipped in the tent too.  The sight of the wolf brought as much as it did pain as it did pleasure to Tyr's spirit. 

 

Ulric Mangar had been laid upon a wooden table, separating his flesh from the wood was a woolen blanket.   His armor and clothing had been removed. His green eyes closed. 

 

Carefully, Tyr began to cut out his dead father’s heart.   It felt wrong doing this part of the funeral rites without his mother and siblings present, or in front of the Heart Tree in Kingshouse, but there was no time for Tyr to  escort the body to Skagos and oversee the ritual removal of his father’s entrails for burial beneath the heart tree,  cremation and the scattering of his ashes to the sea and stone. 

 

Instead, Tyr consumed his father's heart, so Ulric Magnar’s courage, wisdom and spirit would live on in him.  He consumed a portion of flesh from his father’s shield and sword arm, so a portion of his predecessor’s strength would pass to him.  

 

“My brother’s second son has volunteered to escort of his body home. Nephew.”  Bragi Stane told him.

 

Tyr sighed as he wiped the blood off his father off his lips with  the back of his hand.

 

“ Have  him pick five of the men from the wounded, ones without sons or daughters to  carry on their name. Give them each a portion of meat from my father’s steed.   Artemesia served him well in life. In death have her serve the men who will return to Skagos with the honored dead.  You and The Crowl are my kin by blood and marriage, you may consume her meat as well. Send a portion of her meat to The Stark and his mother as well.”   

 

Bragi bowed low.   “It shall be done Magnar.”   The title felt unfamiliar. Like a borrowed cloak. Both his Uncles and vassal Lords left him alone with his father’s corpse.

 

Tyr cleaned his hands, than sat beside his father’s corpse to cry.  Ghost walked to him, and Tyr buried his head in the Wolf's fur.

 


 

 

“But I saw him!”  Rickon insisted.

 

“For the last time, it was just a dream.  What father be doing down in the crypts?” Bran asked his baby brother as he shifted in Osha’s arms.

 

“I saw him.”  Rickon said   “He was down in the crypts in front of gwamma  and gwampas’s tomb. He was crying, but there was a lady who looked like Aly  hugging him. And there was another lady. A real pretty one in an orange gown!”

 

“Was there now?” Osha said with a mischievous smile.

 

“There was! And a Kingsguard, like the ones who came here before father left!  His armor was different and he had a sword as big as Ice strapped to his back.” Rickon said. 

 

“And what would a Kingsguard, a woman who looked like your half-sister and a pretty lady in an orange gown be doing in the Crypts of Winterfell?”  Maester Luwin said with gritted teeth as he pried open the door to his turret.

 

“It just a dream Rickon.   I had the same one.” Bran said.

 

Osha put Bran down and went to fetch Luwin’s medicine and bandages.  Bran, Luwin and Osha had gone down to the crypts and found Rickon and Shaggydog wandering with the honored dead.   

 

The black direwolf had mistaken Luwin for foe, and bit deep into the poor Maester’s left arm.   Osha, who only a few weeks ago had been a Wildling cleaned and bandaged his wound, while Shaggydog made little apologetic sounds and lapped at  Luwins’s wool robes 

 

"I agree that it is odd that both you boys dreamed the same dream, yet when you stop to consider it, it's only natural. You miss your lord father, and you know that he and  your  sisters are captive. Fear can fever a man's mind and give him queer thoughts. Rickon is too young to comprehend—"

 

“I’m four.”  Rickon said

 

Too young, as I say, but you, Bran, you're old enough to know that dreams are only dreams." Luwin said with a wince of pain.

 

"Some are, some aren't." Osha said as tightened the bandages around Luwins’s gashes. 

 

Bran hoped his and Rickon’s dream wasn’t true. In his dream, blood had been spilling from father’s neck, drenching his jerkin and trousers.   Tears streamed down his stubble cheeks.

 

“ I failed you Lya… I failed you.” Father kept mumbling.

 

“Hush Ned, you did your best.  Your son well set things right, and Howland still draws breath. He’ll tell Robb and your wife the truth.  Make them and that Magnar boy that stole her heart understand.” The girl in the white gown who looked like Bran’s sister told Lord Eddard.

 

Bran had  watched as a Kingguard clapped his hand on his father’s shoulder, and the prettiest lady Bran had ever seen kiss his cheek.  She wore an orange gown and red gold armbands in the shape of serpents with onyx eyes. She wore a tiara of gold too with a three headed dragon clutching a spear in its mouth too. 

 

She had kind eyes.  The were sad eyes too.  They reminded Bran of Mother.

 

Bran sighed as Luwin and Osha kept bickering, and  Rickon fiddled with Maester Luwin’s spyglass. He heard Ser Rodrick bellowing curses at the boys training in the yard.  Everyone had been so busy since Robb left, Ser Rodrik most of all, for he had been made Castellan of Winterfell. The old knight had no time to help Bran with his archery on horseback anymore.  Osha did her best when she wasn’t scrubbing pots and mending clothes or carrying Old Nan up and down stairs, but the Spearwife wasn’t much of an archer.

 

Bran missed father and mother.  He missed Arya and Sansa and Alysanne. He missed being able to walk and he missed dreaming dreams that weren't scarier than Old Nan’s stories

 

“Maybe when Robb rescues father, Aly can stay before he has to marry Maganar.”  Rickon piped up. 

 

“Maganar?” Osha asked.

 

“Tyr Magnar, Rickon’s half-sister Alysanne’s betrothed.  He is heir to Kingshouse and Skagos.” Luwin corrected with a dry smile 

 

The Wildling woman shivered and her face scrunched up in fear and loathing.  

 

“Stoneborn are ten times more terrifying than the Umbers.  When a Crowl led the Crows everyone thought the gods had forsaken us.   My great Grandmother got made into supper by a Stane who was one of them Rangers.”  Osha pulled her stained, threadbare shawl tighter around her lithe frame.

 

“I’d never let my sister marry a Magnar   The Magnars were Kings before there was a Wall .  They made laws over the other clans and tribes, and if you didn’t follow them, they’d eat your shit you out and put your skull on  a shelf with a hundred others just like it."

 

"A few months ago some Hornfoots talked about settling on the island,  killing The Magnar there and stealing his wife. Never heard from them again.  Everyone knew their guts had been left to hang from the Weirwoods. Giantsbane and Rayder warned em,  Val and Karsi too, but they didn't listen. Only free folk tired of living go to Skagos.” Osha whispered,  She began rocking herself back and forth.  

 

“Magnar’s very nice.  He’ll be a Knight one day and Aly will live with him in his castle. ”  Rickon piped up. 

 

“Didn’t your mother tell you kind folk are one you don’t wanna piss off little Lord?”  Osha said. Her gaze was oddly fixated on one of Luwins’ bookshelves

 

Luwin scowled, but before he could scold the wildling turned servant woman and caretaker, a raven fluttered on the windowsill.  It’s wings were caked in dried blood and it gave a loud caw.

 

Rickon began to cry, and Bran crawled over to hug him and give his little brother comfort.

 

Luwin made a sound of sorrow as he looked at the scroll.

 

“Bran…Rickon…. I am so sorry.” the Maester said hoarsely

 

“What is it?” Bran asked.

 

Osha shook her head sadly and patted Bran’s head.   “You know what it is little lord.” 

 

“Get off the ground woman.  Run to Ser Rodrik and bid him find the stone carver-

 

 Luwin was interrupted as the door to the turret slammed open.  Old Nan stood before them.

 

“My Ned’s gone aint her? Gone to  the Gods and his papa and mama and Brandon and Lyanna aint he?”   

 

“He has My Lady”  Luwin said. The old woman staggered forward.  Her bones creaked as she bent down to scoop up Rickon.

 

“He should have died in battle, or died very old with his children's children round him.  ” Nan croaked. The venerable woman moved to sit in Luwin’s chair. 

 

“So many pups Luwin.  So many pups I buried. I remember sewing with the Lady Arya when he was born.  My second Bran bit his way through the life cord to come into this world, wild lusty thing like his father  he was. Sucked me and his mama’s teats dry. But Ned. Ned was a quick birth, slid right out of his mama’s legs.  I only gave suck to him once or twice. But he never bit me like Lya.” Old Nan said with a sad toothless smile. She ran her gnarled fingers through Rickon’s hair.

 

“How did my Ned die Luwin? How did they kill my quiet little wolf who used to read to me when my sight began to fade?   He didn’t die like Rickard did he? He didn’t die like my Dunk; they didn’t burn him with the alchemist’s toy fire did they?” Old Nan asked in  a wavering voice. 

 

“According to the raven he was beheaded my lady.” Luwin said shakily 

 

“The North will remember this Luwin.  Mark my words they will remember this.  My sweet Ned was the truest friend that Stag ever had, and they repaid that trust by taking his head."  She bent her head down to kiss Rickon's forehead.

 

"Is there word of his little she-wolves? Is Sansa still to be that Prince’s pet? What of Arya?  Of Alysanne?” Old Nan asked.

 

“Their are all hostage of the Throne  The letter says if Lord Robb does not surrender, they will remain hostages.”

 

“ They will die screaming for this.  They will die bleeding and burning for this.  One does not chain a She-Wolf. The Dragon paid for doing it with his life.  If the blood of the Conqueror paid for it, a Lion with antler certainly will too. They took  a Maiden promised to the Stoneborn, a Magnar no less. The Magnars took their name from the word for Lord in the old tongue. Only grudgingly did they accept the yoke of the Kings and Queens of Winter.“  Old Nan said gravely.

 

“When Brandon IX denied them the sea and conquered them, he took Artos Magnar’s daughter as his ward.  When she returned she it was with three of his bastards borne from rape.” Old Nan continued

 

“Artos took the King’s head for it, feasted on his flesh, turned his skull into a drinking cup  and then joined the Night’s Watch. The Magnar’s fear no man nor woman, Luwin, only the wrath of the Gods.  What Robb or my sweet-she wolves will do to this Joffrey Baratheon would be mercy compared to what House Magnar will do to him.  The North remembers Luwin. The North remembers. ”

 

The old woman rose and set Rickon down.   “Help me down these stairs Osha, getting up is easy, going down is hard,  I will find this stonecarver and make sure he does not muck up my Ned’s features.”  The old woman said sharply.

 

Maester Luwin sat down and began to weep quietly.   Bran found himself weeping too. He hugged Rickon tight as his little brother resumed crying and sobbing into Bran’s chest.   Normally when Bran cried, Mother or father, or Alysanne would scoop him up and rock him and kiss his forehead, But mother was gone and his big sister was a prisoner of the same people who murdered his father. 

Chapter Text

 

“We’ll be marching soon.” Dale said

 

“Will we?” Odo replied as he adjusted his crimson cloak around himself.  The night air was cold, Winter was Coming.

 

“The Northern Army is on the move. No doubt Ser Stafford will want to meet them in the field before they can take Lannissport ot  lay siege to the Rock”

 

“Lay siege to Rock? Don’t be daft Dale.”  Odo replied. A light drizzle had begun to fall.  Odo was no professional solider, he was a sculptor plying his trade at Lannisport, he missed  his Matilda and little Jane.

 

“Them northerners are hard bastards.  Rumor has it they have Unicorns in their van. That this King o’theres  can turn into a giant wolf .”  

  

“Oh please and Gallant King Joff can turn into a dragon!”  Odo said with a laugh. “Imma go take a piss, keep an eye out for wolves.”

 

Dale did not reply.   

 

“Ya deaf, I said keep an eye out out for wolves!” 

 

“W- Wolves.” Dale said in chattering teeth   Than his friend screamed as a mass of grey fur and muscle knocked Dale down and ripped 

 

Odo's hand going for the warhorn tied around his neck, The black head of an obsidian javelin buried itself in his chest.

 

A giant horned goat emerged from the shadows,  Atop it was a knight in a green surcoat,and coat of mail, a round shield with a green lobter clutching a harppon in one hand, a bearded axe in the other.

 

“The King in the North!”  the Knight bellowed and spurred his steed

 

“THE KING IN THE NORTH!!!”  more than a thousand voices replied

 

 “THE KING IN THE NORTH!!!”

 

 “THE KING IN THE NORTH!!!”

 

“THE KING IN THE NORTH!!!”




 

“Seven dead   with light injuries”’  Bragi Stane reported   

 

“Mounts?”  Tyr asked.

 

“None dead gods be good.  Two injured but expected to recover.”

 

Tyr smiled.  “The only way the gods would be any better  as if my Alysanne and her sisters appeared before us safe and sound.”

 

Bragi snorted and glanced at Ghost.  The wolf was at his King’s left, his red eyes, surveying the hustle and bustle of a post victory consolidation.  Grey Wind was at Robb’s right

 

“If the Gods are good my Magnar they shall.” Bragi said.

 

“They’ve been good to us so far.”



“Aye, I have a letter to write to my wife and gifts to package for her and my children.  There has been no shortage of loot from out victory ” Bragi clasped his nephew’s wrist, politely nodded to his King and strolled away.



“Your Uncles are good men, Ser Brynden speaks highly of them.” 

 

"They are, they have been good sources of counsel to me. I wish The Tully could fulfill the same role for you Stark.”  Tyr replied. 

 

“My Uncle Edmure is in the same position we are. Thrust into the position of power and responsibly before his time.  He is eager to prove he can shoulder the burden he has to bare.” Robb said calmly.

 

“This was a great victory.  With Stafford Lannister’s host shattered and his head atop a pike, we are free to  carry out raids in force across the Westerlands. We may not be able to lay siege to Casterly Rock, but we can sack Lannisport, and Stannis  Baratheon will no doubt march on King’s Landing. Tywin is a proud man follow us We-

 

“Or he will offer the hand of his grandson to the Tyrells and have them ally with him to crush Stannis.  When Theon Greyoy betrays us the Ironborn will fall upon the North and we will be forced to march back home if your Castellan cannot hold Winterfell”

 

“Must your be so cynical?” Robb said dryly

 

“ I am one of your battle companions and one of your Lords. It is my duty to be pessimistic and point out things are bound to go wrong.   My father’s killer may be worth Alysanne and her two sisters for you and I, but not to the Lion of Lannister. He will no doubt try and crush us on the field and rescue him or find some other way to get him back.   Not to mention the plunder and righteous slaughter will do little to quiet The Karstark’s howls. He grows more wroth and embittered by the day.”

 

“I know.” Robb said.

 

Tyr sighed.  Before he could gather his thoughts to  comment, Robb’s Lady Mother and Sworn Sword Brienne of Tarth came riding up with a little girl Tyr realized was Arya. Her older sister’s direwolf   A crannogman was on a pony alongside them 

 

Arya leapt off her horse and hugged Robb tight.

 

“How’d you escape?” he asked

 

“ Syrio.  He was a swordmaster, father hired to train me.  He He fought a Kingsguard so I escape. I… saw Joffery take Father’s head.  He did it with Ice. Brother Yoren disguised me as a boy and dropped me off at Riverrun.”  

 

Robb kissed her forehead.

.

“Forgive me lord, but I did not allow the Lady Arya to accompany me here just to see her brother .”  The Crannogman said. He was a short man, long of limb but clearly strong of body. His eyes were a soft green. His hair and short ragged beard the color of mud and straw mixed together. 

 

  He wore a green cloak over bronze scales and leather.  A three pronged spear and a bow and arrow were strapped to his back, and wicked looking Falcon and two long dirks hung from his belt.  He clutched a well worn leather shield that bore many battle scars.   

 

“ Forgive my lord, but you are?” Robb said. 



“I am Howland Reed.  Lord of Greywater Watch and Guardian of the Neck.  I speak for the crannogs and bogs. For the earth and water.  The Stone and trees that form and shape The North.”



“My betrothed the Lady Alysanne put what you taught her to good use on her time on Skagos.”  Tyr replied politely.  

 

“I am glad to hear. it   Alysanne father and I are brothers in bond.  And it is because of him I have come, and why I brought his daughter with me.  After Robert’s Rebellion, Eddard had me swear an oath of secrecy regarding…. Certain matters.  Matters involving your betrothed Magnar of Kingshouse and Skagos.”

 

“What matters?”  Tyr demanded calmly

 

“What matters regarding my sisters required my father to have you swear an oath Lord Reed?” Robb asked



“Matters of fire and blood.  A sad tale I would rather tell you and my fellow vassals only once” The crannogman answered.

 




“You summoned me Lord Waters?”   Sansa said demurely 

 

“Sansa remember your courtesies, He’s  a Lannister Bastard, that makes him a Hill.”  Alysanne told her sister.

 

“You are both here to answer for your brother’s treason.” Joffery said with  a crossbow leveled at them,

 

And when will you answer for beheading our father without a trial?”  Sansa snapped back.

 

“Silence!  Ser Lancel tell the Lady Sansa  and her bastard sister of this outrage!” Joffery said

 

“Using some vile sorcery, your brother, attacked Ser Stafford Lannister, goodbrother to the King’s grandfather with  an army of wolves. After the battle was over the northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain.” Lancel Lannister said.

 

“I doubt that last part very much.  My future husband’s people do not consume the flesh of those who would give them indigestion.” Alysanne replied.

 

“Silence bastard, or I will kill you right here and now!” Joffery screamed petulantly

 

“Kill me or my sister and your father loses his head my fellow bastard. Although unlike you, my father didn’t fuck his  sister. ” Alysanne snarled.

 

Joffery put away his crossbow 

 

“I will have  to send you brother a brother a different message than.  Ser Arys, seize the bastard.”

 

Alysanne turned preparing to break the handsome reachman’s nose again, but the  false knight seized her roughly.

 

“Ser Meryn… Leave her face, I like her pretty.” Joff said as he reclined in the Iron Throne

 

The ugly man dressed as a Kingsguard sank his fist into Sansa’s chest.   

 

“I’ll kill you for that! You hear me!  I’ll kill you with my barehands and hang you by your FUCKING  entrails from a Heartree!” Alysanne roared.  

 

Meryn ignored her

 

“Are there no true Knights among you!” Alyanne screamed at the assembled courtiers, who watched with unease as Meryn continued to beat Sansa.

 

They watched, grimaced, and did nothing but grimace.

 

It took all of Alysanne’s resolve not to cry.    She was used to pain. She’d taken blows and bruises,  sword and claw wounds from bears. Emotinal wounds from Lady Catelyn   But to watch her sister be beaten, was another type of pain entirely. To make matters worse this was the same room where her Grandfather and Uncle were murdered. 

 

She wanted Robb and Tyr here.   She wanted Tyr to hold and kiss her. Help her hang that btich Cersei from a heartree and make love to her beneath it.  She wanted Robb here. She wanted him to take Joffery’s head. She wanted Arya and Bran and Rickon

 

And she wanted her father most of all 

 

But her father was dead.  If Alysanne had any consolation, it was that if her mother was dead, he was with her too

 

“My lady is overdressed. Unburden her.” Joffery ordered.

 

Ser Meryn complied and tore away the blue silk that sheathed Sansa’s blossoming body.  He raised his sword, ready to smack her with the flat end of the blade, when the doors to the throne room opened and a powerful voice rich with  authority shouted “What is the meaning of this!”

 

The voice belonged to Tyrion Lannister.  He had been kind to her at Winterfell,, he was still kind, but duty demanded Alysanne hate him.  He was Joffery’s Hand after all.

 

“What kind of knight beats a helpless girl?” Tyrion demanded as he waddled to the base of the Iron Throne.

 

“The kind who serves their king Imp.” Meryn Trant spat.

 

“Careful now.  We don’t want to get blood over that pretty white cloak of yours.”  Lord Tyrion’s sellsword drawled.

 

“Someone get the girls something to cover herself with.  Ser Arys release Lady Snow.” Tyrion said as he stalked towards the Iron Throne.

 

He did so reluctantly.  Alysanne turned to him and belted him in the mouth.  Oakheart staggered back, his hand falling instinctively to his sword.    “Your cloak.” Alysanne ordered. The Kingsguard regarded her with confusion.  Than the words settled in his pathetic brain and he handed her the white cloak he did not deserve to wear.  In a whirl of grey skirts Alysanne turned to face Meryn Trant.

 

“Remember what I told you false knight. ” Alysanne said with as much coldness as she could gather.  She then rushed to Sansa’s side to throw the cloak around her sister.   Than she gently pulled her to her feet.

 

Ser Meryn flinched, his red face even more flush.   The sellsword Bronn chuckled

 

“She is to be your queen.  The Lady Alysanne is to be your good sister by marriage. Have you no regard for their honor?” Tyrion said in aghast.

 

“I’m punishing them” Joffery answered petulantly

 

“For what crimes?”   As much as Lady Snow here wishes she did. She did not fight in her brothers battles, neither did Lady Sansa you half wit.” Tyrion said incredulously.

 

“You can't talk to me like that! The King can do as he likes!” Joffery exclaimed.

 

Tyrion stepped closer to the Iron Throne.  

 

“The Mad King did as he liked.” Tyrion said in  a measured tone. “Did your Uncle Jaime ever tell you what happened to him?”

 

“No one threatens his Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard!” Meryn Trant declared.

 

“I am not threatening the King.  I am educating my nephew? ” Tyrion said calmly.

 

“Bronn the next time Meryn speaks.  Kill him.” The order was delivered with such casualness that it took her a few moments to realize that Tyrion had said it with utmost certainty. 

 

“That was a threat.  See the difference?” Tyrion asked.  He turned to Alysanne and Sansa and gestured for them to follow him out.

 

“I  apologize for my nephew’s behavior.  Tell me the truth, do you want an end to this engagement.”

 

“I want to go home.   I want to lay my father to rest.  I want my sister to marry her betrothed and I want your nephew dead.” Sansa spat,  She winced in pain.

 

“I will send for Grand Maester Pycelle to have those  bruises looked at.” Tyrion said.

 

“Just send for a bucket of ice and some linens.  Just because we’re your hostages doesn’t mean we have to let that old toadie of yours touch us.” Alysanne snapped.

 

“I’ll have my squire bring you some.” Tyrion said politely, his mismatched eyes studying the both of them. 

 




“Sister I did not believe you were the stupidest Lannsiter but now I am seriously reconsidering that.” Tyrion said as he sipped his wine.

 

‘Oh?”  Cersei said.

 

“Because you cannot control my sweet nephew, you have put Lady Sansa and her half sister in a position where they can openly defy their King and Queen Regent.”  

 

Cersei arched her eyebrows.

 

“And before you can mention anything about having the bastard raped, doing that will further deny us any chance of subjugating the North Remember, her half brother loves her as if she was his trueborn sister. And  Alysanne Snow is betrothed is a cannibal. I’m sure eating you alive would do much to aleve his anger at you taking his future wife’s maidenhead and soiling her.”

 

Cersei opened her mouth, but Tyrion silenced her by continuing to speak

 

“You have a gift sister.  A gift for making enemies that are close to us.  The Stark and the Snow maiden howling how their beloved father, a brother in all but name to  our dearly departed King Robert, was murdered without a trial. Twenty Thousand angry Northmen, led by his son, marching south to avenge him and rescue his daughters.  Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon, both the King's brothers. The former is dangerous because of his skill and sharp mind, the latter because his sword swallowing skills have won him the largest army to the realm.    If Joffrey keeps making a fool out of himself. The realm will flock to Stannis or Renly. No one cannot deny they are trueborn. So you best pray they flock to Renly. He’s a pompous idiot with no real skill or unifying political ideology.   Stannis has both. And lets not get into how neither Dorne nor the Vale have no love for us.”

 

Tyrion finished his wine and left.

 




Melisandre of Asshai usually saw the future in the flames. This time she saw the future in her dreams.

 

She saw Stannis draw forth a flaming sword from the ruins of the Seven False Gods.  She saw figures of Ice and Shadow, minions of the Great Other pursue a Black Brother across the tundra.  She saw a warrior maiden, with dark hair and grey eyes lead a group of Northmen through the breached gate of a castle. She screamed a man's name in furious anger as she hacked and  slashed through a mass of men. She saw a King, red haired and. blue eyed kneel before Stannis and offer up a crown of bronze and iron.  

 

Melisandre awoke with a gasp. She flung off the sheets and. rose. There wasn't a moment to lose. 












 

 

 

 

      

 

Chapter Text


 

The air smelt of burning false gods.  It was a pleasant smell for Melisandre of Asshai.

 

“R’hllor! come to us in our darkness!” She cried out.  

 

“Lord of Light, we offer you these false gods, these seven who are one, and him the enemy. Take them and cast your light upon us, for the night is dark and full of terrors!”  . 

 

Melisandre thought  the Seven looked much prettier gowned in fire than they did in their sept.  The burning gilded and bejeweled,statues had been carved from the masts of the ships that had carried Aegon the Conuqer and his sisters to Westeros The melted precious stones and metal, mixed with  ashes and the burning wood. She had plunged the King’s longsword between the breasts of the false god of the Andals, they called the Mother.

 

 “In ancient books of Asshai it is written  that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a  burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” She lifted her voice, so it carried out over the gathered host. “Azor Ahai, beloved of R’hllor! The   Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire! Come forth, your sword awaits you! Come forth and take it into your hand!”



Stannis Baratheon strode forward.  His wife was a lucky man. The rightful king was tall and broad-shouldered. He wore his beard close-cropped and his eyes were pits of blue fire,  that shone a purple tinted black in the light of the crumbling statues of the false deites.  

 

Melisandre  watched as the Onion Knight’s son Devan offered the king a long padded glove use by blacksmiths to protect their hands.  Stannis declined the glove, and with gritted teeth, reached into the inferno. 

 

When his hand emerged it was with  a burnt sword. The blade was blackened, veins of cherry red shining like rubies.  Fire licked the blade’s edge and kissed its guard.

 

The King cursed as he held it a loft.  The blade shook in his hands, the flame sputtered, than went out .

 

For a moment there was silence. Melisandre felt the Onion Knight’s eyes boring into her

 

R’hllor,  this is your champion is he not?  Is he not the man worthy of your sword?



 R’hllor answered her.   The flames reignited and the charred metal became a molten white,the flames engulfed Stannis’ sleeve, but the flesh beneath remained unharmed.

 

The King plunged the sword into the earth, gripping it with two hands.  He bowed his head.

 

Melisandre lifted her hands above her head. “Behold! A sign was promised, and now a  sign is seen! Behold Lightbringer! Azor Ahai has come again! All hail the Warrior of Light!   All hail Stannis, the Champion of the One God, the Breaker of Darkness! The King of Westeros!”

 







 Lady Donella Hornwood brought no tail of knights and retainers; only herself, and six tired men-at-arms with a moosehead badge on their dusty orange livery. 

 

“We are very sorry for all you have suffered, my lady,” Bran said when she came before him to speak her words  of greetings. Lord Hornwood had been killed in the battle on the Green Fork, their only son cut down in the Whispering Wood.   For all of the good cheer, the ravens, brinining news of Robb's victories, they brought lamentaion and sorrow as well

 

Winterfell will remember.”



“That is good to know.”  Donella Hornowodwas a pale husk of a woman, every line of her face etched  with grief. “I am very weary, my lord. If I might have leave to rest, I should be thankful.”  She wore an amber gown and her long grey hair fell in strings where it had escpaed the severe bun she had wrangled her hair in. 

“To be sure,” Ser Rodrik said. “There is time enough for talk on the morrow.”






That night Bran,  dreamt a terrible dream.  He was still abed, with his mother sitting at his bedside.   Alysanne stood in the doorway.

 

“It should have been you.” His lady mother hissed at Bran’s sister.  Lady Catelyn rose and seized Bran’s big sister by her wrist. 

 

“Mother! You’re hurtng her!” Bran cried.  He tried to rise, but he was a cripple, unable to walk again.  He tried to call for his father, but his father was dead. He tried to call for Ser Rodrik,  or Maester Luwin or Old Nan, but the words died in his throat. 

 

Bran’s mother  grabbed Alysanne by the beautiful black locks, that framed his siter’s face and her kind grey eyes, than slammed her into  a dresser  

 

“This bastard did this to you Bran! She killed your father, the second he laid his eyes on her.  She’s a threat, that must be dealt with!”

 

“Leave her alone! Mother please, she didn’t do anything!” Bran hollored.

 

“She’s a bastard! A  whore and a curse upon us all!”  Catelyn Stark snarled. She withdrew a dagger from her belt,

 

“Mother No!”

 




Bran gasped as he awoke.  Summer made a whining sound.

 

“Nightmares again Little Lord?” Osha asked.  She sat at his bedside, some knitting in her hands.

 

“Yes.”  Bran said.

 

“You wanna talk about it?” Osha asked.

 

“Yes.” Bran said with a sigh as he rubbed sleep from his eyes.  Daylight spilled into his room. The Morrow had come, Yet Bran felt like only an hour or two had passed.

 

“My mother…  She was going to hurt my sister. Alysanne.”

 

“That’s your half sister right?”

 

“My full sister. Even though she’s a bastard.” Bran snapped.  He frowned.

 

“Sorry, I-

 

Osha waved him off.  “It’s fine, so what happened net?”

 

Bran began to cry.  He did not want to, but he could not stop the tears from flowing.

 

“She wished Alysanne was a cripple instead of me!” Bran sobbed.

 

“How could she wish that on her?  She’s my big sister! She taught me how to shoot a bow! She sang for me when I was sick. She-”

 

“Is a bastard.  A sign of broken vows and broken trust.” Old Nan said.   She stood in the doorway.

 

“I was sent to  get you up Bran.”   . The last thing he wanted to do right now was set in his father’s chair in the great hall and talk of grains and greens and salting mea and war and bad news. 

 

But Bran was a Stark of Winterfell. He knew his duty.







“Bolton’s bastard is massing men at the Dreadfort,”  Lady Hornwood said as she stood before them. 

 

Bran's shouders were stiff and his back ached, yet he listned to what Lady Donella said with his father's grim stoicism. 

 

 

“I hope he means to take them south to join his father at the Twins, but when I sent to ask his intent, he told me that no Bolton would be questioned by a woman. As if he were trueborn and had a right to that name, accursed and thrice dammed it may be.”

 

“Lord Bolton has never acknowledged the boy, so far as I know,” Ser Rodrik said.   “I confess, I do not know him.”

 

“Few do,” she replied. “He lived with his mother until two years past, when young Domeric died and left Bolton without an heir. That was when he brought his bastard to the Dreadfort. The boy is a sly creature by all accounts, and he has a servant who is almost as cruel as he is. Reek, they call the man. It’s said he never bathes. They hunt together, the Bastard and this Reek, and not for deer. I’ve heard tales, things I can scarce believe, even of a Bolton. And now that my lord husband and my sweet son have gone to the gods, the Bastard looks at my lands hungrily.”

 

Bran wanted to give the lady a hundred men to defend her rights, but Ser Rodrik only said.  “He may look, but should he do more I promise you there will be dire retribution. You will be safe enough, my lady . . . though sadly, you and I both know your safety can only be truly ensured if you wed again.”

 

“I am past my childbearing years, what beauty I had long fled,” she replied with a tired half smile, “yet men come sniffing after me as they never did when I was a maid.”

 

“You do not look favorably on these suitors?” asked Luwin.

 

Lady Hornwood made a dismissive noise with the back of her teeth. 

 

“I shall wed again if His Grace commands it,” Lady Hornwood replied, "But Mors Crowfood is a drunken brute, and older than my father. As for my noble cousin of Manderly, my lord’s bed is not large enough to hold one of his majesty, and I am surely too small and frail to lie beneath him.”

 

Bran knew that men slept on top of women when they shared a bed. Sleeping under Lord Manderly would be like sleeping under a fallen horse, he imagined. Ser Rodrik gave the widow a sympathetic nod. “You will have other suitors, my lady. We shall try and find you a prospect more to your taste.”



“Perhaps you need not look very far, ser.”

 

After she had taken her leave, Maester Luwin smiled. “Ser Rodrik, I do believe my lady fancies you.”

 

Ser Rodrik cleared his throat and looked uncomfortable.

 

“She was very sad,” said Bran.

 

Ser Rodrik nodded. “Sad and gentle, and not at all uncomely for a woman of her years, for all her modesty. Yet a danger to the peace of your brother’s realm nonetheless.”

 

“How? I don’t think she means to hurt anybody, except for Lord Bolton’s bastard?” Bran  asked.

 

Maester Luwin answered. “With no direct heir, there are sure to be many claimants contending for the Hornwood lands. The Tallharts, Flints of Widow’s Watch, and Karstarks all have ties to House Hornwood through the female line, and the Glovers are fostering Lord Harys’s bastard at

Deepwood Motte. The Dreadfort has no claim that I know, but the lands adjoin, and Roose Bolton is not one to overlook such a chance.”

Ser Rodrik tugged at his whiskers.

 

 “In such cases, her liege lord must find her a suitable match.”

 

“Why can’t you marry her?” Bran asked. “You said she was comely, and Beth would have a mother.”

 

Ser Cassel, smiled a melancholy smile “A kindly thought, my prince, but my House is a small one, a Masterly House out of courtesy for Millennia of Servic and I am just a knight. I might hold her lands for a few years, but as soon as I died Lady Hornwood would find herself back in the same mire, and Beth’s prospects might be perilous as well.  Not to mention, there is danger in us bedding. She is past her childbearing years, and even with moon tea after the consummation getting her with child could hurt her, if not kill her as it did your great-grandmother the Lady Marna .”

 

“Then let Lord Hornwood’s bastard be the heir,” Bran said, thinking of his sister, Alysanne, who was still imprisoned in King’s Landing. 

 

Ser Rodrik said, “That would please the Glovers, and perhaps Lord Hornwood’s shade as well, but I do not think Lady Hornwood would love us. The boy is not of her blood.”

 

“Still,” said Maester Luwin, “it must be considered. Lady Donella is past her fertile years, as she said herself. If not the bastard, who?”

 




 After lunch,  the Greatjon’s uncles,  men as old as they were tough, came seeking audience  

 

Mors "Crowfood" Umber stood a head taller than Hodor. He wore a bearskin as white as his bushy beard and bore a doublebladed battle axe at his back

 

A crow had once taken Mors for dead and pecked out his eye, so he wore a chunk of dragonglass in its stead. As Old Nan told the tale, he’d grabbed the crow in his fist and bitten its head off, so they named him Crowfood. She would never tell Bran why his  brother Hother, a wiry broad shouldered man like Bran’s Uncle Benenjen was nicknamed "Whoresbane."

 

No sooner had they been seated than Mors asked for leave to wed Lady Hornwood. 

 

“The Greatjon’s the Young Wolf’s strong right hand, all know that to be true. Who better to protect the widow’s lands than an Umber, and what Umber better than me?”

 

“Lady Donella is still grieving,” Maester Luwin said.

 

“I have a cure for grief under my furs.” Mors laughed. Ser Rodrik thanked him courteously and promised to bring the matter before the lady and the king.

 

Hother wanted ships. “There’s wildlings stealing down from the north, more than I’ve  ever seen before. They cross the Bay of Seals in little boats and wash up on our shores. The crows in Eastwatch are too few to stop them, and they go to ground quick as weasels. It’s  longships we need, aye, and strong men to sail them.. Lady Eydis Magnar promised us a hundred men, for crew and to help swing the scythes for our harvest. but these are men are our age and older, and boys barely old enough to grow hair on their chest.”

 

"My cousin’s wife has sent all that can be spared Stark. We have a ringfort to repair and our own harvest to gather."  Gunmir "Krakengnawer" Magnar said an irritated tone  . Gunmir’s wife was a Crowl, whose mother was sister to Hother’s long dead father Hoarfrost Umber, and it was this tie of kinship that had brought him down with the two  men.   

 

Bran  sensed this had been a long-brewing, but good natured argument between the three men

Ser Rodrik pulled at his whiskers. “The Skagosi have their own harvest to gather and spared as many men as they can. I will not have you bothering the Lady Magnar any more.  She has lost a husband, and has her own lands to manage You have forests of tall pine and old oak. Lord Manderly has shipwrights and sailors in plenty. Together you ought to be able to float enough longships to guard both your coasts.”

 

Krakengnawer laughed.  “Took the words right out of my mouth Ser.  Lord Lamprey came promising great things did he not?  Have him make good on them, or have him make a good supper.”

 

Whoresbane and Crowfood grumbled but were satisfied.  Krakengnawer smiled a fey smile. ,     The first cousin, of Bran’s future goodbrother was as big as an ox with eyes the color of jade.   He wore his greying chestnut hair long and with bone and wood ornaments.  .    

 

“Stark, on the matter of Lady Donella.  Eydis asked me for leave to accompany Lady Donella back to her lands, and assist in defending them.   My cousin’s wife is widowed, as well, as she has no shortage of greedy suitors, who forgot who she is.     I have five men with me. Let us accompany the lady back to the Hornwood, if Bolton’s bastard need’s killing, we shall see it done.” The Skagosi juggled a knife as he spoke.  He paused to slide a scroll with a seal bearing the sigil of House Magnar on green wax to Maester Luwin. 

 

“That would be greatly appreciated. My Lord,  I will confer with Ser Rodrik on the matter.” Bran said. 

 

“I am no Lord, little one, just a man, making my way in this cold and cruel world.” Krakengnawer said with a sad smile .





Once the petitions for today were done,  Bran took  an hour to practice his archery, from horseback than met Ser Rodrik, Osha and Maester Luwin, in Lord Stark’s solar   “Beren may well be our best answer.” Maester Luwin suggested By blood he is half Hornwood. If he takes his uncle’s

name . . .”   

 

“. . . he will still be a boy,” said Ser Rodrik, "And hard-pressed to hold his lands against the likes of Mors Umber or this bastard of Roose Bolton’s.   And you forget Krakengnawer’s wish to accompany Lady Hornwood back to her lands. He may be truthful in his offer to kill Roose Bolton’s bastard but he may try and take Lady Hornwood as his wife.  Greed has soured the loyalty of the houses sworn to Winterfell.”



“He wouldn’t do that.” Bran insisted.  He did not know where this insistency came from, but he knew in his heart Krakengnawer would not hurt Lady Hornwood.

 

“The Skagosi, are a savage lot.” Rodrik Cassal said with  a scoff.

 

“If my father did not trust the Skagosi, he wouldn't have sent Alysanne to foster with them, nor would he have allowed Lord Tyr to marry her.  If we cannot spare the men to defend Lady Donella’s rights, let Krakengnawer do it for us as Lady Eydis requested.”

 

Rodrik made a polite coughing sound, but nodded his head in acquiescence. 

 

“We should allow Lady Hornwood to marry whoever she likes. “ Bran said.  He looked out the window. He saw the three eyed crow perched on the windowsill.  It cawed, than,fluttered off. 

 

“Her nephew can be named heir, and this Laurence Snow shall be legitimized.  If something befalls Lady Donella’s nephew, Laurence shall succeed him. Speaking of Legitimization, when you write Robb, tell him he should legitimize Alysanne. It can be her wedding gift from him.  She will appreciate it far more than jewelry, or another sword or pelts. She’s my sister, and its past time she had our father’s name. ” Bran said. 

 

“Your idea for the Hornwood has merit….” Luwin said. “But to legitimize Alysanne… Your Lady Mother…

 

“And I should care for her opinions regarding my older sister why?” Bran growled, an uncharacteristic anger swelling in his breast.

 

“Mother, is a Stark, but she is not Queen-Regent and will only be Lady of Winterfell until Robb marries..  Robb is King in his own right, no longer beholden to the Iron Throne and it laws, only the laws of the North and the Gods.  She can advise Robb not to do it, as is her right as his mother and father’s wife, but I heard her wish Alysanne was a cripple instead of me, when  I lay asleep.”

 

Ser Rodrik was ashen.  Luwin made a polite coughing sound

 

“Your Lady mother-

 

Bran tightened his grip on the armrests of his chair

 

“I cannot forgive her for saying that to my own sister.   I will never forgive her for that .  Alysanne is pack. She is a Stark, mother can deny that all she wants.”

 

“Bran I understand-.”

 

“Maester Luwin, I am a Prince am I not?”

 

“You are.” Luwin said evenly.

 

“And did not my brother name me acting Lord of Winterfell when he named Ser Rodrik Castellan of this castle. Did he not?”

 

“I seem to recall him doing that.”  Osha said dryly

 

“He did, but Bran I implore you-”

 

Bran wanted to slam his fist on the table, instead he leaned his head back, counted to seven and looked his mentor in the eye

 

“Maester Luwin, I am ordering to tell my brother  that I have asked him to legitimize Alysanne as a Stark when you write to my brother about our proposed solution to the Hornwood.” Bran said curtly

 

“You will write to him that both he and I know, she deserves it. That she should have our father’s name when she returns to us and Lord Magnar weds her in the godwood of Winterfell. That if she was Queen in the North and Lady of Winterfell, and Robb was the bastard, scorned by his father’s wife she would do the same for him.”

 

Ser Rodrik chuckled.

 

Luwin bowed his head.   “It will be done.”

 

“Thank you Maester Luwin, I am sorry I was rude to you regarding my orders.” Bran said calmly.

 

“I will start work on the letter. Right away.” Luwin said.

 

With a solution to resolve the Hornwood* crisis , the meeting was adjourned. Bran asked Osha if he could wheel him to the godswood. 

 

“Little Lord, can I ask you something?” Osha said.

 

“Yes” Bran asked.

 

“Why did you say that sister of yours would marrying in Winterfell? Wouldn’t the wedding be at her husband’s home?”

 

Bran closed his eyes and sighed.

 

“Call it a gut feeling.”  

 




Alysanne had learned  how to hide a long time ago.  Howland Reed had merely polished her skills at the matter. 

 

Quiet as the name of her beloved direwolf, she strode through the secret passages in the Red Keep. 

 

Both Bloodraven and Daena Targaryen’s journals had maps of the tunnels of passages that were woven into the stonework of the Red Keep. Alysanne had explored some of them when her father was alive, and she had furthered her exploration of where these tunnels led after Ned Stark’s execution. 

 

One such tunnel led to the chambers of the King’s Justice. 

 

Carefully and quietly, Alysanne crept into Ser Illyn’s chambers.

 

  The man who murdered her father slumbered peacefully.  In the corner was Ice. Seeing the blade propped up against the wall, flooded Alysanne’s veins with icey rage.    

 

Alysanne drew her dragonglass dagger, and slowly made her way to the sleeping false knight.

 

In one smooth motion she lept atop the sleeping murderer and buried the blade in his eye socket.   The Knight’s eyes shot open, his mouth opened in a scream, the same way that fucker Sandor Clegane did. Yet, no sound was uttered from his mouth.  Illyn Payne thrashed and buckled beneath her, as She stabbed him in his other eye. She stabbed him in his throat she stabbed him again and again till the man who cut off her father’s head ceased moving.

 

Than she strode over to  Ice. It would be better suited to removing Illyn Payne’s head.