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Lady Stark

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The Seven Kingdoms were at open war. Robert Baratheon won at the Trident and Prince Rhaegar was dead. She was confined at Casterly Rock while her father and uncles tried to get Jaime back. Aerys held her other half as leverage for his father. The king knew how much Jaime meant to her lord father. Cersei thought about Lyanna Stark, the northern girl who was the cause of this thrice dammed war. Prince Rhaegar was taken by the wild beauty and stole her away from Winterfell. She played a waiting game and not for the first time she wished she had been born a boy. If she were a boy she would have been the heir to Casterly Rock. She would be fighting along with father and uncle Kevan, but she was a girl, who was to be sold like a horse to the highest bidder.

Her father promised her she would be a queen. Cersei didn’t know if father would make well on his promise. The players in the game changed drastically in the past few months, ever since that tourney. Rhaegar plotted and kidnapped Lyanna that same night. Baratheon had been furious and declared to avenge his intended’s honor. Father had almost smiled assuring her that it was time to seize the day. Soon they were all embroiled in a bloody war that threatened them all. Her lord father was aiding Robert’s Rebellion. King’s Landing was to be under siege in the upcoming weeks. She didn’t like being kept in the dark, hated even more to be in close quarters with her foolish cousins and her monster of a little brother. The little beast was off without a care in the world. She couldn’t glance at him without hating the mere sight of him.

She was in her room trying to pleasure herself thinking of Jaime and his cock. She tried to remember that night when he deflowered her; it had been a couple of months before the tourney and their lives changed. She had seduced him. It had always been her. She was the one to plunge ahead and convince him to do things. She was braver, smarter, and more ambitious than Jaime had ever been but her lord father only had eyes for Jaime, brave, fearless Jaime who was now a member of the Kingsguard. They had thought that the solution. She was to marry Rhaegar Targaryen and be queen. There wasn’t any other way; Jaime had to be with her always. Such fools they were, her lover was at King’s Landing while she was in the Westerlands treated like a child.

Her fingers slid inside her opening and she imagined Jaime’s fingers and mouth in her. He had her at least three times before she stood up and left for Casterly Rock with the old Hand of the King. She didn’t know it then but that was the last time she saw her brother. She thought bitterly to her father’s explanations. “The time has come child. We have to go before is too late for us.” Her father had the same cold, hard glint in his eyes. He meant his words and would not alter his plans. She pleasured herself until his name spilled from her lips. She slept better that night; thinking of Jaime soothed her a little.

“Wake up child, your father arrived last night. He is waiting for you at his solar.” Aunt Genna shook the sleep away from her.

“Myra, fetch some water.” Her aunt told one of her servant girls. The fat woman helped her up the bed into the privy. “You look a fright Cersei.” Cersei had a half a mind to shut this woman up. She was the Lady of Casterly Rock. Her lord father never married after her mother Lady Joanna died in the birthing chamber. “Your father has wonderful news to tell you. Lyanna Stark is dead and King’s Landing has fallen. You shall be queen.” Aunt Genna said giddily.

She went along; for the sake of things, if this old woman was right she couldn’t look like a commoner. She was ready for audience in less than forty-five minutes. Lord Tywin Lannister didn’t like to be kept waiting, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror and saw how beautiful she was; golden hair, perfect skin, luminous green eyes, svelte and proud. She was a queen, all a queen should be.

She walked down the halls of Casterly Rock until she reached her father’s solar. She knocked on the heavy wooden doors. “Come in Cersei.”

She stepped in and curtsied, “have a seat child. I have most wonderful news for you.”

Cersei sat in front of her father. “The war is over. Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne.” Her lord father said as if the news were just a remark about the weather. She felt her heart swell, Robert wasn’t Jaime but he was dashing and strong. He was heroic and he would make a wonderful King. She was sure of it.

“He is to be married in three days.” Tywin Lannister did not betray any feelings. Cersei didn’t understand, the travel from Casterly Rock to King’s Landing was at least five days unless Robert travelled with her lord father. The wedding couldn’t be held in the Westerlands however; it wouldn’t be beneficial for the crown.

“I don’t understand father?” She said with a puzzled brow.

“Baratheon is to marry one of the Tully girls.” Cersei felt such anger toward her father. She could have easily clawed his eyes out but she was a lady. The Lady of Casterly Rock, ladies did not raise their voices, she was a lioness and lionesses did not cry.

“What am I to make of this father? I am not one of your banner men or your lords. I don’t understand why these news should concern me at all.” She would remain composed. Tywin Lannister did not appreciate tantrums. She was not a little girl. She was a woman grown.

“You are to marry Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.” Tywin stood up. Cersei couldn’t not even if he asked. Winterfell, she remembered the direwolf sigil and the words. “Winter is Coming.” The north, that was so far away, she had never been so far away. The northern kingdom was so foreign so cold and strange to her.

“Father surely a better match could be made. You promised me I would be queen.” She said with a calm voice void of any feeling. Father hated any displays of childish emotions as he called them.

“Alas I did child but Jon Arryn made the marriage agreements before Robert took the throne.” Tywin’s only sign of affection was a small squeeze in her right shoulder. “Cheer up, the North is the largest kingdom in Westeros. You will be lady of Winterfell.”

As she saw it as a punishment more than anything else, “I’m your only daughter and you would sail me to the end of the world. Away from my home, to the home of savages and wildings.”

“Spare me the mummer’s spectacle. I’ll find a way to release your foolish brother from his Kingsguard oath. Your union shall bring us prosperity. The Westerlands and the North together, power is power don’t forget it Cersei. Your future does not trust us. It was a trial convincing him to take your hand.” Her lord father said and then picked a book from the shelves. She took it as a hint that she was dismissed.

She spent the rest of the week making arrangements to leave her home. They would travel to Winterfell that same week. Tyrion wouldn’t be travelling with them; it would only be father, a group of Lannister men and her. She only cried when Aunt Genna hugged her the night before she was to leave the Rock. She had been the only mother she knew. “You’ll do well Cersei. You’ll be the lady of Winterfell. You’ll have your own castle. Cheer up girl.”

“Aunt I don’t want to go. I miss Jaime; we were supposed to be together. Father was supposed to be the Hand, Jaime was supposed to be in the Kingsguard and I was supposed to be queen.” She said with tears in her eyes. She would was to be the wife of Eddard Stark. She heard tales of the Quiet Wolf, the men said he was cold, ruthless in battle a warrior she supposed he was quite a catch. She was overwhelmed, it was wrong. She should have never gone to that Maggy witch. She remembered the prophecy but she wasn’t queen. She would never be queen.

As they travelled North Cersei learned many things from the guards and his father. Jaime refused to be the Lord of Casterly Rock. He swore an oath; it didn’t matter because he was known as the Kingslayer. Jaime killed Aerys, and King Robert made him part of the Kingsguard along with Barristan Selmy. Cersei didn’t understand why Jaime refused his title. She also learned that Robert married Catelyn Tully while Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King married Lysa, the younger sister.

She remembered the Tully sisters; they were pretty but not beautiful. She was beautiful, regal. They stopped at various inns; it took them almost three weeks to reach the Northern lands. She learned a lot about her betrothed, Eddard Stark was never to be Lord of Winterfell. He was the second son of Rickard Stark. Brandon Stark was to marry Catelyn Tully but he died strangled in King’s Landing. After a fashion he was to be Tully’s husband but Hoster Tully saw a more advantageous match when he lent his men to Robert Baratheon.

The welcome party was a small one, a maester, an old woman and a tall serious young man. He couldn’t be called ugly but he wasn’t dashing like Jaime or handsome like Robert. Eddard Stark was serious, his features cold, like this forsaken place. Ever since they crossed the Neck a bitter cold set in her bones. She shivered a little as she stepped out of the carriage. Her lord father helped her out into the snow.

“Lord Stark.” Tywin said with a greeting, almost a ghost of a smile in his face.

“Lord Lannister.” The lord of Winterfell said just as formally.

“Lady Cersei.” Eddard Stark addressed her. Cersei curtsied, never forgetting her manners and breeding.

His face didn’t betray any emotions. She was used to men looking at her with desire almost from the moment they lay eyes upon her. This man however merely glanced at her before addressing her lord father again.

“Lord Tywin you will find your accommodations to your satisfaction.” Lord Stark wasn’t a gracious host. He led them inside the surprisingly warm castle. It was truly beautiful although it lacked some finesse. She would make sure to change a few things once she was the Lady of Winterfell. Lord Stark left them in the dinning hall and went to attend to something important or so he said.

The old woman who was at their welcoming party led her to her quarters. “These are to be yours my lady. Ned’s quarters are next to these.” She motioned to an adjoining door.

“Thank you. I wish to be alone now.” She smiled frostily and was glad when the woman let her be. She sighed; this place was to be her home from now on. At least the bed was soft and the place was warm. She would at least be able to run the whole household. Eddard Stark seemed to avoid being in her presence. He retired early and left at dawn to see to his affairs.

The day came and she was surprised when her father escorted her to the old Godswoods. The Starks kept the Old Gods, she’d known but it seemed strange to wed outside of a Sept. She wore a golden gown; it was beautiful, made of fine details and fitted perfectly to her figure. She brought Myra along with her; the young woman helped her put her hair in one of the latest styles. She wore her emerald necklace, it had been her mother’s and father gave it to her on her last name day.

“You look beautiful m’lady.” Myra smiled at her. Cersei smiled tightly too. All her beauty would be wasted in these cold lands. She wished for the hundredth time that Jaime were here. Her father waited outside her door. He commented on her beauty.
“Don’t disappoint me Cersei, your brothers have shamed me for a lifetime as it is. Do your duty and give this man sons. Give him sons with Lannister blood.” Tywin told her as they walked to the Weirwoods. It was very cold and the heavy Lannister cloak helped her to stave off the chilliness.

Lord Stark stood there with a Septon in front of an old Weirwood tree. The ceremony was surprisingly fast. Finally they came to the part that she knew, “Who gives this woman?”

“I Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock do.” Her lord father said with a strong voice.

She felt cold air when her Lannister cloak was removed. Eddard Stark put on a much heavier grey cloak. She looked to his cold grey eyes as he fastened the cloak on her shoulders.

They looked at each other in the eyes for the first time. Her husband kissed her gently, nothing like the fire she felt whenever Jaime’s lips touched her own. She didn’t feel anything for this man, not an ounce of anything but indifference.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

The feast was a grand affair. The entire North was inside of Winterfell; all the lords from the Neck to the Wall were drinking to the new Lady of Winterfell. She was kissed, introduced to Lords and Ladies for the best part of the evening. Much to soon one of her husband’s bannermen shouted. “Time for the bedding ceremony.” The men were gentle with her a few tried to grope her but Benjen Stark, her new brother in law tried to defend her honor. He was but a lad of three and ten years. She met him yesterday after he returned from the Wall. He was training there and only travelled to Winterfell for his older brother’s wedding.

The women were not as gentle with Eddard his clothes were torn by the time they were in the bedchamber. “My lady.”

“My lord.” She replied trying to be as demure as possible. She was no maiden and would have to pretend as if she didn’t know the ways of the flesh. She tried to blush when he approached her and lowered he gown. “I apologize for what’s about to happen.”

He led her to the bed and unburdened her from her gown. He was as gentle as could be, maybe a little too gentle. He touched the sensitive skin of her belly and lowered his hands to her core. Cersei gasped when he introduced a finger inside of her, his fingers were longer than Jaime’s. Her lord husband whispered close to her ears. “Forgive me my lady. It will only be painful the first time.” Cersei almost rolled her eyes but merely nodded shakily, keeping her mummer show. Her lord husband removed his small clothes; he was bigger than Jaime, thicker too. She felt a little dishonest by the comparison.

He entered her body and Cersei cried a little, it burned she didn’t have to fake the tears that rolled out of her eyes. Eddard Stark did not fully prepared her for this, it would have been different if he made her come first but her husband hadn’t.

“Please don’t hurt me.” She closed her eyes and smiled inside when her lord husband moaned and stilled inside of her. He used his fingers to touch the little nub that gave her pleasure. She wondered where this northerner had learned to touch women. He was skilled she would give him that. In less than a few minutes he had her writhing under him. He pushed and pulled inside of her until she felt that tell tale sign of pleasure. Eddard spilled inside of her; he rolled to his side. They didn’t speak at all. She feigned sleep. He sighed, “Forgive me.” Eddard stood up from the bed. He left her alone.

Her husband never stayed at the castle not for more than a few hours. He woke up at dawn and left for the woods or was busy ruling over his lands. Her father left the North the day after the wedding and reminded her of her duties. Cersei woke up very morning and discovered something new about her new home. Eddard was in the process of building a new Sept for her, she didn’t care too much for the Gods but her lord husband was adamant. They didn’t know each other; she wrote letters to Jaime, they corresponded in their secret language. They wrote about how much they missed each other. He wrote her about the gossip in King’s Landing. The queen was with child. Lysa Arryn had a lover; it kept Cersei entertained. She wrote to Casterly Rock too, Aunt Genna informed her that Tyrion was at King’s Landing visiting Jaime. Lord Tywin was at King’s Landing too, visiting the King.

By her third month of marriage she knew she was pregnant. She wasn’t exactly thrilled with the news but she wasn’t indifferent about it either. She had assumed she would have children eventually. She hoped it was a boy, if she had one and then a spare father would be proud of her.

She consulted with maester Luwin who confirmed her suspicions. She was pregnant, probably conceived within the first week of marriage. She didn’t know her husband, couldn’t tell what his favorite food was or if he liked cyvasse or had a pet when he was child but he never failed to do his duty. He visited her chambers every night. Their couplings were satisfactory; she had no complaints. She just didn’t care for her husband.

That night when he came to her bedchamber she was ready for him. He undressed her and as always fingered her. “My lord, I have something to tell you.” She said trying to sound as timid as possible. Men liked timid women and Lord Stark seemed the type to like simpering, submissive women.

“I am with child.” She smiled and was surprised when he kissed her a little too harshly.

She was shocked and didn’t return his kiss. “Forgive me my lady. I am overcome with happiness by the news.”

He didn’t touch her that night but kissed her again and left her quarters. Cersei didn’t mind at all. She was glad to be on her own.

Her pregnancy wasn’t difficult at all but she did feel tired, she ate as much as she liked. According to Old Nan she could because she carried a boy and boys needed their strength. Father sent her congratulations while Jaime didn’t write her not even when she invited him to Winterfell. She didn’t let the news dampen her mood. Eddard tried to converse with her now, her belly bloomed and the baby moved. Eddard smiled whenever he saw her belly move. The baby kicked hard most of the times, by the sixth month Cersei decided that the baby would be called Joffrey.

Eddard had to go to Dorne. He received a letter from one of his old friends from battle. His face was white as a ghost when he left. He told her nothing; she was too busy preparing a nursery for Joff. He came back a two months later with a new born.

Cersei waddled down to her lord husband. “Why do you have a baby on your arms Eddard?”

“My lady, please forgive me. He’s mine own son.” His eyes were contrite but his stance was firm. She did not she would like this conversation at all.

“You have a bastard.” Cersei didn’t like this at all, not because she was jealous but because of the threat that the boy posed for her son.

Eddard tried to speak but Cersei wouldn’t let him get a word in. “You broke your oath Lord Stark. You have a bastard, why is he in our home?”

“He will live in the castle, his mother is dead; she died in the birthing room. He has no mother.” The babe started to cry. Cersei looked away. “Myra, get that thing, find him a wet nurse.”

Cersei’s fury was like wildfire, it spread quickly and before she was aware of it. “How dare you bring one of your bastards to our home? Have you no sense of propriety?”

Her husband looked at her coldly with a glint in his eyes. “I beg your forgiveness Cersei but he’s mine own and I will not have him away from me without a mother.”

He always called her my lady or Lady Stark never Cersei, “I do not care that he doesn’t have a mother. I do not want him here. He is not a Stark. My son is a Stark, your true heir.” She yelled angrily and lost her composure.

“Jon is my blood and he will remain here.” The cold grey eyes left no doubt about his intent. Cersei reeled in anger. Eddard didn’t refuse her anything, but it was obvious that he wouldn’t surrender on the matter of Jon Snow. He would remain Snow. That little monster wouldn’t take anything away from her Joffrey.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Joffrey Stark was a stillborn. He had his father’s hair and looked a lot like Jon Snow. Cersei didn’t know a human being could cry as much as she did. She remembered the pain, the agony of the birth. She recalled Old Nan’s sad face. “I’m very sorry my lady.” The old woman had said.

“Why isn’t he crying? Why isn’t Joffrey crying?” Myra tried to sooth her. “M’lady he’s dead.” Cersei yelled and cried. Eddard rushed in.

“He’s dead my baby is dead. They killed him.” She was hysterical with pain. She remembered the prophecy; three children all with golden shrouds.” She cried and Eddard had to hold her.

“My lord we’ll have to bury him before he starts to decompose.” Maester Luwin said. Cersei cried. “NO.”

“Let me hold him. Eddard please let me hold him.” Her lord husband nodded.

Joffrey looked as if he was sleeping but he was dead, he never breathed, not one single breath. She cried for weeks, her body was the cruel reminder that she had given birth but her baby was dead.

Tywin sent a letter with his condolences and also urged her to try for another child as soon as she was able. The queen had given birth to a girl Myrcella was her name.
Cersei tried again, this time she carried the baby until her fifth month. She woke up to bloody sheets and yelled for Myra her handmaid. The child was a dwarf girl. Cersei didn’t recover from the ordeal and almost gave up on the idea of another child. Her lord husband tried to comfort her but she was a lioness of Casterly Rock. She didn’t need to be comforted.

They tried again. Maeter Luwin advised her against it but Cersei had to give Eddard an heir. Her father sent her another letter on the importance of holding the North. He knew about Jon Snow, the only one besides Howland Reed who had sent the letter to Eddard. Sometimes Cersei prayed that the bastard died. She conceived again but this time the miscarriage was too soon. She was about to tell Eddard the news when she felt as if her moon blood was upon her. Cersei cried that night; she cried and shut the doors of her quarters so no one could hear her cries.

Her body ached, she was thirsty and Myra wouldn’t come not even after she shouted. Her breasts were swollen with milk, a reminder of her failed pregnancies. Maester Luwin told her that she should wait a year before getting pregnant again. He thought her body wasn’t built to withstand pregnancies easily. She forbade him to speak to Eddard about her latest failure but she knew that the old man wouldn’t heed her orders.

She stepped away from the bed and went to the kitchens. Myra, that useless girl forgot to leave fresh water for her. She was dying for some water. She grabbed a candle and descended to the cold kitchens. The place was empty. Cersei had her fill of water when she heard the cries. She followed them to an adjoining room to the servant’s quarters. Jon Snow wailed about in his wooden crib. The wet nurse was nowhere in sight. Cersei’s breasts started leaking, a reaction to the baby’s cries no doubt. The baby was small, a scrawny thing, he looked sickly in her eyes. This bastard couldn’t be older than eight months. She could kill him, she could smother him and no one would know.

She found a pillow on the nurse’s bed and came near the baby. Even if she never gave birth to a healthy child she wouldn’t have to worry because there wouldn’t be a bastard about to claim Winterfell. It would go to Benjen. She liked Benjen; he was a sweet lad but Benjen was a Crow. It wouldn’t matter, he would renounce his oaths or someone else would be named warden of the North. She didn’t care anymore.

She was about to smother the bastard when he opened his eyes and rubbed his eyes. She took a look at him. She remembered Joff’s sweet face; she memorized every single aspect of it before maester Luwin took him from her arms. This boy was a Stark just like her Joff had been, dark hair, grey Stark eyes. His nose was different and maybe his ears but other than that. This baby was so alike her own. If Joff were to be alive he would be under seven months. He would probably look like this. Cersei dropped the pillow and picked Jon Snow.

The baby stopped crying and rooted for her teats. She cried and foolishly, very foolishly succumbed to her inner desires. She never knew how much she wanted to be a mother. It was the only thing she could do. This cold wasteland had nothing to offer her. Jon suckled at her teat. It hurt at first but then Jon opened his eyes and clutched the teat as if it had always been his to drink from.

“You are a hungry little pup.” She sang to him and climbed the steps to her quarters. The nursery was in her room. The same nursery she prepared for Joffrey, this baby wasn’t Joff, he wasn’t even hers but he had no mother and she had no child. She thought about Maggy again. “Three dead children.” She cried and touched the baby’s cheek.

She changed his soiled small clothes after he was fed. He rooted for the teat again and she switched sides. Jon was a nice looking babe. He suckled strongly; she burped him and put him next to her. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, she was too tired, and Jon was finally asleep.

She woke up to bells ringing. The noise woke Jon up; she rubbed the sleep away from her eyes and stood up with the baby on her arms. Jon rooted for the nipple again. Cersei gave him the teat. He clutched. She could hear her lord husband’s yells.

“I want the whole castle searched. Rodrick search the woods, Maester Luwin send a raven to town. I want my son back to his chambers before dawn is here.”

“They’re searching for you little pup.” She whispered and held him to her. Cersei opened her door and walked down with the baby at her teat.

“I’m so sorry m’lord I only was gone for five seconds and the lad was gone. I saw a man climbing out the window.” The nursemaid cried.

“Liar.” Cersei said as she walked down.

“My Lady.” The maester went to her side to unburden him of Jon. He tried but Cersei have him a flinty look.

“She was not in her room. I would give half of Casterly Rock and say she woke you less than thirty minutes ago. I have had Jon for hours in my chambers. He was starving, crying. Where were you wench?”

“M’lady I…” The nursemaid looked at her then at Lord Stark and at her again.

“You shall have your bed tonight but upon the morrow you shall be banished from Winterfell.” Eddard did not look at the young woman. He kept his eyes trained on her and his son.

“All of you leave now.” He said and everyone did his bidding without protest.

“Cersei I don’t understand.” Eddard was puzzled he came close to them as saw her nursing him.

“His mother is dead. Don’t lie to me Eddard. Is she truly dead?”

“Yes.” He replied.

“Who is his mother?” She asked. Jon opened his grey eyes.

“You are. You are his mother Cersei.” Eddard said with as much fervor as she ever heard from his voice.

“But I am not. He didn’t come from my womb. I didn’t birth him, I can’t.” She said almost crying with sadness.

“He’s alive because of you. Jon doesn’t like wet-nurses’ milk. That was the fifth one we hired for him this month. He drinks goat’s milk. Maester Luwin and I don’t know what to do.”

She shook her head, “He’s a bastard.” She looked at the babe in her arms and brushed a stray curl from his forehead.

“Of course my lady.” Eddard came close to her once more and tried to pry the baby from her breasts. Cersei tightened her hold.

“Joffrey is dead.” She said while looking at her lord husband in the eyes.

“He is my lady.” Eddard replied cautiously.

“Maester Luwin spoke with you.” She stated, her voice cracking despite the efforts to appear strong in front of this stranger. Eddard Stark her husband of a year and a half remained a complete stranger to her.

She didn’t know how he would react to his maester’s news. She was deemed unsuitable; she understood the tone in old Luwin’s soothing tones. Her womb couldn’t carry and the only time it did it was a stillbirth. She would be sent back to the Rock, her father would be so disappointed. Cersei Lannister, proud lioness and daughter of the Rock, unfit to have children. A disgraced woman, how long until she was in the shadows of Aunt Genna or another Lady Lannister?

Eddard looked at her with his calm grey eyes. “My son needs his sleep. My lady?” He took the baby from her arms. Cersei felt bereft, cold and empty again. Jon was nestled in his father’s arms. Eddard left her there with her right breast out. She trailed after him.

“Where are you taking him?” She asked while fixing her gown.

“To the kitchens. Old Nan would see to him for the rest of the night. You shan’t concern yourself Lady Stark.” Eddard replied as he walked to the servant quarters.

“No, he will cry. I know it so.” As if on cue Jon let out a wail.

“You won’t be able to hear him from your quarters my lady.” Eddard said coldly.

He tried to sooth poor Jon but he only shook him too hard causing Jon to get scared. “Hand him over; you’re hurting him.” Cersei comforted Jon and was moving before Eddard realized her intentions. She climbed the steps briskly and she was back to her quarters with Jon safely ensconced in her gown. She placed Jon in the bed and washed him. “We shan’t have you dirty Jon.” The baby tried to grab her hair and giggled. Cersei couldn’t help but laugh.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Eddard didn’t enter her rooms nor asked any questions for the rest of the night. Cersei was going to have Jon back in the kitchens by the next day but she didn’t. She summoned Myra. “I need another handmaiden for Jon. She will make sure his clothes are clean, ready and he’s happy when I’m busy running Winterfell. Fetch his clothes and toys from the kitchens.” Myra looked as if she wanted to say something.

“M’lady your lord husband asked me to place the bastard boy back with a new nurse.”

Cersei looked up from the bed. Jon was sitting in the bed trying to reach for some strands of her blond hair. She looked sharply at the servant girl “Never call him that if you want to keep working in this castle.”

Myra trembled and curtsied, “yes Lady Stark.”

Old Nan came in to her room. At first Cersei didn’t like the familiarity in which the old woman addressed Eddard. She didn’t know her place. “I have come for the little lad.”

Jon was playing with a pillow, trying to eat it in reality. “I spoke with Myra. I shall speak with Eddard too.”

“He is not your babe child.” The woman sat in front of her.

“I know he is not.” Cersei cursed herself for the tight knot in her throat.

“He could be yours child. You have fed him, your body strengthens his own.” The half blind woman said.

“I won’t allow a bastard under my roof.” She tried to sound confident and strong but she wasn’t. She sounded like a petulant child.

“You could love this child. No more need to cry and be miserable. You could love this child. You don’t love my Ned but you could love his child.”

“I love my lord husband.” Cersei lied automatically.

“You do not but he does not love you either. He loves Jon, you could love Jon if you wished too.”

“I will not be made a fool.” Cersei replied angrily. Jon’s existence was an insult to her.

“Better a fool with a castle to run than a foolish woman back in her father’s household.” Old Nan patted her hand and left the rooms.

Cersei stayed with Jon for the better of the day. She fed him, washed him, played with him. She forgot about Tywin Lannister, Eddard Stark, Jaime and even Joff. All she could think of was Jon’s dimples and his easy smiles. She took her meals in her solar. Eddard was off to the Dreadfort.

She didn’t expect him and was surprised when he entered her rooms. Eddard was always polite and knocked; he never intruded not even when he performed his marital duties.

“He’s not Joffrey.” Her husband said as greeting.

“No, his name is Jon, Jon Stark. You wed his mother before you wed me, a foolish mistake. You thought you were going to die in Robert’s Rebellion and seized the day. You thought she was dead when a raven reached you from Dorne, your lady wife died in childbirth.”

“That is not true.” Eddard gritted his teeth.

“Who is she then? Some tavern wench you fucked and then forgot about. Ashara Dayne, Lyanna perhaps?” Cersei hissed. Jon was asleep in his crib by her bed.

“She was no one.” Eddard replied. “I will not lie.”

Cersei frowned, Jaime was right; honorable Eddard Stark would never besmirch his honor. “Very well then, Jon will be treated as a bastard. You think you can protect him here. You do not know how the game is played my lord. He will be scum, never rising above anything because of his status as a bastard. He could take the black and be Commander of the Night’s Watch. A life of solitude and disdain, or he could be a lesser guard in King’s Landing or any other major city.”

“Winterfell would go to Benjen if he renounces the Black which could brand him as an oath breaker. He’s a sweet lad but can you imagine him Lord of Winterfell?”

Eddard frowned, “I was never to be Lord of Winterfell. Brandon was. Benjen would accept his duty too.”

“Benjen is not an oath breaker. He took the black and will not renounce it. He hurts whenever he’s here my lord.” Benjen Stark hated Winterfell, too much hurt.

“What will you have me do Cersei?” Eddard raised his voice. She had never seen him so fraught.

“Write to the king, tell him this tale. Jon would inherit the lands, your titles.” It pained Cersei but she wouldn’t suffer through another miscarriage. Luwin had been clear; her body wasn’t fit to have a child.

“What about our children? Your children.” Eddard said softly.

“Eddard, I don’t think I can. Not again.” She was still bleeding from her latest miscarriage. She couldn’t face the loss of yet another child. Cersei thought she was proud, indestructible but she mourned her three babies deeply, even her little girl who was so much like her hated baby brother.

“Cersei, I don’t know how to repay for this.” He touched her face tenderly and looked into her eyes. She saw the stormy grey eyes and smiled. “Find it in your heart to not return me to the Rock.” She said with real tears in her eyes. The North was cold, vast and dull but it was better than to be humiliated at court in King’s Landing or the Westerlands.

He shook his head, “I took an oath Cersei. I wouldn’t consider sending you back.” She nodded.”

“Thank you my lord.” She said trembling like a leaf.

Eddard went to the crib and kissed his son good night. Soon she received two ravens from King’s Landing. Lord Tywin was furious and demanded that she do her duty. The child was a bastard and couldn’t be lord of the North. Cersei wasn’t too distraught. Tywin Lannister thwarted by a mere boy, not even a year old. Jaime consoled her on her latest miscarriage and applauded her shrewdness. She wouldn’t have to lay with Eddard Stark anymore. He had an heir, Cersei shrugged, her twin was correct.

Chapter Text

Jon thrived; Eddard didn’t take him away from her chambers. His first name day came and went. He toddled around the castle with her behind him. She held his little hands as he practiced his walking. “Be careful my pup.” She would say as he tried to run with his unsteady legs.

Jon called her mamma, and she didn’t correct him. He was her only diversion, her bright spot in this bleak place. Eddard was always too busy with his bannermen, fighting wildings and whatnot. She was the Lady of Winterfell and it fell to her to run the castle. She usually spent mornings reading and running errands to make sure the castle was running accordingly. In the afternoons she read, played and fed Jon. She also wrote letters to Jaime, Aunt Genna and occasionally father. By nights she dined with her lord husband and they made small talk about Winterfell but most of the time they spoke about Jon.

She was in her solar playing with some wooden blocks. Jon loved to smash them to the ground. “Not so hard my pup.” She said when the baby pulled on her hair.

“Mamma. Mamma, mamma.” He stood up on his chubby legs and touched her face. They were nose to nose. She smiled when he yelled and hugged her neck, almost choking her. She didn’t notice Eddard by the door.

He strode in and for the first time in many moons kissed her cheek. Eddard sat down next to her. Jon was always shy around him. She thought it was because he never spent any time with the baby really. Eddard was always busy and only spent time with Jon when they ate dinner or he was asleep at her breasts. She weaned him off a couple of days after his name day. Jon had teeth now and he wasn’t shy about biting. He still liked to sleep at her breasts however.

“Go to your father Jon.” She said as the baby hid behind her blond hair.

Eddard smile ruefully, “He doesn’t like me much.”

Cersei shook her head and then grabbed a squirming Jon and placed him in her lap so that he was close to Eddard without touching him.

“He does not know you Eddard.” Cersei said plainly. She remembered being scared of her lord father. He never spent much time with her or Jaime for that matter. Lady Joanna was their only parent as far as they were concerned until they turned five and mother told them that the blond man was father.

“How does one get to know an infant?” Eddard asked puzzled.

Cersei didn’t look at him, but she could feel those cold grey eyes on her, she played with Jon’s chubby fingers. “Well you have to take an interest in him. Play with him, teach him things, he’s a happy baby.” She smiled when Jon squirmed out of her hold and toddled to find a wooden horse Tyrion sent him.

“Ion” Jon told her. Eddard looked at her puzzled one more time. “He’s trying to say lion.” She replied and smiled at Jon. He was a very clever baby.

“No, that’s a horse.” Cersei whined like a horse, she heard Eddard’s laugh for the first time in a year and half of marriage. She looked up and saw her husband with his head back against the bed.

Jon giggled too and she couldn’t help but smile a little. “My lord husband should compose himself.” She said with a haughty air.

“I am most sorry my lady.” Eddard his voice filled with laughter.

The baby grew bored with his toy and pulled a magnificent lion also a gift from her baby brother. “Ion, roar, roar.” He chanted and scrunched his face.

“Yes a lion Jon. Jon the lion.” Cersei said and clapped when he roared loudly.

“He’s a wolf. The wolf of Winterfell.” Eddard said and did something rather uncharacteristic of him. He howled loudly, the sound startled her but delighted the young boy who howled too. Cersei watched as father and son interacted. They ate in her chambers and soon it was time for Jon to sleep.

Little by little she relinquished some of the control she had over the baby and went to her desk to busy herself writing letters to Jaime. Her brother wrote to her about the news at court. Queen Catelyn was with child again, Lysa Arryn had given birth to a girl named Sansa. Father was positively enraged with her for not giving him an heir. Cersei didn’t care anymore; father couldn’t reach in in the North unless her lord husband extended an invitation. It seemed rather unlikely that he would. Eddard didn’t hold her father and Jaime in any high regard. According to her lord husband her father had ordered the Mountain to rape and kill Elia Martell’s children, Eddard had gone south to rescue his sister only her death united Robert and him again.

The baby fussed and rubbed his little eyes. He grew tired of his father and went to her. He toddled to her desk and pushed his hands up. Cersei picked him up and put him on her chest.

“What is he trying to do?” Eddard asked curiously.

“He’s trying to nuzzle my breasts. He wants to be fed.” She gained a little satisfaction when her husband looked uncomfortable. Jon had a chubby hand on her right teat as if he owned that teat.

“I thought you didn’t feed him anymore.” Eddard was entirely too uncomfortable.

“I don’t but he fusses and can’t sleep before being held.” Cersei replied simply.

That afternoon was the first of many more to come. Eddard would come by her solar after he was done with his duties and spend afternoons with her and his son. Jon was less inhibited around his lord father but he preferred her. Cersei was thrilled, Jon loved her more and she wasn’t his blood.

“Lady Stark.” He would say formally and then play with his son or talk to her about things. She asked him questions about Winterfell and he would answer, it was refreshing because strangely enough Eddard didn’t think her useless, he valued her counsel and asked what she would have done. Cersei was versed in southern politics and tactics. They would speak about history and the seven kingdoms.

A particular evening while Jon was outside with his nursemaid they spoke about their teenage years. “My father thought it would be you.” Cersei looked up from her needlework with a question in her eyes. Her lord husband was on the bed while she was sitting by the window.

“The Targaryen wed their sisters but Rhaegar didn’t have any. My lord father thought you would be queen. He was at the tourney in the westerlands and was surprised when Aerys announced the union between Rhaegar and Elia Martell.”

Cersei left the needlework and answered him, “I thought so too. My father promised me I would be queen when I was eight years old.”

“Must have been a disappointment when Robert took Catelyn Tully for his queen.” His tone was curious not at all mocking. She smiled and decided to turn the conversation, “Forgive me my lord but you were to wed the queen.” Manners were a lady’s armor.

Eddard nodded, “Alas I was but Jon Arryn had promised Hoster Tully a crown for Cat. The Tullys gave up the most resources to Robert’s Rebellion.”

Cersei of course knew all of this. In her two years of marriage to this man she discovered he was honorable, loyal, fair and truthful. She didn’t know how she felt about those qualities. He would have been swallowed in the Capital.

“If you married Catelyn she would have given you a daughter already.” Cersei commented.

Eddard didn’t look at her. “We have an heir. The crown doesn’t.” He replied, she smiled briefly and he smiled back at her. He was kind, so very kind. She never met someone so kind that didn’t set her on edge. She despised nice people, they were gullible, and she didn’t like it when people didn’t have agendas or ambitions. Eddard was different. He was reserved but honest. She turned to her needlework when Myra burst in. “The little lord is dead.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Cersei stabbed her fingers with the needles as she ran down the stairs. Jon couldn’t be dead, he was her boy; her little pup couldn’t die. Her husband was behind her, they went outside and there by the stables was her baby, on the ground bleeding. Maester Luwin crouched by him.

“No.” She yelled and ran to her pup. She was speechless, the maester yelled at some men to get things from his solar and a pallet to put Jon in. “Is my son dead?” He asked the maester. “No, he’s very much alive but we need to get him inside and make sure his wound is cleaned and sown. His spine is fine.” Cersei breathed a little easier. “What happened?” The lioness in her demanded retribution, she was angry, angrier than she had ever felt in her life. She distantly remembered being this angry with Tyrion when he was born and killed her mother.

Beth, the nursemaid was crying profusely, “I’m sorry m’lady.” Cersei growled, “What did you do?”

“We were playing and the lad wanted to have a close look at the horses. I must have turned to pick some wildflowers for him.” The girl sobbed noisily, “When I turned he was on the ground bleeding from his little head.” Cersei came close and slapped the girl hard. She didn’t stop; she slapped her again and again until Eddard held her against him. “Cersei.” He held her tight. The nursemaid was crying and clutching her red face. Cersei would have done worse if Eddard had let her go.

“Get out of my sight.” She spat and tried to get close to her again but Eddard had a vise grip on her arms.

Maester Luwin put Jon on the pallet and they moved to the castle. They climbed the stairs to her quarters and put in in his crib. The older man worked silently. Eddard didn’t let go of her. She was crying silently, waiting for the maester to tell her that her pup would be fine.

“Jon fell on his head.” I sewed his wound; there isn’t any damage other than the cut in his head.

Cersei looked hopeful. “I am worried, he should have woken up by now.” Those words took the hope out of her.

“What happens now?” Eddard asked, his hands on her shoulders. “We wait, we try to make him comfortable.”

Cersei cried when the maester left, big heaving sobs. She didn’t care that her lord husband was with her. She looked at the crib, her baby with bandages on his head, his eyes closed; he looked pale and so small. She remembered when she was pregnant with Joffrey and wished with all her heart that Jon died. She cried more and shied away from Eddard’s touch.

“Please get out.” He tried to touch her again, “GET OUT.” She lashed out. “This is your fault. If you hadn’t come to us I would have been with him. I would have been with my pup. This is your fault. Get out, get out.” She cried. Eddard left with pained eyes, like a whipped puppy.

She remained by Jon’s crib the rest of the night doing something she hadn’t done since her mother died. She prayed, she prayed to the Mother and the Crone. “Gentle mother please give him back to me. I will do anything Mother anything.” Cersei would go from asking each of the seven Gods for their mercy to rage. She cursed them, Eddard for bringing his bastard, her womb for not being able to carry to term. She cursed Jaime for leaving her and her father for not loving her. Tyrion for killing her mother. She stayed all night next to that crib, praying begging Jon to open his grey eyes. “Please Jon please.” She held his small limp hand.

She slept close to him and at times. Eddard and master Luwin came in early the next morning. The older man shook his head. “He should be awake my lord. I’m sorry but if he doesn’t wake up in a few hours a fever would surely take over his body and then it would be a matter of time before he meets with the Stranger.”

Cersei shook her head. Jon would wake up; he would have to wake up. “He’ll wake up. He’s strong; he survived months traveling from Dorne and with goat milk.” She said convinced that her pup would do so. He was her only reason, she was barren, and he was sent to her. They were mother and child, even if she didn’t carry or gave birth to him. She had given birth twice, horrible pain that did not compare to the notion of losing this black haired babe that didn’t look anything like her or had a drop of her blood.

Eddard came into the room and tried to take her to bed. “No please, he needs me. He needs me Eddard please.” Gone was her anger, she was a shell; the lioness was almost gone as was her fight. She wiped some wayward tears. Her lord husband nodded and left the room. She was praying to the Mother once again when she noticed that Jon was feverish. She ran out of her rooms to Eddard’s room. He was sitting on his bed, a candle by his bedside.

“He’s feverish.” Her voice broke a little. She never saw Eddard so distraught not even when Joff arrived.

He went to fetch maester Luwin. Cersei went back to her room and fretted. Once the maester was in the room he examined the child and said solemnly. “We have to keep the fever down. There could be damage to his brain if we let the fever get too high.”

She nodded and asked for Myra to fetch fresh water and pieces of cloth. “Lady Stark, it would be best if you rested. Myra can certainly make sure Jon is well taken care of.” Maester Luwin said

“No, I can’t sleep, there will be plenty of time for sleep when Jon wakes up.” Cersei didn’t fail to notice the maester pitying stare.

Three hours later the fever hadn’t broken, in fact Jon was getting hotter. The maester proposed bathing the child. In her desperation Cersei had Myra fill her tub with water. She stepped in with the baby in her arms, cradling him close to her chest. They stayed in the tub for thirty minutes until Eddard pulled them up. “You are shivering.” He said with the glint in his eyes that meant he was going to do as he pleased.

She was wet and tired but the fever was broken. “We have to wait now.” Luwin left but Eddard remained in the room. “Cersei please lie down for a few hours. I’ll stay with Jon. You will get sick if you don’t.” She shook her head “No. I want him to look at me when he wakes up. He’ll be scared if he doesn’t.”

“He might not wake up Cersei.” Eddard said with a sad tone.

Cersei turned to her lord husband. “He will wake up. I know it.” She remained quiet and prayed once again to the Father, the Mother and the Stranger. Once when she was a child aunt Genna told her that the Gods needed sacrifices. Prayer alone was not enough. She thought about what she loved most in the world and his face was forefront, Jaime. “Stranger please do not take Jon. Gentle Mother, please have this baby healthy again. Fair Father, forgive me for my sins. I swear to never lay with Jaime again. Please give me my pup again.” She said whispering quietly. She was at her wits ends; all of her resources and talents couldn’t help her now.

Chapter Text

By early morning of the second day Cersei heard the sweetest sound. She heard a tiny cry and looked up from her hands and into the baby’s face. Eddard was in the weirwoods praying to his Old Gods. Jon opened his eyes and stretched his tiny hands. “Mamma.” He cried pitifully. Cersei smiled and picked him up very gently. Myra, her maid woke up. “Go and bring me Luwin and send for my lord husband.”

Maester Luwin checked on Jon. He dangled a bright jewel in front of him; Jon followed it with his eyes. He pinched his little legs to check his reflexes and checked the ugly cut at the side of his head.

Jon was fussy and tried to reach for her at all times. “He seems fine.” Luwin said with a smile. Eddard came into the room and smiled.

“Call him your ladyship.” Luwin said as he placed the baby back on the crib. “Jon.” The baby turned his head slowly looking for her. “Mamma.” He said with a whiny voice. Cersei smiled and held him to her chest again.

“He’s tired, in pain but healthy. This is remarkable; children are truly resilient. I will be back with dream shade if he has trouble with the pain tonight.” The maester left quietly.

The weight in her chest lifted. She was tired then, drained of all energy. She was walking but she was half conscious of it. She put Jon in the bed; he was quietly resting in the bed. The maester advised for the baby to have some warm milk. He was sipping from a contraption the maester gave to Myra. Cersei looked to Eddard who was observing his son with relieved grey eyes.

“Eddard, help me.” She motioned to her dress. He helped her out of it. In that second she wished Eddard was Jaime. She wished he were Jaime so she could fall into his arms and take comfort. He wasn’t her twin, he was her husband and she had to forget Jaime. Jon was alive and normal, he wasn’t simple minded and he would be fine.

Myra left once Jon was asleep. Cersei was in her shift, Eddard was in the bed touching Jon’s bandaged forehead. “Maester Luwin said he would be fine.” He told her again.

“He is.” Cersei lie on the bed next to the baby, she closed her eyes briefly and the world was a safe place again.

She woke up to Jon’s cries. “Jon.” For a moment she thought last night had been a dream and that the baby was still in danger. She looked to the side looking for him and found Eddard sitting with Jon in a chair by her bed. “He’s fine.” He could see the worry in her eyes.

“Mamma.” Jon stretched his arms to her. Eddard came to her side and gave him the baby. Jon was clingy, something he hadn’t been days ago. “Maester Luwin was here earlier, he said he would be fussy for a couple of days.”

Jon laid his head on her breasts and tried to get his hands inside her shift. Jon cried more and more even when she caressed him and soothed him with words and soft touches. Jon kept crying and trying to nuzzle her teats. Cersei held him to her and bared herself to the baby. Jon hadn’t been breast feed for about six months. She doubted there was any milk for him to suck. The pup took to the nipple immediately. He sucked gently and quieted. He clenched and unclenched his hand on her breast.

Her lord husband looked at her quietly. Cersei felt certain sense of embarrassment that she shouldn’t been feeling. Eddard had seen her naked more than once. She couldn’t help but feel uneasy. He looked at her differently, he wasn’t aroused, and there was something else. His grey eyes were not cold; she realized how much Jon looked like his father.

“How long was I asleep?” She asked rubbing Jon’s small back.

“All day.” Cersei saw his tired eyes. She felt tired too. Jon’s suckles stopped and he was sleeping peacefully. She tucked her breast back in her shift. Eddard took Jon and put him back in his crib. Cersei thanked his foresight. “He’ll rest peacefully now.” Somehow Cersei knew that all Jon had wanted was comfort.

“I should retire to my quarters. It has been a very long day my lady.” He bowed and made for the door.

She stopped him; she didn’t want to sleep alone, not tonight. She needed comfort; he was the only one who could comfort her now. She was going to keep her promise and renounce to Jaime. “Stay here tonight.”

He nodded. She felt dirty and wanted to bathe. Eddard smelled foul too. “I want to bathe and sleep.” She declared honestly. “I had Myra draw you a bath for when you woke up my lady. The water might be cooling…” She grabbed his hand and led him to the other smaller chamber. She removed her shift, and stepped into the big tub filled with water. Myra had placed more water for when she rinsed. She was glad the servant girl had gone. “Eddard, join me.” Her husband nodded, he was fond of nodding and barely speaking.

He removed his tunic and his breeches and he was in front of her. Cersei was glad to have this quiet time. She grabbed a rag and put some scented soap on it. She cleaned herself and then looked at her husband. He had his eyes closed; he didn’t look too comfortable. Her lord husband was probably used to washing quickly, not used to bathing with scents and soaps around. Cersei spoke up. “Come here. Put your head on my shoulder.” Water spilled as her husband changed positions and stiffly presented his head to her shoulder. She could feel all of his body against hers. Cersei missed having someone bigger to protect her and comfort her. She started lathering his arms and chest. He relaxed against her, she hummed a song Aunt Genna taught her when she was little.

“Thank you.” Eddard said softly. Cersei rubbed his temples, “You should take more baths like this.” Cersei said delighted when he kissed her hands.

“I refer to Jon. All you have done for my child. I could never repay you. Anything you want my lady…” Eddard said softly. She liked the praise indeed. She was not going to tell him that Jon was her salvation. It would be best if he thought it was all done for him. Men were egotistic and liked to feel like the center of the world. Eddard Stark was an honorable man, one that felt compelled to be grateful and loyal.

He rested his head on her shoulder and was able to see her face, “I want to know her name. Did you love her? Is she truly dead?” She could have asked for anything but she wanted to make sure that no woman would come and take away the place she had at Winterfell.

“She was no one. I don’t even remember her name. I had just learned that my father and brother were dead. Robert and I went to a brothel. He insisted I take her and I did. I shouldn’t have, I had learned that I was to marry Catelyn Tully and once again I was second best.” Brandon was always fierce, brave. I was just Ned. I wanted to have something that Brandon didn’t touch first. It was not honorable and it felt amazing.” Eddard spoke with passion about this woman.

“She’s dead Cersei. I saw her broken body. She threw herself from the whore’s tower; she couldn’t stand to look at my son. She alleged rape but I assure you she enjoyed herself.” Eddard said harshly.

Cersei never heard Eddard speak so harshly about anyone, not even the Mad King. “I didn’t love her.”

She finished washing him, even his brown hair, which was growing fast. They went to her chambers again and settled in the bed. Cersei didn’t bother to do any of her nightly rituals. She slept naked against an equally naked Eddard who was asleep as soon as his head touched the white fluffy pillows.

Chapter Text

Jon was back on his feet in no time. Cersei noticed little changes; he was more reserved but not less loving to her or his father. It was three months after his fall when Lord Stark received the raven. “Robert and his family are coming to Winterfell.”

“King Robert. He’s the king.” Cersei reminded him gently but Eddard took no heed. King Robert was his oldest friend and comrade. Cersei read the letter once her lord husband went to see matters of the stables.

Jaime wrote to her too. His letter was filled with suggestions and love proclamations. Cersei steeled herself and remained strong in her resolve to rebuke any advances from her twin brother. Lannisters paid their debts after all.

The day the king and his party arrived at Winterfell was cold, colder than usual. The king looked older but still handsome. The queen was radiant with her red shiny hair, and clear blue eyes. Her children looked healthy and every bit royal. Myrcella and Lyanna looked beautiful with their lovely read hair and blue eyes. They were all Tully. Cersei was a gracious host and smiled. She wore a real smile when she saw Jaime and even Tyrion who looked completely dejected for some reason or other.

“Ned Stark.” Robert hugged her lord husband and clapped him in the back. “Take me to her.” Cersei looked quietly as the queen clenched her jaw. Lady Stark deflected this insult to the queen with grace that the monarch did not possess.

“Your grace, may we go inside? The princesses must not be exposed to this weather.”

The queen smiled and recovered, “Thank you Lady Stark. I see your son is rather used to the snow.” Cersei looked at Jon who chased after a dog. She was going to have Farlen’s head; she didn’t want Jon playing with the dogs anymore. “Of all days, he had to play today”. She thought.

She gestured to Myra to pick Jon from the snow. Jon hated being restrained and only let Cersei or Eddard hold him. He squirmed and fought her. Cersei decided to avoid a bigger scene and took Jon from the servant girl, “Forgive me your grace.” She smiled gently.

She didn’t fail to notice Jaime and Tyrion’s stare all the way to the hearth of Winterfell. The royal party enjoyed lunch, there was to be a celebration later that day in commemoration of the king’s visit. The princesses and Jon were taking their naps when Cersei had her first taste of the real Catelyn and not the well-bred queen. They were by the east wing doing some needlework.

She thought the queen to be happy if not conventionally content with her life as the queen of Westeros. She was powerful after all. She was queen, the highest a woman in Westeros could achieve.

Catelyn Tully wasn’t happy or content. “Lovely country.” She remarked. There was as storm brewing. Eddard had taught her the signs by now.

“It has its charms.” Cersei offered politely. She was demure in her manners; the queen was gentle, if a little boring in her demeanor.

“I thought it would be colder inside the castle.” The queen said.

“I thought so too at first but Eddard explained why but I never quiet cared enough.” She said with a practiced air of complicity.

“I was to be Lady Stark.” The queen said sadly. Cersei didn’t know if she liked the somewhat wistful tone.

“Now you’re queen.” Cersei smiled and was pleasantly surprised when the queen smiled too.

“You must be happy to have given Lord Stark an heir.” The queen stated. Cersei was caught off guard because there wasn’t any trace of falsehood in the queen’s voice or tone.

“I am. Jon is a very good boy.”

“I wish I could give Robert a son. I hope this one is a boy.” The woman said happily as she rubbed her flat belly.

“I’m sure you will give king Robert many sons your grace.” Cersei said dutifully.

“Call me Catelyn please.” The women spoke quite some more until it was time for the feast.

Jon and princess Myrcella were close in age and playing in her solar with Myra and the royal nursemaids.

Cersei decided to wear a Lannister red gown with some fine golden earrings and jewels. She let her hair in one of the braids she had seen ladies of the North wear. Her green eyes sparkled. She looked beautiful.

She waited for Eddard. He looked like Eddard always did dour and perfectly dressed. “My lady.” They descended to Winterfell’s great hall. She was a gracious host and greeted all of Eddard’s banner men. They weren’t too keen on her at first but with time they realized she wasn’t leaving and decided to make peace with her.

The king and the queen arrived shortly after them. King Robert proceeded to drink and talk with the men. Eddard was included in that little party. Tyrion was nowhere to be seen. Jaime looked at her from his place by the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy. The celebration was well on its way. The king was pawing at some kitchen maid. The queen’s eyes followed the uncouth sight of Robert Baratheon touching the girl’s large breasts. “Forgive Lady Stark, it's time Anna took her milk." The queen stood up. For a moment she was confused and then understood that Catelyn referred to the youngest princess. It must pain the queen to call her blood and flesh the name of a dead woman. A dead woman that still consumed the king's heart.

"I'll show you the way your Grace. These halls are completely different without the light of day." Cersei left the festivities with the queen.

"You are very kind Cersei. May I call you Cersei?" The queen asked softly.

"Of course your Grace."

"Catelyn." The red headed woman replied.

They walked to the queen's quarters. "I see you keep your own chambers. I do too." The Queen checked on her children while Cersei put a cranky Jon to sleep. Myra looked as hopeless as usual, "I'm sorry lady Stark but the lordling was quite determined to not sleep."

"Forgive me Catelyn. He took a fall last year and only sleeps when I sing to him. I had hoped today's festivities tired him out." Jon settled on her shoulder and his grey eyes looked warily at the queen.

"He looks just like Eddard and so much like my Bran." The queen cried.

"He shouldn't have died. I thought I could understand Robert. I can't. He mourns her, he calls her name every time he takes me." The woman was so unfortunate. For the first time Cersei was happy she wasn't queen. This woman was so unhappy, and to be humiliated by that great oaf of a man. The thought of Eddard calling someone else’s name while he took her made her grimace internally.

"You are a queen." Cersei offered. Catelyn dried her tears and took her free hand. "Jon, after Jon Arryn?"

"Yes, my lord husband thought it fitting." Cersei said.

"You must be so tired after such a journey. Sleep well my Queen." Cersei retired and instructed Myra to take care of the queen.

"I should listened to Old Nan and sent you back to the Rock." She said as a last warning to Myra.

"You won't have a complain m'lady." The woman said nervously.

Cersei walked to her own quarters. It was quite late; the feast should be finished by now. She carried a sleepy Jon. "Hush now pup." The baby whined sleepily.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and almost dropped Jon to the ground. She turned to face her attacker and found herself face to face with Jaime. He looked as handsome and strong as she remembered. She would have broken her promise had Jon not been with her. She cursed when he kissed her. She let herself enjoy one last kiss. Jaime noticed something amiss and stepped back.

"So this is Stark's bastard." He sported one of his smirks.

"Don't call him that." She growled. "His name is Jon and he's not a bastard."

"So the world believes but we know better don't we sweet sister." He actually laughed.

"Very clever of you to tell Stark to legitimize the spawn. All the Seven Kingdoms believe that pup is your first-born. Neither Robert nor father will clear the misconception. Father is angry, he does not approve of you not contributing to our legacy but he is rather furious with Tyrion at the moment.

Cersei appreciated the information her twin gave her. Jon would inherit the Rock too. She didn't know how she felt about that. It certainly tasted like victory. Tywin Lannister, the richest man in all of Westeros would die and leave his entire "legacy" in the hands of a wolf.

She smiled and Jaime took it as an incentive. He tried to kiss her neck. Jon whined at being squished and this time it was her who stepped back.

"I can't." She said simply, trying to not show how much it hurt to say the words aloud.

"Give the bastard to one of his maids. I found a place."

"No, I can't. And I told you, don't call him that." She said sharply.

Jaime tried to place a soothing hand on her arm. "Don't be scared Cersei. This will be quick, where's your sense of adventure?"

"I don't want to." She said and walked a few meters before she felt him yanking her again. He was going to leave bruises if he continued with his behavior. She was getting angry now.

"Cersei, what are you doing? If you are afraid you needn't be. King Robert will probably entertain Stark until morning." Her twin was annoyed, not used to her refusing him.

She shook her head and then decided to break his heart. This was best for both of them. She had an oath to keep. "I don't want you as my lover. You are my brother, my twin but I love my husband." She conveyed all the disgust and regret she should feel for him.

Jaime laughed, "Is this a jape?" When he saw that her face remained unchanged all the mirth left his face. She could see the rage in his green eyes so like hers.

She walked up again, intent in reaching her quarters. Jaime followed her. "Stop. Go to the king. I am sure Selmy is looking for you."

"You will have to drop your son sooner or later and then we will be able to have words." Her twin persisted with an edge to his tone. He stressed the word son.

She went into her quarters and closed the door behind her. She placed Jon on his crib and wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and go to sleep but she heard Jaime shouting, "If you don't come out of those bloody rooms. I'll tear down the door and wake up the whole bloody castle." Her brother was serious.

Cersei left the room and was taken aback when Jaime kissed her passionately again. "You love me, I know you do. Don't be afraid Cersei, we can run away."

She pushed him away with her hands, "and then what? You'll be a sellsword? We'll be poor, living with the common folk. Oh I'll look pretty as a tavern wench. What then Jaime? Do you think father will approve of our union?" She didn't fake the sarcasm or the disdain. She was Cersei Lannister, not some peasant. She was a lady, of noble birth. She wouldn't sacrifice it all for Jaime or any other man. Jaime was angrier than she expected. He shook her body. “You can’t love him.”

“He’s my husband what did you expect? It was bound to happen.” She shook free of him when she heard Eddard’s voice and laughter.

Chapter Text

It was his laughter; the sound was loud and strange. Eddard rarely laughed, he only did so when Jon made animal noises.

He was in his cups it seemed by the way he swayed and came to her. He kissed her right on the mouth. “Cersei, my lady wife.” He slurred as he kissed her again. She kissed him back for Jaime’s sake and her own. This was a complete stranger who was demanding and wanted her. Jaime needed to hear this; he needed to know that she belonged to another man. She moaned when Eddard tugged at he hair. It was not hard to pretend. Her husband was virile and his hands were doing wonders tonight.

She gasped when his longer fingers tried to undo her gown roughly. She could feel his arousal through his breeches. “Ned stop.” She said breathlessly.

He groaned, “Call me Ned again.” She moaned when he tried to put his hand inside of her gown. She forgot about Jaime. Cersei had never heard her lord husband voice so passionate.

“I want to touch you my lady. I have seen my son touch your lovely teats and I must admit I’ve grown quite jealous of him touching you.” He whispered slowly and bit her neck again. She looked to the side and was pleasantly surprised when she enjoyed his ministrations. Lady Stark wanted Eddard to make her forget. Jaime was nowhere to be seen, she exhaled a sigh of relief and closed her eyes when Eddard pushed the door open and closed it with a slam. Cersei groaned when she heard Jon whimper. Eddard ripped her gown, he grabbed the front and suddenly she was in her shift. He growled again. She could hear Jon whimper again. “Your son is about to wake up Eddard.” He grabbed her right breast and kneaded softly. She gasped, it felt so good to have his hands on her body again. The last time he took her was before she accepted Jon as the heir of Winterfell. They worked well in the bedchamber. She heard him growl at her and they tripped against some useless furniture no doubt. “Be quiet, he’ll wake up if you make noise.” She whispered.

“I want to hear you scream my lioness.” He tugged at her shift until it joined her ripped gown. She was naked in front of him; there were lines in her stomach from when she had been pregnant with Joffrey. She wanted to cover but Eddard didn’t give her time. He pulled his tunic up and his breeches down. He cursed when he forgot his heavy boots. Cersei looked at his body with desire. She wanted to have him; it had been such a long time since she felt his weight over her. She looked to his proud erection and felt herself become wetter. Jon again whimpered but he was sound asleep. “Not here. I don’t want the babe to hear us.” She said and pushed the door to his chambers open. She had never been inside of them but knew her husband slept through there. His quarters were minimally decorated, she didn’t take it all in because in matter of seconds Eddard was completely naked and pushing her to a big warm bed. The bed felt like a fluffy cloud would feel like. She was delighted when Eddard mounted her. She was so wet, and her husband kissed a trail of fire to her intimate place. He kissed her there, passionately without restrain. Cersei closed her hands around his hair and pulled. She cried out when his tongue delved deep into her crevices. She saw stars and whined when he licked her over stimulated parts. Eddard pleasured her in ways she hadn't experienced before.

Her lord husband was extremely adept at pleasuring her quickly. Whenever he came to her bed he had been swift with his ministrations. He usually used his fingers first and then entered her. She enjoyed herself but longed for something else. That night Cersei finally comprehended what was missing. She needed passion, this man wasn't her stoic, proper and honorable lord husband. This was a man who desired her; he wasn’t licking her and bruising her hips with his grip out of duty. Eddard brought her to a world stopping orgasm when his tongue laved that special place. She fisted his hair once again and said his name in a strangled gasp.

He looked up from her mound. His eyes were the darkest she had seen. They looked like one of those grey snowstorms that happened so frequently in the North. “Call me Ned again.” He pinched one of her nipples and then looked at them lasciviously. “I want to bite and lick them.” He was disinhibited and didn’t wait for a response out of her. She was used to him being polite and asking for things. She felt her toes curl when he licked her left nipple and blew air on it. He bit it and then proceeded to suck. She arched to him and bared her chest to him. She wanted to rub her legs together and ease that delicious tingle between her legs but Ned pulled her legs apart and finally entered her. She was sufficiently wet to gasp and enjoy his harshness. He pulled at her hands and thrust oh so deliciously hard and fast.

“Gods.” She murmured and came with a force unknown when he bit at her neck. Eddard pumped inside of her like a man possessed and she felt no shame. She loved and encouraged him to take her harder, faster. Ned thanked her, promised her things, and told her how good she felt around him. Cersei was sweaty, tired and sated. Her lord husband had her four more times that night. He was insatiable, he licked, bit, touched all of her. He even pulled her hair when he took her in all fours. Cersei was taken aback when Ned told her to get on all fours. She did so only after he coaxed her with his mouth. She trashed and screamed when he pounded her into the featherbed. He pulled at her half loose braid, tugged at it until it came loose completely. He growled and slapped her right ass cheek as he came. He put his mouth to good use after that and she was so aroused, she felt so desired she helped him get aroused with her mouth too. She never thought she would do that to anyone other than Jaime but she sucked and played with her lord husband’s cock like a proper whore. He told her so; he smirked when he saw her surprised face. He laughed a dirty laugh and when he was sated he pulled her back to his chest, his hand over her mound, in a rather possessive gesture.

She woke up when a servant called her, “Lady Stark.” the woman said urgently. Cersei was naked, a pair of strong arms held her. She gasped when she saw one of Jon’s nursemaids in front of her. “M’lady, the little lord is having a proper tantrum. He’s asking for you.” The woman said a little fearfully.

Cersei could understand her hesitation. She was about to speak when she heard a rumble. “Leave. My son can wait a few more minutes. Have Luwin come at once.” Eddard groaned and tightened his hold on her. Cersei took notice of his hand in her left teat. He rolled a nipple gently.

She didn’t know how to react to her husband. Last night had been very satisfying for her and him too. She didn’t know if he would return to his cold demeanor. “Cersei, I apologize. I was not a true gentleman last night.” He said in the gentle voice she was used to. His fingers traced over her teat. She turned around and saw his tired face, he wasn’t as dashing as Jaime but he was handsome. He was manlier, gruffer, his body had more scars and he didn’t care much for his appearance. “You have nothing to apologize for Ned.” She used the nickname and it changed his demeanor somewhat. “I like it when you call me Ned.” He said and the grey in his eyes turned darker. He closed the gap between them and kissed her softly. The kiss progressed rather quickly until a knock on the door interrupted them.

“That has to be Luwin. My head is pounding, I shouldn’t have let Robert talk me into drinking so much ale and wine.” He said mournfully. “I am sure the king is regretting drinking so much too.” She said with a placid smile, she was surprised to note it wasn’t rehearsed at all.

She was sore in places she hadn’t been sore in quite a while. Maester Luwin brought need some tea for his aches. Cersei put on one of his husband’s robes and left to attend to Jon. The Stark heir was in tantrum mode this morning. “Mamma, mamma, mamma.” He screamed. Cersei glared at the handmaiden, “Leave you useless girl.”

“My poor pup.” Jon smiled through his tears and hugged her legs. “You smell, a bath is in order Ser.”

She bathed the babe and waited until Myra filled a tub for her. She was scrubbed and pampered until propriety dictated she make an appearance in the Great Hall of Winterfell. She chose a green gown, her hair was loose, and she didn’t bother braiding it.

Jon was to have a play date with princess Myrcella later that afternoon. Her lord husband was in the Hall breaking his fast with king Robert who looked unaffected by his exploits the night before. Queen Catelyn smiled at her; the little princess was eating a soft-boiled egg. Jon saw his father and ran to him. “Papa, papa.” He tripped on the steps. He looked back at Cersei as if to know whether it was safe to cry. She remained smiling and Jon got up on his chubby legs. He ran to his father waiting to be picked. Ned smiled pleasantly and scooped him from under the table. “Up we go lad.” He sat Jon on his lap. Cersei chuckled when Jon tried to grab some oatmeal with is fists. She sat next to her husband. She was relieved by the absence of her younger brothers. “Your graces.” She addressed the royalty.

Jon continued with his antics. Cersei was a little mortified by the little lord’s behavior. Ned and the king laughed uproariously when the babe tried to grab some black bacon and throw it at Ser Barristan. “Let me.” She smiled at Ned and grabbed Jon. She seated him and fed him some oatmeal with some soft bread. She ate her fill and spoke with the queen about fashion and children rearing.

“Ned does not want me to coddle Jon so much but I almost lost him last year to a bad fall. I have been trying to explain to him but he doesn’t understand.” Cersei said to the queen. “Last week, he they went riding, said he needed time with his father to learn about the weirwoods. He’s a baby.” She laughed trying lift the queen’s spirits. Lord Tywin Lannister taught her to keep her network of allies and friends charmed but the queen was anything but. “I should hope Robert spent any time with his daughters. He ignores them most of the time.” Cersei didn’t say anything more. Ned took special care with Jon. After that afternoon in his quarters he had built an indestructible bond with the dark haired child.

The kings stayed in Winterfell for three weeks. Cersei learned many things; first the queen was miserable, and prayed night and day for a son. The king had at least three bastards. One in the Eyrie and two in King’s Landing, he was too prone to drinking and whoring. She learned that Catelyn’s love for him diminished every day. Tyrion was to remain in Winterfell for the rest of the year. He wed a whore; Cersei almost pissed herself laughing when her father wrote her about it. She wasn’t too happy about having him but so far the Imp had been out of her way. He drank too much, read too much and by some of the whisperings she heard frequented the local brothel too much.

Jaime hadn’t spoke to her since that night outside of her quarters. He was too hurt and enraged, the day the royal party left Winterfell had been sad indeed. “Good bye sweet sister.” He kissed both her cheeks and hugged her. Cersei hugged him back. Ned patted her shoulder, “you will see him again my lady. There will be plenty of opportunities.” Her husband thought her sad because she missed her brother. She was sad because she said goodbye to the love of her life, the only man she could ever truly love.

Days passed, Tyrion sulked away from her. She didn’t care; it wasn’t like lady Stark had time to tease her baby brother. She was too busy taking care of Jon and surprisingly Winterfell. Ned gave her more responsibilities now. She was in charge of running the castle and its surroundings. She of course excelled at it; she felt powerful in the North and was starting to see the benefits of being Lady Stark. The common folk didn’t love her as much as they did her lord husband but they respected her and little by little she felt as if she gained some of their affection.

She corresponded with the queen and her lord father. Tywin demanded she produced an heir as soon as possible. She didn’t heed any of it; she had requested moon tea from maester Luwin. The thought of losing another child cut her deep. Ned didn’t know about the tea but Cersei didn’t find him too keen on having another child. They had Jon and he would be enough. She pitied the queen; she had given birth to another girl by the name of Alayne. Tyrion stayed with them until the Greyjoy rebellion. Father summoned him back to Casterly Rock, no doubt with the hope that he would die while making the trip to the Westerlands.

Chapter Text

Jon was two years old when the king asked Ned to hold the North. Ned was to attack Pyke and stop the Greyjoys from taking Moat Cailin. Her husband would march with the strength of the Starks, Karstarks, Manderlys and Mormonts. They were ready to part within two weeks after the King declared the Greyjoys to be rebels. The night before they were to battle the Iron Islands was clear and calm. Spring was finally arriving. She brushed her hair delicately, Jon now slept in his own room. Ned insisted the boy needed his own space and also reminded her that he was no ordinary boy but the heir to Winterfell. “You coddle him too much.” She hadn’t spoken to him in a fortnight. He hadn’t visited her chambers during that time either. She was not surprised when she heard the door open. Her lord husband looked at her and then to the bed.

She wouldn’t make things easier for him. Ever since the King’s visit they had rekindled their sexual relationship. The sex benefited them both, he was more passionate and disinhibited, they talked more after sex and it was not out of duty anymore. He was stubborn but so was she. Cersei looked at her aroused lord husband in the middle of the bed and decided to play with him too. She brushed her long blonde hair for another few minutes until she was happy to hear him growl. “Come to bed Cersei.” She gasped when she felt him lift her from her chair.

She remained quiet even when he pushed her gown down. He and his lips aroused her. He nibbled on her collarbones. She remained passive, she knew he hated that; this man was all fire and instinct under that cold exterior and polite demeanor of his. “Jon is not a baby anymore.” He whispered and rubbed her small back. He wanted soft and gentle. “This could be our last night together love.” He never called her love. She looked into his grey eyes and wanted to hurt him. He loved her. She wanted to weep because she didn’t love him. Things would be easier if she loved him.

He kissed her gently, teasing her lips open and trying to coax her. She moved her lips slowly too. “I love you my lioness.” He said as he pulled her to bed. She was happy here but didn’t love him. She didn’t love him and it saddened her. She forgot about his slights against her person. Mayhaps this was their last night, she would give him what he wanted or at least she could try.

He lowered her to the feather bed and took his time with her body. She didn’t have to pretend to enjoy him. She did, she liked when he mouthed her, his strong hands on her breasts, squeezing, his mouth biting, teasing. She sighed and moaned when he entered her. He knew her body very well and took delight in pleasuring her. She moaned, sighed, trashed until she begged him to stop. “Ned, please, no more. I can’t.” She whined; he was soft, maddeningly slow and relentless. She was spent but Ned wasn’t, “I might not come back my love. I want to have the memory of your body fresh in my mind. I want to have your taste in mouth when I fight those iron men.” Her husband thrust slowly and spent himself inside of her. He crushed her under his weight and only moved when she squirmed. “Do you really believe you could die?”

“I was in a war before my lioness. I know how easy it is to die.” He said with his eyes closed completely relaxed. He called her lioness on occasion and always in the bedchamber. She enjoyed it but the word love. That was different, that was intimate, and she was his love. She didn’t want to be his love.

They slept side by side; he sought her once more before dawn broke. He was to go after the first rays of sun. She woke up to his mouth on her. “Good morning lady wife.” He said before he took her lips with his own. She barely had time to register movement when he slid between her legs. He pumped inside of her lazily; she had her pleasure with him earlier. Now it was his time. He ravaged her neck and shoulders. She arched her back, her lord husband was not interested in her pleasure but seeing him reduced to this mass of lust of flesh aroused her more than advisable. She wrapped her legs around his hips and enjoyed his growls. He was keeping a slow pace. “Faster Ned, please faster.”

“No,” he growled and thrust deeper. She opened her eyes and saw the movement in the door. She shrieked and Myra echoed her shriek. The servant girl was immobile by the door. Ned showed no signs of stopping, instead he thundered, “Leave now.” Myra never heard the Lord of Winterfell raise his voice she sped off away.

Cersei tried to move and talk to the girl but Ned held her to the bed and pumped faster. She closed her eyes and moaned, “Ned, she could tell people.”

Ned smirked, “She should have knocked, let us be kitchen gossip my love. Let the kitchens maids, the handmaidens know how much you please the Lord of Winterfell. I am sure such gossip will never reach your noble ears.” He groaned when she raked her fingernails over his back. She climaxed around him in a great shudder, carrying him over too. She was breathless under him. He wore the biggest, most sated smile on his face.

She was about to mount him when they heard someone behind the doors. “My lord. We ride in less than five minutes.” Ned kissed her deeply. “I want to see our son before I go.” Cersei nodded and put on grey robes. Ned never said our son. He usually called him his son. She went to Jon’s room. “Wake up sweet pup. Your papa is going away.” She picked him up from the crib and tried to comb her fingers through his unruly dark hair.

Ned wore his armor, he held Ice with his right hand. Jorah Mormont, Rickard Karstark and Howland Reed were by the gates of the castle. Cersei held no illusions as that what they were thinking about her. Her hair was messy and she was sure Ned left marks the night before. Ned saw her as soon as she walked out of the castle. She wore a heavier cloak and had bundled Jon up too. It was cold still.

Ned picked Jon and kissed his forehead. “Be good for your mother little wolf.” Eddard laughed when the babe nodded and grabbed his cheekbones. He put the babe by his hip and then kissed her. It was a slow kiss. She kissed him back just as slowly. “Take care my love.” She nodded and cried because he called her his love and she couldn’t call him her love.

She truly became the Lady of Winterfell that week when Ned left. She ran all the affairs with maester Luwin advising her as much as he could. She lamented the fact that she was a woman for the hundredth time. She felt powerful in her husband’s absence. She oversaw all the details and preparations for the planting of the new crops now that spring was near. She was in charge of sending supplies to the Wall and managing the demands of the common folk. Maester Luwin commended her in her abilities to run a castle such as Winterfell and also be able to properly care for Jon who was melancholy because of Ned’s absence.

Cersei didn’t notice her lack of moon blood until after her third cycle. She met with maester Luwin who confirmed her fears. “My lady Stark this is wonderful news.” Cersei cried and shook her head. “I don’t want to. You can’t force me.”

She stormed out of the maester’s chambers and went to Jon. She clutched his sleeping body to her chest. She wept and lived in constant fear from then on, she passed her fifth month, she ate healthily and tried to rest as much as possible. This pregnancy was easy on her. She didn’t experience any nausea or any other malady. She had a lot of energy, unlike her previous pregnancies where she had been moody, easily emotional and sick but she was worried about her belly. She had been very sick with her second pregnancy and when she had been pregnant with Joffrey she had been tired, sick and too emotional for her liking. She was fine; the only changes she noticed were her swollen breasts and her rounded belly. She was in her fifth month when she felt the baby inside of her kick hard. Joffrey had been a kicker too. She wiped her tears she wouldn’t think about her dead son. Jon was by her and could feel the kicks too. Jon looked puzzled at her. “That is your baby brother Jon.” The two year old didn’t know the concept of brotherhood.

Cersei received ravens about the siege at Pyke led by her lord husband and the king. Ned hadn’t written anything. Her lord husband was too smart for that. It was general news, the iron born were weakening. She decided against writing him about the baby. Cersei did not want to say anything because of her history with pregnancies. She was terrified, she sought comfort with Jon; her little pup grew stronger and bigger every day. She watched as he played with wooden swords. He would play with some servant boys but Cersei didn’t like him playing with the common folk. There was nothing she could do because she was busier with Winterfell. At night she dared hope that the baby she was carrying arrived healthy and didn’t die. She thought about Jon, what if the baby lived and it was a boy? Could she love the baby more than she loved her pup? Her son was the true heir of the North.

She went to sleep that night and woke up screaming from a horrible nightmare. In her dream she gave birth to a boy. Jon and him grew up as brothers. Father came to visit when the boys were eight and ten years old. Tywin Lannister grabbed her hands and gave her a dagger. “Kill him, kill the bastard.” Cersei cried and looked at the boys who looked exactly the same only her flesh was shorter. “Mother.” Jon looked at her with hurt eyes and tears when she stabbed him in his heart. She woke up “JON OH JON.” She ran to the baby’s room and cried in relief when she saw him asleep in the small bed. Ned insisted in no cribs anymore. “He’ll be training with a sword next year.” He said and opposed to moving the crib to the new room.

She wiped the tears and thought about her unborn child. She knew at once that she wouldn’t, couldn’t kill Jon or strip him of anything. The child in the cot was as much hers as the one in her belly. Jon had saved her from despair, when nothing held importance to her Jon had brightened her life. Jon became her salvation and she couldn’t forget that. She would never cast him aside. She cried bitter tears of desperation. That night she realized how alone she was. She missed Eddard, after the King’s visit a year Ned had spent all his nights with her. She carried Jon and went to her bedchamber and tried to sleep but couldn’t. She stood up from her bed and went to Ned’s quarters and opened his wardrobes. They smelled of him. She put Jon on the bed and then put on one of his tunics. She hugged Jon and slept fitfully. After that night Cersei slept in Ned’s quarters. She let Jon sleep in his rooms however. She knew her lord husband was correct. Jon couldn’t be coddled too much. He was to be Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.

Chapter Text

By her ninth month Cersei was in constant terror. Ned was alive and well, he was to return to Winterfell in a fortnight or so she calculated. The Greyjoys had been reduced two months ago. Eddard Stark and King Robert took Great Pyke side by side. Balon Greyjoy bent the knee; his heir was to be a hostage in the Eyrie. Cersei couldn’t sleep; she anxiously waited for the agony of the birth. She was sure she would lose the child or it would be a stillborn. She felt a mighty kick one morning when she was at a meeting with Rodrick Cassel. She clutched her belly and panicked. The castellan noticed and sent for maester Luwin. The maester reassured her that it was just the baby trying to make his way out and that it wouldn’t be long before she felt labor pains. She went to Ned’s rooms and waited for the inevitable. She cried and was scared, not even the sight of Jon helped her. She felt the pains early next morning. She looked at the bed and found it wet. She was wet too. She yelled for maester Luwin. In less than thirty minutes she had an army of handmaidens, Old Nan and Luwin in the Lord’s quarters.

Old Nan put her hair in a plait. She thanked the woman and did all the maester asked. “My lady, I can see the baby’s head. Push, my lady, push.”

Cersei quietly winced at the pain but pushed, she was silent. She had been through this before. She expected Luwin’s sad eyes and gasps from the handmaidens. She didn’t expect the shrill cries of a baby boy. She opened her eyes and saw the delighted face of maester Luwin. “A boy. You have a healthy and strong son Lady Stark.” He said happily. Cersei laughed and cried at the same time. She wished Ned could be here. “I want to see him.” Old Nan handed her the baby. He cried mightily, he was an angry red little thing. He had dark hair just like Ned and Jon, he opened his eyes, and they were grey just like Jon’s when he was a baby.

“He’s a Stark.” Cersei said proudly. Never once she thought she would be proud of her son resembling a Stark. The baby resembled his father and brother. “I think he’ll have your cheekbones my lady.” Old Nan said with a toothless smile. She smiled back.

She delivered the after birth. Birthing was a messy ordeal but it was worth it to see the baby’s face. She was cleaned and bathed by her handmaidens. She fed the baby and asked maester Luwin about Jon. “Is Jon awake yet?”

“Yes, my lady and asking after you.” The older man said carefully. “Have Myra bring him at once. He should meet his baby brother.” She was sore and tired.

“Have you thought of a name your ladyship?” She nodded. “No, I want Ned to be here first.” She said softly caressing the baby’s little face.

Jon shyly peeked from the door. “Come sweetling, meet your baby brother.” The two and a half year old boy climbed the bed and watched the baby.

“He red mamma.” Jon said seriously with his most proper voice.

“Yes sweetling, he is red. Many pups are red when they come to the world.” She answered and cradled the baby’s head as he fed from her breasts.

“I pup.” Jon said with a furrowed brow. “Yes my love but now I have two pups. You have to protect your little brother, it is your duty as the eldest child my love.” She smiled and nodded when Jon gingerly kissed her face. Jon seemed entranced by the baby. He stayed with them in the clean bed. Cersei looked with delight at her sons one in her arms and the other asleep by her side. She closed her eyes with a smile on her face. She felt movement in the bed. She opened her eyes and saw Ned by her side. He wore a smile and kissed her slowly. “Thank you my lioness.” He said with a hushed voice. Jon and the baby were asleep.

“You have given me three beautiful sons.” She almost cried. Ned counted Joffrey and Jon as their sons.

She cried tears of joy when she saw his tears too. She kissed Ned, because she was happy he was here with her. “What should we name him?” She asked her lord husband.

“Whatever you desire my love.” She didn’t mind the epithet. “Robb, after your friend.” Cersei said proudly. It was slightly fitting she thought, without the King and his visit this child might have not been born.

Ned nodded, his eyes never leaving hers. “As my lady wife commands.” He kissed her brow.

It was announced that little Robb Stark had arrived healthy. The King sent his congratulations and did the queen. Tywin sent a short congratulatory note and urged for her to remove Jon Snow from Winterfell. The lady Stark wrote excuses and half-truths. Her lord husband had the child legitimized and the Seven Kingdoms believed him to be from her loins. Their family would be the laughing stock if the court knew Jon’s true parentage. She hoped to keep him at bay with those excuses. Cersei recovered from the birth and nursed baby Robb. Her rooms became the nursery again. Ned had her belongings moved to his quarters and they slept side by side every night. Ned told her about the battles in the Iron Islands, the new knights and also the celebrations. “I fear the king has a child in the Vale too.”

“Another child?” Cersei asked once she was done with Robb and Jon was safely put to bed.

“I didn’t know you knew about Mya.” Ned asked as she placed her head on his scarred chest. “The queen knows about them.”

“I pity her.” Cersei said while running her fingers over the pink tissue of his recent scars.

“You mustn’t speak that way my love.” She looked up and saw his saddened eyes. “Your friend is a dreadful husband. He doesn’t love our queen and lies with whichever wench he fancies.”

“I shudder to think it could have been me being the ridicule of the seven kingdoms.” She said honestly. She would have had Jaime kill him years ago.

Ned smiled, “You are not. You are Lady Stark of Winterfell. Mother to my two handsome sons.” She smiled when he kissed her neck and shoulders.

“How long do I have to wait my lioness?” He asked as he ran a hand over her leg. His eyes smoldered. She rather liked his interest. Cersei used her best innocent voice, “You don’t have to anymore. I went to maes…” She didn’t finish because Ned was on her again. She missed the closeness. It had been almost a year since he touched her intimately. “I have waited long enough Cersei. Every night I would go to sleep thinking of you and your hands. Your teats, your belly, your smell, your taste.” He nuzzled her neck and suckled on her neck. She raised her hands to his hair and moaned at his eagerness.

She giggled when his fingers touched her core and found her wet. She wanted to enjoy herself tonight. Cersei mounted him and played with his cock. “You were gone for almost a year lord Stark. Did you take any woman while you were in the Iron Isles?” Ned was honest to a fault, he was stubborn and thought every one should live by a code of ethics. He was compassionate but firm. He looked into her eyes and replied. “Not one. I took a vow Cersei and I will keep it.” His eyes darkened and he tried to overpower her under him but Cersei planted her arms around his shoulder blades and lowered her core to his cock. She undulated her hips but didn’t take him inside of her.

“Tell me about the battles.” She asked seductively.

He worried her lower lip with his teeth. “Robert and I met before sailing to the Isles. Stannis secured some of the isles while Barristan singlehandedly took another one. Robert and I took Pyke and forced Greyjoy to surrender.” He gave her a description.

She rolled her eyes and smiled when he looked puzzled, “I knew that, we did get your ravens. I want to know what did it felt like to go back in battle.”

Ned laughed and she laughed too. “Do not laugh. I want to know. Jaime could never describe it properly.”

“It is exciting, there is a rush of power and knowledge that you could be gone at any second. There is fear but you feel triumphant when your enemy is down.” He said and massaged her back.

She smiled and kissed him. She wanted to feel powerful too. She trailed kisses down his chest and the pink scars. She lowered his face to his proud erection and licked him from tip to base. She loved when he tightened his hold on her blonde locks. He was about to explode but pulled her up. “I want to be inside of you.” She rode him hard.

When they were done and she was on his chest kissing the scars she giggled and looked up. He was utterly relaxed, toying with her long hair. “I used to switch places with Jaime when we were young. No one could tell us apart.” She boasted. Ned didn’t like to speak about her family much but he endured it for her sake. Oddly enough he was fond of Tyrion. He despised her father and Jaime for what they did in King’s Landing.

“I used to train with swords until father found out. He hit Jaime and made me watch.” Cersei said sadly.

Ned kissed her forehead, “you must have been formidable.” He said and she kissed him on the mouth.

“I was. Jaime and I used to fight with swords all the time until I grew these.” She looked down to her breasts.

Her husband touched them, “I am rather fond of them but I could see how they could get in the way.”

“Well, it does not matter now. I am a lady and will never fight in any battles.” She sighed. Ned kissed her lips, “say the word my love and you shall have your own master at arms to train you.”

Cersei kissed him hard. Her lord husband did have a way with his words when he chose to use them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

She was with child again when king Robert asked her husband to join him at Riverrun for a celebration. It had been six years since Rhaegar fell at the Trident. Jon was four and Robb two years old. Cersei was in her fourth month. Ned had wanted to refuse but Cersei convinced him otherwise. “I want to go south.” It was the first time she actually wanted to leave Winterfell. She missed some of the courtesies of the south and truth be told she wanted to see Jaime and aunt Genna.

Ned had wanted to leave Jon in the castle. There should always be a Stark in Winterfell. It was rather coincidental that Benjen had suffered an injury and needed to be tended by maester Luwin. Ned had not wanted to ride south. Cersei convinced him otherwise. “No, we are all going south.” She said firmly “Benjen is a Stark. There is your Stark in Winterfell.” She rubbed her belly and Ned acquiesced. He didn’t want anything to go wrong with her pregnancy. She had never thought she would be pregnant again. She noticed when she had nausea and tried to hit Ned upside the head because Jon got a scratch on his face while training.

They travelled south with all their necessities. Jon and Robb played side by side with their wooden blocks and their swords. Well Jon tried to explain the games while Robb tried to tackle him to the floor of their wheelhouse. Ned rode ahead, he couldn’t be bothered to ride with them. Cersei understood he husband’s need to be in open spaces. Day after day they shed more of their furs. Robb and Jon liked the weather and played all day by the sun. She wore her lighter gowns; she now wore more blues and greys. The colors flattered her increasing girth. She hated travelling and her only comfort was that soon she would be in a castle. She would sleep on a feather bed with Ned to warm her. Her husband came to her at nights and asked her about her day and the boys. Cersei complained and he listened quietly, he soothed her feet and listened. Ned was too quiet sometimes. They were three weeks away from reaching the Tully’s stronghold when she felt the baby move.

She smiled and stood up from her furs and pillows. She left her tent, Myra watched over Robb and Jon. “M’lady you shouldn’t get up.” Cersei ignored her and walked out looking for Ned. She wanted Ned to feel her belly. She found him laughing with Ser Jorah Mormont and one of the Umbers. “My lady.” Ser Mormont was the first to rise and bow.

“My lords, forgive me for I can’t properly curtsy.” She rested a hand on her big belly.

Ned came close to her and away from his banner men. “My love, are you unwell?” His eyes concerned and his hands went to her face. “I’m fine.” She grabbed his hand and led him deeper into the forest. The baby kicked up a storm.

They were by a river and big trees when She rested on the trunk of a big tree. “Feel this.” She put his hand on her belly. Ned smiled and kneeled. He kissed her belly. “Does it hurt?” he asked gently and followed the movements of her belly.

“No, but it will once the baby grows some more.” She said enjoying the fact that she knew something he didn’t. She liked the way he was with her during this pregnancy. He was aloof and barely interested when she was heavy with Joffrey and absent when she was pregnant with Robb.

“Boy or girl?” She asked gently. She wanted another boy; Robb and Jon were so sweet and loving. They would grow to be powerful men, rulers of Westeros. They were her pride.

Ned looked up to her and wistfully said, “girl. A girl as beautiful and magnificent as you are.” Cersei felt an odd thrill at his words. Ned wasn’t one to wax on poetic about her. He only let her know that he loved her when they were alone, in the bedroom and he was too far-gone to care about propriety or anything for that matter.

The king and his party were set and the celebrations began before they arrived to the stronghold. The queen greeted them with all her three daughters. She was heavy with child again. The princesses; Myrcella, Lyanna and Alayne all redhead and blue eyed beauties, Cersei put on her best smile. Ned dismounted his horse and helped her out of her carriage. She smiled at the queen and waited as her sons jumped from the carriage. Jon was the perfect picture of propriety; he bowed in front of the queen. “My queen.” He said trying to sound grown up. Robb was another matter completely. He looked at all the princesses and the queen with distrust.

The queen was taken with the children and they decided to go into her solar to talk. “Oh you must come to King’s Landing. Lysa and Jon Arryn couldn’t be here. She had another miscarriage.” The queen whispered sadly. The queen explained that it was her fourth miscarriage in two years. Lysa only had little Sansa who had come with the queen to the festivities. They spent all afternoon gossiping. The queen looked happy, happier than she had ever seen her. “I’m sure this one is a boy.” She said happily. Cersei told her about Ned’s hopes and Catelyn’s smile faltered. “If only Robert could be like your Ned.”

Cersei noted that her brothers were in attendance too. She had seen Jaime and her heart beat a little faster. Tyrion could be with whores or his books for all she knew.

“Sweet sister. I would like to meet my newest nephew.” Tyrion said a little drunkenly. She admonished him; they were in an empty hallway. “You shouldn’t be drinking. Why are you always drinking? Where’s father?” She asked hardly bothering to greet him. Jon and Robb were curious about their uncle.

“As charming as always I see.” Tyrion drank more from his wine cup.

“Why are you so little uncle?” Jon asked. Cersei put a protective arm in his shoulder and waited for Tyrion to do something nasty as he always did.

“I don’t know Lord Stark, but I shall tell you when I learn the answer.” Tyrion patted the boy’s head. Robb tried to reach for him and touch his face. Her younger son was too amicable to his uncle for her liking. He wasn’t like Jon who was wary of strangers. Robb distrusted first and then threw himself at whatever stranger he liked most.

“Father has not arrived.” He swayed, “I’m going to find that redheaded whore who looks so much like our queen. They must be related.” He scampered away. “Tyrion.” Cersei exclaimed scandalized that he used such language in front of her sons.

“Mother, what is a whore?” Jon asked as they walked to their quarters for the event.

“Don’t say that word again pup. Your uncle doesn’t know any better. He should be having classes with the septas and the maesters.” She said quietly. Jon hated lessons with the septas. He preferred to be training with swords and riding.

Cersei walked with her children to her quarters she was glad when she found Jaime in a darker hallway. “What is it with us and dark passages?” Jaime said with a trace of irony in his voice. She smiled, she didn’t care Jaime was there. He looked older but still as handsome as ever.

“Children meet your uncle Jaime.” Jon was especially happy to greet him. Cersei had told the children all the tales of her childhood and that uncle Jaime was a knight of the kingsguard. Ned hated it but couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t stop her. She was with them all day and would tell her babies all about the adventures she and Jaime had when they were children.

“Mamma says you are truly brave and protect the king and the princesses. She says that you slayed a dragon. Did you uncle? Did you kill a dragon?” Jon said bouncing on his heels. Jaime looked at her with puzzled eyes.

“Answer him.” Cersei continued and waited. Jaime liked children and broken things. He loved Tyrion even after he killed their mother.

“Yes, but I didn’t slay a dragon.” Jaime said.

“May I see your sword?” Jon’s eyes gleamed. Her brother unsheathed his sword and her son gasped in awe of the blade.

“Ohh.” Jon said.

Robb watched the sword with the same awe but he could not keep his mouth shut. “Papa’s Ice bigger.” Cersei giggled.

Jaime looked utterly confused, “he means the sword. Ned’s sword is bigger.” Cersei said.

Her brother scowled, “meet Robb Stark.” She said and pushed Robb forward with her hands. His face changed as if reminded that she belonged to another, he looked at Robb with melancholy. “He has our nose and mayhaps our cheekbones but otherwise he’s a Stark.”

Jaime’s stare did not linger too much on either of his nephews. “Lovely children. Where is your lord husband this evening?” Jaime tried to feign nonchalance but it was obvious that he still wanted her.

Cersei had a long time ago realized how impossible their love was. She loved him but they could never be. She had an oath to keep and Ned didn’t deserve such treachery from her, regardless of her lack of love. Eddard would no doubt leave her and take the children from her. She wouldn’t be able to live away from her babies.

“He is waiting for us in our chambers.” She said with a forced smile as they came closer to the rooms in question.

“Sweet sister, I wish to have words with you if you please.” Jaime stopped before reaching the doors. Ned came from the other end of the corridor and the children ran to him. Ned laughed and lifted Jon up to his arms while picking Robb. “My lady, Ser Jaime.”

“Lord Stark.” Jaime said stiffly. The children ignored her and Jaime. “Papa, I saw the big river. Not like the rivers at home and there were a shack and a clearing and the water was not cold papa. I met mamma’s brothers too.” Jon chattered while Robb giggled when Ned jostled him.

Ned carried them to their quarters and closed the door behind him. “Sister.” He offered her arm and the walked the opposite way. Cersei knew she shouldn’t have but he was so close to her and she truly missed him. He never wrote after the king’s visit to Winterfell. “How far along are you?”

“Almost seven months.” Cersei said with a small smile. This was safe territory, she could speak with him just like when they were children, before they touched and kissed each other.

“You look ready to burst.” Jaime said honestly.

“Yes, my sons were big babies.” She answered with a laugh.

“I still love you Cersei.” He stopped and jumped in front of her.

“As do I brother but I love my children more.” She said truthfully. His eyes shone with hope that she would have to dash once again. In that moment she remembered why these walks were dangerous. He would make wild promises of escapes and the free cities.

“I have gold Cersei. We could run away take your son, sail across the narrow sea.” Jaime kissed her hands desperately.

“My sons.” She said a little forcefully.

“We’ll take the bastard too if you want.” Jaime said derisively.

“He’s no bastard. He’s mine, you best remember that sweet brother.” Cersei said coldly.

“What say you my Lady?” Jaime said with a smile as he tried to break the tension he created with a caress to her wrist.

“I say no Jaime. Ned would never stop looking for his children and me. Above all brother, I do not wish to leave his side. My children love their father. They would never forgive me if I took them away from him. Ned loves us, he would never forgive me." Cersei said and was surprised by her words. She did not want Eddard to think lowly of her. Ned was the only man who had given her any power. Jaime agreed to switch places with her because she dared him. As soon as her blood came Jaime treated her differently too. He refused to switch places. Jaime loved her; she knew that, he would kill for her. Ned would kill for her too, Ned would die defending her but he wouldn't do anything dishonorable. Her lord husband loved her and wanted to protect her but he trusted her too. Ned consulted with her. He made sure she could run Winterfell in his absence. He asked her counsel and valued her insights.

Jaime however thought of her as his, something to protect and cherish. Ned saw her as his partner, an equal. Cersei didn't feel less than her husband. Although it had never been his intention making her feel less Jaime was the golden child. His father shunned Tyrion and thought her stupid. Ned believed in her. She couldn't repay his trust and love with betrayal even if she didn't love him.

Cersei wanted to speak about something else. "Is it true that Lysa Arryn has another lover?"

Jaime thankfully took the hint and grabbed her arm as they walked. "No, she has the same lover since she came to King’s Landing."

Cersei didn’t care for such gossip but it was something to talk about when they were alone and still together. She asked about his life in King’s Landing, Jaime told her about it and they walked around the castle. She was growing tired of walking and wanted to lie down in bed. This baby was bigger than Robb and Joffrey had been.

“We should be heading back.” Cersei rested a hand on her belly.

Jaime avoided looking at her belly. She knew him better than he did himself. He thought that if he didn’t look at it would go away. This baby wasn’t going away; it was real just as real as her marriage to Eddard.

He kissed her cheek goodbye and lingered. Cersei did not begrudge him that contact. It was harder for him; he was alone. She had her children and Ned. “Good night sweet sister.”

Ned waited for her in bed. Robb and Jon were fast asleep in their cots. She sat down on the bed and asked for help to remove her dress and jewelry. Ned unlaced her dress and rubbed her back gently. She put on a white shift and lie next to her husband. “Did you have a nice conversation with your brothers?”

She nodded and closed her eyes. “I only saw Tyrion in passing. He was drunk and looking for whores. Jaime and I talked. Lysa Arryn has a lover.” Ned scowled. “I wouldn’t trust the kingslayer’s words.” Cersei scowled back and moved away from his chest. She turned to the wall. She felt his hands snake around her belly but didn’t say a word. “The Mad king would have killed you if Jaime hadn’t cut his throat.” She said harshly. “Don’t call him kingslayer again.” She closed her eyes and quieted. Ned rubbed her belly but didn’t say anything else.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

During the night she must have moved. She wasn’t used to not sleeping in Ned’s arms. She opened her eyes and caressed Ned’s chest and sighed when he kissed her head. “We must join the celebrations today. I heard your lord father might be here tomorrow. He comes from the Westerlands with your aunt Genna and her Frey husband.” Cersei raised her face to his and kissed him gently. “Good morning my love.” He said and rubbed her belly with his free hand.

She nuzzled his neck; she liked these quiet moments with him, before the children woke up and demanded their attention. “I hear the tourneys start today for the queen’s name day.” She said quietly lest the children wake up.

“Yes, Robert is to be in the melee.” Ned said with a yawn.

“I trust you will not participate.” Ned did not like to pretend, he never enlisted in any of the tourneys in the north.

“I will, Robert goaded me and I accepted. I will be jousting only while Robert will join in the melee.” Her husband said.

Cersei raised her head, “you hate tourneys. I had to beg you to hold one on your last name day.”

“Robert needed a distraction. This gives him a purpose, he drinks too much.” Ned said simply. “I joined only because he insisted. I do not intend to win.” She shook her head and attended to Robb who tried to climb down his cot.

She joined the queen and her daughters. Robb and Jon remained at her side. Tyrion joined them, “dearest sister.” The imp kissed her cheek and sat down between her sons who played a rather intricate game of knights.

“Your brother is quite colorful.” The queen said with an edge in her voice. Cersei nodded and changed the subject to pregnancy stories. They talked and then walked down to join the festivities in the castle grounds.

The children were left with the handmaidens and strangely enough Tyrion who did not wish to attend the tourneys. “King Robert will win in the melee. Ser Barristan or Jaime will be the jousting champion.” He said as he pretended to be a dragon for Robb’s sake. Cersei told Myra expressively to watch out for her brother and her children. “Make sure you are always by their side. I do not trust my brother.”

It was a sunny day, no clouds, perfect for a soak by the Trident. Cersei wore a purple gown while the queen chose to honor her house colors Tully blue and red. They waddled to their seats and amusedly observed the melees and the distractions. As predicted by her dwarf brother king Robert won the melee. Catelyn smiled tightly when the king kissed a servant girl who gave him a skin of wine. Cersei could not imagine the terrible shame the queen must feel every time that oaf pawed some woman. She was once again glad that Ned was an honorable man.

The jousts were cleaner and a more beautiful affair. Ser Barristan was elegant but lost to a formidable Jaime. Her lord husband defeated Ser Mormont and one of the Walders Frey that roamed the lists. Soon it was down to a couple of men. Cersei wondered if Ned had changed his mind and decided to fight. Her lord husband changed his mind indeed because he defeated the Hound and Ser Trant without much effort.

The final joust was between her lord husband and brother. She watched with some trepidation as both men faced off. Jaime was slighter and quicker but Ned was bigger and stronger. Their fighting techniques were sights to behold. Jaime attacked ferociously but Ned defended and gave no mercy. He did not give an inch of territory. They jousted and when it seemed Jaime was going to win Ned moved graciously and threw her brother from his mare. King Robert cheered and let out some expletives. Queen Catelyn smiled and grimaced at little. She smiled tightly. Ned was declared the champion of the tourney and was given the customary crown of flowers. It was a beautiful crown of wild red, yellow and white roses. He would no doubt give the crown to the queen for her name day. He approached their box. The queen smiled shyly. Cersei’s heart raced, “give the crown to her” she thought. He would know better, he should know better. Ned smiled at her and undid the crown.

“Yellow roses for my queen.” Catelyn smiled when he kissed her hand.

“Red and white roses for my love.” Cersei couldn’t help but smile when he kissed her gently on the cheek, too close to her mouth but not at all improper. A loud cheer erupted. The ladies swooned when Ned rode off.

“Your Ned is wonderful.” The queen said wistfully. Cersei smelled her roses. They smelled of summer.

“He loves you. How does it feel?” Catelyn asked as they waddled back to the castle. Cersei squeezed her hand, “the king adores you.” She tried but didn’t expect the tears the queen shed.

Catelyn led them to a quaint clearing. “He does not. He tolerates the girls and me. I hope this one is a boy. He needs an heir then my duty will be done and he can stop coming to my chambers.”

“He hurts you.” Cersei said in a small voice. Catelyn didn’t nod nor disagreed. “He’s very strong and sometimes he forgets that.”

“You have not answered Lady Stark.” Catelyn’s blue eyes looked at her with askance.

“He did not love me at first.” She said quietly, “Ned is honorable it is very easy to love him. He is quiet and sometimes stubborn but he’s gentle and he cares about me. He listens to me.”

Catelyn smiled, “Robert only visits my bedchambers. He whispers her name every time. I hate her so much. I never thought I would hate a dead woman so much.” She said bitterly.

“Lyanna changed all of our lives.” Cersei replied. Lyanna Stark was the reason why Robert and Ned rebelled.

The queen wiped her tears. “Robert will never love me and the little love I had for him is gone now. All I have is my girls and this little one. He is disgusting but he gave me my children and I love them. I would do anything for my girls.” There was a fierce glint in her eyes.

They went back to the castle. Cersei switched the subject once more for the queen’s benefit. They went to Catelyn’s quarters where the children played together. Jon and Robb were teaching Myrcella, Lyanna and Sansa how to play with swords. Alayne was asleep by her crib.

Jon and Myrcella seemed to be getting along quite well. “Baratheon and Stark together.” The queen said smiling. “She could be the new lady Stark. What do you think Cersei?”

She smiled, “It would be an honor for my Jon. Although we should wait a little at least until they both speak without a lisp.” Catelyn joined her in laughter.

That night she tended to her husband’s sores ad aches. “My champion.” She kissed the ugly red mark Jaime’s lance left by his ribs. He kissed her lips and sucked her lower lip. “You would have looked beautiful with all those flowers in your hair.”

Cersei liked it when he kissed her lower lip and bit her. She watched his shaved face, he shaved yesterday she liked that clean smooth face of his. “Wait.” She wore a green nightshift. It was almost transparent.

She grabbed the flowers he’d given her earlier and put them in her hair. “I have flowers in my hair my lord.”

“My lioness of Winterfell.” He growled and kissed her breathlessly. He barked a laugh when she tried to squirm under him. She tried to overpower him but he was having none of it. “A lioness subdued by a wolf.” She teased and touched his sore spots. He grimaced. “Be fair lioness.” He kissed her languidly. She kissed him just as languidly. They caressed and kissed each other until Ned fell asleep with his hands on her teats. She sighed, it could be worse; she could be with that Robert oaf. She shuddered and kissed Ned’s chest.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

Riverrun was bountiful and beautiful. All the lands were filled with animals and flowers. She was getting used to the weather; poor Ned didn’t like it. He hated the heat and the lack of snow. It was the fifth day of the celebrations when the Lannister host arrived to the Tully strongholds. Her father looked the same; he greeted them with a stiff nod. Aunt Genna however was all smiles and kisses. “Oh Cersei, you look beautiful. You look just like your mother when she was pregnant with you and Jaime.”

Cersei smiled and hugged her. “I have to meet my nephews.” The fat woman said. She was glad to see her again. Her father didn’t care for the children at all. He went straight to converse with Hoster Tully. He didn’t spare a glance at her. It was as if Jon and Robb were invisible. She did not want to think about her father and was glad he did not look at her children. Cersei Stark was wary of Tywin Lannister; the man who ordered the murder of the infant prince; heir to the crown. She led aunt Genna to the children’s quarters.

“These are my boys; Jon and Robb.” The royal party was with the septas in the needlework rooms.

“They’re all Stark.” Aunt Genna said as she kissed and hugged Jon and Robb. Jon made a face at being squeezed and pinched in the cheeks. Robb pinched and squeezed back as much as he could. “A feisty little wolf.”

Cersei laughed when Robb howled and Jon followed him. “They pretend to be wolves sometimes. It is entirely Ned’s fault, he encourages them.”

Aunt Genna laughed and grabbed her hands. She looked at her and asked, “Are you happy sweetling?”

“I am. Ned loves me and gave me Jon and Robb.” Cersei said, she was content and not even Jaime’s absence affected her as much as she thought.

Aunt Genna told her all the gossip of Casterly Rock. She told him about Tyrion’s whoring ways and uncle Gerion’s voyage to old Valyria. No one had heard from him in about two years. She also told him about the increasing debt the crown owed Casterly Rock. “Your father wants a sit in the small council but Jon Arryn refuses to budge.” She did not care too much about southern politics. It did not benefit her in any way. Ned was of the North and wouldn’t travel south. Tyrion held the lands of Casterly Rock as his. Father would eventually die after all; all men must die. He would be the Lord of the Rock. Robb would hold Casterly Rock. Tyrion would have no other heirs, who would marry the Imp? Jon would be Lord of Winterfell and this one in her belly would surely marry one of the princesses and be in King’s Landing as a lord or even king regent. If Robert did not produce an heir the throne would go to Stannis. She remembered the droll fellow; his wife was still childless. The north was vast and the Starks held most of it as theirs.

Their stay at Riverrun would come to an end in a couple of days. Ned grew restless in the south. She wanted to go to the Rock but Eddard refused to let her go. “No, you are heavy with child. I will be there when you birth this child Cersei.” He said firmly. They had been south for almost a month. It was two months and half since they left the North. He needed to return to their lands. Cersei pouted but understood his reticence. Ned only exchanged pleasantries with his father in law. He spoke only with Tyrion and invited him to Winterfell. Her dwarf brother surprisingly agreed. “I’ve always wanted to see the Wall.” She disliked the idea from the beginning but accepted when she saw the opportunity. Tyrion seemed to like her sons; he would bond with them and hold them in esteem. She hated Tyrion but he could be an asset. He could name Robb Lord of Casterly Rock as soon as father died.

Father didn’t spare a glance to the children. She was glad; Jon was at an age in which he understood the world. He asked why grandfather didn’t come to meet them yet. Cersei would have an excuse and was happy when she saw her father leave for the Reach two days after he arrived. Aunt Genna and her husband remained in the Tully castle. They would leave for the Twins in less than three days. Robert and Ned were hunting with most of his kingsguard but for Jaime and Trant who remained at the queen’s service.

Cersei, aunt Genna and the queen were embroidering clothes for the babies when she felt the water trickle down her gown. She hadn’t felt any pain but suddenly the baby moved and the pain started. She clutched her belly. “My baby is coming.” She gasped as another pain wracked her body.

“Oh Gods. Cersei we have to get you to the bed.” Aunt Genna helped her up. Jaime helped her too since aunt Genna couldn’t lift her.

She panicked when another pain hit her. “This is too soon. The baby is coming too soon.” She cried again, the pain was intense. She heard the queen order Ser Trant to fetch the maester and the midwives. “Ned, he has to here. I want Ned.” She yelled to anyone who could hear her. She couldn’t stand up so they tore her dress apart. Jaime was fixed behind her. “Get out of here boy. You shouldn’t be here, this is not a place for men.”

“I’m staying, she’s my sister. I’ll help her.” Jaime said with a tone that she knew all too well. He was not moving.

“Catelyn, please send for Ned.” She was scared; she wanted Eddard to be here. The baby wouldn’t live; it was too soon. She was just about eight months along.

The queen left the chambers quickly. She groaned again. It must have been more than fifteen minutes but Cersei thought that it was just a minute before the maester opened her legs and told her he could see the head of her baby.

She shook her head, "Ned has to be here. Catelyn, please find my Ned." The impulse to push was unbearable. Catelyn pressed a cold cloth to her forehead.

"I sent Edmure and his men after them. Do not worry Cersei." The Queen said gently.

She cried when the maester ordered a midwife to push down on her belly. "You must push or your babe will die." She cried but nodded. Ned had not been with her before; she had done this before. Jaime tried to sooth her but she shook her head. "Let me brother. You cannot help me here.”

Cersei grabbed onto the sheets and pushed with all her might. The old maester encouraged her until after three pushes she heard the cries of her newborn. "Thank the Gods." Jaime whispered.

"You have another son lady Stark." Catelyn said with tears in her eyes. "Give him to me." She still felt the need to push. She was used to pushing the after birth but this was different, her belly still moved.

"Another babe my lady." The maester laughed. He instructed her again. Cersei smiled and pushed. She would give Ned two new sons. "A beautiful girl." Aunt Genna said as she gave her the baby girl.

Cersei cried a little when she saw their little faces. They were beautiful; they had little tufts of dark blond hair, much darker than her tresses but lighter than Ned's dark hair. Her son opened his eyes. He had Stark eyes, grey just like his brothers. She looked at her daughter and was surprised to see her green eyes reflected. She smiled, her babies looked like her. She kissed their foreheads. "They're beautiful sister." Jaime kissed her forehead and for a second Cersei wondered how it could have been if these were his. She smiled but was interrupted.

"We have to clean them my lady and you need to bathe before your husband arrives." A midwife said. "Ser Jaime, it would be best if you left the room. This is not a place for you." The queen led him out of her quarters. Cersei did not have time to protest soon she needed to be cleaned and the babies were to be cleaned too. They took the babies to the nursery too.

Cersei rested in the clean bed sheets and asked the handmaiden to bring her babies. She was ready for them; she closed her eyes and heard the door open. Ned was breathless and ran to her. He had tears in his eyes. "I'm so sorry my love." He kissed her gently.

"I will not touch again Cersei, if that is what you desire but don't shut me away love. I could not bear it if you acted as when our first boy died." Ned said while he hugged her fiercely. She was about to ask him about his out of place behavior when it dawned on her. Her husband thought she had miscarried again.

"Ned, we are fine." She pushed his sweaty hair back. He must have run all the way from the gates. She kissed him. "The babies are fine." It was Ned's turn to look confused.

In came two handmaidens with her children. Ned's face lit up with joy. "You have a son and a daughter Ned."

He watched closely as the girls placed the babies in her arms. They helped her position them and in no time she was breastfeeding both of them. Ned watched as if in awe of her. She smiled and rejoiced in his look. He got the same smile when she presented him with Robb.

"Hold your son Ned." She gave him the grey-eyed child. He smiled, "he has my eyes and your nose." He kissed his forehead. "His name is Tommen." Cersei smiled. He listened to her, she had told him she wanted to have a son named Tommen when she was pregnant after Joffrey.

Tommen slept peacefully in his father's arms. Ned kissed her lips once more. "May I have that little lady?" He said and placed Tommen next to her. Her husband held the baby girl carefully and close to him. She had never seen so much happiness as when the baby opened her eyes. "She has your eyes my lioness." He chuckled. "Joanna Stark." Cersei sobbed. Ned placed Joanna next to Tommen in a safe place surrounded by pillows. She tried to move close to him. She wanted to hug him, kiss him, all of his face. She would kiss him all day if she could. “I called for you.” She thought he should know that.

“I rode as hard and fast as I could my love.” He kissed her lips once more. She was tired and wanted to sleep. She remembered that these were not her quarters. She was in the queen’s bedchambers. “I want to sleep Ned.”

She rested on his chest and fell to slumber. Cersei woke up to Robb’s excited giggles. “They small papa.”

“Do not get too close they could get very sick. Only mother can touch them properly for now.” She heard her husband say quietly. She was on her side. Jon and Robb were in a little stool trying to peer over the little cribs. She watched the sun set in the window. She was back in the quarters assigned to her.

“Ned.” She rasped. Her husband turned and put the children down. Their lord father had coached them because they gingerly made their way into the bed. Jon kissed her forehead. “Uncle Jaime said you were very brave.” She smiled and hugged him. Little gestures as this dispelled all doubts and unkind thoughts she had regarding this boy who became hers. She kissed Robb who tried to go with Ned. “I want see.” Her second oldest said.

“They are tired sweetling.” Cersei kissed his forehead. Ned cradled Joanna to him. She smiled Tommen was fast asleep. The queen smiled by the door. “My queen.” Cersei dutifully greeted.

“Your children are beautiful lady Stark.” She was the first of many visitors. Cersei laughed joyously when aunt Genna kissed her and congratulated her. “Your mother would be proud child.”

Lady Stark did not cry but at times like this she wished she knew more about Lady Joanna Lannister. She took the compliment and received more guests. Jaime and Tyrion made their way inside her chambers. The frequent visitors annoyed Ned. Cersei could not blame him. In Winterfell, when Robb was born the only visitors they received were his bannermen and they were not interested in her or her newborn.

Ned had not relinquished his hold on Joanna. He was besotted. Jaime held Tommen. "He has a strong grip sister." He smiled at the newborn that might have been his until he opened his dark grey eyes.

Tyrion was uncomfortable. Cersei was uncomfortable too. She didn't know why her dwarf brother bothered to be in her rooms. There wasn't any love lost between them. Cersei used to wish and think of horrific ways in which he would die. In past years she had forgotten about him. After all she was not at Casterly Rock to make sure he was appropriately punished for killing her mother. If mother were alive her life would have been very different. Five years ago she would have taken any opportunity to insult, diminish and ridicule her brother but looking at him tonight she thought about the dead dwarf girl she birthed. She bled more than a month after the baby died.

She was very quiet when Tyrion held Tommen and declared him a handsome baby, "Lord Stark, may I meet my niece." Tyrion stretched his arms to his brother in law.

Ned was reluctant but handed their daughter to Tyrion, "She's beautiful, sister you did well. Let me guess her name, Lyanna after your sister my lord?"

"Joanna, her name is Joanna after our lady mother baby brother." She mentioned and for the first time Tyrion did not flinch when she mentioned their late mother.

Chapter Text

They were to leave the riverlands as soon as Cersei and the babies were able to withstand the journey up north. It took them three weeks to make the journey. The queen decided she would stay in her ancestral home. She gave birth to another girl. The last one if the maester was to be believed. Sometimes they weren't as accurate as they ought to be. She was not supposed to have children and yet she birthed three healthy children.

Queen Catelyn seemed resigned to her fate; she named the girl Cassana after the king's late mother. This child as the previous one had the queen’s coloring, hair and eyes. The queen had only confided in her and her maester. No one else knew about her failures or supposed barred state. Cersei was sure the next few years would prove interesting in the capital. She was too busy with her twin babies to pay much attention to southern ambitions. She had Winterfell to worry about. This little trip south had been extended too much.

Ned twitched at the mention of his home. The king invited them to King's Landing but her husband declined. The Starks headed back to their ancestral home an early morning after the king and his men left the river lands. The journey back was just as long and cumbersome. Cersei decided that she would not have more children. She loved all her children dearly, but she couldn’t think about having another child after she had these ones to contend with. Jon was more independent now and tried to be with his father as much as possible. Ned returned with him in the early evening praising him for his tries at archery and riding. Cersei frowned, “he shouldn’t ride, not yet.”

“He rides with me lioness.” Ned would assure her and kiss her cheek.

Robb and the babies needed her full attention. Her second oldest spent most of his time with her except for when Tyrion deigned them with his presence; he took an affinity to Robb. She did not discourage her brother. Tyrion was the heir to the Westerlands whether father wanted it or not. By laws older than their own empire Tyrion was to inherit it all. Robb was Tyrion’s heir; it would do well if they got along. Jaime was under oath for life and no matter what father did he wouldn’t break it. Her twin unlike her and Tyrion did not thirst for power. He was a warrior; he liked fighting but did not have the mind or the willingness for politics. He was to be in the fields, just like Robert was. Her baby brother and her had a mind for manipulation and politics just like father did. Cersei did not want to have any relationship with Tyrion. She still remembered the prophecy; her valonqar would be her demise. Cersei held onto that little part, she thanked the gods because she had four children all with dark hair. Her twins had dark blond hair almost light brown. None of them had golden hair, which meant no golden shrouds, and she was not queen. Sometimes Cersei wondered if prophecies were left to interpretation. Melara had died that same night, which fulfilled her prophecy.

The babies drained all of her energy and she longed for the walls of Winterfell. In the castle she would be able to have help from the servants and old Nan who would keep Jon and Robb entertained for more than a few hours. She would not have to suffer through Tyrion’s comments or even see him if she did not want to. For now, she had to be content with Tyrion and Robb playing by the fires. They would play dragons and knights. Robb was knight and Tyrion the dragon. Cersei ordered her brother to play outside but when the temperatures dropped she had no other choice but to stay with them in her tent. The twins were not much trouble and slept for more hours than Robb or Jon had for that matter. They were two however and when one wanted the teat the other wanted to sleep or needed to be changed. Myra proved to be as useless as always. Cersei dismissed her as soon as they were by the Neck. Myra had cried but lady Stark was determined, she could not withstand her ineptitude any longer and she didn’t like the way she flushed or happened to be near when Ned visited her. She had seen how the servant eyed her lord husband. Ned smiled at her once and the foolish girl blushed and smiled back. Cersei decided Myra would do well in Greywater Watch.

She had her handmaidens but it would take weeks to train them to her liking so she was in charge of the babies. Ned loved his children and spent time with all of them but he could absolutely not be trusted to keep a baby clean, or happy. He liked to hold his new children when they were asleep or about to sleep.

“I cannot wait to be in Winterfell.” She sighed against his chest. They were a week away from the castle. Ned tried to slip a hand under her shift. “Not until we are in our home and I have moon tea.”

Ned slumped back in the bed. “No more children then.” He stated.

“No more.” She replied, “You have an heir, two spares and a daughter to marry off. That is more than enough.”

“Do not speak of our children in that matter Cersei.” He said seriously and with a calm voice.

“I am stating facts my lord.” She cheekily bit his neck. “I do like the process of making little heir and heiresses.” Ned growled and pinned her under him. “I doubt you would get with child tonight.” He forced a leg between hers and rubbed it against her core, as she liked it.

“How would you know lord Stark?” She batted her eyelashes and pouted. Ned liked it when she acted ladylike.

“I know.” He responded and kissed her savagely. They had not done more than kiss or touch each other when the fire in his eyes burned high. She took pity on him more than once and licked his member to bring him relief. Ned wouldn’t be appeased by some licks and kisses tonight. He wanted to be inside of her and told her so. The twins were five months today. This was the longest they had not been together since he was gone to the Iron Islands. After almost six years of marriage Ned was not shy or introverted in their bed anymore. He demanded and gave equally. She shivered when she heard of all the things he wanted to do to her body. Cersei ought to have said no, Ned would have listened to her but she gave in when he licked his lips and yanked her nightgown in a swift move of his own. She moaned when his kisses made their way to her core. He parted flesh and licked her so deliciously slow that she urged him to used his fingers. She was glad Robb and Jon were with a handmaid in another tent and the babies were so asleep they did not wake when she yelped.

“My lioness.” He licked her breasts and sucked. She would not have expected Eddard Stark to like to suckle milk out of her teats or enjoy when she was on all fours under him. She was delighted when he placed her on all fours and knocked her arms to the feather bed. Ned took her slowly, adjusting her to his size and then pounded her, she moaned and bit her lips to not cry out. Ned grabbed her hips and pushed her to him. She climaxed and asked him to pull out. “Pull out, you’re close I know it, pull out.” She moaned but Ned was too far-gone to care. He spilled inside of her. Cersei was too tired to berate him.

Two months later she yanked Ned’s hair in front of Greatjon Umber. She was enraged. “I’m pregnant you fool.” Cersei noticed Umber only when he let a big laugh. She ran away crying and did not speak to Ned for a day. He asked for forgiveness but he was not sorry. She knew that when he rubbed her belly and kissed her neck. It was hard to be wroth with him when he kissed her and give her more and more power in Winterfell.

“You love power.” He told her when she was in her fifth month and they said goodbye to Tyrion. Robb and Jon were by the gates saying goodbye. The twins said their goodbyes earlier before their naps.

“In other circumstances you and I could have been enemies my lioness.” He kissed her hand. “Never.” She replied trying to sound as offended as possible.

Robb cried when he saw his uncle leave. Jon sulked for a day and half until Tyrion promised them both to write every week and send dragon toys and new ponies for their name days.

They were with Farlen, the kennel master. Ned let them go to the kennels and see the new puppies. Cersei agreed because after all they would be sad to not see Tyrion anymore. Her brother was not likely to come back for some time. Their relationship had not improved in the least. They stayed away from each other as much as humanly possible. Ned served as intermediary most of the time. He was weary and did not like his role. Tyrion loved her children but detested her. Cersei detested him but coveted his titles.

Ned looked at her with a smirk and a knowing look. “Your brother thinks you want him to name Robb his heir. He says you are not as clever as you think. He loves all four of our children.”

Cersei rolled her eyes, “He is a bitter little man. He does not have an heir. It is only natural that he name one of his nephews to Casterly Rock.” Ned shook his head. “Tyrion will marry and his children will inherit the Rock.”

She laughed, “My brother does not want to marry. Our father will roll in his grave when he names Robb heir of the Westerlands. A wolfling will be Warden of the West.” She laughed.

Ned smiled, “You and Tyrion have more in common than you both care to admit. He said the same thing.” Cersei looked confused, “Tywin Lannister’s prosperous lands will be Stark’s. His legacy dead,” your brother plans to stop the Lannister name with him.” Cersei laughed delightedly. Her husband frowned. She wiped his frown with a kiss. She placed his hands on her belly. He could never stay angry with her when he touched her pregnant belly.

“Do you know why I accepted your hand?” He asked with his forehead against hers. His recriminations were forgotten because he pushed her blond hair away from her face gently.

Cersei shook her head, “I suppose because I was the most acceptable option or because I was the only option.” She said simply.

“You were not the only option. The Tyrells and Tullys offered me brides, so did the Redwynes, Florents and even Mormonts.” Ned said quietly, stating facts. He was not a man to be presumptuous or conceited.

“All lesser houses, perhaps not the Tullys and the Tyrells but the rest of them are minor houses.” She said dismissively.

“I chose you because I knew you were a threat.” Cersei looked puzzled.

“Your father wanted to marry you to Robert. I convinced Robert to marry Catelyn instead.” He kissed her cheek.

Cersei fisted his tunic. “You will have Lannisters crawling up your arse Robert. Remember what happened to the last king who trusted her lot. Lannisters are not to be trusted.” He said and kissed her mouth roughly. He left her there with a stunned expression in her face.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

After her husband’s revelation she was more aware of him and his intelligence. Cersei Stark looked for hints of deceit or ulterior motives but there was nothing. She had been shocked and tried to pursue the topic but Ned had a peculiar way of avoiding it or completely changing the subject to the point she had not been aware he did not answer her questions. Arya Stark was born in the middle of the night. She came into the world yelling and kicking. Cersei was glad she was a girl. She was all Ned and had the strongest lungs out of all her children. That was the first time Ned was present at the birth of one of his children. “She is beautiful. Arya, her name is Arya.” Cersei proclaimed. The babe had dark hair, as dark as Jon’s and grey Stark eyes. She loved all her children in an especial and unique way but from the moment she laid eyes on Arya she knew Arya would be unlike any of her children. She was energetic and demanded her full attention from her first feeding. The newest Stark scion screamed louder than Robb or Jon. Joanna and Tommen were placid children with a sweet demeanor. Ned kissed her deeply and thanked her quietly as they hugged.

The Stark household was prosperous and Winterfell was back to its old glory. Under Cersei’s care and rules the incomes increased. Ned was the lord of Winterfell, he talked to the people but it was Cersei who counseled him and advised him when it came to financial matters and politics. Ned valued her and heeded her wishes. Lady Stark found a balance between taking care of her progeny and managing the Winterfell grounds and affairs.

She spent mornings in her solar managing household items. Three or four hours with Ned in the early afternoons advising him on matters of the castle and the nearest town, there was only one matter that she was not involved in; the Wall. Ned sent men for the Night’s Watch twice a year. He refused to budge in the matter even after she made compelling arguments against sending trained men to defend a Wall against wildlings who were clearly weak and scattered. Her husband was adamant that the number of men would not decrease nor the frequency in which he sent men to join the Night’s Watch.

The afternoons were for her children. Ned would go hunt, train or travel with his bannermen. Jon and Robb learned their lessons with maester Luwin in the morning by mid afternoon Cersei had lunch with all of her children. Joanna, Tommen and Arya still were too little to have lessons. The twins were happy three year olds and Arya was a fiercely independent girl. They played together all day. Joanna and Arya babbled to each other while Tommen quietly played with soldiers and tried to emulate Robb and Jon. Ned would join them and they would play or talk until supper. Her older children went to practice with their father three days per week. Ned remarked how proficient they were. The smaller children would color with her or play with her hair. Arya and Tommen liked horses. Joanna shied away from them. She resembled her more but Cersei saw herself in Arya who was always walking away from her or tipping things over with her chubby baby hands. Her nights were Ned’s, that was their time, no children just them.

She received letters from father, Jaime and on occasion Tyrion who liked to know more about his nephews and nieces. She was reading a parchment one afternoon after Ned had cancelled his lessons with a seven-year-old Jon. Joanna, Tommen and Robb were off somewhere playing horses or some game alike. Arya, her baby, well not really a babe since she was two going three already, was toddling away from her nursemaid to meet her.

Jon was reading a book Tyrion sent him. He looked up and smiled. “Mamma, mamma.” Arya yelled and was picked up by Cersei who kissed her cheeks and forehead.

“Father went away to the Dreadfort.” Jon pouted and sat next to her and his little sister. Jon hated the Dreadfort, it was probably why Ned did not take him. “Robb is with the twins and maester Luwin in the forest. I asked Farlen to take me to see the new foals but he would not take me.” Cersei heard the sulk behind her son’s tone. Jon and Ned were alike in that sense, they sulked and could they sulk.

“Your father of course wanted you to go with him.” Jon nodded and pouted. “I do not like it there.”

Cersei remained impassive. “Well, that is your concern son.” She put a squirming Arya down. The little girl ran around the room and tried to climb over the draperies.

Jon smiled. He liked his sisters; he was good with them, maybe because he was older. Robb treated them as boys and was rough while Tommen just wanted to be like his big brothers. Joanna was sweet and docile, playing with everyone especially Arya. Her youngest loved to play with Joanna.

“Play with us.” She asked and beckoned him to her.

“No.” Jon remained by the fireplace.

“Suit yourself.” She said dismissively and chased Arya around the room until the baby was breathless and she was laughing at Arya’s red cheeks. Jon did not join them. He was stubborn as much as Ned, Robb and even Tommen on occasion.

She tucked all her children good night. Joanna was the hardest. “I want to see my Papa.” Ned had his daughters spoiled, especially Joanna. Arya was too young to care if they said goodnight or not but at four years old Joanna knew that she had not seen her father all day.

“Father is not home yet. He had to go away to visit some friends.” Cersei kissed her forehead.

“I want to see him.” Joanna replied ignoring her completely and rising from the bed.

Cersei watched as her child went to her windowsill and sat down. “Joanna, come to bed at once. You need your sleep.”

“No. I will wait for Papa. I can see him when he comes.”

Cersei picked her and placed her back in bed. “Your father would not want you waiting for him. Father will expect you to sleep and listen to your mother. You would not want to anger father would you?”

Joanna shook her head, “Papa loves me. He will never get angry with me. I am his kitten.”

She laughed at her little frown. “Yes, and I am a lioness and I say you go to sleep and if I see you in the windowsill. I will let Farlen take away your puppy.”

Joanna pouted. “Papa will not let you.”

Cersei humored her and discussed with her until Joanna was asleep.

She checked on Robb who was sprawled on his bed. Tommen was mumbling but sleeping. Jon and Arya were asleep, she smiled, and they were deep sleepers.

She went to her quarters and read her letters again. King Robert had another bastard, this one in the Stormlands. Stannis Baratheon and his wife had lost another child. Lysa Arryn gave birth to a boy but died within three days. The queen was still in the Riverlands. She bathed and waited for Ned to come home. She waited until her eyes closed by their own accord.

The lady of Winterfell woke up to Old Nan shaking her awake. “You must wake up child.” She saw the worried look the old woman wore.

“What is it?” She asked, dreading the answer before she heard it.

“Ned was hurt by wildlings.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Cersei moved into action quickly. She stirred away from the bed and hurried to one of the chambers in the ground floor. Old Nan had said the maester did not dare move her husband. Ned screamed in pain as one of the handmaidens put what appeared to be a cold cloth in his forehead. Maester Luwin stripped her husband and tended to a nasty wound in Ned’s upper thigh.

Ned yelled and trashed when maester Luwin dabbed a substance in the wound. Cersei came into the room. “What can I do?” She asked with a firm voice.

“Hold his head, try to sooth him and make sure he does not move.” The older man said. She nodded, the handmaiden moved to make room for her. She dabbed the cloths and spoke softly when Ned trashed again, he had his eyes closed. “Ned. You can’t move now.” He opened his eyes, his forehead was feverish and he was sweating profusely.

“Cersei?” He rasped and tried to turn his face to look at her.

“No, don’t.” She said and moved strands of his hair and took more cloths to his forehead and chest.

He was calmer but still trashed. Maester Luwin worked dutifully and bandaged his wound. It looked like an arrowhead was inside of his flesh. She did not have much experience with wounds; it could have been anything.

“My lord, you should take milk of the poppy. It will alleviate your pain.” The man said.

“No.” Ned said tiredly. “Water, I need water. Cersei make sure he does not put anything in the water.”

She nodded and gave him the water herself. “What happened?” She asked when Ned was done drinking.

“Wildlings, they ambushed me on my way back. They took my horse but I managed to run away before they killed me with my own sword. They left a green boy to kill me and I killed him first. I took Ice and walked back.

“That explains all the stress in your leg my lord.” Luwin said and dressed some cuts in his arms, abrasions on his hands and the cut by his left cheek.

“You are very lucky, the arrows did not penetrate any veins. You would have bled to death. You need to rest my lord.” Cersei wanted to roll her eyes. It was self evident that Ned would not be on his feet quickly.

Her husband tried to stand up. “I want to go to my quarters.” He gritted his teeth pushed up. Cersei pushed him down and he growled. “Gods.” He gasped and trembled.

“Take the milk.” She kissed his forehead, just above his eyebrow. “No.” Cersei nodded. “Very well but you will not be going anywhere with that leg in that way. We’ll stay here tonight.” She wiped his body with clean water and ordered the servants to leave.

“He will likely have pain tonight and the next few days. He’ll be delirious and have pain for the rest of the night.” She kissed his brow once more. “Leave the milk here. I’ll give it to him.”

“No milk. Cersei, take it away. Promise me my love, no milk.” He said tiredly and grabbed her hand.

“Fine, take it away but do not go to far. He could need you.” Cersei commanded. She held him through the rest of the night. He had a light fever but was coherent. He could not sleep. She held him, kissed his face and caressed his chest.

“A woman, a big woman gave me that bruise on my stomach. She swung at me first. The wildlings tried to kill me. I was sure the boy would, he could not have been older than two and ten. He had Ice; all I thought was that Jon would never swing it and the children. All I could think was that I would not see Robb start his archery practices. Tommen, I would never have any time with my boy and my girls... My beautiful Joanna and Arya. Then I thought of you Cersei. My last thought was of you." Ned kept talking while she tried to keep him calm and quiet.

"I love you Cersei Stark. I have loved you since I saw you feeding my son. I never thought I could ever love you." She tried to minimize the effects his words had on her. "Ned, please be quiet. You need to close your eyes and sleep." He would not listen.

“I married you because you were a threat. I wanted you and your kind away from the King. I thought I was condemning myself to a life of bitterness with you.” Cersei had not been thrilled to marry him either.

He was rambling, “Please Ned, you have to rest.”

“Cersei, I’m glad I married you.” He rasped and then looked at her with big grey wolf eyes. "Lay down with me. I want to see your face." Cersei did so, afraid that he would try to move her himself. Luwin had been specific; her lord husband was to be resting and sleeping the worst of his ordeal since he did not wish to take any milk of the poppy for his pain. It did not do well for him to become agitated.

Soon she was on her side, his eyes were pained but he was very lucid. "When I killed that boy I thought of you. When I walked through the forests I thought of you and your eyes. They are the greenest eyes I have ever seen. When Harwin found me I was glad because I was coming home to you." He hissed in pain when he tried to face her completely. He was prostrated while she found a position in which he could see her face without moving him too much.

Finally she was able to see his face completely. "Cersei, you have been a blessing. I never thought I would ever come to care for you. I desired you, from the moment I laid eyes on you but I was sure I could never love you." Cersei was not surprised, she knew her husband desired her, she desired him too. That had never been an issue. They were very compatible in the bedchamber. She was taken aback by how much he was telling her. Eddard had always been reserved, to the point of being standoffish. As time passed her spoke more and they built a friendship but her husband was not one to openly speak about his feelings or thoughts about the love in their marriage. He was a man of few words, and fewer words when it came to his inner thoughts. He had his Old Gods. He prayed and visited those weirwoods so strange to her. She was not one to pray much; she knew about promises and debts.

“Not even in battles had I been so certain my end was near. I understood that I could not let the boy kill me because I never heard those three words out of your mouth.” Cersei stiffened. She cared for her husband; he was a good, honest and honorable man. She enjoyed her life with him, his respect, his trust, his bed but she did not love him. She loved her children and Jaime, although it was harder to hold onto a love that was not fostered. Jaime did not write to her, and when he did it was mindless, gone were his declarations of love and she had never dared to propose anything because if she was anything it was a Lannister and Lannisters paid their debts.

“Go to sleep Ned.” She assured him and caressed his forehead. He was not appeased; “I knew you loved another man when you came into my bed. You were not a maiden.” He stated a little sadness crept in his voice. “It never bothered me Cersei but it does now. I am fighting with a ghost, a man I cannot live up to. You do not love me my lioness.” Cersei’s heart was racing. Could he know about her love for Jaime? He could not have known. Jaime and her had been careful to hide their love. They were close but it had all been excused by the mere fact that they were twins, two parts of a whole. No, if Ned knew that the man who took her maidenhead had been her brother he would have returned her or have her render explanations to him and the throne.

“Do not be afraid Cersei. I do not wish to know this man’s name. All I whish to know is if you are truly happy here.” He whispered close to her face. She looked at his face, he was sweating and his eyes looked tired. It would be soon; he would give in to sleep. She nodded. “You and the children make me happy.” He nodded and closed his eyes. The lady of Winterfell attended him the whole night. Once he was deeply sleeping she washed his body and with the help of Hodor; Old Nan’s grandson or great grandson disrobed him.

She closed her eyes and thought about her life. She was not queen, but she managed a large castle and the North. She ruled alongside with Ned who was kind, generous and most importantly did not underestimate her. She did not lie tonight, she was happy. Her children were smart, handsome and healthy. Ned provided her with strength and resources. She lacked for nothing. Cersei Stark was content.

Ned stayed in bed for a week. He could not stay long enough in bed. Cersei admonished him and tried for her husband to remain seated or off his feet. “Ned, be careful.” She rushed when Robb tried to tackle his father to the bed. “Papa.” He yelled and tried to wrestle with him. Ned had not seen his children during that week. Maester Luwin declared it unwise, since he was convalescing from his ordeal. “They will not like to see you in this bed my lord.” The maester pleaded with his best convincing voice. The idea of his children watching him while vulnerable deterred Ned for a few days but by the third day he was persistent.

He could sit up and walked a little. Ned spoke to her about moving back to their bedchambers. “Not yet, it has not been a week even.” Cersei could tell what his true intentions. Ned wanted to lay with her again. She missed the intimacy it was certain, his sickroom was humble, one of the rooms for the servants. It was uncomfortable and lacked privacy. Cersei did not think her husband was in any condition to try anything but he held her tight at night, as if she would disappear. Ever since his confession, her husband looked at her differently. She knew he loved her, he told her so when they were in private while he was inside her. It was different now; he looked at her with love every time their eyes met. He was not reserved; he seemed to enjoy looking at her in that intimate way reserved for the occasional time in bed.

“Where were you papa?” Joanna asked and hugged him tenderly. Cersei had explained and told them that papa was sick and needed to be taken care of. Jon understood everything. She did not lie to him, Jon knew about wildlings and the Night’s Watch. Robb knew that father was in accident but she did not burden him with any other knowledge. Jon was solemn and carried Arya on his arms. Tommen, Robb and Joanna were in bed with their lord father. Cersei looked at them with a wistful smile. She never had that. Jaime, Tyrion and her never shared those moments with Lord Tywin Lannister.

“Come here lad.” Ned said as he tickled Tommen. Robb chattered incessantly while Joanna tried to climb into his lap.

Jon looked at Cersei. She grabbed Arya who babbled and tried too reach over to her father. The heir to Winterfell timidly climbed on the small feather bed. He was not as exuberant as Robb and was the eldest. He could not be the baby boy like Tommen. He was to be strong and that was how Ned and her were educating him. Cersei took pride in her children. The dark haired child hugged his father and sat down next to Robb who told Ned all about the new horses in the stables. “Nuncle Tyrion sent me my mare Snowflake. Father, you have to let me ride her.” The boy did not lisp anymore and wanted to be grown up. Jon rode his own horse now; he had been since his seventh name day.

She was going to protest but Ned handled this situation with his usual aplomb. More than once her husband had expressed his disagreement when it came to her overprotectiveness of the children. Cersei had railed and argued for two weeks about Jon riding a horse. Lord Stark was one to listen to his wife and tried to reason with her but he was implacable when it came to the children stepping up to their chores. “Do not interfere my lady. Jon will ride a horse and that is final.” She cut her reminisces short when he heard the conversation her second oldest had with his father.

“It is not fair; Jon rides Storm all he wants.” Robb pouted, he was six and wanted to be seven like Jon.

“Your brother is older and he never rides alone. You will wait just like Jon did, just like Tommen, Joanna and Arya will wait.”

The boy sported a sour face but did not climb down the bed. “Papa, I asked you a question.” Joanna pulled on his tunic.

“I apologize kitten.” He kissed her forehead.

“I was sick but now I am better.” He replied with a reassuring smile.

Arya wanted to go to her father. Cersei gave him the baby. “Sweetling.” He smiled when Arya babbled and hugged his neck tightly.

The children had their turns to speak about all the happenings of the week. Invariably Robb and Joanna spoke the most. Maester Luwin entered the room and asked her to accompany him to see some affairs concerning some common folk and an abandoned building that belonged to them. She excused herself and followed the maester to the common hall. Cersei attended to the matter of the common folk residing in the building. They would pay with some of their harvest and have the option to reside there as long as they provided some of their crops to Eastwatch and the Night’s Watch.

She settled other matters for the rest of the afternoon. She went to Ned’s sickroom and found something that filled her heart with joy and longing. There in the small bed were all her children with their father. The bed could hold two adults but the Starks were all asleep in that bed.

Ned was in the middle. Joanna and Tommen were by his right, fast asleep. Robb was on the left sprawled and drooling on his father’s arm. Jon was by the bottom of the bed, asleep too, a serene smile on his face. The sight that brought a radiant smile to her face was Arya and Ned. Their baby girl was on her father’s chest. She rested her face on his neck while her long tangled hair was by his mouth. She heard Ned breath deeply and groan. She came close to the bed and tried to lift Arya. “No, don’t, leave her here, grab Robb and put him next to Jon. “What of your injury?” Jon rested his head on his father’s good leg. If she put Robb by his brother he would of course move and cause some damage to his leg.

“It is healed. Place him by Jon then you can lie with us.” Ned said with a voice rough with sleep.

She was tired and it was getting darker. The lady of Winterfell moved her son who murmured but went right back to sleep. He stretched and placed his head on Jon’s stomach. Cersei stepped out of her cumbersome dress and slipped next to her husband. He brought her close with his free arm and kissed her forehead. “I’m moving back to our bed tomorrow. This one is too small for all of us.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

It was not light yet. She stretched lazily against her husband who was fast asleep beside her. He hugged her to him; last night had been extremely satisfying for her. Eddard teased her and did not let her get away from their bed, not even when the maester asked him to go and attend to some affairs from Bear Island. She touched the marks she did last night; she had been fierce. Cersei recalled raking her fingernails over his back last night, she remembered sucking and biting at his neck possessed with desire. They had reason to; her lord husband had been given permission to bed her once again. His injuries were healed. Ned grabbed her from her needlepoint rooms. She was discussing something with one of the septas her aunt Genna had sent for the education of the girls when lord Stark entered the room. He bowed to the women in the room. Joanna and Arya were with her, they were playing by Septa Mordane, a dour woman who looked as if she had never been bedded. “My lady, I have an important matter I wish you to attend to.” Cersei was puzzled and bewildered when he grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room. They climbed the stairs to their rooms. “I thought you wanted me to attend to an important matter?” She said with an inquisitive voice. He tightened his hold on her hand and tugged her to their bedchamber.

“I want you to attend to me.” He said possessively and kissed her punishingly.

“Your leg?” She asked out of necessity rather than concern. She wanted him too. Luwin insisted on no riding, physical activities or any other activity that would exhaust him or make him reopen his sown wounds. Three weeks and three days, that was how long they had been without each other. She let him push her to the bed and tugged her hair free. She took him out of his breeches and enjoyed his length against her hand. “Do you want to fuck me?” She asked coyly.

He growled. “You are very crass my lady.” He tugged at her dress. He was frustrated and tried to yank it out of her. “Let me.” He rolled to his side and stayed in bed as she stood up and removed the layers of clothes that covered her body. His eyes darkened and she grew wet because of his lusty stare.

She teased and dropped every bit of cloth with a wicked smile. The only fabric that covered her small clothes. He licked his lips and pulled her to his lap. She ground her hips over his erection and moaned when he undid the laces at the back of her shift. He threw the piece of cloth by the doors and manhandled her breasts. She threw her head back. “Lick them now.” She did not let him touch her while he was convalescing because she knew him and once Ned Stark was inflamed it was impossible to extinguish his fire. Once again Eddard proved her mistaken, for a brief second she thought back to eight years ago when she believed her husband to be cold and detached.

“What if I don’t?” He said as he touched her nipples gently. She kissed his neck. “I’ll make you a bargain my lord. You lick my teats and I will let you do with my body as you please.

She whined as she removed his tunic and breeches. “I do with your body as I please. It is mine own to do as I please.” He said arrogantly.

Lady Stark smirked and deftly moved to her side. Ned watched as she touched his member. “Is your body mine my lord?” She did not appreciate his possessiveness.

“You have my whole body, my soul my lioness. I am yours.” He said with those grey eyes that once held nothing but contempt for her and now looked at her as if she was a goddess. To this day she had never refused him, and never would if he looked at her with such desire, lust and love. Once that look frightened her, and now she rebelled in it.

She kissed his lips and nuzzled his cheek. “My lord husband should learn that lions always win over wolves.” She straddled him and put him inside of her. She let out a strangled moan and rocked her hips rapidly over him. She had him pinned under her. No doubt Eddard could overpower her. He had done so in many occasions. She rode him hard and played with his nipples. Her lord husband had no wish to move from under her.

“Fuck Cersei, my love.” He trashed and she moved faster. “You feel so good inside Ned. I don’t want you come yet. Hold on. Don’t come.” She was feeling the tell tale signs of his impeding orgasm. He dug his fingers on her hips and his thrusts lost their tempo. Her own orgasm was building deliciously. He touched her little button; with a few skilled touches she came undone. She slumped over his chest and tried to catch her breath. He rolled them and pumped steadily into her, she felt the momentum build again. He kissed her, “Give me another child. I want to see your belly swell again. I want to feel one of our babies move inside of you.” She trashed under him. His words did not surprise her at all. She kissed him more and more and felt her walls tighten around him. Their orgasms came at the same time.

Cersei traced her fingers over his nose and eyelids. He had her twice again. They were wild the second time. She did not want more children. Arya was their last child. Ned wanted another baby. He told her so again when he licked her cunt until she pleaded for him to lick her button. He pushed her to a wall and rammed into her trying to convince her. She remained unmovable. “No more children.” She yelled when he tweaked a teat.

She kissed his jaw and moved her leg over his hips. He kissed and rolled over her. “About that child that you are going to give me? “He kissed the valley of her breasts and lowered his hands to her arse. She frowned. “No more babies. Arya is a baby.”

“Arya’s third name day is in three weeks. I hardly doubt she is a babe.” Eddard said winningly.

“We make beautiful babies.” He rasped. “You definitely enjoy making them.” He pinched her arse and she smirked.

“You enjoy the process too much.” She teased. “We have enough children. Jon will inherit Winterfell. Robb will be the lord of Casterly Rock. Tommen could make a name for himself in the Kingsguard or marry one of the princesses. He could marry Sansa Arryn and be the Lord Protector of the Vale. Joanna will of course marry a Martell in Dorne or a Tyrell from the Reach. Arya could marry a prince if the crown ever has a prince. She could be queen.”

Ned frowned. “I will not allow my Kitten or my Wolfling to go so far south. Starks belong in the North.” He stated. “Our girls are too young for you to be thinking about marriages and power alliances.”

“It is never too early. I’ll have you know that the queen wants princess Myrcella to marry our Jon.” Ned frowned. “The princess would never fit in Winterfell.”

“I thought so too.” She tugged at his hair. “So you see my own husband how another child could complicate our arrangements.”

She kissed his frown and he smiled. Ned kissed her neck. “Those are your arrangements not ours.” He kissed her and murmured against her lips. “I can see the future and we are going to have another child.” He said with a wicked gleam in his eyes. Cersei laughed when he bit her belly button.

Brandon Stark arrived two years and two weeks after Cersei’s decision to not have more children. She did not appreciate her husband’s smug smirk but she could not keep away from him. Cersei enjoyed fucking but while pregnant with this child it was intense. She wanted her husband all the time; at all positions and mourned the times he needed to travel away from Winterfell.

“Brandon.” Cersei said when maester Luwin showed her the babe. Ned sat by her side and cradled their latest son. “This is our last.” She said against the fluffy pillows. “He is perfect my love.” She smiled and received his kisses gratefully. Bran was her sixth child and also her bargain chip. Cersei complied and gave Ned another child in exchange for something. She managed to make him agree to instruct Arya and Joanna in the arts of fighting. She kissed her son lovingly, Bran had given his sisters so much and he did not even know it yet.

Arya and Joanna would not be like her, they would have options. They would learn to fight and defend themselves. Bran, her baby boy gave his sister that gift.

She was in love with her husband, it did not happen at once. It built through years of patience on his part. Cersei realized she loved him one morning when Bran was four years old. Jon, Robb and Tommen went with their father to an execution. A deserter from the Night’s Watch; the children had come back with grim faces. She soothed them and then went to her chambers to chastise her husband. He was not there, she asked after him and found him in the Godswoods. He should have not let the children go with him. Jon hugged her tightly when she put him to sleep. Robb asked all these questions about death and bad men and Tommen, her poor baby who was not even eight years old, too young. Eddard prohibited Joanna and Arya to attend she did not fight it because if it were her choice none of her children would ever see an execution.

He was praying to his Gods but he was crying. His shoulders shook with sobs. She had not heard him cry like this, not even when Joffrey died. Could her husband be this broken about taking a life? It could not possibly be. Eddard had killed, he felt remorse but this was not the first sentencing he served. There had to be something else. “Ned?” Suddenly she wanted to go back to Winterfell with her children.

Her husband stood up and wiped his wayward tears. Cersei could not bear to see him so broken. She ran to him and hugged her because whenever she hugged her children they seemed to get better. Ned held her tight and sobbed into her hair.

“What is it my love?” It was the first time she used the epithet. She did not think about it much. He did not look at her face. “It has been four and ten years since I lost my family to Rhaegar Targaryen. Benjen wanted to go. She was four and ten when she went to that tourney. I was her favorite. Everyone says how much Arya resembles her but Lyanna was not as strong as our daughter. She was foolish and I should have protected her. I should have known. A foolish girl who was in love with a dragon.” She never heard him speak about his family with such sadness. He cried, she held him and was with him until he calmed down.

“I am so sorry my love.” She whispered gently. “I do not like to see you cry. You are so strong, so brave, so good Ned. It was not your fault.” She kissed his tears away and for the first time since they met in these same woods she looked at her husband with love. It only took her three and ten years and six children to comprehend how much Eddard Stark meant to her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Cersei told her lord husband she loved him a year after she stumbled upon the realization. She was in her solar with Joanna, Arya and Bran. Arya was to finish with her needlework and then join her brothers in training if she desired. Joanna had her archery practice in the morning. She did not care for any swordplay. Kitten as Ned called the nine-year-old was able to defend herself but was not to be bothered with swordplay. Cersei did not push her. The two sisters were opposite to each other and fought tooth and nail. They always made up but could not be called best friends. Her children had favorites. Tommen loved Bran better. They were gentle and wise souls. Jon and Robb were always together. They were best friends. Jon loved his sisters better. Both girls would tolerate each other if it meant Jon played with them. Cersei had been paranoid at first when Joanna and Arya took much interest in their big brother. She was scared they loved their brother like she had loved hers. Her fears were completely unfounded. Jon was a bright boy who was fiercely protective of his baby sisters but nothing more. The girls loved Jon better simply because he was gentler than Robb or Tommen who were boyish and rougher. Jon actually wanted to play with the little girls.

That afternoon Arya ran out of the room as soon as she finished her lesson. Joanna shook her head but omitted any comments. Her daughters loved each other they were just too different to see it yet. She was sure they could never truly hate each other. Bran was drawing a picture of a wolf. He was too young to join any real training although Ned would take him hunting with the boys next month for his fifth name day. It was a quiet evening until they reached news from the Karhold. Poole rushed into her chambers. “My lady, there is word that the Karhold has been ambushed. Lord Stark is inside the castle. Cersei waited five days without news of her husband.

According to the maester wildlings and outlaws had ambushed the Karhold. Rickard and Eddard were holding the fortress. She worried constantly and defied the maester at the sixth day. She sent Stark forces to dispel with outlaws. She wanted to know whether Ned was injured or fine.

The attack was a success but there was no word of Ned. There were no ravens. She assumed the attack was successful because there had not been more ravens from the Karhold.

By the eighth day Cersei wrote letters to the Stark bannermen. They would have to answer her summons and rescue Ned. Jon picked on her restlessness, so did Robb. Tommen, Joanna and Arya remained quiet. Only Bran remained oblivious.

Arya was the first to see the horses. She yelled over to Robb and Jon who were sparring by the yard. She was in her solar when Joanna ran to her. “Father is here. Arya saw the horses.”

She ran out of her solar and outside to the gates. She knew Tommen and Bran were by her side. Joanna, Arya, Robb, and Jon hugged a bedraggled Ned who looked worse than when he came back to her during the Greyjoy Rebellion.

Tommen and Bran ran ahead and hugged him too. “I’m fine.” He said wearily but happy to receive all those hugs.

Jon took action and commanded the rest of the Stark forces inside the stables. Arya, Robb and Tommen helped him while Joanna hugged her father.

“I’m fine Kitten. Please make sure Marian serves me some supper and I have clean clothes.”

The girl ran off to do as she was told. Bran followed her. He would probably go and try to climb some building. She watched as her son left. In front of her was Ned Stark, her husband. Cersei walked closer and hugged him. She had never hugged him or kissed the side of his neck with so much longing. His scruffy beard felt so good against her face. He held her and then she realized they were in the yard. It was improper. She was lady Stark and the commoners could not see her crumble or behave like a starved for affection wench. She stepped back just in time when Robb and Jon joined them.

Ned kept watching her most intently. “I want to sleep.” Ned said tiredly. Maester Luwin was by his side. “Lord Stark. I would like to examine you before you rest.” Her husband nodded. Soon she was back in her bedchambers watching as the older man cleaned and patched minor cuts and the like. All the while Ned contemplated her. He had put Jon in charge of making sure the men were accommodated for the night while Robb helped him with his tasks. The rest of the children stayed in their rooms until after their father sent word for them. Cersei had been mute ever since she hugged him in the yard. She could not articulate any words. It was stupid and ridiculous. Ned had been to war and had been wounded more than a couple of times. Cersei had been perfectly calm and collected in all of those situations. She practically boasted of her strength. Lionesses do not cry or surrender, they fight. Cersei Stark was strong and a Lannister to boot. She remembered the first year and half of her marriage, her three lost babies and Jon becoming hers. She gave up Jaime and that almost killed her but she came out stronger. If she could live without her brother she certainly could live without Eddard Stark of Winterfell.

Cersei did not want to however. Ever since she became Cersei Stark a world had been opened to her. She was a woman and for that reason conditioned from an early age that she was to be pretty and quiet. She learned to make the best of her circumstances. She had been sold to Eddard, her father had wanted an alliance with the North and Ned had wanted her far from his dear friend and the crown.

Marriage to lord Stark gave her choices. Four and ten years ago father had given her a gift. Tywin Lannister thought he established more connections and had a firmer grasp of Westeros. It could be so, but only if it benefitted her or her lord husband. Cersei gained choices, power over her body, thoughts and actions. Ned did not stifle her like she supposed before marrying him. He let her be Cersei with her love for her children. Ned argued with her, questioned her motives but did so with respect. He respected her. Ned, her husband was kind to her. He was a kind ruler and instilled some of that kindness in her. She lacked that all her life, there is little compassion when one grows up as a Lannister.

“Send for the children I want them here before I rest.” Ned said with his eyes half closed. She nodded still mute.

Her brood entered her rooms in less than fifteen minutes. The girls and Bran came close to Ned’s side. Even Arya clutched her papa. Joanna and her rained soft kisses on his face. Bran told him about an old keep he discovered while he was away.

Tommen looked as if he wanted to join Bran on his tale but propriety mandated that he stayed with Robb and Jon. Her three eldest were standing up waiting for Ned to do or say something to them.

“Tommen, come by my side.” He ran and started to speak about the abandoned keep. For the first time in years Arya and Joanna were not bickering, they were just laying there side by side in Ned’s arms.

“What happened father?” Jon asked and Robb nodded as if encouraging his sire to speak.

“There has been disagreement among the Karstark’s men. Rickard practices do not bode well with all his men. I stayed in the Karhold to help him settle matters.”

Robb glanced at her suspiciously, “Mother sent you ravens, more than two and there was no answer. She sent our forces north because there were wildings and outlaws.”

Eight days they had been without a word. Luwin sent ravens to the other bannermen she was sure Luwin sent another raven notifying them of the news. “There were outlaws, no wildlings and I did send a raven it must have gotten lost.” He was not lying. Cersei could tell when he lied to protect the children, this was not the case. He talked some more until Jon and Robb were appeased.

Old Nan grabbed Bran, Tommen and Joanna went with them while Arya kissed his father goodbye and went along with Robb and Jon to eat something or other.

The lady of Winterfell looked at her husband and then as if stricken by a blow she understood and was scared but lionesses were brave. They did not cower, if she did not say it now she never would and he could die. He could go and die and she would not have told him. Eddard deserved to know, it would make him so happy to know and she wanted to see him happy.

She stared out of the big window in their rooms. The children were gone; she felt his arms around her. He turned her around. This was her opportunity. She finally spoke. “You are fine.” She said and then kissed his lips gently.

“I love you.” She said as she looked up to his eyes. He smiled, that big smile of his that he would wear when the children were small. The same smile he gave her when he told her how much he loved her.

He kissed her one more time. “I almost gave up. I thought you would never say those words to me my love.” She cried because she knew she loved him but it was not good news. Love could destroy what they had. She was content; she loved her life as co-ruler of Winterfell. Cersei could not bear to not tell him but could not imagine a world in which she was in love with her husband. The doubts came to her immediately. Did she love him more than Jaime?

Jaime was her soul mate, her other half. This was different; she loved Jaime because in a way he was an extension of what she was. He was all that she could not be. He was she in armor. A male Cersei but a golden fool, unlike her in so many ways, she loved Ned in a different and wholly new terrifying way. She loved him and it was her choice, Jaime she had to love. He was part of her but Ned... Ned managed to make her love him.

This man she had once thought cold, honorable but cold and incapable of making her happy had given her much more happiness in four and ten years than she ever thought she deserved to have. He patiently waited for her to love him. Ned never demanded. He asked, they argued until one of them won the argument, usually her. Her husband made sure she was heard and that she was happy.

He kissed her neck more and more and as always she received his kisses and his touch. She kissed his lips and welcomed the scratches from his beard. “Cersei.” He repeated as they went to their bed. He smelled of sweat and Ned. She was not completely repulsed by his smell but he was in need of a bath. “You reek.” She wrinkled her nose and he chuckled.

She did not expect what he did next. Her husband laced her gown. Cersei was stunned when he pulled a tunic over his breeches and grabbed her hand. “Come with me.” He pulled her out of their castle. She was surprised by how quickly he moved. He had scratches around his back and ribs but he moved swiftly around the yard and into his godswoods. Cersei followed with a smile. He was secretive and did not want people to see them.

She recognized his weirwoods, the places where they married and where he and the children prayed. Arya, Tommen, Jon and Joanna loved these woods. Robb and Bran were more interested in adventures than praying really. Ned led them far into the godswoods. Cersei had never been so deep in these woods. They came to a clearing. It was a beautiful place, full of old trees unlike the weirwoods they did not have faces carved in their trunks. These trees were beautiful nonetheless. She saw her husband in front of what appeared to be a pool.

The lady of Winterfell knew about the hot springs around the estate. Jon and Bran loved the big lake like pool by the small keep west of the castle. She spent many afternoons watching her children play in the water. She longed for the beaches in the Westerlands. Of course she never joined her children in the water. It was not proper or comely to see the Warden of the North's wife soaked and in disarray.

Ned undressed in front of her. He was still very handsome; he was lean and strong. He had more scars and lines around his face but he was attractive, very attractive. She could have done worse. He gingerly stepped into the small pool. "My lady wife cannot say I do not please her. My lady's wishes are commands." He leaned back and enjoyed the water around him. Cersei looked around and smiled wickedly. She undressed hurriedly and stepped inside the pool next to him.

The water felt delicious. It was unlike swimming in the streams or the sea. This was far more relaxing and exciting. The pool couldn't have been larger than two of their beds and it was not deep. She would not let her children swim in it but she was an excellent swimmer as was Tyrion and Jaime. Ned was a swimmer too it seemed; he circled her with his arms and kissed her. Ned kissed her differently. He sought entrance surely with ease; there was no hesitation. Eddard caressed the side of her face and smiled. His grey eyes were luminous. Once she said the words it seemed she could not stop uttering them. “I love you.” She whispered and gasped when he kissed her some more.

“I love you Lady Stark Warden of the North.” He said quickly and placed her over his erection. She never experienced such pleasure when he took her. It had to be the hot water around them. Ned thrust inside of her and she bit her lips. It would not do well if she yelled his name in ecstasy. “No one will hear you. Say my name.” He hissed and had a gentle grip on her hips. She threw her head back and felt a delicious tingle from her toes to her center. “NED.” She forgot about everything, she was not Cersei, only her pleasure existed, no Lannisters, Starks or any of the Seven kingdoms mattered in that second. Ned stood up. She could not believe he could stand up and carry her to a grassy patch but he did. She was once again glad that it was spring; one of the longest springs recorded in recent history. Ned joined her again and made love to her. It was the first time she called it love. She ran her fingers over his hair and enjoyed his sweet nothings. He had never been this loving to her. He held the vehement declarations of love until this moment when she finally acknowledged that she loved him. “You are mine as I am yours.” He said while locking eyes with her. She could feel him moving inside of her, his words had an effect on her. She repeated them, “You are mine as I am yours.” She felt compelled to kiss him. They came together in what had to be the most delicious orgasm she had received. They panted side by side. Ned laughed and she joined him. She laughed until he kissed her again. They walked back to the castle at dusk. Her hair was wet and so was his. Cersei leaned on her husband’s shoulder; she hugged his torso as they walked.

He was quiet but she came to appreciate quiet. They talked quietly until they heard Rodrick and their sons training. Tommen was the first to notice them. “Mother why is your hair wet? Did father and you swim by the pools?” Robb and Jon paled and there was disgust in their faces. Rodrick turned around and it was evident he was trying to conceal his laughter.

Robb, as always Robb spoke. “No more children please.” He said it quietly. Ned would glare at him if he dared say it loudly. The children loved their father but they respected him too much. Jon and Robb idolized him.

Jon could not meet her gaze. She smiled; they were adorable but almost grown. They understood what their parents were doing.

“Papa showed me some pools and we swam.”

“You had enough training for today.” Ned picked Tommen and glared at his eldest children. “You two stay and practice. Not a word about this anymore.”

Rodrick shook with silent laughter. Ned looked uncomfortable but she did not care. She gave him five alive children. She realized she had nothing to be ashamed or uncomfortable about. She smiled all the way back to their chambers.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

There was outrage all around the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei Stark received the ravens before her husband told her the news. Jaime wrote to her, he did not bother to write as often. Tywin Lannister wrote to her every month, they were cold missives, informative but cold. Tyrion wrote to his nephews. He had yet to meet Arya and Bran but he sent them letters and gifts nonetheless.

She was in her solar teaching Arya and Joanna languages and how to play instruments. Surprisingly neither girl was interested. Joanna at least tried to play along for her sake but Arya was possibly the most hardheaded creature in the Seven Kingdoms. She refused to pay attention. “I want to go fishing with the boys.” Joanna stayed quiet. Cersei noticed her eldest was dying to tell her little sister off but remained quiet because of her. “Absolutely not.” Lady Stark said primly.

“Why? It is not fair. Bran is going and he does not even like fishing. I like fishing.” Joanna rolled her eyes and continued writing in high Valyrian.

“I said no, and this matter is not up for discussion. You are a lady.”

“I am not.” Arya fussed and her braids shook with the movement.

“You will be one. Even if I have to take away all your lessons.” Cersei gave her the best do not try me look.

Arya backed down and scribbled. The raven arrived; she read the letter and did not know what to think about those outcomes. King Robert legitimized one of his bastards. There were sixteen in all. He legitimized the eldest male. Gendry Baratheon, first of his name and heir to the throne. Catelyn must be seething in King’s Landing. Jaime wrote to her about the outcome. In his letter he stated that the king had been made aware that the queen could no longer give him any heirs. The Crown had four princesses; Myrcella, Lyanna, Alayne and Cassana. All useless, the crown demanded a male heir. According to her twin the king could not set Catelyn aside. Riverrun would rebel with more than enough reason. Instability could not be tolerated, not now. Stannis would have been the better option but Robert Baratheon did not believe his younger brother could be king. Stannis’s wife gave birth to a baby girl and Renly had Storm’s End to take care of. The king and Jon Arryn decreed that the eldest bastard boy would do as heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Gendry Baratheon was as old as Robb, perhaps older and had been raised in Flea Bottom until a year ago. His mother, a tavern wench, likely a whore was dead and had been so since the boy was three years old. Jon Arryn gave him to a blacksmith to apprentice and then made sure he was close to him.

Now the bastard boy was to be king. Cersei shook her head. She would no doubt hear from her lord father. The crown owed the Lannisters at least half the kingdoms. Tywin inched closer and closer to King’s Landing to become the Hand of the King. Jon Arryn was the only impediment; she was a bit surprised the old man was still alive. If she were her father she would have killed the man years ago. After all Tywin was the next feasible option to be Hand of the king.

Ned came to the bedchamber late, after she saw all the children to bed. In reality she only visited Bran and Arya’s chambers. Bran was her last baby and it was hard to let go while with her youngest daughter it was a matter of making sure she was tucked safely in bed and not wandering around the castle or worse the stables. At least half the men called her Arya underfoot. Cersei had been incensed when Ned refused to punish the men.

He kissed her lips and slipped next to her. “Robert legitimized one of his bastards.” The word bastard always left a bad after taste in her husband’s mouth. She chose to ignore his uncomfortable tone and act surprised at his statement.

“Why?” She asked while lying on his chest.

“The queen cannot give him more children. Do not play coy Cersei. You have probably known that little fact for years, perhaps since the youngest princess was born.”

She looked up and saw turmoil behind his eyes. Ned was not one to worry about politics. The North was safe and away from all the intrigues and dirty power plays. “I worry about Jon.” That definitely captured her attention.

“He is the heir of Winterfell. We made sure of that.” She kissed his chest. Ned caressed her long hair. “People know he’s a bastard.”

“He is not. He is mine own. I nursed him; I took care of him when he almost died. It was me who stayed up all night. I cured fevers; I kissed his scrapes. He calls me mother. You will not take that away from me.” Cersei said fiercely.

Ned kissed her angry scowl. “My love, have you ever thought that it would be best if Jon knew about his birth? He should know you did not birth him.”

Cersei paled and retreated from her husband. “Not if I can help it. He will never know. You will not tell him Ned, promise me.” She said.

“I can’t. He will ask, Cersei and we will not have any other choice but to tell him the truth.” She shook her head and faced her dresser instead of her husband.

“My men will never dare say anything about his birth but there will come a time when he will know.” He hugged her but she refused to let him see her anxiety. Intellectually she understood that it was best to let Jon know. He would not lose any titles. He was the true heir of Winterfell, legitimized by the king and recognized by his father just as this Gendry boy was. Power shifts were in play and once again she wondered whether her father gained or lost in the game. She was not an active player. King Robert could whore and drink; she felt a need to write to her father for counsel. She laughed internally; her lord father would dismiss the letter without a second glance. It would not benefit for all Westeros to know that the heir to Winterfell was a legitimized bastard. Cersei would have to wait and reevaluate the game. She needn’t worry. The game of thrones did not concern her. Jon would be heir of Winterfell. Robb would dispose of Casterly Rock. Joanna would marry Gendry Baratheon, heir to the throne. Tommen would marry Sansa Arryn and rule in the Eyre. Robin Arryn was a sickly child, too feeble to be the true warden of the Mountains and the Vale. Arya would be in Winterfell for as long as she could. Bran could marry one of the princesses and be a knight just like he wanted.

Cersei’s plans for the future reassured her but could not keep the doubt in her heart that something was coming. Something that would shake the peaceful existence she kept.

Ned held her; he liked to hold her to him. She once asked him why he would hold her all night. “Making sure you do not run away from me.” He mumbled half asleep. Cersei had rolled her eyes but now she welcomed his strength. Ned held her tight and whispered. “All of them will be safe. We all will be.” She wanted to believe him but the uneasiness did not go away. She did not sleep that night.

Jon Arryn was dead. She barely knew the man but he had been like a father to Ned. She received the raven from Tyrion who also announced that the Royals and the Lannisters were riding North. She walked through the godswoods, and reached the weirwoods.

Her husband polished his great sword, Ice. She smiled when he looked into her eyes. “How are the they?” Ned asked.

“Arya and Joanna are in love with their direwolves. Arya named hers Nymeria and Joanna named hers Lady.”

“Tommen named his Shaggy Dog.” Ned chuckled and she sat next to him. “He has a sense of humor.” Cersei chuckled. Tommen was an easygoing child with a kind soul, the kindest of her children.

“My love, we received a raven. Jon Arryn is dead. I am so sorry my love.” She held him as he clutched her. It was sad news, Ned asked her for time to pray and ask guidance. She told him about the royal visit. He nodded but concentrated on his prayers.

She let him be in those woods. He needed the spiritual release that this place afforded him. The lady of Winterfell retreated to the castle. It had been four years since Gendry Baratheon took his place as true heir to the Crown. Cersei walked and thought about the repercussions for the visit. She understood that the King’s visit was not a social one. He would ask her husband to be the new Hand of the King. Court was not a place for Ned; he was too honorable, too trusting and ethical for such place. He could not refuse however; it would be an insult to the king. She looked around, Jon and Robb trained together, sometimes she could not believe her boys were seven and ten and six and ten. Joanna and Tommen had just turned four and ten. Arya was three and ten and flowered. Bran her last boy was eight years old, hardly a babe.

The children found a dead direwolf with pups still nursing. Jon reasonably argued they had to take them in; after all it was the sigil of their house. They were in luck because there were seven direwolf pups. One for each heir and a spare, Farlen, the kennel master advised against the pups. There had not been any direwolves in Winterfell since the Targaryens arrived to Westeros. They were practically mythical creatures. Ned had relented when Bran pleaded. Her baby boy had gone to see his first execution, a deserter from the Wall. Cersei stalled as long as she could but Ned enforced his authority and took Bran along with the older boys.

She was not surprised to see Arya and Tommen sparring or Joanna with the pups sitting by the shade. Bran was probably trying to climb the walls. She saw him surefooted and grinning from a tower. He had not decided on a name for his pup yet. Robb called his Grey Wind and Jon called his albino pup Ghost.

Joanna grinned and grabbed her hand, “mother. Is it true? The prince is coming to Winterfell?” Cersei smiled, Joanna wanted to be queen and she would help her. “Yes, sweetling. We must prepare the castle and receive the royal party. Your uncles are coming too and grandfather.” The blond beauty smiled, she was every bit Cersei when she was three and ten. She would make a beautiful queen. The lady of Winterfell called her youngest girl, Arya.

“Come Arya. We must advance your lessons…” Her youngest daughter rolled her eyes but dropped her wooden sword. Bran climbed down and joined Tommen. Cersei lectured her two daughters. “I want you to behave like ladies. No riding without your brothers, no sparring for you Arya. Joanna, no archery for you and I do not want to see you near Jeyne Poole. You have a sister, Arya, talk to her and confide in her. The same applies to you.” Cersei watched as her daughters looked to each other and glared.

The girls were not as friendly to each other as she would have liked them to be. They were different. Joanna loved stories with princes and princesses. She was strong and liked archery but could not be compelled to try sword fighting. She wanted to be queen, to have children and a family. Arya was a warrior; she wanted to be Nymeria reborn. She wanted to be like Brienne of Tarth, who was victorious in tourneys and had some fame in the Stormlands. Cersei watched her and suffered for her. If only she were a little more like Joanna, who was more ladylike. Arya was a force to be reckoned with and volatile, much more so than she had been at that age.

“But mother, Jeyne is my best friend. Arya is so…” Cersei dared her daughter say anything unkind about her little sister. She had heard the horrible moniker that steward’s daughter called her little girl. Arya Horseface. Her daughter of course tried to pay no heed to such things beneath her. Cersei however knew her little girl and those comments hurt her. It did not help that Joanna shunned her for Jeyne and then Arya lashed against both girls. This was their opportunity to rekindle their friendship.

“She is so Arya.” Joanna said with a hopeless voice. Arya glared at her. “Well I certainly do not want to spend time with someone as stupid as you.” She frowned. “I can stay with Jon or Robb.”

“You will not. I said no swordplay and your brothers would be far too busy once the Royals come.” They were in her solar. Cersei lectured and asked them to help with the preparations. She included Arya. No daughter of hers would do as she pleased. Arya was strong but so was Cersei Stark.

“Arya and Joanna, you will like each other and make sure to friend the princesses. Your father would be disappointed if you did not. King Robert is his best friend.” Those words used to work on Arya but now the little girl was not as swayed as before.

“I bet you will have no problem getting along. They probably are as stupid as you are Joanna.” Arya said mockingly.

“Shut up horseface.” Joanna said with a frown marring her beautiful face.

Cersei glared at them. “Apologize to each other. You will stop Arya Stark, need I remind you that Joanna is your sister. Joanna, I you will not call your sister that name ever again.”

“What are our words?” She hissed.

“Winter is Coming.” They said at unison.

“Correct, you will need each other. You are sisters and nothing will ever change that. There will come a time when you will need each other.”

Supper was a grim affair. She rounded the children and explained that Jon Arryn had died. None of them knew the man, but understood that their father held the man in great esteem. Jon was named after him after all.

Ned was quiet more so than any other day. He did not smile when Joanna told him about Lady’s antics or when Tommen spoke about his progress in archery or when he mentioned the little direwolf pup that had no owner. The last pup remained nameless and was the most aggressive one. Robb attempted to lighten the mood. “Nuncle Tyrion will be coming with the royal party.”

Cersei nodded, Robb and Jon were particularly fond of the Imp. The twins were too young to remember anything about their uncle while Arya and Bran had never met any Lannisters.

“Your grandfather will be here too.” She commented. None of her children had met Tywin Lannister. Ned shifted uncomfortably; he avoided all talk about Tywin.

“Uncle Jaime will be happy to see you too.” She commented and continued to converse with her older children who told stories of Jaime when they met him.

Ned sought her that night and had her with single-minded intent. She was but an instrument for his pleasure. She welcomed him and his desperation. Once spent above her he rolled next to her. “Winter is coming my love.” He rasped and kissed her sweaty brow. They were under think furs and the fires were alight.

She moved his hair away from his face. “You are worried about father.” She could sense his trepidation; it was the same feeling she had. She did not really understand why father would bother to come north. It was not something she cared to think about too much.

Cersei kissed his chest. “Lysa Arryn and her children have fled to the Eyre.” She whispered.

“How have you acquired this knowledge?” Ned asked her with his hands rubbing her back.

“Tyrion wrote to me about it.” She said simply and kissed his throat. His hands went lower to her right ass cheek.

“I thought you despised your brother.” He teased her.

“I do but we are Lannisters and family comes first.” She said with a wicked smile. All the Seven Kingdoms knew about his righteousness but they did not know how her wicked little smile reduced him to a grunting animal. He growled and pinned her underneath him.

“Stark. You are Cersei Stark.” He pushed her legs apart and entered her. Cersei rocked her hips against his. She bared her neck for him to mark her. Ned had moods in which he loved to bite and lick her. She had come to like the stinging sensation of his teeth sinking into her flesh and then his tongue laving her marked skin. She moaned when he pulled both her legs to his shoulders and claimed her. She was exhausted by the end of the night. Ned sought solace in her, he was troubled but could not say the words. Cersei helped him, just as he helped her so many times.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

They arrived four months later. Cersei and Joanna had the castle shinning and ready to welcome their visitors. Arya had reluctantly, very reluctantly helped her sister and mother with the preparations for the welcoming feasts.

They were all decked with their finest garments and jewelry. Ned refused to have his hair cut but she forcibly trimmed his beard and combed his hair into a manly hairstyle. Jon and Robb looked less hairy too. Her sons were so alike that sometimes it was hard to believe she had not birthed Jon. Tommen and Joanna were side-by-side, golden twins, so unlike her and Jaime thankfully. Tommen loved his sister but he preferred to be in company of Bran or Jon. Arya and Bran finished the receiving line. Arya would have preferred to be between Robb and Jon. The Stark women looked beautiful, Arya’s choice was very appropriate. The girl had taste; she chose a dark blue dress for her while Joanna looked beautiful with a green gown. Both girls styled their hair in the northern fashions, long braids for their long blonde and brown hairs. Cersei wore her hair like her girls in long braids, she chose a shimmering grey gown with white trimmings, Stark colors.

They were ready to receive the royal party and the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. The king and the prince rode first, behind the Kingsguard. She looked to her side and watched as Joanna smiled. The little kitten was half in love with the heir to the Crown. He was handsome, she had to give him that. He looked just like Robert had a lifetime ago. The king was fat and old. She glanced at her husband who she daresay looked more handsome than when she met him.

The queen and the princesses exited the carriage. Catelyn looked older than her years, no doubt because of the king and his mistreatment. “You got fat.” The king said and then Ned looked at the king’s gut. Cersei tensed for a brief moment before smiling when both men embraced good-naturedly.

Catelyn smiled tightly when Ned kissed her hand. “My queen.” He said with a bow.

The king hugged her a little to tight and his hands were too free too. She endured the groping for a half a minute until Ned cleared his throat and pulled her away from the king.

The king chuckled. “This is Gendry, my son.” The young man was nervous. He bowed to Cersei and her daughters. Arya locked gazes with him. The prince smiled at her.

The queen frowned a little when Robert turned and pushed the tallest of the redheaded girls. “These are my princesses, Anna, Alayne and Cassana.” All the girls were pretty; they looked like well-mannered and tempered young ladies. The Crown was surely making marriage contracts for them. Cersei thought Anna would do nicely for Jon. Princess Myrcella would have been a better choice but she was dead. The girl perished two years ago to a fever. The girl had been feeble while Anna had a charm to her blue eyes. They were common blue eyes unlike Robert and the prince’s piercing blue eyes. Stannis and Renly shared the same exact blue eyes.

Catelyn did nothing to hide her disliking of the prince. She talked to another pretty redhead. She was far more beautiful than any of the princesses. “This is my niece. Sansa Arryn.” Catelyn said politely and the young lady curtsied. She smiled prettily at Robb and Jon.

King Robert kept his eyes on her bosom. “These are our children your grace.” She said formally. It would not do for Catelyn to see her as a threat. The queen must have been used to these distasteful displays; the woman averted her eyes and engaged in conversation with her niece.

“Oh, Cersei, let me try my luck.” The king boasted.

She smiled and let the king approach her eldest. “You must be Jon the heir.” He clapped her son in the back.

“You are Robb, after me young lad. More handsome than your big brother aye.” He chuckled and clapped him too.

The fat king moved next to Tommen. “Now this one looks like a Lannister but is at Stark, you have your father’s eyes.” He messed his hair.

“Brandon after your brother but he looks more like Benjen don’t you think Ned?” Ned smiled. “He does.” He was of course delighted that his old friend remembered his offspring’s name. No doubt Catelyn had coached him or Tyrion who was said to spend all his time in court.

“This pretty face must be Joanna. A fair lady in the making.” He bowed ungraciously to her. Joanna, bless her soul smiled prettily and blushed.

The king noticed Arya for the first time and he failed to produce a name. He smiled sadly. “Lyanna.” He said with a longing that worried Cersei.

“My name is Arya.” She said and then her eyes rounded and she hurriedly said. “Your grace.”

The king regained his faculties and turned to Ned. “Take me to her.” Catelyn tried to convince him otherwise but he was adamant on seeing Lyanna Stark.

Suddenly she was in the yard with the royal party. “Why don’t we go inside?”

“Cersei, some things do not change do they?” Catelyn said with an ever-fixed sad smile.

“We must accept our fates.” Cersei said smiling for her sake.

They walked to the castle. Her boys and the prince preferred to go to the training yards and work an appetite for the feast. The queen did not bother to say anything.

She noticed Jaime for the first time once they were inside the great hearth of Winterfell. He looked well; she was pleasantly surprised when they locked gazes. She did not feel anything inappropriate. She smiled when he kissed her. Jaime no longer aroused anything but filial feelings in her. “Stark colors.” He said as response, time and space had cooled his ardor too. He watched her with regret but seemed resigned to have lost her. “I am a Stark brother.” She replied and he nodded.

She hosted all the hens and made accommodations for them. The queen and her party claimed exhaustion and retired. The lady of Winterfell and her daughters greeted Tyrion and their grandfather.

“My nieces are nothing but beautiful girls. Such beauties, do you not think so father?” Tyrion did not let their father speak. “Two kingdoms united. Joanna, a fair maiden representing Casterly Rock, golden hair of the House Lannister.” The Imp kissed Joanna who kissed his cheek too. Cersei would have censored such display if it were not for the face Tywin Lannister pulled. He looked sour and discomfited. Tyrion could always provoke a rise out of father.

“She must be Arya of House Stark. A northern beauty you truly are my sweetling. The king sees his lost lady Lyanna but your cheekbones; oh those are your mother’s. She always has had beautiful cheekbones, one of her redeeming qualities.” He said in complicity. Arya’s face lit up and she chuckled. Tyrion winked at her.

“Father it is wonderful to see you again.” Cersei said dutifully. Lord Lannister nodded. “Where is your husband?” Tywin Lannister was not anything if not arrogant. He was in a home that was not his but looked as if he owned every single and last of them. Her father looked at his granddaughters. Lord Lannister looked at Joanna with something akin to regret. No one in the room noticed however. Young Joanna Stark was more beautiful than her mother; she was just as beautiful as Tywin’s Joanna had been. Lord Lannister glanced back at his daughter expecting an answer.

“He is down in the crypts with the King. These are…” She was about to properly introduce her daughters. “Do not concern yourself. Joanna and Arya. Your brother eloquently introduced them.” He left the hall without another word. Cersei hated the fact that she felt like the neglected child she had been once mother died and father became completely cold. Lady Stark still wanted approval from the dour man. She had been the only one he should be proud of. Cersei Lannister provided him plenty of grandchildren to continue his thrice-damned legacy.

“A charming man I have always said.” Tyrion smirked and asked for his nephews. “I have yet to meet Brandon. I would love to see Robb and Jon. I assume Tommen is with them as well.”

Arya looked positively scheming. She knew that her mother could not afford to deny her plans because she hosted the royals and her family. “I’ll take you to them nuncle. Come, quickly.” She dragged a laughing Tyrion away.

“You are just as beautiful as your mother was.” Jaime kissed Joanna’s cheek. Cersei felt discomfited, her daughter was not she, Joanna was sweet child with Ned’s sense of loyalty and honor.

“Thank you uncle.” Jaime smiled, a sad smile and watched her go after Tyrion and Arya. Her daughter was a good girl. She had been tasked with making sure Arya was as lady like as possible.

Cersei was once again alone with Jaime. Her heart thumped. He would help her she was sure, “You will go to King’s Landing I presume.” Jaime looked at her gently. His eyes drank her in. Her brother was still handsome.

“I do not understand…” Ladies were to be seen not heard. No lady would ever bother with politics and intrigues. Cersei tried to put a front.

“Surely you must know. King Robert does not trust our father, or any Lannisters for that matter. He will ask Stark to be his Hand.” Her twin stated with a sarcastic voice.

Cersei dropped the façade. Jaime would not be fooled. Her brothers knew her. Jaime understood her and Tyrion knew how cruel and manipulative she could be, “What has Stannis done? Why does it have to be my husband?” She said angrily.

Jaime looked as if she had gone insane, “You wanted to be queen. Ever since we were children we spoke about you being a queen and I would be your knight.”

She smiled, an echo of his sad smile, “I wanted to be a knight too brother but alas I am neither queen nor knight. I am Lady Stark and the Starks do not do well south. King’s Landing is not a place for Ned.”

“I am sure you will keep your northern man safe.” Jaime did nothing to disguise his contempt for his brother in law.

Cersei switched tactics, he would never be the ally she needed to keep Ned protected. He held too much hatred for her husband. She switched to the Arryns. “Lysa Arryn fled with little Robert. Why did she not take her daughter Sansa with her?”

Jaime sat down by the fires. Winter was coming indeed. Ned speculated that their summer would not last another year. She waited for her brother to answer her inquiry. “Lysa despises her daughter. I believe she is jealous of the girl’s beauty. Half court expects her to be the new queen.”

She rolled her eyes, “Please, Joanna is far more beautiful than that Arryn girl.”

“Lysa Arryn spread rumors before she left to the Eyre.” Jaime said clearly. “She told anyone who would listen that her husband was killed by Lannisters.”

Cersei’s head snapped to her brother. Finally, this conversation yielded something more than idle gossip. “Did we?” It sounded like a ploy her father would hatch but it was too obvious, too overt for her father to scheme in such way.

“I do not know, Tyrion would never and father has denied it but Lannisters lie.” Jaime said calmly.

“Ned will not refuse the king.” Cersei said mournfully. The king would convince her husband and Ned’s sense of loyalty and friendship would win out.

“He should refuse. The last Starks who went to King’s landing melted like summer snows.” Her twin smirked and wore a sardonic smile.

Cersei looked at him and tried again, “You have to protect him. Swear it.”

Jaime laughed and stood up from his place by the fire. She held his hands and looked worriedly at him. He was a few inches taller than her. In that moment Cersei was anxious, she felt something in her chest and needed to tell Jaime. Her brother had to know and help her. He would help her, Jaime always did. He had been her protector and best friend before she married Ned. This was serious. For the first time in seven and ten years she initiated physical contact with him. “I love him. I hurt if he hurts.” She said with a pleading voice.

He touched her cheek. “Have you any idea, how much those words hurt?” He said with a deep sadness. Cersei felt selfish but Ned needed Jaime to take care of him. He rubbed her cheek and traced her lips. “I love you, I will love you until I exhale my last breath and you ask me to protect your husband.”

She paused, could he have changed? Could he deny her this? “Eddard is a good man. He is far from perfect. He is too stubborn and single-minded but he is mine. I will do anything to protect him and the children.” She said with conviction.

Jaime misinterpreted her implication; he stepped back. “The Kingslayer they call me. I am no rapist sweet sister. Do not concern yourself. Your wolf and wolflings will be safe. I promise.”

She thanked him with a hug. He hugged her fiercely. They broke their embrace when Bran ran inside with his puppy. She smiled at him, “come here love.” Bran smiled and walked to her. “Robb, Jon, Tommen and the prince left me.” He hugged her and the wolf yapped and barked at Jaime.

“Meet uncle Jaime.” Bran smiled. “You are in the Kingsguard. You are knight, a true proper knight.” Her youngest was in awe of his uncle and monopolized his attention from then on. Jaime had barely time to glance at her when Bran dragged him outside. Nuncle Jaime had to see the other pups and the horses.

Cersei stayed in the hall by the fire, waiting, hoping Ned miraculously refused his oldest friend. She watched the flames dance and tried to think about the outcomes of this visit; the prospects were disheartening indeed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

The welcoming feast for the royals was to be a grand affair. Cersei had her family on a tight leash. She had her eldest boys meet in Jon’s quarters. They had just arrived from the local brothel. She knew it had probably been Robb’s idea. She did not need to know any details about their outings. Tommen, her four and ten year old son had lost his virginity today. They must have taken the prince to sample the local wenches. Jon should have known better. Eddard scowled when the boys came back to the fort. King Robert laughed and clapped her children and the prince in the back. She glared at Ned the first time her sons visited that place but he merely shrugged and kept quiet.

Arya and Joanna were getting ready for the feast in Joanna’s quarters. She would inspect her children once she was done with her preparation. Cersei was to wear her hair in an elaborate braid; the handmaiden wove pieces of emeralds in her hair. It was beautiful. She smiled at the mirror and put on her green gown. She decided to not wear any Lannister or Stark colors tonight.

“You look as beautiful as when you first came North.” Ned said from the door. He trimmed his beard and looked handsome.

“You jest my lord. I am old, I have lines around my eyes, I have marks from all your horrible big children and my teats are sagging.”

He smirked and kissed her lips. “I like them just fine.” He touched her breasts lightly.

“You would.” She chuckled and batted his hands away from her body. “I have to make sure our daughters have not killed each other.

She stepped away from the room and went to Joanna’s quarters. The girls were the perfect pictures of little ladies. Joanna wore a beautiful crimson gown that showcased her femininity and outlined her figure as a woman grown. She wore her hair in a braided crown, both girls did. Arya looked beautiful with her grey gown, it accented the creamy of her skin. She was at ease in the simple yet pretty dress. Her youngest daughter almost looked ladylike. Her Stark grey eyes shone when Joanna helped her with a tear shaped pendant. Arya was a warrior but she was a girl too. All girls wanted to be pretty and her daughter as hard headed, independent and fierce was a woman and she wanted to look her best. These rare and precious moments encouraged Cersei; her girls loved one another.

Lady Stark strode in and smiled, “You both look beautiful my girls.”
“Mother, come help me put flowers in Arya’s hair.”

Arya shook her head. “No flowers, I already have my hair in this ridiculous style. Must I suffer through flowers too?”

Joanna rolled her yes. “You have to. Mother make her do it, what will the queen think of us when she sees us?”

Cersei grabbed a bunch of white and red wildflowers. “Your father once said I looked lovely with flowers in my hair. He won a Tourney for me and declared me his queen of love of beauty.” Her girls looked attentively at her. “It was the queen’s nameday too. Your father undid the biggest crown of flowers and gave me the red and white ones.” She cut the flowers from their stems. She put red flowers on Joanna’s hair first. Arya very reluctantly helped her and let her mother and sister put white flowers in her hair.

“I don’t understand why I have to wear this stupid dress. Joanna is the one who wants to be queen and reign the Seven kingdoms.” Cersei ignored her youngest.

Joanna glared at her sister but looked hopefully at her mother. “Has father said anything mother? Will I be queen?” She gasped. Cersei smiled, one of her secretive smiles. She kissed her forehead. Lady Stark had an inkling her daughter would seal a marriage contract tonight. Joanna would enthrall the young prince; she was even more beautiful than her when she was four and ten.

“It is time. Arya please leave your hair in peace. You look beautiful my loves both of you. Your brothers will be waiting for you.” She left them and went to get her sons.

Bran was trying to get away from Jon who chased him. Robb and Tommen were speaking about horses. “Robb, you will escort Arya and Jon you will escort Joanna. Tommen and Bran you will behave properly.” They all nodded.

“Did you have words with Arya?” Robb queried as they left the rooms.

“As it matters I had. Keep an eye on her.” She advised Robb.

Ned waited by the stairs for her. They entered the great hall and welcomed their guests. Once king Robert arrived the feast was a proper celebration. Cersei noted the queen looked perfectly coiffed but looked bothered by the prince’s presence. The young man was with his youngest sister Cassana. She was Joanna’s age and every bit beautiful. He twirled her and laughed merrily. He looked kind and comfortable with his sisters. Alayne blushed and danced with Jon probably smitten already. Robb was with Arya laughing at something. Joanna and Sansa Arryn were placidly speaking.

She sat with the queen and learned that princess Lyanna was engaged to Wyllas Tyrell. “She is to be married as soon as we return to King’s Landing.”

Cersei smiled, “I am sure she will love Highgarden.” She remembered her teenage years. She had been Sansa Arryn’s age when her father married her off to Ned. Political alliances he called it. The Baratheons secured the Reach, they would have loved to have such a claim in the Westerlands but unfortunately for them the apparent heir was a dwarf. Lady Stark smirked, the advisors to the crown surely believed that Tywin would leave everything to uncle Kevan. Almost no one counted Tyrion as heir apparent. Her brother was in his cups with the Greatjon. They made such comical contrast. She glanced at the lower tables and found king Robert drinking ale from some wench’s bosom. The queen looked displeased with reason if Eddard even dared to display such behavior she would rip his eyes and tongue from his face.

She searched for him in the crowds and was taken aback to see him with Jaime. They were speaking with the same tension they reserved for each other. She saw as Benjen joined them. Lord Tywin approached Tyrion’s table and was possibly arguing with his youngest son because in less than five minutes. The two men disappeared from the great hall. “Your Joanna is quite beautiful.” The queen’s eyes went to the young girl who danced with the prince. Sansa Arryn did not look pleased.

Joanna was the picture of beauty. Prince Gendry was courteous and a good dancer it seemed. “Your niece does not look pleased your grace.”

Catelyn smiled sadly. “She is half in love with the bastard. He of course does not pay her any mind. Lysa was a fool to not take her to the Eyre but truth be told my sister is not fond of her daughter. Sansa takes after me, in looks. She is beautiful and a sweet creature if not naïve. A silly girl dare I say, as we both were when we were so young.” Cersei smiled. Joanna would be queen.

The feast was a success. Cersei was happy to boast that her children were perfect that night. Bran did not climb any surface and retired early, as befit of a child his age. Tommen entertained princess Cassana. She could see him blushing from time to time. Robb and Jon were perfect gentlemen and danced with Arya and Joanna. She laughed when Robb and Arya spun in the middle of Winterfell hall. Joanna clapped and smiled prettily at her siblings. Jon and his uncle Benjen laughed uproariously. Robb spun Arya who giggled and danced vigorously. Cersei had never seen her daughter so sure in a dress. She looked wild, untamed, with her hair and the flowers spilling from the pretty hairstyle. Cersei was not the only one watching, Gendry Baratheon watched too. Lady Stark failed to see the heir to the crown looking at her daughter with a strange expression in his face.

Cersei smiled when Ned and the King approached the table. King Robert was in his cups but her husband was sober and somber. “Dear Cersei, make your mule of a husband understand it is an honor to be the Hand of the King.” The man sat a little too close to her and rested his hand on her leg.

Ned frowned at his eldest friend. “Remove your hands from my wife.” He said with a deadpan voice. Robert Baratheon looked puzzled and the queen looked embarrassed. Ned glared at the king who glared back and then burst out in joyous laughter. “The Quiet Wolf does not share.” The king smiled. “Lighten up Ned.” The fat king roared and went back to the common hall to his kitchen wench.

Cersei looked at her husband he was not pleased. She smiled and decided to once again establish conversation with the queen who decided to retire. “My queen, a word please.”

The queen slowed her walk. Cersei walked with her. “How are you Catelyn?”

The redheaded woman did not smile. She was cold and closed off. “I am fine Lady Stark.”

Cersei stiffened. The queen was not the young woman and mother she had once known. She recovered quickly, “I hope you were entertained tonight my queen.”

“It was a most delightful feast.” She said with a fake smile. “I am awfully tired.” The woman then went to her quarters with her maidens in tow.

She frowned. The Tully woman had always been friendly to her. She went out of her way to include her whenever they met. The queen had wanted one of her princesses to be Lady of Winterfell. The sensation that her life would change drastically increased by the second, she walked back to the Hall and watched as her husband laughed with the King. She looked over her children and found Jon laughing with Tyrion. Robb danced with Arya who laughed and twirled. Joanna danced with the Crown Prince. Cersei smiled when Jon held her hand and invited her to dance.

Lady Stark danced with her son. “Nuncle Tyrion says you and father will go South.” Her son said with a hallow voice.

“It is likely son.” She replied, keeping her smile for all the guests to see.

“You will have to marry and hold Winterfell as yours now. Your father will be the Hand of the King.” He nodded and twirled her.

Cersei retired only after the king kissed a wench and slipped one of his hands beneath her skirts. She took Joanna and Arya with her. “Time for us to go to bed.” She said as she dragged a laughing Arya while Joanna curtsied and left with them.

“The Prince is so dreamy.” Joanna whispered softly. Arya did not say anything and her laughter faded. Cersei smiled at her eldest daughter. “Your father will be the Hand of the King. We will go to King’s Landing.”

Arya frowned but Joanna took the news with delight. “How wonderful.” She babbled about the court and the pleasantries of the south.

“I don’t want to go South.” Cersei expected such talk from Arya. She was seriously thinking of leaving her in Jon’s care. As lady of Winterfell she should stay with Jon but it would not do for her to leave Ned to his own devices. He did not know how to play the game. Cersei did not trust any of her kin to protect her husband. She had Jaime’s word of protection but she had to make sure Eddard thrived in King’s Landing.

The girls settled in their quarters and she visited Bran’s rooms. He was fast asleep and safe. She worried about him. He was always climbing and she was scared to see him fall.

She retired to her quarters and waited for Ned. The first words out of his mouth did not startle her. “Robert wants his son to marry our Joanna.” Cersei nodded, she thought the notion would fill her with happiness but it only cemented the feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. “I have accepted Robert’s offers.”

“I thought you were reticent on that matter.” She said as she divested him of his tunic. “Starks do not do well in the south.” He kissed her cheek, bringing her close to his chest. She helped him out of trousers. Cersei was not surprised in the least. Ned would accept, as he had always done when it came to Robert asking for help. Eddard Stark raised his banners and men as soon as Lyanna Stark had been “captured”. He won him the throne. Eddard fought in the Greyjoy Rebellion too, even when he had a wife and a son to take care of. Her husband accepted the position. Cersei had half a mind to convince him otherwise, to threaten him, and promise him anything if he remained in Winterfell. This was the king asking but more important than that it was Ned’s best friend. Ned could refuse.

“Jon Arryn was poisoned.” Cersei did not expect those words out of her husband’s mouth.

“Tyrion might have mentioned it earlier. Your lord father advised me against taking the position.” He said as he tried to undo her sleeping gown.

“Eddard do not go.” She gasped. He could still refuse. The more Cersei thought about it the more sense it made for her husband to not accept the position as Hand of the King.

“I have to.” He somberly said and looked at her with big grey sad eyes.

“You do not have to. You have to take care of your family. You will not be able to do so if you go to King’s Landing.” She replied stubbornly.

“Robert needs me now. I should have helped him earlier, instead I came back North.”

Cersei caressed his cheek, “you should not feel guilty my love. You won him the throne. You did your duty; it was time to go back North.”

Ned kissed her hands. “He asked me to be his Hand seven and ten years ago. I should have accepted. I should have helped him. You saw what he’s become.”

Her husband could not bring himself to say the words. King Robert Baratheon was a drunkard, irresponsible, lascivious king; the wrong man to rule the Seven Kingdoms.

He kissed her gently. “I accepted my sweet. There is no turning back now my lioness.” She kissed him softly too. She kissed his chest, caressed him. Trying to memorize the lines and scars of his body.

Ned rubbed her thighs, his hands softly made their way to her belly and he sat up with her in his lap. He snaked his fingers in her hair. Her husband smiled when he saw the emerald pieces. “You looked beautiful tonight. I could not keep my eyes away from you.” He massaged her scalp and recovered the emeralds. “You are exquisite.” Cersei moaned when he combed his fingers through her long curling hair.

“My love.” She said when he hugged her and smelled her hair. “You smell delicious. What have you done to me lioness?”

“I love you Ned.” She sighed, grasping his member gently, guiding him to her entrance with the practice and ease of years sharing these intimate moments.

Lord Stark gently pushed her to the bed and pulled her legs apart. He touched her; it was amazing; after years of couplings Cersei still so receptive to his fingers, his tongue, his words. She bit his bottom gently, just like he liked it. She pulled on his hair. Ned thrust inside of her and kept a slow rhythm they had discovered they liked. Cersei loved watching her husband become undone inside of her. His eyes became an impossible shade of dark grey; his voice was raspy. Ned chanted her name as he dissolved inside of her. She felt powerful whenever she brought him to world stopping orgasms. Ned stayed inside of her and played with her little button. She felt her thighs quiver as he used his fingers and tried to harden again inside of her.

“Fuck Cersei.” He said as he slipped outside of her and teased her entrance with his now hard cock. She whined when he entered her slowly decadently again. She exploded with him inside of her. Ned smiled, he pushed into her slowly, maddeningly slow. “You feel incredible lioness.” She bit his jaw teasingly. Her husband pushed and pulled with an increasing gentle force that left her breathless.

Cersei Stark had experienced the many different aspects of this man. At first he had been Lord Stark, the stranger who did his duty and claimed her once or twice per week until she claimed Jon as hers. He had been Eddard, her husband who gave her a son and respected her. He had been Ned, husband, friend and lover who claimed her every night since she gave birth to Robb. A man who studied her body and became proficient in the arts of pleasuring her. Ned had his moods, when she first came to his bed he had been methodical, intent to at least afford her some pleasure in the arranged marriage bed. When the children came, he became more attentive, possessive, giving and when she finally told him she loved him he left no boundaries. She remembered the first time in the spring pools. Ned had not had any boundaries with her anymore. There was no more hesitancy only a burning desire to learn more about each other. This man above her had made love to her in so many different and delicious ways she had a hard time remembering all the nights she had woken up aroused with the mere thought of his hands in her body.

She closed her eyes and kissed him because she would shout and beg him to make love to her again and again. “Ned.” She felt her whole body give away to the delicious tingling and heat that her husband provoked in her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

The royals were to stay for two to three weeks. Ned, Joanna, Bran, Robb and Tommen would travel south with the royal party. Cersei and Arya would travel later once Jon was secured as lord of Winterfell. She had argued with Ned, she wanted to leave with him but her husband did not heed her advice. “Our son needs to find a wife and take care of Winterfell. You must make sure he is prepared for his responsibilities.”

Cersei arranged things around the castle and with their impeding move she had less time to watch over all her children. As a result Arya managed to run wild and free. She met with her eldest brothers and the prince every time they trained unbeknownst to Lady Stark. She was too busy planning and sorting the household. The queen and propriety kept her busy too. Lady Sansa, Joanna, the princesses and the Queen met for needlework every day. She had not forced Arya to be with them because it was plain that the queen resented the girl. Cersei could see the hatred in her eyes. Ever since Robert called her by Lyanna’s name Catelyn took an unhealthy aversion to Arya. Lady Stark did not like that look in the woman’s eyes and preferred Arya occupied herself watching over Brandon or sorting things for the move. Cersei tasked the girl with chores to keep her busy. Arya, deftly delegated those chores to Jeyne Poole or the other servants. Arya had assured them all that if anyone breathed a word to Lady Stark she personally would make sure to dispense from their services in Winterfell. Lady Stark needed to attend the tedious needle sessions; she had to make sure to keep the network of friends and connections alive.

Catelyn Baratheon was a bitter woman who was disgusted by her husband. Her only joy was to see her daughters married. She was close to marrying all of them. Myrcella was dead. Anna was engaged to the Highgarden heir. Cersei thought about Jon, he needed a wife. His father had been bedded and wedded when he was ten and seven years. Alayne would be the reasonable option although Cassana was younger and prettier.

Lady Stark tested the waters once the young princesses, Lady Sansa and Joanna left to see Lady. The king and Ned had reached an agreement Joanna would marry Prince Gendry after his seventeenth name day next year. The engagement had not been properly announced yet and the parties were not supposed to know. Cersei kept her mouth shut. She remembered how aunt Genna and father promised her Rhaegar Targaryen only to be slighted when he married Elia Martell of Dorne.

“I have not been to King’s Landing since before king Robert won the crown.” She started.

Catelyn nodded. “It’s changed quite a bit or so Jaime and Tyrion say.” Lady Stark was determined to gain some of the ground she had lost. It puzzled her greatly that Catelyn acted so aloof when she had been so naïve and friendly to her.

“Court is rather dull. Same old gossip and people.” The queen replied half-heartedly doing her needlework with perfection.

She quieted and continued her work. She gasped when a direwolf pup ran inside the room. It was Brandon’s. She heard her son came in running. “I’m sorry mother.” He said and tried to get the pup from under the table.

“Bran.” She said, her boy did not mind the queen. “Come on puppy, come out, just come out. I will not bathe you anymore.” Her son pleaded with his pup.

“Brandon Stark. You get up and get your direwolf out of here.” She hissed to her child. Bran frowned and then looked at the queen. The boy’s face would have brought a smile to his face in any other situation. “I’m sorry your Grace.” He said and managed to grab his puppy and run out of the room.

Cersei smiled tightly. “He’s quite a handful. Not as spirited as Robb but a handful nonetheless. He likes to climb things. I’m half afraid he’ll fall one of these days.

The queen laughed, a real laugh. “You named him after Brandon. That is one thing I do not envy. Girls do not climb. They are ladies and are not as forceful as boys.” Cersei laughed, she clearly had not lived with Arya Stark.

“That is true your Grace.” They spoke about the girls then. Catelyn became lively once she spoke about her daughters. “Anna will be quite happy in Highgarden. Alayne’s hand has been petitioned by prince Quentyn of House Martell and Cassana, well she’s still fairly young as is your Joanna.”

Lady Stark saw her window of opportunity. “Princess Alayne’s betrothal, is it final?”
The queen shook her head. “Robert refuses to strike an offer. His bastard is rather fond of Alayne and Cassana.”

There it was, the source of more bitterness. Gendry Baratheon, the first of his name. “The king dotes on his son, pays him more attention than he ever did my girls. Myrcella, my poor girl died of shame and sadness. She would have given her life for Robert to look at her with a shred of the pride he shows that bastard. She died because of that boy. It should have been him dead and not my princess.” Catelyn said with a hatred Cersei never thought the woman capable of.

“The bastard can barely tolerate Robert. I have to say I take a great pleasure out of the disdain the boy shows.” The queen’s dam had broken and she was bursting to let all of her bitterness out.

The royals had been in her home for two weeks and this was the first time Catelyn Tully looked at her as the friend she had years ago. "You must be wondering why Robert decided to have your husband as the Hand of the King."

The lady of the house felt uncomfortable. This was dangerous territory. Long forgotten was her desire to have princess Alayne or Cassana as Jon's wife. This was part of game she had not properly played in almost two decades. "I don't presume to understand such things your grace." The blond said with a meek tone.

The Tully woman looked at her as if evaluating the veracity of the declaration. She passed the test, "Robert despises Stannis." She laughed bitterly. "Our king suffers because his bastard son loves the uncle better than the father."

Cersei gasped accordingly. "I remember when that awful wretch arrived to the castle. I was insulted as should be any proper lady. I failed in my duty and the gods decided to punish me so. Robert brought his bastard for me to take care of. I refused of course but the King needed an heir and Stannis was not fit to be king or so Robert said. Jon Arryn brought that brute to my home. Robert took a liking to the boy. He resembles him quite a lot. Renly and Stannis love the bastard too. My girls are trueborn and their uncles have never taken any interest in them. The bastard spent most of his time with Stannis and his scarred little daughter. Robert despises the fact that the wretch loves Stannis better and banished his brother to Dragon Stone."

She nodded, a long time ago Cersei Stark railed and threatened Ned Stark to leave for Casterly Rock and cause an outrage if he kept young Jon Snow in her legitimate household. It was so long ago. "To add salt to my wounds this callous, unrefined boy became Robert's main concern. I saw as my Myrcella suffered because the little attention her father gave her vanished."

"Gentry Baratheon, first of his name." Catelyn intoned with a mocking voice. "He is nothing more than a bastard, bad blood, born out of lust and broken promises." The Queen stated with undiluted hatred. Catelyn was gone, replaced by a hard woman. A woman who resented her husband and could not stand the sight of him.

Cersei reached for her hands, "we must make the best of our circumstances."

The queen stiffly patted her hands. "As always correct lady Stark. You will enjoy the south and its diversions I'm sure. I am truly sorry for your Joanna."

Cersei frowned briefly, sensing a bit of a threat. Catelyn must have sensed her trepidation. "She will have to endure a Baratheon man. Be it Robert, Stannis, Renly or that wretched bastard. They are not worthy of you daughter's beauty and her innocence." The red headed monarch intoned.

The queen knew about the engagement. She was not pleased in the slightest. “Do you remember when the children were little and we wished to join our houses?” Catelyn offered.

Cersei nodded. “How ironic? Your daughter and the bastard will join Baratheon and Stark. I wished the king would make an engagement contract for one of our daughters but he decided the Starks would do better with a queen. My princesses are not for the likes of his best and most trusted friend. They will be sold like cattle for alliances as we once were.” The queen dispelled all queries then.

She dared speak her name once more and offer friendship words again. “Catelyn. My Ned had nothing to do with your husband’s decisions.” She offered with the most conciliating tone she could muster.

“Of course he did not. Eddard’s mistake was not to refuse when he could.” The queen said coldly. It was a threat. Cersei politely ordered refreshments. They drank lemon water and continued their labor in silence. The lady of the house had much to think about that night.

She waited for her husband in their quarters, thinking about King’s Landing and all the threats. She did not hear him come in and only noticed his presence when he held her. “Your father threatened me.” Cersei stiffened. “What did he say?”

Her husband ran his fingers over her barely cladded belly. “Lord Lannister remarked on my lack of experience and the fact that there had been better and more assured candidates for such honorable position.”

“Maybe you should not have accepted.” She said turning to him. “Catelyn Baratheon hates the prince. She is resentful and blames the boy and Robert’s lack of love for her daughters as the reason for princess’s Myrcella’s death.”

“Robert is my friend. He needs my help. Jon Arryn’s death was not of old age.” He mused. “We have discussed this time and time again. I will not be swayed lioness.” He stated. “Jon Arryn was murdered.”

“You do dot know that for an absolute fact.” She fetched for clues in his words.

“I do not but I trust my instincts and they tell me Tyrion did not lie.” Her husband trusted the Imp. Tyrion had spent the majority of his visit with Ned and Robb. Her brother and her son’s visits to the brothel did not amuse her. Jon thankfully was more reserved. Her eldest was busy taking over the estate and its obligations.

Cersei looked into his grey eyes. "You should not go alone." Her husband frowned. "I can take care of myself and our children." Ned stated while kissing her cheek. “You have to stay with Jon. I should have taught him more. He’s not ready lioness.”

She kissed his chest. “You were not ready either.”

He sighed and massaged her shoulders. “I had you,” his tone simple and honest.

Cersei felt the usual butterflies in her stomach when he reminded her she was needed. She kissed him slowly. “We’ll have to find him another wife.” She played with his chest hair.

“Let him manage the estate first. He will have time for wives once he’s settled as Lord Stark.” Ned pointed out reasonably.

She let her husband play with her hair and then kiss her neck. He was done talking. The woman laughed when he nipped at her collarbones and tried to rip her nightgown. “Why must you insist in wearing these in bed?” He asked annoyed at the lack of skin contact.

“It is chilly in the North my lord husband.” She said with an innocent voice. Eddard loved it when she acted coy. He growled and attacked her. She kept her moans and whimpers low, lest anyone in the castle heard them. It was a big estate but it was not proper to have such interaction when they had Winterfell full of Kingsmen and the Royals.

The next morning Cersei did not expect her lord father to ask her to his solar. Lord Tywin Lannister as was his custom commandeered from his quarters. He disposed and ruled from his rooms in Winterfell. Ned hated the entitlement the eldest Lannister showed. Cersei of course served as buffer. Tyrion would only antagonize and Jaime. Well, Jaime did not care to speak with his brother in law at all. Her father did not dine with them or spend any time with her progeny. She was glad; it had been enough that first night after the feast when she had to suffer through his silences. Her children tried to know their grandfather. Jon attempted to engage him but Tywin did not answer any questions. She had fisted her utensils; it was a blessing when he ignored Robb and Tommen too. Bran was too scared to even look at the older man in the eyes. Arya frowned all the time and Joanna only looked at her plate that night.

“Father.” She said as greeting and only moved when her lord father motioned to the chair in front of him. He was writing something or other and made her wait half an hour before addressing her. Cersei was uncomfortable enough because she had not forgotten the rules when it came to interacting with Tywin. Lord Lannister did not care for anyone’s time but his own. He existed in an arrogant sphere in which he was privileged. She waited with repressed anger because she had not felt so despondent in years.

Finally Lord Lannister looked up from his papers and looked at her with disappointment. “I thought I had taught you better. I see the bastard is still alive. He’s older, stronger, not easily murdered.” He said with that calm tone of his.

She remained passive, for once because he hated when his children did not answer and because she was scared. Her father was ruthless. He was infallible. The man had his eyes on her son.

“You are weak Cersei. We are lions, we do not adopt wolflings but you defied nature. Do not fret; the bastard is safe. He poses no threat for me as Westeros believes him to be my kin. He might be useful yet.” The man said calculatingly.

“I have called you for another matter.” He coldly looked at her. “I hear Joanna will be queen.”

Cersei nodded. “Eddard and the king have reached an agreement on the matter.”

“She is beautiful. You have produced capable children it seems. Smart, willful, the lot of them; Joanna and Arya could cement our legacy in Dorne and the Crownlands.” He remarked. She looked down at her feet once more. Arya would never set a foot in Dorne if she had any say in the matter. She would stay North with her and Jon.

“Lord Stark will not last as Hand of the King.” The man’s eyes glinted. Her father had abandoned his previous musings and reached the purpose of her visit.

“Is that a threat father?” Cersei’s voice was fierce.

“It is a fact.” The man did not break their stare.

“Ned is the King’s eldest and best friend.” She said with the same calculating voice her father used.

“Precisely why he will not last as Hand of the King.” The man offered.

Cersei grew weary of the conversation. “I don’t understand the purpose of our discussion.”

“Your brother refuses to leave the Kingsguard. I have no heirs. It is his duty to our family to produce me an heir and continue the Lannister name. You have a strange hold on your brother Jaime. Make him leave that useless guard and I will protect your Northerman.” The man said as explanation.

She smirked, for the first time she had defeated lord Tywin in something. She had Jaime’s protection. There was nothing this man could offer compared to that. Jaime had given his word to her that he would protect Ned. “You have an heir, Tyrion.”

“Do as I say Cersei.” Her father was used to giving orders and people following them.

Cersei was drunk with her assumed advantage and victory and relished the words that came out of her mouth. “No.” A simple monosyllabic word that expressed everything she had wanted to say to this man for years.

Her father shifted his face to an unmovable mask of ice. “You will do as I say. I am your father and you will do your duty to our family.”

She remained impassive, “Father, you must not understand your words. You sold me to Eddard Stark. I bore him heirs; I am part of the North. My duty is to my husband and sons, all four of them. I am Lady Cersei Stark of Winterfell.” She said with a smile. “By the rules of our kingdoms I am no longer yours to order. My husband became my owner the moment you sold me like a brood mare to the North seven and ten years ago.” Cersei used the rhetoric Westerosi septons fed Westerosi women.

The lady of the castle left the solar with a radiant smile on her face. Father did not call after her. She left with a triumphant feeling in her belly. Tywin Lannister offered her a protection that Jaime had willingly given. Her twin brother would aid her. Jaime could not break promises to her. He would keep his oath.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

Tonight was the perfect night to announce the Prince’s engagement to her daughter. It was two days before her husband and her children left for the capital. The Starks hosted an intimate dinner with her family and the royals. Lord Tywin deigned them with his presence this time. He looked sour but the corner of his lips lifted a little when he graced eyes upon Joanna and Arya. Lady Stark wore a white and grey dress, adorned with myrish lace her aunt Genna sent her. She looked radiant. Ned wore his usual attire and had acceded to trim his beard into some semblance of propriety. Joanna was too smart for her own good and had inklings, as what would happen that night. Cersei saw as her eldest daughter joined them in the hall. She wore a golden gown, beautiful as she was. There was no doubt she was the prettiest woman in attendance. The princesses were dressed well too. The queen could be called beautiful when she was not frowning or looking at her husband and prince with disgust. Lady Sansa looked beautiful too. She wore a robin egg blue gown that accented the red of her hair and the blue of her eyes. Arya wore a black dress and her hair was neatly plaited. She looked bothered and bored. Cersei knew that Arya would have given her left arm to be anywhere else. She had recently discovered her little ploys to get around from packing and her meetings with Jon and Robb. Arya Stark had not left her mother’s side in four days. Cersei treated her like a well cared for prisoner or so the young woman claimed. Lady Stark had glared and reminded her that she could do with her as she pleased since she lived under her roof, ate her food and trained with her bows, arrows, and swords and used her servants. “You will behave. We had an agreement Arya, you failed to comply, be grateful you will travel with me and not your father. He grows weary of your intents to do as you please. Your father is fair and forgiving to an extent but he does not tolerate outright defiance. What would he do if I tell him about your detours?”

“Mother you wouldn’t?” Arya asked softly. “I would, if you disobey once more I will. He will take away all your lessons and I will not interfere.” Cersei replied. The girl had obeyed then. Arya was willful but so was her mother.

Cersei smiled at Arya who mockingly smiled back. Her sons were dressed and seated around the big table. Tyrion and Jaime were present as well. Her brothers chatted amicably with Robb and Jon. Tommen and Bran held court with the princesses. Lord Stark gave up his usual place at the head of the table to his long time friend and king. He sat at the right of the head, with Cersei by his side. The Queen preferred to sit as far possible from the king and the prince who would of course be seated at the left of his father. The attendees waited on the prince and his father.

King Robert Baratheon and the crown prince appeared twenty minutes later. The king sat down and the courses started. Cersei glanced at her father who was seated in front of her. The man was inscrutably quiet. He had not mentioned their incident the past week. She acted as if the meeting had never happened. Tyrion told a jape because Jon, Robb guffawed while Arya tried hard to mask her laughter as a dainty cough. Lady Sansa frowned, clearly not amused by Tyrion’s japes. Tommen made mooneyes at princess Cassana who seemed delighted by her son. Bran ate his food silently. He did not wish to be here. He would have loved to be in the stables with Rodrick or hearing stories from Old Nan.

The meals and the conversation flowed. The king drank, as was his custom. She noticed that he drank more now and could not be called sober. He had a skin of wine near him at all times. Soon it was time to celebrate the announcements of the night. “Ned has accepted to be my Hand. We depart for King’s Landing the day after tomorrow.” The king said with a smile. Her brothers and father congratulated Ned with a grim face. Cersei tried to look cheery but she could not deny the fact that her husband was not Hand material. He was too honorable, too good to play the game. He would fail, his honor, his trust and his belief that people had honor would be his downfall.

She kissed his hand. Jaime looked away from that show of affection his eyes were pained but there was no fury anymore only a quiet sadness, a sort of resignation. The king clapped Ned’s back and prince Gendry smiled good-naturedly.

“Ned and I have fought together, won the throne and we would have been brothers had my Lyanna lived.” Cersei saw Catelyn Tully grip her utensils a little to hard. “We will now join houses. Gendry and Joanna will wed next year after the prince’s seventeenth nameday.

Joanna’s eyes sparkled with happiness. Cersei smiled well naturedly until she heard the prince. “No.” The prince said with deadpan voice. King Robert frowned and so did Ned. Cersei watched as Joanna’s face crumbled. “You are lovely my lady and any man would be happy to take you as his wife but I can’t.” Gendry addressed her daughter who had tears in her green eyes.

Jaime, Robb, and strangely enough Tywin glared at the prince. Ned remained seated and impassive. Jon pushed Robb down, her son rose, no doubt to defend her sister’s honor. The heir to Winterfell wore an angry scowl but knew better than to create a scene before time.

Robert bellowed. “What do you mean you can’t? You will marry Ned’s daughter. There is not a worthier house for the crown.” Cersei could was silent as was the rest of the party. The king ranted, her brothers and sons looked as if they wanted to be anywhere else but there. Father looked mildly intrigued while Arya did not look up from her lap.

Gendry remained silent and looked toward the queen’s niece. Lady Sansa looked elated; Cersei had the irrational need to throttle the little tramp. Catelyn looked at Robert with flinty eyes. “This is an outrage. Ned, I apologize. He will marry your daughter. He is my son and he will marry your Joanna.”

The prince stood up and spoke once more. “I am truly sorry but I can’t.” He addressed Ned. Robb was on his feet too and so was Jon who for the first time looked ready to kill and had decided to not restrain his younger brother. “I will marry you daughter.” He said looking towards Sansa again. Cersei understood then. Gendry Baratheon was not looking at Sansa but at Arya. “I want Arya to be my wife.”

Cersei gasped, Joanna left the room in tears. Arya left the hall too. Jon and Robb sat down, their faces shocked. Father’s face was back to his usual mix of annoyance and boredom but there was something else. He looked scheming. He stood up left for his quarters no doubt.

King Robert looked at Ned and then at his son. “We must speak privately.” Ned nodded and led them to his study. Her sons looked at her for explanations. She could not give them one. “I apologize your grace. It is essential I speak with my girls.” She made her excuses and left the hall. Cersei ran after her daughters, fearing the repercussions of this revelation. Her daughters did not have the easiest relationship; they were too different, too stubborn and proud. Something like this could create an abysm in their relationship. She could hear some of the mutterings in the hall.

She went to Joanna’s rooms and found Arya outside rapping on the door. “Joanna please let me in.” The girl had tears on her eyes and hit the door with all her might. Cersei placed a hand on her right shoulder. “Let me sweetling.”

“Joanna, open this door.” She used a no-nonsense voice. The young woman did not open the door not until Cersei asked Arya to go to her quarters. “Arya, it is best if you leave for your rooms. I will speak with you later.” Her youngest daughter shook her head. “Do as I say.” She ordered. “She’ll hate me forever.” The young girl said with a sad voice.

Cersei had not heard Arya that sad, not since Eddard told an eight-year-old Arya that she couldn’t be a knight. The woman knocked once again, “Your sister has gone to her quarters.” The door gave away to a crying Joanna who hugged her tight.

“I hate her. I hate her. She ruins everything.” Joanna cried desperately.

Cersei remembered long time ago, a tourney. She had been close to Arya’s age, perhaps younger when Rhaegar Targaryen visited the Westerlands. The young prince had taken a hold of her and for a few hours she forgot all about Jaime. She believed herself in love with the royal. She had been so happy because at the end of the night she would be engaged to the Crown Prince. He was handsome, young, smart and powerful. She had been crushed by the end of that fateful night. A prophecy had been made and the Crown had rejected her. Elia Martell of Dorne was to be queen. Cersei Lannister cried in the arms of her aunt Genna and then later that night raged and cried bitter tears of heartbreak and failure.

“My poor kitten.” She wiped her tears and let Joanna rest her head in her lap just like when she was a little girl and they waited for Ned and the boys to come back from hunting trips. Arya would be busily creating havoc. Joanna was a sweet child, a gentle soul so very trusting, like her Ned.

Joanna sobbed. “I thought he liked me. He likes me but Arya took him away from me. She’s horrible and I hate her. I hate her.” The girl cried more. Cersei let her cry. When Joanna was exhausted from crying she spoke again. “How is this your sister’s fault?”

Joanna stood up from her place in her mother’s lap and looked at her with an outraged expression in her young beautiful face. “She knows. All I have ever wanted was to be queen. She knows I love prince Gendry.”

Cersei looked at her with sad eyes. “Do you love the boy or the idea of the boy?”

“I don’t understand mother. You are supposed to be on my side, not hers but you love her more than me. Don’t you?” Joanna said angrily.

Lady Stark hugged her. “I love you as much as I love your sister and all your brothers.” Joanna sobbed and hugged her. “Why doesn’t he like me? I’m more beautiful. Arya is not even a proper lady why her and not me?”

“We don’t get to choose who we love my love.” She kissed her forehead. Cersei was still taller than her little girls.

“Let me tell you a story about me and your father.” She said quietly.

“Your father arranged your marriage to father. I know that story mother. It does not help in this case.” Joanna said stubbornly.

Cersei smiled, “This is not about me and Ned finding happiness and building a marriage and love.” She had never told this story to any of her children.

“Joanna, when I was young, around your age. My father promised me I would be queen.” Her daughter looked at her with puzzled eyes.

Cersei pulled her blond hair back and dried her tears with a piece of cloth. “My father was the Hand of the King and he hosted a tourney in the Westerlands. He reassured me that at night my engagement to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen would be announced.” She remembered fondly, the excitement of that day, not even Tyrion and his antics could put a damper on her mood.

“I waited patiently and enjoyed that day. Everyone in attendance knew. They all knew I was going to be queen. The marriage to prince Rhaegar to me was all Westeros spoke about. The announcement came and I was ready to take my place by the handsome prince when King Aerys announced Elia Martell would be queen. I was humiliated. I felt all the stares and ran back to my quarters much like you did tonight. I don’t blame you my love. I know it hurts but it will pass.”

Joanna looked at her with sad eyes. “This is different mother. You did not know the your prince. You hardly spoke with him. I love prince Gendry. I thought he loved me too.”

Cersei doubted it but did not want her daughter to stubbornly fight her. “I thought I was in love with someone else before I married your father.” Joanna frowned slightly. She needed to tell her daughter this because otherwise the little gentle soul would harbor a grudge against her younger sister.

“He was everything I wanted. All I could think of, but forbidden for me. The only man I could never love publicly. I gave myself to him.” Her daughter shook her head and removed her hands from her mother.

“It was the biggest mistake I made. I married your father soon after. He knew I was not pure and he remained silent. I was foolish Joanna. I blamed father, I even blamed your father for the loss of my first love.”

“I don’t understand mother. What does this have to do with anything? Arya stole him from me. She knew I love him. She knew I wanted to be queen.” Joanna said mournfully. Cersei thought then she might have said too much. She wanted the young girl to understand about resentment and bitter disappointments but Joanna was set against blaming Arya.

“I don’t want you to resent your sister like I did my father. I don’t want you to hate your sister. Would you be happy with the prince? Knowing that he longs for another woman. If there is something I know about Baratheon men is that they are obsessive. Robert idolizes your dead aunt because he could never have her. Do you want to be like queen Catelyn?” Joanna gasped. “Could you see yourself living in the shadow of your sister? Think about your life my love. Every time you lay with him, think what it would be like hearing your sister’s name in his mouth. Think about when your sister visits and he stares a little too long a little too hard. When the time comes and he cannot stop thinking about Arya under him and finally takes her?” Cersei was brutally honest.

Joanna cried but something in her eyes changed. “Arya would never let him. She’s strong and could fight him.” She said determined.

“He will be king. You are not a stupid little girl. I did not raise you to be stupid. Joanna he does not love you. He wants Arya and he will have Arya. His father started a war because of a woman he wanted. If he is anything like his father he will find Arya and will not stop. I saw it in his eyes.”

Joanna looked at her mother with hurt, sad eyes, and then spoke “The queen’s always sad and she looked at Arya with hatred.”

“Everyone remarks how much your sister resembles your dead aunt.” Cersei answered. “In these past few weeks did your sister try to get to know the prince?”

“No, she avoided him. She spent all her time with Tommen and Bran. Away from Robb and Jon.” The blond girl replied, with a shuddering breath, calmer, more rational. Joanna was a lady and wanted to have a household filled with love. It seemed to sink that she would not achieve it with the prince. The girl was smart; she would come to forgive her sister. Joanna Stark was the beautiful sister, everyone said so. She was not used to being passed over Arya but she would understand eventually.

“Your sister is not to blame my kitten.” Joanna looked doubtful. “I want to be alone mother.” Her daughter said and wiped her face. Cersei kissed her forehead. “Listen to your mother. There will be another man, more handsome and just for you. A man that has no eyes for anyone else but you.” Joanna sobbed, it was what she wanted. Cersei could not go to her other daughter until this one was abed and sleeping. It wouldn’t do well for ruminate and harbor more ill feelings toward Arya. Cersei thought about how much a young girl could hate their siblings. She had despised Tyrion all her life. Joanna did not look at her again. She undressed and went to bed. The older woman stayed until the girl fell asleep from crying.

Lady Stark went to Arya’s quarters. The door was open. She stepped in and heard voices. Arya was by the windowsill with the prince. They were in a heated argument. Cersei remained behind the door. She was able to hear their conversation.

“You are so stupid.” Arya whispered enraged.

“M’ lady, I’m sorry My lady.” The prince apologized profusely.

“I am not your lady. I am not a lady. Joanna is a lady even Sansa is one. I don’t want to marry you stupid.” Arya said angrily, crying of anger.

The prince remained quiet. “You like it when I kiss you.” The young boy said with the confidence that young men in their prime have. Eddard, Jaime, Robert, even Tyrion with his whores had that air of superiority; the knowledge that a female responded well to their touch.

“I do not.” Arya said a little higher than intended. The prince shushed her. “I don’t think your father or brothers would think well of me if they discovered me in your room.”

“Please, please, you have to marry Joanna. It is all she ever wanted. She will make a good wife; give you beautiful children. My sister is beautiful, graceful and would make an excellent ruler.” Arya said with a stark honesty only seen in her father and Jon.

“You are correct my lady. She is a proper lady and is beautiful but she isn’t you. To me you are more beautiful. I can stop thinking of you; your eyes, I saw you fighting your brothers and I thought you were formidable. I have seen you practice with Tommen, everyday. I had to lie to your brothers to see you.” He said sweetly.

“Keep away from me. I’ll use Needle on you.” Arya said. Cersei heard rustling.

“Then I saw you the first night, in the feast. You had flowers in your hair, and you were the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. King Robert says you look like your aunt Lyanna and that she was even more beautiful but that can’t be possible because you are more beautiful than any other woman I have ever met.” Gendry, first of his name said poetically. The boy had a way with words; it was a wonder since Cersei had scarcely heard him string two sentences together since she met him three weeks ago.

“I don’t want to be your wife. I want to be a warrior, fight, and travel. I don’t want to be queen.”

“I don’t want to be king. We could run away. You and me, we can be sellswords and travel the seven kingdoms.” Gendry said honestly, desperately, his tone begging.

“Could we go to Braavos, across the Narrow Sea?” Arya asked excitedly.

Gendry laughed. “We can go anywhere. We’ll be free, no more houses, no more rules. We’ll sleep in ships and alleys. Never come back to Westeros.”

“I won’t see mother, father, or any of my siblings?” She asked and her voice deflated.

“Well no. I don’t think lord Stark will welcome me with open arms after I abduct his youngest daughter.” Gendry offered with a sarcastic voice.

“He would kill you. Robb, Jon and even mother would join him.” Arya laughed.

“I can’t see Lady Stark wielding a weapon.” Arya giggled. Cersei frowned; her daughter was not prone to giggles.

She could not hear any more sounds. Cersei made her entrance then. “I am far more progressive than my husband. It would be a shame if I had to call him for this. He would not like to see his four and ten-year-old daughter being so ardently embraced by a boy who is not her kin. I suggest you return to your quarters my prince. I seem to recall they are located in the other side of the castle.”

The prince paled and bowed before leaving the room. “How long has this been going on?” Cersei asked as she invited her daughter to sit on the bed by her.

“There is nothing going on mother.” Arya said formally.

“I have been too busy, your father, you and your siblings moving to King’s Landing have kept me far too distracted.” Cersei spoke more to herself than to her young daughter.

“Do you like him?” She asked clearly, her eyes searching for any clues that would make her understand the happenings of tonight.

“No, yes, I don’t know. I don’t want to be queen. That’s stupid, silly, for girls like Joanna. I am not a lady. I can’t be like her or you mother.” Arya said stubbornly but her eyes, those grey eyes inherited from her Ned told another tale.

Cersei’s green eyes bore into her daughter’s grey eyes. “But you are a girl. Gendry is attractive, strong, and he’s paid attention to you.”

“I don’t like boys.” Arya said stubbornly.

Lady Stark smiled, “So you like girls then.” She teased.

“No.” Arya said loudly. “I don’t want to like him. Joanna will hate me forever. She will never forgive me.”

“So you like him then.” Cersei said, trying to understand the girl.

“He’s fine I suppose. I can’t be a knight. Father and you said that I would have to marry eventually.” She mumbled, without looking up to her.

The blond woman hugged her daughter. This must be so confusing for her, three moons ago she was only Arya and wanted to defeat knights and see the world and now a prince wanted to marry her. “I don’t want to be queen. I don’t want to go to King’s Landing. I want to run away. I want to be a boy and fight and never care about dresses, princes and households.” Arya cried and Cersei wiped her tears.

“You are a woman. A young woman flowered, who is very capable of wielding any weapons but a woman nonetheless.” Arya pulled a face. “Do not frown my little love. Embrace your womanhood. Women are more powerful than you ever think my love. We must submit and bear certain humiliations but we are stronger and better equipped than most men. You shall accept the Prince’s proposal. I know you Arya and inside all that bravado there is a young woman, a girl who is intrigued by Gendry’s words and who likes the boy with the black hair and piercing blue eyes.”

“Mother, I don’t want to.” Arya continued with that obstinate streak of hers. “Well then. Don’t marry the prince. Live here in Winterfell until you are old. Your father will certainly not force you to marry nor will I but he will not let you be like the Mormonts or this Brienne of Tarth you like so much. I will not be able to plead for you either. Do not think your father will embrace your antics all your life. He loves you and still sees the little wild girl you once were. You are not a girl anymore; you are a woman. You will not shame house Stark or Lannister for that matter. You will grow old, childless and live by the hospitality of any of your siblings.” Arya looked angry. Cersei did not flinch, raise her voice or altered her demeanor in any manner.

The young girl did not say a word. Cersei then took her hands and spoke. “Or you could be queen. You can have power. Rule them all. Queens do not only manage a castle. Arya, little wolf,” Cersei kissed her hands. “You would counsel your husband the king. You would rule alongside him; if and only if you play your cards right my love.”

“I don’t want power.” Arya said with a tremulous voice, as if convincing herself. “Besides queen Catelyn does not rule. All she does is knit and scowl.” Arya replied, trying to undermine her mother’s arguments.

“The queen is weak. She is not like Joanna, you and me. We are strong, proud and were born to be great. You think Joanna is like me but she resembles your father more in character. You do not think you want power but you do. You are a Stark but you are also a Lannister and above all you are my daughter.” Cersei kissed her forehead. “I don’t want Joanna to hate me.” Arya mumbled again.

“She could never hate you. You are sisters, and Joanna is not really capable of hatred.” This time it was Cersei who tried to convince herself.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

Robin Arryn, Lord of the Vale was dead. The raven reached Winterfell hours after the royal engagement was announced. Sansa Arryn wept in the privacy of her quarters, if she ever did. The little dove was perfection, a great lady in the making as was her Joanna, who took her mother’s advice and faced her rejection with poise and alacrity. The blond girl did not speak to her sister however. Cersei thought it could have gone worse. Due to the news and also because king Robert wanted to hunt once more the royal party and the Lannisters delayed their trip south for another two weeks.

Cersei had asked Joanna if she wanted to stay with her. They would leave together.

“Thank you mother but I will go with father.” Joanna said formally.

“It would be best if you stayed.” She tried to convince her.

“Nothing will change mother. Arya will marry the prince. I have come to understand that.” Cersei had been surprised by her mature attitude. The girl had always been reasonable but this was nothing short of unbelievable even for a gentle soul like hers.

Lady Stark feared subterfuge. “What had brought this change in you my sweet?”

Joanna looked at her with honest green eyes. “Grandfather.”

“I don’t understand.” She waited for an explanation. Joanna told her everything, “He called me the morning after the king announced the betrothal.”

“Grandfather saw me crying when I walked for breakfast and lead me to his study.” Joanna explained. Cersei must have looked surprised because her daughter smiled.

“I was scared at first but then he told me to sit and I did.”

“You are too beautiful to cry for unmannered boys. You are a lioness of the rock. Lionesses are proud and do not cry because a stag does not like them. We are lions and we feast on stags and other lesser animals.” Joanna tried to make an impersonation of Tywin Lannister.

“I laughed and he told me I was just as beautiful as grandmother once was. He invited me to Casterly Rock.” Joanna said proudly.

Cersei was speechless. Her father must be scheming again. “I thought Grandfather was ill tempered and rude when he first visited but he is not. He told me stories about our family and we he was young. He implied I should not tell anyone but I trust you very much mother.”

Lady Stark liked this tale less and less. “So you have forgiven your sister then.” She asked cautiously.

“Grandfather said that Arya was better suited for prince Gendry. He believes they have matching temperaments. He thinks I would do better with a well-mannered lord and I agree.”

“Oh mother, it still hurts. I am sure you can relate. I will not lie to you. It hurts deeply that he does not love me. but you were correct. He will never be for me. After I spoke with grandfather I thought about his words and yours. I saw the prince look at Arya and I understood what you said. He will never look at me in that way.” Joanna said sadly and cried.

“Oh kitten.” Cersei said and hugged her. Joanna hugged her hard. “I’m still very angry and I don’t like Arya much.” Cersei tried to plead her case. “Don’t mother. I know it is not entirely her fault but it is how I feel.” Joanna then pulled away from the hug.

“Grandfather likes Arya too. He only likes granddaughters it seems.” Joanna smiled. Cersei was puzzled once more.

“I saw them speaking the other day. Of course I do not speak to her so I left before they could see me. They were walking around the gardens.”

Cersei watches as Joanna left. Tommen called her to see some dog pups. Her boy was trying to cheer his twin.

She walked in the general direction of the gardens. She did not have a good feeling about these meetings his father had with her daughters. Tywin was plotting and that was not good for anyone.

She heard them as they walked. Arya wore a simple dress and fretted around it.

“I have to say your mother liked dresses far more than you. In that respect you are not alike.” Tywin said as they walked. Surprisingly Arya held his arm and they walked hand in hand.

“Well, yes, mother is far more beautiful too. She and Joanna love dresses.” Arya said drolly.

Tywin smiled. “You remind me of her when she was your age.”

“She was always impulsive, too smart for her own good.” Father said.

“I don’t understand why did you choose to have these walks grandfather. You should be speaking with Jon, Robb or even Tommen.” Arya said calculatingly.

Father remained silent. Arya pressed on. “I know you like Joanna too. I saw when you smiled at her. Is it because she looks like grandmother?”

Cersei wanted to rescue her daughter from the lion’s jaws then. Father did not speak of mother. Jaime and her had known mother but Tyrion never knew her. Her baby brother asked about her all the time when he was a young boy. Cersei cruelly told him that he was the reason why they did not have a mother and refused to tell him anything about her. Jaime seemed to have blocked all memories of her. Tyrion tried father once and he had a conversation with him in his study. Tyrion never asked after mother again.

“In part; your sister is witty and charming. She reminds me of your grandmother, she was just as gentle. My Joanna however was not as rash as you and your sister are.” Father mused.

“I’m afraid your mother and you inherited my temperament.” He said plainly.

“Joanna would have made a better queen.” Arya said openly. It seemed the girl would tell anyone who had ears that.

“She would have made a good, albeit more conventional queen. Now your mother would have made a splendid queen but you will be a sight to behold girl.” Tywin said smirking. “You will change the rules. You are too smart for your own good.”

Arya laughed. “Mother said something alike.”

“Run along. Go to your prince and remember…”

“Not a word to mother or anyone else.” She ran after that.

Cersei stopped following them and went to the Weirwoods. It would not do well for Tywin to know that Cersei had heard him. She wondered about father’s attitude. It was just like him. He loved to be in control of everything. He was plotting for sure. Cersei needed to protect her children, make sure they did not become pawns in Tywin Lannister’s plans. He would not move and sacrifice them in his quest for power.

It was the day of their departure. Cersei wore a blue gown and prepared for the arduous day ahead. Bran was not happy to leave Winterfell; neither was Arya or Robb for that matter. Tommen was still smitten with young Cassana. Joanna, well her daughter was recovering. Ned kissed her neck. “Your brother wants to see the wall.” Cersei smiled. “He’ll stay then.”

“Yes, Benjen will make the journey with him. Your father departs for the Westerlands on the morrow.” Ned pulled her gown down. “We don’t have time.” She moaned when he pulled her hair from her braid. “The servant girl spent an hour doing that braid.” The lady complained.

“I won’t tangle your hair if you ask nicely.” Her lord husband announced, he was freshly awakened, Cersei had ordered the maids to let him sleep longer. He was to ride all day and would need his rest.

“You’ve had me more times that you can count Ned.” She said against his lips as he pushed her skirts up. “I’ll be quick.” He replied honestly, and his eyes darkened. “You are to leave Winterfell in a few hours, which is why you have to be in the great hall for breakfast.

“I’ll break my fast with you here in our bedchambers.” Ned said as he nibbled on her neck. Cersei ran her hands through his hair, “Fine.” She relented when his fingers rugged roughly on her laces.

“I will not see you for at least half a year.” He mumbled to her ear. Cersei nodded, “I will make sure Jon is capable of running our lands and then I’ll join you my love.”

She kissed him just as fiercely. Ned had been preparing for his departure since he accepted the King’s proposition. He took her every night more than once this past week. He was ardent, insistent and possessive, asserting and marking her anew. He caressed her breasts and lowered her gown. “No one would ever be able to see past your gown, why is it that you ladies insist on wearing layers after layers of clothing?” Ned grumbled and ripped her shift and small clothes. Cersei whimpered when he bit her hipbones and proceeded to lick them and bite her skin anew. She had to suppress the moans; her voice carried or so her children told her over the years.

“I want to hear you roar Lioness.” Ned pushed her legs apart and dove. Her beard scratched but she was used to burn. “It’s early morning, the castle will hear.”

“Let them.” Ned licked her and helped her achieve a mind blasting orgasm. She was sweaty and boneless when Ned pushed her to her belly and raised her bottom. Cersei smirked. She liked it when he took her like an animal, an alpha wolf in heat. She bit the pillows and gasped when his seed spilled inside of her. Ned licked her back. “You are most sweaty Lady Stark.”

“Whatever shall we do about it?” She asked enjoying his finger dancing over her calves. “I would take you to the hot springs and have my way with you again but alas if we leave these quarters we shall be seen by our children who no doubt will interrupt our plans.” She turned sideways. “I have to take a bath now. I can’t be smelling of you all day.”

“I like the way you smell.” He said and sniffed her breasts and collarbones.

Cersei kissed his nose. “I shall ask for our bathtub to be filled.” She did and twenty minutes later they were alone once again in their bathtub. “No more fucking.” She said and washed his face. He laughed and washed her face too. Cersei washed her husband with delicacy as if he was a newborn babe. He was relaxed and massaged her shoulders. They remained in the water, facing each other, embracing. Cersei felt the irrational need to ask him for things. “Promise me something my love.” She said as she massaged his scalp. He was utterly relaxed.

“Anything Lady Stark.” He said with open and trusting eyes.

“Promise me you will not be an honorable fool.” He was about to refuse her, give her arguments and counterarguments. She shushed him. “These people are snakes in disguise. King’s Landing is a dangerous place, not for you Ned. Promise me that you will try to play the game.”

Ned kissed her forehead, “I don’t know about any games my lioness.” Cersei smiled sadly. “When you play the game of thrones you either win or you die. There is no middle ground my love.” She was worried because as he said earlier, he would be alone for about half a year before Jon was truly ready to take over Winterfell.

“I can protect my family Cersei. I have done so for seven and ten years. I will be fine.” She looked into his grey eyes.

“Promise me you will not trust anyone, No one, not my father, not anyone but our people from Winterfell and Jaime. He swore an oath to protect you and he will keep it.” Ned snorted. The animosity between the two men had not diminished with the years.

“I will never trust Jaime Lannister, not even for you my love.” He kissed her hands. Cersei frowned, “I will promise you this; I will not let our family be in any danger and I will be cautious as I always have been.” He said with a soothing voice.

She nodded but the feeling of anxiety did not disappear. They finished bathing and joined everyone else in the great hall of Winterfell. She sat next to Arya who wore a grey dress. Joanna wore a white simple gown. Their children were ready to part by midmorning. Bran hugged her. Her boy did not want to look weak which is why Cersei cried and hugged him tightly. “You will be a good boy, no climbing. King’s Landing is not Winterfell.” She kissed his cheeks. Summer yapped around him. Bran wiped his tears while hiding away from his brothers and anyone else who could tease him because he would miss his mother.

Tommen kissed her goodbye and promised to take care of Bran and keep company with Joanna. He was the most resilient of her children, Cersei knew. Tommen was self assured and easy in nature. Tommen, her sweet boy promised to write every day if it would make her happy. She hugged him and said, “Watch over your sisters and Bran. Do not father any bastards.” She said. Her son blushed. Tommen was a good boy but he was a boy nonetheless and with Robb without Jon to ground him it would be a matter of months before news of bastards reached Winterfell. “You would disgrace me and your father.” She kissed his forehead.

Robb let her kiss his forehead and winked at her when she left. She would sure miss his mischievous nature. “Do not go looking for trouble. Do not father any bastards and make sure to keep away from your uncle Tyrion.” Cersei admonished her son. Robb was wild but in a certain way understood how improper it would be if he fathered any children before wedlock.

“But I like nuncle Tyrion, he keeps very interesting company.” Robb frowned when she smacked him upside the head. “Convince your “nuncle” to take you to the Westerlands and teach you about Casterly Rock. Seek your grandfather. You are his heir.”

“I will write mother, not as often as you’d like.” Robb had a knack for avoiding important conversation. She hugged him one last time before he joined Prince Gendry.

Joanna hugged her. “I will miss you very much mother.” Cersei smiled, “As will I my kitten. Remember our chat and be careful in court. You are the wolf and the lion. We are predators do not trust easily. Family comes first and remember your sister loves you.” Cersei said hurriedly as the young girl tried to frown.

“Mother, we have spoken about this. I do not wish to speak about it any longer.” Joanna said with a silent determination and joined her twin brother and princess Cassana.

Arya was the last of her children she said goodbye to. “Be careful. You are not a child anymore. You are Arya Stark, betrothed to the Crown Prince. Do not shame your father, our family. Keep close to your brothers and sister. Do not be seen alone with any other man than your kin, not even your prince.”

“Mother, I’m not a lady. I will never be a lady…” Her poor wolfling looked scared, more scared than when prince Gendry announced he wanted her as his wife. Lord Lannister’s advices or hers had not yielded the required results.

“You will never be a lady.” Cersei intoned and saw as her daughter’s shoulders slumped. She put her hands around her shoulders and corrected her posture. Arya’s troubled grey eyes looked up to her green ones.

“You will be queen my love.” Lady Stark kissed both her cheeks and hugged her harder than any of her children because as much as she never acknowledged it she had favorites. She loved Arya and Jon differently, more perhaps, she never entertained those thoughts but it was true and she knew it deep in her heart. Jon had been her salvation. She lived because of Jon and his tiny face and then Arya, her daughter was the fiercest of her children and the most fragile. The dark haired girl was strong, capable, and smart. Arya grew up an accomplished archer and had been able to train with Winterfell’s master at arms but no matter how much training Cersei and Eddard offered their daughters they were still girls. Joanna understood that, she was accomplished in archery but rebelled in the fact that she was a woman. The eldest Stark girl wanted to be a mother, a wife a lady. The youngest Stark girl was insecure in her looks; she thought she was homely, not as beautiful as her mother or elder sister. Arya like Cersei felt powerless. Lady Stark understood that hopeless feeling. Ned loved her and trusted her. He empowered her; few men in Westeros would do so. Cersei understood early on that Arya, like her would despair. This marriage to the Crown Prince had been very opportune.

Arya would not thrive as a lady but no one dared question a queen. Gendry Baratheon seemed to love her daughter and if Arya played her cards well she could have a happy marriage much like the marriage she had with Eddard. If Arya understood and played the game she would rule the Seven Kingdoms through Gendry Baratheon. Father was right in one aspect; her daughter will be a sight to behold as queen.

Cersei saw as her daughters and youngest son entered the carriages. Robb, Tommen and the prince had mounted their horses and travelled ahead. The king hugged her goodbye and managed to mount his horse with difficulty. The direwolves ran ahead all of them but for Lady and Summer, they preferred the company of their masters and the carriage.

Her husband approached her. “Goodbye my love.” He kissed both her hands. Cersei wanted to hug him and implore him to not leave her. She felt unsettled; something about this trip did not sit well with her. She wanted to keep her family close, with her in the safe wall of Winterfell, the place she once thought to be a cold wasteland. She smiled tightly and kissed his hands too, a small show of affection. Her father frowned at her. She could not care less, what Tywin Lannister felt.

“Be sure to write to me. Keep an eye on Brandon and his direwolf. She did not know what made her say that but there was something about those animals that she trusted.

“I will. Do not fret my lioness. You will join us in the capital before you know it.” He kissed her forehead and rode ahead.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

Father, his siblings and their direwolves rode for King’s Landing. Jon saw as mother tried not to weep in front of grandfather and uncle Tyrion. The black haired man went to the kennels; Ghost and Land, the other pup would be there. The youngest wolf was wilder, did not have a master. Mother would pet him once in a while and he took a liking to her. She named him after their old ancestor, Lan the Clever. Father had not liked it but her remained quiet when mother glared at him.

Winterfell felt empty without all his siblings and the direwolves yapping. He did not feel comfortable returning to the castle yet. Grandfather did not like him much, that was plain evident. Father did not like grandfather. Tywin Lannister was a man to be feared, respected and held at bay. Mother did not seem to love her father. Uncle Tyrion hated him and uncle Jaime did not care for him either. Well, he did not know Jaime Lannister much. The knight was aloof and did not engage with any of his older nephews. He spent most of his time with Bran or in the Kingsguard. Jon did not believe his uncle liked the King much.

Jon was glad the royal party had left. He liked Gendry; he would make a good king, unlike his father who was but a drunken fool. Jon kept his musings quiet. He thought to the past two days. Arya would be queen. Jon did not know whether he liked the notion or not. He always thought Joanna would make a good lady not little Arya. She would not marry and stay in Winterfell with him. He had not been present when father gave consent for the prince to marry Arya but him and Robb had heard the King say, “You owe me this Ned. She was to be mine. I should have taken her before Rhaegar took her. I should have never listened to you.”

Father had come out of his solar and with a frown on his face accepted the royal engagement.

Robb had been adamant in his wishes to know why Lord Stark acceded to such demands from the king. Father had not said anything. Robb had wanted to know what the king meant with his words. Jon understood, mother told him about aunt Lyanna and King Robert. All the Seven kingdoms knew about the King’s devotion to the dead woman. Sometimes Robb was oblivious.

Jon laughed and walked the path to Winterfell, perhaps the next time he saw Robb he would be married man. Mother was to choose a wife for him. Jon was not so good with girls. He would miss his younger brother who always seemed to know how to break the ice and make sure the girls paid him as much attention as they paid Robb.

Lan and Ghost followed him inside the castle. Now that the princesses and the queen were gone mother would have no problem with the direwolves inside the halls. Queen Catelyn thought their direwolves were dangerous and wanted them away from her princesses. Jon nodded and made sure the direwolves stayed

“Jon.” Uncle Tyrion drank wine with Rodrick by one of the hearths. “Come here boy.” Jon meekly sat by his uncle. “Did I ever tell you when your uncle Jaime and I found those whores by Lannisport?” Rodrick laughed Jon listened and drank wine too. His uncle was funny and so full of stories. The perfect distraction for him now that Robb was on his way to King’s Landing probably to fuck as many girls as he could without angering father and mother by default.

He was on his cups when he finally made his way to his quarters. Jon passed mother’s quarters to wish her goodnight. He heard a disrupted conversation and his name.

“Jon is the heir apparent to Winterfell. My son will do very well, thank you very much father. I raised him to b e Lord.” Mother hissed. Jon did not dare enter or make any sound. He listened attentively.

A man laughed derisively, “He is not your blood Cersei. He is not a Lannister.” Jon’s drunkenness evaporated, his heartbeat sped up and he felt an uncontrollable pain inside his belly. This had to be a mistake. He was her son. Jon leaned on the walls and waited to hear something that contradicted Tywin Lannisters words.

“He’s a Stark. He is my son.” Mother said as response.

Tywin Lannister laughed again. “Robb is your firstborn, as unfit as he is. He should be the heir to the North, not that boy who is nothing but a legitimized bastard.”

“You shall not speak about Jon in that matter. He will be Lord of Winterfell. It does not matter if I am not his birth mother. He is Eddard’s son, legitimized by king Robert and the rightful heir to Winterfell.” The woman said with a hint of hostility in her voice.

“It was your duty to produce an heir. I thought you were smarter but you have failed at a simple task.” Tywin said harshly. “I had many hopes for you and Jaime yet both are disappointments.”

Jon was stunned leaning against the wall when mother left the quarters in a huff. They looked into each other’s eyes. “Jon.” She gasped and tried to touch his arm. Jon shrugged her off and walked opposite to his quarters.

“Jon, you must understand.” She walked behind him trying to catch up with him but her skirts did not permit her the same skills.

Jon did not say a word. He was seething. He was not hers, it was clear and everything made sense then. He did not look anything like her. Even Arya had her cheekbones and expressions. Jon was said to be the same image as his father when he was young. Jon wanted to punch something, to let some of the anger out.

“Jon, please let me explain.” She cried while trying to reach him. Jon pushed her without meaning to. The woman cried and stumbled to the floor. He crouched and tried to determine if she was hurt. Cersei Stark cried, real tears of anguish ran down her face. He remembered the last time he saw her like this.

Jon’s first memory was of mother holding him close when father had gone to fight the Greyjoy rebellion. He remembered her sweet words and her cries. She had been pregnant with Robb and held him each night, her big belly between them. He kissed her face and her tears away. He felt an urge to cry and have her tell him lies. They had all been lies. He was not hers.

“You must get up Lady Stark.” It was as if he had slapped her. The blonde woman gasped.

“Sweetling, don’t call me that. I’m mother.” She cried and hugged him tight.

He did not want to push her again but gently tried to keep away from her but the woman held onto him. They were by his quarters, the direwolves paced around them. Jon managed to push her back but Lady Stark would hug him again and ran her fingers through his hair as when he was a boy and had nightmares.

“I was pregnant with my first boy, Joffrey. Your father received a letter from Dorne. He went to get you. You were so little. He brought you here to raise.” She said and her voice sounded rough.

“Joffrey was a stillborn, he never breathed. I cried for weeks and lost two more babies. You were a sickly child and cried every night. I refused to meet you when your father brought you but one night I was thirsty and came down to the kitchens. Your father does not know but I had had a miscarriage and I was desperate. I followed your cries. You were alone and crying your lungs out. I fell in love with you.” She kissed his forehead. They were the same height now, or almost, mother was taller. Jon shook his head. She was not his mother.

“I nursed you. Jon, you are mine, my boy.” Cersei Stark sobbed.

“I am not. Goodnight Lady Stark.” He said roughly, she gasped and he was able to disentangle from her. Jon, with Ghost at his heels left to his quarters and did not heed any of her words.

Jon needed to be out of the castle. He needed to punch something. Do something. He left the castle and went to the nearby brothel; under normal circumstances Jon would have not entertained the idea of going alone but tonight he needed to pick a fight, to fuck a girl or do something equally distracting.

Ros was there. She had been his first; he had been hers too. She had been the baker’s daughter until he sold her to the brothel. Jon drank two skins of wine before wrenching her from someone else’s lap. “Fuck off boy.” A big man said. Ros gasped. Jon tightened his hold on her arm. “My lord Stark.” She said in an audible voice. The man backed down. “Forgive me m’lord.”

Jon growled at the man, trying to goad him to a fight but Ros cupped him through his breeches and smiled at him. He would use her tonight. Jon Stark followed the red-haired whore to her bedroom and proceeded to fuck away the anger he felt. Ros did not seem to mind. She smiled at him and enjoyed herself but one never knew with whores.

He did not leave the brothel. He drank, he fucked her, he drank more, he fucked Ros some more. He paid the brothel’s owner for Ros exclusively. It was the second day when uncle Tyrion burst into the room while he had Ros underneath him.

“Get up boy.” Tyrion Lannister thundered. Ros startled but did not move from underneath him.

Jon saw as the dwarf handed Ros a pouch of coins. “We will appreciate your discretion. Leave.” The man said kindly. Ros curtsied and left with the money.

“You have no right to barge in…” Jon started but did not get to finish.

“Wash and prepare to leave. We are going to Winterfell, as much as I would love to see the distaste in her face when she sees you in such state I prefer you clothed and clean.

“I don’t have to do as you say.” Jon said angrily.

“But you will because I am your elder and your uncle.” The young man frowned. “You are not my uncle. I am a bastard; Lady Stark did not give birth to me.”

Tyrion laughed cruelly. “She is your mother. My sweet sister is beside herself with worry. Imagine my surprise as we saw father off yesterday morning and you were not there to see your grandfather off. Cersei supposed you were sulking in your quarters as you are prone.”

“I do not sulk.” Jon scowled.

Tyrion smirked, “Your uncle Benjen and I are to leave in a few hours. Cersei finally admitted to me that you were missing. She tearfully explained the events of two nights ago. She has a bruise in her left cheek, an ugly one if I say so myself. I doubt your father will be happy when I write to him and explain that his heir hurt his mother and managed to make her cry and hug her dwarf brother.” The little man said.

Mother hated uncle Tyrion. “My beloved sister hugged me and implored I returned her boy to her. So you will bathe, dress and we will leave for the castle within the hour.”

“No.” Jon said simply.

Tyrion then slapped him on the cheek. Jon was surprised and taken aback. “Your father should have put more sense into you. Get up, bathe and dress. I will wait outside. Do not make me slap you again. I rather like you nephew.”

Jon did as he was bid, more out of shock than anything else. He blinked and followed his uncle out of the brothel and into Winterfell. Jon patted his horse and they galloped to the castle.

Tyrion remained quiet as they made their trek to the castle. Lady Stark was in the great hall. “Oh Jon.” She said with tears in her eyes. Uncle Benjen was by her side, looking rather uncomfortable.

“Tyrion we must part now that Jon is safe and here.” Tyrion nodded. “Well then dear sister.”

Cersei kissed Tyrion’s right cheek. “Thank you baby brother.” She said. Jon saw the Imp’s surprised face.

Jon blinked. “I’m going with you. I’ll join the Night’s Watch.” He said convinced that it was his only option. He was not the rightful heir; he was a bastard. This was not his place it was Robb’s place. Robb was supposed to rule Winterfell, not him.

Uncle Benjen frowned and looked at him. “This is not a decision to take lightly. Once you make your oath the only thing that releases you is death.”

“You will not. Jon, stop this nonsense. You are the heir to Winterfell.” Lady Stark announced.

Tyrion laughed. “This is nothing but a hissy fit thrown by a green boy. Let him march to the Wall and come back with his tail between his legs when his father sends back for him.”

“Forgive me Lady Stark.” Jon hissed and left to his quarter. He was a man grown and could forsake all his tittles if he so wanted.

His first thought had been to ride and reach father. Jon had wanted explanations, he wanted to confront honorable Ned Stark and ask him about his real mother and the circumstances of his conception and birth. He would go North instead with uncle Benjen.

Uncle Benjen strode in. “The Night’s Watch is not for you. You are an heir, bred like one. Can you really see your brother in charge of Winterfell?”

Jon hurriedly bundled clothes into a rucksack. “People must have said the same thing about father. He was a second son after all. There is no place for me here. I cannot stand to look at her.”

Uncle Benjen tried to get his attention. “Cersei is not a soft woman. Your mother…”

“She is not my mother.” Jon growled.

Benjen Stark made him look at him. “You would have died without her.” He did not want to hear it. He did not want uncle Benjen to convince him to stop.

“You were the smallest babe I had ever seen. I came home to get some men your father wished to spare for the wall. Your mother had lost a second babe; a girl. You cried all the time and did not drink any milk, not from cows, goats or any woman. You were wasting away. It was such a surprise when not half a year later I came back for more men and I saw you toddling around Cersei behind you worrying and trying to keep you from falling.”

“It was the first time I had seen Cersei smile with such delight. She presented you as her son Jon. I met with your father that night and he explained that Lady Stark proclaimed you her son and the Seven Kingdoms believed her. No one dared contradict King Robert and his decrees. Young Eddard Stark married your mother and she gave you. Your mother died in childbirth. Of course all the Seven Kingdoms, including the queen believes you to be Cersei’s blood.”

“She’s groomed Robb to have Casterly Rock. He will be able to handle Winterfell.” Jon said with some conviction. He needed to switch the topic back to Robb and his new status as firstborn.

“Your uncle is the rightful heir and if he desires Robb will be his heir. You are Eddard’s heir. I will not take you to the Wall, not because I do not think you’d do well but because you are choosing to make an oath out of spite. You want to hurt your mother and father, as you are hurting. You were bred to rule these lands. Robb does not love these lands as you do and why would he? He is not the heir, you are. Your father left this castle to you. You were to take care of your mother and Winterfell. Do not take the easy way out Jon. The Wall is not for you.”

Jon dropped his clothes. If he left there would not be a Stark in Winterfell, not one by blood. He was a man grown, not a child and this was nothing but a hissy fit, his uncle Tyrion was correct.

“I apologize nuncle.” Jon then walked out of his quarters, Ghost in tow. He went to the stables and mounted his steed. He left for the Godswoods. He needed space to think and put everything in order. His head ached from the wine.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

Cersei wrote to Eddard once again. She hoped he understood her code. The woman cried more than she had since early in her marriage. All she had done these past two months was cry. The beginning of her suffering was when Eddard left with the children. That same night Jon learned about his birth. She had kept appearances and stalled until father left. Tywin Lannister could not know that Jon was aware of his birth. That same night Cersei looked for Jon and could not find him. She tried maester Luwin and searched the grounds in Winterfell. Jon was not there.

She knocked on Tyrion’s door early almost before dawn and cried. She did not know what to do. She told him about Jon’s words, of his rejection. Cersei did something she never thought she could do. In her desperation Cersei hugged her brother and pleaded him for help. Tyrion was just as taken aback and patted her hand. Her dwarf brother could find Jon and bring him back to her. She had inklings as to where her eldest son was. He would be in the brothel. It was the only place she had not ventured. Lady Stark could not be seen in such places.

“I will bring him back.” Her baby brother promised.

Tyrion brought Jon back but within a few minutes he announced he was off to the Wall. Cersei’s heart leapt to her throat but thankfully Benjen managed to convince Jon to remain back. The young man spent the next two days in the godswoods and in the stables. Tyrion and Benjen left as expected, Cersei hugged Tyrion again. It was uncomfortable but she had to do it. Her little brother did not meet her gaze. “Thank you brother.” She said honestly, perhaps it was time she forgave her baby brother. Tyrion brought Jon back without asking much questions and he did not care that the boy was not his nephew by blood. Cersei had been surprised when her brother spoke to her after she explained. She expected indifference and at the least sarcastic witty remarks. “I will knock some sense into him.” Jon had come back to Winterfell but he was cold, never spoke to her. He addressed her as Lady Stark. It cut her deep when he would not look into her eyes and avoided all contact with her.

Three weeks after Jon came back to the castle Robb and Bran’s broken body arrived with a long letter from Ned. They were by the Neck when Bran climbed a tower and fell. The fever had broken but he had not woken. Cersei had wanted to ride and strike her husband. She entrusted him a perfectly fine boy and he returned her broken Bran. Her baby boy was broken and he had not wakened up. Cersei slept in Bran’s bedroom. She promised the gods one and a million things, everything if Bran woke up. Summer was by his heels howling, crying. She cried with him.

She wrote to Ned every day, pleading for him to come back to her. She had not felt so helpless since Jon fell and she waited days by his bedside. This was far worse because she knew that when her sweet boy woke up he would not walk. He would not climb, he would not swim and he would not be a knight.

Jon left her alone. He tried apologizing, being with her but he was too confused, too hurt to be of proper assistance. Cersei needed him to take over Winterfell, to leave her alone with her baby boy.

She gave the letter to maester Luwin. It had to be the seventh she wrote in five days. She wanted to know how her baby had fallen. It did not make sense; Bran did not fall. She asked once again how Bran had fallen. No one seemed to know; her youngest son had been on his own. Robb felt ashamed and guilty. He should have been looking out for Bran. Her second oldest explained that he and Tommen had gone with Prince Gendry hunting when they stumbled upon Bran’s broken body.

“Father wanted to come back but the king opposed it. He said it would be best if I travelled with Bran. He was in a very bad shape mother. Once it was safe for him to travel father and the rest of the party went south.” Robb said with a discomposed face.

“Your father should be here. This is his fault. He should be here. We are his family. The king does not need him, we do.” Cersei angrily. Her tone a complete contrast to her letters where she pleaded with her husband to come back to her and Bran.

She prayed to the old gods, to the new gods. She wanted Bran awake. He finally woke up. It had been three months since his fall. “Mother I can fly.” He said and opened his eyes.

“Oh Bran.” She kissed his forehead and yelled for maester Luwin. The older man came and examined his legs.

“That hurts.” Bran said with the maester pricked his left leg. Cersei smiled. He would walk. The maester pricked the other leg but Bran did not call out.

“Most strange.” The old man said.

“Will he walk?” Cersei asked and Bran was confused and cried again.

“I can’t move it. Mama I can’t move my leg.” He sounded pained and so very confused.

“Oh sweetling. Let mother sing to you.” Cersei climbed into the bed and gently, oh so very gently carded her fingers through his hair. He was coherent and maybe would walk. It was more than she could ever have hoped for. Cersei sang to Bran and he fell asleep.

Jon wrote to his father. Cersei gained her bearings once more and refused to write to her husband. Bran should have been more important than any king or honor. Ned wrote back, his words belied stress and anguish. Robb did not leave for King’s Landing immediately after Bran regained consciousness. He would wait for Tyrion and they would make the journey together.

Bran regained his mind but his legs were another matter. He would never climb and the leg that did not hurt at first now hurt him all the time. At night she stayed with her young son, soothing and massaging his leg. “It will get better Bran. You have to walk on both your legs. You have to build your strength.

The boy cried and could not bear to stand. It was obvious that Bran was a cripple now. “I will not be knight. I can’t ride a horse. I can’t climb, I can’t swim.” He cried bitterly in her mother’s arms. Cersei shushed him soothed him. Bran’s rooms became her rooms. Cersei was nothing if not devoted to her child.

“Lady Stark. Uncle Tyrion has arrived.” Jon spoke formally. Bran slept quietly. She placed her fingers in her mouth. “He’s just managed to fall asleep. His leg was hurting him so badly. My poor sweetling.” She said and kissed his forehead.

Jon spoke formally, “You must greet uncle.” She cried and looked up to him.

“He is still uncle but I am Lady Stark.” Suddenly all the stress and the sleepless night took a toll on her. She wanted to cry and have all her children and Ned back in Winterfell safe, within her grasp. She stood up and moved close to him, “Sweetling please, Jon please, don’t be angry. Forgive me. I only wanted you to have the best.” Cersei could see that her son’s resolve was perishing. She needed tears; they were a woman’s weapons. Jon would not resist her tears. Like his father, he would succumb to her.

She needed her boy to be hers again. Cersei would exaggerate her tears if needed be. “I held you as a little baby. I fed you. I am your mother. Jon, it was me who watched over you when you fell and would not wake up.” She looked at Bran’s bed and made sure to sway a little. If he thought, she was feeble his resolve would break faster.

“I cured belly aches. I sang to you. Sweetling, you have been mine own son since I fed you that night. Jon, I will not apologize anymore and I will call you son because you are my son. I love you and I feel you as mine.” Cersei then hugged him hard and cried, she sobbed, big heart wrecking sobs that melted him somewhat, enough for the young man to hold her back and call her mother again. “Don’t cry mother. Please don’t cry.” He implored. Cersei cried more.

She wiped her tears. “Show your uncle to his rooms. Explain to him about Bran, make sure there are no whores in Winterfell.” She was very aware that Tyrion was prone to his whores.

“You have to leave these rooms sometime. The maester believes Bran needs to exercise his leg. Robb and I could help him downstairs or Hodor could. He needs to see more than walls.” Jon tried to persuade her. Cersei was in such good mood now that he was on speaking terms with her that she nodded eagerly.

“We shall do as you say my sweet.” She kissed his brow and then went to meet Tyrion who looked like he needed a good shaving. He was in the small hearth by the windows.

“How is Bran?” Were the first words out of his mouth. Cersei was glad to hear those words. Tyrion was truly concerned for her child.

“He will never walk properly, never climb, swim or ride again.” She said and could not control the tears again. This was so unlike her. She even let Tyrion hold her and kiss her forehead.

“He will ride. I’ll make sure he does.” Her brother said with a determined glint in his eyes.

Cersei saw her little brother and thought about their childhood. She had bee cruel, despised him for killing mother, for not being beautiful like Jaime and her were. She could not believe that Tyrion cared about her children. He cared more than her twin. Lady Stark felt a little bit of an alien feeling. She felt remorse because maybe she should have been nicer to the little man. The woman shook her head and left to her rooms. She needed to sleep; suddenly she was tired and weary.

Tyrion and Robb stayed in Winterfell for another week. Her brother designed a special mount for his nephew. “Mikken will know what to do.” Tyrion gave some scrolls to Jon. Bran looked at his uncle. “Will I be able to ride again?” Bran asked with hopeful eyes; her son could walk with the aide of sticks but no long before his leg hurt him and he had to sit down. He would never run and was better off sitting down.

“You’ll be as tall and proud as the rest of them.” Tyrion said and ruffled Bran’s hair.

“Sweet sister, anything you wish to relay to Lord Stark?” He said. Cersei smiled. “Nothing baby brother. Safe trip.” She said. Cersei did not hug him this time but Tyrion smiled at her nonetheless.

Robb kissed her goodbye. “Father would want to know when you plan to join us.” Cersei kissed his brow. “Your father will have to wait until Bran can withstand the journey.” She retorted, annoyed by the query. Cersei would not leave Bran alone.

Cersei had been extraordinarily moody the past few weeks. She could not stand the smell of certain foods and cried at the sight of simple things such as Lan scratching at the doors. She saw as Robb rode ahead with Tyrion by his side. Jon and Bran waved them off. Bran wanted to give the scrolls to Mikken immediately. Jon who was still somewhat wary of her decided to humor him if only to be away from the castle. As she saw her brother and son leave the safety of Winterfell Lady Stark thought back to those past three months and realized she had not had her blood cycle since before the Ned left for King’s Landing. She was with child. Lan howled and played with Summer and Ghost. She was having another little heir and this time Ned Stark would not be there to see him draw his first breath.

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

King’s Landing had not changed. Court, the people, the streets, they were all as he remembered them. Ned did not like the city; its boisterous people, the intrigue and the hostile looks Catelyn threw his way. The Lord Hand spent his mornings, evenings and part of his nights in council meetings and private meetings with many influential lords. The man worked tirelessly to fix a broken realm. The Seven Kingdoms not only owed the Iron Bank but also Tywin Lannister. His father in law was not a forgiving man but so far had not asked for any of the money owed to him. That simple yet puzzling fact left Ned Stark restless and with a sense of doom, Petyr Baelish, the master of coin painted a rather bleak future for the crown.

Ned rubbed his neck and for the hundredth time wished Cersei was there with him. This was her element. She was adept at this, the intrigues, the lies, and the game as she called it. He closed his eyes and lay down on the bed. Bran was fine, he could maybe walk again or so Robb had written. His lady wife refused to write to him; Ned understood that it would take Cersei some time to forgive the fact that he had chosen to ride ahead and entrust Robb with his son. Ned had wanted to march back to Winterfell but the realm needed him and it was his duty as Hand of the King to reach King’s Landing. Arya yelled at him and wanted to turn back with Robb and Bran. Joanna tended to Bran until the fever broke. Robb felt guilty and was anxious for Bran. “Jon would have never let this happen.” His second oldest boy kept repeating. Only Tommen remained calm and gave him the strength and support he needed. “We have to go to King’s Landing. Mother will take care of Bran.” Tommen had said.

That night Robb and Bran went North. A smaller party with a few of the kingsguard to accompany Lady Sansa to the Eyrie, the young lady was to attend Robin’s funeral. Ned had been through tragedy in his life but he had never seen such lifeless eyes. Sansa Arryn dreaded going home. The queen kissed her forehead and bid her goodbye. The woman had pleaded with Robert to let her niece accompany to King’s Landing but Robert had said that as heiress she was to be in the Eyrie. She belonged there. Ned could not agree more. The young woman needed to oversee her knights and lands until she married.

Marriage contracts, tourneys and wedding feasts, Ned did not have the mind for such frivolities. The council however did. Lord Varys and Baelish bickered over the royal wedding and the fact that young Sansa Arryn was single and would need to be married. Lord Stark did not want to think about marriages, not the royal one in the least. Arya and Joanna did not speak to each other because of it. Daughters were very difficult. Cersei advised to give them time and space but Joanna seemed intent in avoiding her sister. She now spent all her time in court with the princesses while Arya…

Arya had her dancing classes. Ned accepted only after she implored and then threatened to run away back North. Tommen tried to keep her with him at all times but Arya was uncontainable. She spent most of her time with the prince. That much was clear to him. His daughter met with the young prince while taking her dancing lessons. They sparred and seemed to have formed a healthy friendship. It was the only worthy aspect of this situation. Arya liked her betrothed. She was so much like Cersei, sometimes it scared him what she would do if she hated her husband. He remembered those first years, before Robb. His lady wife was cold, quick tempered and almost childish. Ned would give anything to have her by his side but it would not be possible, not until Bran could travel, if he could.

There other important matters to attend. Ned Stark thought about Essos. Daenerys Targaryen was married to a Khal. A Dothraki horse Lord. Robert and his council members had wanted to kill the young girl. She was a threat to the realm they had said. Ned had to put his foot down and remind Robert that the girl and her brother were across the narrow sea; leagues away from them and that the girl could not even with a Dothraki army overcome the trained lords and the people of Westeros.

He did not know whom to trust. The matter of Jon Arryn was unresolved and Varys had hinted that Bran’s fall was not an accident. He did not dare write to Cersei with the troubling prospect. Bran did not remember anything from his fall. He had no evidence or any idea of who would have done such a despicable thing. Baelish seemed to genuinely want to aid him. He had met Littlefinger three days before Bran fell. The master of coin had introduced himself and advised him to go to King’s Landing right away. As soon as he set foot in King’s Landing bloody Jaime Lannister became his shadow, accompanying him everywhere. He had asked him and the blonde fool replied honestly. “I am under oath. My sweet sister wants me to protect you Lord Stark.” Ned did not like the way the man spoke about his wife. In a fashion, he felt jealous because this man had known his lioness since birth. They had memories together that Ned would never have with her. Those first years as he fell in love with his wife he could not help but be jealous of Jaime Lannister who featured in every of her happy stories. Robb and Jon grew up with stories of their uncle Jaime, heroic, brave and daring. Ned developed an unhealthy hatred of the man, added to the already low esteem in which he regarded the man.

His days were not easy. Robert had become a fool. He was not a good king. The council did nothing to contradict his wishes. The man he once regarded as a brother became a drunk and dissatisfied man. Lord Varys called an urgent council meeting. Ned was not surprised to see prince Gendry in attendance. As crown prince it was requested of him to attend a few of these in order to become accustomed with matters of the crown.

Lord Baelish, Varys. Ser Barristan Selmy, Grand Maester Pycelle and Renly were in attendance. The matter at hand was Daenerys Targaryen. Robert was set upon killing the girl.

“Our little bird has sung a song. Daenerys Targaryen is with child.” Lord Varys enunciated.

“I told you Ned. We should have dealt with her months ago when she married the savage. Kill her.” Robert said simply after drinking from his cup of wine.

“Robert, she is a child. Not older than Jon or your son for that matter…” He said clearly thinking that he could reason with his old friend.

“She is breeding and has an army of Dothraki screamers on her back.” Robert growled.

“Perhaps the king is correct.” Varys said silkily. Ned looked around the table for support. “She is a child.”

Robert banged on the table. “She is a dragon spawn whore who opened her legs to a horse lord who happens to have forty bloody thousand men at his beck and call.”

Ned argued back. “Savages, untrained, undisciplined in the arts of war.” His anger was rising.

“Forty thousand you honorable fool.” Robert said angrily.

“She poses no threat to us.” Ned could not believe Robert had changed so much as to think that it was fine to murder a pregnant girl.

“Oh Ned stop burying your head in the snow. What happens when this Targaryen whore gives the savage a son and he learns the wretch can have a claim to the Iron throne?”

Ned stood up. “I will have no part in this.” There were several things he wanted off his chest but he merely glared at his oldest friend. Ned threw the Hand pin to the table. “I will be going back to Winterfell on the morrow.”

Prince Gendry stood up. “Uncle Stannis would not agree to this. Lord Stark is correct father.”

“Oh you foolish boy. You know nothing of strategy and war.” Robert laughed derisively. “All of you leave.” He said as he drank more from his cup.

“Your king commands you.” He shouted once more. The small council hurriedly left and so did he.

Gendry tried to catch up with him. Jory was by his side as soon as he left the council meeting quarters.

“Have Poole collect all our things. We leave for Winterfell on the morrow. Send ravens through out the Kingsroad. I want Robb to turn back to Winterfell. Find him, he was to be here last week by our calculations. Send for Tommen and my daughters. I want them in the tower of the Hand tonight. We part early.” He left the Red Keep then.

Eddard needed to meet with Jon Arryn’s squire. It would be the last thing that he would do in the city before he left. He would go back North and be with his wife and children. This was a mistake from the beginning. He should have listened to Cersei.

His lioness, he missed her so much. He wrote every week but there had been no replies to his letters. She was punishing him for not answering to her feverish letters. Jon knew about his birth. Cersei pleaded even before he sent their sons back. Ned would have to face his eldest son and tell him the truth about the woman who gave birth to him. Cersei was his mother, the only one he ever knew. Eddard would not call the dornish woman Jon’s mother.

An old sense of duty had enveloped him when he accepted Robert’s proposal. It had always been Robert and him. They were best friends since they were seven years old. Robert led and Ned followed but his old friend did not know how to lead anymore. He was not the same man, power and years of debauchery had changed him to the point that Ned could scarcely find the bond they once shared.

“Lord Stark.” The prince shouted. Ned stopped; in these past few weeks the young prince had proven to be a decent young man. The boy was not used to command. He resembled Robert greatly but his eyes were shy. He was not a man to take reins. It had always been Jon, Robb or even Tommen who led the young royal to hunting parties, and other activities. Gendry Baratheon was not bred to rule. He had been a hard working boy, a blacksmith apprentice not even a squire.

“My prince.” Ned bowed. Gendry was anxious. “You can’t take her.”

Ned glared at the boy who backed down. “She is my daughter and is of Winterfell.”

“She will be my wife.” Gendry said with a determination he recognized as a Baratheon trait. “She will be my queen.”

“My family and I will return to our lands. King Robert does not wish to see my face and I will not leave my daughter in this pit of snakes.” Ned walked out of the Red Keep. Jaime Lannister at his heels.

“I will run away with her.” Gendry said hopelessly.

“You will not.” Ned said and mounted his horse.

“Young love. Once we were all fools in love.” Lannister said with one of his ever-fixed little smirks as they rode away.

“I wonder how you would know. You are the youngest sworn Kingsguard after all.” Ned commented with a chilly tone.

“Proud Lord Stark. You are an honorable man. My sister must spend many dull evenings with you. What a shame, since my sweet sister was always lively and charming. Did she ever tell you about the time when we jumped off a cliff? She told father…”

“Spare me.” Ned said cutting him off. He did not know more reminders that this man had the privilege to know and share a lifetime with his lioness.

Jaime laughed. Eddard rode ahead. Hugh of the Vale was now a knight. He had been wounded in the Tourney three weeks ago but he was recovering well. Ned had tried to have words with the man but he had given one and a million excuses to not do so. Jory managed to reach him at last.

He was taken aback when he saw the silent sisters working on the body of Ser Hugh. He addressed one of the young sisters. “Fetch me the maester please.” He said. Jaime Lannister waited outside the manse. An older man met him. “He died last night in his sleep.”

“How? He looks strong and his wounds from the tourney were healing properly.” The northern man asked. He was completely baffled.

“My Lord Hand, these things happen.” The maester spoke with a definite tone.

“Are there any traces of venom?” He was blunt. This was too coincidental for his liking.

“I assure my lord that Ser Hugh was not murdered. His heart stopped. It simply stopped beating.”

“Just like Jon Arryn’s.” He mused and left the manse.

He rode back to the Red Keep. “FATHER.” A young man shouted from a crowd. He sounded like his son Robb.

Ned turned the horse, there in dirty clothes and a tired horse was his son.

“Lysa Arryn abducted uncle Tyrion.” Three knights flanked his son; they were Vale knights.

“Lord Stark. We have the Imp. He is to stand trial for Lord Jon Arryn’s and Lord Robin Arryn’s death.” A young man said. He looked like a Royce.

“Father. Men under Lysa Arryn’s order ambushed nuncle Tyrion and me. They took him to the Vale and escorted me here.” Robb growled angrily.

Eddard dismounted his horse. “My brother in law is innocent of this.” Ned knew Tyrion since he was a lad. Tyrion would not be capable. He was not the sort to kill. Why would he? Tyrion had no motives in any case.

“You will give me my brother.” Suddenly Jaime Lannister unsheathed his sword and the fight broke out. Jory had caught up to them and joined in. Robb punched one of his captors.

Ned saw as one of the knights aimed an arrow to his leg. He felt the burn and then fought too. The fight must have been no more than thirty or forty minutes and then the world went black. The last thing he saw was a Vale knight escaping.

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

He woke up with incredible pain. Grand maester Pycelle pushed a liquid to his throat. “No milk of the Poppy.”

“You must drink my lord. You have lost a lot of blood.” The older man wheezed and pushed the milk inside his mouth. He lost consciousness once more.

Eddard took in his surroundings once more. He was in his quarters. Robert in front of him, Gendry and Tommen were there too. “Your Grace.” Ned said with a rasp. He was thirsty; he needed water.

“You need your rest.” Robert sat down by the foot of the bed. “Let’s forget this mess. We are fools. Call your son and the Lannisters off.”

“They have my brother in law.” Ned sounded weak to his own ears. Tommen gave him a cup of water.

“I shall hear no more of this nonsense. You will call the Kingslayer and your son off. Let Lysa have her trial. I assure she will not execute the Imp. He shall have a fair trial here in King’s Landing. I want a reply from the Kingslayer and Robb when I return from my hunting trip.” The king stood up and left. “Gendry, your foolish uncle must be waiting for us.

The prince looked at him. “My lord, I hope you feel better soon. I am most glad with your recovery.” Ned nodded and the young man took his leave.

“Where are your sisters? Send for Jory. We will not stay in King’s Landing for much more. We will wait until Robert comes back from his hunting trip.” Ned asked when the royals left.

“Father, Jory is dead. He was killed by a knight.” Jory was a good lad. Smart, reliable, a good young man and now he was gone. Eddard closed his eyes. He needed to make sure Joanna and Arya were protected. He needed a ship to get the girls North. He could not wait for Robert to come back from his trip. The girls needed to be safe and away from this chaos that was the capital. “Tommen, go to the Blackwater’s bay and find a ship. Pay as much as you need to. I want you and your sisters gone by the morrow.”

His boy nodded, “Father, there is something else.” Ned sat up and drank more water. He felt much better now and took a look at his leg. It must have been more than five days because it was healing nicely and he did not feel as much pain.

“What is it Tommen?”

“Robb and uncle Jaime rode ahead to the Eyrie. They plan to rescue uncle Tyrion. Uncle Jaime has fifty men with him. Robb, I could not convince him to stay.”

He remained quiet, “Robb says they hurt nuncle Tyrion.” Tommen continued, as if trying to defend his oldest brother. Ned was angry, how dared Lannister take his son and start a conflict on the Vale?”

“Do as I say Tommen. Find a ship, do not tell your sisters until you have secured the ship.”

“Go on son.” He stood up with some effort and washed his face. He needed to write to Cersei and explain all of the happenings in the last few days. Perhaps Tommen had written but he needed to tell Cersei his own account.

He sought parchment inside his desk and looked at the book Jon Arryn had read before he died. “The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms.” Ned had tried to read it weeks ago but Arya and Joanna fighting in silences and their constant complaints had distracted him.

He opened the pages and found a mark made by Jon Arryn in the Baratheon House. Orys Baratheon; black of hair, blue eyed. Steffon Baratheon; black of hair, blue eyed. Robert Baratheon; black of hair, blue eyed. Ned thought back to Gendry, blue eyed and his raven hair. He then pictured the princesses. They were all redheads but blue eyed. They had the Tully look. Not one of them had black hair or anything that resembled Robert come to think about it. Ned thought about all his children. Jon had his eyes, his hair, and most of his looks. He did not remember the woman who gave birth to the boy but the ears were not Starks. Robb resembled him, along with Arya but they had certain Lannister traits. Robb had Cersei’s and Jaime’s nose. Arya, her mother’s cheekbones and her hands. Tommen looked Lannister enough but for the eyes and his hair was darker. Joanna, she was Cersei reborn. She had such beautiful green eyes but she had his smile and his mouth. Bran looked a lot like Benjen but for the lighter hair and the golden Lannister complexion. Could this be the reason why Jon Arryn was dead? Had he tried to uncover Catelyn’s secret?

He had to speak with Catelyn. A long time ago she was to be his wife. They would have been married but he had wanted Cersei Lannister away from the crown. He watched as the sun set. He needed to understand Catelyn, speak with her. Offer her an alternative before he spoke with Robert. It would have to wait until the morrow.

Ned paced with some pain and then decided to write to his lady wife.

My dearest Lioness,

Tyrion has been abducted. Lannister and our son have taken arms against Lysa Arryn. Robert promises me a fair trial for Tyrion. I fear for the girls’ safety. They will leave for Winterfell in the very morrow.

Ned.

Eddard send one of the servants with the letter. “Find me a handsome and fast raven. Make haste and send it immediately. Send for my daughters.” He washed his face. Ned sat back on the bed and waited for his daughters to rush in.

Joanna, his sweet kitten came in first. “Father.” She cried and hugged him. Ned kissed her forehead. “I’m fine my sweet.” She sat by his side while Arya looked from afar. She was so much like Cersei; you had to approach her slowly, carefully, lest she felt threatened.

“Come here wolfling.” Ned permitted himself to use the moniker. He had not called her that to her face since she flowered more than a year ago. Arya sat down next to him.

“Robb and uncle Jaime went to rescue uncle Tyrion.” Arya said as he kissed her forehead.

“Yes.” Ned had wanted his daughters to be protected. The world was a harsher place for women, especially women of their station. They had fewer liberties, more restrictions and less of a right to decide if that was ever possible.

“The queen says uncle Tyrion murdered her brother in law and nephew. Is it true father?”

“Of course not. Nuncle Tyrion would never.” Arya replied offended.

Joanna glared at her sister. “Shut up Arya.”

Ned sighed, “Enough of this. I will not have you bicker again. We are not in Winterfell. This is King’s Landing and we need to count in each other.” He said firmly.

“Your mother advised me to give you space but enough is enough. Joanna, I will find you a worthy match. This is not your sister’s fault. It is time you saw each other eye to eye in this matter.”

Joanna looked at her sister. “Do you love him?” She asked. Arya blushed. “I will leave you now.” Lord Stark did not feel comfortable discussing those matters with her daughters. Cersei was supposed to smooth things with the girl. Cersei, Ned walked out and into the hall of his abode.

He waited for Tommen and grew a little worried when his boy did not arrive after a few hours. Arya and Joanna left his rooms both with somber expressions but Joanna smiled when she saw him.

“Father, I wish to return to Winterfell.” The girl said with a small smile.

“I do not think court is a good place for me. I do not like the people. I would prefer to go to Casterly Rock or go home. Maybe I could visit grandfather.” Joanna babbled a little.

“Father, Joanna does not wish to stay in King’s Landing because of all the rumors about our family, the Lannister side.” Arya said with a straight face.

“They say so many horrible things about grandfather, uncle Tyrion and Jaime. They even say mother is a whore.” Joanna said harshly.

Ned ground his teeth. “Your mother is nothing of the sort. Who dared speak in such a way about my wife.”

Arya looked at him with big grey eyes, “The queen. She’s been saying things about mother. Filthy lies about her, grandfather and uncle Tyrion.”

“Do concern yourself with lies children.” Ned said and sent them back to their quarters. “Do not open doors to anyone but me or Tommen.” He kissed them goodnight and waited for his son. Maybe he was taking too many precautions but he promised Cersei to be careful and protect the children. He had failed Bran. Ned would not forgive himself if something happened to his other children.

Tommen arrived almost by dawn. “The ship leaves in two days father. I could not find anything earlier. The ships left today in the morning and by royal decree no ships can abandon Blackwater Bay.” This news complicated his plans to have the girls away from here once Robert learned the truth.

He sent Tommen to his quarters and retired to sleep. Try as he might he couldn’t find sleep. He thought about Cersei and her smaller frame by him. Her smile, her laughter and those bright green eyes, in the past few months he closed his eyes and pictured her before going to sleep. It helped him sleep.

Ned woke up an hour later. “Lord Hand. The king, he’s been wounded.” The Lord of Winterfell dressed quickly and found his oldest friend in his chambers with Grand Maester Pycelle, Gendry, the queen and Renly.

Renly was incoherent, “There’s so much blood. So much blood.” The Lord of Storm’s End heaved and puked all over the floors. “Get him out of here. The boy could never properly stand the sight of blood.” Robert was pale and his belly was open in two. It was the end for him

“This is it Ned.” He said blinking. “Everyone leave.” He roared with little strength he had left.

Catelyn protested. “My love, surely you want to see your daughters…”

“Leave I said.” Eddard looked at Catelyn and saw the disgust in her face.

One by one they left. Gendry too. “Not you son. Not you.” Robert said anxiously.

“Forgive me, for not being a better father, a better king.” The man said and then looked at Ned. “Teach him Ned. Teach him to be a better king, a better man than I ever was. Send for Stannis and Renly. They will help my boy too.” Robert sweated and a fever took over his body.

“Father I.” Gendry said overcome with some emotion. The young man clasped the dying man’s hands.

“Ned, you are my brother of choice. I have loved you like a brother, more than my own blood.” He said with a smile.

“I don’t want mourning. I want everyone to taste the boar that got me. Quickly Ned, write.”

“I Robert, First of his name, fill in the tittles. Declare Eddard Stark of Winterfell as Lord Hand regent until my son Gendry Baratheon heir to the Iron Throne comes of age. You’ll be lord regent. Join our houses, it should have been Lyanna and me, married, ruling the Seven Kingdoms together. Gendry and Arya will rule alongside. Lyanna and Alayne make sure they are safe. Cassana, I want my little girl to marry your Jon. She will do well in the North. She reminds me of Myrcella, such beautiful eyes. She had my mother’s blue eyes, my eyes…” Robert started rambling then, stringing coherent and incoherent thoughts together. “Fetch me Grand Maester Pycelle.” Gendry left immediately.

He sat with his oldest friend as he finished his will and rambled some more. He did not speak about Catelyn and his suspicions. It would not do well.

Catelyn came into the room once more. “Robert, my love, the girls. They would like to see you.” She said somberly.

“No.” He said. The maester and Gendry entered behind her. “Gendry come here.”

“Robert your daughters…” The queen insisted.

“I said no. I want to be alone with my son now.” Catelyn face was a picture of anger and resentment. Ned escorted her out of the chambers.

The Lord Hand did not mean to approach the queen in such a way but he had to. He had to give her the opportunity to leave court with her daughters. He would make sure the girls were provided for. There would not be a need for Westeros to know about Catelyn’s deeds.

“My queen, I wish to speak with you about the princesses.” He spoke. Catelyn stiffened a little.

“What about my daughters?”

“You will leave King’s Landing, it will be best if you stayed in the Riverlands. The princesses will be provided for. I shall find good matches. Alayne or Cassana will do well in Winterfell.

Catelyn let out a very derisive laugh. “I do not understand your words Lord Stark. Why would I leave my home?”

Eddard Stark stopped. “They are not his daughters.”

The queen looked blankly at him. The Catelyn that was to be his sister and law and for a brief time his lady wife was gone. This woman as Cersei had described was resentful and angry.

“You do not deny it.” He expected Catelyn to give him some explanation.

“Myrcella was Robert’s but she is gone now.” Catelyn spoke lightly.

“Do not dare judge me Ned. I have suffered through bastards, infidelities, shame and abuse. Robert did not love me. He’s always been in love with your sister. I thought he would be a good husband. I was dazzled by the tales of his love for Lyanna Stark, when father told me I was to marry him instead of you my first thought was that a man who could love a woman to the point to start a war would certainly love me. How wrong I was. I was more beautiful, better bred but Robert Baratheon did not care. All he cared about was a dead woman.” Catelyn spat angrily.

“I am not sorry Lord Stark. Nor will I leave my castle. I have prayed every single night for the last five and ten years. Every night, I prayed to the Seven for my husband’s death. The time has finally come Lord Stark. I suggest you pack and leave. Take care of the North. King’s Landing is not a place for you.” The queen said plainly. There were no more revelations. She left him there unsettled.

“He’s dead.” Renly said. Ned looked back and saw the young lord looking at him. “This is our time to strike. You are lord regent. I can have the Tyrells’ armies in an instant. I am to marry Mace’s daughter Margaery.”

“Renly what are you thinking?” Ned asked a little annoyed by the lad.

“The crown. I love my nephew but he is baseborn. He will never be king. He was not born for this. Gendry does not want the crown. I will protect him; he will still be in court. I will give him Storm’s End. Gendry has a lot of courtesies to learn. I told Robert it was a mistake. He could have chosen little Edric Storm but no Robert wanted to insult the realm. He wanted the Seven Kingdoms to know who was king. All the great houses of Westeros are outraged. Robert was clearly out of his mind. I am the rightful heir. They will rebel, a baseborn bastard king, an insult to all of us.” Renly tried to sound reasonable.

Ned felt disgust rise. “You forget your brother Stannis. If Gendry were to be overthrown which he will not Stannis would be the rightful heir.”

Renly laughed mirthlessly. “The people do no love Stannis. They love me. They want me as their king.”

“You are tired Renly.” Ned held his arms. “I will send for Stannis. He should be here for Robert’s funeral.”

He walked ahead to check on his children. Now more than ever they needed to be out of King’s Landing. Mayhaps it was the lack of Cersei. She would have mediated these people better. His lady wife had the tools and mind he lacked for these games. Joanna was asleep as was Arya.

Tommen was not. He was looking out the window petting Shaggydog. “The king is dead.” Ned said, thinking his son might not know the meaning of the bells.

“We should have stayed North. When Bran fell, that was a sign we should have gone back. This is not a place for us father. Mother did not want us here.” Tommen said still looking outside the window.

Eddard did not have words to refute his son’s assertion. “I will not be able to travel with you. I have to stay and help Gendry now that his father is dead.”

“Mother will not be happy.” Tommen said. Ned smiled. He loved all his children equally but this boy was the one he never worried about. Out of all his sons, this one was like him. Quiet, reserved, Tommen always understood him; their nature was too alike

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

Bran was tired of his mother. She was constantly asking if he was fine; if his leg hurt, if he needed anything. He loved her but she was overbearing and had almost denied his uncle’s idea of riding. Bran begged and even cried. Jon had finally convinced mother. He smiled, he was happy because after begging for a day and a day Jon and him had convinced her to let him ride Dancer outside of the courtyard and into the woods. Jon would be with him, so would be Rodrick and maester Luwin who had matters to discuss with his oldest brother.

The little boy missed father and his other siblings. When father was in Winterfell mother was not as sad and Jon had time for him. Now he was lucky if he could talk to Jon while in dinners and mother was sad. Jon told him that they would have to go to King’s Landing now that he was better and before mother’s belly swelled. She was carrying another baby. Lan had stayed with her back in Winterfell. Bran did not want to go to the capital and neither did mother but it had been a month since Robb and uncle Tyrion left. It was time for them to join father. Mother used harsh tones whenever Jon or him mentioned father. The boy had never heard mother speak like that about his father. She usually called him Ned or my love now she called him Lord Stark or Eddard.

Bran led Dancer to a clearing. Rodrick droned on about the men while Luwin spoke about the harvest or some other boring matter. Bran felt free for the first time since he had that dream about the three-eyed crow that told him he would not walk but he would learn how to fly. The boy did not like to think about the dream. In essence he could walk but only for very short periods of time and he limped. The pain was excruciating. Bran was a cripple but on top of a horse he was like old Bran who could ride and use a bow.

He looked back at Jon. He was too busy now and he would not be far from them. Summer had run ahead. He needed to make sure the direwolf was near. He went ahead and felt happy, the happiest he had felt in a very long time. He was alone, riding. There was no Hodor, no mother asking him if he was fine or if he remembered anything before the fall or Jon with his sad and pitying eyes. He was just Bran, riding, going to an adventure.

He did not notice how far he had gone. The boy forgot about Summer and enjoyed the wind whipping his face. Suddenly he heard sounds and four disheveled men surrounded him. They were wildlings two men and what looked like two women. He was sure when he heard their voices. There were also men of the Night’s Watch, deserters Bran thought.

“What do we have here?” A man said or at least Bran thought he said that, his accent was strange.

“A little lord.” One of the women, the one with the red hair said.

“Get down boy. We will not hurt you much if you help us boy.” A tall man asked.

“Shut it Crow.” The woman said, “He’s important we can take him back to Mance.”

Bran was paralyzed with fear. The man had a big knife and pointed at him. The other man, who was even bigger than the other one hurried him. “Kill the boy. Go on, there’s bound to be people waiting around for him.”

He felt the man and the brown-haired woman tried to shake Dancer, his mare whined and got scared. It was then when the red headed woman noticed the saddle.

“He’s crippled.” She said. Bran frowned. He hated that word.

“I am not.” Bran said loudly and then three things happened at once. He saw as Summer leapt and attacked the man that was far away from him. Jon and Rodrick Cassel got there. The master at arms killed him an arrow to his neck. The brown haired woman tried to run and the red headed wildling yanked him from the saddle and pointed a knife to his throat. Ghost killed one of the Crows and then went to the other so did Summer once he was done with the first man.

Jon leapt from his horse while Rodrick followed the other woman. The two male wildlings were dead. Bran closed his eyes.

“Let him go child. He is just a boy.” Maester Luwin was there. Bran could hear him trying to reason with the woman.

“Do not move or I will cut him. I will.” She hissed. Bran’s leg hurt so bad he had to sit. He slumped against the woman who could not be that much taller than him. She was certainly shorter than Jon.

“Let him go.” Jon said with an angry voice.

“I don’t have to do anything kneeler. Get away from the horse.” In that moment Bran understood that he had to something or this woman would kill him. He looked at Jon and then let his weight fall. His leg would not withstand his body. He fell and suddenly Jon pushed him aside and grabbed the woman’s knife.

The redhead gave his elder brother a fight but then Summer and Ghost were by Jon’s side. Their teeth bared and the woman stopped. “Call them off.” She sounded afraid for the first time. Maester Luwin was by his side and tended to his sore leg.

“You were very foolish Bran. She could have killed you.” The maester helped him sit down by a three.

“Ghost to me.” Jon said and the albino direwolf went back to him.

Summer growled and circled the redheaded girl. Bran heard Rodrick come back with the bigger woman. “Summer to me.” Bran’s direwolf did not move from his spot in front of the wildling.

Jon looked at him. “Call him off Bran.”

“Summer, to me.” The direwolf came to him and meekly licked his palm.

“We must go back to the castle.” Jon mounted his horse.

“What shall we do with the wildlings?” The master at arms asked once the women were tied up.

Bran was helped to Dancer. “We’ll take them to Winterfell for questioning.” Jon spoke, he was Lord Stark now and commanded Winterfell. He saw as Rodrick and maester Luwin followed Jon.

The Lord and future Warden of the North addressed the women then. “Your lives have been spared for the moment but if you try anything none of my men will hesitate to take them.”

The brown-haired woman looked deflated but the redhead, well she looked like she wanted to kill Jon.

They made their way back to the castle. The boy feared mother’s reaction. She would of course deny him more trips to the forests and even the Godswoods. He rode back in silence. Jon did not speak to him either, his brother was angry because of his actions. Bran could feel it. Jon chose silences, Robb lashed out at anyone in anger. Joanna and Arya would glare and be insufferable in their own ways. Tommen chose silence too.

Bran saw the gates and worried. Mother had been sick for the past few weeks. She was with child. The maester had said she needed to rest because she was not as young as she had been. Mother frowned and taken offense at the quip about her age but heeded every word the maester said. She was resting in her quarters when they entered the castle. Maester Luwin insisted on him resting for the next few days.

“My lord, I will take the prisoners to the servants’ quarters and wait for your commands” Cassel said with deference.

Jon nodded. Bran noticed that he no longer hesitated. It had been months since father left and finally Jon understood that he was lord. “Keep an eye on them both especially the small one.” His brother said.

Hodor appeared out of the kitchens. “Hodor.” He said and rushed to pick Bran from a chair by the fireplaces.

“I will speak with Lady Stark and then see to the wildlings.” Jon said still looking at the redhead.

“Free folk. Kneeler. We are called the Free folk.” The woman said defiantly.

“Rodrick, see to them. Strip them of all weapons, if they still have them.” Jon said. The master at arms took that as a dismissal and led the women away from the Hall.

Bran let Hodor hoist him to his arms. Jon stopped Hodor from taking him to his room. “Do not tell mother we found the women while riding. Do not worry her.”

Bran nodded, “Thanks Jon.” He said and smiled. Jon smiled, nodded and ruffled his hair. “Go up and do not speak to mother about the wildlings. I will handle her.”

The boy smiled. Jon, Tommen and Joanna forgot easily when it came to him. Arya and Robb would not have forgiven him quite so quickly. Bran rested in his rooms until supper. Mother and Hodor entered his rooms.

“Sweetling, it is time for supper.” She said and kissed his forehead. Mother rubbed her growing belly and smiled.

“Mother, I do not feel up to supper.” Bran did not, his leg had given him pain the whole evening but he did not wish for milk of the poppy. It made him groggy and he did not like it.

“I wish you to be there. I want your brother and you to explain the wildling capture.” Mother said with a determined tone.

Bran nodded and let Hodor escort him to his place in the table.

Jon was seated in father’s place again. Bran frowned but remained silent. Jon was Lord now. He had responsibilities now and he had to understand. He never spent any time with Bran anymore. Jon was either busily corresponding with father, or speaking with mother, in private of course or taking care of Winterfell.

“Mother.” He said and helped her to her chair. Bran sat opposite to her, where Jon used to sit.

They ate without much small talk. Bran was sure mother would speak any moment now. She did so after the last serving of chicken pie.

“Those women you have downstairs will not stay in this household.” Mother said primly.

“They will stay in Winterfell mother.” Jon replied while wiping his mouth with a napkin.

Mother frowned. “They attacked your brother.” She supplied.

“The matter has been settled. I will question them again in the morrow. They will stay here until I have made a decision.” Jon looked into mother’s green eyes.

Bran looked at Jon and then mother. The room was tense until mother dropped her fork. “Very well then. I await your decision son but keep in mind that these women are not ladies or even westerosi lowborns. They are wildlings and will not hesitate to kill anything that comes their way. I want them watched and away from my son. They will not serve in the castle and that is final.”

She stood up and addressed them both. “No more rides outside of the castle grounds for you Brandon. Jon, write to your father, your brother and I will ride for King’s Landing in two weeks. Find a discreet ship and make sure they can accommodate me and your brother.”

Jon frowned. “I do not think it wise. Mother, you should wait until the babe is born. Father would not want you travelling while you are heavy with child…” mother interrupted him. “Which is why you have not said anything about the babe. I will explain to Eddard once I see him.”

“Mother, I am sorry but I will not let you leave.” Bran gasped audibly.

Lady Stark replied very politely but plainly. “My love. You are Lord of Winterfell but I am your mother and Lady Stark, wife to the Warden of the North and Hand of the King. Your father needs me by his side. I am very cross with him at the moment but the heart of the matter is that my husband and I had planned for me to meet him when you were ready to take over Winterfell and you are. We will sail in two weeks. I shall need some men to escort us.” Mother then kissed them goodnight and left for her quarters.

He had a dream that night, he was Summer, and ran with Ghost through the forests. Bran was the wolf; he was running fast, he could feel the all the smells. He could smell the prey; a stag. Alone he would not have had a chance but he had his brother with him. They could easily overtake the stag.

It was thrilling, his blood sang with anticipation. He lunged at the prey. The stag fought back but Ghost attacked quickly. Summer helped his brother and in less than five minutes they were eating the remains of the animal.

Bran woke up sweaty, with the taste of blood and raw meat in his mouth. In the other side of the castle Jon Stark woke up too, with the same taste, puzzled by the rather vivid dream.

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

Father’s letters were troubling. King’s Landing was a rat’s nest as father called it. Jon had not had the opportunity to write him about his true parentage. He had been angry and wanted answers at first but then Bran fell and everything changed. This was not about Jon but about Bran and mother. Jon pushed his thoughts back and walked to the kitchens. The wildling women had been interrogated. Jon decided to keep them apart. Osha by her own was a good worker. She had wanted to go as far as South goes she had said. The woman was terrified of white walkers. She swore upon the Old Gods she’d seen them with her own eyes. Jon dismissed such things; he was not a green boy to believe in white walkers, grumkins and shadows. He was the lord of Winterfell. His ancestors had manned the Wall for hundreds of years. He grew up with Old Nan and her stories. Father told stories too but if there had been any white walkers or other creatures alike they had to have perished years ago; before the last dragons. They had been gone even before the last Stark bent the knee to Aegon Targaryen and his sisters.

Ygrette was a different matter altogether. She was not meek like Osha, she was fire, fighting to not say anything. She kept quiet during the first two or three days of interrogation. Jon did not trust her to not attack so he did not give her the same freedoms he gave Osha.

The woman was restricted to her small room. Jon would try to interrogate her every day. Jon managed to make her talk a week after she had been captured when they broached the wildlings' invasions. The redheaded girl fumed. "These are our lands. We were here too. You southerners put a big fucking Wall."

"I'm of the North. My family has manned the wall for thousands of years. The blood of the first men flows through my veins."

Ygrette glared at him and smirked. "The same as mine. You know nothing Jon Stark." She would reply and then there would be silence.

Jon did not trust her; she had tried to escape twice already. Fortunately Osha and Farlen had stopped her. She was locked in a room away from the kitchens and the stables where she could find knives and horses to escape.

Ygrette had not corroborated any of Osha's wild claims of white walkers but when enraged she spoke of giants, mammoths and the long night that would come and with it horrors never seen to any "Southron lords, like yourself Jon Stark." He would leave her then. It had been two weeks since they met for the first time and the wildling girl still intrigued him to no end. The lord of Winterfell walked to the stables. Mother and Bran were to leave tomorrow. She had insisted he said nothing about her pregnancy to father. Jon grew worried about the trip. There had been no word on Robb. He should have arrived to King’s Landing weeks ago. Father stopped his missives three weeks ago and there had been no mention of his little brother.

Jon combed his mare's hair when maester Luwin approached him. “Jon. You must go to your mother she has received very distressing news. He hurried to the castle and found mother clutching a piece of parchment furiously.

“Is it from father?” He asked cautiously. Jon had been reading her letters and answering father’s questions in his because mother refused to write to father.

“Lysa Arryn has Tyrion. She claims your uncle murdered her husband.” She said with a hint of anger and fear.

“Robb and Jaime march to the Vale as we speak.” Cersei said breathlessly.

Jon understood then, his little brother and uncle had taken arms against the queen’s sister.

“What does father have to say about this?”

Cersei threw the letter to the fires. “I must write to your grandfather before Jaime and Robb do something foolish.”

“I have to get to court before this turns into an open war.” She pondered

“Are you insane? We must wait. Father will solve this. We will travel together once we know more.” Jon said assertively.

Mother argued but a pain in her belly stopped her from doing so any further. Jon helped her to a chair. “Perhaps you are right. We shall wait a few days. If Ned has not communicated by then I will travel on my own.”

If there was something Jon was sure of was that father would not let mother leave on her own. The journey to king's landing was perilous as it was. Mother was with child; she was not so heavy yet. It she would be so once she traveled through the king's road.

Jon nodded and assured her they would wait a couple of days and then she would travel if she so desired. Mother looked distrustful; perhaps she knew that he would do the impossible to keep her in Winterfell regardless of her choices.

Jon looked at her seriously, "write to your father. Tell him of father's letter." Tywin Lannister should know that uncle Tyrion was captured in the Eyrie.

Mother looked conflicted, "I should have accepted his help. What was Jaime thinking? He is part of the kingsguard. He gave me his word. Now your father is alone with the girls and Tommen. I should be there. I should have gone with Robb." She said bitterly.

"Have maester Luwin come at once. We'll send ravens to Casterly Rock. Although father must know by now." She muttered under her breath.

Jon spent the better part of the evening discussing the implications of Robb and uncle Jaime traveling to the Eyrie with a small army of Lannister men.

Mother wrote a private letter to father and then went to check on Bran. Jon walked to the kitchens and found Ygrette eating some soup or other. He glared at her but did not engage in any conversation with the wildling. He was not in the mood to squabble with her. The Lord of Winterfell went back to his swords for some training with Rodrick.

They spent a couple of days without news from the South until Tywin Lannister wrote back. Mother was beside herself when a blond man appeared out of thin air asking to see Lord Stark. It was close to nightfall. “I am Lancel Lannister, son of Kevan and wish to see cousin Cersei.” A young man, not older than himself strode inside Winterfell.

Jon sent for his mother and soon maester Luwin and the three of them were sitting by one of the hearths in Winterfell.

“Uncle Tywin has entrusted me with this letter. I was sure to not leave any traces of my presence through out the King’s road.” The blonde man said a little pompously. Jon waited patiently until mother read it and then showed it to him. Mother crumbled to a chair and gasped. Jon went to attend to her. Mother gave the letter to maester Luwin who after looking very serious gave it to him.

Cersei,

King Robert is dead. Your foolish brothers and son have started a conflict in the Riverlands and the crown lands. Your brother and son raided the Riverlands trying to get Tyrion back. In the process they have started a war. I will command my armies East to Riverrun and teach a lesson to the Tullys. Your northerman has been accused of treason and regicide. Tommen, Joanna and Arya have gone missing. Renly Baratheon styles himself as king of the Seven Kingdoms. I have been called by the new hand of the king Lord Petyr Baelish for acts of treason. They claim I conspired to kill Jon Arryn and Robert Arryn. Have Jon call his bannermen and meet me at the Neck.

Tywin Lannister
Lord of Casterly Rock
Warden of the West

Jon crumpled the letter. “Maester Luwin, call the banners. We travel south on the morrow.”

The maester did not argue or try to deter him. This was a provocation so big that Luwin could do nothing but agree with his judgment.

Mother looked up to cousin Lancel. “Why have we not heard anything from the Queen and the crown?”

The young man stared blankly at her. “I had hoped to see Lord Stark too.” Lancel replied.

Jon looked at his mother and then held her hands. “They don’t know yet. Your father has spies all around court.” He kissed her forehead. “I will get our family back mother. I promise.” He hugged her.

“Maester Luwin send ravens to all our lords. We travel at dawn break.” Jon said and stood up. He looked at Lancel and then bellowed for Osha. “Guide him to his quarters.”

Osha nodded. Lancel looked at her and grinned broadly. He would be in for a trade. The wildling frowned all the way to the stairs.

Master Luwin made his way to the rookery and left the Stark in the hearth. Mother was still seated. She looked shell shocked.

“Your father. We have to get him back. They will kill him once father rescues your uncle. Your siblings, Tommen and the girls what if something happened to them?” Mother said hollowly.

“You should go to bed.” He said and helped her to her quarters. She was eerily quiet, as if she had not received any news.

Jon shook, he ran down to the godswoods. He knelt to the heart tree and trembled. They were going to start a war. A war against the crown, father hated talking about Robert’s rebellion or the Greyjoys’ revolt. Jon knew he had been instrumental in both victories for his friend Baratheon and now he was going against Baratheon.

He walked farther to the hot springs, Ghost wandered off. Jon walked until he reached the hot springs. He would not see the springs again. He would have to leave home, mother and Bran. Jon undressed and slipped into the hot water. He closed his eyes. This place had a hold on him. It relaxed him, made him forget that in the morrow he would lead armies of men into most likely a war.

Jon did not feel her until she spoke. “Lord Stark, so well endowed.” He opened his eyes and saw a naked Ygrette. He had been wondering about what was under all those furs and now he knew. She was beautiful really but she was there and he had not been with any girls since uncle Tyrion dragged him out of Ros’s bed. He felt his treacherous body respond to the naked, wet girl in front of him. The wildling girl noticed too. She moved closer “You probably don’t know where to put it.”

Lord Stark forgot himself. He grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to his lap. Ygrette gasped. Jon knew she could feel all of him by her inner thigh close to her slit.

“I know where to put it.” He hissed. He should have known Ygrette would not shy away like any other would. She squirmed and smiled toothily, in one swift motion he was inside of her. She felt incredible, hot, and she was fucking him. It wouldn’t do, Jon picked her up and put them in the ground. He slipped out of her. Ygrette had a self-satisfied smirk. “Proper lord Stark cannot get filthy with the likes of me.” Her voice was mocking and filled with contempt. Jon wanted nothing more than to wipe that smirk and hear her beg him for more.

He kissed her neck, she tried to touch him but he pinned her hands with one of his. She was strong but tiny, and her legs were firmly held by his. He kissed the space between her small breasts and went lower. The red hair of her womanhood matched the red of her hair and he had the sudden desire to kiss her there. Jon did so. He placed little kisses and then licked her. He had never done it; one did not lick whores. He had stayed in Winterfell all his life and the servant girls had not really been all that inventive or willing to risk the wrath of Lady Stark. They would bed him and then never again try anything which suited Jon Stark fine.

Ygrette moaned, finally her face changed and she looked blissful, gone was her smug face and only pleasure was etched in her face. Jon had the upper hand and would not relinquish his acquired power over the wildling girl. She came with a gasp and shuddered under him. He entered her and moved inside of her slowly. She did not come that time. He pulled out before he could lose his seed inside of her. He would father no bastards.

He was startled when she rolled on top of him. “That thing you did with your mouth.” She said with a quiet voice. He let her speak more. “Is that how lords kiss their ladies in the South?”

“I don’t know. It’s the first time I have done so.” Jon said honestly. She laughed. “You were not a maiden Jon Stark.” Ygrette continued.

Jon smiled and gazed up to the Grey skies of the North. “I was not. I have not been since Robb took me to a brothel.”

“Your brother.” She said. “Does he live away from here?”

“He’s in the Riverlands with my mother’s brother.” Jon spoke with a hint of bitterness. It all came back. He was setting foot out of Winterfell to fight a war. Jon had to. He was the heir; it was his duty to protect Robb. He protected Robb, all of his life he took care of him, of Tommen, Joanna, Arya and Bran. They were all out of reach but for Bran. Bran and mother were safe. He would keep them safe and get his siblings back. Father would want him to make sure they were all safe.

Jon liked Ygrette’s hair. It looked beautiful in the green grass. “I am going South to get him and my siblings.”

Ygrette watched his face. “You should be going North. Mance has an army. We are going to take our lands back,” she spouted.

“Do you know how many times the free folk has tried to invade Westeros?” He asked and pinned her down once again.

“Five times and all five times we have driven them back.” Jon said starkly. “You lack training, discipline and weaponry. Your king beyond the wall will fail. The Wall will not be destroyed.

Ygrette got the glint in her eyes. “We have a horn that will blow up your big ugly wall to pieces.”

Jon actually had to laugh at that. She kicked him on the hip and tried to move away from him but he held her steady under him. “I’m taking you South with me.” He kissed her then. It was strange; he kissed only four women in his lifetime. Mother, Arya, Joanna and Ros. Ros had been the only one he kissed romantically or sexually. So far he liked Ygrette better.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

Joanna was still shaking. Arya and prince Gendry hurried ahead of her. "Joanna, you have to move. We have to get to the ship before daylight." Arya grabbed the sleeve of her dress and tugged hard.

She stopped. "Why? We should go back to the Red Keep. Father is in the dungeons and Tommen. Where is Tommen?" Arya was exasperated. She could tell. Her little sister remained quiet. It was the prince who spoke. "Lady Joanna, we have to be in that ship. It will take us to Dragon Stone, where my uncle is."

Joanna walked again if a bit slower than before. Tommen, she could not but think back to two weeks ago when he pulled her out of princess Cassana's quarters. It was the middle of the day.

"We have to leave now." Joanna looked puzzled. Tommen hurried her along to an empty room, down the stairs to the servants' areas.

"What are you saying Tommen? Have you gone insane? The king is dead. We belong here with father. Arya is to be queen." Joanna said as her brother shoved a rough-spun servant dress

"We can't leave. Father is the Hand regent until Gendry comes of age.” Joanna sputtered as Tommen changed his clean clothes into servant’s clothes too.

“Have you gone completely insane?” She squeaked when her twin tried to undo her dress.

She had never seen Tommen so hurried. “You will change your dress now. We have to leave; Arya and Gendry have left the castle. Meryn Trant tried to kill the crown prince. They have accused Father of treason. Arya killed a man. We have to go.” Tommen snapped. Joanna changed into the dress and followed her twin through the servant’s exits.

She frowned, and tried to keep up with Arya and Gendry. The prince had led them through Flea Bottom for the past three days. She had not seen Tommen in three days. The queen had imprisoned him. That woman accused her father of treason and the prince’s murder. Joanna had wanted to go back to the Red Keep and have Gendry in court. Let them know their prince was well and alive, and then father could serve as Lord Regent until Gendry became of age. Tommen shook his head at once when they were far away from the Red Keep and close to the Blackwater port.

“The kingsguard tried to kill Gendry. We cannot go back. I promised father I would keep you safe.” Her twin brother said firmly and tried to secure their passage in one of the ships sailing North.

Joanna remembered that day bitterly. All the ships had been ordered to remain in the city. The goldcloaks were looking for them. They were accused of treason too. Joanna shuddered. The men in the port had looked at Arya and her with disgusting eyes and made gestures at them. She knew her sister had been scared too, even if she did not admit it.

Tommen cursed when the captain ship refused them entry. “There is no room boy. None of them are going North.”

The prince spoke then, “South, Dragon Stone.” The captain nodded. “Aye, but not today maybe tomorrow or next week until the Lords decide.” The man said with an ill-tempered tone. They had hidden then inside Flea Bottom, whatever little romantic affection she held for the prince had disappeared since then. He was callous, not gentle at all. He was rude, even more than Arya and even though Joanna understood his preoccupation with staying hidden. She was not used to sleeping on floors, not bathing and smelling foul things whenever they crossed the busy streets in the city. She was tired and scared beyond belief. Tommen had gone back, she knew it. Arya tried to lie to her and tell her he had gone on his own to meet with Robb and uncle Jaime on the field. Joanna knew otherwise. She loved all her siblings but Tommen was her oldest friend. He always protected, just as Robb and Jon did but Tommen, he was so kind and did not think she was just as silly pretty girl like Robb and even Jon though she was. Her twin brother listened to her and did not think her useless. He was gone, to rescue father no doubt. They should go back, and help them, not run away like Arya and the prince wanted. It was too late now. The prince grabbed her arm and yanked her forward to the ship that would take then to Stannis Baratheon.

She tried once more. This time she pleaded to Arya. “They have our father and Tommen. Arya, we have to go back. We can talk to the other lords and they will understand. Gendry is alive, he is the rightful king of Westeros.”

Arya grabbed her hands. “Tommen will free father. He promised. We can’t go back. They will kill us. You did not see them Joanna. They killed Septa Mordane, all the guards and even Jeyne.” Joanna gasped. “Tommen agreed, this is our best option. Uncle Stannis will know what to do.” Gendry assured them and looked ahead to the sea. They had a room they would share for the two weeks they were to stay at sea. They had one bed only, Arya and Joanna slept on it while the prince slept by the door, to make sure no one entered their room. She was miserable for the whole trip even more when they disembarked in Dragon Stone. The lord hand was dead; killed by a mob. Queen Catelyn accused him of the king and prince’s murder. The mob at Baelor’s Sept had been enraged and claimed blood. He had been killed for conspiring against the crown, aiding in the murders of Jon Arryn and Robin Arryn. Lies, all lies.

Joanna cried while Arya wanted to go back to the ship and go back to hail fire to King’s Landing. Gendry stopped her and quieted her with harsh words. “Your father is dead, mine is too. We have to get to uncle Stannis. We’ll take the city back; my uncle and I. M’lady I promise you their heads but we have to reach Dragonstone first. Arya nodded. “I will be there too. Promise me Gendry.” Arya intoned.

“You will.” He replied, and there was fire in his eyes. Joanna felt uncomfortable once again and spoke up. “We should get going now.” She felt hallow, empty once again. Father was gone and there was no word of Tommen. She wanted nothing more than to be inside Winterfell, she would gladly give anything to be back North.

They walked a day and a half until they reached an empty hut by the road that would lead them to the castle the prince spoke so much of. She did not want to speak. Arya was full of promises of death and revenge. Gendry only spoke about Dragonstone. Joanna could not think about anything but father’s smile and his eyes. He was gone. He would never call her kitten again. Arya blamed the queen, and the kingsguard. Joanna could not help but blame the queen too. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

She woke up to someone yelling. Joanna awakened and saw fire around her. Gendry fought two men while Arya fought with another man. Two other men came her way. Joanna retreated and yelled when one of them held her arms. The other slashed her dress and touched her breasts. She kicked and pleaded but the man who held her wrists and the other above her did not listen. She cried and begged. The girl shut her eyes and prayed to the Seven. She felt a man grab her intimately and became rigid. She cried and then there was no force anymore. Joanna opened her eyes. Arya had blood on her hands.

The man who held her wrists yelled, “you little cunt.” But then he was silent. Gendry slashed his throat.

“Are you hurt?” Arya asked fearfully. Joanna shook her head and hugged her hard. “We have to go now.” Gendry said and pulled them to the road. Joanna was too shaken to protest or notice her dress was in rags and or that her feet were bleeding. She did not notice her bruised face or that prince Gendry was bleeding too.

Joanna and her companions saw the gates after three hours of walking.

Chapter Text

Chapter 33

Ned Stark was to be sentenced that day. The man in chains looked nothing like the proud lord he was. He had been in a dungeon for two weeks and reeked. He was to be executed by mid afternoon. Catelyn had publicly accused him of two royals murders. The woman was positively incensed when she learned Robb and Lannister were raining fires all over the Riverlands. Ned shook his head and was asked to publicly admit his treason in front of all the Lords. He refused to do so. The girls and Tommen were safe, away from King’s Landing. Varys whispered it to him two nights ago when he came with a proposition. “Confess my lord. The queen will be merciful and grant you a pardon. You would go to the Wall. Leave the rest of your days serving the Night’s Watch alongside your brother.”

Ned remained quiet. He had needed to know whether his children were safe. Varys was a very perceptive man. “Your children are not in King’s Landing anymore or so my little birds whisper.”

“Think about your future lord Stark. You could see your children again and your lovely wife. It is better to be a traitor with a family than a dead honorable fool.” The eunuch left him then.

Eddard looked at the masses. Catelyn had outdone herself. All the mighty lords of Westeros were in attendance. Ned held his head high and looked at Catelyn, he was foolish and had the hope to see the young woman he once knew. His almost sister in law, his almost wife. There she was, with a golden crown above her head and her daughters, beautiful and scared it seemed. The youngest Cassana, had cried, her eyes were red and she looked saddened. Alayne and Lyanna did not meet his gaze.
“Lord Stark you have been charged in the murders of my beloved husband the king and our son.” Catelyn said with a steely voice.

“Have you anything to say my lord?” The new Lord Hand asked; Petyr Baelish had assumed the post. Ned remained quiet, still, waiting for Catelyn’s sentence. He thought about years ago when another king asked for his brother and father’s attendance to court.

Ned thought about Cersei and his children. He promised her to be safe and he failed but at least his children were safe, out of Catelyn’s grasp.

“I have nothing to confess your grace. King Robert was my friend and the prince was to be my own son.” Ned said with an honest voice. She would not execute him; it was not necessary. He would be imprisoned here in King’s Landing, as penance for his supposed crimes. It did not make any sense for her to sacrifice his life. Princesses did not inherit thrones; princes did.

“You dare deny you conspired to kill our king. You deny that as soon as King Robert was dead you and Renly went against our prince and killed him in cold blood.” The Lord Hand stated with a small smirk.

Ned did not rise to the provocation and kept quiet. Catelyn surely must know. Jon should know by now and was surely raising an army to march south. Cersei and Lord Lannister must know too. Robb and Lannister should be close to the Eyrie, trying to free Tyrion. The proud lords of Westeros were of course taking sides. The queen had control of King’s Landing and the Riverlands, perhaps the Eyrie too but the Westerlands, the North, and the Reach were lost to her. She could not afford to kill him. It would mean open war with the North and the Westerlands.

The masses in front of him yelled, accused him of murder and called for his blood. Ned looked at Catelyn once more. He tried to make eye contact with her. The queen connected eyes with her and for the first time he saw the old Catelyn, the woman he had been introduced to all those years ago. He met her gaze and found the same sad eyes and pained eyes he saw almost two and ten years ago when he told her about Brandon’s death. Catelyn had refused to believe Brandon was dead until Ned went to Riverrun. In that week their lives changed forever. Ned was back from Dorne, Lyanna was dead and the Capital had been recovered. He spoke with Catelyn and explained she would be queen. Catelyn nodded and accepted. She was so much like him, dutiful, bred to please and accept their duty.

“Lord Stark does not wish to confess. He is a traitor. His silence is nothing but a confirmation of his betrayal.” Catelyn said with a firm voice. The crowds cheered once again.

“Eddard Stark, as queen regent I sentence you to death.” The queen pronounced with a very stern face. Ned closed his eyes and accepted his fate. He was sure Jon would march south. Robb would meet him in the field. The queen must have already sent ravens asking Jon to answer for his crimes. Arya and Joanna would be safe. Tommen would of course go to the Westerlands. Tywin Lannister would welcome his kin without much hassle. Ned saw as Ilyn Payne prepared his long sword. This was sure Baelish’s own work. Lord Eddard Stark would be killed with Ice, the Stark legendary valyrian sword. There were more cries of satisfaction, no one protested when the executioner grabbed the long sword. The princesses were rooted to their chairs. The queen paled but seemed determined to see Ned Stark’s head roll by her feet.

Ned had little time. He closed his eyes; the noises and the people asking for his demise disappeared. He thought about his sons and daughters. He hoped Jon understood and regretted not seeing him one last time. He should have explained the boy. He regretted not seeing Robb become a lord. Tommen would hold Winterfell while his brothers fought a war. Joanna and Arya what would become of them? And Bran? His boy, Jon said he could walk. He regretted not going back to Winterfell. He saw Cersei’s face, just like he had done when he encountered those wildlings years ago. He felt a hole in his heart. He failed her. He would never see her green eyes again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

Vary’s little birds found Tommen Stark as soon as he left Arya and Joanna. They led him to the deepest bowels of Flea Bottom. He couldn’t regret his decision now. His sisters were better off with Gendry. The prince knew Flea Bottom and would get the girls on that boat to Dragon Stone.

He met with the Spider in a brothel of very ill repute. “Your father will be sentenced to death in three days.”

The young man paled, “Surely the court does not believe the accusations against my father.”

The spider got closer to him. “It does not matter what they believe in. The new Hand of the King has deemed it necessary that your father die.”

Tommen grew impassive, “there is nothing to gain with his death. My brothers and I will start a war if that happens.” He felt his temper rise.

The eunuch shook his head. “Your eldest brother marches South as we speak. Lord Tywin Lannister will not stay put for long. Your uncle and brother will wreak havoc in the Eyrie. The war is here boy.”

“I need to rescue my father.” Varys nodded.

“Perhaps it is not too late for Lord Stark.” The man said pondering aloud.

“We’ll need men. If I could get some lords on my side.” Tommen said quickly.

“No. There will not be any lords willing to help your cause young man. You need men from here. He swept his hands around the place. “You have got to trust no one. Keep your eyes open boy and listen to all I say.”

“The queen will appeal to the masses and make sure your father is seen as the ultimate traitor. You did well to leave your sisters with the prince.” Tommen’s eyes rounded but he remained quiet.

If he learned anything from mother it was to deflect attention from a topic he did not want to discuss. “Why did the queen tried to kill Gendry? The princesses cannot inherit the Iron throne.” He thought about beautiful princess Cassana.

Varys whispered softly. “Did you know in Dorne the eldest child, be it male or female inherits their father’s titles?”

He nodded. “The queen plans to decree Princess Lyanna as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms once she marries Quentyn Martell of Dorne.”

Tommen shook his head. “She cannot. The laws of the Seven Kingdoms are clear. Women cannot inherit the Iron Throne. The lords would never accept it.”

Varys smiled, “They accepted Robert Baratheon. The realm does not need another war. Dear boy, you underestimate the devastation of war and the power the new Lord Hand has over certain lords in King’s Landing and its proximities.”

The boy did not want to get into politics. He wanted to plan his father’s escape from the dungeons and travel North to find Robb and Jon. Once he rescued father they would go North, along with is brothers, back to Winterfell.

Varys did not offer much help. “Your father will be killed tomorrow. The queen will not offer him to the Night’s Watch. Your brothers grow too powerful. The Riverlands have been plundered. Your grandfather and eldest brother are to meet in the field. While your uncle and brother wait for reinforcements. They plan to storm the Eyrie and take your dwarf uncle.”

“We need my father if he dies my brothers and I will raise hell.” Tommen said forcefully.

“Your brothers already have.” The eunuch said dismissively.

“You have seen nothing yet.” The boy said and demanded Varys put him in contact with the men that would help him rescue his father.

Three days later he was outside Baelor’s Sept. The men he commanded were ready at his post. He listened to the queen and her accusations and saw father for the first time in weeks. He looked dirty but not broken. They hadn’t broken him. He saw as Ilyn Payne unsheathed Ice and a fury came over him. He gave the signal and all hell broke loose.

He grabbed a knife and plunged it inside a golden cloak. Two of his men hit father on the head and dragged his body way from the makeshift stage. Barristan Selmy and other members of the Kingsguard escorted the Queen and her children away from the bloodied stage.

Tommen felt a knife twist by his arm and let out a howl. He swung back and stabbed a lesser lord in the eye. The boy felt his arm on fire and took out the knife and ran away from the mob that formed. He ran through the streets and went to the meeting place he and the Spider had agreed on.

He was out of breath and kept bleeding but he would be fine. He saw father struggle and kick one of the men who kidnapped him. “Father.” Tommen said.

Lord Stark stopped his struggles. “Where are your sisters?” He asked as he approached him

Tommen stood quietly. “They are to reach Dragon Stone in a week.” He replied and looked at his arm. He would need a maester to stop the bleeding. Father embraced him quickly and then let go.

“We have to go.” Tommen said and gave the gold to the men. He rushed father and helped him climb into a cart. “We have to leave the city now. Varys found a ship. It will take us past the Riverlands. There are reports that claim Jon and grandfather are there.”

Father nodded. “Your brother marched South. Where’s Robb?”

They were inside the cart hidden by bails of hay and knickknacks of all kinds. “Outside the Eyrie, waiting for resources to storm it and take uncle Tyrion.”

“Tyrion is likely dead by now. Lysa would have acted by now.” Lord Stark drank some water his son offered. Tommen nodded. “She wants Lyanna to be proclaimed queen of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“She’s not Robert’s seed. The throne belongs to Stannis. He is the next in line.” Father stated and tried to clean his face of some of the filth.

“The Prince is alive. My sisters and him will reach Dragon Stone soon.” Tommen saw father’s reaction and realized he would not just march North. He planned to help Gendry back in the Throne.

By the time they reached the port Tommen felt lightheaded and shook. He still bled but not as profusely as before. He used a cloth of some sort to cover his face; father did the same, the boy breathed easier when he felt the ship move away from the Blackwater.

One minute he was telling father about Prince Gendry’s escape with Arya and Joanna and the next he fainted. The wound in the boy’s arm stained the wood on the cabin’s floor.

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

The sellsword had served his purpose brilliantly. Tyrion was still astonished. He was a free man, walking through the Bloody Gate, after weeks of being held captured by that crazy bitch.

Bronn walked alongside him. The Lannister heir waved at the lords and ladies that had congregated to see him leave. He was sure many of them would have loved to put a spear through his head but they were unable to do so.

They made it to the mountains surrounding the Vale when the clansmen ambushed them. Once more Tyrion promised gold and riches beyond imaginable for his life. Whoever said his tongue would not get him out of death situations was a true liar. They agreed to accompany him to King’s Landing and receive their bounty.

The man became curious when he heard a woman’s yell. He saw as a brute of man struck lady Sansa Arryn across the face. Two men held her back and tore her blue dress. The girl cried pitifully but did not struggle.

Lord Lannister found his voice. “Leave her be.”

“She is not part of our deal Half-Man.” Dolf growled.

“I will triple my offer if you leave her to me.” Tyrion helped the girl up and led her to the fire Bronn had started.

“Are you hurt my lady?” Tyrion asked gently. The girl nodded and tried to close the gaps in her blue dress.

“I will make sure you reach King’s Landing unharmed.” She did not look at him or did anything but hide her face with her hands and hair.

Bronn smirked quickly but did not comment anything further. They continued their journey for a few more hours. They came to a clearing. It was suspicious or so the clansmen thought.

It happened in three heartbeats. Armed men came out of nowhere and attacked the tribesmen. Tyrion grabbed a screaming Sansa and pulled her away from the fighting. She screamed and hit him over and over. He yelled at her. “Stop, fucking bloody stop.”

He put a hand over her mouth. “Stupid little girl.” He hissed. She quieted then. He saw as one of the tribesmen fell. Tyrion grabbed a shield just in case he’d need it.

He heard the fight and peeked out. He then saw them, Jaime and Robb. He waited until his brother’s men and Bronn were the last standing. He did not particularly like the tribesmen. “Brother, have you come to my rescue once more?” He yelled and stepped away from his hiding place.

Jaime let a guffaw and ran to him. “You are alive. News of your trial reached us last night. We were sure Lysa Arryn would kill you before we stormed the Eyrie.”

Tyrion laughed, “She tried but I demanded trial by combat as is my right.” Tyrion waddled to Robb. The boy smiled and hugged him.

“Where to now?” Robb asked his uncle Jaime.

Jaime shook his head somewhat affectionately. “You are going to Winterfell with your uncle Tyrion. I will go to Casterly Rock.” The boy’s demeanor deflated. What was it with the Starks; they were all sullen creatures.

Tyrion frowned. “I am a free man brother, declared innocent by the Seven. My place is in King’s Landing. I will return Lady Sansa to her aunt and then meet you at Casterly Rock.”

Jaime shook his head once more but mounted his horse. He asked for a horse. “You will be fine my lady. I will make sure no harm comes to you.” She shook like a leaf but manage to ride the horse.

Bronn spat blood and mounted his horse. “You could have come out of hiding earlier.”

“No sense in dealing with tribesmen our entire journey.” He said and rode ahead.

Jaime told him about his stint in the Riverlands and a sense of dread settled in the pit of his stomach. Lannisters or not they still had plunged the ancestral lands of the Queen. King Robert would not be happy and he doubted Ned’s ability to defend Jaime’s actions.

They camped and travelled for three nights until they reached The Crossroads Inn. Lady Sansa had been given some clothes to wear. She had not said a word since they met.

They sat for supper when they heard the news. “King Robert is dead.” Tyrion did not have to time to say anything because the next thing the innkeeper told them froze him. “The lord Hand is to be tried for treason. He killed Jon Arryn, Prince Gendry and the King.”

Tyrion laughed humorlessly. Eddard would never do something as disloyal and dishonorable. Cersei would, but she didn’t coach him. Eddard could not have killed Robert. He loved that fat man more than he did Benjen.

Robb was about to shout something or contradict the man when he pushed him down. “Sit down. We can’t stay here.”

Jaime motioned his men to follow him out of the inn. “Fetch one of your men.” He addressed his elder brother.

“Travel to Saltpants and bring news.” He said to the man who looked at Jaime for approval. His brother nodded and the man took off.

Tyrion then asked for a step-by-step account of what had transpired during his capture in the Eyrie

Robb was a ball of anxiety. He wanted to find a ship and rescue his father without a plan or anything more than his guilt. “I shouldn’t have come with you. I should have stayed with father. Where is Tommen? Arya was always with Gendry. Joanna should be fine. She is a perfect lady. The queen and mother are friends, they have always been. Why would she accuse father of such treason?” the boy paced and asked questions neither uncle had.

They all waited by a fire that night. Robb then spoke suddenly like he was prone to do. “Mother, did mother and Bran travel South?”

Jaime looked at their nephew with worried eyes. Tyrion worried too. His sister was impulsive, did not think when it came to those she loved. Did father know? What was father doing besides sending men to Jaime?

Lady Sansa remained as quiet and still, away from them but listening intently.

They waited until the man came back. He was out of breath but fine.

“A mob killed the Lord Hand. The Queen sentenced Lord Stark to death. Ilyn Payne carried out the sentence. The men in the port all have five or six stories to tell.” He lowered his head, “they all agree in something, the Lord Hand Stark died and so did Prince Gendry. The queen reigns while Renly Bartheon gathers strength to claim the throne.”

“Impossible. Stannis is the true heir.” Tyrion said calmly. Robb was pale and sat down. He was utterly silent. Jaime looked inscrutable. “My nephew and nieces?”

“Lost. No one knows, some say lady Arya and Prince Gendry were killed together. There are accounts that say lady Arya killed the crown Prince. There is no word on the boy or the other lady. ”

Jaime looked at him. “The queen has them. Littlefinger is behind this. They have the girls and Tommen as hostages.”

Robb looked thunderous and his direwolf growled and barked at anyone who came near it. “We have to get back to King’s Landing and get my siblings back.”

“We are not doing that. Jaime, do not look at him. We don’t have the men or the power to take the city. We have to reach Casterly Rock. We have to meet with father.” Tyrion addressed them sternly.

Robb shook his head. “Jon. Where is Jon?”

The man looked puzzled. It was obvious he did not know who Jon was. “Is there anything else you have learned from the port?”

He shook his head. Robb was uncontainable and raged that night. The men let him be. Tyrion ordered to hide all alcohol. Jaime sat next to him. “Stark is dead.”

Tyrion felt uncomfortable, he could detect some hope in his brother’s voice. Tyrion knew about his siblings’ relationship. He was not blind or deaf. “She is our sister. Do not think for a second that she will look at you twice. She loves her northernman and her children. She is not a girl anymore. She is our sister.”

“The Targaryens wed brother and sister.” Jaime began.

“And half of them were crazier than rabid dogs.” Tyrion gulped some wine.

“You don’t understand.” Jaime continued.

The younger man looked at his brother and downed more wine. “I don’t and neither will Cersei. Do not think about it brother, it wont do you well to dwell on that matter.” Tyrion finished and slept by the fire.

The travelled through the Kingsroad toward the Neck, avoiding the Riverlands as much as possible, Robb grew solemn as they inched toward the North. A great sight received them while travelling through the Neck.

He saw the golden Lion against the red field and the Grey direwolf against the white field. He dismounted his horse, as did Jaime and Robb.

Grey Wind circled lady Sansa. The girl looked properly scared. “Call your beast off. Bronn, escort Lady Sansa to an empty tent. Do not leave her side.” Tyrion said. Robb called the direwolf to him, not before looking at lady Sansa with disgust. The boy resembled his mother in his temperament, a little too much.

Tyrion’s legs ached but he managed to keep up with his golden brother and their equally tall nephew.

They reached the command tent in less than twenty minutes. Father, uncle Kevan and Jon were there along with Northern Lords and Western Lords.

Father merely glanced up. It was Jon who smiled and rushed to hug his brother. Robb hugged him back. “Father is dead.” Robb said. Tyrion heard his six and ten year old nephew whisper despondently.

“We’ll get Tommen and the girls back. We will burn Westeros until all of them are begging for their lives.” Jon said ardently. Tyrion had never heard his eldest nephew speak with such hatred. Now that he saw him, he was unshaven; he didn’t look like the boy he left in Winterfell.

Tywin motioned for the soldiers to leave. Uncle Kevan left too. Tyrion took his seat, as did Jaime. Jon and Robb sat down too. The youngest man looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but in the vicinity of his grandfather.

“You have started a war.” He looked at Jaime and him. He was sure his father held them both equally guilty.

“Father with all due respect. Lysa Arryn is unhinged, she acted single handedly and captured my brother, your son.” Jaime, as always to the rescue, Tyrion appreciated the sentiment but he did not need his elder brother to speak for him.

Cold Tywin Lannister remained eerily calm. “No matter. We have work to do. I will take Riverrun and Harrenhal. Jaime and Robb will march with me and then go South. Jon and his host will stay here until the Riverlands are secured. We will march to King’s Landing and take the city back.”

Jon nodded, so did Jaime and Robb. Tyrion agreed. “Where would I fall into all of this?” He asked curiously, used to being overlooked by his father at best.

“You will go back to Winterfell and advise Bran.” Tywin declared.

“What about Casterly Rock?” He asked, curious as to who would protect the Westerlands.

“Kevan will hold it for your brother until he gets back.” The man said and scribbled down some notes.

Anger set, deep into his being. “I am not going back to Casterly Rock. I am of the Kingsguard, sworn for life.” Jaime said. The golden fool tried to defy father once more.

“Leave now, all of you. I grow tired of your whining.” Tywin said. Robb and Jon looked ready to leave. Tywin dismissed all of them.

“Not you Jon.” Tywin said without looking up.

Tyrion felt rage at his father but decided their talk would have to wait until they were alone. Casterly Rock was his and his would it remain. Tywin would not take that away from him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

He wanted to leave the tent and go with Robb. Jon stayed; he sat down in front of lord Lannister and waited for him to stop writing. Ever since he arrived at the Neck the older man was a looming presence. The Northernmen did not listen to Southron lords however. He, Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, commanded them. The news of father’s death reached their ears a few days earlier. He wept and was uncontrollable for the whole day. Not even Ygrette had been able to appease him. Ghost and him howled all night. Mother’s father and his host arrived the following day. It had been five days since. Lord Lannister wanted to wait but Jon wanted to plunder the Riverlands, advance South, take King’s Landing and rain fire over all of those who accused and killed father. He had the power of the Karstarks, the Umbers, Hornwoods, Mormonts and even the Boltons. He had enough power to make Westeros bleed until all of them paid.

He was roused out of his angry musings. “Get rid of your wildling whore. I have secured a marriage contract for you.”

He looked at the older man as if he was insane. “Forgive me Lord Lannister but marriage is the last thing on my mind. I need to march South and recover my siblings.”

“You need to hold the North and secure the Riverlands for us. You’ll marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters or granddaughters whichever you find more pleasing.”

“I will not.” He wasn’t uncle Tyrion or Jaime who shook in their boots while in the presence of this man. He was Jon of Winterfell, Warden of the North.

Tywin stared at him unflinchingly. “How do you plan to cross the Riverlands then. Walder Frey is a vassal lord to Hoster Tully and will not let us cross unless you marry one of his female descendants. You will be stopped here or do you plan to diminish your host and have wounded men at your feet. How long do you think it will take you to arrive to King’s Landing? Would your men still hold you as their liege lord? Or would they march North again? There is nothing holding them to you but their nostalgia, Eddard Stark is dead and they know it. Nothing but your future actions hold them to you.” The man said with such determination alien to him.

Jon remained silent. “We can easily pass through the Riverlands, with your host and mine we hold more power than the Freys and the other Riverland lords.”

The man stared back. “I happen to have a good relationship with Frey and happened to cross without problems. I expect I would be able to cross back without much hassle.”

Lannister was clear, he would not advance with their previous plans, not unless he heeded his words and married the Frey girl. This was about control, this man held control over him. He had something he wanted. Mother had taught him this lesson a long time ago. Her words echoed back in his head, “little wolf, and play nice, you want to ride that horse. Lord Stark would not let you if you cry or hit your little brother.”

He looked at his supposed grandfather with hatred and left the tent in a fury. He walked out of tent; an act of defiance, but that tasted much like defeat. He would have to marry that girl because he wanted the Western lords behind him. He would get to King’s Landing even if it was the last thing he did in his life.

Jon was a fury and walked away from the tents without speaking to anyone. Ygrette approached him but she must have understood his mood. She remained back. Robb wasn’t so fortunate. His younger brother followed him. “Jon.” He called after him. He walked faster; his previous thoughts of talking to his brother were long forgotten. A sudden rage took over him; they were far away from the host. He turned back and looked at his younger brother, like him was unshaven and unkempt.

“Why did you go with Jaime?” He asked harshly.

“If you had gone with them. We would not be here. You were supposed to take care of Tommen and the girls.” He pushed Robb and his younger brother pushed back.

“They had uncle Tyrion.” Robb answered.

Jon growled at him, “Jaime was going to get uncle Tyrion. You did not have to move from father’s side. How could you have left him?” he roared and threw the first punch.

Robb reeled back for a second and then reacted. His younger brother punched back. Jon saw his bleeding lip and charged at Robb. They punched each other. Jon had not fought Robb like this ever. He tackled him to the ground and pummeled him. Robb rolled them back and got on top of him. They rolled, kicked, and punched each other.

Their direwolves were nearby howling pitifully trying to get between them. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Robb yelled. He must have broken his nose; he was bleeding profusely. Jon stopped. He looked at his baby brother bloodied, with a black eye and he wept.

Robb wept too and hugged him. “I should have stayed. I should have never left father. I didn’t protect them. What if they’re dead?” Robb said anxiously. They cried together, for father, for the girls and Tommen. The Crown would have said something if they were alive. Ever since that fateful night days ago he couldn’t sleep thinking about Arya and Joanna, his baby sisters could be dead for all he knew. Tommen, he would never leave the girls. Never, what happened to him, why hasn’t anyone asked ransom for any of them. His nights were restless, thinking his family gone. He hadn’t send any ravens to mother. She was delicate, too delicate to bear such news. She wanted to come South with Bran. Maester Luwin forbade her from doing so and gave her some medicine to keep her calm as he and his bannermen left Winterfell. Bran resented him and everyone from leaving. He wouldn’t speak to him when he said goodbye. He hugged him but did not speak.

“Take care of mother and the baby. It’s your job now. Soon, you’ll be a big brother.” He said and kissed his forehead. Bran just hugged him tight.

Jon became the big brother once more. He held Robb to him, like he had held Bran when they said goodbye. They were the same height now, if anything Robb would be taller than him. The heir to Winterfell was bruised but it was clear Robb had suffered more blows and looked far worse than his older brother.

“We are going to find them. I promise you Robb. We’re going to hail fire and blood in King’s Landing until we kill all of them. Winter is coming brother.” He said murderously. Jon had never felt so much hatred before.

Robb nodded. “I’m so sorry Jon.” He said. Jon nodded and they walked back to the camps. Uncle Tyrion laughed bitterly when he saw them come in.

“Have a maester look at your ribs boy. Your brother must have broken two at least.” Uncle Tyrion went in what was Shae’s tent one of the whores who came with the Westernmen. She was with some lord of other.

He listened to his uncle and searched for a maester. He found one and he worked on both of them. Robb indeed had two broken ribs, a black eye and a broken nose.

“I think I would look devilishly handsome.” He said. Robb knew him best, perhaps that was the reason why he followed him in the first place. Robb felt guilty and in Jon’s mind he was but they had settled things. It was over; he couldn’t resent him any longer.

The maester tended to his cracked knuckles, bruises and gave him a salve to treat the rest of the bruises for the next few days. Robb had been bandaged and was ready to find his tent.

“How is mother?” Robb asked as soon as they were alone in his tent.

“She doesn’t know. I don’t want a raven to deliver that news. She is delicate.” Jon said taking a seat by a table and pouring them some ale.

“What do you mean by delicate? Is she sick? Mother has never been frail.” Robb said wondering what could be wrong with their mother.

“She’s with child. She should have the babe in a couple of weeks.” Jon said with a smile.

Robb smiled too, “She should look beautiful by now.”

Jon agreed, Robb and him thought mother looked like the Mother from the new Gods septa Mordane spoke so much about. “Her hair is shinier than ever, even more so than when she was pregnant with Arya.”

Robb drank some ale. “Grandfather wants me and uncle Jaime to march South.”

Jon looked at his younger brother, “He ordered me to marry a Frey. He reasoned it would be the contract he reached with old Walder Frey in exchange for passing through the bridge.”

“You refused.” Robb replied, knowing well that marriage was not a priority for him.

He assented, “Lord Lannister announced his host would go back to the Westerlands id I did not do as I was bid.”
“What would you do?” He asked, interested in his brother’s insight.

Robb glanced back at him. “I would marry the girl. You will have to marry eventually. You are the warden of the North. They’re not beautiful but you are not a looker yourself.”

Jon smiled a bit, “I do not want him to think I bend to his desires. It would create a precedent.”

Robb understood. “Make demands too.”

Jon looked at his brother. “Let them think they control you.” Cersei had whispered to all her children from a very early age. Father never agreed but mother was right. She used to tell him and Robb when they were little. “Anyone who isn’t us is the enemy.” Father did not believe in this philosophy, father was dead. Jon wouldn’t let any other member of his family die under his watch.

Robb tried to bring him back from his musings. “Winter is Coming brother.” He said. Jon hugged him. “When the cold wind blows the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” He whispered back. Father had once said as much. He now understood the meaning of the words. He needed to reunite his family and he would do so even if he had to destroy Westeros in the process.

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

Robb and Jaime marched South. Jon had hugged his brother. He felt as Robb tightened his hold. “Marry her, concede and plan ahead. Do not let the old Lion get to you.” Jon had nodded and then proceeded to agree with his “grandfather.” He would marry a Frey and be granted passage through the Twins.

Jon sought Ygrette as soon as he agreed to the marriage. Ygrette was cold to him. “I am to marry in a fortnight.” He had said as soon as he out of her.

She merely shrugged, any other woman would have yelled at him or at least cried but not his Ygrette. “It matters not.” But it did matter and Jon could tell it did. In the past few months she had shared his bed and he had grown very fond of her. She was fond of him he could tell.

He was not a man to show affection to anyone outside of his family. It was rather hard for him to express his feelings for this young woman.

“I am yours as your as you are mine.” He echoed her words. She had said them to him once she shed her furs. It had been too warm to wear furs once they reached the Neck. Ygrette stiffened but kissed him harshly.

Lord Lannister did not only have his wedding in mind. The man decided to marry uncle Tyrion and Lady Sansa Arryn of The Vale. Uncle Tyrion had raged but was just as impotent as he had been when his own marriage had been announced.

It was Jon’s job to keep his uncle in line and prevent him from doing something rather foolish. Lord Lannister had been very displeased when his youngest son was nowhere to be found the morning they were to depart for the Twins.

“I will find him. We shall ride in the evening.” Jon said and went in search for his uncle. Tywin rode off with his men to the Twins, as did half of his Northern host including the Mormont women and Ygrette. She had been strangely quiet about the whole affair. Jon dreaded the moment he would set foot on the Twins. The weddings would take place there. He would choose his bride and be done with things.

Tyrion did not have that choice, he would have to marry Sansa Arryn and put a child in her belly. Jon had been present in that meeting and remembered it quite vividly.

“You will both do your duty. Jon will marry one of the simpering Frey girls. You will consummate the marriage and then choose to leave her in her ancestral home or ship her to Winterfell, whichever you choose. Tyrion will marry Lady Sansa.” At this point the man had turned to his son. “You will put a Lannister baby in her belly. That will be your only task.” He smirked nastily.

“You seem to have a certain fondness for that or so we are lead to believe by the rumors.”

“With willing partners, not little girls who barely speak their mind.” Uncle Tyrion spat.

“No matter, you will do as you are told. You are my son and the Lannisters will be the Lords of the Vale.” He had said with a stronger voice.

“For the last time, remove your whores or there will be dire consequences.” Jon chose to ignore him and left the tent. Uncle Tyrion stayed and decided to pursue his outrage at being tied with the Arryn girl.

Jon understood him by principle and decided to extend the same courtesy uncle once had with him. The lord of Winterfell found his uncle with Shae, the whore. He was unconscious, from the ales and wines he supposed. Bronn helped him get uncle awake.

He was unintelligible for most of the ride and vomited for the other half.

They arrived to the Twins two days after Tywin and his host. Ghost was not permitted inside the castle. He let Ghost out and gently reminded his men and his host about Ghost and his need to roam free.

Tyrion was better and looked better. They entered the Castle and were effusively welcomed by Lord Frey. Jon accepted the welcome but could not forget this man owed fealty to Riverrun. The fact that they were in the presence of traitors and oath breakers not bode well with him.

He kept quiet however. Some men escorted Uncle Tyrion. He was to be ready for his wedding and feast. Jon did not fail to see Shae was there, barely noticeable but there nonetheless.

Lord Walder Frey brought him out of his observations. “Lord Stark, as promised to your illustrious grandfather I have assembled my daughters.” Jon noticed Lannister did not flinch or give away any emotion when the Riverland lord addressed him as his kin.

Frey began a long introduction of all his female progeny. He even included infants who were there for his perusal. The ladies were all rather plain. Jon did not want to be obvious but they were all lacking. The young man was used to true beauty. His mother was a true testament of beauty as was Joanna. Arya had a wild beauty about her and so had Ygrette. These women in these halls were all unremarkable. He did not think he was vain but this was an unpleasant task and if he was to be saddled with a woman he did not know or remotely liked he wanted that woman to at least be easy on the eyes.

“How do you do my Lady?” He said this phrase at least twenty five times and to girls aged fourteen to one and twenty.

Most of the girls were scared or dim witted all but one particular girl. She had brown hair and smiled, the first smile any of these ladies had given him. She had a little gap between her front teeth, it was small but it was the sort of things mother would have noticed had she been there. She would be furious to know that her father had chosen a wife for her eldest son without her. Would mother really care? Jon suspected she wouldn’t not with father dead. That news would take precedence. Growing up Jon and his siblings knew something to be a fact. Mother and father loved each other very much. Robb and him especially knew it. They were the oldest and because of that had seen mother and father be affectionate with each other so much more than the rest of them.

“What is your name my Lady?” He asked politely.

“Roslin Frey.” She said with big brown doe eyes.

Jon decided his fate then. She would be the next Lady Stark.

The halls looked magnificent fit for the weddings to take place. The grooms and brides had been prepared separately.
Tyrion asked for skins of wine and was conceded to some extent. “You should stop that.” His nephew said as a barber cut his dark hair.

The older man growled and motioned a cupbearer to pour more wine in his cup. “The drunker I get the easier it is to forget what I’m about to do.” Jon did not have anything to comment after that.

Tyrion was infuriated with the injustice of it all. He was to marry a woman who despised him; her family had actively played a role in his demise. Tyrion’s lack of enthusiasm was not completely rooted with that but also with his father. Once more Tywin Lannister slighted him, made him his puppet and ordered him to marry Sansa Arryn. “Put a Lannister baby in her belly.” His father had been adamant in their meeting. “I want the Vale. Once you marry the girl and have a baby our family will control most of Westeros.”

Tyrion had been incensed. “Have Robb, Jon, Jaime, even Bran could be a better choice.”

“Jaime refuses to forsake his oath. Do not be so conceited as to believe you were first choice.”

“Robb is a better candidate.” Tyrion tried to rein his increasing fury.

“Robb is not a Lannister. He is a Stark as are the rest of my grandchildren. You are a Lannister of Casterly Rock and will do your duty.”

“I will not.” Tyrion was at the end of his resources. He was offended, humiliated, and angry with his father.

“You will do as I say and that matter is final. You will contribute to our legacy and give me the Vale.” His father barely increased his voice and deemed the matter closed.

Tyrion was now getting ready for his wedding to the Arryn girl. Jon took him away from Shae and mounted him on a horse. They were to be married men by the end of the night. Jon was as displeased as he was but seemed calmer. Robb had grounded him, given him perspective.

Perspective, it was exactly what he lacked. There was nothing to be gained with this marriage, not for him. In a few hours he would have another person hating him, and if Lady Sansa’s reactions were to be trusted she would hate him with a silent but fervent passion. At least he would have Shae. Father could not take her away from him. He would take his wife and his whore to Winterfell and stay there as a guest with his sister. Father at least had conceded that since he would not consider him to return to the West with his new bride. Father denied him Casterly Rock. The notion that he was to be a guest of Cersei’s angered him more than he cared to admit. He should be running the West as the heir to the Westerlands but he wasn’t. He was to marry and be another of Tywin Lannister’s pawns. Tyrion refused to find another perspective and raged.

Jon and him were to descend and meet with Tywin. They would wait with the Septon. Sansa and the Frey girl were to walk down with Walder Frey.

He stumbled down his seat Jon by his side. They were in the great hall; Tywin and his triumphant smirk awaited them. Tyrion asked for more wine.

“You take delight in embarrassing you father. Always have done so.” The man wrenched the cup of wine away from him and handed him a heavy Lannister Cloak.

They had to improvise he presumed. In walked Sansa and the Frey girl, beautiful as the young girls that they were. One looked incandescently happy while the other had red eyes from crying. Both girls wore heavy cloaks with emblems from their respective houses.

The ceremony was a dull affair. He barely registered the Septon’s words. He had to be prodded to put the cloak around his tall bride. She had the decency to bend her knees. He would thank her later.

Jon did the same with his bride or so he assumed. Tyrion was too preoccupied with not vomiting on his bride’s feet.

They were proclaimed husband and wife. Sansa wiped some tears but could not bear to look at him for more tears leaked from those blue eyes.

He grabbed her hand and led her to the wedding table. “I promised you to take you to your aunt. I am afraid I will have to break that promise. You shall go North with me.” He tried to reach for her hand but the girl shied away and fixed her gaze in front of her.

He drank more and more until it was time for the bedding ceremony. Jon and his Frey were seized and divested. His nephew wore a grim face and his bride looked terrified.

Thankfully he was able to slip out of the halls with Sansa untouched. They were not as important as Jon and new bride were. They were a mere addition to save time. He was sure young Sansa never imagined her wedding to be so unremarkable.

She stiffened when he touched her elbow and they left to their appointed quarters. Once more he was glad a cupbearer escorted them there.

Their quarters were decent, not beautiful like in King’s Landing or imposing like in Winterfell or Casterly Rock.

He stepped inside and watched as his young wife removed her gown. She had tears in her eyes but looked resigned to her fate. She looked impotent, helpless just like he felt.

“Stop.” He said and turned away from the young woman. “I can’t.” That was incorrect, “I could, I would but I won’t. Not like this.” She glanced at him with big blue eyes.

“But your father.” She knew, his wife knew, at least she couldn’t hold him responsible for the fiasco that their lives would be.

“If he wants somebody to be fucked I know where he can start.” He growled.

“I won’t share your bed. Not until you want me to.” He slurred. He would keep this promise; his father be damned.

“What if I never want you to?”

Tyrion grabbed a nearby glass of wine. He raised it as if to make a toast. “And so my watch begins.”

He drank his wine and made fell on a nearby chaise.

He woke up a few hours later a maid insisted on knocking like the world was coming to an end.

Tyrion looked towards his wife’s direction and found her soundly asleep. He unsteadily opened the door. The woman looked embarrassed but entered the room nonetheless.

Sansa woke up too. She looked scared and then relaxed once the maid dressed her. Tyrion left the room. He searched for a privy and some breakfast.

Father looked at him with reproach but kept quiet. Jon was breaking his fast as well. The boy somberly smiled at him. It was done then, he had a wife in all the sense of the word.

He ate some bacon and bread. “I trust matters went well yesterday night. I need not remind you of your duty.” His Lord father did not ask, he commanded. “We have secured passage from the North to the south.” His father drawled.

Tyrion did not point out that it had been Jon who had wedded and bedded the Frey girl. “What have you decided?” His father addressed Jon.

“Roslin will go with nuncle Tyrion and his new wife.” Roslin, that was the name of the simpering girl.

Tywin nodded. He then addressed them both. “Very well, Jon will March South with his Host. I will secure these lands. Jaime and Robb should be making way for Jon and the Northermen. Kevan holds the West. Once Jon and his Host reach and sack King’s Landing. Jaime and Robb will storm whatever lands do not submit to us and that includes Renly Baratheon and his newly acquired knights.”

Tyrion did not have a clear sense of who would take the throne. It rather seemed like father planned to rid himself of the Queen and the princesses. “Who would take the Iron Throne?”

Tywin wiped his mouth. “I received the ravens yesterday and had to change tactics. Joanna, Arya and the Crown prince are well and in Dragon Stone. Stannis Baratheon is ready to support his nephew and his rightful claim to the Thrones as are we.”

“What about Tommen?” Jon asked, he perked up with the news.

“No word of him.” Tywin commented. “Stannis was succinct with his words.”

Tyrion smirked because he could read his lord father very well. Gendry Baratheon, first of his name was betrothed to one Arya Stark of Winterfell. Once the war was over she would be queen. Tywin would have his blood on the throne and possibly run Westeros once more. He would surely be the best fit for Hand of the King. Ned was dead and Stannis was as a very unlikely choice. He lacked the popularity for it.

He looked at Jon. Tywin was smug with satisfaction; Jon was content and less likely to oppose Tywin, not now that he knew at least his sisters to be alive and well. Tyrion chose to ignore the rest of the lecture. It did not concern him, not anymore. He was to go North and be hated by his lovely sister and wife.

Chapter Text

Chapter 38

Cersei remembered the last war vividly. She had been untouched, safely guarded inside Casterly Rock. She felt just as isolated and useless as then. Jon had marched South with his bannermen and had left a third of his lesser forces to protect Winterfell. The Northernmen seemed to have forgotten who she was. She was Lady Stark and yet no one gave her any answers. They were all mum; there were no ravens or any worthy news from anywhere. She had sent more ravens than she could count but there were no news. Jon had succeeded; she was uncommunicated and could not reverse her situation, no matter how much she threatened the men and women around her. She couldn’t leave the North, she was about to give birth to her son. She knew it was a boy; this pregnancy had been the hardest on her. She wasn’t as young and the worries were too heavy on her.

She sat down with Bran for dinner. Her son tried to be the best Lord of Winterfell he could be, Cersei ran the castle as she had many years ago when her lord husband left to war at the Iron Islands. Unlike before however there was a bitter uncertainty. Her sons were off to war while her husband was imprisoned in King’s Landing.

“Mother, Osha and I would like to ride around Winterfell.” Bran tried unsuccessfully to persuade her again.

“No, not yet my love. Not until your father comes back.” She said sweetly. Bran wasn’t deterred. “He might not come back.” Her son said angrily, a frown marring his features.

“Your father will come back.” It had been a mantra in her head since Jon departed south. All Cersei knew was that there was no king. Renly had taken arms. There were also faint rumors of the Ironborn taking arms. Cersei had reinforced the castle and asked Greywater Watch to protect Moat Cailin. Rodrick advised her and she heeded his warnings. She grew desperate each day without any news.

“Why do you say such a thing Bran?” Cersei asked gently.

“There are whispers mother. Osha heard some of the servants speak about father’s death. They say he was a traitor.”

“Your father isn’t dead and he is not a traitor.” She said shrilly, losing her composure in front of her child.

Bran looked down, “Sweetling, finish your dinner please.” She said softly, trying to not startle her son anymore.

The rest of dinner was tense. Bran kissed her goodnight and limped to his bedroom. Each day her son insisted on walking more and more. Cersei had been against it at first but then relented because the youngest Stark was happier when he tried to walk.

Lady Stark saw as Osha came closer to her boy. “Osha, stay back.” She would hear these rumors from the wildling. It had to be conspiracy. It made sense and more sense. This lack of news and ravens had all of Jon’s markings. In a foolish attempt to protect her, her son isolated her.

The wildling stood in front of her. “Have a seat.” She commanded shortly.

The woman sat down but kept her eyes downcast. “My son tells me you have told lies.” Cersei accused while sipping on some water. She would drink wine or ale but those smells repulsed her.

“They’re not lies.” The woman said without raising her eyes.

“Explain.” She said while drinking more water.

“S nothing m’lady.” Osha was reticent to look at her or say anything more.

Cersei continued. “Brandon says you have information. According to you my lord husband is dead. Is there anything else you possess knowledge of?”

The woman remained quiet. “I have accepted you into my home and given you shelter. You are close to my son. I have permitted these interactions but I won’t, not anymore. I cannot place my trust in a liar.”

The wildling looked up. “I am not telling lies, I heard it with my own ears. Luwin, he said it to Cassel. I was just listening.”

“What did you listen? What have you heard?” She was agitated. Rodrick and Luwin avoided her gaze for weeks now. Could they know and not tell her? They could have kept quiet. Jon must have sent the raven. He orchestrated it all. She felt rage invade her body. They thought her weak; they would disguise their betrayal as concern for her wellbeing and the child in her belly.

She felt little pain in her belly but couldn’t leave the room without knowing more. It was her right to know about Eddard. What else could have they hidden from her?

The wildling was eerily quiet. “I will dismiss you from Winterfell. I could send you to the Wall. My brother in law would know what to do with you.” She doubted Benjen would accept her. Her brother in law demanded more men to man the wall. There had been sightings of more wildlings and white walkers. The man swore there were corpses rising from the death and attacking men and women beyond the Wall. Cersei doubted that and tried to make Benjen understand their perilous situation, the threat was in the south. He ended up recruiting twenty men and going back to the Wall.

She expected something out of Osha and was not mistaken. “All I heard was that the Lord of Winterfell was dead, beheaded by the queen.”

Cersei tried to control her emotions but the pain across her belly was sharp and immediate. She breathed deeply, “What other lies have you heard?” She hissed and clutched her belly. The woman could feel the beginnings of labor.

“Luwin said. I was not supposed to hear. The little lord asked me to spy for him and I told him what I heard. I won’t do it again m’lady.” The wildling raised her eyebrows.

Cersei tried to stand up and could not. “Call the maester at once.” The woman’s mind was occupied with the information she received. Once Luwin attended to the birth she would have time to ask him about these lies. They were nothing but lies. Catelyn couldn’t have killed Ned. It served no purpose. The crown would have the North and South bleed for naught. It couldn’t happen. Jon would have sent ravens. The idiot woman must have misunderstood. It wouldn’t be the first time servants gave wrong information.

Before she could think more maester Luwin was there with Osha and three other women who were to attend her.

The first words out of her mouth were directed at maester Luwin. “Is my husband dead?”

“My lady, now is not the best time to discuss such things, your babe will arrive soon.” The man helped her up the chair and she noticed the dark red patch. She was bleeding profusely.

Luwin motioned for one of the girls to grab her other arm. “My lady, you will be attended in one of the lower rooms. We cannot risk you bleeding out.”

Cersei was too worried about the news she had heard to properly comprehend the gravity of her situation. The pain was unbearable, she was in her shift and a girl tied her hair in a braided bun. “Why have you lied to me maester?” She asked as Osha wiped her sweaty brow. Cersei swatted her hand away.

“My lady, you have to calm down for your sake and the babe in your belly.” The man avoided her questions, irritating her to no end.

She felt lightheaded; the pain intensified. “My lady, stay awake. Stay awake.” She could hear the maids bustling around her. Osha hit her cheeks over and over. Cersei felt weaker and weaker.

“Push now. Push now my lady.” Luwin said. Cersei wanted to sleep, she felt dizzy. He could hear a woman in the background, and felt someone besides her pushing on her belly.

“WAKE UP NOW AND PUSH.” Cersei pushed as best as she could and then heard cries, her son was born.

She closed her eyes and could hear screams but was unable to respond.

“He should be dead.” Cersei opened her eyes softly and the light in the room hurt her eyes, she closed them again.

“Brandon, enough. He is your brother.” Her baby brother said. Why was Tyrion in the room? Where was Ned?”

She rasped and tried to speak but her throat was too sore. She felt weak.

“I hate him. Mother will die. Maester Luwin said so. It’s his fault. He’s a monster, he killed my mother.” Bran cried desperately.

She opened her eyes; once again the light in the room blinded her but she needed to be awake now. Tyrion and Bran were in the far corner of the room; she could hear a baby crying. “We have to say goodbye to your mother now. Maester Luwin said it wouldn’t be long now.”

Bran cried. “I wished he was the one dying.”

“Brandon, I said enough. It’s not Rickon’s fault” Tyrion didn’t finish because Bran contradicted him. “I hope he dies soon. He’s a monster. He ripped my mother apart.” Cersei shook her head. She remembered saying those same words long ago when mother died. She remembered praying to all the gods she remembered. “Kill the monster, give me my mother back.” The pain of seeing one of her children reject and speak with so much hatred about one of their siblings brought anxiety and tears to her eyes.

The baby was alive, she had given birth. “Bran, come here sweetling.” She called to her child.

“Call Luwin at once.” Tyrion said commandingly.

“Mamma.” Bran came closer and hugged her, her boy cried. “I’ll be good mamma.”

Cersei kissed his forehead; her body ached. “I know, you’re a very good boy and you have to promise something.”

Bran nodded eagerly and kissed her cheek gently, over and over. Cersei did that to her children when they were hurt or sad.

“You have to protect your baby brother, like Jon protects Robb and you, like Tommen protects Joanna and Arya. We’re all we have.” She said carefully.

“I will mamma. I’m sorry, I don’t really want Rickon to die.” He cried and hugged her. Her baby boy was so young and yet had suffered so much.

She looked at Tyrion who stayed back by the crib. The baby kept crying, “Hand me my son Tyrion.” Her brother looked startled.

“Osha should be here any moment now. She’ll take care of your son…”

“I want to see my child now.” She said as she caressed Bran’s hair.

Tyrion turned around and grabbed the squirming baby. She smiled when she looked at his face. “He’s beautiful.” The baby was all brown hair, and his eyes would be grey. She could tell. He had the Starks’ features, as most of her children had.

“He’s so small.” She said and noted that his legs were not stunted as Tyrion’s had been. Rickon was just very small for a newborn.

“Did you name him?” She asked Bran.

The boy shook his head. “No, uncle Tyrion did. You’ve been asleep for three weeks mother. Maester Luwin said you would die soon.”

The maester stepped in. “This is certainly a miracle.” The man pronounced, extremely happy to see her so well despite the circumstances. The old man was genuinely happy.

“Your ladyship. I must examine you,” he said. Tyrion took his leave and took Bran with him.

The maester examined her. “You were in grave danger, and I’m afraid you won’t bear more children. The babe destroyed your womb.”

Cersei was not worried about more children. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Almost three weeks, your body was healing well, your bleeding stopped during the second week after birth. I expected you to wake but you did not. I grew worried then. I had decided to ease your body into death yesterday but your brother insisted we wait. He arrived three nights ago.”

“Is my son in good health?” She asked as she caressed the little one’s cheek.

“He’s small for his age and is not eating well.” The maester said.

“I will feed him.” She said and bared her teats.

“It is unadvisable lady Stark, your body has undergone much distress.” She ignored his words. The baby latched, her milk flow was light.

“You must ease your body into your normal activities my lady.” The man said and ordered light soups from the kitchens.

She felt lightheaded. The maester watched over her as she tried to feed her babe. “Is my husband dead?” Cersei’s mind was returning to full function and she distinctively remembered receiving news of Ned’s supposed death.

“It is best if your brother explains. My lady should wait and rest before exerting her body any further.” The man left. Osha was there to feed her and take the baby from her arms. Rickon was asleep as soon as her teat ran out of milk.

“I have a recipe to increase the milk in your teats.” The wildling said while carefully tucking little Rickon.

Cersei raised and eyebrow but gave her consent for her the brew the remedy. “Tyrion mentioned you took care of my son.” The woman said when she was done eating the broth.

“I took care of him and the other little lord.” The woman said with downcast eyes.

Cersei knew she cared about Bran and apparently she cared about Rickon too. “Help me bathe.” Osha would be her trusted maid, her eyes and ears. The woman was to be trusted. Cersei could instinctively tell, after all she had been the only one to speak frankly even if she was mistaken.

She bathed and rested for a few hours. She woke up again, feeling stronger, “Osha, comb my hair and then call my brother.” The woman nodded and brushed her hair lightly, a contrast to her gruff looking appearance and blunt manners.

The woman left her with Rickon on her arms. Soon enough her brother entered the chambers. “Go with Bran now.” She told the wildling who left promptly.

Cersei held Rickon on her arms and rocked him to sleep. He hadn’t cried, not since she fed him. The woman addressed her brother, “Come here.” Tyrion arched an eyebrow and remained by the door as if waiting to make an impromptu escape.

“Now, put Rickon on his crib.” Tyrion waddled and carefully grabbed the babe. “Be very careful with his head. Lay him gently.” She said and saw as her baby brother placed his newest nephew safely on his crib.

The woman sat up and felt some dull pain in her abdomen. Tyrion remained in front of her.

“I need you to explain.” She said simply.

Her brother did not respond. “Is my husband dead?” She asked; Tyrion wouldn’t lie. He would rejoice in seeing her in pain and would not dare say any falsehoods, not concerning Eddard. They liked each other, her youngest brother and her husband.

“Eddard died, queen Catelyn executed him for treasons against the crown and regicide.” Tyrion spoke slowly, clearly. He looked sad.

Cersei could not hold a few tears and felt as if someone stabbed her heart, stomach and throat at the same time. She gasped and couldn’t form words.

“It can’t be. Why? He’s honorable. He loved Robert Baratheon. Why did Catelyn do this?” She grew more agitated by the second.

“Lord Baelish is said to be behind the accusations.” Tyrion said and looked at her with sad eyes.

Cersei cried and didn’t care if Tyrion mocked. She didn’t care if he laughed in her face. She deserved the taunts, the pain throbbing inside of her. She should have never trusted Jaime. She should have gone south, put some sense into Ned’s honorable head. Eddard was dead. She cried uncontrollably because her last letter to her husband had been filled with anger and insults. She did not get to hold him. She felt sadder than when mother died, or Joffrey died. Cersei felt as if something was breaking inside of her and she couldn’t put it together.

The woman felt as Tyrion surrounded her, held her and rubbed her back. She cried more but welcomed the embrace. She cried until she felt anger. How dare Catelyn do such a despicable thing to Ned? Ned defended that bitch. Her husband had considered the queen a friend and tried to fix a broken kingdom, a broken king.

She wiped her tears furiously. “Tell me what is happening. Where are my children? What is father doing?”

Tyrion let go of her. “Robb and Jaime march south to meet with Renly Baratheon, who styles himself as king of the Seven kingdoms. Father is to secure the Riverlands and storm the Eyrie once Jaime and Robb defeat Renly or unite his forces with them to defeat Renly if it comes to that.” Cersei listened carefully.

“Jon will advance to King’s Landing and join forces with Stannis Baratheon. Gendry, Arya and Joanna arrived to Dragonstone safely. Stannis is defending the prince’s right to the throne.”

Cersei could tell he was withholding information. “Tommen, where is my son?”

“Unaccounted for.” Tyrion replied. Cersei paled, “He could be alive sister. We have not heard anything of him.”

There was more. “What are father’s plans?”

She knew this war was the perfect opportunity for Tywin to assert his role in the Seven Kingdoms. “He plans to support the prince and marry him to Arya. He will have a man with Lannister blood sitting on the Iron Throne. He virtually has control over most of Westeros ”

Cersei was puzzled, impossible. They had the West, the North and Dragon Stone only. They could have the Riverlands as soon as they advanced to King’s Landing.

“How?”

“I am to be the Warden of the East. My wife is Lady Sansa of Arryn. Father insisted I take her as bride. Your son holds the Riverlands or at least its biggest army. He married Jon to a Frey girl. The women are here in fact, praying for your quick recovery.” Tyrion said sarcastically.

“Jon and Robb will make them pay. They will burn Westeros and bring justice to my husband.” Cersei said ardently.

“Why are you here brother?” She asked looking into his mismatched eyes.

“Father has sent me to advise Bran and hold the North for him.” Tyrion said resentfully. Her little brother’s place was the West. He was the rightful man to guard the West when Tywin Lannister warred away from Casterly Rock.

Cersei could tell Tyrion’s bitterness and shared that feeling. She was useless, ensconced away in the North while her children were away from her. Ned was dead and Tommen could be dead as well. She wanted to hold Bran and Rickon to her. “Send for Bran, bring him here please.” She said as an afterthought.

Tyrion stood by the door. “I’m sorry for your loss dear sister.” He looked into her eyes. “He was the best man I knew.” Cersei’s eyes filled with tears. “Send for Bran please.” She said and looked away, not able to hold Tyrion’s pitying gaze.

Lady Stark cried bitterly until Osha and Bran arrived. She could see Summer and Lan at his heels. “Come with your mamma Bran.” Her son was too old to sleep with her or cuddle with her but she needed to look into his grey eyes and touch his brown hair. He looked so much like Benjen everyone said so, but out of all her children he was the only one who had inherited Ned’s eyebrows and exact eye shape. She wanted to weep at the sight of him and Rickon.

He climbed into her bed and hugged her. She kissed his forehead. “Leave now. Don’t take the direwolves. Leave them here with us.” She said to Osha who left without saying anything.

“Papa is dead.” Bran carefully looked at her face. Cersei couldn’t bring herself to voice it. She merely held Bran and hummed until he was asleep. She did not sleep and welcomed Rickon’s lusty cries.

The woman gingerly stood up and picked the crying infant. She fed him and couldn’t keep him away from her. Cersei came back to her bed and placed Rickon on her chest while Bran moved and hugged her side. The child was carefully tucked next to her. Lan and Summer were at the door sleeping peacefully.

She didn’t sleep, she cried silently for the rest of the night. Bran could not see her broken. She would weep when no one could see her, only then would she properly mourn her husband. She had to hold Winterfell until this war was over. She would march South once Jon stormed King’s Landing and watch Catelyn Baratheon and her loved ones die at the hands of the Starks. That would be her focus now, justice for Ned. She would write to Jon and ask him for that. He would comply and let her watch as the queen, Baelish and all those who wronged Ned were put to the sword.

Chapter Text

Chapter 39

Arya grew restless. They had been in Dragonstone for over a month now. She remembered when they crossed through the gates. The men pointed their arrows and swords at them. They were a sight. Joanna was barefoot, her feet bloodied. Arya had cuts over her arms and was the dirtiest of them while Gendry bleed heavily from an arm wound that needed to be checked by a maester.

“Who comes this way?” A man asked in a very unfriendly manner. The direwolves around them growled and paced around them.

“Gendry.” She looked at the young man beside her. He was so unused to using his titles.

“You are prince Gendry. Say it.” She hissed to him. Joanna looked lost, afraid, her clothes were torn and her hair was dirty. Arya held her hand.

“Go back where you came from.” The man said and turned his back on them.

“You will open these gates and call Lord Baratheon.” Gendry grew impatient when the man refused to open the doors. “I am your prince. You will open your gates and take me to my uncle.” Gendry barked commandingly.

The man opened the gates but did not let them inside the castle. “The prince is dead.” The man announced.

“I assure you I am alive.” Gendry tried to make his way inside the castle but a group of men surrounded him.

“I swear upon the Seven if you do not let us in I will personally see to your imprisonment for treason.” Arya knew for a fact Gendry would not act on his words. He forgave too easily, forgot too easily.

They did not let him in. The man however sent a man inside the castle.

It was cold. Joanna shivered, Arya looked as the sun rose. It was a brand new day. The wait felt like hours. “Why is this taking so long?”

Gendry looked pale. “This is the first time I set foot here. No one has ever seen my face. I suppose they have to get my uncle first.”

Arya had never met Stannis Baratheon nor seen any portraits of him but it was obvious he walked their way from the moment Gendry and him locked eyes. The man looked stoic but there was relief in his eyes. The prince was not as skilled or self-contained as his uncle. The relief was evident in his blue eyes.

She thought Gendry would break into a run and hug Stannis but either the young man was too tired to run or he did not feel comfortable with public displays of affection. Tommen would have hugged father, as Robb and Jon would have but she couldn’t picture uncle Jaime or Tyrion hugging grandfather after any circumstance.

Gendry hugged him as soon as he was close enough. “She tried to kill me.” Gendry whispered. Stannis hugged him back and kissed his forehead quickly, Arya would have missed it if she weren’t obsessively looking at her betrothed.

“You’re alive.” Lord Baratheon stepped away from him and took a look at his nephew’s arm. “You are hurt. Maester Cressen must see you at once.” Gendry nodded.

The man noticed her and Joanna at last. Confusion marred his features for a second. “The Stark sisters. I will explain everything once we are inside I swear.” They made their way into the castle.

Dragonstone was different. It was beautiful but in a sad way. She did not have time to contemplate much because as soon as they were inside Gendry was shipped away to a maester while her and Joanna were shipped another way.

She did not feel comfortable leaving Joanna alone. A woman drew them baths and tended to their minor wounds. Joanna swatted the woman’s hands away. “No, no, no.” She kept whispering. Her sister must be in shock. Arya grabbed her face softly. “We are fine. Joanna, we’re safe, in Dragonstone.” Joanna focused on her face.

“Father is dead.” She said hollowly.

Arya stared back and agreed. “We’re alive.” She looked into Joanna’s green eyes and willed her to focus on her.

Her sister did. “We have to send ravens to mother or grandfather.” Arya nodded.

The woman came close to Joanna and she let her heal and bandage her feet. She drew them baths. Joanna and her sank into the water and washed each other’s hair. Arya was grateful they were together and had this time for them.

The servants lead them to guest quarters. “M’ladies, we have different rooms for you.”

The possibility of not having Joanna close to her bothered her more than she wanted to admit. “Keep close. Winter is coming.” Father reminded them about the pack that survives.

“No.” Arya held onto Joanna’s hand and tightened her hold on hers.

“As you wish my lady.” The woman said and left them in their quarters with new clothes. “We should rest.” Joanna changed into a shift and handed Arya another shift.

They went to bed and faced each other. They used to sleep like this when they were little. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the comfort a good bed offered.

Later that day Lord Baratheon called them for dinner. Neither Joanna nor her realized they had slept the day away. The maid woke them up with her soft voice. Joanna was the one to wake her and encourage her to dress properly.

“I’ll comb your hair.” Arya knew it calmed her down so she let her brush her brown hair and put it in a braid reminiscent to the ones mother was prone to wearing.

She returned the favor. “I can’t braid you hair properly.” For some reason it ashamed her that she couldn’t make her sister’s hair stay in a braid.

“We’ll be late. It doesn’t really matter Arya. Just brush it and be done with it.” Joanna rolled her eyes. Her sister could have kissed her for that little gesture. Normalcy, it was what they needed when their world was over and their family scattered. They were not even sure if any of them were alive anymore.

She combed Joanna’s hair until it shone. They walked together to a brightly lit room. Gendry sat next to Lord Baratheon, discussing something. A girl, probably younger than Bran sat in front of Gendry, her face was scared. The girl had suffered from Greyscale. Septa Mordane spoke of it in one of her endless history lessons. She saw an older man, a maester sitting next to the girl. A woman sat at the other end of the table. “Arya.” Gendry said smiling and offered her a seat next to him. There was only one chair; an older man occupied the other chair. Arya refused to let go of Joanna’s hand.

The man stood up, “My lady.” He said, bowing and offering his chair to Joanna who even in cases like this never forgot her manners. “Thank you my lord.” She smiled.

The man stuttered, “Not a lord my lady.” He said and sat quickly but Arya could tell he liked Joanna. Everyone loved Joanna and for once Arya wasn’t envious of that little fact.

Lord Baratheon spoke as soon as both girls were seated. “Your father was an honorable man, just and trustworthy. I offer my condolences.” The man said stiffly.
Joanna nodded. “We thank you for your hospitality my lord.” She said proffering a small smile at the stoic man.

He looked away from her eyes. “If we could write to our mother or our grandfather.” Joanna started.

“That would be unadvisable for the time being.” A woman with red hair said.

“Who are you?” Arya said quite rudely. She meant to be rude.

“Lady Melisandre of Asshai. Our priestess for the Lord of Light.” The woman at the end of the table said with a glint on her eyes.

“You have brought darkness into our home but what can you expect from the daughters of murderers and traitors?” the woman said with spite.

The lord of Dragonstone ground his teeth, “Selyse. That is enough.” The man looked annoyed by the woman’s behavior. The woman in red remained impassive.

“My lord husband should reconsider and send this filth back to King’s Landing. Let Catelyn see to their punishment.” Arya could have easily leapt and slap that woman but it wasn’t necessary.

Gendry came to their defense. “I think not Lady Baratheon. Arya is my betrothed…”

“You dare address me bastard.” The woman said with vitriol.

Suddenly Stannis Baratheon slammed both of his hands on the table. The girl with Greyscale let out a small gasp, as did Joanna. The rest of the occupants were silent and watched Lord Baratheon as he spoke. He did not yell but his voice seem to acquire a potent like quality, “I said enough. They will stay here under our care and be treated as the guests they are.” He then stood up and made for the door.

“Gendry.” He called and the prince followed his uncle. For their part Joanna and Arya were ushered by the maester and into their quarters.

The girl with Greyscale was Shireen Baratheon, Gendry’s cousin. She knocked on their door and wanted to introduce herself. Arya had liked the young girl as had Joanna who took delight in her company.

A month passed. Selyse Baratheon despised them and made no secret of it. The Red Woman as Gendry called her was a constant presence in the castle. There were rumors that she was Stannis’s mistress but Arya doubted it very much. The man was cold; although Gendry seemed to love him dearly, better than he had loved his father at any rate. The girl could tell just by the way Gendry spoke of him and how they interacted.

In any case the Red woman tried to make Stannis seize the throne as his and only his. She believed he was the reincarnation of some god. Gendry told her so. He had been so happy to tell her that his uncle refused the woman and she was due to go back to Asshai.

“Uncle Stannis wants her gone from Dragonstone. She will leave in a week. She said she was mistaken and would be ready to leave the castle in a week.” Gendry said as they sparred in an abandoned part of the castle, away from prying eyes.

She was quicker than him but he was stronger and surprisingly agile for a man his size. She aimed her needle and managed to graze his side but he moved to his right and laughed. “You have got to be less predictable m’lady.”

Arya smiled, he smiled back, openly, with a happy glint. She aimed her sword at his heart. “You play dirty.” He said and scowled.

“You are predictable too my prince.” The girl laughed and he laughed too. He held her to him and gave her a kiss. Arya kissed him back. She grabbed his hand when his eyes darkened and his hands wandered. “Come on. Joanna must be looking for us.” She ran and he ran after her.

Arya stopped her musings when Shireen and Joanna approached her. “You have to come with us to the gardens. You have to see the new flowers.” The little girl spoke animatedly and held onto Joanna’s hand.

Arya didn’t want to be rude, not to Shireen but the last thing in her mind were the flowers they planted or anything other than to know more about the war. Stannis had been eerily quiet about his plans. She trusted Gendry and therefore trusted the older man but she felt uneasy. It had been a month and they were not even near to raising an army or taking King’s Landing.

Joanna frowned at her. “Arya, you have to see the flowers.”

She nodded, walking alongside Shireen. Joanna was very fond of the girl and so was she. Arya was fonder of Selyse’s rage. The woman looked positively enraged whenever she saw her daughter in the Starks’ company.

“Lady Melisandre leaves tonight. Mother doesn’t speak to father anymore. She’s threatened to go back to Brightwater Keep.” The small girl said as she watered the plants.

Had it been a week already? It must have been. Arya couldn’t care less if that horrible woman left Dragonstone. It would be better if she were gone. Joanna however seemed a little too interested. “Your father would never let his wife live away from him.”

Shireen shrugged, “Mother and father do not care much about each other.” The girl said it as if she was saying it would rain later.

Arya observed the interactions between lord and lady Baratheon. They were cold to each other, Selyse looked at him with sad eyes while Stannis avoided her as much as possible.

They spent the afternoon in the gardens. Joanna asked a lot of questions about Selyse and Shireen. Arya yawned more than once. Her sister seemed to have forgotten about her, not that the girl cared too much. A busy Joanna was better than her listless counterpart. She would be unbearable if she were idle. It was nightfall when Arya stood up and ushered her companions out of the gardens and into the courtyards.

The girls walked back and saw the fires down by the sea. Arya ran to one of the balconies. There were fires around the beach. “They’re burning the gods.” Shireen said next to her.

They ran down, thinking they would reach the bay. “My ladies. You have to stay put.” Ser Davos and some of his men restrained them. Joanna gasped when Stannis and Gendry came close to them. They were dirty with sand and soot, a strange combination. “Get inside, there’s nothing left.”

The party walked back. Gendry was pale and his hands shook. The hall was well lit. Davos called for a maester. She was surprised when the old maester did not come. She was used to seeing the old man attend to her betrothed and his uncle.

The younger man looked over Gendry and some men. Arya and Joanna were given supplies to help the wounded. Shireen had been ushered back to her quarters. The girl didn’t dare ask anything and went back to her rooms with a meek gaze toward her father.

Stannis had his back toward them. The man sat down away from them. He did not glance at anyone; his gaze was fixed at a wall.

“Your hands, they’re burned.” Joanna stepped forward and grabbed some ointment and bandages.

Only Joanna sat by the man and saw to the man’s wounds. Arya expected lord Baratheon to refuse her sister’s care but he didn’t.

She couldn’t contain her curiosity any longer. “What happened?” She asked as gently as possible.

Gendry grabbed her hand. “Lady Baratheon opposed the Red Woman’s departure. Uncle refused her pleas and had the woman leave Dragonstone in the late afternoon. Her ship was gone before the sun fell.”

Arya did not understand. Gendry should be happy the woman was gone; instead he looked discomfited. “I don’t understand. She is gone. You should be happy.”
“I am.” He shook his head. “I was. I saw the ship become smaller and smaller and then noticed something amiss. Lady Baratheon had some of the men carry the Gods, the statues to the bay.”

Arya could tell Gendry was remembering, picturing the events in his head. “Maester Cressen tried to stop her. He called for uncle Stannis. He came of course but it was too late. I should have seen them. Why didn’t I pay more attention to the beach, instead of looking at the ship?”

He rambled, “What happened?”

“The idols burned. She pushed Cressen when he tried to stop her from lighting the Father. The men tried to stop her too but it was too late. Lady Selyse pushed maester Cressen and then threw herself to the fire. “She thought she was going to be purified. Uncle Stannis burned his hands trying to get her from the flames but she fought him. She looked possessed.”

“They’re dead.”

Arya looked back to Shireen who stood by the doorway and then went to her father. Stannis looked at those remaining in the hall. There were only two men who looked badly burned. “Wildfire. She used wildfire, it was how it spread so quickly.”

“Leave at once.” Stannis motioned to the maester and the men. They went away. Gendry, Arya and Joanna left too. Everyone but for Shireen who stayed by her father’s side.

They heard as the girl cried. They also heard the man quieting the little girl.

Gendry was escorted back to his rooms while Joanna and Arya went to theirs. They faced each other. “What are you thinking?” Arya asked her sister.

The girl could practically hear her sister’s thoughts bouncing off her head.

“Nothing of importance.” She said barely audibly.

“Are you thinking about Selyse?” Arya guessed.

“It sad how she died. That Red Woman drove her to madness.” Joanna said forgetting her attempts at secrecy.

If there was anything positive about being cooped up in Dragonstone it was the fact that Joanna talked to her. They were talking and being friendly again. Her sister didn’t look at her with pained eyes anymore. She looked at her like old Joanna did and even treated her better than old Joanna ever did.

“She was not so nice Joanna. She didn’t like Gendry or us. I don’t even think she liked Shireen much.” Arya said trying to make conversation.

“He always looks sad.” Her big sister said and looked at her hands.

Arya lost her. “Who?”

“Lord Baratheon. He looks sad, and is always very quiet. You wouldn’t think he would be related to King Robert or Gendry.”

She looked at Joanna. “I suppose he is more reserved.”

“He is a true lord. Shireen said he reads to her sometimes. He has a pleasant voice.” Joanna said distractedly.

“How would you know? He’s barely spoken to any of us.” Arya said suspiciously.

“I suppose he does. He looks like he has a good voice, a gentle, and kind voice but also strong because he’s a warrior.”

“You’re raving mad Joanna.” Arya couldn’t deny that Stannis was a warrior. Father had said he was a just, if hard man.

“He will have to marry.” Joanna said and then turned away from Arya.

Arya for her part closed her eyes, the events of the day catching up to her. She couldn’t help but think that Joanna was up to something.

Chapter Text

Chapter 40

Tommen was still very weak. He had almost died twice since they left King’s Landing. His son almost bled out and then a fever took a hold of his body. He hallucinated and shivered for a week. Ned stood with him and watched as his son fought death.

The shipmen left them at Gulltown. They were unable to continue their journey North. They had no money left. Ned nodded when the captain informed him they would not continue to White Harbor.

Tommen was pale and it was clear he would need more than a few weeks to recover. His sons were not weak; they had never been sickly. Ned wasn’t used to Tommen being so defenseless.
“Father, I don’t think I can walk any longer.” Shaggydog helped his master stand. Tommen leaned into the beast who licked the boy. The direwolf was great help. He hunted and served as protector for both Tommen and him.

They made their way to Saltpants. Ned had grown a beard, as so did Tommen, although his was less hairy and much fairer than his.

The news around the Riverlands was that he was dead and a traitor. Robb and Lannister had raided the queen’s ancestral home and were to leave for King’s Landing soon. Renly Baratheon had the strength of the Stormlands and the Reach. He proclaimed he was King of the Seven Kingdoms. There was no news of his daughters and Gendry yet. No one knew what Stannis planned, if he decided to back Renly or seek the throne as the rightful heir. Ned hoped Tommen was correct and the girls reached Dragonstone. He prayed to his gods Stannis realized Gendry was the true heir and king of the Seven Kingdoms.

“We’ll find an inn soon.” Ned helped him up and half carried him to the Crossroads Inn. He remembered staying here decades ago when Brandon was still alive and they visited Catelyn for the first time.

The place was filled with Lannister men. Eddard Stark could say it was the first time he was glad to see the golden lion against the red field. He could hear the men singing that blasted song that Cersei liked so much.

“And so he spoke, and so he spoke
that Lord of Castamere
but now the rains weep o’er his halls
with no one there to hear

Yes now the rains weep o’er his halls
And not a soul to hear.”

Ned didn’t frown and welcomed the loud singers. They would take him and Tommen to the encampment. He needed to see Lord Lannister and join him. Tommen would of course go North and comfort Cersei. They all thought him dead. His lioness needed to know the truth. He would fight and make sure Gendry ascended to the throne, as was his right. Robert and him fought a war for that throne and Eddard would make sure Gendry remained there.

He didn’t recognize any of the men there. The innkeeper looked annoyed, betrayed to have all those strange men in her inn. Tywin Lannister was ruthless. The lord of Winterfell was sure his father in law sent the Cleganes first. He needed to get Robb and Jon under order. They were not Lannisters. They were Starks and would not murder, rape and steal as if they had no honor. Stories of horror and pain filled the Riverlands most of them involved Lannister men committing atrocities in their wake. He would sort his children and lead his men away from the Lannister men if he had to.

Tommen looked at him pleadingly. They had travelled two weeks without rest, hunting and sleeping on hard grounds. The days grew shorter and colder. Winter was coming too soon.

Ned approached a man of slight build. He was blonde and looked a lot like Lannister twenty years ago. “Take us to Lord Lannister.”

The young man sputtered. “I do not speak with peasants.” Of course he was an arrogant little shit. They all were.

Eddard lost his patience rather quickly. He grabbed the boy by his tunic and pulled him close. “Take me to Tywin Lannister now.” He spat. The whole lot quieted and pointed swords at him. Tommen paled even more. Shaggydog circled his master and growled at the men.

“How dare you touch me filthy bastard?” The little shit lost his courage when Ned tightened his hold on his neck.

He felt as two men grabbed his arms and punched him in quick succession.

“Stop.” Tommen yelled. Shaggydog growled and mauled a man who tried to get near Tommen.

The little shit spoke once more. His voice was strained. “Take them to the camp. Hold the beast down too.”

Eddard complied with the men and was escorted out the inn. The men and the Lannister had horses. They tried to get close to Shaggydog but the direwolf growled and bit a man’s hand.

“Let the beast with the boy. Once we reach camp we’ll cage it properly.” The men must know they were important. Direwolves were not common. They must have seen Grey Wind by now. If the rumors were any accurate Robb and Lannister were still around these parts.

They rode for a day and half until they reached Harrenhal. Tommen had a fever and looked worse by the hour.

They reached the massive castle. The encampment was massive. He realized Jon must be there as well. He saw some of his bannermen and a lot of Westerners.

His son stumbled and fell to the ground. He saw Alysane Mormont by a fire. She was a mother. She could know about fever and herbs. “Alysane.” He barked.
The woman turned and saw him. She smiled. “Lord Stark.” She came to his side at once.

The men stepped away from him and Tommen. They looked at the Mormont woman with wary eyes. “Good.” He thought.

“Find the woman, the Volantese woman now.” She said and motioned for two men to help her carry Tommen to a tent. Eddard followed them.

They put in in a cot and left the room. “Your sons are here. We prepare to storm King’s Landing in three days.”

Ned nodded and was glad to finally be in the right place. This senseless war would end once and for all. He was made for this, for war. They all were; Lannister, Stannis and him. They would reclaim the throne for Gendry. Stannis would become the Lord Hand and he would go back North to Cersei, where he belonged.

The woman entered. She carried bandages and a case.

“All of you leave now. I need space.” She said hurriedly without looking at any of them but at Tommen. Alysane left and pulled him out of the tent.

“She is the best, better than any maester I have seen.” The girl said. She wanted to say more but seemed to think better of it and left.

Ned turned and saw his sons running. They were in armors but looked like the boys who ran to him whenever he came back from the Karhold or the Dreadfort after a few days of not seeing each other.

Robb was the first to reach him and hug him. Jon hugged him too. He laughed, his dark eyes sparkling with happiness.

Some of the soldiers looked at them. Cersei would condemn her son’s behaviors. “You’re alive.” Robb was crying.

He smiled. “Your brother isn’t well.”

“Tommen is here. You have Tommen.” Jon laughed. He looked giddy with happiness.

More people stared openly. Ned smiled. “Stay with your brother. He’s inside there.” Robb hugged him once more and entered the tent.

“Find me a tent.” He said to his oldest son. Jon nodded and led him to a big tent.

“These are my quarters.” Jon said.

“What do you need?” His son asked immediately.

“A bath, clothes and for you to tell me exactly what is happening.” Eddard said as he divested his filthy clothes.

A maid set up the tub and left quickly. The lord of Winterfell stepped in the tub and relished the hot water against his skin. He was in need of a bath and nourishment.

“Tell me.” He said and looked at his son. The boy looked older, he was growing a beard too.

“Lord Lannister sent one of his nephews to alert mother. I called the banners and met Lannister in the Neck. Soon after I received the summons from queen Catelyn. She accused you of regicide and conspiracy against the crown. The Seven Kingdoms believes you to be a traitor and murderer.”

Ned remembered Baelor’s Sept and the people of King’s Landing jeering at him and most of all he remembered Catelyn’s stony face. He remembered each of her words, her lies against his person and his family.

“No. Tell me about your mother. How is she? Does she believe me dead?” All he could think about was her, his wife.

Jon nodded. “Uncle Tyrion arrived safely. We just received the ravens. Mother gave birth to a healthy boy. She wasn’t well but she’s better now. She thinks you’re dead.”

Eddard felt his heart on his throat. “Birth?”

His son didn’t look at him. “She was pregnant when you left. The baby is fine. His name is Rickon, the pregnancy wasn’t easy on her. I left when she started showing.” The lord of Winterfell did not have time to process the news. His son spoke more and more.

“Robb and I learned of your execution. Lord Lannister and his host procured the Twins for us. I had to marry a Frey girl. Uncle Tyrion wedded lady Sansa of Arryn.” Ned looked confused but remained quiet.

“Uncle Jaime and Robb secured the Riverlands. The North is ours still. I left Moat Cailin secured with Mormonts and some of our forces. The Greyjoys tried to invade the North. I sent half the Hornwoods back to strengthen the forces around Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte and the North.”

“What is Balon claiming?” Eddard asked as he scrubbed the filth away from his skin.

Robb stormed in. “He’s sleeping. Lady Talisa patched him up and gave him some herbs.” He looked happy. He smiled and reminded Ned of Cersei when she was happy. She would have a manic grin on her face like the one their son sported now.

“Sit down. Next to your brother now.” Ned needed to hear all the developments in his absence. He was ecstatic to see the boys but the immensity of it all started to sink in.

Robb did as he was told and hung his head. Jon continued with his explanations. “He styles himself as king of the Iron Islands. He appears to be the least of the crown’s problems. Renly Baratheon proclaimed himself king of the Seven Kingdoms. Lord Baratheon prepares to meet with his brother in their ancestral home. Prince Gendry and my sisters are well protected inside Dragonstone.

Eddard closed his eyes and sighed in relief. The girls were fine. They were alive and safe.

“Send ravens to your mother first and then to all the great lords and houses. I am alive and not a traitor.” Ned said and then looked at Jon with new eyes.

“What are your plans?” He asked his eldest.

“I planned to wait until we received news from Lord Baratheon. If Renly desisted from his claim then Robb and I would join their forces and put Gendry back on the throne. If however Renly continued with his claim Robb and Uncle Jaime would join Stannis Baratheon and bring Renly down.”

His son spoke in the past tense. “What about the queen?”

“She has King’s Landing, the fealty of Dorne and most of the Reach. The Tyrells have declared for Renly Baratheon.

Robb spoke then, “We were going to take King’s Landing after sorting Renly Baratheon.”

Eddard nodded and stepped out of the tub. He dressed with clothes Jon handed him. “Where is your grandfather?” Jon looked at him with hurt eyes. He remembered he knew the truth of his birth. That would have to be a conversation for later, much later.

“He remains in the Twins. He plans to storm the Eyrie or join me in taking King’s Landing if necessary.”

The lord of Winterfell frowned while dressing. “Lannister plans to sack the city.”

“Grandfather helped us.” Robb said.

Eddard replied bitterly. “The last time Tywin Lannister helped me or any Baratheon. He sacked a city, and killed innocent women and children, among those were Elia Martell and her children. Make no mistake, Dorne still mourns for Elia and blames the Lannisters.”

“We will wait until Stannis convinces Renly to stand down. Lannister and his men will go and meet with Stannis and the prince.” Ned continued.

“We’ll advance to King’s Landing and retake the Throne for Gendry.” Eddard stepped out the tent and went into Tommen’s tent.

The woman was still there. She undressed his son. He had a rag on his forehead and had his eyes closed. “How is he?”

“He’ll live. He needs to rest for a few weeks and eat better. I cleaned his wound but it has to be cleaned again or he will surely have another infection. He’s a strong one I give you that.” She smiled and placed another rag on Tommen’s feverish forehead.

“I’ll stay with him for tonight.” The woman said and gently and caressed his son’s cheek. He felt Robb tense by his side. Jon came closer to Tommen. He smiled and then left, he assumed to gather the Northerners.

Robb left too. “I will look for uncle Jaime and tell him of the news.” He nodded, trying to sit by his son without hissing.

“You’re hurt too.” The woman pointed out and went to her case. “Let me see.” She made him stand up.

The woman poked around his side. He winced but did not cry out. “Your ribs are broken. Could you let me bandage them? Those cuts also need some cleaning.” She motioned to his arms and legs.

Eddard let her. She wasn’t westerosi. “You’re from the East.”

“My name is Talisa Maegyr.” He watched as she placed the bandages around his middle.

“Volantis.” He tried first.

Lady Talisa nodded and averted her eyes. She became shy, remembering they way she was supposed to act. She was highborn, a lady. Eddard could tell by her demeanor and way of speaking. “Maegyr. An old name in Volantis I assume.”

“Sit down please.” She avoided his gaze and proceeded to clean the shallow cuts.

He planned to remain quiet until she was finished and then send her away. “A very old name, one of the oldest.” She said distractedly.

“You can go back to your tent Lady Talisa.” He offered.

“Oh no. I’ll take care of him. They will be looking for you shortly.” Robb entered as soon as the words left her mouth.

“Uncle Jaime wishes to see you as do our men.” He didn’t take his eyes off of lady Talisa.

Eddard stepped outside the tent. Robb was by his side. “They’re all through here.”

He understood this was the strategy tent. A map of Westeros stretched out in two tables. Lannister, Karstark, Umber, Hornwood, and many others were there.

Greatjon embraced him, as did Karstark. He smiled. His brother in law looked at him with the same hateful eyes he reserved for him. Eddard had a similar look reserved for him.

“You managed to survive.” The golden fool said without much emotion.

“The Starks endure.” He said simply and took a seat in front of him. All these men had been to war. He had fought alongside these men and knew many of them.

Greatjon let out an uproar of laughter. Some of the men followed suit.

“What news do you have of Gendry and Stannis?” He asked Jaime.

“As Jon must have told you we’re still waiting for the ravens.” Lannister said in a bored tone.

“How many men does Catelyn have at her disposal?” He addressed Lannister again.

“Five thousand without Dornish men.” The man replied.

“How many do we have?” He asked to no one in particular.

“Three thousand Northerners.” Jon replied.

“A thousand Westerners under my command.” Ser Jaime continued.

He pointed to the map. “Here.” He pointed to the Stormlands. “This is where Renly and Stannis will meet. We will send your thousand men to help Stannis. We wouldn’t have to wait for Stannis’s ravens.”

Jon stepped in. “Baratheon would be less likely to renounce his notions of kinghood if he feels threatened.”

Lannister spoke then. “Your father isn’t suggesting an ambush. We wouldn’t attack. The boy does need to feel surrounded. He needs the additional shove to make the best decision. If we sail tomorrow we would be there two days after Baratheon and our prince arrive to their home.”

“It is decided then. Take your thousand men and meet Stannis.” He said icily.

“For once we agree.” Ser Jaime said through his teeth.

They discussed war tactics for two hours until they had a plan. “Send ravens to my father. He needs to learn of these new developments.” Ser Jaime said to the little shit who brought him to the camp.

Many of the men left until only his sons and Jaime Lannister remained inside the tent. “I have matters to attend to.” His brother in law attempted to leave the tent.

“What you did was rash and endangered my family. You took my son and started a war.”

“You started a war. If you had listened to Catelyn Baratheon you would be in the North by now.” Lannister replied.

Eddard stood in front of his brother in law. “What do you know of honor Kingslayer?” He wanted to rile him up. What did the golden fool know about Catelyn and her misguided advances?

The man delivered. “Honorable Lord Stark. How does it feel to know you have started a war? You could have stayed quiet and let the world believe the princesses were Robert’s.” Lannister came close to him and looked at him with hatred.

“You chose to expose them. Catelyn was unstable to begin with and now she’s over the edge and this madness became what it is now. Forgive me lord Stark but I am picking up after your mess.”

He was enraged, few men managed to infuse him with such anger. “There haven’t been rumors about the girls. No one knows.”

The other man had the gall to laugh; “It was never about the girls. You and I know better. Girls don’t matter, not in our world. You have given them free reign. They needed a provocation and you provided it. We have a war Lord Stark thanks to you.”

Ned Stark watched him go and fumed. Jon and Robb stayed by his side. His second eldest looked as if he wanted to follow his uncle. For some reason it bothered him that Robb wanted to follow Lannister, he was jealous of the man, the feeling almost as corrosive as when he fell in love with his wife and she had nothing but tales of her golden twin.

“Your uncle will leave at dawn without you. Jon, you and I will march for King’s Landing. We’ll corner them until Gendry and Stannis meet us.” He saw as his son shook his head.

“There’s no place for me here. I’m going with uncle Jaime.” The boy said defiantly.

“Robb don’t.” Jon pleaded.

“No, uncle Jaime is right. I’m not a boy anymore. I want to go with him. I can make a name for myself.” Robb said and looked at him pleadingly.

Eddard shook his head. “You aren’t his. You’re mine son. You belong here with me, with your brother.”

“You’re going to send me back to Winterfell. I will have to take Tommen back. It won’t be you who will have to see mother’s saddened face.” Robb said angrily.

Lord Stark shook his head. “Tommen is strong, stronger than I ever thought possible. He will not go back to Winterfell. We’ll take King’s Landing and return North together, all of us. We’ll return to your mother.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 41

“The Northern bannermen have reached Moat Cailin and more men advance to Deepwood Motte.” Tyrion told her while he wrote to Benjen. Cersei still refused to believe there were such things as white walkers. She refused to send more men to the wall until Benjen came back once more. Tyrion send men and welcomed the

They dined late; Tyrion, Cersei and Benjen remained in the small hall. “We need men.”

Cersei shifted uncomfortably. “We don’t have men Benjen. They are all south; fighting for Jon and my father.”

“Our master at arms traveled South to the queen too. The Wall needs protection. There are things out there Cersei. I have seen them, they are dangerous and only the wall and its men defend us from them. We have to stop the wildlings from attacking us. Ned would agree with me.”

 

She dropped her utensils and looked at the man in front of her. “Not once have you asked about your brother and now you use his memory.” Her voice trembled with fury and sadness.

Benjen stiffened, as did Tyrion. “Forgive me.” The man said.

Cersei stood up, “Do what you consider best brother.” She looked at Tyrion and then left the rooms.

She looked at Tyrion once more. “Have you heard from Robb or Jon?” She asked her baby brother.

She looked at the grounds. Bran and Osha were training Summer or so they said.

“Nothing. I would have told you if I had.” Her brother waddled out of his seat and motioned to one of the chairs. They were alone in Ned's study. Maester Luwin left to teach Bran and Osha.

She left her place by the windows and sat by her younger brother. Her valonqar, for years she thought the prophecy referred to him but it wasn't Tyrion. It was Jaime, her twin who brought her destruction. He failed to protect Ned and Tommen.

“The girls are fine. You know this. We have news from Dragonstone. They will be returned to you once this is over.” Tyrion said and then looked at her with wary eyes. “The boys prepare for war and it worries you. I worry too.”

Cersei watched as Tyrion struggled for words. “It isn't my place to tell you this but you have to stop mopping around.” She glared at her brother.

“Watch yourself brother mine.” She hissed. She hadn't glared or hissed at him in years it seemed.

He smiled a little. “Your daughter in law seems to like the tittle of Lady of Winterfell. She prohibited Osha from entering the main castle. She also has dictated the meals and what to feed Bran and the rest of us.”

Cersei's mouth twitched, “is this your idea of riling me up? I confess they are pitiful. Let the simpering girl believe she is lady. I do not care in the least. I care about my sons going to war. I care about my girls so far away from me. I care about my Tommen.” Her voice broke a little at the mention of her son.

“Well then. Lady Stark shall rule as she decides. I'm afraid we will all be eating pease soup and lamb until the rest of our days.”

Suddenly it was all overwhelming. She cried in front of her brother. She was sobbing uncontrollably in front of someone else. Cersei Stark had cried herself to sleep every night for five weeks now. It was all too much when Tyrion referred to another woman as Lady Stark.  

She had been lady Stark for almost two decades and now her husband was dead. She didn't have his bones. She didn't have anything, nowhere to mourn him. She felt unprotected, alone. Proud Cersei Stark, a lioness of the Rock crumbled and trembled with fear.

The sobbing woman felt Tyrion's hand in hers. In another lifetime, perhaps a year ago she would have rejected that same hand but she couldn't afford to do so now. She cried even more.

“Why are you holding my hand?” Her breath hitched a little. She was glad Bran and Rickon did not see her so undignified.

“Isn't that what one is supposed to do when one's sister is distressed?” He was uncomfortable so was she. She had hated Tyrion for so long it was almost impossible to believe she could have another feeling toward her baby brother. She looked at him and thought about what could have happened if he hadn't told maester Luwin to keep her alive for three more days.

Cersei would have died, drugged with milk of the poppy. Bran would have grown up to hate Rickon like she had Tyrion. The mere idea of that shook her to her core.

Her brother fumbled by her side. “It wasn't my intention to cause you pain. Not this time.” He said and proffered a handkerchief.

She took it and wiped her tears. “Thanks.”

He looked so surprised and she could tell he was pleased.

“Would you like to see the finances for the castle?” He asked trying to defuse some tension.

Lady Stark rose and shook her head. “Later perhaps. I'll be in my quarters with Rickon.”

She strode past the doors and turned her head to him. “Have Osha come to me when Bran is done with his lessons.”

Tyrion nodded at her. The woman walked to her quarters. Old Nan was by Rickon singing some old song. Lan was curled by her feet.

Cersei entered the room, “Sweet child.” Old Nan said and then left the room without many words.

She took Rickon from his crib and touched his little cheek. He was so beautiful, so delicate, unlike the rest of her boys. She kissed his forehead gently.

The baby squirmed and opened his big grey eyes. He had Ned’s eyes, so big and beautiful. He looked like him, just like him. Cersei wiped her tears and fed her child. Rickon was the last piece she had from Ned. “My sweetling, you deserve so much more. You deserve to have your siblings and Ned around.”

Cersei decided not to cry anymore. Rickon wouldn’t have a father but he would have her. She would have to be enough for him. The woman smiled when Rickon let out a burp. “You’re done. Aren’t you my pup?” She burped him and placed him back on his crib. Rickon slept peacefully, unlike never before.

“M’lady you called.” Osha entered her quarters unannounced. The woman couldn’t be groomed to be a proper maid but Cersei didn’t need a maid. She needed an ally and a spy.

It was time to rise from the pit she had been. She couldn’t afford to be idle and mop around the castle as her brother stated. Eddard was dead and nothing would bring him back to life. She had to survive, for her, for her children and for revenge. They would all pay and then Cersei would sleep easier, perhaps the knot in her stomach and the impulses to cry and sleep would lessen.

“Draw a bath for me. Call the maids.” She waited until the maids filled her tub with hot water. Once the tub was full and to her liking Cersei sent the maids away but for Osha.

“Hand me the rags. Brush my hair.” She commanded. Osha followed instruction and started to comb her hair. “Gently, not so hard.” Cersei hissed when the woman yanked at her hair.

Osha combed easier, “What have you heard or seen?” Cersei went straight to the point.

The woman kept silent for a few seconds before speaking her mind openly. “Luwin worries about the Castle.”

Cersei frowned. “He does not trust my brother.”

Osha pulled a face. “He dislikes all of your kin. He believes they are not trustworthy.”

She hummed, the hot water soothing her sore muscles. She wasn’t sleeping well. Luwin would always worry about Winterfell and them. It was his job after all.

She would have to check Tyrion’s involvement in the North. “What else?”

“The new lady don’t let me in the castle.” The wildling added. “I can’t look after the pups if she don’t let me in.”

Cersei nodded calmly. She would have a few choice words with the new ladies in her home in a couple of hours.

“What do you think of my brother?” The woman wanted to know whether she could trust Tyrion. She knew he loved her children. It was obvious when he went and searched for Jon at that brothel months ago but she wanted to know his movements. It seemed that he wanted her more involved in the estate affairs.

“He’s a half-man.” Osha shrugged her arms and concentrated on a particular tangle in her hair.

Cersei rolled her eyes. “What is your opinion of him?”

“He listens to Luwin but decides on his own. Luwin don’t like that. He chose to keep more men in Deepwood Motte. Bad decision, the old man is right. The castle needs protection. There are things behind the Wall. That Wall won’t keep the free folk or the white walkers away for long.” Osha warned once more.

“The wildlings have never won. They have tried but the North is too well protected for them to succeed. My brother sent more men to the Wall. The Night’s Watch always drives them back.” She wasn’t too interested in her ramblings. “Benjen and Mormont have a good army. My husband always sent men. I am sure my brother in law is exaggerating to recruit more men.” The Wall withstood many wildling attacks and would continue to do so for a very long time.

“Tell me about my brother and the ladies.” Cersei encouraged.

“The Half-man could be trusted.” Osha declared after rinsing her hair.

“I need details. What does he do? How about those ladies?” She was growing exasperated with the wildling, perhaps she was mistaken, this woman was not as bright as she expected.

“He wakes up, eats a lot, and drinks too much. The Half-man likes to fuck too but not his wife. He visits the local brothel every night. He likes redheads it seems but he also has a whore of his own in the castle. She is not from here. She speaks funny. The Half man speaks to the man he brought too. They speak a lot, friendly with each other they are.” She continued. “The redheaded lady does not leave her quarters much, only for her meals. The other one threw me out when she saw me in the kitchen when she saw me with the pup.”

Cersei opened her eyes. “You will be my personal maid; my eyes and ears when I’m busy running the castle.”

Osha nodded, “You’ll take better care of your person. Be clean, and dress better. I will give you dresses.” Cersei said absentmindedly.

Osha was quiet. “M’lady. You should pay attention to the signs. The war isn’t in the south, it’s up North.”

Lady Stark rose from the tub and asked for a clean robe. “Do not concern yourself about the Wall Osha.”

The woman helped her dress. She wore black dresses, she was still mourning for Ned and would do so until Catelyn and King’s Landing fell. She put on jewelry, a golden necklace with lions. “Call for Maryam. She will braid my hair.”

Two hours later Lady Stark was ready for dinner. She walked out the room and felt like herself for the first time since Jon left for the Neck.

She instructed Osha to take Rickon. “You will stay in the kitchens with my son and attend to him until dinner is over.”

Cersei climbed down the stairs. She made an entrance since she was fairly late. Bran’s eyes lit up when he saw her. Luwin looked relieved. Tyrion smirked. Sansa looked confused and her new daughter in law averted her eyes when she entered the hall.

“I hope I’m not too late for dinner.” She said casually and sat in Eddard’s seat. Tyrion hadn’t occupied it out of respect or so it seemed. Sansa and the Frey girl gasped. Cersei fought the need to roll her eyes.

Her brother welcomed her. “Dear sister. How wonderful to have you grace us with your presence.”

“I am feeling much better sweet brother.” She smiled sweetly while Tyrion gave her a smirk.

The servants served the first course. Cersei looked at the pease soup with disgust. “Have the cook set Bran’s favorite meal. We’ll wait until is served.”

Tyrion smiled behind his napkin. “So they tell me you’re Jon’s wife.” He addressed the brown haired girl.

“I am.” The girl stuttered and gave her a weak nod.

“Welcome to Winterfell.” Cersei said with a smile.

“Thank you.” She replied dutifully.

Cersei looked at her daughter in law once more. She was plain, the girl paled in comparison to Sansa seated next to her. That same girl however ruled in her castle for a few weeks. Not anymore. This was her home. Winterfell was hers and would remain hers until she died.

“I appreciate you taking care of my household but that will not be necessary anymore.” Cersei said a little more warmly.

The girl blushed. “Of course Lady Stark.”

Cersei smiled. “Dear, I’m so sorry but you must understand. Surely you do, with all of this happening I have not had the opportunity to even learn your name.”

The Frey woman trembled like a leaf. “Roslin.”

“What a beautiful name. I am sure you will find my home to your liking dear.”

The servants poured wine. The Arryn girl refused, “Dear Sansa welcome again. Welcome to the family sweetling.”

Roslyn glared at Sansa then. Cersei hadn’t welcomed her daughter in law. Lady Stark knew her son deserved better, more than a Frey. She was sure the girl was lovely but she wasn’t enough for her son. Jon deserved more.

Sansa was a lady. Highborn but bred to be queen as Cersei once had been. Sansa Arryn was the perfect choice for the royal marriage. Lysa and Catelyn surely raised her to become the next queen at least when Catelyn harbored the hope to bear a son.

“Thank you lady Stark.” Sansa said demurely.

Cersei decided to stop all conversations with the hens. She needed to know more about Winterfell and Tyrion’s management of her estate.

“Tell me how are we on grain.” She addressed her brother.

“We have enough for a season. I wanted to consult with you. We have enough men to employ them. Do you remember the cultivation systems we have in Casterly Rock?” He asked politely.

Cersei frowned, “vaguely.” She replied.

The Lannister siblings spent thirty-five minutes speaking about how to implement those systems in Winterfell. Luwin interjected here and there more comfortable now that she was making decisions around Winterfell.

Tyrion explained more about what he had done and how they were on supplies since the last time Benjen asked for men and supplies.

“I will write to Jon. Tell him about Benjen’s concerns.” Tyrion said as the courses were brought.

“I agree. Father’s men and Stannis’s army are more than enough to bring Catelyn to pieces.” Sansa gasped from her seat.

“I apologize lady Stark.” The girl said while looking down at her plate of food and looked green.

“May I be excused?” She said with a shaky voice.

“Of course Sansa. You may do as you please.” Tyrion spoke gently. There wasn’t a hint of sarcasm of bitterness in his tone. The girl didn’t look at him and fled after a hasty curtsy.

Roslin frowned a little but kept eating her meal. Interesting, her daughter in law disliked her new sister.

Cersei looked at Bran who frowned at the adults. “Sweetling, is the meal to your liking?” She smiled at her son.

“Yes mother.” He said sweetly.

“Care to tell me about your day dear?” She asked trying to get into Bran’s good graces. She needed to resume her duties as his mother too. She was remiss but not anymore.

Bran chattered excitedly about the woods. Osha and him explored today and they saw a mare giving birth.

The rest of dinner was pleasant at least for Cersei. Roslin retired after her course was half eaten. Osha brought Rickon for a feeding. She fed the child and walked alongside Bran who was supported by Osha to the smaller hall.

Bran frowned but lit up when Rickon was fast asleep and he could curl by her in one of the big chaises by one of the fireplaces.

She kissed his forehead and told him a story about the Age of Heroes. Bran fell asleep quickly. “Take him to bed.” She told Osha.

“I like her.” Tyrion said as he poured wine in his cup and handed her one.

There was a silence before her brother decided to speak again. “You took my advice.”

“You are clever; not as clever as you think you are but clever nonetheless.” She said with a smile.

“There’s the Cersei we all know.” Tyrion replied while taking a sip from his cup.

“Goodnight brother.” Cersei saw him leave the hall.

Chapter Text

Chapter 42

“Your lady wife has asked me to exile your whore from Winterfell.” His sister entered the study where they worked side by side to keep the North functioning. Tyrion was pleasantly surprised by Cersei’s attitudes toward his person. Two weeks after she came out of whatever took a hold of her and she was still pleasant to him.

Cersei treated him with respect and in turn he treated her with respect. It was as if he was discovering his sister all over again. This time she didn’t have cutting words for him but she came to him with questions and advices about Winterfell. He had his reservations of course and did not trust her. Cersei never took an interest in him. She hated him for ripping their mother apart. Tyrion remembered all the times his sister belittled him whenever she had the chance.

He felt rage at her and glared at her. “Do not call her that.”

“She is not a maid from Lorath or anywhere else. She is your whore. I have nothing against her. I couldn’t care less if you have her here or let her live at the brothel.” Cersei said with disdain.

“Why do you bring it to my attention then?” Tyrion read letters from father. The man asked if Roslin or Sansa were with child. None of the women were pregnant in fact. Roslin looked out of place in the North. She complained of colds all the time and lived with eternal runny noses.

“I thought you should know Lady Lannister does not agree with you having mistresses.” Cersei replied nonchalantly.

Tyrion rolled his eyes. He hated to even think it but perhaps Sansa felt something other than disdain from him. “Out of curiosity what did you say to my lady wife?”

“Oh, I told her you had every right to take up whores if you wished to. I told her that she should think of warming your bed before asking me to remove your whore from said bed. You do know that eventually she will have to become your wife in the true sense of the word.”

The man frowned. “I plan to delay that event as much as I can.”

Cersei frowned. “You are protected here but once this war is over you will have to make her yours. Father will not stop until you bed her. I daresay he will bed her himself if you do not do the deed.”

Tyrion frowned back. “If I don’t do the deed as you put it there is hope for an annulment.”

His sister laughed without mirth. “Our father believes in legacy. He wants to be remembered as more than Tywin Lannister. He wants humanity to remember our name. Jaime is a lost hope to him. You are what he has left and he will have you impregnate that girl or he will do so himself. He wants the East. Tywin Lannister is a profiteer. Last time there was a war he managed to overthrow the Targaryens, fill his pockets with riches and put his daughter in the North. This time his blood holds the North. He has the West, and theoretically holds the rightful heiress to the East. King’s Landing will fall to Jon and his army. Our father will put Gendry Baratheon back in the Throne and have my daughter as queen. Her children will have Lannister blood in their veins. Arya’s children will marry your children. My grandson with your granddaughter or perhaps my granddaughter with your grandson and in that case father will finally have a Lannister king.”

Cersei arrived to the same conclusion he had. “He’s merely a man. He will die before his supposed great-grandchildren take a breath.” Tyrion responded.

“Does it matter?” She grabbed a bottle of wine and poured him and herself a glass.

“I suppose it doesn’t.” He said tiredly.

“Any news?” She would ask the same question every afternoon when she came to work with him. He would shake his head.

“Nothing. Jon should be preparing to march down to King’s Landing. As far as I am aware they will have to wait until Stannis and Gendry sort Renly.”

“That will take a couple of weeks.” Cersei mused.

“We’re stuck with each other for a while.” Tyrion raised his glass and drank.

She smiled. “All I want is to see Catelyn’s head on a spike.”

He pulled a face. “You shouldn’t speak so freely of your hatred for the queen.”

“Oh, spare me. Your child bride should know her family is filled with traitors, scum of the worst kind.” She spat out.

“Much like ours.” Tyrion commented.

“Worse than ours. You wedded the child more than two months ago and her mother hasn’t even asked for ransom. Lysa does not love her child and it seems Catelyn doesn’t love her niece as much as she presumes to do.”

Cersei was correct. Westeros knew of his marriage to Sansa and neither Lysa nor Catelyn send ravens inquiring about Sansa. Lannisters at least protected each other.

“Father sends his regards.” Tyrion switched the topic and they worked on finances and taking care of Winterfell and the Wall. Benjen would lead another ranging in a few days’ time and he required food, men and arms. Tyrion provided the absolutely necessary.

They spent the rest of the afternoon working and preparing plans for the next few weeks. “The Iron men were driven back by Jon’s bannermen. Bolton’s men captured Arryn’s ward.”

His sister rolled her eyes. “Good. Now Bolton can finally be useful for something.”

The heir to the Iron Islands was a foolish boy with grandiose deliriums. The North couldn’t be overtaken with a few ships. The boy was as good as dead. Balon Greyjoy must have known. Why then send his last living heir to a suicide mission?

“We should be careful. Ned never quite liked Roose Bolton.”

Tyrion nodded, “Jon does not fully trust him either. He sent the Mormont women and half the Hornwood force with Bolton.”

Cersei smiled. “Jon is his father’s son.” There were few things Tyrion was certain about. His father hated him. Jaime loved him. Anything could be bought with enough gold and the right words. He was clever, smarter than most people and Cersei loved all her children.

The man was always curious as to why Cersei accepted Jon as her child. He guessed now it was good a time as ever.

“Forgive me if I intrude but why didn’t you get rid of Jon when Robb was born?”

Cersei looked at him with doubt and then spoke frankly. “I loved him too much. He was mine own from the moment I fed him. Ned and I never expected to have children. I don’t think you remember, after all you were less than two and ten when I became Ned’s wife but I had a stillborn, and two miscarriages after that. Maester Luwin gave up on my body when suddenly I became pregnant after you and Ned parted south to fight the Ironborn.”

His sister must need a confidant. They were spending a lot of time together. He realized Cersei wasn’t the same spoiled, cruel brat that made his life miserable when she was bored or ignored him completely when she was in one of her good moods. The siblings found common ground in their mutual hatred of father. Tyrion truly loved his nieces and nephews, all of them equally. Maybe he loved Robb, Bran and Jon better.

“Jon was so small, he looked so much like my own baby. I thought about killing Jon and then he opened his eyes and I thought my Joffrey would have had those same eyes. I couldn’t think of not loving him. I didn’t love Ned. Father always said loved was for children and the weak. I became a mother then and when Robb was born. I thought I would love my flesh better than Jon.” Cersei laughed.

“If you ever say anything of this I will slowly skin you.” She smiled. “When Robb was born. Jon came through the door looking for me and saw Robb on my arms. Eddard was on his way from the Iron Islands. Jon was so confused. He was so young but he must have understood Robb was his. He climbed the bed and kissed Robb’s forehead. Jon deserves to be Lord of Winterfell. He is my first-born. I am very proud of him.” Cersei spoke of her children with so much love. Tyrion didn’t think she noticed. He smiled at his sister; he did that now and she smiled back at him.

“Dinner will be served shortly.” A servant said shortly after their exchange.

“Another dull evening with my sister and daughter.” Cersei gulped more wine.

“Do be fair. They are perfectly well bred.” Tyrion offered his arm. Cersei took it and they walked down to the main halls.

Tyrion observed as his wife and niece conversed in hushed tones. They stopped once he and his sister reached the table.

“Is something the matter?” Cersei asked with a cold smile.

“No Lady Stark, all is well.” Roslin said softly. She looked worse than ever.

Maester Luwin expressed his desire to examine her. The girl however refused to be near the man. Luwin looked at him with worried eyes. Sansa looked as beautiful as ever.

“Where are my sons?” Cersei asked to no one in particular.

“Rickon is fast asleep my lady. He was fussy but Osha put him to sleep. Bran is asleep too.”

Cersei smiled at maester Luwin. As expected by his sister dinner was a dull and slow affair. He counted the minutes to be with Shae. She was a soft balm for his soul although she grew restless. She complained of the cold, the lack of attention and the fact that she had to serve his legal wife. Bronn was of no help. His advice was to fuck both women but keep them apart. “That was your mistake. You should have taken up with another whore not bring your old whore along with your bride.”

He walked toward his rooms after a draining dinner. Cersei disliked Sansa and Roslin and was particularly cutting tonight. It was fruitless to try and talk to his wife. The girl detested him. She was treated fairly and enjoyed many privileges. He was sure to let Cersei know that she wasn’t a prisoner. His sister did not like her but let her be as far as he knew. Tyrion arrived to his quarters and found a very naked Shae on his bed.

“Come to bed my Lion.” She invited him by uncrossing her shapely legs. Tyrion smiled filthily and hurried to the bed.

He spent the rest of the night lost in Shae. He slept peacefully, sated and in the arms of a willing woman.

It was close to dawn but not quite yet when a servant almost knocked his door down. Tyrion woke startled. Shae was still fast asleep. “Wake up now.” He said and ushered her to clothe herself.

“Come at once. Maester Luwin needs you.” The woman said hurriedly.

He dressed quickly and waddled alongside the servant. They reached quarters by the west side of the castle. “Lady Roslin is sick.” The maester said when he looked at him.

“She has measles. The illness has progressed more than I expected and I can’t treat her any longer. I can only ease her pain.” The man said sorrowfully.

Cersei was by his side. “Foolish girl.” She didn’t look worried at all.

“Why aren’t you worried?” Tyrion hissed when the maester went inside the room.

“I had measles as a child. My children all had it but for Rickon. It is not an uncommon disease.”

“Is this why you have removed Roslin from her quarters?” He asked feeling his heart rate slow down once more.

“Yes. I also ordered to burn her clothes. Do not worry dear brother; your lovely wife is inside her quarters. I will have maester Luwin check on her.” Cersei spoke without much affect. She didn’t like her daughter in law after all.

“Wait to send the ravens. I doubt Jon will get distracted by the news but it is best if we know for sure the girl is dead.”

Tyrion was annoyed. “Why then have you interrupted my sleep?”

Cersei arched a perfect eyebrow, “you should be with your wife; in her quarters. Yet you share bed with another woman.”

“By the gods. Must we always speak of this?” He hissed back.

“The castle has ears. You brought men and women with you; spies.” Cersei replied.

Tyrion sighed, “thank you.”

She nodded, “I will see to your wife now. I suggest you move your belongings back to your original quarters.” She left then.

The man waited for maester Luwin to come back. He sat down by the door and thought about what Cersei said. He brought father’s men with him. The man was blind, happy to be away from his father. He never thought about anyone reporting back to Lord Lannister. Luwin stepped out the door an hour later. “Lady Roslin is no longer with us. I am afraid her body did not withstand the illness.”

Tyrion nodded. “Arrange for her to be buried in the goodswoods.”

“We burn our dead.” Luwin said somberly.

“Burn her then.” Tyrion said and went to the study. He sent the news to his father and Jon.

The man returned to his quarters. He would return to the lovely and spacious quarters that were his since he visited Winterfell before Robb was alive. Shae wasn’t in his bed anymore. That definitely aided his resolve. He didn’t think he would be able to leave her side if she were there with him.

The next morning dawned bright and early as if mocking him. Tyrion heard the chirp of the birds. He wanted to close his eyes. He went down for breakfast and found Cersei, Bran and Sansa. Six months ago he would have rued the sight of his sister but now he welcomed her bright green gaze. She was an intermediary between Sansa and him. His wife respected her and thought her kind. Cersei put up a front in reality she couldn’t stand the girl but she was smart enough to not let it show too much. Lady Stark would berate the girl here and there while appearing to be the epitome of politeness and ladylike manners.

“Have a seat Tyrion.” Cersei motioned to her right.

She wore black, as did Sansa. The girl must have learned of Roslin’s untimely death. “Thank you sweet sister.” He kissed her hand. Cersei smiled.

“Sansa and I will be praying in the sept for Roslin’s soul.” Cersei said demurely.

Bran looked solemn too. “Forgive me my lady but I am concerned for your welfare. Have you had the measles?”

His wife nodded, “Yes my lord, as a child.” He nodded and proceeded to eat.

They burned Roslin’s body that early afternoon. Tyrion had never seen such a speedy funeral. It was for the best. He realized no one crossed more than three words with the young woman except for Sansa perhaps.

His young wife looked affected but as Cersei she had a stoic demeanor to her. Bran looked confused and too solemn for a child his age.

They returned to the castle. “Stay with Bran. I have ordered the servants to move your belongings back to your quarters.” Cersei said as they walked back to the castle.

Tyrion stayed with Bran. “Uncle, is Tommen alive?”

“I don’t know Bran.” He spoke honestly to the child. They were by the grounds writing lessons for Bran. Osha was with Rickon.

“I dreamed him and father were alive. I was Summer in that dream and I saw the other direwolves too. Nymeria and Lady are together. Grey Wind, Ghost and Shaggydog are together too. Lan and I were here with you and mother.”

Tyrion smiled. “I am sure it was a very nice dream Bran.”

The boy nodded, “I miss my sisters a lot and Tommen. Joanna used to kiss my forehead and sneak me sweets. Arya and I fought with swords and Tommen liked me best out of all of us.”

“If I tell you something will you keep it a secret?” He asked his nephew.

Bran nodded, “You’re my favorite nephew.” He whispered.

“You’re my favorite uncle too.” Bran smiled and continued with his writing.

Tyrion dreaded going back to the Castle. He listened to Cersei and stayed with Bran for the rest of the day. Bronn found them trying to sneak pastries out of the kitchens.

“You could have said something. I happen to know the cook very well.” The sellsword waggled his eyebrows.

Tyrion smirked. Osha took his nephew, something about his mother asking for him.
Bronn and him remained in the kitchens drinking wine. “I need you to have Shae removed for the main castle.”

The man laughed. “Making sense after all. I will arrange for her to go South in a few weeks.”

Tyrion frowned, “no. I’ll have her in a place near the gates of Winterfell.”

The man looked like he wanted to say more but remained quiet. “As you wish but this is not going to have a good ending for you. Mark my words.”

“I need you to do as I say.” Tyrion was not ready to let go of Shae. He wouldn’t do so not to please father or Cersei.

“I have a place in mind. Talk to her and tell her I will meet her there tomorrow night but take her from Winterfell before dinner.” The heir to Casterly Rock did not want Shae to know he was moving to Sansa’s quarters. It would cause her to be less pliable.

“As you wish but don’t say I didn’t tell you so when you are knee deep in shit.” Bronn drank more from his goblet.

Tyrion Lannister ate slowly, methodically and tried to prolong dinner until it was obvious he had to retire.

“Cersei, I would like to speak more about…” She cut him off.

“I’m sorry dear I am terribly tired. Today’s events are more than I can bear. I am sure my sister is tired too. Osha, carry Bran to his rooms and meet me after. Have Rickon ready for his feeding.” His sister talked to the wildling woman and kissed him and Sansa goodnight.

They were the only ones in the hall. He could tell she was tense and nervous. “Do not fret my lady. My promise still stands. I shan’t touch you, not until you want me to.” He said openly.

Sansa’s stance softened. “I shall retire now. Goodnight my lord.” He watched her go.

He stayed in the cozy library by the East wing until it was absolutely necessary. Eventually he retired to his quarters. Sansa was fast asleep huddled under the different furs. Tyrion undressed to his breeches. The bed was big; they wouldn’t have to touch each other. It would be fine. He had bedded his fair share of women, in all shapes, ages and sizes. He would be controlled. Tyrion couldn’t say he was completely indifferent to Sansa. The girl was beautiful after all and he was drawn to her. He wanted to protect her. He closed his eyes and willed his body and mind to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 43

Sansa felt her pillow move. She opened her eyes; she was hugging her husband. The thought was abhorrent. The young woman startled and moved away from the man next to her.

She shouldn’t have; her lord husband startled and woke up. “I’m so sorry.” She squeaked and shied away from him. He was half naked. The girl looked away from him and hid under the furs.

“I shall give you privacy my lady.” Sansa heard sounds around her. She surfaced from her shelter under the covers only when she couldn’t hear any more sounds. The woman stood up and breathed easier.

She chose to wear a dark blue gown because of Roslin. The young woman did not like Roslin Frey but the dead deserved respect.

Sansa came down to the Great Hall. Lady Stark was seated, as was Tyrion. She ate quietly as Lady Stark and Tyrion spoke of the war and ravens.

She finished her meal and went to the needling rooms. Needlepoint always calmed her down. The rhythmicity of it grounded her. She thought about King’s Landing and aunt Catelyn. She thought about Anna, Cassana and Alayne. She missed them dearly but it was best that she was here.

For years the young girl had been afraid of her mother. She ran away from the Eyrie hoping to find her way to King’s Landing and aunt Catelyn. All came to a head when mother accused her of being Lord Baelish’s whore. She threatened to throw her from the moon door if she even looked at him. Apparently lord Baelish was to visit the Eyrie. Sansa escaped then.

Lannister found her and now she was here in Winterfell. Sometimes Sansa thought about her aunt and the horrible rumors about her. It was too horrible but she couldn’t help but think about it now. Father loved her very much. He used to call her little dove. Father told her something despicable the night before he died. “We have to be careful little dove. I need you to open your eyes and ears. Do not trust Littlefinger. The rumors about your aunt are true. Do not believe anyone but me. Now run along and be with your cousins. Those innocent girls; I must plead to Robert.”

Those were the last words Sansa ever heard from her father. She didn’t understand then but now she did. Father knew her cousins were not Baratheons as did Lord Stark and now they were both dead. So the young woman kept quiet and bid her time to leave. Lord Baelish looked at her with lustful eyes. He stayed with mother and she made all those terrible sounds. Sansa wasn’t stupid. She knew about sex and what transpired between a man and a woman. She thought she would stay safe if she never spoke but she wasn’t. Lord Baelish came at night and forced her. He raped her the night after she reached the Eyrie and raped her every night until he left for King’s Landing. Sansa did not want to remember all he did to her. She wanted to forget. When mother threatened she hadn’t been scared of the moon door. She had been scared of Lord Baelish coming back to the Eyrie of having to endure his hands groping her. His beard hurting her, his moist pants on her skin. She shuddered thinking about it. He would sneak out of mother’s room and force her to be with him. She remembered panicking and thinking she wouldn’t have him inside of her one more time.

She fled but was captured. It could be worse. She could be in the Eyrie with mother and Lord Baelish or starving in the King’s Road.

Life in Winterfell was far more pleasant than she expected. She had a warm bed; food, shelter and everyone treated her with respect. Lady Stark was nothing but pleasant to her. She believed aunt Catelyn to be evil. Her sister in law spoke of the war eloquently or so she thought. Sansa didn’t know much about war but Cersei Stark did and she spoke with her brother of King’s Landing falling to Jon Stark’s and his army. They spoke of Gendry Baratheon taking the throne too. Sansa used to love the prince. She thought he was dashing and brave. Aunt Catelyn hated him but Sansa and her cousins loved the boy. She really thought she would be Gendry’s queen. She was the best candidate after all.

She remembered when they came North and Gendry fell in love with that little Arya girl. Sansa’s hopes were crushed in an instant, as were Joanna Stark’s hopes. Robbin died soon after and she grieved for her baby brother. Mother became more erratic then. Robbin kept her sane but with him gone. Sansa shook her head; it wouldn’t help her if she thought about her mother and the time when Lord Baelish sullied her. Mother didn’t love her, she never did and it seemed neither did aunt Catelyn.

When the Lannisters captured Sansa she foolishly thought that aunt Catelyn would send ravens asking for her release. No ravens ever came. Lady Stark made sure to casually mention that fact every other day. She should feel less contented here. She was a prisoner of the Lannisters.

Roslin made sure to remind her of her status every day. The late woman was jealous of her. Sansa knew why, lady Stark preferred her. Her sister in law talked to her and took her opinions into account. Roslin tried hard to be likeable but she wasn’t enough. Sansa took pity on her and tried to be friendly with the other woman. Roslin however rebuffed every of her attempts. Sansa gave up and tried to be as invisible as possible. She had practice in that; she could stay polite and quiet for months at a time. She would try to hide and be unseen in the Eyrie. If she stayed quiet and unseen no one could hurt her. So she stayed out of Roslin’s sights to avoid the woman’s cutting words and glares. She didn’t have to stay hidden too long for Roslin contracted the measles and died from it. Maybe if the woman hadn’t refused her attempts at friendship she would still be alive.

The young woman worked at her needlepoint with steady fingers until her sister in law interrupted her.

She sat by her with baby Rickon on her arms. “Do you want to hold him?”

Sansa didn’t realize she was looking at the dark haired babe. She didn’t have much experience with young children. Mother refused to let her near Robbin and all her cousins were not much younger than she was.

“Oh I couldn’t.” She was surprised by her request. Lady Stark never asked her to hold her infant son before today.

“Of course you can. Rickon is an easy babe. He had a rough start in life but maybe we all did.” Lady Stark lovingly placed her youngest son in her arms.

Sansa looked at the baby. He was a handsome boy, big grey eyes, beautiful porcelain skin and a sweet smile. Little by little Sansa grew comfortable. Her sister in law took some needles and began her needlepoint while she looked at the babe in her arms and pulled faces at him.

“You could have one of those if you wanted to.” Cersei said while looking up from her needlepoint work.

The young woman blanched at the thought. “I can’t.” She said as quickly and dropped her gaze. She shouldn’t have said anything like that. She didn’t want lady Stark to hate her. Cersei loved her baby brother. She cared for him and they spoke all the time.

What would her lord husband say or do. He avoided her; she was perfectly fine with that but it bothered her that he wasn’t more discrete with his dalliances. Sansa knew he kept a whore the whole castle did and so did her sister in law. The girl foolishly asked her to remove the whore from the castle.

“You’ll be happy to know my brother plans to move his whore to another keep.” Sansa looked up and nodded.

“He’ll still visit her.” Sansa said in a weak voice.

Lady Stark dropped her needles, “does that bother you?”

She briefly thought about it. It did bother her but not for the reasons the woman thought. Naively she thought that having her, as a wife would be enough for Tyrion. It was for the best if her husband was occupied elsewhere he was less likely to seek her companionship or worse her bed.

“Not at all.” She replied as honestly as she could.

“Good.” Lady Stark replied. Sansa couldn’t help but look confused.

The blonde woman smiled sadly. “I will give you some small piece of advice Sansa. Do not grow attached to my brother, not because he isn’t a good man. As far I know he cares deeply for you and wishes your welfare but the more people you love the weaker you are. You’ll do things for them that you know you shouldn’t do. You’ll act the fool to make them happy or safe. Love no one but your children. On that front a mother has no choice.”

“Shouldn’t I love Tyrion?” Sansa asked a little puzzled.

“You can try. It is a wonderful sentiment to have.” She smiled sadly.

Sansa was quiet. She wanted to ask if lady Stark loved her own husband but it was obvious she once had. So quiet she was. The other woman didn’t push her to say or do anything. The young girl thought her sister in law was finished with her advices and inquiries when the woman spoke again.

“I was once in a similar position to yours. Only I did my duty and gave my husband heirs and heiresses.” Sansa heard the tone of reproach.

“I’m sorry my lady but I can’t bring myself to join with him.” Sansa’s eyes were downcast. She pictured Baelish’s rough hands parting her legs and shook.

Rickon began to fuss about. Cersei gently took him from her arms. Sansa looked up. “My brother foolishly entertains your fancies and you’re safe in Winterfell but it wont always be so. Think about our conversations.” The woman left after that.

Sansa always dreamed of children, tall handsome children, not anymore. She refused to think of children or even entertain the idea of becoming a mother if she had to be forced under Tyrion or any other man.

She ate her meals quietly and then hid in one of the libraries until dinner. Sansa was a proper lady and retired early, as did her sister in law. She undressed and hid under the covers. The young girl waited in fear. It was irrational, Tyrion promised to never touch her if she didn’t want to and so far he kept his promise. She despaired under the covers, willing her mind to sleep. She closed her eyes, counted sheep, told herself her favorite tales of knights and fair maidens. Sansa sang old songs and hymns but nothing could quiet the noise inside her head. Nothing could dissipate the doubt that her lord husband would demand she become his wife.

Having to suffer through the act would be the least of her worries. Her husband would learn she wasn’t a maiden. He would learn of her shame. Sansa cried then. Tyrion would cast her aside. What would become of her? They would throw her out of Winterfell. Tywin Lannister was a very powerful man. He could do horrible things. Father told her about the Targaryens; queen Elia and her children.

She felt the door move and dove back to her furs. Sansa tried to breathe easier, calm herself and pretend to be sleeping.

The girl felt the bed dip a little under her husband’s weight. He sighed and remained still. Sansa was as tense as ever and stayed awake half the night. Her eyes closed due to exhaustion more than anything.

She opened her eyes again but this time she met her husband’s mismatched eyes. She never contemplated his eyes before. One was bright green like his siblings and the other very dark brown, almost black.

“Forgive me my lord.” She said quickly and realized they were embracing. She must have slept with her head on his chest. She was mortified.

“Nothing to forgive Sansa and please call me Tyrion. You’re not used to sleeping alone I assume.”

Sansa shook her head. “Cassana couldn’t sleep alone. She would beg aunt Catelyn to let me sleep by her side.”

“The youngest one?” He asked while yawning.

“Yes, she is my favorite cousin. She liked your nephew quite a lot.” Sansa said without thinking. She regained her composure and tensed. Her husband couldn’t care less about her childish recollections. She almost forgot that he was in the opposite side of the war that to him her family was the enemy.

“Which nephew?” He asked and searched her face with his eyes.

“Do tell me.” He prodded after a brief silence. “I shouldn’t be speaking of my family. They’re traitors and liars.”

Her husband frowned. “My sister loved her husband very much. She hates your aunt and does not care about your cousins or your mother. I can’t say I like your mother but do not fear Sansa you can speak freely with me. I am not as prejudiced as Cersei is on this matter.”

Sansa loved her aunt and cousins dearly. “Tommen, the one with the fair hair and grey eyes.”

“Oh yes Tommen, a very handsome boy. He looks a bit like me I think.” Sansa chuckled and the gasped at her stupidity. She expected her lord husband to become angry and lash out but he laughed too. She could see the merriment dancing on his eyes.

Sansa smiled. “She thought him really dashing.”

Tyrion looked sad them. “There isn’t any news about him.”

“I hope he’s well. The gods will keep him safe.” Sansa replied and thought about praying for him the next time she went to the sept.

“Thank you Sansa.” He dressed for breakfast. “It is best if you dress for breakfast. I will wait for you outside.”

“Of course Tyrion.” Sansa replied and averted her eyes when her husband left. She heard him cough.

“The Northern weather.” He said as explanation.

They walked to the Great hall in silence. Sansa believed that as long as she remained quiet she would be fine.

Sansa continued to try and be invisible for two more days. Her husband tried to make conversation and know more about her. He told her things about his childhood and Casterly Rock. Sometimes she was too lonely and would engage him but then she would be reminded of her duties either by Cersei or something as simple as the mention of babies and she would hide and become mute. Tyrion was very kind as was Cersei but they wouldn’t hesitate and hurt her. They were Lannisters; they hurt people. Sansa had to be very careful.

The young woman woke up to a very feverish Tyrion two days after they had their first talk. She shook him some but her husband wasn’t responsive.

Sansa grabbed a robe and ran out to Cersei’s quarters. She knocked hard, “Cersei.” it was the first time she addressed the other woman by her given name.

Her sister in law came out in her nightgown and half asleep. “There is something wrong with Tyrion.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 44

She walked down to Luwin’s quarters. She knocked on the door. “My lady.” The man was dressed and ready for the day.

“There is something happening to Tyrion.” Cersei followed the maester. Sansa was in her quarters waiting for them.

The maester ushered the girl out of the room. Cersei didn’t know what happened.

“What happened?” She asked Sansa quickly.

“I woke up and he was feverish. I shook him but he wouldn’t wake up. I tried shaking him again when you sent me back but he didn’t react.

Cersei nodded. She tried to remember and couldn’t recall if Tyrion had the measles. She assumed he contracted the disease when he was a child but she couldn’t remember.

She tried to remember when she was a child. She remembered her and Jaime with fever and rashes. She remembered mother singing to them. She took care of them. Cersei remembered mother’s big belly and crying because of the rashes. Mother would calm her and she would rub her belly.

The maester left the room. “He has the measles disease.”

“Will he die too?” Sansa asked with some apprehension.

“I do not think so. He will need care. The fever will weaken his body. We have to be careful with him. Lord Tyrion requires constant care at least for the next few days. My lady, I will like to see to young Rickon. We need to be watchful of him. I'm afraid young Rickon would not have such an easy time with this disease as his siblings did.” Cersei nodded.

“Sansa dear, you were exposed to the disease as a child were you not?” The girl was the ideal candidate to take care of Tyrion.

“I was my lady.” The girl trembled.

Cersei arched an eyebrow; “your husband needs you now.”

Sansa paled and shook her head. “Please don't make me.”

The older woman understood that the girl wouldn't be of any help. “Step aside. You will sleep in other quarters until my brother's recovered. Now remove yourself from my sight.” Lady Stark grew annoyed with the girl.

Sansa lowered her gaze and practically ran away from the big bad lioness. Cersei looked at the maester. “Examine Osha too. Have her take care of Rickon.” The woman hesitated before making her decision. Rickon was healthy. He nursed on regular schedules and was livelier ever since she stopped crying so much.

“I assume you will stay with your brother.” Maester Luwin seemed to agree with her decision.

“It is best my lady. You and your brother spend a lot of time together. It is best if we keep young Rickon isolated for the time being. I will have the babe drink goat milk.” The man said with an easy tone.

“How long until Tyrion recovers?” She asked thinking of Rickon too.

“A couple of days. My lady. I am sure you remember when your children contracted the measles. They were able to recover within two weeks. I expect your brother to experience the same. I am only cautious of you because of lady Roslin’s death.”

Cersei nodded. Rickon would be safer if she stayed away at least for the time being. “I will stay with my brother.” The woman didn’t know what made her so readily willing to take care of her baby brother.

She entered the quarters. Tyrion was trashing around. “I will send Jeyne to help you with him. Your ladyship will need to make sure his fever diminishes. I will examine the babe.”

Cersei waited until the maid arrived with cold rags and basins of water. The woman changed the rags on his brother’s forehead.

He was unconscious for that first day. Cersei read and revised Winterfell’s needs. She asked if this was normal and Luwin nodded. “I gave him some milk of the poppy to ease the uncomfortable experience.”

She sighed and settled down in his brother’s quarters. By the second day Tyrion was awake and talking. “What are you doing here?”

“Taking care of you. My little brother, you could be more effusive.” She frowned when Tyrion swatted her hand away from his head.

“Where is Sansa?” He rasped.

“She moved to other quarters. I do not know why you care so much for that girl.” Cersei stubbornly put another cold rag on her brother’s forehead. He frowned and she rolled her eyes.

“You are suffering from measles.” She explained.

“Impossible. I had them when I was a child.” Tyrion replied.

“Apparently you did not. I had them, as did Jaime. You were in mother’s belly if I remember correctly.”

He stiffened a little. Cersei understood that was her fault. Whenever he spoke of mother she would cruelly tell him it was his fault they had no mother.

“Is anyone else infected?” Tyrion grabbed her book and thumbed through it.

“Yes, some servants but no one in our family. Rickon does not show any symptoms. They are quarantined in one of the keeps. Luwin is seeing to them.”

Cersei asked the maid to send for food since Tyrion was hungry. The worst hadn’t passed yet. Tyrion would break up in rashes and his fever would spike. This was the pleasant little brother she was experiencing.

The siblings asked Luwin to bring their papers, ink and more books. Cersei inquired as to Rickon’s health. “The babe is healthy. There aren’t any signs of illness.”

She smiled gently. “You should go with your son.”

Tyrion ate and remained quiet. Cersei read more letters and wrote more to her children. She spent the rest of the day writing and rewriting letters to her children.

She wrote to Joanna first.

My dearest Kitten,

I hope you're well. Please keep writing and taking care of your sister. I believe prince Gendry and lord Baratheon will be on their way to Storm's End when this letter reaches you. My sweetling please take care of yourself. Do not trust so easily and I'm so very sorry you had to see Selyse take her life in such a manner. Your brothers are fine they grow strong and you would love to see Rickon. He loos a lot like your father. I long to see your face until then please keep writing.

With all my love

Mother.

Joanna wrote her every week it seemed. Cersei was surprised to learn Selyse Baratheon committed suicide. Her daughter was shocked and concerned. She was far more impressionable than Arya. She hoped Joanna took her advice and remained guarded. Cersei sighed, she should have insisted in the girl learning more than archery.

Cersei looked to the bed. Tyrion was fast asleep. The woman wrote to Arya then.

My dearest Wolfing,

Be careful. Now that your prince and Lord Baratheon have marched to their ancestral home you have to be cautious. Do not attempt to be anything other than the highborn lady you are. Do not leave your sister's side. Your mouth will get you into trouble if you do not keep quiet and listen. Your brothers are strong. Rickon looks like you and Ned. Arya keep your eyes open my love and remember our words, both our houses my love. Stay safe and protect your sister.

With all my love

Mother

Arya didn't write. Joanna usually included passages in which Arya expressed her opinions. Cersei wrote to her nonetheless. Her daughter was restless. Joanna wanted everyone safe, she wanted all the hurt to disappear. Arya was different. She wanted Catelyn to hurt. If possible Arya wanted to fight. Cersei rested easier knowing Stannis would never grant her daughter's wish.

Cersei wrote to Robb. Her son wrote to her a few weeks announcing that Jon was due to meet him in the Riverlands. Jon would be there now.

My dearest Robb,

I hope you're safe my darling. I wish you would come back home. I trust Jon arrived with good health. Robb please reconsider; come back home. Your uncle can surely manage his own men without your input. At least please ride to Dragonstone and protect your sisters. I didn't raise you to be a soldier. Dearest, please come back to your mother. Bran and Rickon are safe. Your uncle sends his regards too.

With all my love

Mother.

Lady Stark pleaded with his second eldest. Robb would of course ignore her missive. He as Arya did not write. It was different; she had Joanna who wrote about Arya. Robb was alone. Jaime wrote to her once. She burnt the unopened letter. Tyrion must have written because she never received more letters.

Tyrion was awake now. “My face itches.”

Cersei stood up and approached him. He had a red rash on his forehead and cheeks. “You have a rash.”

“Brilliant sweet sister. You are skilled in the arts of the obvious.” He was in one of his moods.

Cersei rolled her eyes. “Do be grateful brother mine. I could easily leave through this door and have your delightful wife nurse you to health.”

Tyrion stood up from the bed and sat by her. He grabbed parchment and a quill. “Who are you writing to?” He asked.

“My children.” She replied. The woman glanced at his sheet of paper and saw he was drawing something.

Cersei looked back at her parchment it was blank. She had to write to Jon. Tyrion sent him a short missive regarding Roslin's death. Lady Stark wrote to him too. Her son did not reply to either uncle or his mother.

My dearest Jon,

I hope you're safe darling. I do not know if you received my letter or your uncle's. I am afraid your lady wife is with the Gods. She perished from the measles disease. Do not worry my love. We are all fine. Your uncle is bedridden but maester Luwin expects him to recover. Dearest, I need you to be the strong man your father and I raised. You have to bring them to their knees. Ned wouldn't agree but perhaps you and I are the only ones who understood your father's honorable nature. Do not fret my dearest son. Avenge your father. Bring them to their knees. I worry for you and your siblings. Jon, please, please. Do your mother a favor. Send Robb to Dragonstone. Have him bring your sisters back to me. He will only hear you. Sweetling please. I would be easier if I had them by my side. Your brothers are well. Bran can almost walk with some canes your uncle built for him. He is so determined to succeed. Rickon is well. He grows strong and looks much like Ned. He looks like you too.

With all my love

Mother

Cersei wrote and rewrote her letter for Jon more than three times. She was not entirely happy with the result but it would have to do. She needed to convey her desperation to Jon. Her son was the lord of Winterfell and could send Robb back. She knew it was almost impossible that he would heed her advice. Robb was his own man now and there was a possibility that he wouldn't listen to his eldest brother. Jon could opt to not send Robb anywhere. It was why this letter was so important.

The maester entered the quarters and examined Tyrion. “The rash should proceed. You are progressing nicely my lord.”

“I rather not be here.” Tyrion grumbled. Cersei rolled her eyes and asked about Rickon.

“He is well my lady. Osha tends to him as you requested. She stays with Bran and Hodor. The young lad is growing strong. The direwolves watch over them.” Maester Luwin said while examining her brother’s chest.

Cersei smiled. It was good to know her youngest sons were safe. “Have there been any ravens?” she wanted to have news of her sons and King’s Landing.

“Not one my lady.” The older man finished his examination and proclaimed Tyrion had still a few more uncomfortable nights ahead of him.

“Send these and send a man to the kingsroad. I need news of the war.” Cersei handed the letters to the maester.

Tyrion made small talk for the rest of the day. Cersei swatted his hands away from rash. “Stop. You will make it worse.” She repeated as she pressed cold compresses to her brother’s skin.

Tyrion grumbled. “That’s cold.”

“Ungrateful man.” Cersei continued with her compresses.

She was exhausted by the time Tyrion finally slept. The next few days consisted of the same routine. Tyrion grew restless and impatient while Cersei treated him with patience and delicate care.

Cersei rested the fifth night until she woke up to a handmaiden shaking her gently. “M’lady”

Lady Stark sat up; a frown marred her face. “M’lady said to wake her if anything happened.” The woman looked nervous.

“Lord Tyrion’s fever spiked quickly.” Maester Luwin tended to her brother. Tyrion shivered and trashed around. “What can I do?” She said quickly.

“Help me bring the fever down. Keep pressing the cold rags to his forehead.” The maester handed her the rags. They managed to bring the fever down an hour after she woke up.

“We’ll have to monitor him the rest of the night.” Maester Luwin commented once Tyrion was back on his bed. They had to bathe him with ice-cold water. Cersei remembered seeing Tyrion naked when he was a babe. She saw her brother naked again but this time it was a man’s body with stunted legs.

Cersei helped the maid change Tyrion into bedclothes. They remained watching him until he opened his eyes. Tyrion’s eyes were glazed over. He whimpered and cried. “Mother, mother.” Her brother cried pitifully. “Please help me restrain him now. He will harm himself if we let him keep on like this.” Maester Luwin took action. He restricted Tyrion’s movements. Cersei moved behind her brother to keep his head and shoulders still. Two maids kept his arms still while Luwin held onto her brother’s legs.

“Mother, please don’t leave. Mother.” Tyrion’s face contorted with pain. She was confused. The man kept looking at empty air.

“Mother, mother please, come back.” Her brother trashed with more vigor.

The maester’s hold on her brother’s legs weakened. He looked up at her, “My lady, come by my side.” Luwin exhorted her to leave her place by Tyrion’s head.

She stayed by the maester’s side. Tyrion looked at her. “Mother, please don’t leave me. Please stay here.” Her brother tried to reach her with one of his arms but the maids held onto his arms.

“He thinks I’m her.” Cersei concluded. She felt discomfited. Her brother hallucinated it was her. It was cruel and ironic. For years she tormented him, repudiated him and now in his delirium Tyrion believed her to be their mother. Tyrion grew restless if that was even possible.

“My lady it is best if he remained still.” Luwin commented.

Cersei didn’t have any other choice. Tyrion was her only companion, the only intelligent being and her equal. She tried to rationalize her actions. Lady Stark was not ready to admit that she cared for her little brother. Years of hatred and contempt did not go away in a couple of months. Their circumstances were extraordinary. They only had each other for intellectual conversation and companionship. Luwin was her advisor, Osha lacked finesse, the children were young and Sansa was a blithering idiot.

Cersei reached to him. Tyrion quieted, he calmed a bit. She sat by his side and sang to him. Her brother stopped his fidgeting. He leaned into her touch. The woman carded her fingers through his blonde hair. It was very soft; her baby brother had very fine and soft hair. She sang the songs she sang to her children when they were sick. Cersei found out that Tyrion calmed down when she heard her voice just as Robb did. Her Robb was the hardest to comfort. She shooed the maids away. There was no need because Tyrion clung to her torso and slept peacefully just as Robb did when he was sick.

Maester Luwin stayed in her cot while Cersei slept by her brother’s side.

Cersei took care of Tyrion the whole night. She wiped his sweat, gave him water and sang to him. The maester left when it was sure Tyrion’s fever had broken and he was sleeping peacefully.

Tyrion woke up disoriented a day and a half later. Cersei didn’t dare leave his side. She stayed with him. “Why are you in my bed?” Her brother asked with a raspy voice.

“Taking care of you.” Cersei said simply.

Tyrion moved away from her lap. He looked uncomfortable. “Thank you.” He said awkwardly.

Cersei stood up. “Jeyne, draw a bath for my brother.”

He looked better and the rash seemed to have diminished.

“Why were you in my bed?” He asked when the maid helped him out of the bed and led him to where the tub was.

“Leave now.” She gestured for Jeyne to leave.

“What are you doing?” Tyrion asked while clutching his robe closer to his body.

Cersei rolled her eyes. “Tyrion, do get over yourself. I have seen you naked.”

Her brother frowned. “Your fever spiked. We had to bathe you and keep you cold.” Cersei said.

“This is not the time for modesty. Do get on with it.” It helped Cersei to think of Tyrion as one of her children when they were sick.

Her brother complied. “Tell me what happened.” He queried. Cersei grabbed a sponge and lathered his hair and arms. “You’ll have to lather the rest.” The woman rinsed her brother’s hair.

“Why are you doing this? This isn’t like you. We hate each other.” Tyrion spluttered when the water entered his mouth.

“You are my brother.” Cersei said tightly.

Tyrion moved away from her grasp. “I have been your brother since birth. This is the first time you have offered me some kindness.”

Cersei moved to rinse more soap from his hair. She wouldn’t apologize, couldn’t do it.

Tyrion seemed resigned to not have an answer on the matter. He lathered his body. “What happened yesterday?”

“Maester Luwin and I tended to you. Your fever increased. You confused me with mother. I held your head and sang to you.” Tyrion didn’t say anything and let her rinse the soap from his hair.

“How much longer do I have to stay here?” Her brother sullenly asked.

“Two more days.” Cersei replied while asking for the maids to fetch more water.

“I can’t stay here any longer. I must not be contagious anymore.” Tyrion said, their previous conversation forgotten. Lannisters did not discuss their feelings. Cersei and Tyrion were lions of Casterly Rock. They were proud, arrogant and above all did not openly apologize. They had nothing to apologize to anyone. They were predators and did not bow to anyone. Lions were not weak.

“The maester believes it will be prudent to have you quarantined for a few more days, lest your health worsens.”

The maid brought more water. Tyrion was still weak from his illness. He needed help getting clothed. Cersei remained in the room. The man looked at her defiantly as if daring her to jest or say something cruel. She was quiet and asked Jeyne to bring them breakfast and for Osha to bring her children. Maester Luwin believed the contagious stage was over. He felt confident that her boys were healthy enough to visit her and their uncle. The man even assured her she could return to her quarters but Cersei wanted to remain by her brother’s side. She tried to excuse her behavior by stating that Tyrion deserved the best care and she had to provide him with the best care as the Lady of Winterfell.

“I don’t understand why are you still here. You are free to go sweet sister.” Tyrion was a smart man and understood that if the children were free to come into the room, she was free to leave said room.

“And leave you here. You would probably have your whore here in less than two minutes. I prefer to monitor you.”

Tyrion grumbled but welcomed the visitors. Osha brought Rickon and Bran with her. Jeyne brought breakfast. Osha placed Bran by Tyrion’s side. “Hello uncle. I have to tell you everything that’s happened.” Her son said effusively while Tyrion ate.

Cersei held Rickon and asked Osha about the castle and any news. “No ravens m’lady. Nothing, the old man does not lie this time.” Osha said.

Lady Stark glanced over to Tyrion and her son. They were busily speaking about horses and how Bran rode his mare around the yard the afternoon before yesterday.

“Lady Sansa?” She asked gently.

Osha looked furtively at Tyrion. She cries in her room all day and night. She doesn’t eat, sleep or leave the rooms you assigned to her.

Could it be that the girl felt affection for her brother? Cersei speculated and discarded the idea of affection. It took her years to love Ned and he was handsome did not have whores or drank himself to stupor. Sansa was shallow, forever thinking of songs and knights. There was something else. Cersei rocked Rickon on her arms and asked Osha her opinion.

The wildling looked confused and then spoke. “She is not with child. I have seen women cry for weeks when they are with children. Her moon blood comes, as it should. She is a strange girl, she is.”

“Keep your eyes open Osha. Come at once if any ravens come. It is most disconcerting. Alert me of any ravens.” Cersei worried. They had not received any ravens since the siege at Torrhen’s Square. That was almost three weeks ago. She needed news about the war.

Cersei spent the afternoon with her children. Tyrion asked for his sellsword to visit him. The man appeared in the quarters once the children were gone. Cersei moved to her quarters. She needed a bath and a new dress. She entered his brother’s quarters when her brother and the sellsword where in the thickest of a conversation.

The men stopped talking as soon as she entered. “Please do not stop on my account.”

She sat next to her brother. The other man looked at Tyrion. “Do continue.” She motioned to the man and smiled.

“Sweet sister, it is best if you return to your quarters.” He said with a mockingly sweet tone.

“How could I leave you brother mine? Now please do continue Bronn is it?” She enjoyed Tyrion’s annoyed face. She didn’t intend to hurt him in the least. She only wanted some distraction. The castle was dull without her children.

“Yes, m’lady.” The man kissed her hand. She smiled.

“Now, you were probably talking of your whore.” Tyrion rolled his eyes. Bronn smirked.

“Do tell me. How is she? Where is she?” She asked the man. Bronn in turn looked at Tyrion as if asking for permission to speak.

Her brother nodded. “She is fine m’lady. Bored now that the lord does not visit her.”

Cersei smirked. “He will not visit her any time soon. What would you do Bronn?”

Tyrion frowned. “You don’t have to answer. Cersei, stop meddling.”

“I only want you to see sense. Tyrion, you took a vow. Sansa is your lawfully wedded wife. Leave the whore. Your wife is a maiden; every night she continues to do so you are at peril. Bed her; give her children. Cast the whore aside; at least until you put a child in Sansa’s belly and this war is over. Once you and your wife are in the Eyrie you can have as many whores as you can. I doubt lady Sansa would have many complaints.”

Bronn sniggered, “She does have a point. Although I would fuck my wife and my whore.”

Tyrion looked at her. “I will not give her up.”

Cersei sighed, “you are too stubborn for your own good. Know this little brother, that whore will not set a foot in Winterfell.”

Her brother poured wine for them. “You should not drink, not until you are recovered.” She drank from her cup.

Cersei knew in where Tyrion kept her whore by the end of the night. She was in one of the small keeps near the gates. “Technically she is not in Winterfell.” Tyrion said while still drinking.

“I will not do anything little brother. Not yet.” She conceded.

Bronn left after midnight. He swayed away.

She slept in her cot that night. Tyrion refused to stay in bed the following morning and he dressed to have breakfast in the Great Hall. Cersei tried to reason with him but her brother would not hear any reasons.

“It will be your fault if you die.” She said as they walked hand in hand to the Great Hall.

They sat for breakfast. Tyrion buttered his toast and spoke with Bran. Rickon was fast asleep. “Where is my wife?”

“She does not feel well and decided to stay in her quarters my lord.” Maester Luwin commented.

Cersei couldn’t care less. Sansa proved to be just as useless as she first thought. Lady Stark despised weakness.

Tyrion frowned but continued eating. “Maester Luwin. Any ravens?”

“None, my lady. I sent your letters as you commanded.” Luwin led her to Eddard’s study.

Tyrion joined her shortly after riding around the grounds for a bit. She addressed her brother. “Why aren’t there any ravens? Are you hiding something from me? Don’t lie, I know if you are.” Cersei said crossly. It wouldn’t be the first Luwin hid information to keep her in good health.

Tyrion inched closer to her chair. “I am not hiding anything from you sister.”

They worked all morning. They discussed Winterfell and attended to the commoners. They were finished with the last commoner at last. She sent for Sansa and Bran it was almost time for lunch. The Luwin burst into the hall before she could order the maids to serve the food. Cersei saw him with a stack of letters.

“My lady.” He grinned. The old man looked so happy. The last time she saw him grin like that was when Bran was born.

She was confused as was Tyrion. The old man was out of breath and shoved a letter in her hands. It was simply addressed; it read My Lioness. The letter had the Stark seal.

The woman broke the seal. Her heart thumped inside her chest. There was only one person in the world that addressed her as such: Ned, her Ned. He was dead. His head was somewhere on a spike in King’s Landing. Catelyn did not have the decency to send her his bones. Cersei face betrayed her emotions. She read the letter searching for cue words. Her eyes ran over the letters. “I’m alive. Tommen is well. I’m so sorry my love.” All she could read was “I’m alive, I’m alive. Tommen is well.” She recognized the handwriting as that of her husband. She let out a laugh, pure bliss and happiness.

Tyrion looked at her with surprised eyes. He didn’t see the seal. He didn’t know what was happening. Cersei cried, she was crying and didn’t even realize. Her brother stood up and came near her chair. “Cersei, sister, what in the world…” He couldn’t finish because Cersei Stark wouldn’t let him. She hugged him fiercely. Lady Stark hugged her little brother, as she should have all those years ago when they became motherless. The woman kissed his cheek.

“You’re worrying me Cersei.” Tyrion said. She kissed his cheek again. “Ned is well. He is alive as is Tommen. He has Tommen.”

Her brother looked at her as if she’d gone mad. “Read it for yourself.” He scanned the page. Cersei was glad he was such an avid reader. He looked at her with bright eyes and returned her hug. They laughed. Cersei kissed his forehead and cheeks.

“They’re alive.” She chanted. Sansa, Bran and Osha found them like that laughing, with big smiles on their faces.

She ran to Bran and hugged him. “Your father is alive as is Tommen.” She held onto Bran who grinned. He didn’t grin like that since he woke up from his fall.

Chapter Text

Chapter 45

“How is it that we have Lady Arya Stark is in our ranks? Why was she half-naked in your bed? Stannis Baratheon was furious. He asked Davos to escort lady Stark to another quarters. His nephew looked ashamed, face down.

“Did you defile her? Were you as low as your father to sully a highborn lady?”

They were a day away from Storm's End. Stannis went to check on his nephew. He wanted to discuss strategy with him. It was high time the boy learned about his kingdom and how to rule it. He was taken aback when he found his nephew embracing the youngest Stark girl.

“Uncle no, I didn't, we've never. I love her. She will be my wife, my queen.” The boy was flustered.

Stannis ground his teeth. “I will not have you behaving as a baseborn bastard.”

Stormy blue eyes meet his own stormy blue eyes. “I am a bastard. My mother was a tavern wench.” Gendry's voice shook with ire.

Stannis ground his teeth once more. “You are a king. You are the king of the Seven Kingdoms.” He was exasperated. Stannis knew Renly would be hard to handle and now this. He should have suspected it. The girl was a handful. She wanted to come with them. The other Stark girl glared at her and shook her head. That older Stark girl was a good influence to her sister and his daughter. Arya Stark raved and glared at him and his nephew. She refused to say farewell to their host. He remembered quite clearly that Gendry hadn't been sullen or anything of the sort.

The older Baratheon clenched his fists. “You knew she was among our ranks. You helped her smuggle her way into our camps.”

“Nuncle, please listen. Arya, she swore she would escape Dragon Stone and go North if I didn't take her with me.” Gendry sounded anxious.

“She would have never made it out of the island.” This had to be a jest. His nephew knew better. He spent some months in Dragon Stone. Their security was almost impenetrable.

“You do not know her uncle. Arya is formidable. She would have left I know it. I will protect her uncle. She's brave, and can fight too. You haven't seen her. She's better than many of our soldiers.” His nephew gushed over the girl like an overexcited puppy.

“Foolish boy. She will be sent back with Davos.” Stannis didn't have time to entertain his nephew. The boy was in deeply in love. He needed some sense out inside his head.

“You can't. She will escape. She'll be in danger. Arya can be pigheaded and impulsive.” Gendry said quickly.

“She's a distraction. How are you supposed to lead our host if you are constantly searching for her?” Stannis tried reasoning. Gendry was an obedient boy. He always had been. Gendry listened to him. He always did.

“You love her, as you should. She is to be your wife. Women do not belong in the field. Arya Stark is a highborn lady. She will go back to Dragon Stone. That is final.”

The Gendry he knew would have never contradicted him. “If Arya goes. I go.”

Stannis felt his blood boil. He hated when others defied him. “Your kingdom needs you. This war against Catelyn is for you. Eddard Stark, Tywin and Jaime Lannister. Myself, we have tried to safekeep the Seven Kingdoms for you. It is your duty to meet with Renly. It is my duty to guide you and make my brother see reason.”

He could tell Gendry was ashamed. “Arya can fight. She will not go back without a fight. Uncle, please, she will be safer here with us.”

“She will be safer in Dragon Stone, with her sister, with your cousin as she should have remained.” Stannis put an end to their conversation.

His nephew decided otherwise. “Very well uncle. I will march with her. You can’t stop me. I mean it.” Gendry said with as much defiance as the boy could muster.

Stannis did acquiesce even then. “I’d like to see you try.” He left the tent and ordered five men to guard the prince’s tent and twenty men to accompany Lady Arya back to Dragon Stone.

Baratheon went to sleep with an uneasy feeling. Gendry never defied him. He was like a son to him. He remembered when they first met. Robert announced he would legitimize one of his bastards and make him the heir of the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis understood it was the only option since Catelyn was unable to carry more children. He proposed young Edric Storm; the boy was still on the teat by then. It would be easier for Catelyn to care for the boy and also, he was of noble birth. Robert guffawed and refused. He’d found the boy.

“He has our eyes. He’s strong like me. I saw him wielding a hammer. I saw myself.” Stannis accompanied him to Flea Bottom and found Gendry amid armor, dirty and gruff but a Baratheon. The resemblance to Robert when he was young, and to father was uncanny. They rode back to the castle and thus began Gendry Waters’s life as Gendry Baratheon, first of his name and prince of the Seven Kingdoms.

The man closed his eyes and thought of those few months. Gendry was Robert’s image but his character was different. He enjoyed training but he wanted to hear all Stannis had to say about ruling the Kingdoms. He grew closer to him than to Renly and Robert. Stannis enjoyed that. His nieces were not interested in him or Shireen but Gendry was. The boy loved him. Stannis understood it when Robert sent him back to Dragonstone. Gendry raged and plead with his father but it was useless. Stannis went back to Dragonstone.

The man finally found sleep after two hours of tossing and turning on his cot. The sleep wasn’t uninterrupted. Davos entered his tent. “My Lord.” The man shook him awake.

“The prince and his lady have escaped.” Stannis stood up at once.

He dressed as quickly as possible. “They mustn’t be far. Send the men. Find me my horse.” Stannis sent men and rode away trying to find his wayward nephew and that little girl.

He spent the rest of the night looking for them. Stannis was furious. “If Arya goes. I go.” He remembered the boy’s words and ground his teeth harder.

He didn’t find them and gave up by dawn. Davos and him rode back to the encampment to find that his men had the prince and the little Stark girl. They looked fine.

“We found them by a clearing nearby. The horses gave them away.” One of his men said with a smirk.

“How dare you defy me?” Stannis stood in front of his nephew.

“If she goes. I go. We will try again. When she goes I will be behind her.” Gendry replied.

“You will not. You shall obey me, as you always have.” Uncle and nephew glared at each other.

“Take her out of my sight.” Arya fought tooth and nail but the men restrained her and sent her to her tents.

“You will come with me.” Stannis dragged his nephew.

“You won’t stop me. I will go wherever she goes.” Gendry said ardently and with the same glint on his blue eyes.

Stannis glared back. He watched him with some disappointment and annoyance. “Fine, the girl will stay. She will not fight. She will stay behind our lines.”

Gendry’s eyes lit up. “Thank you uncle.” Gendry hugged him hard.

“I will tell her.” He tried to leave the tents but the guards would not let him.

“Come back here. That will be your cot. You’ll see your betrothed tomorrow, after I have a talk with her.” Stannis undressed and settled back on his cot. They had a few hours before their camp moved.

Stannis slept uneasily that night. Gendry however slept like a baby. He watched, lest his nephew tried to escape again.

He stepped out of the tent a few hours later when they set out to leave. He rode with Gendry by his side.

“Where is Arya?” his nephew asked apprehensively.

“She will join us once we set camp.”

They rode until they came to see Lannister Banners. He rode ahead uneasily. Lannisters were not to be trusted. He expected to see Tywin Lannister but instead there he was, the Kingslayer.

“Lord Baratheon. My prince.” He greeted them.

The Baratheon men nodded. “What my nephew says is true. You are alive.” The man said with a smirk.

Stannis was confused but would not let it show. He disliked Jaime Lannister but they were to be allies if Tywin Lannister was to be believed. They wanted a queen. The girl was half Lannister after all.

“You found Tommen. Is he well? Arya will be so happy.” Gendry said at once.

“Uncle she must see Ser Jaime at once.” The boy said somberly. Good, Gendry had the sense to not trust the Kinsglayer.

“Why have you come all this way?” Stannis was intrigued. It was planned that he would speak with Renly alone and then they would take King’s Landing.

“To join forces and force your wayward brother into order. Lord Stark thought it appropriate.”

Stannis smirked. “Since when do you take orders from a green boy?”

Lannister smirked back. “The ravens haven’t reached you. Eddard Stark is alive and well. He will join us and take King’s Landing once your brother renounces his claim to the throne.”

The news took him by surprise. Gendry smiled. “I have to tell her. Tell me where she is.”

“With Davos, at the rear.” Stannis said quickly. His nephew reined his horse and rode off.

“If we march at this pace we’ll reach your ancestral home in a day’s time.” the Kingslayer said airily.

“Day and a half.” Stannis was always precise.

They rode off until nightfall. The encampment was to be small. He expected to see Gendry and the girl as soon as they set up the tents. He was not mistaken.

The girl and his nephew burst into the strategy tent while he and Lannister discusses strategies in the unlikely event that Renly resisted their proposals.

“The Lords will take a look at Gendry and understand my brother’s claim is unacceptable.” Stannis said when the Kingslayer asked his opinion about the lords who supported Renly.

He saw the girl first. “Is it true is he really alive. Is Tommen well?”

“Your father is well Arya as is Tommen. Care to explain why are you here?” Lannister said with that ever fixed sardonic smile of his.

“No.” She replied cheekily.

“She will stay in Storm’s End with Renly and his host.” Stannis declared with a serious voice. The girl looked at him in the eyes.

“I will not.” The defiance in this slip of a girl was disconcerting. Never had he met such an impudent creature.

“Gendry, escort Lady Arya to her quarters. Ser Lannister and I have matters to discuss.” Stannis ground his teeth once the two were out of sight.

“She will stay back I assure you.” Stannis didn’t give him time to continue. They were elbow deep into strategies in less than three minutes.

Gendry ambushed him as soon as he entered their quarters. At least the boy was in the tent.

“What is happening?” his nephew asked as introduction.

Stannis sat by the table and poured himself some wine, “You would have known if you had come back after leaving your intended.”

Gendry lowered his eyes. Stannis gulped some of the wine. “We are to meet your uncle in the field tomorrow. Lannister and his men will join us if Renly does not desist his claim. He will be with us when we meet Renly.”

“Do you think uncle Renly will desist?” Gendry asked with some hope in his eyes.

Stannis watched the young man. “He will have to.”

“What if he doesn’t?” Gendry said with a small voice.

“He’d be a fool if he didn’t. Stark has sent Lannister and he plans to take King’s Landing for you, just as he did for your father. We have strength in our numbers and the rightful claim to the throne. You will be king. It is your birthright.” Stannis said strongly. He was furious with Renly, there were laws older than that of the realm. He owed fealty to him, his older brother. Renly should have listened to him and stand down.

“It isn’t my birthright. I was born to a tavern wench I grew up in Flea Bottom. I never wanted any of these.” Gendry said desperately.

Stannis grabbed the boy’s shoulder. “But it is yours. This kingdom is yours. All those men will fight for you. Stark, Lannister, Baratheon. We all will fight for you. It is your duty.”

Gendry nodded. “What if I can’t? What if I fail like he did?”

He loved his nephew. Stannis was not a man to show affection openly but he felt the need now. He grabbed his nephew’s shoulders. “I will not leave you this time. I will be by your side. When this war is over. Shireen and I will be by your side as will Arya. You would like that wouldn’t you?

Gendry smiled. “Yes uncle. Uncle Renly will have to desist his claim.”

Stannis hugged him. “We will make sue he does.”

Ever since the ravens about Gendry being dead arrived to Dragon Stone Stannis hadn’t had a night’s worth of sleep.

He closed his eyes and thought of Selyse. He didn’t love her but her respected her. She gave him Shireen. He loved Shireen, more than he loved anything in the world. He loved Gendry, felt him as if he was his from the moment Robert introduced him as prince. Stannis had loved Robert. He still loved Renly. He loved Renly better than he ever loved Robert. The dour man hoped Renly was tractable. It would be painful to war against the little boy he once helped protect.

Dawn arrived before he expected it. He was in daze not that he ever would admit to it but suddenly. He was riding with Gendry and the Kingslayer to meet his baby brother.

They met near Storm’s End. Renly wore a crown. His little brother’s presumption knew no bounds.

Stannis rode ahead to meet with Renly when seven men surrounded Renly and his horse.

“My Rainbow guard. Think of them as the Kingsguard.”

Stannis ground his teeth. “Call your men off.” He barked at his young brother.

Renly smiled and gave the order. “Congratulate me brother. I have married young Margaery Tyrell.”

The older man stayed silent. The foolish Tyrells funded this senseless notion.

“The matter is simple brother. Our nephew is the rightful King. We have the force of the North, the West and all their loyal houses. We’ll take King’s Landing once you renounce to your senseless claim.”

Renly looked impassive. “You were never a man of many words brother. I shall not keep you for long. My answer is no. It is me who should rule.”

Gendry and Lannister stayed back. “Our nephew is alive an well.”

“He is a bastard; not fit to sit on the Iron Throne.” Renly replied angrily.

“He is the rightful King.” Stannis thundered losing patience with the boy.

“I am better. The people of Westeros love me. I will be a better ruler than he could ever be.

Stannis was furious. “You are a foolish boy. Call your men off. You have never been to war. You do not know what you will unleash if you persist Renly.”
Renly huffed, “All you and Robert could ever talk about was war. I may not be a soldier but I know the realm. I am the best of you. I always was. To think I loved you once.” He said angrily.

Stannis looked the so-called Rainbow guard. “Tell your houses that the rightful king is alive. You have a day to disband this conspiracy. You shall keep Storm’s End only if you and your men accompany us to take King’s Landing for our nephew and King.”

Gendry spoke then. “Uncle please; I don’t want you to be hurt. Please uncle. Please.”

Renly’s eyes softened. “It isn’t your place Gendry. You should have never left Flea Bottom.”

“Enough. This is not a game Renly. Eddard and his men expect news. You have a day.”

Stannis, Lannister and Gendry rode back to their encampment.

The man was furious. He rode quickly. “He will not desist from his claim.” Gendry ran after him once they reached the camps.

“Then we’ll attack him and the traitors he consorts with.” Stannis replied.

“Lannister, have your men ready. We advance tomorrow at this time.” Stannis was sure Renly wouldn’t renounce.

The blonde man smiled and rode off. “You can’t. He’s your brother.” Gendry said urgently.

“You are his nephew. I am his brother. It is Renly who should examine his alliances. Not us. We are correct; your plight is just. Ours is the Fury.” Stannis said and he never felt his family words so much as in that moment.

It appeared all-important things in Stannis’s life happened at night. His parents died late in the afternoon almost at night. He married Selyse at night. His daughter was born at night. Selyse died at nightfall as did his baby brother. News of Renly’s death came to them that early that night. The proud lords of the Stormlands flooded his camp with news of Renly’s death. Loras Tyrell slit his throat. Brienne of Tarth stabbed him in the back. Emmon Cuy poisoned his meal. His wife, the Tyrell girl cut his manhood. The tales grew stranger with the passage of hours.

Stannis demanded the Rainbow guard stand before him. The Tyrell forces disbanded and were on their way to King’s Landing to support Lyanna Baratheon’s claim.

He hurt deeply when he rode to the camps and found his baby brother dead. A big blonde man cradled him and cried, big heaving sobs. There was no sign of injury. Renly’s eyes were open, unseeing.

“Step aside sir.”

“I am no sir”

“You are of his guard. You were there in the morning. You were by my uncle’s side.” Gendry accused her.

“And yet she is the only one here.” Stannis said. “Where are the rest?”

“They fled; all of them. I found him here. He was alone with Loras Tyrell. He did it.” She sobbed and gently cradled Renly’s head.

“Leave now. Davos take her to our camp. She is our guest.” The girl put up a fight but then it seemed her strength left and she was meekly following Davos.

They left them. His brother was on the bed. Someone did a half job of putting him on his vest and trousers. Stannis approached the bed carefully. He cried quietly. Those men, those filthy traitors, Gendry was by his side. His nephew cried too.

It seemed like hours until Gendry spoke. “We have to bury him. What are we going to do?”

Stannis wiped his tears. “A maester will examine him.” Davos said as he entered the tent.

“Send the ravens to Eddard Stark. Tell him of Renly’s death. We’ll meet in King’s Landing. It is time to end this.” Stannis said as he left the tent.

Chapter Text

Chapter 46

 

Jon did not mourn his wife. He didn’t know Roslin Frey. Her death did not pain him or made him happy. He was indifferent to it. They did not have time to ponder much on Roslin Frey. His father ordered them to move South.

He was in the strategy tent with father; Robb and Tommen were there as well. His young brother looked healthier and would stay with father when the fighting started.

“We’ll advance to the gates and meet Stannis and the prince at the gates.” Father looked better. He was shaven and his hair was the mess it was when they first met. Robb nodded.

“Robb, you will command your uncle’s men. Jon will command the Freys and the remaining Lannister forces. I will lead the Northern forces.” His father then went on to explain how they would travel to King’s Landing. Jon would lead his men first. He would hold arrive first. Robb would join him. They would wait for father and the Baratheons.

“Under no circumstances will any of you enter the city without my leave or Stannis’s. I want as fewer casualties as possible. Talk to your men. Do not hesitate to punish them if need be. We are not savages. We are Starks. I will talk to Stannis, the princesses will not be harmed. None of your men will touch them or Catelyn.” Father looked at all them with flinty grey eyes.

“Yes father.” The three men said.

“Lord Stark.” A northerner opened the tent. “We have received ravens from Lord Tywin Lannister’s camp.”

The man handed him the letter. Robb and Tommen made to leave, as did Jon. “Jon stay back.”

Jon remained seated. “She does not belong here.” Father looked at him in the eyes.

The younger Stark felt uneasy. Father meant Ygrette. It was no secret that she slept in his tent and that she was his. None of the men dared to say anything to his face. The Northerners knew she was a wildling and didn’t look at her with kind eyes while the Southerners simply did not care.

“It would be best if you sent her back where she belongs.” Father said trying to be gentle.

“She belongs with me.” Jon said looking into his father’s eyes.

“Your lady wife is dead.” Father said carefully. “You dishonor her memory by parading that woman here.”

Father and him were always able to talk. Jon talked to him just as if they were in Winterfell. “She’s been my wife more than Roslin ever was. Father, I will not give her up. She would not listen to me. Ygrette is not like any other woman in Westeros. She is her own woman.”

“Our men do not like her. You are Lord Stark; you can’t put yourself first anymore son. It isn’t proper for you to be with a wildling. You will inherit the North Jon. Our men do not take lightly to the future Warden of the North cavorting with a wildling.” Father reasoned.

Jon admired his father. Him and his siblings practically idolized Eddard Stark. Jon would have agreed and given up Ygrette only he didn’t. He could have done what Robb did, hide his affair with the healer. Jon didn’t.

He looked at his father and clearly said. “I love her and she loves me.”

His father shook his head. “A passing fancy. She is exotic, different and exciting but that will pass. Your title, your lands, the loyalty of your men; that will remain. I can’t force you to stop this dalliance Jon. After all, you are man grown. I can only advise you from experience. She is not for the likes of you. Your mother and I raised you to be Lord of Winterfell. Do not shame your house, your name.”

“I am a bastard father, nothing but a glorified bastard.” Jon remembered then, his mother, his house. He was a bastard. Jon looked at his father. “The title isn’t rightfully mine. Cersei Stark isn’t my mother. Do you know how painful it is to look at Robb and know that I took everything from him? I can’t help but wonder how much he would hate me if he knew. He is Lord Stark, not me.”

Eddard Stark drank from his cup; “You are lord Stark. Robert signed the decree. It is all yours son. You are not less my son than Robb is. You are a Stark.”

Jon smiled sadly, “I’m not hers. Who was my mother?”

Father looked at him with stormy grey eyes, “Lady Cersei of house Stark.” Jon needed to know. He waited for father to explain but it was evident he wouldn’t. The young lord spoke softly. “Tell me the story. Tell me everything. Mother refused to tell me. I deserve to know.”

Eddard Stark served him wine. “When your mother wrote to me and explained you knew about your birth. I felt the same anguish as to when I learned about your birth.” His words pained him.

“I will tell you tonight. Not because you deserve to know Jon but because I see that you will not let this go and your mother, she deserves nothing but your undivided love.” Father finally treated him like a man for the first time. There was no cushioning anymore.

“My brother and father died in King’s Landing. Suddenly I was lord Stark. Robert and I were in Dorne. We had learned that Lyanna was captured in the Tower of Joy. I learned I was to marry Catelyn Tully; once more I was second best. I was blind with pain and there was a woman. I can’t remember her face. She had black hair and your ears maybe.” Jon listened attentively.

“She was a tavern wench. Beautiful I guess. I can’t quite remember her name. I took her. I left Dorne the next morning. There was a sighting of Rhaegar and Lyanna at the Trident. Rhaegar died. I went to King’s Landing took the city for Robert and then went back to Dorne. Your aunt Lyanna was dead.”

“Not even your mother knows this but I found Lyanna alive. She gave birth to a boy. He was all black hair and grey eyes. Lyanna fell in love with a dragon and gave birth to the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.”

“Your cousin did not survive the journey to Winterfell. He died as his party crossed the Riverlands. I couldn’t forgive myself when the news reached me in King’s Landing.” Father drank more wine.

“Why are you telling me this?” Jon didn’t understand why he was telling him all of this.

“I can’t tell you about the woman who gave birth to you without talking about Lyanna and her son. Let me finish. I married your mother. She was pregnant with Joffrey; when I received the raven. The woman who gave birth to you was dead and I had a son. Only I didn’t know you were mine. The man thought it was your cousin; everyone including I thought so too. One of my men saw your face and remembered your cousin. You were his image; I rode to Dorne. I found you and I knew you were not your cousin. You were mine own son.”

“I took you to Winterfell, intent on raising you by your brother’s side. Joffrey was a stillborn.” Jon listened carefully.

“Cersei had two miscarriages after Joffrey. She was consumed with grief and pain until she held you in her arms. I will never forget her face when you suckled on her breast. You became her son before you were ever mine. You didn’t like me. I told her once and she told me I should get to know you.”

“I love your mother more than my own life but I was afraid when Robb was born. I watched her for months. I didn’t trust her yet. Tywin Lannister kept sending letters and every night I feared for you. I thought surely this woman, this Lannister woman will kill my son now that she bore me what Tywin called “true heir””. Jon gulped, could mother be capable of killing him.

“Your mother however took care of you just as always. She didn’t cast you aside or relegated. You were still her little heir. Jon the heir; the prince of Winterfell she used to call you.

“Jon, mothers are supposed to love all their children equally but you are her first boy. You were our happiness, our solace. Cersei dedicated her life to you and your siblings.” Father said honestly.

“Now you know the truth of your birth. There isn’t anything fancy or tragic about it. The woman who birthed you killed herself. She jumped out of a tower. I don’t know why nor do I truly care. Your mother is alive and in Winterfell. Do what you will with this knowledge but know this. I will not speak of this anymore. It hurts my Cersei too much. She despaired for years, knowing that one of my men could tell you of your birth or that I would tell you in a pique of guilt.” Father looked at him dismissingly.

Jon stood up and left the tent. It was dark; nightfall was upon them. He went to his tent and just thought about his position. He thought about uncle Benjen’s words. “You were raised to inherit.” He thought about father’s words “Jon the Heir.” Robb loved Winterfell but Jon; he loved those lands more. He was raised to love those lands more.

He felt the canvas and furs move. Ygrette was there, naked and willing. “Do your duty. Cast her aside. Send her back to the North.” There was a voice that sounded uncannily like father’s chanting that, but Ygrette’s hands were on his manhood. Her hair was so vibrant, her eyes so clear. He lost himself in her and forgot all about his birth and anything. All he could think about or feel was her around him.

“M’lord we march soon.” Jon glared at the man who retreated quickly.

“Come on. We fight today Jon Stark.” Ygrette stood up and dressed in leathers. She dressed like a man. Jon humored her. He made sure her leather and weapons were the best.

He dressed and went to meet his brothers and father. “I thought I would march first.” Ghost was by his side. He saw Shaggydog by Tommen’s horse.

“We march together. I received ravens from Storm’s End; Renly Baratheon was dead. Someone killed him. The Tyrells fled and support Lyanna’s plight, as does Oberyn Martell. He and his men have joined Catelyn in King’s Landing. Doran Martell has not declared war, however Oberyn’s army is numerous and protects the city.” Father was on his horse, ready to march. Tommen was on his horse too. Robb galloped near, Grey Wind on tow.

“Find him his stallion.” Robb yelled to one of his men.

In less than fifteen minutes the Starks marched past the Riverlands into the Kingsroad.

“What about grandfather’s men?” Tommen asked.

“They’re taking the Eyrie. Lysa has control over the knights of the Vale. Lannister plans to starve them out. He means to corner them until they open their gates.” Father said with little enthusiasm.

“That could take years.” Jon offered. The knights of the Eyrie were famous for well stocking the Vale.

“I wouldn’t be so sure. There were rumors, famine and lack of hospitality from the nearby lands. Lysa Arryn is unstable and does not trust her neighbors. Their food supplies should be running low by now.”

They marched until they reached the nearby lands of King’s Landing.

“We set camp here.” Father dismounted his horse.

Jon and Tommen rode back to spread their father’s orders. Robb followed father.

Jon Stark set camp and went into his tent. As expected Ygrette joined him.

“You should stay back, when the fight starts. I want you to stay back.” He told her as they lay on furs. He was as naked as she was.

His wildling laughed uproariously. “You know nothing Jon Stark.” She kissed his lip and bit it.

He growled and fucked her until they were both too exhausted to lift their limbs. He did not even slip out of her.

Jon thought they would at least stay in the encampment for at least two days. He was mistaken. Not even a day after they arrived and He saw the Baratheon banners joined the Starks and Lannisters.

He went into the heart of the camp. There was a commotion. Father hugged a small figure. He went in closer and found that the figure was none other than Arya.

“Arya.” He smiled and laughed when his baby sister launched herself at him and hugged her.

“What are you doing here?” He kissed her cheeks and twirled her just like he did when they were younger. He loved her and Joanna dearly.

“I’ve come to fight.” She said in between tears and laughter. Jon sobered up. He saw prince Gendry and Stannis Baratheon.

“Jon, find your brothers and join us immediately.” Father walked to his tent. Stannis, the prince and another man followed Father and Arya.

Jon found Tommen and Robb with Lady Talisa. “Arya is here.” He said. Tommen frowned. “Where?”

Robb stopped smiling at the healer. “With father.”

They walked back to father’s tent. Jon could hear his father and Stannis Baratheon argue.

“My daughter, here. This is unthinkable.” Father said. He remembered their training. Father humored mother and let Arya learn sword fighting. He would let her train but another thing was to let their Arya fight in battle. Father would oppose it, as would any of his siblings and even him.

“I planned to send her back to Dragonstone. You will be glad to know your other daughter. Lady Joanna is perfectly safe in Dragonstone. Lady Arya and the prince escaped and threatened to escape again unless I let her march with us.” Stannis grit his teeth with so much force Jon thought a few would be on the floor.

“She’s here now and there’s nothing we can do about that.” Uncle Jaime said with a bored air.

“I want to fight. I am better than many of the soldiers. The Mormont women fight.” Arya said angrily

Father looked at Arya and hissed slowly and clearly. “They are not my daughters. None of them is the future queen of Westeros. You will stay put Arya Stark or by the Old Gods you will be sent back to Winterfell and never leave.” Jon got chills from listening. Father rarely used that tone with any of them. Jon heard it once when he was fourteen and decided to foolishly go against father’s orders regarding Winterfell livestock stores. One of their keeps lost their livelihood for half a year.

“Do you understand me little girl.” Arya had tears in her eyes. She wiped them furiously. “Yes, father.”

“You may stay here. I don’t trust you outside by yourself.” Eddard pulled her to his side and sat by the strategy table. The men sat down and planned.

“We take King’s Landing tomorrow night. Surprise will be our element. Prepare your men.” Father said.

“Gendry and I will advance first. Lannister and his men will lead the attack.” Stannis said, now calmer.

“The Starks will advance next.” Father said.

“Lastly the remaining forces will attack the gates.” The Greatjon said.

“I want Catelyn and my nieces to be untouched. There will be no raping of women or killing of unarmed women and children. Any man who goes against these rules will be executed.” Stannis said clearly. The prince looked out of place in the meeting, as did Arya. They kept glancing at each other.

“I trust you will spread the word amongst your men.” Father said.

They spent two more hours discussing tactics and logistics of the attacks. It was to be quick. They would march not even and hour after Stannis and uncle Jaime entered the city.

Jon went to his tent and joined with Ygrette. He was gentle with her and she was gentle with him. “Stay close to me at all times.”

“You care for me Jon Stark.” Ygrette batted her eyelashes exaggeratedly.

“Yes. Once we go back to Winterfell you will have your own Keep with servants and all.” Jon said honestly. There was something about her that entranced him.

“I will not go back Jon Stark.” She kissed him and straddled him. Jon didn’t argue with her. He couldn’t, because as much as he wanted to go against his father’s words. He was right; as much as he loved Ygrette they were too different.

Jon spent better of the next day commanding his men and making sure they all knew about Stannis’s and father’s decrees.

Nightfall came. Arya was enraged. Father had ten men around her tent. All of them from Winterfell, just in case she tried to do something foolish like try to kill any man to escape and join the fight. Nymeria was in a cage; father held the key.

He saw as prince Gendry, Stannis and uncle Jaime rode off. The men were singing, drinking. The direwolves were snapping and growling. They could hear the first war cries. The gates gave out thirty minutes after the first men advanced.

Their forces were ready to march. He could tell Ygrette was nearby. Jon felt fear but something else too. He felt excitement. Ghost was by his side and howled. The other direwolves howled as well. Jon heard a sound he hadn’t heard since Bran was a toddler.

He looked toward his father and saw him howl. Jon howled too. Soon direwolves and Starks howled together. Jon felt excitement run through his veins and kicked his horse. They rode and howled. He could smell it; the hour of the wolf had come.

Chapter Text

Chapter 47

Her world was falling apart. Catelyn could do nothing but watch as her world crumbled. There was some hope when the Tyrells appeared on the city’s gates. They were ready to fight against Renly Baratheon. Rumor was that Loras Tyrell had killed Renly. The knight of course denied it until he was purple on the face. According the man, Renly just died. “He clutched his arm and died.”

Catelyn couldn’t care less. She had cared yesterday when the Tyrell’s support mattered. It mattered little that Tyrells and Martells had been enemies for so long. The queen had the strength of the second wealthiest family in Westeros and the Dornish warriors.

It wouldn’t be enough. She came to that bitter realization when she heard that Ned Stark, Stannis Baratheon and Jaime Lannister were outside of her city. She knew the city would be taken by dawn. Petyr was gone; he tried to convince Lysa to send her forces to fight for them.

The last she knew her sister and Petyr were trapped in the Eyrie. Tywin Lannister and his westernmen cornered them. It would be a matter of time before he starved them to death or before her sister surrendered. Catelyn tried to be strong for her girls. Lyanna, Alayne and Cassana were innocent. They believed Robert was their father and asked her constantly to surrender and accept the bastard’s claim.

“He is our brother. I love him dearly.” Cassana would plead with her.

Anna was sad all the time. She didn’t want the throne and Alayne was quiet and wept all day long. Catelyn couldn’t give the bastard the throne. She suffered more than enough in the hands of Robert. She prayed each night for his death. Eddard Stark ruined her and Petyr’s plans. He meddled and destroyed her happiness. Now it was too late. King’s Landing would yield to her enemies. There wouldn’t be any other outcomes. There couldn’t be.

The hours past and news of the city’s defeat reached her. Her city guard crumbled under the Kingslayer. The Dornish were defeated by Stannis and his men. Stark and his sons advanced soon after. They finished the Tyrells, Tullys and the remaining Martell forces.

“My queen. We will keep you safe.” Catelyn didn’t know their names. They were all men Petyr appointed. He dismissed her queens guard but for Meryn Trant. Ser Barristan Selmy stormed out of Kings Landing, not before calling her dishonorable for attempting to kill their king.

Catelyn would not live to see Ned Stark’s smug face or see Stannis’s unyielding face. She would hate to see the bastard’s face. He looked exactly like Robert had. She hated that face. She hated the memories it brought. Catelyn shuddered when she remembered his hands, his insults, and his abuse.

Ned Stark would respect her daughters. She was sure of that. Catelyn clutched the tears of Lys and looked at her daughters. “Forgive me.” She said while the Kingsguard made a circle around her and her girls.

“Mother.” Cassana whispered. She heard the men drawing swords. Catelyn turned her back to the door. She didn’t care to see who was there to detain her.

She looked at her daughters. Anna; she had been so afraid when she was born. She thought the world would immediately know she wasn’t Robert’s. She was so gentle., loved to dance and sing. She would never be Lyanna, so she would be Anna, her little girl. She loved her so much.

Alayne. Her little dove; she was an angel, so much like Petyr. She was inventive, industrious. She saw Petyr so much.

Cassana, her baby; she never knew if she was Robert’s or Petyr’s. She liked to believe she was Petyr’s. She couldn’t be Robert’s. He raped her, and her lovely daughter couldn’t be the product of rape. She was a miracle, her baby. There were times where she saw Petyr but there were others when she was Robert’s.

“Forgive me.” Catelyn Tully drank the tears of Lys. They would be safe. She knew they would. Honorable Eddard Stark and her sanctimonious brother in law would find them good husbands. They wouldn’t be in court but they would be married off. Safe. They would be safe.

Catelyn never saw Stannis Baratheon enter the keep or Robb Stark by his side. She was dead before her kingsguard was subdued.

The princesses wept on their mother’s corpse. Robb Stark pushed Alayne Baratheon to the side. The other men pulled the other two princesses.

It took five hours before the city was completely taken. Stannis killed Loras Tyrell, and more than enough Dornish men. Jaime Lannister squared off with Oberyn Martell but their fight was cut short when the Starks joined in. Oberyn chopped off Lannister’s hand while Jaime slashed his torso.

Ned Stark and his sons subdued the Tullys and the other lesser houses in King’s Landing. Their forces lost many good men. Jon Stark received a nasty wound to his skull that left him unconscious for several days. He saw as Garland Tyrell killed his wildling. The Stark heir killed Garlan by slashing his throat. Two of the Mormont women died. Tommen Stark lost three fingers. Brienne of Tarth single handedly killed five men that tried to rape he and slashed her face.

Catelyn did not live to see King’s Landing fall to the hands of her enemies.

Chapter Text

Chapter 48

His children were accounted for. He sent Robb to retrieve Arya from outside the city. It had been almost five days since they took the city. Jon was responsive and would wake up soon or so the maesters told him. Stannis and him were speaking in private. The prince refused to stay in the city without Arya. He followed Robb after Stannis agreed to hold the city until he came back.

“He's too young, impulsive.” Stannis breathed deeply. He'd been wounded during the battle but was holding well on his own.

Ned drank his ale. “He will make a good king; with your guidance of course.” He wasn't saying that to gain favor with the new Hand of the King.

“Eddard, there's the matter of my nieces and the Tyrells.” Stannis looked at him with his hard blue eyes.

“As you are aware, they are not your nieces by blood.” Ned waited for a cue from this man that he knew so little. Robert was his friend. Stannis was always the younger brother. Quiet but fearless, unyielding, couldn't be molded some men said.

“Catelyn's daughters are unaware of the fact; as is Gendry. The prince believes the rumors are filth. They are not at fault and I wouldn't want to see harm come to them. They have suffered enough. The princesses saw as their mother took her life. Cassana is inconsolable. She blames herself for wanting Gendry to come back.” Stannis sighed.

“What do you propose?” Stark asked, interested to hear the man.

“Marry them off.  Cassana could marry one of your boys and rule in the Eyrie. As for Alayne she could marry one of the Lannisters. Not the kingslayer of course as he wishes to continue in the Kingsguard.” Ned could tell Stannis was not fond of his brother in law.

“A one-armed Kingsguard.” Ned said surprised.

“We can’t very well relegate him. I am also under the impression that it was his left hand and he is right handed.” Stannis pointed out.

“Perhaps Kevan Lannister's oldest son Lancel.” Ned offered. “As for Cassana she will marry Tommen but may I ask why Cassana and not Alayne or princess Lyanna, as they are older.”

Stannis looked at him with hard blue eyes. They were not friends but they respected each other very much. “Very well, Lyanna wishes to uphold her marriage to the Quentyn Martell. As for Alayne, she refuses to marry any Stark because of her sister. Cassana has fallen in love with one of your sons. I am not certain which one. I presume Tommen is the one she fancies.”

“We've received ravens from Dorne assuring their loyalty to the true Baratheon claim. Doran Martell is ready to send his son and have him marry my niece and stay in King's Landing.” Stannis voiced. Ned listened carefully.

“What is your understanding of Dorne's involvement in this war?” Ned inquired. He was under the impression the Martells and few lesser houses joined them against Gendry but he only saw Martell sigils once his forces entered the city.

“The Viper acted alone. My scouts tell me his forces have retreated to Dorne. The kingslayer mortally wounded him. It would be a surprise if he makes it to the Reach.”

“The prince should be here. Gendry should have an input in these decisions.” Eddard could tell Stannis ground his teeth.

“He should; instead he is chasing after your daughter like a lost pup.” Stannis did not like his youngest daughter. Ned’s lips tightened. Had it been his choice he would have taken her back North, where they all belonged. Starks did not do well this South of the Neck.

“I would like nothing more than to rid myself of the Tyrells, and Martells but I can’t. Edmure Tully is dead. That leaves the Riverlands without proper lords. Your son and Cassana will rule there; after all she is part Tully and well loved by the people. The Tyrells have agreed to pay reparations for the war. Doran Martell claims no involvement and agreed to keep the viper caged should he reach Dorne alive.” Stannis looked at him with hard eyes.

“As you are aware Loras Tyrell killed my brother. I brought justice to Renly and killed Tyrell myself. The matter is that winter is coming and those are not just your words. The Tyrells can provide food supplies reasonably well for King’s Landing and other parts of Westeros that cannot provide for their people. I need the Tyrells to be loyal.”

“Why then send my son and your niece to the Riverlands?” Eddard waited for Stannis to speak once more.

“I do not trust traitors. I believe the princesses to be innocent. Cassana will do well in the Riverlands. Those Frey let Tywin Lannister and your son through the Twins. They betrayed their lord.”

“Walder Frey obeyed his king.” Ned replied.

“You and I know that Walder Frey is an opportunist that would have betrayed his mother if it benefitted him. I am sure Lord Lannister offered him a very large amount of gold amongst other favors.” Ned couldn’t disagree with that.

Stannis was not a man to use subterfuge and went right to heart of the matter. “Margaery Tyrell would make a good wife to your eldest boy or the second one if you as much wish to. I do not care where you place her but I want her married to a Stark and gone from King’s Landing and the Reach. Mace Tyrell is said to love his daughter dearly. She is the prized rose of Highgarden and traitorous woman. She wed my brother and am sure she had a part in Renly’s death.”

Ned frowned, “And yet you wish her to be wedded to one of my boys.”

“I claim no disrespect lord Stark. I am asking you to arrange this, have this shrew as a prisoner if you so wish but I need her as far away from Gendry and King’s Landing.” Stannis said a little forcefully.

Eddard sighed. “She will not be the next lady Stark. I understand your hesitation. Robb will have to marry her. I have accepted Cassana’s hand on behalf of Tommen because I understand he has some affection for the girl but I do not know whether Robb will be agreeable to the match.”

Stannis nodded. “There is the matter of the Eyrie. Lord Lannister was able to convince the knights of the Vale to obtain access. Lysa Arryn and Lord Baelish were inside. Apparently Lady Arryn saw Lannister and jumped through the moon door. She dragged her new husband with her.” Eddard nodded.

“I received the raven today. The Vale knights respectfully refused to take part in the war. There is no heir to the Eyrie and they will upraise if Lord Lannister expands his dominion over to the Eyrie. Gendry has seen fit for your second boy to rule in the Eyrie; if he so chooses to marry the Tyrell girl.” Eddard understood Stannis perfectly well. It would be Robb’s decision to make. He would have the final say.

“I have sent for Shireen as well as lady Joanna. Gendry would like you to have a seat in the council and I agree.” Stannis continued with their affairs.

“I respectfully decline. I should have never accepted Robert’s offer to be the new Hand. You and I loved Robert dearly and could never resist him whenever he asked for help. You can shield yourself and believe you obeyed him out of duty but we know we followed Robert because we loved him dearly. He was our brother in a sense. My children an I will stay until Joanna arrives.”

“Your daughter will be queen. Your sons will be Wardens of the Riverlands and the East.” Stannis said carefully. “It would be most beneficial if you stayed in King’s Landing.

“I disagree Stannis. These games are not for you or me for that matter. You have to stay because it is your duty to your nephew but I had a promise with your late brother. My children will see their mother first. The city in under our control; I am sure my father in law will be more than happy to leave half of his forces her to guard King’s Landing. As you have said, the Tyrells, Tullys and Martells have been sorted and escorted back to their lands. I saw Brynden Tully and his men ride back this morning. I will leave the Umbers and the Karstarks as long as you need them.”

“Very well.” Stannis announced and concluded their meeting. Stannis and him were on the same page. Both men lived by a code and would die by that code. They were honorable, not because they wanted other men’s respect but because they couldn’t live with wrong choices. Stannis was governed by rules of his own. They were familiar to him. Family came first.

Ned left the council room and went to see Jon first. His firstborn was awake; one of the maesters attended to his wound. “My lord, please listen to me. You are safe.” Ghost rested on his son’s feet

“Ygrette.” Jon said and tried to sit.

Eddard entered the room, “Jon, she is gone. A week has past since the battle.” He helped the maester put Jon down.

“Let the maester finish the examination and then we will have words.” Jon looked at him and nodded.

Ned remembered all those years ago when he fell and they almost lost him. The maester performed a similar examination to the one Luwin performed years ago. Jon followed instructions and even walked.

“You will be fine lord Stark. Rest but try to walk every day for at least a week.” The man left. He was one of Stannis’s maesters. Grand Maester Pycelle was not welcomed around him or any of his children.

The man left and gave him a small bottle of milk of the poppy. “In case he feels headaches.”

Ned shut the door behind him. “Ygrette. I have to find her body. She doesn’t belong here. She is of the North.” His son rasped.

Lord Stark pulled a chair and sat by his son’s side. “Her body as well as Dacey and Lyra Mormont were burned two days ago.”

Jon looked at him with infinite sadness. “I wanted to look at her once more. Where are her ashes?”

“She is gone Jon.” It wouldn’t do well for Jon to know that the ashes were scattered along the Blackwater.

His son did his best to not cry. “She fought bravely. I saw her myself.”

“It matters not. It was not her war. Ygrette only wanted to go as far South as possible. I should have protected her. I should have left her with Arya. I should have made an excuse.” Jon wept. Eddard hadn’t seen his son so affected since he was five and Robb and him got the measles. He was miserable and maester Luwin isolated him since they did not know what illness Jon had until the rash started.

Ned hugged him. He let his son cry until he was spent. “We’re going back home as soon as Joanna arrives to King’s Landing.”

Jon calmed down and nodded. “Father, I apologize. I…” Ned shook his head.

“What happened after Ygrette died?” Jon asked. He was composed by then.

“You killed Garlan Tyrell. We took the city. All your brothers are safe, as is Arya. Tommen lost three fingers. Lannister lost his left hand. Gendry sits on the Iron Throne. Stannis Baratheon will serve as Hand of the King.” Ned continued telling him about the outcomes of war and the fate of Catelyn and her daughters. Lord Stark saw the furs move and realized the white furs were Ghost; the direwolf had gone back to the bed. The animal threw him a look and nuzzled Jon’s legs.

“That is if your brother accepts to marry the Tyrell girl and rule in the Eyrie.” Ned explained.

“Robb is quite taken with lady Talisa.” Jon ventured feebly.

“It will be your brother's choice to make.” Ned replied simply.

Jon frowned. “He will choose the Eyrie. He'd be a fool not to.”

The older man looked at his firstborn with confusion. “I would think you'd favored his affection to lady Talisa.”

His son frowned once more. “Ygrette was different than the Volantese woman. My wildling, as you called her wanted me. She loved me as I did her but I knew she would never put on a dress to become lady Stark. We knew it was doomed.”

“Lady Talisa is quite enthralled with your brother.” Ned pointed out. She’d seen her blush when his son entered her tent.

“Yes, but we're not speaking of Robb. She's taken with Tommen. She was from the moment he set foot in our camp.” Jon closed his eyes.

“Tommen of course does not realize it but even if he did he wouldn't act on it. He worships Robb.”

Ned was taken aback by the knowledge. “Does Robb know?”

“I'm not certain but lady Talisa is indifferent to him.” Jon fell asleep. The older man stepped out of the rooms.

He walked to Tommen's quarters. Shaggydog looked up to him and then went back to his spot by the bed. His boy was trying to write with his left hand. Brynden Tully put a sword through his right hand. Tommen lost half of his index, middle and annular finger. He could hold a sword. In fact Tommen kept fighting until lord Stark personally pulled him aside.

Ned knocked on the open door. “Father, come in.” His son smiled at him.

“What are you doing?” The man asked the boy. Only Tommen wasn't a boy anymore. He was as tall as he was and was a man. He fought alongside him. His son was a warrior, as were his older brothers.

“Trying to write with my left hand. The maester said it would take time.” Ned could see some letters written, he would need time to improve. He wasn't worried for Tommen. This man in front of him was resilient. He was kind, quiet but fierce. He was the best combination of him and his Cersei.

He smiled, “you can always have a maester write your letters.” Tommen smiled back. “That wouldn't be too wise.”

Ned laughed. He was Cersei's son. “I hear Robb and Gendry went to retrieve Arya.”

“Yes, they should be back before sunset.” Ned explained. “Joanna will be here in a few days. We'll ride for Winterfell when she arrives.”

Tommen smiled tightly, “I thought you would be joyous to see your twin sister.” Joanna and Tommen shared a bond that was most beautiful.

“I am. I miss my sweet sister dearly. Father, I wondered if you could speak with lord Baratheon about the princesses...” Tommen spoke softly.

“They will be safe. Their uncle plans to marry them off. Find them a safe home. Princess Lyanna's engagement still stands. She will stay in court. Princess Alayne will marry your cousin Lancel or other Lannister that your grandfather deems worthy. As for princess Cassana, she will marry you.” Ned said firmly.

Tommen grinned, “I must tell her at once. I visited her this morning. She was certain she would be gone to Dragonstone.”

“She will not stay in court. You will wed in Winterfell and will live in the Riverlands. You and her will rule those lands side by side.” Ned replied.

“Will that be wise?” Tommen said timidly.

“I have the outmost faith in you. Your mother and her lessons, along with maester Luwin were not for show. You fought a war, had a woman, and saved your father from death. Your maesters will be there to support your decisions and you can always send ravens. Your mother and I will be happy to guide you.

“I must see her. Thank you father.” Tommen kissed his cheek and ran out of the rooms.

Ned was glad at least one of his children was happy. He went back to his quarters. He pulled a piece of parchment and tried to write to Cersei.

My Lioness,

All of us are safe. This senseless war is done. Gendry will sit on the Iron Throne, as he was expected to by his father. I have sent for Joanna as well. We shall leave King’s Landing as soon as she is in the city. I miss you dearly and hope you can forgive for all the pain I have put you through these past years.
Love,
Ned.
Lord Stark came to the realization that he had not seen his wife in about two years. He wished to see her face, to kiss her lips. He wanted his life back. He sent his young squire to the rookery so he could send the short missive. The older man expected the letter to reach Winterfell by the time they were close to the Riverlands.
He had lunch with Stannis, grand maester Pycelle, Tommen and the princesses. Cassana looked better than when he had seen her last. She offered Tommen a very shy smile when he pulled a chair for her and sat next to her. Lyanna and Alayne were just as pale as when he saw them five days ago.
“Uncle, have you considered my request?” Alayne said somberly.
Eddard ate his food silently. He was painfully aware of how uncomfortable the whole situation was.

He watched as Stannis frowned. “Grand maester, leave us.”

“My lord, it is only appropriate for me to stay here. My insight could be extremely valuable concerning the princess's inquiries.” The old man simpered.

“I doubt that.” Stannis did not speak again. The old maester limped away.

“He shouldn't stay here. He is repulsive and conspired against you.” Cassana stated.

“As did our late mother.” Lyanna whispered.

“Lord Stark, those rumors. Mother said you accused her of being unfaithful. She said that you conspired against the crown and killed father and Gendry. The rumors aren't true. Mother, she was not in the best states of mind.” Lyanna spoke anxiously.

Ned looked at the young girl who looked just as Catelyn did twenty years ago. “Your mother made a mistake. She let her head be filled with lies. She disliked your brother and wanted him gone.” Ned refused to lie.

“It is true then. What they say? We are not Baratheons.” Lyanna pushed onward.

“You are my nieces; Baratheon princesses and that will be the end to those rumors.”

Alayne cried and rose to hug her uncle. “I told mother you didn't believe those rumors. She said you wanted to kill us, that you and uncle Renly never loved us. She said father never loved us. Mother said you and father only loved Gendry.”

Stannis shook his head, “Catelyn was not in her right mind.” 

Ned made to stand and leave, “Lord Stark, please stay.” Cassana whispered.

Alayne apologized and sat bad down. She drank some ale and wiped her tears. “Uncle, you have not answered my question about the request.”

“Alayne, you are grieving for your late mother.” Stannis tried to sound reasonable. 

“I want to become a Silent Sister. I don't want to marry anyone. Uncle, I know you want us to be safe and it wouldn't do for all of us to stay here in King's Landing. Lyanna and Quentyn will be in court. Cassana will go with the Starks and I will have to marry a Lannister. I don't want to uncle.” The girl sounded desperate. Tommen frowned. 

“You are a princess; raised as such. The life of a Silent Sister is hard and lonely. Alayne, you were meant to rule over a household, have children and chat endlessly.” Lyanna let out a small giggle. 

Alayne smiled too. Cassana laughed, “I don't want to marry a Lannister. I don't want to go West.” Alayne repeated after a while.

“Those Lannisters that you are so afraid of have fought for your brother since the beginning. I am part Lannister as are all my brothers and sisters. You would do well to remember that princess.” Tommen said with a hard voice.

Stannis shook his head, Lyanna jumped in, “what if she went to Storm's End or Dragonstone?”

“I have decided to give Dragonstone to Lord Davos Seaworth and Storm's End will be Shireen's.”

Alayne looked at her uncle with unshed tears.  “Uncle, please.” 

“Very well then you may choose. It will be the only kindness I can offer you, a Lannister or Matthos Seaworth. You may remember him. Your brother and him trained here two summers ago.”

Alayne smiled, “yes. I will marry him and go to Dragonstone.”

Tommen frowned but remained quiet. They ate lunch. Stannis asked him to stay back.

“I hope you don't take offense because of Alayne's refusal.”

“I don't. Lannister and her family do not have the best history. Catelyn must have filled her head with lies and preconceived thoughts.” Ned kept up pretenses. He did not trust all the Lannisters either.

Stannis agreed politely. “The Ironmen were defeated by the Boltons and the small army your son sent. I hear they subdued them back to the Islands. Balon Greyjoy died and his last living son, Theon Greyjoy sailed back to Pyke. He declared loyalty to Gendry and his claim. What do you make of this?”

“The Ironborn lack the manpower and the strength to overpower the continental forces. I would send an envoy with some of my men to sort them.” Ned offered. 

Stannis agreed. They spoke about the logistics of recovering. It wouldn't take long; this war had been swift. Not unlike Greyjoy's rebellion all those years ago, shorter than Robert’s Rebellion. Jaime Lannister joined them and discussed the men he had on his command. “Give the word and we shall sail to the Iron Islands.” His brother in law said while looking at his stump.

“I would like a golden hand. What say you lord Stark?” Jaime sounded as nonchalant and arrogant as ever. Eddard wished Oberyn had maimed the right hand instead. 

Stannis was not a humorous man and reeled the conversation back to keeping Westeros united. It was settled; Lannister would lead the attack on the Iron Islands.

Jaime was the first to spot his nephew. “Father.” Robb said as he dragged his sister with him.

“Tell him to let go of me.” Arya sounded annoyed.

“Let go of your sister.” Ned said. Arya glared at him and then climbed over to his lap. His wolfling was small. She kissed his cheek. “I'm still angry. I'm happy you're fine.”

She kissed his other cheek and then stood up. Arya kissed Lannister and curtsied to Stannis.

Gendry nodded at him. “My lord.”

“Your grace.” He replied.

Robb diffused the tension. “I will go see Jon. Is he awake?”

Ned nodded, “Arya, go with your uncle. He knows where your brother is. Robb, you walk with me.”

“Gendry, a word.” Stannis motioned to his empty chair.
 
“How is he?” Robb asked as they left the small dining chambers.

“Your brother is fine. I have a matter for you to consider.” Grey Wind tried to play with Robb but his son was intent on listening to him.

“What is it?” Robb asked with a relaxed tone. Ned kept him abreast in the latest developments. 

“We're going home then.” He looked resigned.

“We are. Stannis made you an offer. Your grandfather gained access to the Eyrie. Lysa killed herself along with Littefinger. The Eyrie remains without an heir.” Ned started.

“Untrue. Sansa Arryn is the heiress. The lands are hers along with uncle Tyrion’s.” Robb pointed out.

Ned shook his head, “the Knights of the Vale refuse any Lannisters in their lands. The male Arryn line died with Robin. They will war against each other to find a worthy Warden of the East. Stannis proposed another Warden. The Knights have reluctantly accepted. Your grandfather refused to let any crops or livestock inside the Bloody Gates unless they acceded to accepting Baratheon's decrees. Your grandfather of course thought Gendry would grant him the East.

“Grandfather won't be too happy when he learns of this new Warden.” Robb muttered.

Ned nodded, “I presume he will not. However, he will not be entirely cheated. After all, it will be his blood ruling over the East.”

Robb's eyes rounded, “The Eyrie is yours if you so choose.” Ned explained.

“But I'm part Lannister.” Robb pointed out. 

“They don't have much of a choice. Their only salvation was their neutrality and now they have to follow Gendry, well Stannis for that matter. Believe me it will be faster to subdue the Eyrie with the Dornish and the Reach's men. Stannis is famed for his skills as your uncle, grandfather and I are. They'd be fools to start an open war. Not even the Bloody Gates would save them then.”

“Why then not give it to Grandfather?” Robb asked as they walked through a long passage.

“Stannis is not a fool. He wants his nephew to rule over a united Westeros.”

“Father, this is insane. You and Jon control the North, I would rule over the Eyrie. Tommen will have control over the Riverlands. Starks and Lannisters would rule over more than half of Westeros…”

“While most of the rest is controlled by Baratheons and their allies. Your sister will be queen. We would all die before harm comes to her. Stannis knows that. He counts on that. I am sure Olenna and Mace Tyrell would die if harm comes to your future wife. If you so choose of course.” Somehow they came to the Godswoods.

“Stannis knows that a united Westeros is what Gendry needs. He will appoint people he trusts or that he has leverage on. Tywin Lannister cares about his legacy, you and your siblings are his legacy until Tyrion graces him with an heir. Tyrell would like to live to see his eldest son married and his daughter safe. Doran Martell is not interested in war and even if he were the rest of Westeros would crush him. They have no allies but for the Baratheons. Stannis will send a small host led by your uncle to subdue any rebellions in the Iron Islands. Gendry will make a good king if he listens to his uncle. Stannis is versed in war tactics and has good advisors. There are other threats on Essos. There are whispers of Daenerys Targaryen raising an army to conquer Westeros. Stannis needs a strong kingdom in case these rumors had a speck of truth.” Eddard walked to the weirwood trees.

“How can Stannis and Gendry be sure that we will not rebel” Robb whispered.

“Are you planning to? Would you do such thing? Your sister will be Gendry’s queen. She will be the first to be murdered should you attempt to organize and overthrow your king.” Ned stated.

“What if they hurt her?” Robb challenged.

Eddard had to laugh at the notion. “He trails after her. She has more power over him than you think. He loves her. I hazard Gendry is in more danger of losing himself to your sister.

“Aren’t you afraid for her? Arya is not Joanna. She will never conform to bearing his children.” Robb touched the bark of the tree and sat down.

“She will be queen. Your sister is not a delicate flower. She is smart and more like your mother than you think. She will do well.” Ned worried about Arya but it was too late to deny her hand.

They prayed on the woods. They lacked the beauty of the North but they would do for now. His son was quiet when suddenly Ned heard his faint voice. “I don’t love her. I love another.” Robb said sadly.

“Does the other love you son?” Ned asked. He didn’t leave time for him to answer. “I didn’t love your mother when I married her. I didn’t trust her; your mother was a threat I married her because her family was a threat to Robert. I didn’t love her when Jon came along but I loved her before she gave birth to you.”

“The woman I love, she loves Tommen.” Robb didn’t look at him.

“Your brother feels affection for princess Cassana. I am sure he is unaware of that woman’s affection.” Robb nodded. He looked up to his father and smiled. He reminded her of Cersei’s sad smiles when he first told her he loved her.

Ned was quiet for a few minutes. Robb rubbed his face and then spoke lightly, “I will marry the Tyrell girl. It would be a shame to waste all of mother’s efforts to make me Warden of West and live in a keep under Jon’s authority. It isn’t Casterly Rock but I’m sure the Eyrie has its diversions.” Robb smiled wickedly just like his mother did when she was planning her schemes. Ned laughed, how much he missed his Lioness.

Chapter Text

Chapter 49

Ser Davos was a very kind man. Joanna helped Shireen out of the small boat. Lady sat by the edge of the dock. “Your lord father is desperate to see you.” The man said as they made their way to a small wheelhouse. Shireen did not know how to ride horses properly. Joanna wanted to reach King’s Landing as soon as possible. The week they had travelled seemed like months.

She wanted to see father, her siblings. She longed to hug father and Tommen. Shireen looked beautiful with her blue dress. She grew close to the little girl. They were each other’s friends. Joanna distracted her when she had nightmares or missed her mother and father. The little girl did not miss Selyse as much as she missed Stannis. The late woman did not care for her. Shireen missed her father because as aloof as Lord Baratheon was he visited her every day and they talked or she sang to him. “Father loves when I sing to him.” She said whenever they heard birds chirp in the gardens inside Dragonstone. “He always says I remind him of little birds.”

The little girl was asleep on her lap. She was apprehensive to meet her father once more. “I want him to like me. Father doesn’t like a lot of things.” She said as they prepared to make the journey from the Blackwater to the Red Keep.

“He loves you. He will love to see you again.” Joanna coaxed her into wearing the blue dress and combing her hair into a single plait.

Ser Davos rode ahead and assured them they would reach the Red Keep in a few minutes. Joanna peeked outside the curtains and saw many armed men and people being herded into small keeps. There were many children just wandering. At least the armed men seemed to be helping the children into tents and small keeps.

The journey to the Keep was delayed due to the many men and women in the streets of King’s Landing. Joanna woke Shireen just before they reached the doors. “Wake up, we’re almost there.”

Shireen rubbed her eyes and nodded. The small girl straightened up. “Lady Joanna. We are here.” Joanna stepped out of the wheelhouse and helped Shireen out of it.

Joanna walked with Shireen. She expected to see at least one of her brothers before she entered the Red Keep again but she was mistaken. It was early in the morning; maybe they didn’t expect them until later in the afternoon.

Ser Davos led the way to one of the small chambers where the royal family took their meals. She saw father first. Joanna ran to him. She smiled and hugged him.

“Kitten.” He laughed and kissed her forehead.

“We didn’t expect you until the morrow.” Father smiled. He looked older and his beard was bushier than ever.

“I still have a few contacts. We arrived a few hours ago my lord.” Ser Davos explained.

“Well done Davos.” She heard lord Baratheon say. She turned and curtsied. He sported a bear as well but it suited him. She blushed a little and smiled when he bid her good morning. He held Shireen on his arms. The girl was ecstatic to see her father and clung to him. It seemed lord Baratheon couldn’t or wouldn’t put her down yet.

“Lady Joanna, I am glad you are well. Eddard I trust your plans are still in play.”

Father nodded, “Yes, we march in the morrow.” Joanna wanted to ask a hundred and one questions but remained quiet. The Baratheons left.

“Your siblings are still asleep. It will be best if you rest as well Kitten.” Father took her hand and led her to her quarters. “You best sleep Kitten. I will come back for you and Arya. We’ll have lunch and I will explain everything. I can tell those green eyes are full of questions.” Father smiled and kissed her on the forehead once more.

She entered the quarters with Lady by her side. Nymeria was on the other bed. The wolves jumped and played with each other. Arya sat up and smiled. Arya ran and hugged her.

Joanna hugged her tight. Arya hugged her back. “We’re going back North.” Arya replied and then told her all about the marriages and alliances. Joanna listened carefully. She looked at her little sister.

“What about your wedding?” Joanna asked curiously.

“That is happening once we spend sometime in Winterfell. Gendry is going with us. His uncle agreed to let him go with us North with me until we married here in Baelor’s Sept. Stannis will act as Lord Regent until Gendry is crowned prince just before we marry.” Arya repeated with a slight bite in her voice.

“You should be happy.” Joanna said as they rested side by side.

“I am. I don’t want to be queen Joanna.” Arya said despondently.

“You would rule Westeros alongside Gendry.” Joanna appealed to her.

“I wish Gendry wasn’t King. I wish he was just a lord or even better I wish he was never legitimized.” Arya said.

Joanna shook her head, “Don’t be stupid Arya.” She almost laughed.

“If he were still a bastard he wouldn’t be a prince. We would travel across the Seven Kingdoms and seek adventures.” Arya said with bright eyes.

“You are insane.” Joanna laughed. Arya laughed too.

“You would have made a wonderful queen.” Arya looked at her with contrite eyes. Joanna shrugged; she didn’t like Gendry and he would be king. She had her sights on a particular lord.

“I could stay with you if you wanted to.” Joanna replied with a small smile. Arya nodded. “Yes, you love court.” Arya held her hand.

Joanna nodded. They slept until the maidens hurried them to dress and go to lunch with their family.

Joanna wore one of her simple dresses while Arya fought but eventually wore a dress as well. “Come on, I’ll braid your hair.” Joanna did so.

“No flowers in my hair.” Arya said seriously.

“Fine, but I do want flowers in my hair.” Joanna teased her and Arya dutifully helped her comb her golden hair into a southern hairdo. “You look a lot like mother.” Arya smiled.

Joanna held her hand; “I’ll race you to the chambers.” She knew it wasn’t proper but Arya wouldn’t have more opportunities to run and be Arya once she became queen.

Her little sister’s eyes shone with mirth. “You wouldn’t.”

Joanna smirked and ran out of the door. It wasn’t as easy as when they were girls. The dresses were longer, more difficult to maneuver but Joanna ran for the first time in years. Arya kept up with her but Joanna was taller and faster it seemed. They laughed and were out of breath by the time they reached the chambers.

Their brothers appeared out of nowhere or maybe Joanna and Arya burst into the long corridor. Tommen hugged her and kissed her cheek and then Robb laughed and spun her. She kissed his cheek and then Jon was there. She hadn’t seen Jon in almost two years. He looked incredibly older and had a scar close to his eye. He gingerly approached her and kissed her forehead. Joanna didn’t know why the sight of Jon brought tears to his eyes. She hugged him and he hugged her. “I missed you terribly.” She said with a shaky voice.

“We’re going home.” He said with a hollow tone.

Joanna hugged him more and then smiled to Tommen. “You’re going to marry Cassana.” She giggled and he grinned, a big goofy grin.

“Yes, we’ll marry in the Goodswoods in Winterfell.” Her brother explained excitedly. Arya rolled her eyes when the princesses came into the room as well. Joanna greeted them with subdued courtesy. She did not know how to properly interact with these young women. Lyanna and Cassana were the closest to her while Alayne had always been more aloof in her company.

They sat down and waited for Gendry, Lord Baratheon and father. According to Tommen those two were always in meetings and Gendry sat through them. The prince needed all the help he could have. Jon and Robb discussed matters privately, as always her older brother secluded themselves to a corner. Joanna learned that Lyanna was to stay in court and marry Quentyn Martell as soon as him and his party arrived to the city. Alayne would be married to Matthos Seaworth and then leave for Dragonstone. Marya Seaworth was a helpful and kind woman. She would be a wonderful mistress for Dragonstone as would be Alayne she was sure.

Shireen ran to her. “You’re going North. I wish I could go with you too but father said my place is here with him” Joanna smiled.

“Yes, I wish you could go with me but I will be back for Arya and Gendry’s wedding.” Shireen nodded.

“Hello Shireen.” Arya hugged the girl.

“I’m so happy to see you. Joanna and I were very scared when we couldn’t find you.” Shireen told Arya all about what happened during her absence. Joanna was not scared. She actually helped her sister out of Dragonstone. Arya convinced her that if she didn’t help she would find a way to escape the castle and leave on her own.

“Let me introduce you to my brothers.” Joanna smiled when she curtsied to Tommen, Robb and Jon.

The princesses greeted their cousin. Alayne asked her about Dragonstone and Shireen excitedly spoke about her home. Little by little Shireen overcame some of her natural shyness.

Jon ordered the maids to serve lunch. “Father and Stannis will not agree on anything until late evening. It is best if we lunch now.” Lyanna nodded and blushed when Jon glanced at her. Joanna smiled into her napkin.

They ate two courses when Gendry, father and lord Baratheon joined them. It seemed the men could not stop discussing the city and its affairs. Joanna listened to them speak. Arya listened too.

It was not proper to leave the table before either Stannis Baratheon or father left. The two men spoke between bites of their meal.

“Doran Martell sends his men and son. They will arrive in a fortnight. Your father in law marches North with a quarter of his men while the rest wait in the Eyrie until your son weds the Tyrell girl.” Lord Baratheon explained.

“Very well then. Robb and Tommen will marry in the North and then go to the Eyrie and the Riverlands respectively.” Father intoned with authority.

“I will have the Tyrell girl march with you then. Gendry will give her to your son. Mace Tyrell and his family will remain in Highgarden.” The man said with some bite.

Joanna continued to listen. “What about Storm’s End? Who will stay in charge of your ancestral home?” Father asked with curiosity.

Lord Baratheon gulped some wine and answered. “My uncle, ser Lomas Estermont. He will be in charge of my home until I have a son or Shireen marries.” Stannis said carefully.

Joanna looked at lord Baratheon and not for the first time wondered what it would be like to be his wife. She blushed and drank some of her ale. Those thoughts were not for a lady. She was not a silly girl anymore. She once wished to be queen and marry a handsome prince but Gendry was too different. He was too much like Arya, not sensitive or anything like the songs she liked so much. Stannis Baratheon was not a man for singing or had any remote inclinations for romance but he was kind. She saw him with Shireen when he thought no one watched them. The young girl also spoke highly of her father. She watched him. He was old, older than she ever thought a husband for her could be but he was handsome. He had beautiful blue eyes and he was strong. She wondered what it would feel like if she kissed him. Joanna looked at his hard mouth. She’d never been kissed. She looked up to his nose and eyes. He was looking at her too. Joanna panicked and wanted to look away but she didn’t. She smiled at him and kept his gaze. Those blue eyes became darker than they already were. She felt goose bumps break on her skin. Joanna didn’t look away. People around her spoke about different things. It felt as if Stannis Baratheon looked upon her for hours but it couldn’t have been. Father spoke to him and he diverted his gaze and answered father’s question.

The rest of the lunch was normal. Father stood up first. Robb, Jon and Tommen followed him. Lord Baratheon left the room with Gendry. They were to visit Flea Bottom and make sure the men had the city secured. Arya ran away with Shireen. “I’ll show you my new quarters and the gardens.” Shireen said; her sister went with her.

Joanna remained in the room. She addressed the princesses, “How about we prepare for Cassana’s journey.” It was frivolous and completely superficial but if Arya’s tales were true which she had no doubt they were the princesses witnessed as their mother took her life. They needed a distraction. Joanna needed a distraction as well.

She spent the day choosing dresses and doing needlepoint. Cassana cried once because a golden dress reminded her of her mother. Alayne consoled her and told her how happy she would be in the Riverlands with Tommen.

Lyanna nodded and continued searching for dresses. “I am happy uncle Stannis decided to let me marry Quentyn. He’s written me letters for years now. I care for him deeply.” Joanna pretended to care and listened to her stories.

Alayne smiled, “I will be going to Dragonstone with Matthos. He will inherit it. Uncle wanted to me to marry one of your cousins but I convinced him to let me go to Dragonstone.”

Joanna was confused. “Have you met Matthos?”

“Yes, once. He is handsome.” Alayne replied.

Joanna nodded, “He is a very good man. He will be very lucky to have you as his wife.” it took her almost two hours but soon Lyanna, Cassana and even Alayne talked to her and they regained the lost complicity they had before Catelyn Tully ordered her father arrested.

The princesses told her about the queen’s diminished health and the times they thought Lord Baratheon or her Lannister family would harm them. “Mother was convinced uncle Stannis would harm us. She feared for our lives and those horrible lies about father not being our father. She feared we would be killed or worse.” Lyanna excused the late queen.

“But uncle Stannis didn’t. He listened to us. He is not as unreasonable as before. He let Lyanna stay in court and didn’t have a problem when I told your him I didn’t want to marry your brother.” Alayne hugged Cassana. “He let Cassana marry him.” Cassana smiled and hugged her older sister.

They chatted until dinnertime at which Shireen and Arya joined them. Young Shireen conversed with Alayne the most out of her three cousins. Joanna pulled Arya aside to tell her about what the princesses said.

“It is true. I don’t like Stannis very much but he protected them. Gendry believes they are his sisters. I don’t know if Stannis believes that as well but he is determined to arrange good marriages for them.” Arya said while they ate some fruit.

“You believe they are bastards.” Joanna stated.

Arya glanced at the princesses furtively, “Yes, otherwise Catelyn wouldn’t have ordered father executed. Father knew about their birth and confronted her. I think he came to an agreement with Stannis because there hasn’t been any more words about their parentage.” Arya ate a grape and spat the seeds into a plate. The men did not join them for dinner. Joanna was about to agree with her sister when Shireen walked to her.

“Would you want to walk in the gardens with me Joanna?” Shireen and her always walked to the beach or the gardens in Dragonstone.

“Yes, Arya, come with us.” She stood up.

“No. I have to pack the last of my dresses.” It was a lie. Joanna made sure to tell the handmaidens to pack everything before they lunched. She didn’t press Arya. She would probably spend some time with Gendry. Joanna asked the princesses but they shook their heads gently.

Shireen and her walked and admired the new blooms in the gardens. “Gendry is going with you and Arya. I don’t want to stay back but father said I couldn’t go.”

Joanna would miss the girl. She was a good companion. “You have to take care of your father. He needs you know. You have to make sure he eats and is clean. It is your duty now since the Stranger took your Lady mother. You will take care of him until he weds again.”

The girl frowned, “I don’t want him to marry.”

“Well, he will have to eventually.” Joanna stated. The girl shook her head. “Maybe but not yet, besides he is far too busy advising Gendry. Father says we will stay in King’s Landing helping Gendry and Arya until they are good rulers. We’ll go to Storm’s End after a few years he said or when I marry some or other lord. I will not marry, who would want me?” Shireen said a little sadly.

“Anyone who is smart and worthy enough of you. You are a wonderful girl; smart, brave, kind, and with a gentle heart. You sing beautifully, your hair is shiny and your eyes. You have such beautiful blue eyes. Anyone would be a fool to not love you. Whichever lord your father chooses will be extremely lucky. You will not lack suitors Shireen.” The young girl smiled and hugged her. Joanna hugged her as well.

They rested on a bench. “What about you? Will your father make a match for you soon?”

“I expect so. I haven’t asked him yet. I don’t know. I will ask him to let me stay with Arya.” Joanna said secretively.

“That would be wonderful. You could help me with father.” Shireen giggled. Joanna smiled.

The laughed and held hands; “come on. I’ll show you a new game.” Shireen stood up and spun around with her.

They spun in circles until they were both flushed and dizzy. They laughed and rested on the grass. Lord Baratheon found them like that, looking at clouds and giggling.

“Your brother is looking for you and your sister.” She heard his voice and sat up quickly. She blushed; her hair flew to her face. Joanna tried to push her golden hair away from her face. Shireen stood up quickly and hugged him.

“Father.” She said happily and smiled.

Lord Baratheon offered her a discrete smile. “Were you having fun Shireen?”

“Yes.” Shireen looked up. The girl stood by his side. The man offered Joanna a hand. She blushed and took it. She was surprised with the ease in which he pulled her up.

Joanna was almost as tall as he was. Tommen and her were the tallest of the Stark children. Jon and Robb were almost as tall as they were but a few hairs shorter.

Stannis was definitely taller than any of them. “Thank you my lord.” She held his gaze. He frowned and looked away. “Your eldest brother is looking for you.” He said with a harsh tone. She was surprised by his tone but kept a polite disposition. Shireen hugged her goodbye. She walked back to the Red Keep; she was a little confused by the man’s attitude. Joanna thought he might like her.

Lady Joanna met with Jon and Robb. “Lord Baratheon said you were looking for me.”

“We were looking for you and Arya.” Jon said pointedly.

“Where is Arya?” Robb asked.

“With Gendry I suppose.” Joanna shrugged.

Robb shook his head and Jon frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous Jon. We travelled together and more than once shared a bed. He is a perfect gentleman.”
“Because you were there.” Robb said under his breath. Fortunately Jon didn’t hear him. Jon was very protective of her and Arya.

They talked about the war. Jon asked a lot of question about the journey to Dragonstone and her stay in the castle.

Robb explained how father and Tommen arrived to camp and all the details about grandfather and uncle Jaime.

“Is he well?” Joanna asked when he learned about uncle Jaime’s hand.

“He is well. He’s travelled to the Iron Islands with some of Stannis’s men and a big woman. She is not easy on the eyes but by the gods is she magnificent with a sword.” Robb commented.

Joanna frowned, “That is not very nice.”

Jon smiled, “Always with a kind word. Beautiful you are little sister.” He kissed her cheek and left.

Robb stayed back. “What is it with him?” She asked with a smile.

“He fell in love.” Robb explained about a wildling woman named Ygrette. Joanna shook her head.

“Poor Jon.” She said sadly. “Are you happy Robb?”

Robb smiled sideways. “I am to rule the Eyrie, not bad for a second son.”

Joanna hugged him. “We will be fine.”

He hugged her back. “We will be. I will find you a knight of the Vale if you want. They are brave and handsome just like in the songs you like so much.”

She rested on his chest. “I don’t want songs anymore. Thank you for the offer brother but I don’t want to marry yet.”

Robb laughed, “I don’t believe it.” He teased with a smirk. Joanna pinched his arm.

She walked to her quarters. It was darker now. She was distracted when she turned to a corridor and collided with something solid. It was Gendry who came from her quarters.

“I’m sorry Joanna.” His hair was a mess and his clothing was in disarray.

“Go. Robb and Jon must have followed me.” She said with apprehension. The prince’s eyes rounded and he ran to the other direction. It would take him twice as long to reach his quarters.

Joanna smirked, served him well. She wasn’t as naïve as everyone thought her and was well aware Gendry and her little sister did things that they were not supposed to be doing. She ran to her rooms and found Arya flushed and in her small clothes.

“I saw him leave our quarters. I know this is not the first time. I will not say anything. I need you to help me.” Joanna smiled.

Arya frowned. “With what?”

Joanna smiled, “I want Stannis Baratheon. I want to marry him.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 50

Rickon walked now. He toddled all over the room and tried to reach for her skirts. Cersei smiled at him and put him on her lap. Rickon grabbed her hair and pulled. She smiled at him and gently pushed her hair back. “Your father and siblings will be here tomorrow.” She kissed his cheek and tickled him. The baby laughed hard and then squirmed down.

Cersei must have read the letters on her desk at least three dozen times. She traced Eddard's handwriting every time. She was to have her family back at least for a few weeks until she travelled across the Seven Kingdoms and see her children married off. At least she would have Bran, Joanna and Jon with her. She thought about her father and his calm rage. He had been a guest in her lands for a week now. She remembered their first dinner together; it happened a few hours after he and host arrived at the gates of Winterfell. Father wanted to dine with them alone. He had matters to discuss as he put it.

Tywin raged at the knowledge that his eldest son lost a hand and was off fighting the Ironborn. “A glorified bodyguard that he is.” Tyrion and her smirked when he told them about Tommen and Robb's new titles.

“The Starks and Lannisters will rule over the Seven Kingdoms.” Tyrion raised his cup. Cersei raised her as well. Father offered a small smirk.

“The Eyrie should have been ours.” Tywin commented with a practiced disinterested tone.

“It is ours.” Cersei continued.

“It is Starks’. Your son is a Stark. It will be Stark's name in the Eyrie not the Lannisters’.” Tywin replied.

Cersei smiled. Tyrion frowned and stiffened when father spoke once more. “Why is your wife not with child yet? Is she barren?” Tywin was nothing if not blunt with his children. He looked directly at her, as if she held the answers to his questions.

“Her moon blood comes every month without fail.” It was all Cersei could say without incriminating her brother.

Tywin gulped his wine. “You need to put a Lannister baby inside of her. I give you a simple task; impregnate that woman at once and yet you fail.”

Tyrion's voice was harsh. “She is a child.”

The older Lannister replied immediately, “She is older than your sister when she married. Put a Lannister child inside of her. Sansa of Arryn is of noble birth, a gem that you shall be so lucky to call your wife. Perhaps it is her noble birth that impedes you from doing your duty. Whores and baseborn wenches are of your predilection but do make an exception and consummate your marriage.” Tywin stood up and left the quarters. He was the epitome of cold rage.

Tyrion broke the glass cup. There was an uncomfortable silence. Cersei took his hand. He didn't cut himself. “He is correct.” She said while she examined his hand.

Tyrion snatched his hand away. “Typical of you to side with him.” He growled and left.

He did not speak to her since then. Cersei didn't seek him either. This time it was Tyrion who was being unreasonable.

She smiled when her son came running to her once more. He fell but then stood up and kept running to her. She picked him up and spun him. 

“You look so much like your papa.” She nuzzled his neck.

Osha came into the room, “your brother wishes to speak with you.”

Cersei nodded, “take Bran and Rickon to the kennels.”

She went to her brother's quarters. He drank and glared at her.

“Where is she?” He growled and drank more.

“Who?” She asked and sat in front of him.

“Don't play innocent. You and I know nothing escapes your notice, not in your home. Where is Shae?”

She frowned, “I don’t know what you are ranting about.”

“My companion. I had her removed months ago at your insistence. She resided in one of the Keeps close to Winterfell.”

Cersei looked at his younger brother. “She should be where you left her last.”

“She is not. Where is she Cersei?” Tyrion asked once more.

“I do not know. Tyrion, I advised you to remove her months ago for your sake and the Arryn’s girl sake but you did not listen. I honestly do not know where the whore is.” She continued with that.

“Don’t call her that.” Tyrion snapped.

Cersei didn’t quiet. “She is a whore Tyrion. Let her go, you have a lady wife. Father does have a point.”

Her brother laughed bitterly, “A wife that cannot bear the sight of me. A wife that weeps and avoids me at all costs, a child that is nothing more but a broken, sad doll.”

“Is this your concern? You want to make your wife happy? Do you?” Cersei asked once more.

“I want her to not weep and pale every time I rest next to her in our bed.” Tyrion gulped more wine

“Give her a child. Put a child in her belly and I assure you she will be happy. Bed her, at least once. What will happen to her if you don’t?” Cersei asked him.

“She would go to the Eyrie. She could be in court and marry one of the knights in the Vale. She is a virgin; we could have an annulment.” Tyrion replied, clearly having thought about the situation.

Cersei frowned. “Suit yourself. I doubt she will remain a virgin until you reach the Eyrie. Our father is determined to keep Sansa in our family. You heard him. Tyrion do not complicate your life.”

“She is miserable Cersei.” Tyrion continued with his rant.

Lady Stark looked at his brother and said her peace. “She is, and you do nothing to nothing to better her situation. You keep a whore close by and avoid your wife as well. Brother, I see you more than she does. You spend your days with your nephews and me and go to your rooms so late I wager she is asleep before you reach your quarters.”

Tyrion avoided her gaze, “Do try brother. Leave your whore. Talk to your wife.” She stood up and left for the great hall. Tywin was there alone. She sat by him, it wouldn’t do to run away from him. It never did. Her father could smell fear miles away.

She sat by him and waited for the servants to serve lunch. “Your brothers are stubborn.”

Cersei remained quiet. “I have yet to meet my youngest grandson.”

“I thought it best to not trouble you with an infant.” She said stiffly.

“Jon is a capable commander as is Robb.” It was all the praise she would get from this man. Cersei allowed a small smile to appear on her face.

They ate their lunch in silence. Tywin left the halls for his private quarters where he sent letters to the Rock and the rest of Westeros.

Bran and Rickon came to her quarters later that day. Bran could walk with the aid of crutches that Tyrion designed for him. He would need them at all times. Her boy slowly recovered his brightness. He wouldn’t run or fight but he could walk again. He could move. Cersei accommodated a room for him. She made sure her son had quarters fit for an heir of Winterfell.

“When are they going to be here?” Bran asked excitedly as he showed Rickon a wooden horse.

“Soon my love. They should reach our gates by the morrow.” Cersei was as excited as her son was.

Osha stayed with them for some time until maester Luwin took Bran for his lessons. Osha went to the lessons as well. She was learning how to read and write. “Leave Rickon with me.” She held the boy to her chest.

Cersei played with her son and was interrupted when Sansa came into the room. The young woman wore a green dress. It must be the new because she hadn’t seen her ever wear it before.

“Good afternoon lady Stark.” She curtsied and began her needlepoint. She usually spent an hour with her and Rickon. Sansa never knitted, instead she played with Rickon. He liked Sansa a lot.

“Is it true that your sons will control the Eyrie and the Riverlands?” She asked in her usual meek voice.

“Yes, they will.” Cersei replied, She did not consider the girl to be a particular threat. She was indifferent to her really.

Sansa nodded. “your lord father spoke to me privately.” Her voice shook somewhat.”

“Father is a wise man.” Cersei continued.

Sansa looked about to cry. Lady Stark looked at her with some pity, “Compose yourself. You are not a girl anymore. You are a highborn lady and the rightful lady of Casterly Rock, wife of the future Warden of the West.”

Sansa breathed deeply, “It is not a kind world for us. I will give you this last piece of womanly advice. Bed my little brother, give him a son. Your life will change for the better once you have a child.”

Sansa paled but looked at her. “Not all mothers love their children lady Stark.”

Cersei frowned, “You will have no choice but to little dove.” She said firmly.

“Do compose yourself and put on a brave face. Your mother and aunt will not protect you anymore. Whatever hope you had is now moot. Adapt little dove or you will perish.” Cersei was honest with the girl. There wasn’t a place for her tears any longer. This girl would get no sympathy from her or any of her relatives. Lysa and Catelyn Tully were dead and this girl would have to mourn them in silence.

Sansa continued playing with Rickon until Bran and Osha were back. “If you’ll excuse me lady Stark.” The young woman left, her eyes were still red rimmed.

There was no space for her sadness. Cersei did not have it in her heart to feel bad for Catelyn’s death or Lysa’s for that matter. She felt uneasy with Tommen’s and Cassana’s union. There would be time for her to assess and advise her son on how to treat the girl. She worried more about Robb. Tommen had a good head on his shoulders while Robb was wild, impulsive and unchecked. Jon wouldn’t be there to restrain him.

“Are you sure they are coming tomorrow?” Bran asked for the hundredth time.

“Yes, my sweetling.” She kissed his forehead.

“I’m going to show Jon how much I improved in archery and Robb will be so happy when he sees I can walk with the crutches.” Her son told her. Cersei was so relieved her family was coming back to her.

“Take Bran to his quarters. It is time for you to sleep. You’ll need to be awake for when they come.” The boy didn’t even pout he went willingly with Osha.

Cersei retired to her quarters early and undressed. She tried to close her eyes and sleep. Rickon slept in Jon’s old nursery. The woman couldn’t. She kept picturing the faces of her children and his face. She longed to kiss his mouth and look into her husband’s grey eyes. How she missed him. She missed him most dearly, it was as if she couldn’t believe he was truly alive. No matter how many times she traced his handwriting in the letters that arrived she wouldn’t truly believe her husband was alive until she saw him with her own two eyes. Cersei wished with all her might that it was true that she would wake up and see Ned once more.

The morning dawned bright and early. It was a beautiful morning, colder than ever. Winter was coming and perhaps Old Nan and Benjen were correct and this would be a long and harsh winter. Benjen planned another trip beyond the Wall to assess how many “white walkers” existed. Cersei gave him as many men as she could spare. Tyrion disagreed with her generosity but Benjen vowed to not leave until he had Winterfell men.

Ned and her children would come back to Winterfell. It was all that mattered. Cersei woke up and checked on a sleeping Rickon. He would wake up soon. She took advantage of the few minutes she had for herself and looked in the mirror. She looked at her reflection. She looked older, but there was a light in her eyes that hadn’t been there in almost two years. Maryam found her staring.

“M’lady what will you wear today?” It was early still.

“The red dress.” Cersei felt festive. She had the maiden braid her hair three times before she grew tired of the girl’s incompetence.

“Useless.” She left her hair loose, with only two small braids tied at the back as to not let Rickon completely pull her hair.

As if on cue Rickon babbled from his crib. She attended to her child. She bathed and dressed him. He smiled and clung to her. Finally Cersei dressed and took Rickon to the great hall. It must have been later than she thought because Tyrion, Sansa and father were already in attendance.

Cersei sat by Sansa. “You look beautiful lady Stark.” Sansa said politely. 

Cersei smiled, “thank you Sansa.”

They broke fast without any sightings of her husband's company.

Bran and Osha appeared after Tywin left for his quarters. The man asked Tyrion to send a servant when his son in law arrived.

Tyrion nodded. There was nothing that could put her in a bad mood. She was simply happy. Her brother asked to have a word with her. 

They talked while Sansa made herself scarce. The girl did have a talent for making herself invisible. 

“Sansa and I will be going to the Eyrie.” Tyrion said after a brief conversation about Bran's progress with the crutches.

“What does father say?” Cersei asked curiously.

“He is amenable. I presume he does not wish to be near me and me new wife.” Tyrion buttered his toast.

She felt easier. Tyrion was a good counselor. He was versed in the matters of running a castle and would be a good asset for Robb. “You would control the Eyrie or at least that what father wants. It will be my son's face but your words and actions.”

“I do not plan to manipulate Robb.” Tyrion defended.

“You like power as much as I do. I don't think it is a bad idea little brother. Robb will learn a lot from you and your young wife will be at more ease in her home.” Cersei speculated.

Tyrion nodded, “it will be easier for her. It could make her happier.”

Bran went to his lessons and Sansa came back. They spoke and played with Rickon when maester Luwin walked to her.

“They have reached the lands. The men can see our banners not far from here.” Luwin said with a smile on his face.

Cersei stood up, “have Brandon and Osha meet me in the yard. Send for Tyrion.”

Lady Stark contained the energy that she felt and successfully calmed her galloping heart. She grabbed her infant son with as much poise as she had.

Rickon babbled and held onto her hair. She smiled at him. This boy would grow up to look just like Ned. 

She noticed Sansa by her side, “My lord husband and your lord father are discussing matters. They will join us shortly.” Cersei couldn't care less what her father and brother were doing. All that mattered was that she would have her family, her beautiful family together in a few minutes. 

Cersei felt queasy, happy, scared and couldn't breathe properly. Rickon pulled her hair, demanding her attention. Osha must have taken him. Bran held her hand and smiled up to her. She grinned at her boy.

She could hear the horses and the men. She knew the vanguard was first to arrive. Ned always rode in the vanguard. The doors opened and in came the first bannermen. She saw their sigil, and other Northern sigils.

She saw them and tears welled on her eyes. She saw four horses and riders. Robb, Jon, and Tommen and the prince. Her eldest looked tired.  Robb and Tommen grinned. She wiped her tears and walked a little forward her children ran to her and hugged her and Bran. 

“Mother.” Tommen kissed and hugged her. She laughed when Robb kissed her noisily.

Jon held her delicately. “He is here. There was a problem among Bolton's men and he decided to ride last.” Cersei nodded and kissed his forehead.

Tommen was as tall as she was now. She hugged him hard. “Joanna and Arya are in that wheelhouse.”

The wheelhouse door opened and out were her daughters. Arya grinned and hugged her. Joanna hugged her too. “Oh I thought I would never see you again.” Cersei said for the first time. She was painfully aware that girls were the first to perish in wars. They made wonderful hostages when there were marriages to be had. Catelyn had no male heirs; with Ned supposed dead her daughters were as well as lost to her.

Bran hugged Joanna. Cersei was hugged and kissed more times that she could count. She saw Cassana and another girl out of the corner of her eye. Sansa hugged Cassana and they cried together.

Cersei waited anxiously. Jon said he was here, that he would be here. She saw him for the first time. Lady Stark felt her heart stop. She couldn't breathe. She wanted to cry; she felt a crushing pain in her heart. Maybe this was the feeling the bards sang about. Ned was older, his was unshaven and he had dark circles under his eyes. His hair was greyer but his eyes were the same. He dismounted the horse and only had eyes for her. Ned walked to her. She let go of someone’s hand and walked to meet him. She was lady Stark, a highborn lady and wife to the Warden of the North. She wouldn’t disgrace herself or her house by acting like a tavern wench. She thought about propriety and her breeding but it all fell short when she heard her husband’s voice for the first time in two years.

“Forgive me.” He whispered with honest grey eyes.

Cersei nodded and hugged him tight. She felt his strong arms embrace her and she didn’t care who saw them. She inhaled his scent and nuzzled his cheek. He kissed her neck. She cried and then stopped. “Never let them see you cry.” She repeated that mantra and was delighted when Ned kissed her because she would have kissed him if he didn’t and it wasn’t proper for her to do so.

The kiss was filled with longing, and that feeling of coming home after a long journey. Cersei could only compare it to the time when she came back to Winterfell from the Riverlands with her twin children. He kissed her as if she was learning her again and Cersei responded with abandon. She came up for air and grinned at him. Ned hugged her.

“Lady Stark I daresay we are giving quite a show.” He whispered and kissed her forehead.

Cersei held her head high and walked to her home with her husband by her side. He was home, as were her children. They were with here where they belonged. “Welcome back Lord Stark.” Luwin said, clearly affected by the Ned’s arrival.

“It’s good to see you.” He embraced the older man. They entered Winterfell and went into one of the small chambers. They usually held dinners there.

Tyrion and Tywin were side by side near the hearth. “Eddard.” Lord Lannister said. “There are matters we have to yet discuss.”

“Later perhaps.” Ned replied.

“Very well.” The man left chambers.

Tyrion spoke to him. “It is very good to see you alive.”

“Likewise Tyrion.” Her baby brother kissed her hand and left.

It was only them, her family. Jon held Rickon who seemed transfixed with his brother’s hair. Robb and Joanna hugged and kissed Bran while Arya touched the walls. She smiled.

Ned looked at Bran, “Aren’t you going to greet your father?” He asked with a smile.

Bran grinned and used his crutches to reach him. The boy hugged him and grinned up. “I knew you weren’t dead. Mother knew it too.”

“You can walk.” Ned’s eyes were light with happiness.

“Yes, uncle Tyrion made those for me. I can walk, and ride too.” Bran grinned at Robb who looked relieved.

Bran had his moment with his father. He told him about Osha and his lessons. “I have to tell you about my dreams father.” He said quietly.

Cersei hugged and kissed her children time and time again until Rickon fussed and reached for her. “Rickon.” Ned said and looked at his youngest son.

“After your father. Tyrion thought it fitting.” She said.

Jon gave her the child. “I should get our men settled and sort the rest of the forces.” Jon said as she kissed her goodbye. Robb trailed after him.

Rickon fussed on her lap. Joanna and Arya excused themselves as well. Tommen left too. There would be time for her to speak and spend time with her children. Bran needed more time with his father.

Bran continued speaking to Ned until he was exhausted and fell asleep. “I’ll call for Osha.” Rickon looked at his father with wary eyes and hid his face on his mother’s bosom.

“No need, I’ll take him to his rooms.” Ned picked his son and headed upstairs.

“Ned, don’t. He sleeps in the first landing now. It is easier on his legs.” Cersei said with a sad voice.

Her husband paled and meekly followed her directions to their child’s new quarters. She didn’t realize but it had been a few hours since the men came back. Bran did not even stir when Ned placed him on the bed. Summer came into the room and rested by her son’s legs.

“He didn’t sleep well last night. He wanted to see you so much.” Cersei said wistfully.

Rickon fussed once more. “He’s sleepy. Rickon usually naps in the afternoon.”

Ned nodded and held her hand they walked up to their quarters. Cersei tried to calm her child as soon as they entered their chambers. She went to the nursery and sat on the bed. They had kept her old bed and built a crib nearby for their children.

Ned sat by her. Rickon stopped crying and looked at his father. He hid behind Cersei’s hair once more. “He’s never this shy. He doesn’t know you yet.” She replied.

“And here we are again. How strange my lioness. You have given me another son and I feel as if I’m looking at you and Jon.” Ned touched her lips. “Only this time I know how to engage an infant.”

Cersei smiled and kissed him once more. Rickon clung to her. “Hello lad.” Ned touched Rickon’s hand. The boy looked at him.

“I’m your father Rickon.” Ned said and took him. Rickon looked at him with big grey eyes. His eyes filled with tears and she then looked at Cersei. She remained calm. Rickon and his father needed to know each other.

“Don’t cry.” He smiled and tickled him. Rickon stopped crying and giggled. Ned and her spend time playing with Rickon. It was like old times, like when they only had Jon. She smiled when Rickon pulled at his hair and imitated the wolf noises his father did.

Chapter Text

Chapter 51

Cersei rocked Rickon to sleep. “It suits you, having my children on your arms.” Ned said as she placed the babe on his crib.

“Mayhaps we should try for another, a little girl with your smile.” He said wistfully.

She was overwhelmed when she saw his hopeful eyes. “I can’t Ned. I can’t give you more children.”

Ned held her tight then, “I am always bringing you pain. I’m so sorry my love. Forget my foolishness. You have given me everything Cersei, everything.” Her husband whispered fiercely.

She held the tears at bay. She cried herself to sleep too many nights. Cersei wouldn’t cry anymore Eddard and their children were alive and well. She nuzzled his beard and felt the sting in her cheeks. “You need to shave and bathe.” She whispered.

“We could go to the pools if you wanted.” She said carefully.

“Too many people in our yard. They would harp on us the moment they see us.” Ned touched her face with his fingertips. He traced her lips, eyes, and cheeks.

“I’ll have the maidens fill the tub for you.” Cersei replied. She sent for Maryam at once. Ned and her remained in the nursery looking at Rickon.

“He looks like me I think.” Ned touched the baby’s dark tresses.

Cersei looked at her youngest and nodded. “He looks very much like you. I would just look at him all night after he was born and I thought you were dead. I would look at him for hours and think that at least he looked like you. I wanted to name him Eddard like you but Tyrion had named him Rickon and it did not feel right to change it.” Cersei glanced at her husband.

“I looked like him. Brandon looked like mother but I looked more like my father.” He said with a light voice.

“Our Rickon will be very handsome.” Cersei kissed him once more.

The maiden came back to tell them the bath was ready for him. “Keep bringing as much water as you can.” They went to the adjacent bath chambers. The tub was filled with the water and there were at least four large buckets of water. Cersei helped him undress. Ned sat on the big tub. “I’ll bring the blade to shave you and some of the oils and soaps for you.”

She retrieved the items and found Ned with his eyes closed and head back. “I missed you.” He said when she soaped him.

“I missed you too.” She massaged his head and tilted his head to shave him. She spoke to him. “I thought I would go insane from the pain when Tyrion told me you were executed. I wanted Jon and Robb to burn Westeros to the ground and bring me Catelyn Tully’s head on a spike.” She said passionately. Her husband did not tense he listened.

“My life came back to my body when you wrote back.” She shaved his beard until he looked like the Ned she knew ten and nine years ago.

He turned and looked at her. “I came back to you. I brought you our children back my lioness. I can only ask you forgive me once more. King’s Landing was never the place for me. My place is here in my lands with you.”

She smiled. “I forgive you Ned. I only want you and our family to be well and safe.” She caressed his cheek. Her husband kissed her hands. “I do not want to presume but I would like for you to join me.”

Cersei kissed this wonderful, thoughtful man. She marveled once more; Eddard chose her for his wife. He made that clear years ago. Cersei thanked the deities for Ned Stark. She undressed in front of him. She sank into the water and faced him. Her husband looked into her green eyes and openly said. “I missed you from the moment I parted ways from you. My biggest fear was not dying but coming home to you without one of our children. I feared dying and not knowing that you and our children were safe.” Ned told her seriously.

She kissed him. “I feared not seeing you anymore. I knew the children were safe. I wrote to them but you. Even when you wrote I had to see you with my own eyes.”

Ned kissed her more and more. They bathed silently. She let him touch her. He traced her shoulders, hips, her collarbones, her belly and legs. There was no intention from him. Ned just wanted to be close to her. She bathed with him and then when the water was too cold and there was no point on asking Maryam for more water.

They went to their quarters. Cersei hugged him. She kissed him and ran her hands through his wet hair. He responded eagerly; she felt him touch her face. “I need you Ned.” She whispered before he could ask her anything. It was all the encouragement he needed. She moaned when his hands trailed over her back and he pushed her hair to the side. He whispered her name and kissed her neck. Cersei felt a pull in her belly she hadn’t felt since he left her.

“Ned, I.” She moaned when he led her to the bed. She was underneath him. He kissed her slowly, savoring her, relearning her. Ned looked at her with lusty grey eyes. Eddard kissed her neck and chest. He looked up to her and traced the new lines Rickon had made when she was pregnant with him. Cersei pulled him up for another kiss and opened her legs wider to accommodate his body above hers. He ran his fingers over her right thigh. Cersei felt the anticipation building. She gasped when he touched her entrance. He moaned at the feeling of his fingers inside her and she moaned as well.

Ned's eyes darkened to an impossible hue of grey, almost black. “I need to be inside of you Cersei.” She nodded and guided his length inside of her. The feel of him inside her had her gasping. She missed him, the closeness of his body, his smell, the taste of his skin and the sensation of pleasure he brought her.

She moaned when he moved. Ned thrust slowly inside of her. He watched her. Cersei tried to keep her eyes open to look at him. He would spend himself inside of her soon. The tell tale signs were there. He grabbed her hips and pulled her to a sitting position. She kissed his lips and nibbled on his lower lip. She established the rhythm then. Ned feasted on her neck and chest. She was ready to explode and she did, whispering his name breathlessly. Her husband pushed her on the bed and mounted her once more. He entered her swiftly and his pace increased. Cersei saw him. He looked determined, so strong above her. She bit his lips when he came inside of her. He was rigid above her; she held him to her.

Ned’s and her shallow breathing filled the room. She kissed his neck and caressed his damp hair. “I love you dearest.” He kissed her eyes softly. Cersei moved to the side. Ned brought her to his chest. Cersei shivered from the cold. Ned held her tight before standing up and lighting the fireplace. She slipped under the furs and was joined by her husband. He looked at her and then kissed her once more. They fell asleep looking at each other. Ned held her to him and whispered sweet nothings until she couldn’t she feel asleep.

Cersei woke up to the feeling of strong arms around her. She sighed deeply. Cersei kissed his hands. She turned to him and found him asleep. She traced his nose and lips. He was a light sleeper. He opened his eyes, “what a wonderful sight.” He rasped. She hugged him when he tickled her sides. Cersei laughed.

“Tell me how is our home.” He asked while pushing her hair aside, the braids were undone.

Cersei told him about Tyrion’s help and the latest news of the men that still were in Moat Cailin. “Benjen insists there are white walkers, grumkins and the like beyond the wall. He’s been ranging for the past month. He asked for more men. I gave him as many men as I thought convenient.”

“Very well. I must say I never thought I would live the day in which you said Tyrion and I did or my brother thought and I agreed. This is very strange my lioness.” He smirked at her. Ned and Tywin shared something. They loved to lecture about the importance of family only her husband believed in family while for Tywin it was all about his mark in the world, his legacy.

She could not frown or glare at him yet. “We have come to an agreement. We happen to like each other now.”

Ned smiled, “did you apologize Lioness?”

She kissed him, “Why must you ruin our moments?” She kissed his neck and rolled one of his nipples.

He forgot about Tyrion. Ned laid back as she mounted him. “I have to yet look at all your battle scars Lord Stark.” She whispered seductively. He smiled.

Cersei asked about every single scar, even the old ones. “This one, where did you get this one?” She touched a half crescent mark on his arm, near his elbow.”

“The Viper.” He replied when she kissed the mark. Cersei kissed each mark until her husband was wild with want for her. She kissed him roughly. Ned pinned her down and took her. She gasped and smiled at how easy it was for them to reach completion. They knew each other so well. Eddard knew how and when to touch her. She moaned when he took her legs and placed them over his shoulders. She contracted around him within moments and he was gone as well. She kissed his brow. “Tell me what will happen now?” She wasn’t naïve as to think they would be safe in the North.

“Stannis remains in King’s Landing. He will guide Gendry. The man has a good head over his shoulders. He will make sure his nephew does well. I am sure you understand all these marriages strengthen the Baratheon claim.” Ned replied.

“I gathered as much.” Cersei stated, he was resting on her breasts, gently rolling a nipple.

“Stannis has heard rumors of the Targaryen girl in Essos. They speak of dragons and the dothraki.” Eddard said wearily.

“Are you worried?” She asked with curiosity.

“We’d all be fools if we didn’t but even if the girl had an army. She’d have to cross Essos and the Narrow Sea. We’d be waiting for them with our armies. The dothraki are untrained, plungers and have no loyalties. Our armies would crush them.” Ned spoke reasonably.

“How long has Stannis given us until we reach King’s Landing for the royal wedding?”

“Six months. The prince will be with us, touring his lands as we will. We shall march to the Eyrie and then the Riverlands before we march to King’s Landing.” He said honestly.

“How long until we have to march to the Eyrie?” She asked him softly. There was no doubt in her mind that she would travel with him.

“A week maybe two. Our sons shall marry their wives in our Godswoods and then we’ll march.” Cersei nodded with some understanding.

“I have yet to meet my future daughters.” Cersei said with some concealed distrust.

Ned kissed her fingertips. “I do not know much about the Tyrell girl. She could be dangerous but I have yet to seize her. I am sure you will. Cassana is a sweet girl.”

“With a snake for a mother.” Cersei hissed.

“She is not Catelyn.” Ned said with a sigh.

“I care very little about who she is. I care about what she can do to our son.” Cersei told him with hard eyes.

Ned kissed her lips. “You may do as you wish but they will marry. Tommen and Robb will have to fend for themselves.”

“Very well.” Cersei replied and kissed him once more.

“What happened to Jon’s wildling?” Cersei asked trying to understand all that happened to her children when they were not by her side.

“She died in battle. Our son mourned her, he still mourns for her.” Ned explained.

“He did not mourn his wife but he mourns the wildling.” Her husband said carefully. He could not say that Stark loved a wildling but clearly their son did.

“What about Arya and Joanna?” Cersei asked.

“They do not fight as much and I have seen them whispering and plotting. I do not know what they are plotting.” Ned said with a yawn.

They napped until Rickon awoke them. Ned picked him up from the crib and brought him to her. “It is time for dinner, I can assure you they are waiting for you my lord.” Cersei breastfed Rickon and called Osha to dress her and Rickon. Ned stayed in the room with them.

“You are a wildling.” Eddard said while looking her up and down.

“Yes.” Osha said without looking at him. She now wore long braids like the peasants from the North, and wore servant clothes.

“Your friend died in battle.” Ned said while trying to establish eye contact with her.

“She was not my friend. We were both running away, from Mance and the white walkers.” Osha continued with her nonsense of the undead.

“Stay with Rickon, Lord Stark and I will have dinner with our family. Take good care of my boy.”

“Yes m’lady.” Osha did not look at Ned once.

They walked down to the great hall, “she is afraid of me but trusts you. It is surprising to say the least.”
Cersei smiled a little, “You are used to them distrusting me and looking at you as if you are the Father with all his fairness and protection.” They were near the doors.

They were all in attendance but for Jon. She sat by the head of the table. Tywin occupied the other head and Tyrion sat by his side while Robb sat by his other side. Tommen sat in front of her, with Cassana by his side. Bran, the Tyrell girl, her daughters and the prince occupied the rest of the seats.

“Where is Jon?” Lady Stark asked.

“He is indisposed.” Robb replied while eating his dinner. Cersei studied her two new daughters and found that Cassana could not keep eye contact with her while the Tyrell girl did not look up from her dinner.

Ned and Tywin spoke about lands and armies; Tyrion and Robb commented and contributed. Tommen and Cassana exchanged love eyes. Joanna and Arya discussed something that their mother could not hear well. The prince and Bran spoke of the battles fought.

Soon it was time for the ladies to retire to a smaller room and discuss their affairs. Cersei took advantage of the fact and led the women into the smaller chamber. Sansa and Cassana spoke animatedly about going to Riverrun.

“You will not go to Riverrun little dove. You and Tyrion will stay in the Eyrie with my son and my new daughter.” Cersei smiled at Margaery.

“Tell more about you sweetling.” Margaery nodded demurely.

“There is not much to tell Lady Stark, I wish nothing but to be a good wife to Robb. I am sure you will, after all we were all bred to be good wives and mothers to our children. Some of us have better breeding than others; some of us are more loyal and come from better families. Is that not so dear sister?”

“Of course Lady Stark.” Sansa replied.

“Your family made wrong decisions, the Tullys and Tyrells were fortunate enough that the king was benevolent with them.” Cersei did not have time to play the coy highborn lady.

Margaery nodded and opened her big eyes while Cassana did not dare look at her. “I trust you two will be good wives to my children. They are honorable men like their father but I raised them and I can assure you that they know very well how to treat traitors. They are fair like their father but they also have Lannister blood and you know very well what they say about us. We pay our debts and there is no worse debt or offense than treason of any kind.” Cersei said with a delicate smile on her face. Cassana was pale and Margaery looked between impressed and confused. She would have to monitor the Tyrell girl better; she could prove to be troublesome.

Chapter Text

Chapter 52

Her children’s weddings should have been motives for celebration; instead Cersei Stark was worried. She could not rejoice in her sons’ weddings. Robb and Tommen were perfect, waiting for their respective wives. Prince Gendry walked with both women. They wore ceremonial robes but not of their own houses. Those were robes made for them last minute.

Cersei was restless Arya and Joanna were by the side with their father. They spoke in hushed tones. She held Rickon to her. Jon was by her side with Bran next to him. Tyrion, his wife and father were on the other side. They were all dressed for the feasts that would follow. Eddard and her did not plan for such big festivities but Tyrion and surprisingly father insisted on such splurging.

The couples were married and then they proceeded to go back to the castle where Tommen and his bride were the picture of bliss. Cersei saw her boy lift and dance with Cassana for most of the night and saw his anxious face when the time of the bedding came, his face was anxious because of the girl’s welfare.

In contrast Robb and his wife were complete strangers and her son did not attempt to engage the girl. His second eldest seemed in a mission drink as much wine and spirits as he could before falling to stupor. He did not care to see his wife for the bedding instead he hung his head. Cersei knew her son would not be able to perform his husbandly duties. The feast continued and drunk they got, or at least Tyrion and Eddard did. The feasts were not only for the weddings but also for the end of the wars in the Seven Kingdoms.

Cersei placed Rickon with Osha and Bran followed them to the children’s quarters. Jon left the festivities early as well. Her son worried her. Cersei followed him to the Godswoods.

“Jon, where are you going?” She asked as they walked deeper into the forests.

“Away from here, away from them all.” Jon growled and she noticed Ghost and Lan trailing after them.

She lifted her skirts and followed her son. “Jon.”

They stopped near a clearing. “This is where I met her for the first time.”

Lady Stark did not understand at first but then came to the realization that he spoke of his wildling. “Jon, she is gone. She will not come back.” She tried to say with some empathy for her child.

“I know mother.” Jon replied with hard eyes.

“It was because of her mother, because of her brother. This war, this all happened because of Southern politics. Tyrells, Martells, Tullys, Baratheons, all living south of the Neck. She would have never gone there had it not been for the dammed war.” Her son said with hatred.

Cersei caressed his cheek, “Had the war not happened you would still be heart broken. She would have not consented to being your whore. She was a spear wife son, they are not suited to stay in a keep.”

Jon shook his head and then cried. Cersei held her son and let him cry and hold her until they both shivered from the cold.

“We must go inside. Your father and uncle have had many cups.” She kissed his forehead.

“Let me stay here for a while.” He said at some trees while wiping some tears. Cersei nodded and walked back, Ghost and Lan trailed after her.

She walked back to the Halls but decided against it. Cersei went upstairs to check on her younger children. She found Rickon asleep and Bran reading some of his books.

“I will go to sleep soon mother.” He said and kissed her cheek as farewell.

Cersei was on her way back to the Halls when she heard Ned’s laughter. She remembered decades ago when they were in a similar situation.

She went near him, “My lady wife. I have had too many ales and wines with my dearest brother in law and future son in law.” He laughed and tried to open her gown.

“Do you remember our bedding ceremony?” Her husband asked. He did not get drunk too often. Eddard did not partake, he was too responsible for it and now he was as drunk as that time.

“Vaguely.” She replied while leaning to kiss him; the taste was not awful but it was not as pleasant as his usual taste.

“I don’t. I remember Robert’s first visit.” He grabbed her breast and kissed her neck.

Cersei laughed but then moaned when he pushed her to a nearby wall. “Ned.” She moaned when his hands tried to pull her skirts down.

“Where are our quarters?” He kissed her with need.

She smiled wickedly and pulled him until they reached their doors. “I want to fuck you against the wall.” He growled and tried to turn her around.

“Once we are inside our rooms.” Cersei closed the door and laughed when Eddard ripped the bodice and pushed the skirts up.

He pushed his breeches down and fucked her against the wall. Cersei growled when he nipped at her collarbones and bit her neck. She bit back and ran her nails on his back. They were not as young or energetic but the passion in them was just as strong as when they conceived Robb. They slept on the floor until she woke up in the middle of the morning and convinced him to relocate to the bed.

Ned held her to him all day. He nursed a terrible headache the following morning, as did Tyrion and Robb. They were there for breakfast. Father was as pleasant as ever and asked Robb if he managed to perform his duty.

“I must see Jon.” He stood up and left the hall.

Tommen and his bride did not leave their quarters. Margaery Tyrell did not break fast with them. She remained in her quarters until three days after the wedding when they were heading to the Eyrie.

She watched as Jon and Robb said their goodbyes. Her eldest son would not be accompanying them. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell, the best choice would have been Bran but Jon offered to stay. Her poor Bran, he would not see the world, not as his brothers would. Ned accepted their eldest request.

The brothers hugged each other, “You will come and visit. See the Vale and meet the girls.” Robb smiled.

Arya and Joanna hugged and cried. He understood why Arya would cry but Joanna did not have much reason. They would be returning to the North as soon as Arya married Gendry.

“She is sensitive.” Ned replied and kissed her hands. As lord of Winterfell he had to instruct their son in some last minute details. Cersei thought it would not have been necessary since Jon had been in charge of Winterfell and the North for more than a year. Their son knew how to run the estate.

They set out for the Eyrie early in the morning. Cersei remained in her carriage with Bran and Rickon while her other sons rode. Joanna graciously offered to travel with her new daughters in law. She dragged Arya with her as well. Cersei smiled, her daughters had grown closer during the past years.

Their company rested for the night near the Neck, not quite there yet. Ned joined them and spent time with his youngest sons. Rickon was very wary of him but Bran’s eyes lit up when he saw his father.

They were resting. Rickon was asleep by her side, Bran on her other side and Ned was at the end of the canvas and furs.

“Father I had dreams that came true.” Bran said quietly, as if thinking she was asleep.

“Tell me about them.” Ned said.

Her boy explained, “Mother, nor uncle believe me, but sometimes I become Summer sometimes. I go hunting with him. I can feel all my legs running and the beating heart of the things I am about to eat. I hunted a deer three weeks before you arrived.”

Ned remained silent, “I hunted and I saw things father. I saw you and my brothers come back. Uncle Benjen came and said there were white walkers. Father the walkers are real. I saw them. Jon will fight them. He will fight them with fire.”

She frowned; this was Benjen’s fault. Him and Osha filled Bran’s head with tales of giants and the undead. She was about to interject when Ned answered, “I will send more men to your uncle. Will that help him fight the walkers?”

“Yes father. The wildlings will fight as well.” Bran said with a small voice.

“Very well. I shall send the Tallharts, the Umbers and the Karstarks to help your uncle Benjen and the Night’s Watch.” Ned promised. “What else did you see Bran?”

Bran stayed silent and then explained, “I saw you and mother, younger but you were not married. You were enemies and my mother was not my mother but the dead queen. There was no Joanna, Tommen or Rickon and Jon was a bastard, your son but not mother’s.”

Cersei stiffened, “That was a bad dream Bran.” Ned asked him more questions about his legs and his horse. He did not approach the dreams anymore. Bran fell asleep and Ned moved him to a smaller canvas.

“Are you truly sending our forces to the Night’s Watch?” Cersei asked when Ned hugged her.

“I am.” He replied honestly.

“You believe his dreams.” Cersei stated while he run patterns on her belly with his fingers.

“I do. He is special, always has been.” Ned said simply and closed his eyes.

Cersei barely slept that night or the following nights. She was worried about Bran and Jon as well as Robb who barely spent any time with his bride; instead he hunted, rode and shied away from her.

They arrived to the Eyrie. The Lord of the Vale received Ned and Sansa Arryn with open arms and smiles. The rest of them received looks of distrust and outright hatred in the case of Tywin Lannister. The servants all looked at Lady Sansa and rejoiced. She was in her element. The Eyrie was her home and the lords treated her as the Lady of The Vale.

“Lady Arryn.” An old woman exclaimed and wiped tears from her eyes.

“It’s good to see you Tansy.” Sansa toured her castle and conferred with her when it came to putting the rooms in use.

“Do as best as you can darling.” Cersei kissed her forehead. She liked Sansa best out of them all. Margaery was a snake she was sure, and Cassana would take away her Tommen.

So they settled in the Eyrie for a week before going to the Riverlands. Cersei enjoyed the castle to some extent. It was a hard place, the trek to the Arryn’s ancestral home was perilous, not all their men stayed in the castle. Only the lords and ladies and their servants made the trek.

Cersei enjoyed the quiet and the views from the big windows. Robb and Ned remained in long meetings with the lords of the Vale, meetings that would define the fates of the region or so Ned said. The lords of the Vale were not so keen to learn of Sansa Arryn’s wedding or the choice of bride for the new ruler of the Vale.

They were in bed when Ned explained the dilemma, “They do not want the Tyrell girl. They wanted Sansa to rule the Eyrie alongside Robb. They proposed it to Tywin who refused and then were stumped when Robb married the Highgarden girl.”

“What will happen now?” She asked.

“Not much. They will have to accept Robb. There is no other option. Your father’s and the Highgarden girl’s crops and supplies feed and clothe their men. They were far too gracious when they imposed Robb. Tywin intended for Tyrion to rule in his stead.

“Our son will rule.” Cersei pointed out.

“He will but Tywin is appeased because it will be Robb speaking but Tyrion ruling. Your brother has a better mind for administration than does our son. He will help our boy and then go to his lands and rule there.” Ned explained.

“I trust Tyrion as well.” Cersei said pensively. Her husband laughed some. “Never in a million years would I have thought you would say that about your baby brother.”

“I happen to like him now.” Cersei then kissed him so he would quiet.

Lady Stark spent the last day of her stay with Lady Sansa in one of the small gardens. It was snowing and Sansa was walking quietly.

“We leave for the Riverlands in the morrow.” Cersei said as they sat near the small garden but not quite outside, strong walls sheltered them from the wind and snow.

“Yes, Tommen and Cassana are quite happy.” Sansa replied politely.

Cersei smiled gently, “Your guess is as good as mine. They barely leave their quarters.” The couple was in love more than in love. They were obsessed with each other. It would not be long before they announced the arrival of her first grandchild. Cersei always thought it would be Robb. She thought he would be the one to make her a grandmother.

Sansa smiled, “My lord husband said that we would stay here.”

Cersei nodded, “I thought you would be happier with the news.”

“I am happy.” She said with a smile that did not reach her eyes.

“You could be happy. You choose not to. My brother will not wait much longer for you. He is getting tired and has many needs. He will find a servant girl that will please him and you will be considered a fool in your own lands.” The older woman said.

“You sent his whore away. You promised.” Sansa said with sad eyes. “He promised to wait as well.”

Cersei looked at the sad little doll, “Robb is here. Those two together will find a whorehouse and set it in your own castle if you and that little rose let them. Do not be a fool Sansa, become Sansa Lannister once and for all.”

“I can’t.” Sansa cried bitterly.

“Rumor has it my brother is more than capable to satisfy a woman. He is ugly but even I am fond of him. He is a good man and in the night when the lights are gone you could be able to welcome her into your bed.” The girl broke crying.

The girl cried desperately and Cersei felt pity for her. “I must tell you something but you have to promise to never tell your brother.” She said once she was calmer.

“I am not a maiden anymore.” Cersei almost rolled her eyes but she kept listening to the girl.

“Lord Baelish took me, that’s why I escaped and your brother rescued me. Lord Baelish forced me. I did not want to. I can’t be with your brother because he would know I am not a maiden and then he would return me. I would have to live as a peasant in my own lands.” She cried more.

Cersei gasped and held her hand. “Lady Stark, please, do not say anything. Tyrion must never know.”

She nodded but fully intended to tell her younger brother. Tyrion deserved to understand this girl’s coldness and her crying. Cersei stayed with her and let her cry. Sansa’s actions and her moods were understandable to a certain extent. Sansa cried on her lap for hours and told her what happened with details that Cersei did not expect from the girl.

“If father were alive. It would have never happened.” She cried pitifully.

“Your father is not with us. Sansa, you have to help Tyrion and Robb. They will need someone who understands the Eyrie better than they do. You have to advise your husband and he will advise my son.” Cersei carefully carded her fingers through the girl’s hair.

“Listen to me.” Cersei said and Sansa looked up and sat by her. “You are Lady Lannister the only Lady Lannister future Wardeness of the West. Start here, in your home, learn and help rule Tyrion and Robb.

“Shouldn’t Margaery do that?” Sansa asked while Lady Stark wiped her tears.

“Yes, but she will need your help. They will all listen to you. This is your home, your lands, and your people. They will see you and know they are well protected.”

“Could I write to you Lady Stark?” the girl asked with a trembling voice.

“Of course.” Cersei replied and hugged the young girl.

Sansa wiped her tears, “I must go freshen up before dinner.”

“Go along little dove. If you find my daughters tell them I will be in the parlor near the moondoor.” They walked back to the East wing and parted ways.

Cersei went to Tyrion’s study. She promised the girl but her allegiance was to Tyrion and he would finally understand the girl’s attitudes.

Tyrion was with Bronn. She managed to hear the name Shae. “You better have been speaking about how you know nothing of your whore.” She entered the quarters and sat in front of her brother.

“Bronn, please find Robb I must speak with him.” Bronn understood that he was to leave the quarters at once.

“What is the meaning of your visit dearest sister?” Tyrion asked as he poured them wine.

“Lady Lannister was raped by Lord Baelish.” Cersei said with a stony face.

Tyrion paled, “How have you gathered this knowledge?”

“The little dove told me herself. I swore not to tell you. She believes you will cast her aside as soon as you find out that she is not a maiden anymore. She fears she will be a peasant in her own lands. She is terrified and convinced you will never understand her and do much worse.” Cersei explained.

“I will not cast her aside. She is my wife.” Tyrion said while drinking more wine.

“Sweet brother, do listen to me. You must not tell her what you know. Sansa trusted me to keep the knowledge to myself.”

“I won’t tell her. This is why she shies away from me.” Tyrion said with a sad face.

“I believe so as well. The poor dove is afraid you will do as have many other men.” Cersei looked at her brother with wide eyes.

“She will write to you. Sansa likes you. I don’t rightly understand why but she looks up to you.” Tyrion continued and poured more wine.

“I will of course write to you as well Tyrion.” She smiled. “You must help Robb and keep that little whore in line.” Cersei and Tyrion understood each other.

“I will but you have to help with Sansa.” Tyrion bargained.

“She holds you to some appreciation. You will need to gain her trust.” Cersei grabbed his goblet. “Do not drink as much as you do. Show her your wit, spend time with her, Sansa is but a young girl. Your wife has been hurt deeply but there is still a young girl in her, a girl that believes in songs and knights.

Tyrion nodded and they spoke of the Eyrie and Robb’s role as Warden of the East. “The lords will listen to him or at least that is what Ned tells me.”

Her brother spoke clearly with her, “he shies away from the girl because he believes himself to be in love with someone else.”

Cersei chuckled good naturedly, “this is unbelievable. What is happening to my children? They all seem to believe themselves in love and waste away. Jon and now him.”

Tyrion smirked, “insensitive woman. He told me she was Volantese and in love with Tommen.”

She frowned, “Your husband gave him the option to accept the Eyrie and Margaery. He chose the Eyrie; your wolfling is not completely impulsive or senseless. He has good instincts and is ready to listen.” Tyrion appeased her. She had not seen Robb take any interest in his new lands.

“He will be a good ruler.” Tyrion comforted her.

“Of course I will be a good ruler.” Robb entered the rooms and sat next to her.

“Absolutely darling.” She kissed his hands. Robb then kissed her cheek.

“I must meet father.” Tyrion waddled out of the room.

“What was her name?” Cersei asked.

“Father told you.” Robb shook his head a little.

“He did not have to. You have not looked at your wife twice in the past weeks. My sweetling, you show more affection to Grey Wind that you show her.”

“I am not in love with her. That does not mean I love another.” Robb said with a stubborn voice.

Cersei smiled, “Your father was not in love with me but he visited my chambers every night. There is no sense in lying to your mother.”

“She is beautiful and in love with my brother. She is a Volantese nurse, has dark hair, dark eyes and loves Tommen. She took care of him and confessed to me when I tried to court her.” Robb said with a sad smile that reminded her of Jaime.

“I don’t like your new wife.” Cersei caressed his face “But you must find solace in her.”

He laughed, “maybe but not yet. I still think of her every night, maybe in a few months.” Robb and her spoke some but nothing of importance really.

The Starks and their parties said goodbye the following morning. Tyrion and her hugged, her new daughter in law kissed her cheek and offered her a fake smile. Sansa Lannister hugged her tightly and wiped her tears. “Take care little dove.” Cersei kissed her forehead and then went into her carriage. Robb would see them to the Bloody Gate.

The time came for her to say goodbye to Robb and it was hard. She was dignified and hugged him. “Write to your mother and trust your uncle.” She kissed him goodbye. Her boy smiled and she noticed for the first time that he was a man and not a little boy. He was older and looked as handsome as Ned was when he was his young.

The Riverlands were as plentiful and beautiful as she remembered. They spent a few days without any eventful news. They were ready to leave for the Kingsroad. She was not worried about Tommen. He was level headed and was just like Ned had been when he was younger. Maester Luwin, her and Ned had taught him well and the Riverlands were not as vast as the North. Riverrun was beautiful but small compared to Winterfell. He would do well.

They travelled in haste to the kingsroad when it happened. No one could find Prince Gendry and lady Arya Stark.

Chapter Text

Chapter 53

Joanna hugged Arya. She hugged her tighter than ever. “Are you sure you don’t want to say farewell to mother or father?”

“No, they would know what we have planned.”

Joanna whispered in her ear, “There is still time. This is madness.”

Arya shook her head, “It is not. I am sorry I cannot help you win Stannis but I know you will be queen.” Her younger sister smiled and kissed her cheek.

“Arya don’t.” Joanna whispered hurriedly. “What about mother, father, our brothers? We would never see you if you left for Braavos.

Her little sister’s eyes were sad. “We could never rule. We would be miserable. Gendry does not want to rule. He will be terrible. He does not understand what it means to watch over armies and Lords. I don’t like being a lady. I love him and we’ll be happy in Braavos. Give the letter to mother only when three days have passed. I love you all and once time has passed we will come back and they will forgive me. I know they will but now we have to go. I will write to you Joanna but you must swear to never let them know where we are, not until I tell you so.” Arya did not cry she hugged her once more.

Gendry came back dressed as a peasant. “You must do it now.” Joanna grabbed the knife and cut her sister’s long hair. Joanna almost cried again. She helped Arya dress like a servant boy.

“Goodbye my queen.” Arya kissed her cheek and mounted her mare.

Prince Gendry kissed her hands. “Thank you Lady Joanna.” The prince mounted the other horse. Nymeria and Lady played around.

Arya put on a helmet and off they went. Joanna saw as Nymeria ran after the horses.

The young woman did not cry. This was Arya’s choice not hers. Joanna only kept quiet because Arya swore she would leave for the North, beyond the Wall if she ever said anything. Joanna helped them and her heart did somersaults when she realized she could be queen. The young woman felt terrible; this was not about her it was about Arya and Gendry running away from Westeros. She would remain quiet and wait. She would not answer anything until the third day when she would give mother Arya’s letter.

Joanna slipped back into the tent she shared with Arya. She heard the first sounds of movement early in the camp. The were to ride for King’s Landing immediately. They had a numerous host and were to be in the capital in less than two months. They needed to get a good pace if they were to travel and arrive to the capital in that time.

She woke up and dressed. the girl was pale and reported to the main field where her family break fasted. Mother and father were seated with Rickon and Bran. Grandfather was there as well. She sat by him and made small conversation with the older man. Mother and father smiled at her and expected Arya and prince Gendry to arrive shortly after.

“How was your sleep sweetling?”

“I slept well mother, thanks for asking” Joanna replied and looked at the black bacon in front of her. She was not hungry at all.

Rickon grabbed father’s beard and tugged hard. She smiled when father tickled her little brother. “Where is Arya?”

Joanna remained quiet for a few seconds, “Kitten, where is your sister?” Father asked once more.

Joanna looked up from her plate and spoke clearly. “She ran away with the prince.”

Her mother gasped while her father frowned. Grandfather looked at her with suspicious eyes. “Where did your foolish sister go Joanna?”

She looked at her parents and then her grandfather, “I do not know.”

“You do, you do know child. Answer me now.” Grandfather raised his voice.

Father frowned and handed Rickon to mother. “That will be enough lord Lannister.”

“Joanna, do you know where your sister is?” father asked once more.

“I don’t. She ran away. She does not want to be here nor does Gendry. They ran away.” She replied pitifully.

Father shook his head in disappointment and then looked at grandfather. “Do I count with your men lord Lannister?”

“You do.” Grandfather frowned at mother and then at her.

“Stay with your mother and siblings.” Father said and then left with the older man.

“Osha, take Bran and Rickon back to their tent.” Mother said with harsh tones.

“Yes m’lady.” The wildlings said

“Mother, I wish to stay with you.” Bran said with a small pout.

Lady Stark was on her feet and handed Rickon to the servant. “Do as I say darling. I have to speak with your sister.”

Bran and her understood the tone and obeyed at once. Mother was angry; very angry. The last time she had heard such tones from her was when Robb and Jon foolishly lost the harvest for the town and father had to stop sending supplies to the wall for six months.

“Is this what you and your sister concocted all these months.” Mother pulled her up from her chair and shook her.

“Answer me now.” mother hissed lowly.

“Yes.” Joanna replied with downcast eyes.

“Why? Are you so bitter that you will not be queen that you convinced your sister to act so foolishly, to shame our name in such a fashion?” Mother spat with anger and disappointment.

The young woman looked up and shook her head, “No, I tried to convince her not to. I don’t love Gendry. I could never do that. Mother, she was hell-bent into escaping with the prince.”

“You know where they are. Answer me, where are they?”

“I do not know.” The young woman refused to speak up.

Her mother looked at her for a while as if waiting for her to rat her sister.

“Very well. They must not have gone far. We are near Riverrun and your brother of course will lend some of his men for the search. Come along you and I will stay together until your sister and the prince are found.”

Joanna followed her and noticed they were going to her tent. “Where are we going?”

“Do not play stupid. I will ransack this place. Arya must have left something for you to hold. You two planned this ruse for months. She would not leave her family without a goodbye.” Cersei looked at her once more. Joanna stayed still, and lowered her gaze, lest her mother noticed the slight fear in her eyes.

Lady Stark turned the tent upside down. She tore around her trunks, unmade the furs and the straw beddings but she did not find the letter. Arya and her thought about that and they hid the letter in Rickon’s trunk lining. Mother asked her time and time again. She guilted her to the point where Joanna cried freely but the girl did not speak a word.

Father and grandfather returned in the late hours of the afternoon. “We ride for Riverrun until Arya and prince Gendry are found.” Father looked at her.

“Kitten, please explain how did this happen?” Joanna cried and hugged him.

“Arya is fine. They are fine. That is all I can tell you father.” Father pulled her hair back

“You must tell us where they are at once. Gendry has a duty to the crown and the people. We fought a war to put him in the throne. Sweetling, this is not about betraying your sister. This is about honor; your sister and Gendry are to seat on the throne and rule us.” Father explained carefully.

Mother and grandfather sported twin frowns. “I can’t.” Joanna said helplessly, wondering not for the first time whether she was helping Arya or herself with her silence. She shook her head and lowered her face.

“Ned, she will not say anything on the matter.” Mother spoke to father.

“Cersei, your father and I searched for them as did Tommen with his men. There is no trace of them. We will search again tomorrow but there will be no point if we do not find them by tomorrow night.” Father said wearily.

“Our host is too big. What will we do?” Cersei asked.

“I will send my men to the Westerlands. I will leave a fifteen men with you and turn back to the Riverlands. I suggest you send ravens to Baratheon; it is best he learns the news from you than from anyone else.” Grandfather commented and left the tent.

Father looked at her. “What happened to your tent sweetling?”

“Nothing that cannot be fixed. Joanna cannot stay alone. She will stay with Bran. Osha will attend them.” Mother said with a calm voice. Joanna understood she was dismissed from her own tent.

Joanna could not sleep that night, nor the next. She was upset all the way back to Riverrun and welcomed Tommen’s open arms.

“What did they do?” Her twin brother whispered while hugging her.

She kissed his cheek. “I have a letter for them.”

“Jo.” Tommen shook his head.

It was the third night and it was time. Mother unwittingly facilitated her when she placed her with Bran and Osha. As it happened Rickon’s luggage stayed in Bran’s tent. Joanna held the letter inside her dress, on her bodice. Father sent the ravens the night before. They were to stay in Riverrun until there was an answer from lord Baratheon.

Joanna retired to her rooms for a while until a maid called her to dinner. She was surprised to see grandfather in the castle. He did not have any more pressing matters as there would not be any wedding. Cassana and Tommen sat as hosts.

She decided to give mother the letter Arya wrote. “She said to give it to you tonight.”

“Read it.” Father said with some anger.

“Dear mother and father. I love you but I cannot stay. I cannot rule and neither can Gendry. Do not fault Joanna. She tried to dissuade me but I threatened to leave beyond the Wall and never write. I will write in a few months; when you have forgiven us. I love you all and I am sorry I could not be a better daughter but father you always said to be happy. Mother try to understand.” Joanna read.

Mother and father looked stoic but she could tell mother was affected. “Prince Gendry wrote something for his uncle as well.” That was a surprise to her.

“Read it as well Joanna.” Grandfather commanded and not even father refused.

“Uncle, I cannot rule, we know that Westeros needs you. King Robert made a mistake. He should have picked Edric as uncle Renly wanted. I never wanted to rule and neither does Arya. Do not blame her. I love her and she might as well be my wife. We have laid together and will run away. Uncle I have loved you like a father and wish you will forgive me someday. My beloved believes you will. You are what the kingdom needs. You are to rule.” Joanna blushed some when she read the part about their activities.

Father was angry. He stormed out of the dining room.

“What shall we do now Grandfather?” Tommen asked in a composed voice.

“We will meet with Baratheon. Your father and I will set to King’s Landing at once.” Grandfather ate as if nothing happened. Mother frowned but remained in the dining room.

“My uncle will fix this I am sure. Gendry will come back.” Cassana said with a hopeful voice.

Joanna knew they would not come back. Arya and Gendry were determined to sail fro Braavos and it would be complicated to reach them once they for the free cities. Father was correct. They were gone.

She retired to her quarters and was surprised when mother knocked on her door. She wore her sleeping gown and slept with her for the time.

“I am not happy with you or your sister. You must tell me where they are. It will so much easier to find them if you did sweetling. Your father and mine are very cross with Arya at the moment. They have sent men to search after them.

Joanna was silent, “They sailed for the free cities. They did, they must have. Tell me at once sweetheart.” Cersei cajoled once more.

The young woman was silent and remained quiet. Mother stayed with her and held her that night. Joanna did not feel conflicted however. She was selfish but there was a speck of true in what both Arya and Gendry wrote. They were not fit to rule. Stannis Baratheon was.

Joanna saw father and grandfather ride to Kings Landing that same morning and saw them come back a fortnight later, only this time there were Baratheon banners with them.

Cassana, mother and her sat in the sewing rooms when a maiden told them that the lords expected them in the small rooms designed for strategies.

They made their way to said rooms. Joanna entered and saw father, lord Baratheon, grandfather and Tommen frowning deeply.

Chapter Text

Chapter 54

Stannis Baratheon seethed. Shireen stayed in King’s Landing with Davos while he had to leave the capital to find his wayward nephew. What was it with Northern girls that drove Baratheon men crazy? Robert and now Gendry. It was utterly irresponsible of the boy. Eddard had given him the letter his nephew wrote. Stannis ground his teeth and commanded his forces to look for the boy. Davos and Lannister advised against sending a fleet to Essos. Stannis and Eddard decided to fine comb the Riverlands, the Eyrie and the Westerlands in case they had decided to leave for Lannisport. Davos was convinced Gendry and his young paramour had left Westeros and were in their way to the Free Cities. “Why then are you advising me to not send our fleet to Braavos?” Stannis inquired once they were in private.

“M’lord, the prince does not wish to be found. He does not have it in him to rule. Gendry was correct. You are what the realm needs.”

“Foolishness.” Stannis frowned and convinced himself that the Stark and Lannister did not comb the lands as finely as they should have.

A fortnight later they were without results. He was in Tommen Stark’s modest war room with Eddard and Lannister. The old lion ate his dinner peacefully; Stannis distrusted the man’s calm demeanor. Stark frowned and commanded more of his son’s men to continue the search.

Stannis opted to not eat anything as had Eddard. He heard the Northerman distribute the Riverlands men when Lannister spoke. “It is useless to keep looking for them.”

Eddard stopped his commands. “They will be found.” The man said with conviction.

“They will but not now. If Arya is as bull headed as is her mother they will not be found until she wants to be found.” Lannister continued.

“Do not insult Cersei.” Stark growled.

Tywin’s eyes narrowed, “You gave her too much freedom. You and Cersei allowed her too many liberties; lessons in sword fighting, horse ridding, archery. Cersei should have known better than to raise that girl like a boy. She is wild, as wild as Cersei would have been had I given into her desires to fight like a man.” He replied.

Stannis agreed with Lannister for once. That wolfling girl corrupted his boy. Gendry would have never fled had it not been for the influence that girl had on him. She bewitched the boy.

Stark did not take those comments kindly, “you will not speak of my daughter in that manner.” He rose.

Tommen Stark glanced at his father and grandfather, “Father, grandfather is correct in one thing. It is useless to keep searching.” Stark glared at him.

“They are not in the Riverlands, or the Westerlands. It would have been impossible for them to reach West without us knowing. The Eyrie is too far and hostile. Robb and uncle Tyrion have searched as well; their men report nothing.” The boy said with a calming voice.

“We’ll go North of the Neck.” Stark continued. Lannister laughed, “They are not in the North. They are East, they sailed to the free cities and are out of our hold.”

Stannis did not like the derisive tone the older man used, “I will command our forces to find them. Stark I am sure I count with your men.”

“You do.” Eddard Stark replied.

“Do I count with your forces Lord Lannister?” Stannis felt bile rise as he asked for the men. He did not like Lannisters. They were treacherous, greedy for ambition.

“No, you do not. It is a fool’s errand what you plan. I have lost many men and resources in this war. I will not lose more because of a idiotic boy who lets himself be trapped by an equally imprudent girl.” The man said.

Stannis ground his teeth and looked at the youngest Stark in the room. “I will not give you my men.”

“Tommen.” Eddard roared.

“They do not wish to rule. Gendry never did.” He wanted Arya from the start and he got her. They are not coming back father, not to rule. Grandfather was unkind with his words but they are accurate. Arya cannot rule and neither can Gendry.”

Stannis stood up and paced, “Westeros needs a king, a ruler. This war started to put my nephew on the throne, to reclaim his seat.”

Lannister smirked, “Westeros has a ruler. Your nephew left the kingdom to you. By laws older than time, you are the rightful king of Westeros.”

Tommen and Stark looked at him, “You Gendry’s successor. The throne would have gone to you had Gendry perished when he left King’s Landing you would have succeeded him.” Tommen explained.

Stark poured some wine, “You have ruled since Catelyn’s death. The lords of Westeros have seen your face more than they have Gendry’s. You would have ruled as Gendry’s Hand had he stayed. We know you would have ruled in his instead and now you will.”

“And you will have a queen by your side.” Tywin offered. “The realm needs a change, what better distraction than a wedding, the promise of a new era, a beautiful queen that will give you many princes and princesses.”

Stannis frowned, “I have a child.”

Tywin smirked once more, “a princess, a daughter, rather smart I am told but she will be someone else’s wife in a few years. She will not rule. You need a queen.”

“What do you propose then? Who would I marry? One of the traitor highborn ladies that plague court in King’s Landing? One of the Frey girls, or perhaps a Tyrell, one of the sand snakes of Dorne or better yet your sweet child of a granddaughter.” Stannis ground.

Eddard and Tommen frowned, “Why not? Joanna is not a child; she is almost ten and seven. Young Cassana is ten and six and married.”

“Absolutely not.” Stannis roared.

“Joanna will not be married to a man almost twice her age.” Stark roared back.

Tommen laughed, “Grandfather surely you are jesting.”

Tywin shook his head, “Why not? Your sister is of age, she is more beautiful than her mother, as beautiful as her grandmother. She will be loved by the masses.”

Stannis raged at the man in front of him. “I will not bed a child.”

Stark glared at him, as did the young Tommen Stark. “I will not let my daughter be wedded to someone who could be her father.”

“He is not her father.” Tommen spoke and looked at Tywin Lannister. “But Joanna cannot be his wife. She dreams of a knights and songs…”

The old lion scoffed, “You need a wife and I propose my beautiful granddaughter yet you scorn her. Very well my king. I shall need you to refund all of my investment in your war, lest you accept my granddaughter’s hand.”

Stannis growled. In practice Westeros was ruled by Baratheons but by paper and resources Westeros was controlled by the Lannisters. The crown owed more than it could pay. Tywin Lannister had funded Robert for years.

“You would have another war.” Stannis replied, this was the same man that spoke of a new era seconds ago.

Eddard looked at the older man with disgust, “you forget once more that it is my daughter, my Joanna who you pretend to sell like a brood mare.”

“How ungrateful can you be Eddard?” Tywin stood up and left.

“You have my terms your grace.” The man said before leaving the rooms.

Stannis took a drink from his wine cup. “He is insane.”

“He always was a greedy man. He has not changed, war and time have not made any impact on that man.” Eddard growled and drank from his wine cup.

Once more Tommen spoke up, “He will wage war once more. All because you do not accept my sister’s hand in marriage; thousands of lives lost because you refuse to take Joanna as your wife.”

“He will take your sister as his wife. I give no consent. My daughter will go back North with me. We will go back to where we belong.” Eddard said once more.

Stannis felt an impossible anger overcome his body. Tywin was in an advantageous position. His forces were not as depleted as his. The old Lion was an opportunist. He aligned himself with the winning party. It was dishonorable but so far the Lannisters had endured.

Eddard was an honorable man. Stannis thought of Shireen and how much she loved the Stark girl. He looked at the Starks who squabbled. He could see Westeros torn apart once more. Stark would fight Tywin, there would be civil war. Daenerys Targaryen was said to have birthed a dragon child, other informants spoke of her a three baby dragons. Dragons or not the Targaryen girl was said to be with child when Robert was alive, maybe she had given birth to a boy perhaps. The man could almost picture her arriving with forty thousand Dothraki savages at her back. Westeros needed to be strong; the Seven Kingdoms needed to be one. It was his duty to rule them in the absence of Gendry. He was the true King of Westeros.

“Lord Stark. I shall marry your daughter. She will be my queen.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 55

Cersei watched as her lord husband paced in front of her. He had told her about father’s notions of Joanna and Stannis marrying. She was as surprised as her husband when the dour Baratheon man proclaimed to marry her daughter.

“Madness. It is utter madness.” Ned yelled.

“I will not marry her to that man.” He continued. Cersei placed Rickon on his furs. Lan was by his side immediately. She stood up and walked up to him.

“Why not?” She asked gently against his back.

“Have you gone insane? Our youngest daughter is off Gods knows where and you want to ship our eldest girl to the South.” He barked.

Cersei kissed his back. Ned was tense, “Joanna is almost as old as I was when my father shipped me off North.”

Her husband turned to her, “I was not twice your age. Cersei, you do not know Stannis, he is hard, unyielding. He could never love her.”

“Have you asked your daughter what she wants?” She asked seriously.

“It does not matter what she wants. It matters what is best for her and the south is not best for her.” Ned thundered. He was outraged by lords Baratheon and Lannister.

Cersei frowned, “Joanna has wanted to be queen since she was five years old and you told her Robert was your best friend.”

“What does she know of marriage? What could she do so far away from home? She is a child.” Ned said.

Cersei shook her head and caressed his cheek. “She is not a child anymore. If it is not Stannis it will be other lord. I would feel safer with Stannis as her husband. He would never hurt her, not physically at least. She would be taken care of.”

“She would thrive in the south. She would be queen.” Cersei continued,

“No.” Ned growled.

Cersei grew impatient with her husband, “What can you do? Who would side with you? This is ridiculous Eddard. Our daughter is of age, has consented to this match and seems quite enamored with her suitor.”

Ned glared at her, “enamored? What do you know Cersei?”

She smirked, “a mother always knows. At first I thought her little scheme with Arya was because she was jealous of her. I realized she felt for Stannis when his host arrived to Riverrun. She admires him and that is more than what I felt for you when I married you.”

“We are different. We fell in love. I loved you within a year. I do not think Stannis will love our daughter. She deserves so much more.” Ned gritted.

“Do you want another war?” Cersei asked. If he refused there would be another war for sure. Father would stop supplying and then Stannis would not have their support and be forced to deal with a small rebellion in the West.

“Tommen said the same thing.” Ned replied and dawned some wine.

“Our son is sensible. He is not mistaken Eddard.” Cersei looked at him and kissed him brow. “Shall we sleep now?” He nodded and disrobed with her. He held her close to him for the remainder of the night.

The next morning was trying to say the least. Father looked smug next to Joanna who smiled brightly. Cersei held onto Eddard who looked murderous. Stannis was to leave the Riverlands that same morning.

“Joanna, your mother and I will speak with you now.” Their daughter stood up and left with them.

Cersei was invited as a formality. Eddard went for the kill, “Your life as a queen would be nothing like you pictured it. This is not the life of princesses and gallant knights. Stannis is harsh, older and not a knight. He is a warrior and will be a king. He will not play for your girlish fancies of knights and ladies.”

Joanna looked at her father and smiled, “I want to be his wife. He will love me. You have to accept the match. I will make him love me and Shireen will be so happy.” She said with a brilliant smile.

“Deluded girl.” Eddard muttered and kissed her forehead, “Your mother and I will consent to this match but I don’t want you to have such high hopes for Stannis. He’s always been a very dour man.” Eddard left the room with a frown.

“Your father will come around.” Cersei said and smiled at her girl. She truly was beautiful more beautiful than she had ever been.

Joanna smiled, “Are you not going to ask me why I consented?”

Cersei kissed her hands, “I know why you accepted. You like this man.”

Joanna blushed prettily, “I think I love him. I wanted to be his wife since his lady wife died.”

Cersei listened to Joanna tell her about her feelings ever since she stayed in Dragonstone. She was surprised by the depth of her girl’s feelings and for the first time shared Ned’s reservations about the match. “Be careful Joanna; Stannis is a hard man. He will not love you so soon.”

“I will make him fall in love with me. Mother, I have seen the way he stares at me. He desires me.” Joanna replied

“It is a start Joanna but not the end goal. You have got to make Stannis need you. He should feel as if you are his safe harbor.”

“How do I do that?” Joanna asked.

Cersei smiled, “Do not bear him a child just yet. I will give you moon tea. You have to be very careful when you drink it. No one must know that you drink it. I will give you Osha. I am sure she will love to be as far from the Wall as humanly possible. She will make sure to hide your moon tea.”

Joanna nodded, “Why not give him a child? Would he stop coming coming to my bed if I do not bear him a child?

“On the contrary. He will visit your bedchambers every night. You will ask him about his days, his duties, get to know him and comfort him. His daughter will be key to your success as well. Love her, treat her like a daughter.”

Joanna smiled, “that will be no problem. I love Shireen and she loves me.”

“That is wonderful dear. Be active in his kingdom too. Take up a charity, something to keep you busy. Stannis will not want you to waste away in that castle. Make sure he sees you as a woman and not a silly child.” Cersie began and talked to her daughter for most of the day. Eddard grumbled but maintained his composure. There was news from the Iron Islands, Jaime and his army defeated the ironborn and sailed to King’s Landing victorious.

Their last day in Riverrun was hard for Tommen. He hugged and kissed his twin until the girl was on tear.

“I promise to write every week Tommen.” Joanna hugged her brother tightly. Tommen did not cry but his face was somber. Cersei kissed his forehead. “She will be very happy.” She said as they left the Riverlands.

Cersei tried to ease Ned into accepting the union between their daughter and the future King of Westeros.

She tried to brighten his days, but her lord was reticent to every word and attempt she had to soften the blow that would be Joanna’s wedding.

Cersei had enough of his brooding the day before they were to reach the gates of the Capital. He looked at her and told her gently, “I could send you and our children back North. I could find a vessel and send you back.”

She kissed his lips and carded his hair back, “nonsense. We are a day away from King’s Lading. The people of the realm expect a wedding feast They are all charmed by tales of our daughter and Stannis. I have to say father and his singers did a very good job of spreading a love story.”

“it is not a love story. Our daughter will not be happy mark my words Lioness.” He said with sad eyes.

“She will be as happy as she manages to make herself. You will put on a smile when you give her away. She will look radiant in her dress and your ancestral robes. No more disdainful looks. You may look at father however you like but Stannis is to be your son in law. The kingdom needs the noble houses to be united. Stop thinking about Joanna’s future unhappiness. You have to see it; she’s smitten with Stannis. She will make him love her. If anyone can it will be Joanna.”

Cersei had taught her child all she could. Joanna blushed but asked questions when Cersei explained the ways of the flesh. “Be shy at first, he might have some ideas if you are too forward but make sure to be loving to him. Caress his body, love every part of him Joanna.” The girl blushed and looked away from her.

“Do you find him dashing? He certainly is strong. He might not be young but he is handsome in his own way.” Cersei added with some complicity.

“I find him very handsome; his eyes are very blue and I like the shape of his jaw and his smile is beautiful. I have seen him smile; when he thinks no one is looking. He smiles at Shireen and used to smile at Gendry too.”

“He will smile at you Joanna.” Cersei encouraged her daughter.

The day arrived when they entered the city. They were all waiting for them, the city cheered as they passed through the gates. Cersei smiled at her young children. Bran looked at the city and smiled. Ned held Rickon on his lap but long gone was his frown. He seemed pensive and stared at Joanna the whole ride.

The Red Keep welcomed them; the castle looked beautiful. Cersei did not remember the Keep being so splendid. She kept a haughty air about her. She was Cersei Stark after all. She was greeted by a young girl running to Joanna.

“You are to marry father.” She said excitedly and twirled with Joanna. Cersei smiled, Shireen Baratheon looked happy.

They were escorted to their quarters. Eddard was eager to meet with Stannis. Father was settled in the North quarters. Osha helped Bran to his quarters. Cersei followed Myra to her quarters. Stannis did not greet them that day nor the evening. He held meetings with Father, Eddard and surprisingly Jaime. Her twin brother was reinstated as Kingsguard.

Cersei relaxed that night and comforted Eddard when he came back from his last meeting of the night. “I had hoped Stannis would come to his senses but he is decided to go through this blasted wedding.”

She kissed his lips, “Eddard, no more talking.” She whispered and ran his hands down his chest. The woman smiled wickedly and rubbed him through his small clothes. He kissed her with force. Cersei tired her lord husband and managed to make him sleep through the night.

The morning dawned bright and early. She woke Eddard and they dressed in their finest clothes. She had a handmaiden braid her hair in the northern fashion. Joanna wore her hair in the southern fashion. She looked beautiful in her grey and white dress. Lady Stark wore a royal blue gown. The ceremony took place in the Godswoods. They married under the Old Gods and then satisfied the southron gods. She saw Jaime in his golden armor. Cersei ignored his pleading looks. He wanted forgiveness that she would not grant. Eddard unrobed her daughter and looked stoic when he gave her to Stannis Baratheon.

The wedding feast was lavish to say the least. There were singers, dancers, majestic entertainers that brightened the guests and the feast. There was no bedding ceremony. Stannis simply stood up and held his hand to Joanna who smiled graciously and left the feast with him.

Cersei conversed with many ladies and lords. Ned remained quiet and aloof. He held conversation with the Hand of the King and remained as far from Tywin as possible. Cersei retired when Bran fell asleep by one of the hearths. A kingsguard helped her with her son.

Cersei did not realize that it was not a man but a woman who helped her carry Bran to his bed. “You look a lot like your brother.”

“We are twins.” Cersei replied; there was something familiar about this woman. She felt as if he knew her.

“Ser Jaime speaks highly of you. I am Brienne of Tarth. I serve in the Kingsguard with your brother.” The woman bowed to her.
“Very nice to meet you, lady Brienne.” Cersei said with a small smirk.

“I will protect your daughter. It is my duty to make sure she and King Stannis are well.” Brienne said solemnly.

“Thank you.” She replied carefully and escorted her out of the quarters. Rickon and Bran slept peacefully. Her daughter was married. Robb, Tommen and Jon were in their castles and she wanted to believe that Arya was safe wherever she was. Cersei stayed with her babies until Ned woke her up. “Come with me Lioness.”

She went to their bed and rested on his chest. “We march back home in a fortnight.” Ned whispered to her ear.

She smiled, “It is for the best.”

She breakfasted in the great hall with her small family and her father. Tywin looked smug and was ready to leave for the West that following day.

Cersei did not speak to him and waited for Joanna and Stannis to arrive. Joanna looked fresh faced and happy. Stannis was dour and avoided Ned’s stare.

“Good morning sweetling.” She kissed her daughter’s cheek.

“Mother, Grandfather.” She said politely and started eating.

Cersei finished her meal and went to the embroidery rooms where Joanna joined her shortly.

“How are you my love?” Cersei asked as soon as she sat by her.

“Fine.” She replied smiling, “He came to my bed.”

“Of course he did.” Cersei smirked.

“How was he?” She asked carefully.

Joanna blushed, “He was gentle, very careful and I did what you told me. I enjoyed it mother.”

Cersei tightened her hold on her hand. “Did he stay in your bed?”

“No, he spilled and left.” She said sadly.

The older woman reassured her, “that is to be expected. He was forced into this marriage, no man likes that. You will try to engage him more.”

Eddard spent his days with Stannis and Ser Davos. Jaime approached her once more and was successful the morning of her departure.

“Farewell sweet sister.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek.

“Goodbye Jaime.” She said stiffly.

“Forgive me for the pain I’ve caused you.” He said and held her once more.

“There is nothing to forgive.” Cersei said while distancing herself from his body.

The turn was to leave her daughter, “Write to me; trust Osha. She will be very useful.” The wildling did not want to say goodbye to Rickon or Bran. She hugged her tight and loved how the girl nodded and did not cry. She was a queen and queens did not cry easily. They were as strong as their kings; and this king was not one prone to tears.

Cersei went inside the carriage where Bran looked forlorn. “Osha could have come with us.”

“Your sister needs her more than we do.” Cersei kissed his forehead.

Lady Stark watched as the Red Keep disappeared before her eyes.

Chapter Text

Chapter 56

Cersei walked with Ned. They were in the Eyrie; her lord husband insisted on showing her all his favorite spots from when he was a boy training with Robert.

She enjoyed the calm afternoons and the solitude of the Eyrie. “Jon Arryn used to hold meetings with us here in this very room.” Ned was less apprehensive as they trekked North. They spent many afternoons alone in the Eyrie. Rickon usually nearby; Bran with Tyrion or Robb. Ned was more relaxed in the East.

It was a contrast from their weeks in Tommen’s lands. He was not happy in the Riverlands with all the Tullys. He advised their son to keep some of the Northern host and her boy heeded that advice. They were to cross through the Neck after three weeks in the Riverlands but Cersei had wanted to visit Robb and Tyrion for that matter.

Ned had smirked at her, “Fond of your baby brother are you now?”

She held Rickon to her, “I want to see how our son is faring.”

“Fine. We will go to the Eyrie, but we might have to stay for a few months until the roads clear from the upcoming storm.” Her husband explained carefully.

“Do we have enough provisions to stay a few months with Robb?” she asked before he announced the detour to the Eyrie.

“We have enough.” He smiled. “To the Eyrie it is.”

Cersei had been greeted with hugs and kisses from Sansa, Robb and Tyrion. “Oh how wonderful to see you little dove.” She gushed and hugged Sansa.

She looked at Margaery who smiled but looked uncomfortable. “Lady Stark, I have to tell you so many things.”

Robb kissed her cheek and then pulled his father to ask for counsel. Tyrion went with them.

Sansa was in her element. Cersei saw as the servants deferred to her. They were polite to the Tyrell girl but it was clear Sansa was the lady of the castle. She told her of the castle and the mundane happenings. Robb was fine; he was ruling like he was born to rule. She suspected Tyrion and his counsel were the reason behind Robb’s easy time ruling the Eyrie.

She was in one of the drawing chambers with Rickon playing around with Lan. Sansa had her needlepoint and Margaery looked peaky.

“I think I am with child.” Margaery said with a small smile.

Cersei nodded carefully. She would have liked Sansa as daughter in law. The Tyrell girl was too ambitious, too clever for her own good. Sansa was docile, more manageable and decidedly better bred.

“Great news, may the newest Stark be as healthy as my Jon was when he was born.” Cersei said with a small smile. Margaery tired and retired to her quarters. Bran limped into the room and took Rickon with him. One of the knights accompanied them to one of the snowy courtyards.

Cersei and Sansa were alone then; Margaery was usually with them at all times. Margaery felt threatened by Sansa; understandable since the redheaded girl was in her home while Margaery was still a guest. The Tyrell woman was a stranger; a hated one since her family’s alliance to the Tyrells was condemning. “What do you think of Robb and Margaery?”

Sansa looked surprised, “May I be frank?”

“Of course.” Cersei replied with an affable smile.

“They are fine. Your son visits her chambers every night and will be very happy to know that she will bear him an heir.” Sansa said and then whispered, “Him and my lord husband drink sometimes. Not often, but when they do Robb asks about a woman, a healer, Talisa, is her name I believe.”

“Margaery seems happy and tries to spend more time with him but Robb is always busy with the Knights of the Vale. He is as busy as my husband is.” Sansa said with a frown.

“How is your marriage to my brother?” Lady Stark inquired.

Sansa did not meet her gaze. “He has a handmaiden that he frequents every night.”

Cersei frowned deeply and gazed at her, “Soon she will be with child. You will have a bastard on your hands. What will you do then?”

Sansa’s eyes watered, “I don’t want him to have that handmaiden.”

“Have you shared his bed yet?” Cersei asked with genuine curiosity. She was softening in her old age or perhaps it was the fact that she missed Arya and Joanna. Lady Stark wanted Sansa to thrive but the girl was stubborn and refused to take her advice.

The redheaded young woman shook her head, “I tried lady Stark and I couldn’t do it.”

Cersei immediately thought that it had to do with her younger brother’s dwarfish appearance. “Do you hold any affection for my brother?”

The young girl nodded, “We spend at least an hour reading and talking everyday but when nightfall comes he always leaves. I don’t know what to do.”

Cersei smiled at young Sansa and gave her the same advice she gave Joanna. “I am told Tyrion is an expert on women. Let him take the lead and explain your situation. He will be gentle with you. My brother has a good soul, and women are one of weaknesses.”

Sansa dried some of her tears. “would that work? Would he stop going to her then?”

Cersei nodded, “if you play your cards well. You have to get Tyrion to love you. He feels affection for you. You have to make this marriage work Sansa; it is for your benefit. You are Lady Lannister, future Wardeness of the West. Tyrion will undoubtedly parade his whores once he is in the West. The West is his to rule and there will be no one to restrain him. He has some consideration here because this is your home and the Vale knights would surely have his head if he were to humiliate you by overtly bringing whores into your castle. We have spoken of this dear; I am afraid you will rue the consequences if you do not take action.”

Sansa looked at her with a determined gaze. “I don’t want Tyrion to have whores.”

“Very well.” Cersei replied and tried to give her some idea of what to expect from Tyrion.

Sansa was pale but something told Cersei that the young woman had grown to care more for Tyrion and would act on her advice this time.

Lady Stark went to her chambers where she found Eddard on their bed. “What is it my love?” She asked when she joined him.

“Robb is miserable.” Eddard replied.

Cersei felt a wave of sadness, “He was in love with someone named Talisa. Was he not?”

Eddard looked surprised but nodded, “He was. Talisa Maegyr from Volantis, a healer who fell in love with Tommen.”

Ned caressed her face, “Our son made his choice. He knew Talisa did not want him and saw the benefits of ruling the Eyrie.”

Cersei was surprised, Robb had always been the more gregarious of her children. He had endless of girls trailing after him. Her child never settled for any woman but Ned told her he fell in love with a volantese woman.

“He made a sensible decision. I raised him to rule the West but the East is just as good.” She continued. “Margaery is with child.”

Ned frowned, “So soon.”

“Robb will have to love her after she bears him an heir.” Cersei said. “You did.”

Ned looked at her, “I did not fall in love because you bore my children. I fell in love the moment you accepted Jon as your own.”

He kissed her mouth and trailed a fire of kisses down to her breasts. “We have worn our welcome in this castle my lady. It is time for us to go back to our home.” Cersei moaned when he grasped her breast and rolled a nipple through the dress.

“I wanted to stay for a few more weeks.” She stared at his grey eyes.

“No. I want to go to Winterfell.” He tried to lower her gown without much success. He bit her ear. “I want us to make love in our bed and smell snow; real snow not this watered down earthy snow.” His hands made his way under her dress. Ned parted her legs, he did not wait for them to be undressed but rather pushed her dress to her middle and then rubbed her there. Cersei tried to scratch his trousers but Ned had a better idea, he dropped the trousers and rubbed himself against her throbbing crotch. She smiled when he entered her.

“Ned.” She said breathlessly.

He smirked and moved in and out of her. “I want to hear you scream my name. I will take you in our rooms, the highest tower of Winterfell, the stables, our pools near the Godswoods. I will have you beg for me once we are back home.”

Cersei grew aroused with every word he said and agreed to go back home. Cersei longed for home too.

There was a very generous feast the following day. Robb looked rested, happier now that he knew he would have a child. Margaery looked sick but she endured the feast with a politeness. Sansa looked radiant with her lavender dress and loose hair. Tyrion raised a cup of wine to her.

Cersei wanted to speak with her baby brother too. She enjoyed the feast and watched as Ned smiled and played with Bran and Rickon who now loved his lord father. Lady Stark saw the perfect opportunity to approach Tyrion. She smiled at his brother. “I know about your little whore.”

Tyrion smiled, “stay out of this sister. My wife and I are happy as it is.”

“I will.” She laughed when he frowned at her. Cersei kissed his cheek, “one day you will thank me for my advice.” She laughed with merriment when Robb stood up and led her to the dance floor.

Lady Stark danced with his second oldest son and then danced with her Lord husband. She felt happy, rested for a change.

Winterfell was her home. She felt incredible peace when she entered the gates. Jon was there to greet them. He looked better, happier, not like her boy, but like his father. He looked a lot like Ned. She hugged him and kissed his cheek.

“I am glad you are here.” She kissed his forehead and smiled at her firstborn.

“Mother.” He hugged her.

Ned hugged their son too. “Tell me how is our land.” As soon as that her husband and son went into the study.

Cersei looked at Bran, “What do you say we get some supper and then I tell you and Rickon some stories?”

Bran was tired from the endless hours of travelling and acquiesced almost immediately. She spent time with her little ones until they were fast asleep.

Cersei went to her study and found her letters. Most of them were Joanna’s. Cersei read her daughter’s words carefully. “I am fine. Shireen and I are wonderful. My lord husband smiled at me yesterday night. He stayed on my bed until the next morning. Mother, I truly love him. He is a fair and noble man. I have not received any letters from Arya as of yet. Osha is learning to read, Shireen is teaching her. Stannis spends all of his nights with me now. He talks to me more. Mother I am so happy.” She read excerpts from all of Joanna’s letters. She could not believe it was almost nine months since she last saw her girl.

Cersei smiled and wrote a lengthy letter asking her about her life as queen and how her marriage fared.

Eddard found her writing the last paragraph of her letter to Joanna. “She is happy.” He said tentatively.

She grinned and kissed him, “her letters lead me to believe so. The singers across the lands sing of Joanna’s radiant smile; the princess’s intelligence and the king’s good reign. All the songs are about happiness and the queen’s smile.” She was smug and showed it through her eyes.

Ned pulled her up, “I am going to take you here.”

She smiled wickedly, “My lord Stark, your sons could hear.”

He growled, “naked now.”

She demurely smiled and undid her dress. Eddard sat on the chair she occupied just now. Cersei was done playing demure, little woman. She kissed his chin and then straddled him. Lady Stark disrobed him and then mounted him. She manhandled him; soon she was bouncing up and down his cock. Cersei loved when he tightened his hold on her hips and playfully bit her chest. She called his name and that drove him wild. Ned sped up and thrust up until he was spent and she reached climax.

“You promised to take me in our bedroom, the springs, and the highest tower of Winterfell.” She licked his neck and moved her hips. He was still inside of her.

Ned laughed, “And I shall my lady wife.” He stood up and carried her to a wall.

“You are still so strong.” She whispered and giggled when he pinched her bottom.

Chapter Text

Chapter 57

Joanna contemplated the man next to her. He was sleeping peacefully, his features relaxed, or at least resting. Stannis was tense most of the time. She kissed his mouth gently. The king opened his eyes and returned the kiss. Stannis overpowered her. She smiled.

“My king.” She said breathlessly as her husband kissed her neck.

He was silent as he took her. Joanna moaned when he entered her. “Stannis.” She hissed and thrust back.

Joanna wanted to try something new. For the most part the king took her swiftly but lovingly. The queen loved her husband but she wanted to be in control. He must have been surprised to feel her returning his force because it was far easier than she expected to grab his backside and mount him.

“What are you…” He hissed but then she was riding him. Joanna ran her hands over his chest and pulled the hairs.

Stannis moaned and she opened her eyes and smiled. She threw her head back and continued to move up and down her husband’s cock. She shrieked his name when he palmed her breasts.

She slumped over him when she felt her orgasm rip through her and then she felt him spill his seed inside of her.

Joanna kissed his chest; “Did you like it my king?”

Stannis kissed her forehead, “more than I should have.” He said with a resigned air.

“I love you and you will love me too.” She kissed his lips. Stannis smiled at her.

“You are rather impudent. What happened to the shy girl I met in Dragonstone?” He frowned.

Joanna trailed her hands over to his manhood. She was past shyness and covert attempts at seducing her husband. It was time to be more direct.

Joanna kissed his chest and caressed his manhood. “She met you. I have wanted you since I saw you. I would have become your mistress had your first wife not died.” She whispered and looked at him with an unashamed face.

Stannis kissed her roughly, “I would never have dishonored you.”

She rubbed his back and moved his hand to her core, “I would have seduced you Stannis. I had a plan. I was to slip into your chambers in Riverrun and mount you just like I did right now. Mother told me I was to marry you and I desisted.”

Stannis possessed her once more. He was rough and quick. Joanna was a mass of satisfied flesh when they were done. Her husband rested his head on her chest. He was relaxed; completely relaxed.

“What will you do today my queen?”

She sighed, “Shireen and I are going to Flea Bottom to feed the poor and oversee our orphanage. Do not fret, uncle Jaime and lady Brienne will accompany us.”

Stannis ground his teeth. Joanna rolled his eyes, “We will be fine Stannis. What will you do?”

“I have to meet with Davos and the lords from Highgarden.”

Joanna nodded, “Stay with me until you absolutely have to.”

“No.” He replied and kissed her mouth. She smiled nonetheless, Stannis dressed and kissed her once more before leaving.

Joanna washed and dressed. She left her quarters and went to Shireen’s

“Joanna.” The little girl hugged her. Joanna hugged her back; “We will have light breakfast and then go to Flea Bottom sweetling.”

She loved Shireen, “Father does not want us to go.” The little girl said mischievously.

“I promised you we would go and we are.” Joanna kissed her cheek. Shireen laughed.

Uncle Jaime greeted her, “My queen.” He bowed.

“Uncle Jaime. We will go to the orphanage.” Jaime nodded.

“I shall fetch Brienne.” He said and then winked at Shireen. “Princess.”

“I think uncle Jaime is in love with lady Brienne.” Shireen said with an impish smile.

Joanna giggled with her stepdaughter. There were wild rumors of her kingsguard commander and lady Brienne sharing quarters since they sailed to storm and win the Iron Islands for king Stannis.

The people loved her and Shireen. She fed the children and poor. Stannis indulged her with the building of a place to attend the sick and the old. Joanna had plans to build at least three more.

Shireen and her were exhausted by the time they reached the castle. Stannis waited to have dinner with them.

“Father.” Shireen hugged him and sat by him.

Stannis kissed her forehead and asked the servants to serve dinner. They discussed their activities and Stannis surprised her with news.

“Your brother Robb has a son. The Eyrie has an heir. Eddard Stark was born two months ago.”

Joanna grinned, “how wonderful.”

Stannis kissed her hand. “Soon we’ll have our own.”

Shireen looked downcast. “Yes my king, a little boy or girl to add to our princess.” Joanna said brightly.

The little girl smiled more. Stannis gave her an open smile, “Of course.”

Joanna kissed his hand, “Shireen what you prefer? A brother or a sister.”

She laughed, “a brother.” She said carefully.

Joanna told her stepdaughter about helping mother with Bran when he was a baby. Shireen slowly seemed to warm up to the idea of a little brother or sister. She went with Shireen to her quarters to comb her hair and kiss her good night.

“Do you think father will love me less when you give him a beautiful baby?” Shireen said with a small voice.

Joanna got in bed with her stepdaughter. “I know you will love your baby more.” Shireen said with an accepting voice.

This little girl was so wise but she was still a little girl. Maybe she would love her children more but she would reassure this girl who was so smart and kind. “The love that I would have for my children would be different than the love I have for you. It does not mean I would love you any less. Stannis would love you just as much no matter how many other children I gave him.”

Shireen nodded, “I hope you have a boy.” She said and then closed her eyes.

Joanna walked to her quarters. She was pleasantly surprised when She found her king resting on their bed. “What took you so long?”

She undressed and braided her hair as her husband hungrily gazed at her. “Shireen is worried about you loving our children more than you love her.”

Stannis frowned, “Shireen is my firstborn. She will always be special for me.” He was honest, too honest. She kissed him briefly. “Would you love our children less?”

Stannis, kissed her hand, “I don’t know.”

She frowned a little but kissed him gently, “I will make you love me Stannis just as much as I love you. One day you will not imagine life without me.” Joanna was emboldened by his gaze.

“Love is for children.” He said carefully.

Joanna caressed the side of his cheek. “I love you very much Stannis. I love you and Shireen.”

Stannis nodded and held her. Joanna slept peacefully; she stopped drinking moontea the day after.

 

Little Ned Stark was beautiful. He resembled little Rickon or so Lady Sansa thought. Margaery looked radiant and Robb was in love with his little son. Sansa and Margaery would have gotten along fabulously had the other woman been a bit less resentful. Sansa knew Margaery was jealous of her. The servants saw her as the rightful mistress of the Eyrie. Sansa had wanted to have Margaery as a confidante but it was obvious the Highgarden woman did not want to be near her. Robb and her did not sleep in the same room anymore. Robb, had a few maidens he frequented, discreetly of course. Margaery did not seem to care much. She seemed resigned to take care of her young son. Something told Sansa that it was all a plan on Margaery’s part. She did not seem like a woman to share her husband with other women.

Sansa sighed and continued with her needlework. Margaery played with a five month old Ned. “Wonderful weather we are having”

It snowed heavily. Sansa smiled at the other woman. “Have you heard from mother?”

Sansa cringed, Margaery called lady Stark mother. She would hate if she ever heard of the moniker. “No she has not written.”

“I hear the queen built an orphanage.” Margaery was extremely polite that day.

“Yes, in Flea Bottom. I heard from Lyanna. She is planning to go to Dorne for her confinement.”

“Oh yes, your cousin is with child. Will the king allow that?” Margaery asked genuinely curious.

“I do not know the king well. He is a hard man but from what I read Lyanna should be in the water pools with her new babe.”

“We had wonderful feasts in Highgarden this time of the year. The harvests, the flowers. I miss the warm weather. This place is cold, hard and so dull.”

Sansa smiled, “oh, little Eddard is asleep.”

Margaery smiled, “Poor dear, shame he will not see his father before night.”

Sansa saw Margaery rock her babe, “May I put him to bed?”

The other woman nodded, “yes, but you have to be careful.”

Sansa nodded and picked little Eddard, “Oh you look wonderful.”

They walked to Margaery’s quarters and she instructed her on how to place little Eddard on his crib.

“Pity.” Margaery said.

Sansa was confused, “that you are barren.”

“I am not.” Sansa said deeply offended.

Margaery made a soft reassuring noise, “Dearest, it is fine. Lord Tyrion will not cast you aside. He does need an heir but you will cross that bridge when you get there. No need not worry before that. You should put more effort. It is rather obvious that Corrine will be with child soon. She fancies herself in love with your lord husband. She will surely give him a little bastard soon.”

Sansa was pale. “My lord husband would never father an illegitimate child.”

The other woman gave her a pitiful glance, “Well you are barren.”

Sansa had enough and excused herself politely. She ran to her rooms and cried for a while. Margaery was correct in a sense. Had not Lady Stark warned her that Tyrion would look elsewhere and father children? She had, of course Lady Stark wanted her to be happy while Margaery wanted her miserable.

She slept for a few hours until she heard a rustle near her. Tyrion was near the bed. “Sansa, do you feel well?”

“Yes, is it time for our lessons?” Tyrion taught her about history and politics. She liked that hour. He would tell her amazing tales that seemed to be fairy tales but in reality they had happened, a long time ago.

“I am afraid it is much later. We should get going to the great hall.”

Sansa nodded and walked with her husband. She was disappointed to have overslept and missed Tyrion’s lessons.

They arrived just as the main course was served. Robb and Tyrion were immediately engrossed with a new venture to store goods for the winter.

“Uncle, have you heard from Tommen? He is having a good harvest with his crops and has asked for men to help with the recollection.”

“You should command a quarter of the men you have near the Bloody Gate. Send them tomorrow and they will be in the Riverlands in a fortnight.

“I had thought to send all of them.” Robb pondered.

“There is no need, a quarter should suffice. You need your men for when my men and I leave you.”

Robb looked confused, “Where are you going?”

Sansa listened carefully, “West, before winter is upon us. Father has politely asked me to go back. He plans to spend a season or two in King’s Landing.”

“Why is he going to King’s Landing?” Margaery asked.

“He longs to see Joanna and the King.” Tyrion replied simply.

“When do we part?” Sansa asked.

“I thought to spare you the travel dearest. My father has need of me, not you. It is best if you stay in your home and then I shall send for you once the weather stabilizes a bit.” Tyrion explained in what could be passed as a logical argument. Margaery smirked from her wine goblet.

Sansa did not speak with Margaery and played with her food. She waited until Tyrion offered his arm to escort her to their quarters. Every night he would escort her to the door, bid her good night and then meet his whore in one of the unused rooms. She did not want to stay in the Eyrie without him; she did not want to go West but she rather journey with him than stay in the Eyrie by herself.

“Good night lady wife.” He kissed her hand tenderly. She held onto his hand.

“Don’t go. We have to talk.” She looked down at her husband. “I have to meet Robb and discuss the details for the harvest.”

Sansa shook her head and held onto his hand. “No, you discussed all details tonight. I heard you command your nephew and prepare everything. You want to go to her, Corrine or whatever her name is.”

Tyrion avoided her blue eyes. “I want to speak with you.” She said once more.

Tyrion nodded and followed her to their quarters. He looked uncomfortable. Sansa fetched a jug of water and drank some.

“I don’t want to stay here.” She explained.

“I will send for you as soon as I can.” Tyrion wheedled.

Sansa remained quiet, “When do you leave?”

“The day after the morrow. I shall take our men and a few servants.” Tyrion said quietly.

“Servants.” She said quietly, “Why are you taking her?” Sansa gasped, “is she with child?”

Tyrion looked down, “She was but not anymore.”

Sansa felt some relief, “What happened?”

“An fortunate accident. She is a practical woman and is recovering, besides any child of mine would be deformed.”

Sansa shook her head, “You do not know that.” She said quietly. There was heavy silence until Tyrion broke it with an attempt to leave once more.

“Tyrion, I want to go with you.” She said dropped to her knees. She rested her head on his lap. “I don’t want you to go to her and take her anywhere.”

“I will send for you as soon as I can.” He repeated.

“You will not. Why are you lying to me?” She said with some anger.

“I am trying to do what is best for you Sansa. This is your home; you will be safe here. The Eyrie is your land.”

“No, this is not my home. Home is where you are.” She said honestly and forgot to blush at her words.

Tyrion looked at her with a strange face. “You belong here, with Robb and Margaery.”

Sansa shook her head, “Please don’t leave me here. This place reminds me too much of them, of him. I could never be happy here. Tyrion please.”

“I do not understand.” Tyrion said with curious eyes. “I am giving you freedom Sansa. You need only stay in the Eyrie. Robb has sworn to protect you, keep you entertained. You can take lovers; I would prefer you do it discreetly. I would come visit you if you ever become pregnant and pretend your children are mine.”

Sansa did not say anything. “I don’t want to stay here. I am your wife.”

Tyrion looked at her, “you are, and as your husband I require you to stay in the Eyrie.” He stood up and tried to leave the quarters.

“You never stay here anymore.” She held onto his hand.

“I do not want you to be uncomfortable.” He said as he avoided her gaze.

Sansa led him to their bed. “Do you remember our time in Winterfell?”

Tyrion squirmed, “yes I do.”

“Lady Stark forced you to sleep in our quarters.” Sansa looked at him with big blue eyes. “I miss hugging you.” She took a leap.

Her husband was quiet. “Could you stay with me?” She asked and undressed in front of him.

Tyrion undressed as well. She lay down and looked into his green and black eyes. “Do you remember when you found me?”

“Yes, you were alone, running away if I say so myself.” Sansa nodded.

“I was running away from home.” She could not bring herself to tell him about Baelish.

“I don’t like the Eyrie. Tyrion take me with you.” She pleaded.

“No.” He continued. Sansa nodded and inched closer to him. She would have to listen to lady Stark. She would have to seduce her husband.

She feigned sleep and rested her head on his chest. She breathed deeply and waited for Tyrion to sleep. Her husband played with her hair and mumbled something. He was to leave their bed. Sansa acted then, she kissed his chest and then kissed his neck.

“Please stay.” She whispered and then kissed his lips. His lips were soft, unresponsive.

“What are you doing?” He asked as he frowned.

“Your watch has ended Tyrion.” She replied softly.

“What are you saying?” He asked confused.

Sansa blushed, “you said you would not share my bed until I wanted you to. I asked what if I never wanted. You said and so my watch begins.”

“Your watch has ended. I want you to share my bed.” Sansa replied.

“Why?” Tyrion asked with trepidation.

Sansa looked at him with open eyes. “I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want you to have other women. Your sister once told me you had every right to seek other women if I was not willing. I am willing now. I want to be your wife in the truest sense of the word.”

“Will you be gentle?” She asked as he undid her shift.

“As gentle as I can. It will hurt you first.” Tyrion kissed her neck and then massaged a plump breast.

Sansa paled, “It will not hurt my lord.”

Tyrion stopped his caresses, “You are not a maiden.” He growled.

“It is not what you think. He forced me, that is why I left the Eyrie. Lord Baelish forced me.” Sansa cried uncontrollably.

“Oh sweetling.” Tyrion’s eyes held pity and anger. She let him kiss her cheeks and then sighed when he touched her hair.

“I want you to share my bed Tyrion.” She lowered her shift and was naked for him to see her.

Sansa was sure coupling with Tyrion would be a chore. She remembered the roughness, the horrible invasion, the pain and the humiliation from when Lord Baelish raped her. She expected the same, maybe Tyrion would not be as brutish but he would hurt her. Men hurt women in this matter. She did not expect to feel caresses on her breasts. She expected him to manhandle her. Sansa moaned when her husband lowered his face to her nipples and sucked. She caressed his hair and enjoyed the way he licked and teased her. She opened her eyes comically when her husband placed his fingers over her mound. Sansa had the impulse to fight him off but then Tyrion did something she was completely unprepared for. The young woman was shocked when lord Lannister licked his way to her navel. Sansa was too surprised to do anything but let out a strange sound. He was kissing her there. She closed her eyes and gasped. It felt so good. He licked her up and down. She tugged at his hair. Sansa did not know what she wanted but she needed something and Tyrion was giving her so much pleasure. He bit the side of her hips and then sucked on the little button. She saw stars, she must have shouted, Sansa thrust her hips up as if waiting for him. She opened her eyes and found her husband kneeling between her legs. She could not feel her legs. She looked at him and blushed. He looked at her there.

"I think that would do for tonight." He said with a smile.

Sansa sat up a little, "I want to see you."

He frowned, "that would not be a pretty sight."

Sansa frowned back. "You are not tall or handsome but you are kind, gentle, smart." Tyrion looked dubious.

"I like your eyes and hair." She said while blushing once more.

Tyrion laughed wholeheartedly. His laughter was infectious. Tyrion's eyes lit up and crinkled. She smiled and then let out a giggle. Tyrion looked at her once more.

"You never giggled before." He said curiously.

Sansa shrugged. "Will you let me see you now?" She asked timidly. Sansa kissed him once more and was not disappointed when he returned her kiss. He was doing things to her. She could not stop touching him.

“Please don’t stop. Tyrion please Tyrion.” She said when he stopped grinding against her.

He looked at her with desire. She wanted him to keep looking at her like that. Her husband undressed and he was naked. His legs were stunted, they were ugly. She felt pity for him. Her eyes moved up to his sex. It was bigger than she expected, she thought it would be proportional to his size. She blushed once more. Tyrion smirked; “you thought it would be smaller.”

She nodded, it was hard, raising. “Can I touch it?”

Tyrion smiled and nodded. She touched the tip and then moved the pad of her finger over in a circular motion. “You will be gentle won’t you.”

“I will.” He moved over her and touched her folds again. “tell me if you want me to stop.”

She nodded and closed her eyes. Sansa felt his kisses along her collarbone. She shivered when he opened her legs and rested there. He kissed her while moving in. It was different. It did not hurt but it was uncomfortable. She felt full, and it was not nice for her. She was about to ask him to stop when Tyrion grabbed her breasts and thrust inside of her. Sansa opened her eyes and saw her husband drive into her with abandon. She felt hot and bothered. She was sweating and wanted Tyrion to keep going, to go faster.

She kept quiet; her husband kept going strong. She moaned deeply when he suckled on her breasts. She massaged his head; Tyrion stopped. He breathed heavily over her. “Do you want me to stop?”

“No. Never stop.” She said and tried to make him go deeper. This felt so good, so different from when Littlefinger had taken her. Sansa was sweaty, but he was rocking in and out of her. She felt tension in her belly.

He watched her and then his thrusts increased. Sansa let out a deep groan when her husband grabbed her hips and pulled her to him. He was deceptively strong. Soon he was possessed over her. She was used to this part but it was different because this time Sansa liked it. She enjoyed the way he felt and how his cock rubbed inside her. Tyrion panted and managed to palm a breast and bite the other. She was far gone and felt an explosion inside of her. Her legs felt weakened. She was on fire, and her insides gushed. She yelled his name and kissed his forehead as he dropped on her. He was a little heavy but she liked his weight on her chest.

She panted and breathed quickly. There was silence and Tyrion settled next to her.

She turned to see him. He looked relaxed. Sansa kissed his chest and hugged him. “Tyrion when can we do that again?” She asked as she touched his nipple.

He opened his eyes, “you want to do that again.”

Sansa blushed, “I thought you would want to again too.” She felt insecure once more. He would think her a whore now.

He pulled her face to his, “I would like to that with you again and again.”

She smiled. “Will you stay with me?”

“Of course my lady.” He kissed her cheek. Sansa rested her head on his chest. She would make him take her with him.

She woke up early. Sansa was a little sore, Tyrion looked ready for the day. “Where are you going?” She asked sleepily. Tyrion came around and pecked her lips.

“I have a meeting with the lords of the Vale and my nephew.” He said.

She frowned, “Will I see you today?”

Tyrion shrugged, “I will meet you by the gardens to have lunch. It seems the snowstorms have cleared out. We’ll have a beautiful day today.”

She nodded. Sansa would not ask about his trip until later. He was to go tomorrow, she still had time to convince him.

Sansa wore a deep red gown Lady Stark had given her and a small charm necklace that had a lion. She asked Landry to pack her best dresses. “Make sure you do this alone. Let no one see you.”

She avoided Margaery and visited some of her servants. Landry would go with her of course. She passed through the kitchens and found her. Corrine, she was not pregnant. Sansa looked at her with a hard face.

“I need to speak with you.” She said with a cold voice. She tried to be as haughty as aunt Catelyn and mother were.

“Of course m’lady.” She said a little nervously.

Sansa walked to one of the empty chambers by the gardens. “My lord husband visits you. Don’t deny it. He does.”

Corrine nodded, “Yes m’lady.”

“He plans to take you with him when he journeys West.” Sansa stated with a waver to her voice.

“Yes and I will go with him.” She said with a small glint in her eyes.

Sansa did not know what to respond to that. She looked at the woman and asked, “Since when does my husband frequent your bed?”

“Two weeks after the lord’s family left.” Corrine looked like a nice woman. She was older than her, blonde, blue eyed. She was pretty but looked common. That was almost a year and half ago. Tyrion had slept with this woman for a year and a half. He would not let her go easily. She remembered the trouble Lady Stark had to get him to remove his whore from Winterfell and even then the woman had lived in a cottage near the castle.

Sansa wanted to cry and then remembered the way Tyrion looked at her yesterday night. He had stayed with her. She looked at the woman and asked, “Do you love my husband?”

“I do.” Corrine replied. “He is wonderful.”

Sansa nodded, “He is and he’s mine. He will journey West with me Corrine. He may take you with us but he will sleep with me. Tyrion will share his bed with me and only me from now on.”

Corrine shook her head, “Lord Lannister is a very passionate man. I don’t mind sharing him. You will be his wife and I will be his woman.”

Sansa frowned, “I am his wife and his woman. I will bear his children. He loves me Corrine. He has loved me since before he met you. Make this easier on you Corrine, stay in the Eyrie. He will cast you aside once we reach Casterly Rock. I will have the support of my lord father. Lord Tywin is incredibly fond of me. You may go back to the kitchens now.” The woman curtsied and left.

Sansa cried for a while. Tyrion did not love her. He was forced to take her for a wife but Corrine did not know that. She hoped her husband had not told her about their circumstances. She cried and wished Tyrion would tell her that she would be going with him and that Corrine would stay back. She would have to make sure Tyrion did not leave her side before they went West. What if Corrine told him about her threat? Tyrion would despise her. She cried until her husband found her.

“What is it sweetheart?” He asked tenderly. Sansa hugged him tightly. “Please tell me you do not love her.”

He acted confused, “Whom?”

Sansa was done playing the fool. She whispered in his ear, “Corrine.” She was afraid to look into his eyes and find that indeed her husband had fallen in love with the other woman.

“I do not love her. I am fond of her.” He said carefully.

Sansa kissed his cheek and then his mouth. She kissed him with all she had. “Don’t take her with you. Even if you do not take me; please do not take her Tyrion. Do not take her.”

Tyrion kissed her back, “She loves me Sansa. She tells me so every night.” He said when they separated. “She makes me happy.”

Sansa wiped her tears, “I can make you happy too Tyrion. I can give you sons, daughters. I know I can. Tyrion, I will be smarter. I’ll learn politics, I’ll read more. I won’t be silly anymore.”

Tyrion looked at her with confused eyes, “This is all very strange Sansa. You barely spoke two words to me before yesterday.”

Sansa shook her head, “That is untrue. I spoke to you during our lessons and you never came to our room. Tyrion, I don’t want you to see her again.”

Her husband looked even more confused, “I can learn. I’ll be as good as she is. I promise Tyrion.” She whispered shyly and kissed him again.

“Why?” He asked when he put some distance between them.

She felt her belly drop. “You are my husband and I don’t want you to do what you did to me yesterday to any other woman. I don’t want to share you either. I want you all for me and only me.”

Tyrion kissed her lips sweetly, “I cannot leave her alone.”

Sansa kissed him, “Take me with you. Leave Corrine here. She will keep her job as servant. She will be fine.”

Tyrion kissed her hands, “that sounds unfair to her.”

Sansa wanted to tell him that she did not care. “Buy her lands if you want. Give her gold but leave her. I will be enough for you my Lion.”

“Your Lion?” He asked surprised.

She nodded and kissed his hands, “You are my brave Lion.”

“Will I be enough for you?” He asked softly.

“You are.” She replied surely and turned away from him. “Undo the laces Tyrion.” She waited for him to undress her. Tyrion bolted the door and had her in that room near the gardens. She loved when he took her. He took her fast, faster than the night before and she enjoyed every minute of it. “Shall we go to our rooms?” He asked when he righted his breeches.

Sansa nodded and learned that Tyrion could have a very filthy mouth and she happened to enjoy when he whispered all the filthy things he would do to her.

They joined Robb and Margaery for supper. She looked beautiful or so Tyrion told her when they walked to the hall.

“Lady Sansa you look flushed. Are you well?” Margaery asked snidely.

“I am perfectly fine Margaery.” She was ravenous. Tyrion and her had worked out quite an appetite.

“Nuncle, when do you part?” Robb asked whilst drinking wine.

“Sansa and I have decided to journey home in two weeks. This will give her time to collect all her belongings.” Tyrion said with a smirk.

Sansa shook her head, “There is no need. I will have Landry pack my dresses and we could leave as you planned.”

Tyrion chuckled, “Very well.”

Sansa could not contain her happiness. She waited for Tyrion to escort her back to their quarters. She was reluctant to see him go for a meeting with Robb and undoubtedly with Corrine.

“Promise me you will not bed her.” She implored him.

“I will not bed her.” He said and kissed her cheek.

“I will wait for you my lion.” She whispered when he kissed her lips.

The day was bright and beautiful. Sansa kissed little Eddard and then briefly hugged Margaery. Ladies were supposed to be polite after all.

“I shall miss you very much uncle.” Robb said with a sad face.

“I will write to you.” Tyrion said and hugged his taller nephew.

“Farewell nuncle.” He said.

Sansa did not look back at the castle. She felt a weight being lifted as the mule that carried her walked down the Vale. She felt lighter and lighter as she left the castle where she had been so unhappy. She made love to her husband during the late hours of the night when they reached the first inn.

Chapter Text

Chapter 58

Cersei worried for her son. Ned was convinced it would all pass but she was unsure. Jon mourned something. He lost that wildling girl and he was not the same again. She sighed and ran her fingers through Rickon’s wild locks. Bran was asleep by the fire. Summer curled next him. Lan waited by the door. They were at the Wall.

Cersei held her four-year-old son and kissed his forehead. Benjen was convinced there were Others. He spoke of white walkers and sacrifices as soon as he was back from beyond the Wall. Jeor Mormont had perished in a mutiny. Benjen had executed the traitors and accepted all the wildlings that were willing to fight. Her brother in law was now Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

“They are real Ned. I saw them with my very eyes. There are thousands of them. The Wall will not be enough. We need men.” Benjen looked crazed.

Ned had ordered more men to man the Wall but it seemed to not be enough. Ned and Jon decided to prepare to leave for the a few months ago and so Cersei raged and threatened to follow them alone with Bran and Rickon without their knowledge. Ned relented but not until Robb and his men arrived. Cersei had lived in the North for more than half of her life but in some ways she was a foreigner. Lady Stark did not put much thought to the increasing vivid dreams her second youngest had but Ned did. Her child spoke of great fires that came from the skies. He spoke of battles in the ice. “Papa will have Ice with him. Robb and Tommen will come too. They will fight.” Bran said fearfully. He trembled after his dreams. Cersei held him for hours until her boy calmed down. Cersei however was not worried about Bran. Her young son felt better after Cersei hugged and sang to him or when Ned took him aside and listened to some dreams that he would tell his mother.

Her Jon was another matter entirely. Jon did not confide in anyone. She felt him slipping out of her reach. Jon was reserved like his father but he did not smile anymore. He did not spend any time with his siblings or with anyone but Ned or Benjen for that matter. She hoped that Robb and Tommen’s arrivals would lift his spirits. Jon was somber, a shadow that took every opportunity to patrol the North and range with Benjen or Ned.

She waited for Ned to come back from speaking with the Wildlings. They were being relocated to different keeps and houses from the North. There had been uprisings; especially after Mance Rayder was attacked and killed by a wildling leader. The different wildling tribes felt their king had betrayed them and sold them into slavery. Many perished under the Night’s Watch and the northern armies. Ned was a capable and strong leader. He did not want to lose more men, wildling or westerosi. He agreed to give them the Gift and other lands, the other Northern house followed with smaller offerings.

Ned entered their quarters and sat by her. He kissed Rickon and put him on his small cot. Her husband carried Bran to the adjacent room where he slept.

“How were the negotiations today?” Cersei asked as she kissed him. Ned shook his head and undressed.

“We have fought them for years and now we have to live with them by our side. The Umbers called me a traitor, a wildling lover.” Ned said while sighing.

“Do you fear treason my love?” She knew him better than anyone.

“Not yet. I will take the Boltons, Umbers and Karstarks with me for our next ranging. Let them see what Benjen and I saw. The dead are rising.” Ned said fearfully. “What have Tyrion and your father said.”

Cersei frowned, “Tyrion is trying to convince father to mobilize our armies but father had given a categorical refusal to your plight.”

Ned frowned too. “My plight. Do you still not believe? Lioness, these are not old stories or mere dreams of a boy. The Long Night approaches and we need a bigger and stronger wall. We are not prepared. We need many more men and we need to get as many wildlings in our side as possible.” Ned explained for the hundredth time it seemed.

“I trust you my love but the kingdom is weak. The war left the kingdoms in disarray. Stannis has not ruled even for a year and yet you ask for three quarters of his men to protect the Wall. They do not believe in Others or White Walkers.” Cersei tried to get him to see reason but Ned only rose from his spot in bed.

“What has Tommen said?” Ned now paced in front of her.

Cersei did not stand up or try to calm him down just yet. “Cassana gave birth to a girl. They have named her Myrcella. Tommen marches with the Tully and Frey forces and has left a host of northerners to hold Riverrun. Uncle Kevan is expected to reach the riverlands and rule in his stead.” Cersei relayed, a little tense because the idea of having riverland men in the wall did not sit well with her, especially Freys and Tullys. They were traitors, all of them.

“Good. Robb will wait for him and then joins us. I need them by my side.” Ned stated clearly. Cersei knew her husband expected their children to fight with alongside him.

“Stannis has offered his armies in Storm’s End and they sail as we speak. Sir Seaworth has sent men as well.” Cersei smiled and stood up to kiss him gently. There were not only bad news. Stannis trusted Ned and sent men to appease him or so Joanna wrote.

“Joanna is with child. She thinks it will be a boy.” Ned smiled. He missed Joanna and Arya so much. They had heard nothing of their youngest child as of yet. Cersei missed her horribly but it had been her choice to leave with Gendry. Lady Stark could not begrudge her anymore.

Ned kissed her back. “The Seven Kingdoms will have an heir to the crown.”

Cersei laughed. Ned kissed her hands, “You are an old lady now. That will be your third grandchild in less than two years.”

She kissed his jaw, “I’ll have you know I have a four-year-old baby.” She kept kissing him. “I wish I could give you a little girl.” She said sadly. Maesters had been wrong before and Cersei had hoped for another child but no luck.

“What news of the Eyrie?” Ned asked while kissing her neck.

“Yohn Royce keeps it safe for our son.” She bit his earlobe. “Tyrion is expected to travel back to the Vale. My baby brother was most displease with the news. He and Sansa barely made it through Riverrun before the raven reached them.

“Margaery and little Eddard should have stayed in the Vale.” Ned continued.

“Absolutely no. Margaery is a poisonous snake. She would have the Vale knights compete for a place in her bed before Tyrion made it back to the Bloody Gate. I do not like that woman. I do not trust her Eddard.” Cersei glared at him.

“The Tyrells needed to be put in check.” Ned argued once more.

Cersei adopted a haughty air about her, “It matters not. She is in our lands with our grandchild and under our men’s supervision. I plan to keep it that way. She will be useful to our son. We only need a spare from her.”

Ned kissed her, “do not say such heartless things. She is a Stark now.” He kissed her forcefully.

“Do not be foolish my love. Anyone who is not us is our enemy.” She said sweetly and then kissed him with the same force that he used on her.

Ned grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her closer. Cersei kissed his neck and tried to remove his clothes. Ned was faster than her. He yanked the sleeves of her dress. “You are going to rip it. This is a nice one.” She complained when he tried to pull her out of it.

Ned growled, “You should not have worn it then.” He pushed her to the bed and yanked his breeches down. Cersei smiled. “No time to undress you.” She appreciated his passions but drew a line at being fucked with a dress on.

“We have time.” She moaned and turned. “Undo the laces.” She asked. Ned busily untied the strings and then helped her out of the grey dress. It took them another five minutes to get her into her smallclothes. Cersei stroked him up and down to keep him interested. She was wet from his face and the determined look in his eyes. She knew that look; it was the one he gave her when he fucked her all night long. She squirmed and stepped out of her shift.

Ned pushed her to the bed and touched her quickly. He entered her and pounded her into the skins and furs. She moaned and tightened her legs around his lower back. “Ned.” She chanted as he fucked her. She could tell her was releasing his frustrations on her. She rejoiced in his single minded task of taking his pleasure and satisfying her by default. Cersei arched her back and flipped them until she rode him. She held him close, just enough so he could almost reach her nipples. He loved her breasts; it drove him wild to almost taste them. Cersei smirked when he sat up and devoured her breasts. “Fuck me Ned.” She felt her belly contract around his cock. “I love your cock.” She whispered. Her husband mounted her once more and this time she had to hold onto the furs because her lord husband bucked wildly into her. Cersei was sweaty and loved every minute of it. Ned made her see stars for the rest of the night and well into the morning.

She rested on his chest when Rickon opened his father’s eyes. Cersei laughed. She put on her shift as watched as her baby climbed to his father’s chest and opened his eyes with his fingers.

“Up papa. Up.” He said and smacked his father on the face. Ned woke up and swatted Rickon’s hand from his face. “Rickon do not hurt your papa.” He said and smiled when Rickon grabbed his nose.

“He looks exactly like Robb and Jon. Remember Robb used to grab my nose too.” Ned said humorously. Cersei handed him breeches.

“Come here pup. Let’s wake your brother.” Cersei loved when Rickon hugged her and squeezed her cheek with his.

“Sweetheart. It’s time to wake up.” She looked at Bran and was surprised to see him dressed for the day. He sat by his desk. He wrote a letter. “Who are you writing my love?”

Bran grinned, “Arya.”

Cersei approached him. Rickon squirmed down and went back to retrieve his father.

“What are you saying Bran? Your sister escaped with Gendry.” Cersei continued.

Bran nodded, “Yes, but I saw her in my dream. She has Nymeria with her and Gendry. I know where she is. Sam taught me the place.”

Cersei nodded. Sam was a Tarly, his father sent him away. The boy was younger than Robb. He was taken with a wildling girl and her young boy. He served as a maester of sorts although he lacked the proper training. He was like Tyrion. The man had his nose up in books all the time. She sighed, “Where do you suppose Arya is?”

Bran finished his letter. “I told Arya about the white walkers and the wildlings. She has to come back.” Cersei frowned and read his brief letter.

“A raven will take it to Braavos. Arya and Gendry are there having adventures.” Bran said wistfully.

“Is your sister happy my love?” Cersei asked carefully.

“Very much so. She is going to board a ship with Gendry. They are going to explore Old Valyria. They will go further than Valyria. That is why I have to send the raven now. She needs to get the raven mother. She cannot board the ship. She has to come back mother.”

Cersei kissed his forehead, “did you see it in your dreams? Will she fight alongside your brothers and father?”

Bran shook his head, “No, but I want her to be here. She is supposed to go to Old Valyria.”

Cersei grabbed his hands, “then let her have her adventures sweetling.”

She folded the letter and threw it to the fires. Bran sighed, “Maybe it is for the best.”

She kissed his forehead once more. “We’ll break fast with your uncle and brother.”

Cersei helped him with his walking stick. Bran was heavier now. He had more control over his legs it seemed. He could walk with the aid of the walking stick now.

Rickon ran around Lan and Summer ran as soon as Ned opened the door. Rickon tried to catch them unsuccessfully.

Bran watched longingly. “You are going to be an uncle again.” Cersei did not want her son to dwell too much. Ned ran after Rickon who slipped into ice and laughed when Lan licked his face.

“Joanna thinks she will have a son.” Cersei said happily. “Shireen will be happy. I like her very much. She’s nice.” Bran made small conversation until they reached the dining hall.

Ned was in charge of feeding Rickon which was a feat in itself. She gave all her attention to Bran who seemed in very low spirits since she threw the letter to the fires. Cersei questioned her actions then. It might have been better to pretend to send the letter. She tried to cheer him up. “Mother, you don’t have to. I am fine. I miss them. I miss us all together. It will pass.” He kissed her cheek.

Cersei kissed his cheek back, “Why don’t you stay with me? Sam and you can meet tomorrow. I am sure he would not mind you being away from your lessons for a day. We can have fun. We can ride horses and visit the keeps around here.”

Bran shook his head, “you hate horses.”

“I do, but you love them.” Cersei said happily. “We’ll take Summer with us.” Bran nodded. “We’ll leave Rickon with your father. He can take care of your brother for a day. Bran grinned more.

The hall emptied considerably. Jon did not make an appearance. “Where is Jon?”

“He is with Benjen they left first light this morning.” Ned replied.

“Bran and I are going to explore some of the keeps.” Her husband nodded, “Take some of the men just in case.”

“I am to meet Bolton and his men. They should have settled in Long Barrow by now” Ned grabbed Rickon and restrained him. “We will be heading back to Castle Black by the morrow.”

Cersei frowned, “then leave Rickon with me.”

Ned nodded. He kissed her and then kissed Rickon. He looked at Bran, “Protect your baby brother and mother. If you have any dreams go to Jon or maester Aemon.”

“Can I go with you father?” Bran asked excitedly.

Ned looked at her. She nodded, “Very well but remember to listen to your father.”

Bran kissed her soundly and walked to the yard. One of the Night brothers strapped him to Dancer. Bran looked happier than she had ever seen him.

“We’ll see the keeps when I come back mother.” Bran waited patiently until Ned came back.

Eddard kissed her one last time and kissed Rickon, “We’ll be back by nightfall in the morrow. I will take care of him.” Cersei nodded.

“How many men are you taking?” Cersei let Rickon chase after Lan.

“A small party of my men and fifteen brothers from the Watch.” Ned’s horse was inpatient.

“Take the Umbers. I’d feel better if Greatjon went with you.” Cersei asked.

“Find me Greatjon.” Ned yelled at a young recruit.

The party left about an hour later. Ned and Bran were to ride first; they would be flanked by their bannermen and the watchmen. She watched as Bran and Ned rode away. She could not help but feel unease; the Roose Bolton was not trustworthy. Cersei frowned when the gates opened once more. Lady Stark saw Jon bringing in two children with him.

She waited until they were in the middle of the yard with her. “Mother.” He dismounted his steed. “I need a word with father.”

“Your father has gone to meet with the Boltons.” Cersei stated. “Did you not see the men?”

“These are the Reeds. Their father Howland Reed has sent them to be fostered under us. I found them near the Gift.”

“Why were you at the Gift.” Cersei asked at once but Jon kissed her cheek. “I have to leave. Do not worry, I have good news for father. Thormund and I have reached an agreement.” Jon mounted and galloped away.

A boy about Bran’s age approached her immediately. “You should have not let Brandon Stark go with Lord Stark.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 59

Jon rode to meet with his father. He reached them by mid-afternoon. The Stark heir was confused by the size of the host. Father had left Castle Black with more men than he ever expected. He was surprised by Bran’s presence as well. He should have been with mother. Jon hated that they needed the Boltons. He had seen the way Roose Bolton looked at father. The Dreadfort Lord was all compliance and smiles but there was bitterness there. Jon disliked Ramsay Bolton as well. There had been rumors of what he had done to the Ironborn heir. Father distrusted them too. Jon reached father and Bran.

“Tormund had agreed to speak with the new arriving tribes.” Ned nodded.

“Father and I are going to speak with the Boltons. Father said you and him are going ranging once we have all of our bannermen’s support.” Bran said in greeting.

“I thought we were going to meet uncle Benjen by the Fist. He is there waiting for us; Tormund in speaking with the chiefs of the northern clans as we speak.” Jon reported.

Father nodded, “Your brother has had a dream.” His lord father regarded Bran’s dreams as predictions. Jon respected father’s wishes but was more sceptic.

“What did you dream about Bran?” Jon asked carefully.

“Lord Bolton hugging father and then father dropping to the ground. Mother and Rickon were by his side crying. You were not there; neither were Robb or Tommen. All of you were beyond the wall with his bastard. The white walkers got all of you. The bastard saw you and he smiled.” Bran said nervously.

“Is this why you traveled with all these men?” Jon asked once more.

He shook his head, “Your mother insisted I did. Bran just had the dream.”

“What is our plan?” Jon was confused why were they still going to join the Bolton forces if Bran was so sure their vassal lord would betray them.

“We are going to meet with the Boltons and pre-empt an attack. I will speak with Roose myself and then we will set forth North. I will range with him and my men. We will end this possible mutiny before it starts.” Father said clearly. They travelled and reached the castle by night. Roose Bolton and his men were nothing but welcoming.

They had supper and father spoke in clear terms. “How long have we known each other Roose?”

“At least five and twenty years.” Roose calculated.

“In all those years have I treated you unfairly? Have I offended you? Have I interfered with your lands?” Father’s voice acquired an authoritative voice.

“Not once Eddard.” Lord Bolton looked confused as did the Greatjon and the Karstarks.

“I do not take treason lightly. I will speak plainly. There have been rumors about your loyalty Roose.”

“Lies, all lies Eddard. I would never go against your word. We have fought together, as our fathers, and ancestors have.” Bolton replied. “But what you have done with those wildlings is unacceptable.”

Jon saw the swords drawn immediately. He was surprised when the Karstarks and drew their swords as well. Summer and Ghost were in front of Bran in two seconds.

“So this is the way it goes.” Father said and drew his sword too. Jon pointed his sword at Rickard Karstark.

“They slaughtered my son and you have the gall to ask me to give them my lands.” Rickard yelled and came at father. The watchmen rallied behind father and him. Soon they were fighting father fought off Bolton and Rikcard while Jon fought off Harrion Karstark.

Jon saw to his left and found Summer and Ghost biting off men’s arms and legs. Summer bit Ramsay Snow’s neck off. They all wanted to get to Bran who seemed in a trance. “Get Bran.” Father yelled but Jon was too busy fighting off the Karstark. It did not look good for their side. Soon it was all a haze of red and fire. Jon managed to put a sword through Harrion Karstark. Rickard Karstark looked at him and lunged. Father fought off Bolton. Jon wished Smalljon were there to fight off the Boltons and the Karstarks. It was only five minutes later when he saw heard Summer whimper and saw Bran frothing at the mouth. He was distracted five seconds and then saw black.

Jon dreamed of a woman. He had been dreaming of her for the past year. She had beautiful and shocking eyes. Her hair was blonde, blonder and more beautiful than mother’s ever was. There was fire around her, she was fire and he wanted her. She called to him. The woman did not know his name but it was him. She approached him; the woman was pure fire, naked, warm delicious fire. Ned shivered and tried to reach her. His woman had three dragons surrounding her.

The Stark heir woke up with a scream and shivering from the cold. He opened his eyes and looked at his father’s concerned eyes. “You were out for days.” Father said.

“Where are we?” Jon asked. He looked around and realized he was back in Castle Black.

“We rode back to Castle Black. Father killed Roose Bolton. His men are imprisoned in Oakenshield.” Bran was by his side.

“Who did we lose?” Jon asked again; his head hurt horribly.

“All the Karstarks. Greatjon lost an arm. He is recovering. We lost most of the crows but for Tollett.” Father explained.

“We ride two days from today. We are going to Hardhome.” Father left them then.

“Where is mother?” Jon asked, surprised that she was not there.

Bran looked serious all of the sudden. “Father and her had a big fight.”

“What happened?” Jon was confused but more alert. The pounding in his head receded as he focused on his little brother.

“I saw Hardhome. The wildlings need to get out of there. I need to go North. I need to go North and face my destiny.” Bran said seriously. The boy sat by him.

“I became Summer. I killed Ramsay Snow. It was me. Summer and I are one. I have to meet the Three Eyed Raven from my dreams.” Bran said with determined eyes. His young brother looked older than his years.

“Bran, what happened after the fight?” Jon was growing exasperated.

“Father and all the men left rounded Bolton’s and Karstarks men. Ghost and I killed a lot of the men. I could taste their blood. I went back to my body. Father said I fell asleep again and that’s when the Three Eyed Raven spoke to me. He told me of Hardhome. He told me of Meera and Jojen Reed. I have to go with them. It has to be the three of us. We all have roles in this war.”

Jon sat up, “The war is over Bran.”

Bran looked at him, “I know you have dreams too. We all do. Robb, Tommen, Joanna and Arya have dreams too but they don’t remember them. Father had dreams when he was younger too. You and he know that I am not insane.”

Jon sighed, “Father will not let you go.”

“Father and mother fought. I kissed mother goodbye. She will understand. It is the only way. I have to meet him. I will never walk like I used to but I will fly.” Bran continued.

“We ride North of the Wall tonight. It has to be at night.” Bran said.

Jon stood up. “We are going to see father right now.” Jon’s headache returned full force.

Bran grabbed his walking stick. They made their way to father’s makeshift solar.

“Where is mother?” Jon asked as soon as he entered the place.

Maester Aemon and father looked at him. Well, father looked at him, he was not sure the old maester could see anymore.

“Your mother and Rickon are in Queensgate until the morrow. She will journey to Winterfell soon enough.” Father looked tired.

“Very well. I shall take Bran to her.” Jon turned away.

“You will do no such thing. Your brother and the Reeds are to go North tonight.” Father looked so self-assured.

Jon shook his head, “Bran is a child. He’s a cripple.” It pained him to say the words but it was nonetheless true. Bran could not make the journey and those two rail thin children would be no help for him. They could not travel alone.

“Your brother has a destiny to fulfill. It is written, it was forecasted generations before he was born.” Aemon said in whispers.

“I will go with them. I can guard them protect him. “Your path is not with your brother Jon Stark. You have to go with your brothers and father.” The old man exasperated him.

Jon did not address the maester. He came close to father, “This is madness. Mother would never allow this.”

Father frowned, “your mother will understand. Bran’s role in this war is bigger than her motherly concerns. Bran is stronger than any of us.”

Jon’s patience ran out, “I will leave with Bran this instant. I will give him back to mother at once.” He made to leave the solar. Bran was no longer in the room.

“In another lifetime you would have no one to call mother. In another lifetime you would have been Snow. Lord Commander Snow.” The old man said feebly. Jon stopped, “Jon Stark you and your mother can do nothing to stop what is to come.

Jon left to retrieve Bran from his quarters. “Bran.” He yelled as he went into his brother’s quarters. He ran to the yard. Jon mounted a horse and ran off. They could not have gone far. The Stark heir rode North. He had to find his brother. Father was insane; the man had seen the white walkers. He had seen the dead rising and wanted to send Bran North. Jon felt the cold air bite into his cheeks.

He rode straight ahead, until his horse was tired. He rode a day and a half until he found the remains of Craster’s Keep. Uncle Benjen mentioned the horrors and what Sam, the pseudo maester apprentice did and what happened after the ranging. He stayed in the keep for a few hours. Jon was disheartened. He knew he had to go back. Bran was lost to him.

Jon mounted his horse late at night. He did not care for his life anymore. He had not cared about his life since the war in the South ended. He rode nonstop. Jon did not go to Castle Black. He rode for Queensgate. The horse gave out near the Wall. Jon reached the gate and waited until a crow let him through.

“Lord Stark.” The man said and offered him ale. Jon refused and grabbed a horse.

“What direction to Queensgate?”

“East my Lord, a day and a half riding.” The man explained.

Jon rode as hard as he could. He was tired, sad, and angry. The man reached Queensgate and was surprised when it was Robb who greeted them.

“Father just arrived. We were expecting you sooner.” Jon hugged him and then made his way inside the castle.

Tommen played with Rickon and father looked outside a window. “Jon.” Tommen said happily.

Jon hugged him and then Rickon. He looked at father. “He’s gone. I could not reach him.”

“I want to see mother.” Jon could not look at him any longer. This was all his fault. It was because of father that a war broke out. He almost lost his sisters, Tommen. He almost lost mother. Now, here they were. He lost Ygritte and he lost Bran.

"She's in the last quarters in the second landing." Tommen offered. Jon ran to those rooms. He opened the doors and found her in the same position he found father. She looked outside the window. Mother offered him a smile and Lord Stark broke down. He cried and rushed to hug her.

"He's gone. I went after him." Jon sobbed.

Mother hushed him and kissed his forehead. "Your father explained."

Jon cried and held her. "He might as well be dead mother."

Cersei shook his head and rubbed his back, "Bran said I would understand some day. That it was not Ned's wish to part me from him."

Jon looked at her with disbelief in his eyes. "He gave him horses. The Reeds and Bran rode North with father's blessing. Lord Stark should have never let Bran go anywhere. He will not last. He is gone."

Cersei pulled apart. “I was waiting for you. Your father said you would go after Bran.”

“Mother, I don’t understand. He knows, he’s seen them. Bran will die. He’s gone. Bran is gone.” Jon repeated and mother held him as he cried.

Mother shushed him, “Those siblings you brought. The boy, he grabbed my hand and showed me the white walkers. He showed me what would happen if Bran did not go North.”

She grabbed his hands, “He said I would never believe not unless I saw it with my own eyes. I did, your father and I fought. I wanted to take him away. I wanted to take all of you away.”

Jon realized his mother had red eyes. She probably cried for days. “I am so sorry mother.” He kissed her cheek.

“He swore to me I would see him again. That he would watch over me and all of us.” She wiped some wayward tears.

“Do you want some supper? You must be starving.” She said and led him to the bed.

“No. I just want to sleep.” Jon undressed until he wore plain clothes.

“I’ll leave you to it.” Mother tried to leave.

“Mother, stay. I want to ask you something.” Jon said with half closed eyes. She rested next to him.

“What is it sweetling?” She asked while smoothing his hair.

“Do you remember when Bran was born?” He asked.

She cried a little, “of course I do. Your father put you in charge of all the little ones and was with me during my time.”

Jon nodded, “Joanna asked me if you were going to die. We could hear you yelling. Arya tried not to cry and Robb distracted Tommen. Then we met Bran. He was so small, smaller than any of the other babies.”

Mother smiled, “He was. Your father was so proud. He said his name would be Brandon because he would be stronger than any of you would ever be. He needed to have a builder’s name and Brandon was only appropriate.”

Jon became angry at father once more, “Father made a mistake.” She looked at him and shook her head, “your father did what was best in this situation. Your brother would have escaped with the Reeds. At least now they have provisions for the nights and maps to guide them. Sweetling, never once think that your father gave conceded to Bran’s plan without much thought and pain. You do not know how hard it is to lose a child. Your father and I lost three before we had you and every time the light in your father’s eyes dimmed a bit. You and him are so much alike it scares me. He thinks Bran is lost to us but he is not. Bran is not dead. He’s alive and he will be well.”
Jon caressed her face, “Then why have you cried for three days?”

Cersei smiled sadly, “I miss him terribly.”

Jon closed his eyes lulled by his mother’s voice. He slept for what seemed to be a few days. The man woke up to Rickon’s laughter. Jon opened his eyes and found Rickon playing with Ghost and Lan.

“Where’s mama?” Jon asked and sat up.

Rickon looked up. “Dada and mama in his room.”

Jon kissed his brother’s forehead. He picked the little boy who squirmed and tried to get down. “not now Rickon. We have to find Tommen and Robb. You have to stay with them.”

“I don’t want to.” Rickon frowned and reached for Lan who yapped and played with Ghost on top of the stairs.

Jon held onto his brother. Tommen was by the fire writing a letter. “Where is Robb?”

“Good morning to you to. He is at Castle Black. We ride tonight and leave for Hardhome in the morrow.” Tommnen explained.

“Take care of Rickon.” He ran up the steps before Tommen could argue with him. His younger brother needed the practice. Jon knew he was to be a father soon or maybe he already had his child. Did he have a niece or a nephew? He would ask Tommen later.

Jon could hear her cries and pleading before he reached the wooden door. “Ned, please.” Mother cried.

“I cannot. Your place is in Winterfell.” Father stated.

“Please, not again. You go off with our sons and I have to stay put. At least let me stay in Castle Black.” Mother begged.

“No, you will go back to Winterfell. You will be well protected there.” Father insisted.

“I will not go back. Rickon and I will stay in Castle Black as we have done for the past year. You will not get rid of me so easily.” She sounded hurt.

Father’s voice was pained, “Get rid of you. Cersei, have you gone mad? I need you safe. I could not bear it if I lost you. Not after losing Bran. You must believe me. He swore that he would escape in the dead of the night.” Jon had never heard his father’s voice so broken.

“I believe you Ned. That boy, the greenseer. I saw our Bran. My love, please I have to stay near you. I could not bear it, not knowing how you are. Please. Do not keep me away from you.” By this point mother was crying.

Jon heard sobs. He had never or heard father cry. It was painful to hear such sounds, “I am so sorry Cersei. I let him go. He could be dead for all we know.” Father’s voice was gruff, broken.

Jon peeked through the ajar door and the image he saw was too intimate. Mother held father to her. “He is not dead. He will not be fore many years. Our boy is safe.” She said trying to convince herself. I love you Ned, and I forgive you. Let me stay, let me be near you. The last time we were apart we almost lost all our children.” Mother kissed father’s mouth. Father held her and hugged her. “You will stay close to the men of the Watch.” Mother nodded and kissed him more and more.

Jon had intruded enough. He left and joined Tommen and Rickon who were playing with some toys uncle Tyrion sent Rickon for his last nameday. “Did you find them?” his young brother asked.

Jon nodded. He sat by him and watched as Tommen tried to write with his good hand. Tommen noticed his stare. “It’s not as bad as when I first started. Did you know Cassana writes with her left hand. She taught me.” Tommen said smiling.

“Mother mentioned your wife was with child.” Tommen chuckled.

“You are late with news brother. I have a daughter. We’ve named her Myrcella.” His brother looked blissfully happy. He wondered if Robb was this happy to be a father.

“She looks just like Cassana. I think she will have her hair. She has our eyes. Stark eyes.” Tommen spoke of his family with so much love. Jon wondered when had his little brother fallen in love with this girl.

Rickon grabbed his leg. “Play Jon.”

Jon pulled him up. “We have to wait for mother. You have to be fed and cleaned.” Jon looked at Rickon sharply.

Rickon frowned, “I’m playing with Lan, Ghost and Shaggy Dog.” The boy threw him a daring look and ran away from the hearth. He chased Lan, Ghost and Shaggy Dog by his heels.

“He’s got more energy than Bran and Arya together.” Tommen remarked.

Jon felt a stab of pain when she heard their names. Arya and Bran both lost to him. “I looked for him in the North.”

“We know, father said you would.” Tommen said calmly.

Jon was angry then, “You agree with this. Bran is a boy. He’s barely old enough to leave mother’s side. He never trained properly, not like we did. He should have stayed in Winterfell.”

Tommen shook his head, “Bran is not a kid. He stopped being one when he fell from that tower. He had to go North.”

Jon stood up. “Where are you going?” Tommen asked.

“Castle Black. I cannot stay here any longer.” Tommen stood up too.

“For once. Stop thinking about yourself only. Think of mother and father. Father is devastated. Do you think it was easy for him to let Bran go?” Jon did not want to hear reason. He wanted to hate father. He did not want to consider his father’s pain.

Tommen did not stop. “Mother and him stayed in their quarters for hours. Robb and I took care of Rickon until you came back. We saw father crying. Jon, think of them.” His brother continued.

“I’ll stay for her.” Jon replied.

Mother and father stayed in his quarters for most of the morning and part of the afternoon. Mother looked somber when she greeted them. Father looked at him and nodded. “Tommen and you will travel to Castle Black this afternoon. Ready the horses and the direwolves. Your mother and I will travel with Rickon tomorrow.

 

“You are exposing her and Rickon again. Are you going to send them North too.” Jon spat.

Father glared at him. “Ready the horses and leave.”

Jon ignored his father. “Mother.”

Cersei kissed his cheek, “do as your father says.”

Tommen ran after him. “You have to give him time Ned.” Jon heard as he walked out.

His brother stayed blissfully quiet until they reached Castle Black. “I will look for Robb.”

They did not have to look for him much longer. Robb was in the courtyard training some crows.

Tommen joined him. Jon waved at his brother and then left for one of the quarters. He should have known Robb would go looking for him. “I heard you went after him.”

Jon turned and saw his brother. Robb was his best friend. He hugged him. “I did. I have a half a mind to go to Queensgate and escort mother back to Winterfell.”

“Father said she would bring her here with us.” Robb, like Tommen seemed to agree and follow father without question. Jon shook his head.

“Do you think that is wise?” Jon asked a little forcefully.

Robb shook his head, “No, but I know what it is like to stay back. Father turned me back with Bran’s broken body. I saw mother. You stayed with mother for a few months before you rode to battle. She is not made for waiting in castles. Mother needs to be here with us. If father did not deter her, what makes you think you will have any effect. She will not stay in Winterfell.”

“What can she do? She will stay if we keep her there. I will leave my best men to guard her.” Jon said angrily.

“She would never forgive you.” Robb said and looked at him. “Do you think it was easy for father to let him go? It was not. I was there when he came to mother. He cried and she held him. She forgave him Jon. You do not have to like it. You do not have to understand them. We are going to face wildlings in the morrow and I need you to with us completely. I want to come back to my son. I need to come back to Eddard.” Jon was confused for two seconds and then remembered his young nephew.

Jon laughed, “you have a son.” He needed to stop thinking about father and his wrong choices.

“I do.” Robb laughed back. “I always thought it would be you. My plan was to be like uncle Tyrion and worship the god of tits and wine.

Jon laughed even more. Only Robb could make him laugh like this, “uncle Tyrion is married now. He is married to sweet and proper lady Sansa of House Arryn.”

“I daresay he is even happy.” Robb relayed.

Jon shook his head. “I do not believe it. He was as pained to be married as I was. He did not even bed her.”

Robb poured him some ale. “He likes her now. He must have recently taken a liking to her. Uncle Tyrion spent a year visiting one of our handmaidens. Margaery loved to point it out whenever in my company.” Jon noticed the derisive tone in his voice.

“Are you still in love with Talisa?” Jon directly asked. He knew about his puppy love for the nurse that was in love with Tommen.

“Have you stopped loving your wildling?” Robb drank some of his ale.

Jon smiled sadly, “My Ygritte is dead. You have a lovely wife.”

Robb smiled back, “My lovely wife is a harpy. Mother taught us too well. She tries to be pleasing but she does not care for me. She cares for Eddard but I guess she must since it is her child. She pretends to be in love with me when in reality all she cares for are my tittles and lands. There is no doubt in my mind that she would be content had she been shipped off to the Westerlands. She would be happier as Stannis wife or in your bed Lord Stark.”

Jon laughed, “You frequent other lovers then. Do you have any bastards yet?”

“I do not have time to frequent other beds. I go to sleep with my wife. I said she was a viper that does not mean I do not enjoy her favors. I do not care for her and I will love Talisa until the day I die or until I find her once more. I am not simple in the head. Margaery Tyrell was not a shy virgin when we wed and for that I am glad. That girl is all I could ask when it comes to the fucking department.”

“You are a pig.” Jon said. He had missed Robb and his witty remarks.

“I may be but I am a pig with lands, tittles, a fuckable wife and a beautiful child.” Robb waggled his eyebrows comically.

Jon could not help but laugh uproariously. They laughed together until Jon’s eyes watered with mirth.

“Little Eddard looks just like us. Mayhaps he inherited Margaery’s hair color but otherwise he looks just like Rickon and us.” Robb said happily.

“I wish you could see him. His nameday will be soon. He is a rather smart lad if I say so myself.” Robb’s eyes lit with happiness when he spoke of his firstborn; just like when Tommen spoke of Cassana and Myrcella.

“Perhaps we will go to Winterfell once we come back from Hardhome.” Jon offered.

Robb nodded. “I will take you to meet your nephew and the heir of the Eyrie.”

“I shall meet the newest male Stark then. Did you know that Tommen’s wife birthed a girl?” Jon asked.

“Myrcella, I believe is her name. I envy him sometimes. Not only for having Talisa’s love but for being in love with his wife. He is utterly happy.” Robb said plainly.

“The golden twins are happy. Joanna is with child. The crown may have an heir soon enough.” Jon added insult to injury. Tommen and Joanna were always well behaved and easy going children.

Robb laughed, “I am happy for him. He was always the best out of us. The bravest. I should have done what he did. I should have fought for Talisa. I should have made her fall in love with me.”

Jon thought of Ygritte. He thought of her everyday, at first he thought of her with regret. He could have forced her to stay back with Arya and then he would remember that Ygritte was free. She did as she pleased.

“You would not have given up your tittles. Your lands.” Jon said firmly.

“If Ygritte were alive would you give up your tittle. Would you stop being Lord Stark?” Robb asked with a smirk.

Did he ever think of giving up Winterfell? Jon thought about it from time to time. He thought of joining the Watch after knowing he was not Cersei’s Stark son but he was pained. These were his lands. “Never.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 60

Eddard held Cersei all night. He could not sleep. He promised to take Cersei and Rickon to Castle Black. He touched one of the golden strands that framed her face. She sighed and opened her eyes. “Close your eyes. Try to sleep. You are going North in the morrow.” She said tiredly.

“I cannot. Jon was correct. I should have never let him go. I should have kept him in Winterfell. I should have kept guards outside his door.” Ned stated. The doubts assaulted him. Cersei touched his cheek and looked incredibly haunting. She looked sadder than when they lost Joffrey, sadder than when Jon fell on his head.

“And then what? What would have happened when he found a way to escape. He would have gone without provisions, without anyone to back him.” Cersei said mournfully. “Sleep my love. This was his destiny.” She said carefully, painfully.

Ned kissed her gently. “How are you so convinced Lioness?” It surprised him that his lady wife would be so willing to let go of Bran. Ned expected her to be furious, to be angry. He expected her to refuse his company altogether.

Cersei held him and cried. Ned looked at her and panicked for a few minutes. “My love, forget my words.” He wished, he never uttered anything.

Cersei cried harder and clung to him. “I have dreaded this moment. I have dreaded telling you. Eddard you will hate me. You will abhor my presence you will feel disgust every time you see me. It has to be tonight; this is our last night before you go off North. The greenseer boy said you had to know.”

Ned was confused and fearful. “Never, Cersei, you do not have to tell me. You can keep your secrets yours.” He was not keen on knowing anything that could reduce his Lioness to a mess of tears and half hushed words.

Cersei kissed him and looked into his eyes, “I have to tell you. I have to, before it is too late. The Reed boy was specific. He said that I must not keep this from you, not anymore. This is the last secret, the last bit of information that I have kept from you.”

Eddard Stark felt a stab of ice inside his belly. “What is it my love?”

“That greenseer boy. He knew about Maggy. He knew about him. He knew about Tyrion and mother. He knew everything. He knew things I had never told a soul. I never told anyone about Maggy.” Cersei cried pitifully.

She was not making any sense. His lady wife cried more and then breathed deeply. “Promise, on your honor, on our children that you will not exile from our home. Promise that you will let me see my Rickon grow up. Swear Ned.” She said while wiping way tears.

Ned looked at her and nodded, “I promise.” After all, the secret he had unwillingly kept was far worse. “I only ask for your forgiveness Cersei in your return.”

Cersei nodded as well. “I must tell you first.”

“I was to become Rhaegar Targaryen’s betrothed. I wanted to know my future. There was a witch who had lived in Lannisport. I went with my companion and the witch told me that I would have three children and that I would be queen. She said I would bury my children and I did. Ned, I did. Joffrey, our girl and that last baby before our Jon. Jojen Reed knew this. He asked for a private audience and told me about the prophecy. He said Maggy was mistaken about half the prophecy. I never became queen but my children did die.”

Ned listened to her. She had never told him about this witch. “Jojen spoke about Tyrion and mother. The boy knew about how mother had died. He knew mother bled out. He knew that Tyrion ripped her apart.”

He could not help but add, “All Westeros knows that.”

Cersei looked at him with anguished eyes, “But no one knows. No one knows that mother asked me to take care of Tyrion. It was only me and her. She asked for me only. I remember thinking mother would be fine. Aunt Genna left me with her and mother looked at me and said, “Take care of your baby brother. Take care of him, love him, love him because father will not.”

Ned waited for her to finish her tale. “I nodded and I left for the sept. I prayed for days. I prayed until I was hoarse and then some more. I stayed in the sept even after aunt Genna told me mother was gone. I prayed for the Gods to take Tyrion and give me my mother back. Father found me and told me to stop. “Gods do not exist. They will not bring mother back. If they are merciful they will take that monster with them.” Cersei said hollowly. “I hated Tyrion. I hated him with all my being since then. I could not keep my promise to mother.” She cried more.

“I avoided him. I wanted him dead. Jaime tried to make me love Tyrion but not even he could make me.” Ned looked at her once more.

“I loved Jaime more than anything in the world. More than mother, more than father. I loved him. I spent every hour of the day with him. I played house and kisses with him. He was my first kiss; he was my first everything.” Ned paled. He heard of some rumors of the sort when he first went to King’s Landing. He felt repulsed.

He stood up and paced. Ned looked at her on the furs crying and she kept talking. “We only coupled once. Just before the first war broke.”

Ned could not hear her anymore. He looked at her once more and what he felt shamed him. He loved her, he was still in love with her. She cried and stood up. Cersei tried to touch him. He shook her off, “Did you fuck him in my home?” He remembered Jaime’s two visits and tried to think if Cersei had been alone with him for more than a few minutes.”

She shook her head, “It all stopped before I married you. I swear it on the live of our children. I stopped.”

“Eddard please.” Cersei did not wipe her tears. She looked at him and cried.

He did not dare touch her. “Your brother. He was the man you loved. The one who kept you from loving me all those years. I began to love you before you did. I always knew that.”

Cersei grabbed his hands. He waved them off. “Please my love.” She begged and tried to hold him once more.

“I am not your love. I have never been your love. Your heart has always belonged to him.” Ned spat painfully.

“I have loved you since before I knew I could love you. Ned, I realized I loved you after I saw you cry in the Godswoods. The anniversary of Lyanna’s death. I began to love you before that. You are my true love. Jaime and I, what we lived was desperation. Father ignored us. Mother died and we had no one. We were so lonely. We took comfort in each other. I regret every touch, Ned, I only love you.” She said with honesty.

He turned away from him. Lord Stark did not want to look at her anymore. She reached and pressed her face on his back. “I swore to never be with Jaime when Jon fell on his head. Ned, I have been true to you since before then. I love you. I feared loving you; I knew whatever twisted affection Jaime and I shared paled in comparison to what I felt for you. I began loving you since before the twins were born.” He could feel her tears on his back.

“I don’t love him anymore. I love you Ned.” She held him. Ned turned and looked at her tear stained and blotchy face. It pained to see her like this. “Does he love you still?” Eddard was ready to find the kingslayer and rip him apart.

“I do not know. Tyrion wrote that Jaime was taken with Brienne of Tarth. Joanna confirmed as much.” Ned wanted to feel disgust for her but he could not. He wanted to rage and cast her aside but he could not. He thought about sending her to Tyrion. He remembered years ago when Jon was a babe and she made him swear to not turn her to the Rock. He imagined taking Rickon from her and shuddered. “If I ever see your brother I will rip him apart, limb by limb.” He had never felt so much hatred for another human being. “I do not want you writing to him ever again. You have made me your fool long enough Cersei.” He said venomously.

Cersei nodded. She hugged him. “Forgive me Ned. I thought surely you would be repulsed and turn me back to Casterly Rock. I saw no good in telling you. I did not know you. I feared for my safety and then you gave me Jon and I could not bear leaving my boy. We had children and I was happy. I feared I would hurt you deeply and I have.” She kissed his cheek and he cried with her.

“I am so sorry my love.” She sobbed. He was ashamed that he did not blame her. He blamed Jaime. “I love you Cersei.” He said with a gruff voice. “My love for you runs deep and I fear it will not change not even after knowing about this.”

He was angry at her. “I think this time away from you will be good.”

Cersei regained a semblance of herself. “Good night Eddard.” She said and moved to the adjacent quarters where Rickon slept peacefully.

Ned let her go. He went back to their bed and closed his eyes. He felt unease. Ned thought about all those years. He tried to remember whenever Cersei received letters from Jaime. She was happier when she wrote to him but only those first years when they did not have Robb yet. Ned had always been jealous of Jaime. He had been jealous of the way she spoke of him but Lord Stark’s jealousy diminished because with time the letters lessened. Cersei was busier, Jaime did not write as much. “He was her first.” She loved him. She loved her own brother.

Ned sat up. Cersei only couple with him once. He did not care to know what else she had learned and experienced with her twin. It had not happened in years. Cersei loved him. He was sure she did. Ned sighed and tried sleeping. His intentions of telling her about his doubts and possible secrets vanished. He tossed and turned for three hours. He thought of Cersei’s words. He tried to think of the times when his wife mentioned her brother and could not come up with a single instance where she gushed or fawned over him. Cersei had been devoted to his children, to him. He remembered fondly Robert’s first visit to Winterfell. It was as if something turned inside of her. She took care of him, made sure the servants cooked his favorite meals. She touched him more. Cersei kissed him and spent every night in his bedchambers ever since Robert visited.

He stood up and opened the door to Rickon’s quarters. Cersei lay on the bed clutching Rickon to her. She was wide awake and blinked at him.

Ned touched his son’s cheek. He attempted to move him away from him. Cersei shook her head and held tightly, “No, you promised me.”

He felt like the vilest man. “I will not take him from you. Come back to our bed.”

Cersei nodded and kissed their son. She followed him back to their quarters.

“I wished you had never told me about that man.” Ned gritted.

“It had to be done. I did not want anymore secrets. Oddly enough I feel better to have told you. I do not want to keep anything from you my love.” She replied. He knew her well; Cersei knew that he was not as angry as when she first told him about her secret.

Ned touched her cheek and kissed her. “Never again speak of this. I do not want us to speak of this ever again.”

She nodded and held him. They went to bed and rested for the rest of the night. Ned’s tiredness won the battle and he slept for a few hours before they journed to Castle Black.

He greeted his sons and the few men that were to accompany him to Hardhome. Benjen would stay in Castle Black. He went to his brother, “Take care of her and Rickon. Send her back to Winterfell if you have the slightest suspicion of mutiny or danger amongst your men. Keep a close eye on Slynt and Thorne.” He hugged him. “Listen to Maester Aemon.”

Benjen smiled good naturedly, “I am not your little brother here. I am Lord Commander.”

Ned smiled back, “you will always be my baby brother. Take care.” He turned to Cersei who kissed Tommen last.

“Benjen is under instruction to take you and Rickon to Winterfell should anything happen. You will listen to him Cersei, I shan’t have you in any danger.” Cersei nodded.

His wife looked sickly. She looked tired and sad. He kissed her cheek. “I love you Ned.” She whispered gently. He kissed her forehead. “I love you too.”
Her eyes watered, “I will wait for you here my love.” She said hopefully. He wished he would forget about what she revealed. Ned wanted to tell her about his doubts but it was time to go.

Tormund would lead the expedition to the wildling village. The plan was to gather and convince as many wildlings to leave the North and settle in Westeros. They would live in the Gift and the abandoned keeps near the Wall. They needed to have as many fighting men as they could. Benjen had distributed the wildling men through out the keeps. His brother feared uprisings from both his men and the wildlings. He kept trustworthy men in each keep as a form of control. Ned applauded that thinking but he was concerned. Northerners and wildlings would have to see eye to eye and live amongst each other. They had fragile peace for the moment. Benjen would have to be alert to keep the crows and wildlings from fighting each other.

Once their party was ready. He saw his children mounted. Jon led the party followed by Tommen and lastly Robb. Tormund and his men parted shortly after. Ned Stark mounted his steed and joined the wildling and his men. “We will be in Hardhome in a week after we board your ships. It will take us a week to get to the harbor.” The man laughed. “If your son has his way we will find ourselves there in four days.”

Ned smiled, “he is determined that one.”

Tormund then proceeded to tell a tale about a bear. Ned laughed uproariously by the end. They camped late at night when it was clear the horses could not march on. Robb, Tommen and Jon camped with him. They ate some elk and drank ale until they felt a little warm. They spoke of the plans for the morrow. Once again Jon and Tommen would ride first. They would be accompanied by a small host of wildlings. Tormund would follow with him. He did not like the idea of his sons riding ahead but they had agreed that it would not be proper to have Lord Stark Warden of the North ride ahead and then have a host of westerosi men trail after him. They would wait inside the ships. It would be seen as an attack rather than the peace accord they wanted to forge.

Ned slept uncomfortably. He thought of Cersei and her confession. He thought of their children. He thought of Jon and his doubts. He tried to sleep and dreamed of Lyanna or maybe he was remembering. “Promise me Ned.” She had said as she died. He tried, he left the babe in the whorehouse. He would take him North but then Robert decided he would marry Cersei Lannister and he had to go back to King’s Landing. He dreamed of that evening when he received raven that his nephew had died crossing the Riverlands. Ned had been assuaged with guilt but he also felt a flash of relief. The boy was dead and so was his baby sister.

He woke up and drank some ale. “He is a Targaryen.” Maester Aemon whispered to him. “He is to rule the Seven Kingdoms along with Daenerys and Aegon. He is the third Head of the Dragon.”

Ned wished Cersei never told him about Jaime. He had to tell her. Ned wanted Cersei to reassure him and tell him the old dragon was wrong. Cersei would have made it better. Eddard had told his son. Jon was his son. He was his. He knew it the moment he laid eyes on him. It was his boy, but was him? Wyla, her name was Wyla. Wyla threw herself from the highest tower. The dornish girl told him. “She said she did not want the little one. Said, you raped her, said she hated the little one.” Ned had been enraged. He never raped the tavern wench. She enjoyed herself. He remembered seeing her broken body. What if Jon was not his. Could it be? Ned tried to recall the timeline. He only remembered taking the wench around the time Brandon died, close to a year before he found a dying Lyanna and her babe. Jon could not be older than Lyanna’s babe.

Jon tossed and turned and stood up. He sat in front of her neither spoke. He looked just like him. Lyanna and him looked like each other. The ears, those ears where not his, nor were the cheekbones. Did Wyla have those cheekbones? He could not recall.

“Mother looked weary when we left. She looked sad.” Jon said accusingly.

“She was.” Ned acquiesced.

“Why?” Jon asked and glared at him.

“She sent her three children and her husband North of the Wall son. Cersei is intelligent and this war is far more dangerous than the war in the South.” Ned explained.

“Mother said to forgive you for Bran.” Jon looked pained.

“I do not need your forgiveness Jon. I am at peace with what I did. You will understand when you have children. Bran was destined, and in some way you know. You know what we are where we come from. We are descendants from the first men. You have dreams, you have a connection with Ghost. You can be him. Bran told me. You and him are perhaps the only Starks that can remember when they become their direwolves or that remember those vivid dreams. I for one remember dreaming of your mother heavy with child. Bran had not been conceived yet but I dreamed of him. I dreamed of his name of his face. Your mother was against having more children. “We have an heir, two spares and two girls to marry off. Cersei was not keen on having Bran.” Your brother is needed elsewhere I know it so.” Lord Stark watched as his son struggled with words.

Jon drank ale, “Robb and Tommen are fathers.”

Ned nodded, “They are. I have grandchildren I have not met.”

Jon half smiled, “I do not understand you father.” He stood up and went back to his furs.

He was so much like him. Jon did not do small talk; he was angry and preferred to keep quiet. Jon however sulked. Ned never sulked. He closed his eyes and missed Cersei more than ever. He willed this trip to be quick. He willed the wildlings to be receptive.

It seemed Tormund was correct. They made it to harbor in three days; a week later they were docked and waiting for the wildlings. Robb came back, “Jon is trying to convince them.”

Ned rode and entered the hut. “The dead are coming. You know what awaits you here.” Jon said passionately. “Would you rather join the army of the dead than kneel?”

Ned listened to his son speak. “We are the free folk. I will not kneel to anyone. I have no king.”

“You will not kneel. We are offering you shelter. The long night approaches and this village will be the first to be attacked.”

“Your kind always make empty promises.” An elderly lady said.

“I cannot guarantee you kindness from the westerosi. You will not be welcomed with open arms. I offer you safety, food, shelter and work. I urge you to follow me. We will take as many as we can. We are prepared to take all of you. All those who can work will work. We need each other. We all come from the first men. We are northerners we understand our customs, we understand winter. A free woman once told me that we were the same. I scoffed at her; I thought I was better but we were the same. We pray to the same gods. The only thing that divides us is a Wall. You all need to be on the other side of that wall. Winter is coming and with it the white walkers.” Jon finished.

There was no further need for Lord Stark. The wildlings accepted and boarded the ships, at least half of them did. The army of the dead came. Ned had never seen so many white walkers. He unsheathed Ice and charged. He commanded the men. They were armed with dragon glass and whatever Valyrian steel they could find. His children fought beside him. The dead rose and overcrowded them.

Ned called the men back. “To the ships.” He yelled. Robb and Tommen dragged Jon. His eldest seemed to be on a mission to kill or be killed. “Head back now.”

Tormund, Grey Wind, Ghost and Shaggydog defended the Stark heirs. Ned fought off some more white walkers and boarded the small boat that would take them to the ships. He put as many wildlings in the boats.

“There are thousands of them.” Tommen said as he looked at the shores. They were brimming with the undead.

“We need more men.” Robb said breathlessly.

“Stannis will not send more men.” Jon said ominously. Robb and Tommen argued in favor of their brother in law. Surely, the king would listen. Ned knew better. Stannis had to see the white walker for himself. Stannis would not leave King’s Landing, not so soon after a war that almost left the Capitol and the Southerner houses in ruins.

Chapter Text

Chapter 61

She expected life to change. Cersei Stark thought the world would implode once her love knew about Jaime and her. The world did not stop. Ned did not rage; there were tears in his eyes and she felt as if her heart was pierced. Cersei left unburdened once she let the words out. It had not been easy but she did it. She said the words and there was no way she could take them back. Her septa once told her words were wind. She was mistaken; words were like iron grips. They grounded you. Cersei cried silently for hours until he came for her. Ned was hurt; he was confused and angry. He was not angry at her. Her Ned was angry at Jaime. Cersei returned to Castle Black. Ned told her Benjen was to send her to Winterfell if anything happened. Benjen said they would be gone for two or three weeks. Cersei handled herself very well. She helped Benjen and Ed Tollett with the castle. She organized the labor in castle black. She stayed busy for the first week.

Benjen came into her quarters that night. “You and Rickon ride to Winterfell.”

She shook her head, “It is close to night. We will not be safe.”

Benjen spoke fiercely, “I promised Ned I would send you to Winterfell if I even had a suspicion of a revolt. You ride South now.”

“Who?” She asked

“Slynt and a few golden cloaks Stannis sent a few months ago. Now go. Ready your things. Grenn will make sure you arrive to Winterfell safely.” Benjen retorted.

“Surely, you are exaggerating.” Cersei tried to minimize her brother in law’s concerns.
He glared at her, “Cersei, there is not time to lose. You go now. I will send ravens once I have the Castle under control.”

Grenn was a nice boy. He must have been Jon’s age, maybe older. They rode all night. Rickon cried from the cold. Lan snapped and growled at anyone who came near them. They made it to Winterfell by the next night.

Maester Luwin was there. She walked into her home and felt relieved. Ned did not need her in Castle Black. He said that the expedition to Hardhome would be good for them. She was distraught by the thought but maybe Ned was correct. Time would be good for them. She had nothing to do at Castle Black. Her family was beyond the Wall. It did not matter if she were in Castle Black or in Winterfell.

She went to her quarters and put Rickon to bed. Cersei combed Rickon’s wild locks. He looked just like Robb. It was amazing how much this child resembled Robb and Jon. She expected little Eddard would now look like her Robb. Her son said that her grandchild looked like him except for his coloring and the hair. She would know in the morning. Cersei longed for the old days. She wanted her children to be kids again. It was all less complicated her boys were hers only. They only loved her. There were no mad love affairs with wildlings, volanteese nurses or pretty princesses taking her baby boys. She had Ned’s love, there were no fights. She knew he still loved her very much. They needed each other. They loved each other and her confession as harsh and painful as it was would not diminish an ounce of what they had. Cersei traced her words and was glad that in her confession she made sure to tell him that it happened only once and before she became his wife.

Cersei Stark slept better in her bed. She managed to get some hours of sleep and woke up because Rickon slipped into bed. “I want Papa.” He said with tears.

She kissed his forehead, “Papa is fighting the monsters.”

“is he with my brothers?” Rickon’s grey eyes shone with tears.

“He is.” Cersei replied.

“I want them to come back.” Rickon said and cuddled on her chest.

“They will be back before you know it sweetling.” Rickon kissed her cheek. “Bran is with Hodor mama.”

She frowned and asked him, “Sweetling Hodor is here with Old Nan.”

Rickon was asleep again. She let her baby sleep. Lady Stark readied for the day. She wore a royal blue gown. She had lost all the baby weight and could fit in her old gowns. She looked at this one fondly. She had brought it from Casterly Rock when she first came to the North. She smoothed the creases on her skirt and walked out of her quarters. She sought maester Luwin. He met with her in Ned’s solar. “My lady.” The older man greeted.

“What news of the Wall?” He sat in front of her.

“Benjen fears insurrection from his men and attacks from the wildlings. Ned and my sons sailed for Hardhome a week and half ago. They plan to take as many wildlings as they can.” The maester listened attentively.

“We have received ravens from King’s Landing, Casterly Rock and the Eyrie.” The man gave her some unsealed letters.

Cersei read them quickly. Joanna was well and told her about the court. Her daughter asked about the Wall. “Stannis cannot afford to send more men. I wish father could understand that.” Cersei shook her head. Her sweet child did not understand. She had not seen them. Cersei had not either but Ned and Jon had; that was enough for her. She read another letter from father. He refused to send men as well. He called Ned’s plight ridiculous. “the dead come alive. Your Northerman has gone insane.” She could almost hear the mocking tone behind his words. Lastly, a letter from Tyrion. “Sansa sends her love.” Tyrion’s letter was short and went in the same vein as Joanna’s and father’s. He thought it was unwise to send more men to protect the Wall.

She sighed and composed letters to all of them once more. She urged them to send men. Cersei wrote to Joanna specifically. “Kitten, your father and brothers have gone beyond the Wall to rescue as many people as they can. They need me to man the Wall and fight the white walkers. Stannis will need to send more men. I implore you to make him see reason.”

She discussed the state of the Winterfell and ordered lunch for them. Lady Stark collected Rickon from his chambers. They reached the great hall. She was joined by Margaery and little Eddard. She smiled at the child.

“Lady Stark.” Margaery was all smiles. Cersei detested her. “My grandchild looks just like his father.” Little Eddard smiled and giggled.

Cersei held him. “Look at you.” The child grinned and grabbed her hair. The child pulled and grinned.

Margaery gasped. She looked terrified. Cersei laughed at the babe. “Just like your father you are. Feisty little pup.” Rickon frowned at his nephew.

“Mama, I am your pup.” Cersei and Margaery laughed.

“He is such a darling.” Her daughter in law cooed at Rickon. She was such a simpering girl.

“How have you liked your stay in my home.” Cersei asked once Rickon and Eddard were on the floor playing with some toys one of the servant girls brought.

“The castle is surprisingly warm.” Margaery chose her words carefully.

There was little conversation to be had with this woman. She reminded her of the southron ladies that flocked Casterly Rock after immediately after mother died. They had all wanted to lend a hand to the widower and raise the three blonde treasures. Reynes, Westerlings, Paynes even little Clegane ladies swarmed the Rock. Aunt Genna put a stop to it when she saw Jeyne Payne trying to wear mother’s jewelry.

They endured each other for a few hours. Cersei was called by Luwin. They walked around the courtyard. Cersei frowned. "Where is Hodor?" The simple minded man was always helping around with the horses. Hodor lifted the heavy crates and calmed down the spooked horses.

The maester looked incredibly sad, "old Nan passed a week ago. We buried her body in the godswoods."

"How?" Cersei asked. The woman was very old when she came to Winterfell. Ned told her that the woman had been his lady mother's nursemaid.

"Her heart stopped." The older man supplied sadly. "She was well in her years. Hodor helped bury her and then went to his rooms. One of the girls she to give him supper the following night and he was gone. I sent search parties. One of the men said he saw Hodor go North. I had hoped he would be back. But the man is simple headed my lady." The kind maester stated.

Cersei nodded. "He will be fine. Hodor is with Bran." She commented. The maester looked confused and so Cersei launched her explanation.

Luwin looked skeptic but listened well. "Howland Reed had died. The Reed children brought a letter sealed, only for lord Stark. The young boy was adamant that only Lord Stark be permitted to open the message."

Cersei did not think much of the letter. Howland Reed was a good friend of Ned's. The man was much like him, honorable, respectable and even more quiet and reserved. Her Ned liked feasts when it was his closest friends attending but Howland Reed refused all feasts and only wrote the bare minimum. Ned held him in high esteem ever since they fought in Robert's Rebellion.

Honor's disappearance helped her stand by her decision of telling Ned. The greenseer boy was correct. She went back to her husband's solar and invested herself in running Winterfell once more. She was busy for two weeks. Cersei spent the mornings with Rickon and sometimes little Ned. Margaery prayed in the sept or sewed the day away; frankly Cersei could care less what her daughter in law did with her time. Lady Stark occupied herself with Winterfell matters in the afternoons. She heard grievances two or three days. The woman hit some rough patches with the new inhabitants in the keeps but the wildlings could be controlled and so could the northerners.

She settled a petty land distribution problem when she heard one of the stablemen's order. Cersei and Rickon had been walking with Lan. "Open the gate. Stark banners coming through."

Lady Stark held onto her child. Rickon tried to squirm down but Cersei held tight; lest the boy be trampled by the horses.

She saw Ned and Robb head the small party, only four watchmen accompanied them. She did not know their names.

"Mother." Robb dismounted and hugged her.

"Where's my boy?" He asked as soon as he kissed her cheek.

"With his lady mother. They should be in the embroidery room." Robb nodded and left.

Ned dismounted and patted his horse. Her husband was unsure of his welcome. Rickon dissipated all the awkwardness. The boy jumped out of his mother’s arms and ran to his father “Papa, papa, papa you back.” He squealed and giggled when Ned threw him to the air and caught him deftly.

Her husband approached her, “I have something to tell you Lioness.” Ned held her hand. Cersei shivered. “Ned, please don’t. Think of our children. I love you.” She was about to lose her family, her children, her husband. Cersei felt the tell tale prickle of tears.

Ned shook his head, “I love you too. We are never speaking of that again. Never.” He replied with a harsh voice.” He kissed her for good measure. “I need to tell you.” He said and kissed her again. Cersei smiled weakly. “Of course my love.”

They walked to the castle. Rickon clung to his papa and had to be coerced to him to eat a light supper and go to bed. Cersei was intrigued. Ned said he needed to tell her something ever since that night when he told him about Jaime. She now remembered his impatience over that. For a man who wanted go unburden his soul Ned Stark did not appear to want to speak with her in private. He played and humored Rickon for a few hours. She bathed and tucked her child for bed. She left Lan at his door. "Make sure he stays in." She said to the massive direwolf.

Cersei went back to her quarters. "I'll have one of the girls draw a bath for you." She made for the door when Ned took a hold of her hand. "Later." He said and then hugged her.

"There are thousands of them Cersei. Thousands. We'll be lucky if we can hold the Wall. We need men. We need more men." He said fearfully. She hugged him back and kissed the side of his neck.

She smiled, "We will get more men then. We'll send ravens to all the noble houses is Westeros. We'll ask Stannis once more."

Ned sighed. He rubbed her back, "I sent ravens as soon as I reached Castle Black. We rescued hundreds of the free folk but it is not enough Cersei. We left children. They turned. We have to secure to Wall and shelter as many wildlings as we can. Jon and Tommen have gone beyond the Wall once more. Robb and I part for Castle Black in three days’ time. I will join Tommen's party and Robb will go to Jon's."

Cersei's heart pumped faster, "Ned, what happened in Castle Black? Benjen ushered me out soon after you left."

He kissed her gently, "he did well. Benjen is injured. He will recover. It was a good thing we arrived when we did. Thorne and Slynt planned to overthrow my brother. I hanged them as well as other traitors."

She kissed him this time. "We will find a way to get more men. I could persuade father. I know I could. Do not worry too much my love. You will hold the Wall. The North will rally behind you." She felt somewhat at ease. Cersei expected her husband to cast her aside. She felt relieved; this she knew. She would comfort her husband and counsel him. He trusted her. Ned still loved her and trusted her. She had not lost him. Cersei would never lose him. She felt giddy with excitement and kissed him more forcefully. He kissed her back with the same or more desperation.

“Later.” He said once more and caressed her face.

Cersei worried once more. “I thought you needed to speak about the white walkers.”

“I did. I do.” Ned said with an anguished voice.

“What is it my love?” Cersei asked too concerned now.

“I am not sure how to tell you this.” He slumped to a chair. Cersei kneeled in front of him. “We will find a way. We always do. What is it?”

Ned pulled her up and hugged her. He nuzzled her neck and whispered brokenly. “I am not sure that Jon is mine.”

Cersei frowned, “Surely, you jest. He is your image. He looks exactly like you. Arya, Robb and Rickon look like him. I assure you my lord my children are yours.” She said with a small frown.

“Lyanna looked like me. We resembled our lady mother.” Ned reminisced.

“What does Lyanna have to do with your son.” She took a look at him and understood.

“You said his mother was a tavern wench, that she took her life.” Cersei’s voice wavered as she trembled. Ned never lied.

“I never told you. Only Jon and those who were there know of this. I found Lyanna alive, barely. She gave birth to a baby boy. She named his Jaehaerys. I promised to take care of him. I swore I would protect him. I was called back to King’s Landing. I ordered Howland Reed to take the boy North. I would raise him as my bastard. I convinced Robert to marry Catelyn and received the raven the day I was to part for the North. The babe had died from a river while crossing the Riverlands. I was relieved.” Ned said with a pained tone.

“I don’t understand Ned.” Her husband’s tales made no sense. He was confusing her more and more.

He looked at her, “I married you. You were pregnant with our Joffrey when I received news of sightings of my nephew. Howland wrote and said that there were reports of a babe. “I went and I took a look at the babe. Lioness, I saw Wylla’s broken body and I knew he was mine. He could not be Jaehaerys. He was mine own son.” Ned said feverishly.

Cersei nodded, “I don’t understand my love. Why do you fret then?”

“Maester Aemon. The three headed dragon.” Ned replied. “Aegon the conqueror dominated Westeros with his dragons.”

“He conquered Westeros with his sisters, Vysenia and Rhaenys Targaryen.” Cersei supplied. This was history. Cersei remembered Tyrion yapping about it when they were children. He would not shut up about dragons and Valyria. He even spoke some of it. Cersei attended her history lessons but was never as interested as Tyrion had been.

“Maester Aemon is a Targaryen himself. He spoke of a prophecy. The three headed dragon that would rule Westeros once more. He spoke of three dragons that would bring back the Targaryen dynasty. The maester said our Jon was part of the three headed dragon.” Ned said.

“Your nephew died crossing the riverlands.” Cersei said once more. “Jon is your son. He is our son.”

Ned looked about to cry, “What if he is not? What if I was blinded?”

Cersei hugged him. “What if he is not from your loins? Would that make him any less your son? What if he is your nephew and not your son? Would that make him any less Stark?”

Ned shook his head. “No, he is my son. My heir. My firstborn.”

“As he is mine.” Cersei said sweetly.

“You know it would not matter that I did not conceive him. I have raised him as my own. Lioness, what if he is Rhaegar’s son?”

“That would make him a Targaryen bastard. He is better off being the rightful heir to House Stark, future Warden of the North. Ease your doubts my love.” Cersei hugged him.

He clung to her and looked calmer when she remembered Howland Reed’s letter. She gasped. “You received a letter from Howland Reed.”

Ned frowned, “Howland is dead.”

“So he is. His children handed maester Luwin the letter before taking Bran with them.” Cersei left went to the adjacent solar and retrieved the letter for him.

Ned read the letter quickly. His face looked ashen. “Howland was in charge of bringing Lyanna’s babe to Winterfell.”

“What is it Ned?” She asked.

“Read it for yourself.” He pushed the letter to her hands.

Ned,

I fear death will claim me sooner than later. I have kept a secret for years my friend. I cannot keep it any longer. It is time for me to unburden my soul. Wylla, your tavern wench travelled with us North. She had given birth to a babe too. She begged me to take her to Winterfell. She did not want to be in Dorne any longer. She wanted for you to know your bastard son. She was a sweet girl. Wylla took care of Lyanna’s babe and her own. She did so until we reached the Riverlands. The babes took to the fever. Wylla had the fever as well. We were to cross the Twins when I discovered she had gone. I searched for her for a week. We found no trace of her but found her things and the corpse of a rotting babe. I wrote to you about the babe’s death assuming it was Lyanna’s boy. He had been weaker, more feverish than your bastard son. You must forgive me but a few months later. I found that Wylla had gone back to Dorne and had a babe. I wrote to you about it. Never telling you about your son. You wrote to me and told me about your bastard. Your son became Jon Stark, but I always felt the need to tell you about the circumstances. You must forgive me if I cast my doubts to you. It was always my wish to serve and help you friend.

Howland Reed

Cersei re-read the letter and then threw it to the hearth. “Lioness.” Ned grabbed his head and looked pained once more.

“This letter proves nothing. He is doubtful, just as you are.” Cersei replied fiercely.

“The other women in the whorehouse said Wylla acted strange that she did not lover her babe. What mother does not lover her babe? What if it was not her babe?” Ned replied.

She shook her head, “It changes nothing.” She said honestly. “Dragons and prophecies of dragons. They have circulated for centuries before the last dragons lived. Jon is your son. He is our son. He is Stark. We have no way of knowing if he is not from your loins. Does it matter if he is not? You once told me that Jon would only know me as his mother. “You are his mother.” You said so yourself when I asked you about his mother. You said he was mine own. He is your own son. He has only known one father.” She kissed his mouth. “No matter what happens he is ours.”

Ned looked at her feverishly. “He is our son.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 62

He dreamed of her again. She was fire. Jon rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He liked those dreams. He woke up feeling warm; he smiled it happened every time he dreamed of her. She was fire, the most delicious fire. Jon sat up and looked around the tent. Robb was asleep still. He shivered from the cold. “Wake up. We must get going.” Jon shook Robb.

“Father will be expecting us.” Jon washed his face and almost regretted such action. His hands hurt from the freezing water.

“Up Robb.” Jon yelled near his younger brother.

Robb sat up. “Bloody fucker.” He dressed and forewent the water. Jon tied his hair back.

They walked to father’s tent and saw him speak with Tommen in hushed tones. Both looked up. “Nice of you to join us.” Tommen snapped. Jon frowned, it was very uncharacteristic of his brother to do such things.

“What is it?” Jon asked seriously.

“Stannis has refused our pleas for more men.” Father said somberly. He looked haggard. It had been almost two years since they started the expeditions North of the Wall. Father and Robb visited Winterfell after every ranging or every month whatever happened first.

Stannis had steadily sent men over to the Wall but southron men had a tendency of not passing the Neck. Uncle Tyrion had proposed to send Wildfire. In fact, Tyrion was in the process of arriving to the North. Sansa in tow. Uncle Kevan ruled in the Eyrie. Uncle Tyrion would oversee the wildfire placement in case of battle. Jon and Robb managed to secure some holds in the North but the fact was that the white walkers were more than they ever expected.

“Has he gone mad?” Robb looked furious.

“He is not mad. He cannot spare men.” Tommen said forcefully.

“So you agree with him. How stupid can you be? You have seen what lurks here. He should be here. He is the protector of the realm.” Robb yelled at their younger brother.

Tommen lunged at him. Jon restrained Robb while father stood up. “Enough.” He yelled.

“We will have to make do with the men we have and Tyrion’s plan when he gets here.” Father slapped Robb and Tommen.

“Gather your belongings we travel to Winterfell. Benjen will lead the next ranging. Tollett and Pyp will stay in Castle Black. We will wait for Tyrion and his men to get to our home.” Father spoke no more.

Robb and Tommen glared at each other. “There is no need for all of us to go to Winterfell.” Robb continued.

Tommen lunged once more. “What is taken over you?”

“You fucker! You get to see your wife and child. I don’t even remember Myrcella’s face.” Tommen yelled. Robb sobered up and tried to apologize.

“Fuck off.” Tommen left in a fury.

Jon went after Tommen. He was saddling his horse. “I don’t need you to make excuses for him. I am tired of you fixing his messes. You have always done so but this is enough.”

Jon thought his younger brother overreacted. “We have been fighting wildlings, others, white walkers and beasts. We are all on edge.”

“You and I are doing our duty.” Tommen spat.

“As is our brother.” Jon replied trying to calm him down.

“He has fucked half of the wildling girls. He has no honor. His wife is home waiting for him and he whores around. He drinks. Robb does not deserve to have his wife and child so near him.” Tommen said furiously.

"Robb loves his son. You have gone to Winterfell yourself. Tommen, it was you who said you have never seen Robb care for someone like he cares for little Eddard." Jon pointed out swiftly.

Tommen had no retort. "We're all tired. It'll be better once we are home." Jon supplied.

His brother chuckled, "since when did you become the peace maker and optimist of the family?"

Jon half smiled, "mother will be ecstatic to see us."

Tommen smiled too. "She will."

They rode for almost a fortnight. Robb and Tommen threw daggers at each other the whole journey. Jon served as buffer between the two of them. They reached Molestown when father ordered him to lead the party.

"Where are you going father?" Jon asked.

"The Free folk have some grievances. I set for the lands east of the Gift." Father explained.

Jon circled with his horse. "I will go with you."

Father nodded. "Tell Robb to lead our men to Winterfell. Talk to Tommen as well."

Jon rode ahead. "Father and I are going to speak with the Free Folk. Robb, you lead to Winterfell. Tommen you will ride back with the crows." His brothers marched without complaint.

Father and him spoke little while riding. "Your mother will be most displeased with me." Father said after a few hours.

"Mother could nerve be displeased with you." Jon stated clearly.

"Why have you not written to her? She worries. Even Robb manages to write a few lines here and there. She has not seen you since Bran left for the North." Father continued.

Jon wished his father stopped talking. The young man just started to forgive his father for what he had done. It helped that sometimes he dreamed of Bran. He was fine, bigger, stronger, his young brother could always walk in those dreams. "I am with the Three Eyed Raven. I will fly." He reassured him every night.

"It may have escaped your notice but I have not exactly had any time to write her." Jon excused himself. The fact of the matter was that he knew that as soon as he wrote to mother she would ask him to come to Winterfell. She would make him feel good. Mother would be affectionate and dissuade him from his purpose.

Father shook his head, "Your brothers will reach Winterfell in a few days’ time if they hurry. We will be home in a few weeks. You will see your mother Jon. I have spared her the gory details and significantly reduced the amount of times you have endangered your life."

"We have to fight them." Jon knew he sounded like a green boy being scolded by his father.

Father hissed at him. "You attempted to take ten white walkers by yourself three missions ago. Jon, you ride into villages, unarmed, fight wights, hostile wildlings without care."

"I am fighting a war. I thighs that was what we were supposed to be doing father." Jon stated calmly, a little hurt by his father's observations.

Father frowned back, "we are but you want to kill yourself. It is as if you do not care about your life anymore. Your brothers foolishly admire your bravery as do the Free Folk. Do you know what they call you?"

"I don’t have the faintest idea." Jon replied a little annoyed at his lord father.

"The fearless wolf. Tormund spread it around."

Jon did not see anything wrong with his behavior. He was trying to save people to fight the army of the death instead of praising him father chastised him. Jon remained quiet.

“I thought another name would fit you better. “The Reckless Wolf they should call you.” Father hammered his opinion once more.

Jon remained completely quiet. He would not engage his father. Father, did not understand. Ned Stark would not understand that Jon missed something. There was something that he yearned for. Jon rode ahead and thought about Ygritte. He had been the happiest with her. He loved her dearly but Ygritte had died. Sometimes Jon thought about how his life would have continued had Ygritte lived. He would have gone back to Winterfell and kept her in a Keep. He laughed to himself because his wildling would have never stayed in a Keep. His father would have forbid him from taking up with her. Jon would have defied him. He would have enlisted uncle Tyrion’s help to keep his Ygritte.

He thought of redheaded children. Ygritte had been kissed by fire. He thought of his children with her. Jon would have asked Stannis to legitimize them, every single one of them. He would not take a wife. Winterfell would go to his children, to his redheaded half wildling children. In his daydreams it all panned out. Ygritte, never became his wife but she was his. She raised their children, girls and boys to be free. All dreams, Ygritte would never return North. She had been adamant that there was nothing left in the North for her. She particularly liked the riverlands. His wildling would live there and have his children if he so wished. “You could stay here.” She said after they made love. Jon shook his head and brought her close to him. “You will return North. We belong there. I will give you a keep.” She laughed, a tinkling laugh and then pounced on him.

All he had were memories of her and his dreams. At first he thought he dreamed of Ygritte but it was not her. The woman in his dreams was fire, she had long blonde hair, her skin was porcelain and her eyes were the deepest violet. She was beautiful. Jon got near her in every dream. He dreamed of her every now and then since he went back North, it had been sporadically but now he dreamed of her with much more frequency. At first he could only see her hair but now he had seen all of her face and body. He knew about little freckle and spot. Jon had never known such desire as he knew for his dream woman. He would kiss and touch her all night in his dreams. They never made love; he would wake up as soon as his kissed trailed south or just when she would lower into him. It was frustrating. He had told no one about his dreams. He kept quiet and fought white walkers and wildlings alike. Robb noticed his state after the dreams. “You need to find a camp follower or one of those free folk women. You need to solve that problem.” His brother had pointed to his erection. Robb frequented camp followers and other free women. Jon had no desire to do so. All those women paled in comparison to the woman in his dreams.

Jon was startled out of his musings when they reached the free folk village. His father was quiet. It was a good thing that Jon accompanied him. Father was not a very well versed diplomat. He was a warrior and so was Jon but the free folk liked Jon better. They liked him better because Jon never stayed back. He rescued women, men, children, the elderly. He tried to save everyone without care for his safety. Ghost trotted along and followed some children who petted his white fur.

Jon dismounted his horse. Tormund followed suit; father dismounted last. “The fearless wolf is here.” Someone shouted from afar and Jon frowned at his father small smile.

His father spoke clearly, “My son and I will be hearing grievances for the rest of the day.” They all looked at them with confused eyes.

“Father and I will hear what you have to say for the rest of the day.” Jon said more plainly. “You will form lines and you will state clearly what you need or what has been happening.”

Father smiled at him, “Let us begin.”

They listened to the villagers for the whole afternoon. Some of the complaints were mundane, not enough chickens, lack of proper seeds. Others were of more importance; an older woman complained that her neighbor raped her daughter. The young girl could not leave her small hut anymore and feared for her safety. Father frowned; he signaled two men, “Find this man and send for me once you have him.”

They heard the last of the grievances and once late evening fell they had captured the man in question. Father had all the villagers gather around the middle of the village. “You are accused of rape. Do you have any words to defend yourself?”

“No.” the man growled.

“Did you rape the girl?” Father asked.

“She should be happy I put it in her.” The man said.

Father looked fiercely at the man, “There will be no raping, raiding, no pillaging, or any other crimes in Westeros. You shall tell your lords as you have told us today and there will be justice.”

Jon had seen plenty of executions before but this one seemed more important. Father readied the sword and had the men put in position. “Any last words?”

The man shivered, “you can’t do this.” Father swung Ice and the wildling was no more. the snows were tainted with red. “Burn the remains.”

All the free folk watched, some with fear, some with respect. “I will not tolerate any crime. You will respect each other and learn to live with each other or you shall leave. I will not have any of you create any discord. You will be executed if you try. Tormund will stay here and hear the rest of your grievances. He is your lord. You answer to him.” The redheaded man looked surprised for three seconds and then nodded at his people.

Jon made sure to have the body burned before they left for Winterfell. They rode silently. Executions were always hard on father. Jon remembered the first time he went to an execution. Jon had been very young and asked his father, “Why do you not let someone else do it?”

“He who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” Father had said very seriously.

Jon kept quiet until they reached encampment. “Help me set the tent.” Father stated. Their party was smaller now that the free folk had stayed in their village.

“We will be home by tomorrow late morning.” Father passed him a wineskin. “Sleep, I need you sharp. I will have Gerard give you a haircut and shave you.”

“I am not a child anymore.” Jon growled.

Father laughed a little, “Aye, you are not, maybe just a haircut?”

Jon smiled at his father, “She will be happier if I look like her boy.”

Father nodded, “You and your brothers will always be boys to her.”

“Are we not boys to you father?” Father shook his head.

“You are men. I have fought beside you and your brothers. You have all made me very proud. You more than any of them but you have to stop risking your life. I do not attempt to comprehend what is going on inside of you but whatever it is you have to get past it.”

Jon looked up at his father and explained, “I do not what is wrong. It is as if something big is missing. I have never felt this way before; like I am missing someone.”

“Your lady friend perhaps; Ygritte” His father looked embarrassed. He remembered when father sat Robb and him to explain how coupling worked. Jon had been deeply embarrassed while Robb sniggered. Robb had already taken him to Wintertown’s brothel and he had lost his virginity to Ros.

Father had never been good when talking about feelings. Father was their protector, the warrior and the father. They went to him when they were scared or when they needed something like a new horse or dragons to buy things. If they were sick or needed hugs they ran to mother. Only Joanna and Arya got kisses and hugs from father without father being gruff. Jon knew his father loved them all but he was far more affectionate with the girls. He was more delicate with them. Jon and his brothers rough housed with him. Father and them hunted together and they trained together.
Jon half smiled “maybe.”

Father looked at him surely, “I have never loved any woman but your mother. Cersei is my world. She did not become my world overnight Jon. My love for your mother grew as we spent time together. Your mother was and is the most beautiful woman in Westeros. I was attracted to her from the moment I laid eyes on her. “The Light of the West” They called her. I grew to lover her dearly and cannot see life without her; the attraction I felt for her pales in comparison to the love we built. I do not know what you feel or felt for that woman but you knew each other very briefly.”

Jon frowned, “My love for her is not as overpowering as what you feel for mother but I held her very dearly. Do not presume to tell me that Ygritte was unimportant because she was not.”

Father shook his head, “You misunderstand me. As I said before; I do not presume to understand your feelings for that girl. All I want you to do is look elsewhere. Son, she is not the only woman in Westeros. You may meet more women. You are the Lord of Winterfell. You are handsome.” Father chuckled and so did Jon. Everyone remarked Jon was the image of his father when he was young. Robb certainly looked like them but Jon looked like a carbon copy of his father.

“Mayhaps father.” Jon sighed.

“I do not want you to give up on life when you have not felt life yet.” Father said seriously.

Jon half smiled, “Father, I am older than when you fought the Targaryens.”

“You have only begun to feel life son. Nothing compares to a kiss from your lady wife, the first time you see your children come into the world or when your children call you papa. Son, you have fought battles and war brilliantly with more elegance that I ever could but have yet to look into the eyes of the woman you love and smile at her because she gave you a healthy child. You have yet to live life fully Jon Stark. Do not give up on yours just yet.” Father said with bright eyes. Jon had never heard him speak so plainly and so beautifully.

“You could never understand what it is like to lose…” Jon started trying to excuse some of his behaviors.

“To lose someone you love?” Father asked sadly, “I know it so very much. I lost my father, my brother and my sister. I know you love your siblings but imagine losing Robb and Arya at once. I know they are your favorites. Well, you do not have an older brother but Brandon you cannot understand what it is to have someone better than you at everything, someone that protects you and then lose them. I lost Lyanna, she was my sister and she loved me better than Benjen and Brandon. I was her favorite. Not only did I know my father and brother to be dead but I had my baby sister die on me. I saw the light leave her eyes. I was broken from then on. I had no hope. Surely, you remember the story. I was to marry Catelyn Tully”

“But you saw mother and had to have her be your lady wife.” Jon supplied.

Father laughed, “Not quite, your mother of course was more beautiful than Catelyn but I had not even met her then. I had seen Catelyn and thought her to be pretty. I decided to marry your mother because of two things. First and foremost, your mother and Tywin Lannister were threats to Robert’s rule. I had not yet met her but I knew her father had sacked the city and ordered Elia Martell’s rape and the murdering of the young royals. Your uncle Jaime killed Aerys in cold blood. I could not let a family like that be so close to Robert. Second, I wanted to be miserable and surely your mother would be vicious, a southern lady filled with ambition. I had hoped your mother would make me pay for all my failures instead she was a delight. I sought her bedchambers every time I could. I stopped when she was pregnant with Joffrey.” Jon blushed a little. He did not want to know what went on in his parents’ chambers. Robb and him had made the mistake of going to Wintertown and were on their cups when they stumbled too close to their chambers and heard sounds that would forever traumatize them.

Father continued speaking, “Then we had you and I stopped as well. I will never understand what happened to me but seeing her love you. Seeing her feed my son brought certain feelings of protectiveness and desire like I had never felt. I decided to let them consume me after Robert visited us. He was sad, miserable, he had Catelyn, a proper beauty and two lovely daughters. I had you and Cersei who pleased me beyond belief. I cornered her and thus began our marriage in the truest sense of the word.” Father looked happy as if remembering when he took mother. Jon shuddered at the thought.

The young man looked at his father and said honestly; “Father, I do not know if I want to.” Ned stood up and bumped his forehead with his. Jon was surprised by the rare and very tender show of affection. “Sleep will come and you will find answers. I find that a good night sleep always clears my head. Think about what I have told you.” Father left the tent to do his rounds. He supposed. Father liked to talk to his people before turning in for the night. He liked to take the first watch as well. Jon closed his eyes and held less contempt for his lord father. He loved his father. He had fought battles with him. Father taught him everything he knew. He taught him to be honorable, to be proud of who he was and to love his family.

Jon woke up feeling hot. He dreamed of her once more. He was close to entering her when he was rudely woken by his lord father. “Up, you need a haircut. We ride until we are home.” Father yelled and yanked the covers off of him.

“No camp followers. Get rid of that yourself.” Father laughed and left him. Jon groaned and looked at his wilting erection. He woke up and went to piss; that took care of his current state.

He went to look for his father and found him in a tent getting a haircut and a beard trim. “Have to look pretty for your lady mother.” Father looked happy. This was the longest he had gone without riding back to Winterfell, about four months.

Jon smiled, maybe it was his talk with his father but he was happy to go home. “Give him a haircut; trim his beard as well. He needs to look like a person; his mother will have me head if her firstborn looks like a commoner. May the gods forbid her son looks anything but like the lord of Winterfell and future Warden of the North.” Father japed with the men. They all laughed, all in merry spirits. Winterfell was large and they would all have a warm bed; some of them might see his families, others will have a warm bed and maybe and maiden to accompany them.

Jon pulled his hair back into a ponytail to keep the hair out of his eyes. He had been explicit that he should not cut too much. Mother might like him well-groomed but his hair served to keep his face and head warm. Father and him spoke of their lands and all the changes. Jon almost regretted not going home sooner. “Rickon is so big now. Looks just like Robb when he was little.”

“Is he just as wild?” Jon asked when he saw the towers.

“No one can be as wild as your brother. Should have named him Brandon instead of Robb.” Father said and kicked his stallion into full speed.

Jon’s smile could not be bigger as the men opened the gates to his home. He was home and forgot to feel sad. He saw mother’s beaming face first.

“Oh Jon.” She cried and hugged him. Jon hugged and lifted her from the ground. “You should have come sooner.” She admonished and pecked him on the cheek.

Father stood beside him, “Do I get a hug and a kiss as well my lady?” Father asked playfully, well as playfully as he could get.

Mother hugged and pecked him on the lips. “You brought him home.” She laughed and hugged him once more.

Jon smiled. She looked as if father had hung the moon for her or slayed a dragon. “Do come inside you must be exhausted. I had your favorite made my love.” She smiled.

Jon and his father shared love for kidney pies and roasted pigs. He did not know who she referred to. Robb and Tommen were in the great hall playing with Rickon and little Ned.

“So this is my nephew and heir.” Jon said and smiled at the small child who ran around. Rickon looked at him and then looked at father. “PAPA” he yelled and launched himself at father. His father kissed his cheeks and launched him to the air.

Jon smiled at them. Mother looked at him once more and kissed him. She hugged him, “I am so happy you are here sweetling. I have missed you dearly. Come and tell me everything.”

Tommen and Robb rolled his eyes, “How come we never got that treatment? We are your children too.” Robb complained.

Tommen laughed, “Jon the Heir has always been her favorite. I think it’s because we are more handsome and mother decided to love him best so he could not be jealous of our good looks.” His brother finished.

Jon laughed, “Come mother. They are jealous because I am better than them.” Mother laughed and kissed them too.

“I love all my children equally.” She said all smiles and kisses.

Mother chatted and asked a thousand questions that he tried to answer to best of his abilities. She ordered late lunch and they ate merrily. Only the girls and Bran were missing.

“Cassana thinks uncle Tyrion and Sansa should arrive a week after her letter. Mother says she received the raven four days ago.” Tommen stated.

“I will go South once we have put uncle Tyrion’s plan into place.” Tommen said with some finality. “At least for a few months. I have not seen my daughter and wife for almost two years now.” Jon looked at his father who nodded. “I have faith that Tyrion’s plan will buy us time to train more men and diminish the army of the dead.”

Mother kissed Tommen’s hand, “You could bring them North. How I wish to meet little Myrcella.”

Tommen smiled at her, “Who would rule in Riverrun then? I have very good men there but Cassana is holding her ground there. I rather not lose what we have built there. I do not think the North is safe for my family.”

Mother kissed his cheek. “We shall find a way.”

Jon noticed then. “Where is your wife?”

Robb shrugged. Mother looked as if she had tasted something unpleasant, “The Tyrell girl is sleeping. She is indisposed.”

Jon nodded and changed subject to little Eddard and Rickon. That topic pleased mother very much and she launched into a detailed explanation of their achievements and adventures. It was a pleasant dinner.

Jon retired after conversing with mother some more. Rickon hogged father’s attention all evening. Father of course humored him. “Rickon will grow up as an only child.” Mother commented. “Your father indulges him more than he ever did any of you.”

Jon chuckled, “I have noticed.”

“He looks like you and Robb. More like you I think.” Mother said sweetly and kissed his hands.

“Why did you not come to your mother sooner?” She said and her green eyes filled with sadness.

Jon felt ashamed. Only mother could make him feel as guilty. He hated seeing her sad. He frowned, “I don’t know. Father and I spoke yesterday, he made me realize I had been a fool to not come sooner. I promise I will come home whenever I can.”

Mother smiled and kissed his forehead. “I am happy your father spoke with you. He said he would.”

“I know you want to rest. I prepared your quarters. Go and sleep.” She carded his hair back. “I like your hair out of your eyes. You look just like your father did when he was your age. You’ll age handsomely Jon Stark.” Jon smirked. “So that is why you love me better because I resemble father more than any of them.” Mother laughed, “You discovered my secret. Never tell your brothers.”

Jon entered his quarters and half smiled; his rooms looked the same. Mother was correct. He was dead on his feet. Jon undressed and watched as Ghost perched himself at the foot of the bed. Jon petted him until Ghost breaths evened out. Jon fell asleep quickly.

“Wake up.” A little boy yelled.

Rickon stood near him. “Up Jon, we have to train.”

Jon rubbed the sleep away from his eyes. “Settle down Rickon.”

Rickon jumped next to him. Jon could see Lan and Ghost playing with each other.
“Robb said to wake you. We have to train. Papa and Tommen are in the yard. You have to teach me archery today. Robb said.”

Jon yawned, “You are far too young.”

Rickon frowned and shook his arm. “I am five. Papa said Bran was younger when you teached him.”

Jon laughed, “Bran never said teached him.” It was true Bran had been four when they started archery lessons.

“Very well master Stark. Would you please let your brother dress for the day?”

Rickon smiled, “I will wait outside with Ghost and Lan.” The boy jumped out of the bed and ran out.

Jon pissed and washed his face and body. His quarters were warm and the water was cold against his face. He dressed to train in the yard. Jon grabbed some black bacon and some bread. He must have overslept. He passed through the great hall and did not find a soul there. Jon hurried to the yard and found Robb and little Eddard riding around the central courtyard. Father and Rickon were by the side readying the bows.

“Jon is here.” Rickon yelled excitedly.

Father nodded and messed the boy’s hair. “Your brother will teach you.”

Rickon bounced up and down in his spot. Jon smiled and grabbed his brother’s hand. “You are going to learn how to hold your bow first.” Jon practiced with Rickon for three hours. He was better than Bran but no better than Joanna or Arya had been.

They went back inside the castle. Rickon ran to Eddard who played with blocks with a rather beautiful woman. Jon realized that it was his sister in law.

Margaery Tyrell smiled at him. “Lord Stark.” She said as she stood up.

“My lady.” Jon bowed.

“Rickon, we have to find mother. You need a bath.” Jon picked Rickon from the floor.

“Little Ned needs a bath too. I will take Rickon with us.” Margaery stated.

Jon knew better than to let her take his brother without mother’s permission.

“I rather mother bathe him.” Jon said pleasantly and then walked to mother’s solar.

Rickon must have been tired because he felt the little boy’s head drop to his shoulder by the time they reached the wing where father and mother held their solar. Jon opened the door to his parents solar and found mother and father kissing rather heatedly.

Jon must have blushed deeply. Mother climbed down from father’s lap. She smiled and took Rickon from him. “I must go.”

Jon ran out of the room and shook his head. He tried to rid his eyes of the image his parents provided. He spent the rest of the day with Robb and Tommen. They trained and took care of matters that needed immediate attention in Winterfell. Father would be occupied with mother for the rest of the day. It was always like that whenever he came back from trips. Tommen and Robb confirmed it as much. He spent at least a day hidden away with mother.
Father resurfaced two days later. Rickon just as wild while mother chased after him. Jon’s impression of Margaery was tinted with mother and Robb’s appreciations. He thought her pretty of course but also cold, polite but extremely uncomfortable to be around mother especially. She hid her uneasiness with polite banter and niceness but there was something off about her.

Jon watched the doors when someone yelled, “Lannister banners!!”

He ran down the towers and waited as the doors opened and revealed his favorite uncle’s right hand man and the rest of their party. The rest of his family joined him just as uncle Tyrion’s carriage open.

Uncle Tyrion waddled out of his carriage. He helped Lady Sansa out of the carriage. She had her arms crossed near her chest and she smiled to it. Uncle Tyrion greeted them first. Mother and him hugged for a bit. “I am so glad that you are here.” Mother said with delight.

Uncle Tyrion guffawed, “I thought I would never hear those words out of your mouth.”

“We must get inside. This cold is not good for the babe.” Mother said happily. Uncle Tyrion smiled at lady Sansa who wore the biggest grin on her face.

Father smiled as well. “Tyrion.” Father said and nodded at him. Uncle Tyrion nodded back, “Ned. I must speak with you at once.”

Jon noticed that uncle Tyrion greeted the rest of the family rather quickly. He clapped Robb the hardest and then waddled off with father.

They moved to one of the hearths as everywhere admired the newest Lannister scion.

Margaery smiled, a fake smile when she was shown the babe. It was Jon’s turn to look at the babe. He was just as golden haired as mother. He had the bright emerald eyes. “What is his name?

Sansa smiled prettily at him, “Jon Lannister.”

Mother laughed; “Father would love that.” Jon chuckled while Sansa looked delighted, “Tyrion said the same.”

“Is he like uncle Tyrion?” Robb asked quickly as if not wanting to linger on the subject.

Lady Lannister shook her head, “No.” there was a shift in tension. Mother held the babe to her. “He is very handsome.” Soon the hall was filled with coos and admiration for young Jon.

Jon Stark left the hearths and went to father’s solar. He knocked twice before father called him in. Uncle Tyrion poured his wine and invited him to sit by him. Father’s desk had a map of the North, the Wall and beyond the North.

“Your father tells me you are popular amongst the wildlings.” Uncle Tyrion drank his wine.

“They prefer to be called free folk.” Jon said politely.

Father nodded, “Tyrion and I are discussing the key points where the wildfires will be set.” They pointed to the lands where they had encountered the most white walkers.

Jon listened to the plans, “We will light the fires with exactness. I need the handiest and fastest men we have. They will need to know that it is likely they could die while lighting the fires. We have to train them. I need them sharp and quick.”

Uncle Tyrion spoke for half an hour about the wildfire and the last rescue missions that would take place in the following weeks. “Tommen wants to go South.” Father commented.

“No.” uncle Tyrion stated.

Jon frowned, “Why ever not? He has not seen his child and wife for almost two years.”

“I am afraid none of us will go South anytime soon.” His uncle poured more wine.

“Daenerys Targaryen has left Essos. She has the unsullied behind her. She liberated Slaver’s Bay. Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen have new rulers all appointed by her. They report to her. She has the Stormcrows with her. The dothraki have come to her aid as well.”

“The dothraki will never cross the narrow sea.” Jon stated quickly.

Father was quiet, “They call her the Great Khaleesi. She has convinced them to do her biding. Daenerys has ships and dragons.”

“That is impossible.” Father said quickly.

“They call her Mhysa; mother. She is the mother of dragons. Three dragons who are almost fully grown.” Tyrion said with some longing in his voice.

“The last Targaryen is rumored to come and claim her throne. Father is sending his men to protect King’s Landing but he knows.” Tyrion looked meaningfully at father.

Jon frowned, “What does he know?”

“That I will not spare any men to fight for Stannis and he know that Stannis will not give up the crown. Winter is coming and with it the long night” Father said somberly.

Chapter Text

Chapter 63

She dreamed of him once more. Daenerys had dreamed about the same man ever since the vision in Qarth. The man in the ice. She could only see shadows of his face. Daenerys could never see his face properly. He had black hair and icy skin. He was ice. The man enveloped her in ice and he burned her deliciously so. She awoke frustrated once more. “Wake up your grace.” Missandei whispered urgently.

The queen opened her eyes and stared at the young woman’s face. “Prince Aegon asks for your presence.” Missandei said carefully.

Daenerys frowned deeply. She would not have another Viserys in her life. Aegon was not cruel but he was entitled. He believed himself the future king of Westeros. Ilyrio and Varys had said as much. Aegon was the true born son of her brother Rhaegar. Jorah was back in her council. She needed him and Ser Selmy. They knew Westeros and she wanted them by her side. Mopatis and Varys had helped her and protected Aegon. They wanted the Targaryens back in the throne. “The Targaryens wed among themselves. Your nephew will be your king. You will rule. We support our Queen and so does Dorne.” Varys whispered. “You are a formidable woman but no lord in Westeros will support your claim when they have the true born son of the last Targaryen male. You need him to make your claim stronger.”

“I have two armies. I have my dragons. I am the true and only Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.” Daenerys had stated with a hint of hostility in her voice.

“And yet you know next to nothing of your lands. The lords of the Seven Kingdoms accepted a baseborn bastard as the next ruler of Westeros. They will rally behind Aegon as soon as he speaks the tale Jon Connignton spun for him.” Ilyrio said. Jon Connington had been sent by Rhaegar to rescue Aegon before Tywin Lannister sacked King’s Landing and ordered the raping and killing of princess Elia and her daughter Rhaenys. Her nephew’s trusty advisor died before their eyes. He had contracted greyscale and was in the last stages of madness.

Jorah and Selmy concurred with Vary and Mopatis. “You need to strengthen your claim. Khaleesi, he will be a minor threat that we will learn to control.” Jorah explained.

“I will not be controlled once more. The Seven Kingdoms are mine.” Daenerys raged in the privacy of her quarters.

“And they will be yours. Your grace; you have to compromise. Dorne will not let you cast aside their seed. You need their support to have easy access to Westeros.” Ser Barristan declared. “He has the Golden Company as well.”

Daenerys reluctantly agreed to recognize Aegon as her nephew and essentially place nice with the man. Aegon did not strike her as what she thought Rhaegar would be. The queen thought Rhaegar to be a charming and strong prince. She wanted Aegon to be the same but he was not. Viserys told her that their brother was formidable. She sighed and remembered her late brother. Viserys had not always been cruel to her. There was a time before they had to sell of mother’s jewelry when Viserys was nice to her. He loved her once. She was sure. He loved her before she had her moon’s blood for the first time, before she grew beautiful.

Daenerys wanted to like her nephew a bit more. She tried to make an effort but so far Aegon was just another arranged husband she would have to endure. He had not attempted anything so far. In fact, he did not seem interested in her, at least not in that way. Daenerys considered her nephew an annoyance more than anything else.

She dressed and had Missandei braid her hair. “Take as much time as you need.”

Daenerys met with Aegon an hour later. He was on the deck looking over. “We will be home in two days’ time dearest aunt.” He sounded excited. His blue eyes sparkled prettily.

Daenerys smiled; she had forsaken Daario for Westeros. “I hope that chair is worthy of you my queen.” The man had said sorrowfully. She felt eager to leave Meereen. Daenerys wanted to find home, a place where she felt at ease.

Aegon, Jorah, Ser Barristan and her discussed their approach. The unsullied would be led by Grey Worm and secure Storm’s End and Dragonstone. Jorah would lead part of the Dothraki forces and invade the Reach. Barristan Selmy would lead the Stormcrows and the Golden Company and ride ahead. Aegon and Daenerys would wait ashore and then travel to King’s Landing and claim their right as true born heirs and rulers of Westeros. Daenerys. “We would avoid unnecessary damage if we used the dragons.” Aegon drawled once more.

Daenerys rolled her eyes, “We agreed that I would ride Drogon. Rhaegal and Viserion will fly by my side.”

Aegon frowned, “I will mount Viserion.”

Daenerys frowned, “They are my children.” She was tired of the same conversation. They had discussed her dragons since Pentos. Viserion had taken a liking to Aegon. He let him pet him but she doubted her child would let Aegon ride him.

“He is not a pup to be played with. He is dangerous and can kill you.” Daenerys stated as if speaking to a simple child.

Aegon blinked, “I know you care dearest but I am a Targaryen and it is my birthright to ride Viserion.” Her nephew said firmly and left.

“His birthright.” Daenerys simmered. “They are my children. Mine.” She was outraged.

“You need him.” Varys reminded gently as he offered her some wine.

Daenerys had been named after the princess who married into Dorne. The place was truly beautiful. The Martells kissed and delighted when they met Aegon. Doran Martell had wept when he saw his nephew and declared his cheekbones to be Elia’s. She was taken aback with the easiness in which they took to Aegon. Her nephew loved Dorne. He spoke with his cousins and Quentyn. The Dragon queen learned that Lyanna Baratheon had died in the birthing chamber two weeks before. She had birthed a stillborn babe.

“It is a blessing she died here and not in King’s Landing.” Obara Sand had said recklessly.

Quentyn’s eyes hardened. “Never again dare speak my late wife’s name.”

Doran Martell sighed, “The usurper has requested we do not let you pass.”

“What news of the Reach? Daenerys asked eagerly.

“Ser Jorah has managed to break the siege in Highgarden. The dothraki have subdued the Tyrell’s vassal houses. I daresay they did not put much of a fight. Mace Tyrell is not a fighter and Olenna Tyrell was smart to counsel her son.” Varys said pleasantly.

Daenerys was in the big games now. There was so much underhandedness. She would be a fool to trust these snakes. She made sure to have her dragons within sight. Lest Aegon and his newfound family plot against her.

They stayed in Dorne close to two months before Grey Worm arrived from Storm’s End. “My queen.” He had rasped and thrown many swords at her feet. “Those lands are yours.”

“Dragonstone?” Daenerys asked with trepidation.

“Yours my queen.” Grey Worm replied. “There are prisoners there. A Baratheon princess by the name of Alayne, an Onion knight is gravely injured as are his sons.”

Aegon smiled brightly. Daenerys nodded, so many names she did not know. Vary and Ilyrio were correct. She knew nothing of westerosi politics. An Onion Knight, who must this fellow be?

She did not let the anxiety show. Daenerys was a queen. She was the mother of dragons and breaker of chains. She would take King's Landing and then resolve the prisoner and fealty problem in her kingdoms.

"We ride for King's Landing today." Daenerys felt compelled to leave Dorne at once.

"Your wish is our command my queen." Doran said.

She unchained her children and almost fainted when she saw Aegon pet Viserion golden scales. Her child looked at her and then at the young man in front of him. Daenerys nodded; her child understood. He was not to harm Aegon. The dragon let out some smoke and then lowered his head. Her nephew looked at her with genuine happiness.

"Aunt please." Daenerys looked at the man in front of her. He was older than her by almost two years, yet she was more experienced. This was Aegon's way of asking for permission. The dragon queen had to accept that Aegon was her kin. He mounted Viserion easily.

She climbed over Drogon. Rhaegal flew by first. It was as if he knew that no one would ever ride him. He flew towards what she imagined was King’s Landing. Somehow she understood that Rhaegal would head there. She had told their children to fly her there. Ser Barristan would hopefully be outside the city, waiting for her and her nephew.

Daenerys felt the wind on her face and felt alive. There was nothing like riding a dragon. Aegon seemed to feel the same way. He took to Viserion, his silver hair flew back as did hers. She felt a kinship to her lands. They flew high, all they could see was green lands, and outlines of great castles and keeps. These were hers. She was the queen. Daenerys would take what was rightly hers. She looked over Aegon and realized that it did not matter if he was her nephew or if he was an impostor. She would have to put up with him. The lords of Westeros would want her to have a consort. She would have one; Aegon would suffice. She would be queen and rule.

They landed outside the city. Ser Barristan gave her a detailed report. “Stannis refuses to open the city gates. He claims his right to fight our armies in open field.”

“Let him. We have more men with these two companies that he has inside the city.” Aegon said assured of their military strength.

Daenerys had heard the tales so many times. It was as if she had lived it herself. Father had sent mother and Viserys to Dragonstone just days before he opened the gates to his friend Tywin Lannister. Lannister sacked the city and ordered the Mountain, Ser Gregor Clegane to rape Elia and murder her children. Jaime Lannister killed her father; stabbed him while he turned. Daenerys and Viserys were almost caught in Dragonstone. They fled to the free cities. The “beggar king” they called his brother. Daenerys knew her father was not an upstanding king but it hurt that she never knew him. Oftentimes she imagined what her life would have been if her parents had been alive. She liked to think her mother would have loved her dearly and not let Viserys sell her to Drogo. She would have grown up side by side with Rhaenys and Aegon. Daenerys made her mind and looked at Aegon and Barristan, “We will force the gates open. Aegon and I will fly to the Red keep. Have your soldiers understand that they are not murder anyone who is unarmed or that yields. No women or children will be raped or taken. There will be no sacking. Whoever does so will have to reckon with me and my children.”

Aegon and Daenerys waited patiently as the battle raged on. They were there a few hours. It seemed Stannis had loyal people by his side. She could not wait any longer. Aegon followed her in Viserion. Their forces were winning. She saw as her sellswords subdued Stannis’ men. They landed outside the Red Keep and dismounted quickly. Aegon pulled out his sword and made way to the castle. Daenerys followed him; a group of the Golden company surrounded and protected her.

This was her home. She entered and opened the door to the throne room. A tall man fought Aegon. Daenerys saw as the sellswords pulled out a beautiful woman with a babe on her arms and a girl on her other side.

“Leave them.” The tall man growled and threw his swords. Aegon smiled triumphantly.

“You will be executed in public.” Daenerys explained. She looked toward the throne. It was ugly and it looked painful to sit on but it was hers.

She went and sat there. “I am a merciful ruler. Your family will be allowed to leave for the narrow sea. You will abdicate the throne and publicly admit that you usurped the Iron throne.” Aegon smirked.

The man spoke clearly, “I will do no such thing. I am the king of the Seven Kingdoms. The rightful and only king.”

“Stannis, please.” The young woman said. The man looked at her with sorrow. “I should have shipped you and our children away. Your grandfather was right. Forgive me my love.”

Stannis’ eyes hardened; he addressed Daenerys once more, “they will go North with her family.”

Daenerys shook her head, “you are in no position to make bargains.” She spat. “She will go across the narrow sea.”

Stannis drew his sword and suddenly the Kingsguard attacked Aegon and her soldiers. A big guard drew a sword. The man pulled the young woman and the children to a chamber. Another knight with a golden hand made sure to fight all those who came near them. Daenerys found herself flanked by a circle of men from the Golden Company.

She saw as Aegon and the other soldiers fought the kingsguard and the usurper. Daenerys focused on Aegon and Stannis. Her nephew fought the older man and bested him. The queen saw as the younger man struck Stannis. She saw the sword pierce his chest.

It was easier then. It seemed the kingsguard lost motivation. Soon the Golden Company closed in on them and slayed the golden cloaked figures. Daenerys walked down to see the bodies. One caught her attention. It was the man who aided the other knight who took the usurper’s family away. He was handsome, older, he had a golden hand. Someone had cut his throat it seemed.

“That was Jaime Lannister.” Ser Barristan explained.

Daenerys was startled and looked at the old knight. That man fought valiantly. She saw as he worked his way through the Golden Company and managed to distract her men from the guard that took the usurper’s wife and their children away. “The city is yours my queen.” He said with a small smile.

“There was a young woman; younger than me. She had two children; a girl and a babe.” Daenerys spoke softly.

“History has a tendency of repeating itself.” The man said. Daenerys felt a strange tug in her belly.

“History will not repeat itself. They escaped. I saw a guard lead them out.” Daenerys said.

“It is of no matter. They will be captured by the end of the night.” Aegon said. He had a cut above his eyebrow.

“You must rest and address your people in the morrow.” Ser Barristan led her and Aegon away from the throne room and into the royal quarters. Daenerys chose the king’s quarters. “Your father slept here. Queen Rhaella preferred her childhood quarters.”

Aegon slept in Rhaegar’s quarters and seemed more solemn all of the sudden.

“See you in the morrow, sweet aunt.” He said and looked younger than she ever thought him.

She was left alone and looked out of a window. Her children had behaved. They were in what used to be the Hand’s Tower or so she thought. There were spacious lands around it. She could see the outlines of Drogon and Rhaegal, Viserion preferred to sleep a little farther away. Daenerys always thought she would sleep easier in her kingdoms. She thought she would find comfort in these walls but she did not find any solace. She looked out the balcony once more and surveyed the city at night. Grey Worm and his unsullied had reached the city at last. He could see them entering gates. The queen was sure Barristan would give her detailed reports in the morning.

The Westerosi were not pleased with the change in royals. It had been almost a fortnight before her soldiers could contain the peoples outside the gates. Daenerys and Aegon were garbed in the best silks and leathers. Her children flew high in the sky. Daenerys addressed the masses around her. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of the house Targaryen Queen of the Andals and the First Men Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms Protector of the Realm Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons. Your rightful and only queen.” She said with a fierce voice. She motioned for Aegon to join her, “This is Aegon Targaryen Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. The Targaryens have come at last. We will return Westeros to its former glory.” There were many gasps and chatter.

“Where is king Stannis?” many chanted.

“He was put through the sword as was the kingslayer.” Daenerys repeated.

“Where is queen Joanna, princess Shireen, prince Steffon?” an elderly woman asked loudly.

Daenerys frowned; “She fled to the Free Cities.” There were many whispers, some called her liar, other asked what would happen with them, some asked for their family members.

“We will build a new Westeros. Those of you who have been displaced will be relocated to castles and other lands. You are encouraged to keep with your daily life.” Daenerys continued.

“How can we? You will execute many of us. That is what happens every time. It happened when King Aerys died, it happened when the Wolves attacked the city and killed Catelyn Baratheon and it will happen again now that you are here.

“There will be no senseless killings. We will make the city safe once more.” She enforced. Aegon remained quiet by her side.

“I will hear grievances in a few days.” Daenerys replied.

She felt bitter. These people did not love her. They feared her; some may even respect her but did not love her. They loved Joanna and her children. They even had some sympathy for their deposed king. Daenerys was used to conquering and having the majority of the people love her. She was a level headed and fair ruler. She would make them see that.

Aegon and her met in private a week later. “We do not need the Stormcrows any longer.” He said honestly. The Golden Company had secured the city. All the lords in King’s Landing had sworn fealty to her. Barristan cautioned her to not trust their loyalty. The fact was that they city was overcrowded with people.

“We no longer need as many dothraki here either.” Daenerys mused.

“What do you propose dearest aunt?” Aegon asked.

Daenerys had thought about the next course of action. The westerosi grew disenchanted with the new invaders. Savages, they called the dothraki. The dothraki did not want to be in Westeros. She spoke clearly, “I will send half of the dothraki across the narrow sea. I trust the Stormcrows more than I do the Golden Company.”

Aegon sighed, “It will be as you wish aunt. We are the last ones.” Aegon said sorrowfully.

Daenerys looked puzzled, “the last ones?”

“The last dragons. I always wished to grow up with my mother, to have Rhaenys by my sides, to meet you and uncle Viserys.” Aegon explained.

“I will rule by your side. Aunt, you will be my wife. I want to care for you. You have to learn to trust me.” Her nephew stated.

“I trust you.” She lied quickly.

“Words are wind and yours are empty.” Aegon poured her wine.

“I have a proposition for you.” Her nephew continued. “Let me ride Viserion West. I want to take Casterly Rock and avenge my mother and sister.”

Daenerys nodded, “Who will you appoint West? I need you here.” She did not want him away from her side, lest he rebel.

“Whichever lord I so choose until we find a suitable Warden of the West.” Aegon said without much care.

“Do so. You have my leave.” Daenerys accepted.

Aegon left with a small part of the dothraki. Daenerys shipped half of her dothraki men and the Golden Company left for good. The Stormcrows and her Bear advanced to Riverrun and overpowered the lady of the Castle. Tommen Stark had left for the North almost two years ago. Lady Stark had spun a tale of wights and frozen corpses. Jorah wrote in a long letter. Cassana Stark nee Baratheon was a compliant prisoner. She assured them Tommen was a good man. The Riverlands yielded without a fight because the Lady believed her husband would not have liked more bloodshed. She begged ser Jorah and the queen to free Joanna, her sister in law. Cassana wanted to house them. Daenerys send a categorical refusal and explained that Joanna and her children had fled with a guard and she knew nothing of their whereabouts.

Daenerys ruled in King’s Landing. The commoners continued their lives. The small lords were subdued and those who attempted to seize her throne were executed. The Tyrells in the Reach yielded and swore loyalty. They had no sympathy for the Baratheons or the Starks for that matter. All they wanted was Margaery back. Daenerys learned that she had been forced to marry Robb Stark. Daenerys ruled without much impediments for half a year. Grey Worm and some of his unsullied were in the city once more. The Onion Knight and his sons were dead. Alayne Baratheon was a hostage in her home. Grey Worm left his second in command in charge of the castle. The adjacent commoners and lords were encouraged to follow their daily life as well.

The queen appeared publicly very sparsely. She visited an orphanage once and helped the poor but she needed to attend to matters of the Kingdom. The Iron Bank paid her a visit when Jorah left to siege the Eyrie. They wanted their gold back. According to Tycho Nestoris the Crown owed the Braavosi bank almost all of her ships. She decided to send Grey Worm to the Iron Islands. He would conquer them for her. Daenerys sent a quarter of her fleet to the islands and gave precise instructions for the ships that took the dothraki back to Essos to be given to the Iron Bank as an advance.

Jorah and Aegon came back within a week of each other. Her Bear looked older than she had ever seen him. “A Lannister holds the grounds for Robb Stark who is also in the North.”

“What do you advise?” Daenerys looked concerned. This news was troubling. The North was as vast as the other kingdoms combined. All Starks in the North. They held the biggest houses. All the lords in the court attributed Stannis’ ascension to the throne to Ned Stark and his male children. They called them the Northern wolves.

“To treat with Eddard Stark.” Jorah concluded. Aegon who arrived bloodthirsty opposed to decision. “We have to attack them. We will take the dragons, the remaining sellswords, the dornishmen and the Tyrell forces. We will crush them.” Her nephew raged. Aegon found Casterly Rock inhabited by the wrong Lannister. He killed a Lancel and a Frey married to a Lannister woman. Tywin Lannister had left Casterly Rock a month before the Targaryens took back the throne.

Daenerys looked at Barristan Selmy. "What say you Ser Barristan?"

The old knight looked at her and Aegon. "Eddard Stark is an honorable man. We fought to claim the Iron Islands for Robert. Treat with him.  Give him your terms of surrender. If he does not yield, then attack him."

"Is he not married to Cersei Lannister?" Aegon asked. "The eldest daughter to Tywin Lannister"

Jorah nodded, "Cersei is as much a Stark as Ned is."

Daenerys noted the familiarity in his voice. She remembered then that this Ned Stark was the same that exiled Jorah. Her advisor once told her that it could have been worse. "He should have killed me for treason. Instead he showed mercy and exiled me."

"What of the ravens?" Daenerys asked Missandei. They had sent ravens to all of the seven kingdoms including the northern houses. The Eyrie was in siege. The Knights of the Vale claimed fealty to their lord Robb Stark. The north was quiet; eerily so.

"No ravens your grace." The young woman said.

"Roose Bolton would have heeded your call in exchange for being named Warden of the North."  Jorah continued.

Daenerys frowned, "The Dreadfort is no more. It all Starks now." She had made sure to read the books Stannis kept in his solar. He was a thorough ruler and kept a stack of letters neatly organized. Ned Stark asked for help more than once as did the new Lord Commander; another Stark. Jorah learned of his father’s death during his time in Riverrun and was eager to go to the Wall and get some answers. Daenerys kept quiet and waited.

That night when they supped Daenerys proposed her plans. Jorah, Barristan, Aegon and Missandei listened to her. “Ser Barristan and Missandei will stay in King’s Landing. You will rule in my stead. Aegon, Jorah and I will go North. We will take the North once and for all.”

“It will be more prudent to have Prince Aegon stay and rule in your stead.” Varys proposed from a corner.

Her nephew shook his head, “They have Tywin Lannister. I will go with you aunt.” Daenerys thought it prudent as well; not because of Aegon’s desire for revenge but because she did not want another civil war. Aegon’s ears could be filled by the ambitious lords in the court. The same lords that promised her loyalty and respectfully asked for her favor. The marriage proposals had stopped once she declared Aegon to be her king once all the kingdoms were united by the Targaryen rule.

“What news of the Iron Islands?” Aegon asked.

“Grey Worm and his unsullied travel back. The Greyjoys did not put any fight. The Greyjoy woman spoke of Victarion Greyjoy, the uncle. He is said to have sailed to Essos. He took her last ships.” Jorah informed. Daenerys was not worried about the Iron Islands. They were conquered time and time again by lesser forces. She had her children and had armies at her disposal. Her focus was North.

Daenerys mounted Drogon, Aegon did the same with Viserion. Jorah and fifty of his men followed them by land. Daenerys smiled brightly when she felt icy wind hit her face for the first time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 64

They travelled for two weeks. Daenerys and Aegon left Jorah and his men behind as soon as they were outside of King’s Landing. They made stops only when Drogon or Viserion needed to stop for food. Aegon endured the trip, as did she. They reached Winterfell by early morning. Daenerys wore the same clothes she had left with; she berated herself for her lack of foresight. She should have not mounted the dragons. She felt colder than ever; her clothes were fine but thin as well Aegon shivered by her side. “We should have given Jorah and his men a head start.” Daenerys could not help but agree. They were dirty, hungry and needed to sleep.

She squared her shoulders and looked at her nephew, “These are all of our lands.” All they needed was the confidence to take them.

“Dracarys.” She said and suddenly her children drew a line of fire in front of them. “Now they know we are here.”

She waited for the flames to extinguish and walked with all the dignity she could muster. The queen tried to not feel the cold snow on her feet. Aegon followed her. She heard a distinctive, “open the gates,” from inside the castle walls.

Daenerys entered the courtyard; Aegon two steps behind her and her dragons flew inside as well. They landed near her and Aegon. Daenerys came face to face with the men and women who were about in the courtyard.

“Your queen demands to speak with the Lord of Winterfell.” Daenerys said clearly.

“Lord Stark is at the Wall.” A man with chains around his neck said. This was the maester. She looked at him imperiously, “Lady Stark and her brother wait for you inside.” The man continued. She noticed the man did not address her as queen.

She looked back and looked at her children, “my children need their rest.” As if on cue her dragons burned a small pile of hay.

The maester looked at them, “the Godswoods are not far from here. They can rest there.”

Daenerys spoke to her children, “Do not go far.” Her children flew away.

Aegon walked next to her, “have you gone mad? The dragons are our only protection. They are the only reason why these people have not killed us yet.”

Daenerys shook her head, “they will not do anything to us. They know Jorah and our men are not so far behind.”

Aegon frowned, “Aunt, Jorah and his men are at least a month’s journey away.”

“Do not say a word unless I tell you otherwise Aegon.” She whispered and entered the castle. She felt warmth and relief. Aegon must have felt warmth as well.

“The castle was built over hot springs to keep it warm.” The maester said anecdotally.

Daenerys looked at the older man and was about to ask him where was the lady of the house when she saw her. Lady Stark walked down the stairs. She was tall, blonde, her hair was in a very elaborate braid. The woman was beautiful; in that moment, she understood why everyone called her the Light of the West. She was elegant, regal. The woman wore a grey gown. The lady had beautiful green eyes. Daenerys felt inadequate in her presence. She was dirty, probably smelled, and her hair was a mess. She did not feel queenly at all.

“We expected your visit months ago your grace.” The woman said with a small smile. She curtsied.

“Forgive me. You must be exhausted. I will have my men see to your horses and your men.” The woman spoke clearly.

Daenerys smiled politely, “My dragons will love your Godswoods I am sure. They are headed there as we speak. As for my men, they are not far and will be here perhaps in a week. What say you nephew?”

Aegon smiled brightly, “less than a week if our men keep the good pace.” Lady Stark smiled tightly.

“I do not think we have been properly introduced.” The lady continued. “Welcome to Winterfell. I am Lady Cersei Stark.” The woman said once more with a smile. “Your graces, our castle and our men are yours.”

Daenerys smiled, “Aegon and I need to rest.”

“Of course, your quarters have been prepared for months.” Lady Stark guided them to the third landing.

“Why then have you not replied to any of your queen’s ravens?” Aegon retorted with some aggression.

Lady Stark looked at her, “my brother and I fretted over my lord husband’s decision to keep quiet. Your graces, you must rest and then we must speak.”

Daenerys looked at the woman and felt uneasy for the first time. “Aegon will sleep next to my quarters.” Aegon nodded and settled in his quarters. “Sleep well dearest.” She said and kissed his cheek. Her nephew kissed her back, “I rather we slept in the same quarters.”

Daenerys smiled, “go rest. They need something from us. I can tell.” Aegon went away very reluctantly. Lady Stark opened the doors to very warm quarters. “You would do well here. I will send handmaidens to draw you a bath. I have some dresses you may want to wear. I have to say some of them are quite old. They used to be mine before my pregnancies. My daughters are not quite your size. Arya never liked dresses and my Joanna’s well those are from when she was still a child.” The woman looked sad then.

“Thank you.” Daenerys uttered before Lady Stark left her to her quarters.

Daenerys looked over to the window and surveyed the lands. She smiled when she saw her dragons. She could see them not very far from the courtyard. It looked like they did not stray too far away from the castle. She felt easier knowing that Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal were near her. “Your grace, lady Stark sent us to draw your bath.” The woman squeaked fearfully.

Daenerys bathed. A girl named Jeyne washed and combed her hair. “Tell me, where are the lords of this castle?”

“The lords Stark are at the Wall defending it.” Jeyne parroted and then stopped when she looked at the other girl.

“I brought all these. The young girl said in awe.” Daenerys stepped out of the tub and had the girls help her dress in a silky nightgown. It was so soft; and it fit her perfectly.

“We will come later. Lady Stark ordered us to come back for you in time for dinner.” The woman left after that.

Daenerys looked at the warm bed and the furs. She should have listened to Aegon and let him sleep in her quarters. She closed her eyes and slept. The queen dreamed of him, the man in the ice. He was closer. “I want you.” He whispered; she could hear his yearning. “I want to be inside of you.” He begged and sucked her tits.

Daenerys moaned, “I want you inside me. I want to feel you. Please come; I am waiting for you.” She begged and then woke up. She could have cried for the unfairness of it all. She brought her hands to her core. Daenerys closed her eyes and tried to recapture the feeling of his mouth, of his beard, of his hands. She orgasmed thinking of him. It was a regular occurrence. She was frustrated because she wanted the man in her dreams. She used to dream of her man every other month right after the visions. It was thrilling at first. She used to think about the next time she would see him but ever since sailing to Westeros Daenerys dreamed of him every single night and there was no relief anymore. There was not any thrill just longing. She wanted him and he was nothing more than a trick of her mind. The handmaidens came back; Daenerys wanted a quick cleanse. “Draw me another bath.” She demanded. The women obeyed and waited for Daenerys to let them dress her.

Daenerys looked at all the dresses. She had never worn westerosi dresses. She had worn Braavosi, dothraki and meereenese attires but never westerosi. She chose a blue dress. It was intricate and light at the same time. The handmaidens began to style her hair. “Your grace; we only know how to do Northern braids.”

“Do your best work. I am your queen.” Daenerys waited for the girls to finish.

Daenerys looked at her reflection and approved. She looked the part now; all she needed was her crown. She walked down to the dining hall. Some men opened the doors and she was surprised to see Aegon seated. “Aunt, we have been waiting for you.” He looked uncomfortable and that thought oddly comforted her.

She made her way to the head of table and sat. “We have not been introduced.” Daenerys said to the people around her. “This is Lord Tyrion Lannister, my baby brother. Lady Sansa Lannister, his wife is seated next to him and their child Jon sleeps, as does my youngest Rickon. Prince Aegon is seated next to my daughter in law lady Margaery; she is married to my second oldest Robb, their child Eddard sleeps as well.” Lady Stark announced.

They had a tense dinner. Lady Sansa and Margaery looked ready to leave at the slightest opportunity. Lord Lannister and Lady Stark exchanged looks every so often. A handmaiden approached the table and addressed lady Margaery. She stood up promptly, “Where do you think you are going?” Aegon asked swiftly.

Lady Margaery looked down and spoke softly, “My son has woken up. He is not easily comforted. I have to attend to him your grace.”

Aegon nodded, “you may leave.” Tyrion Lannister frowned slightly but did not speak up.

Their dinner was finished. Lady Sansa retired to see to her child and her nephew as well. Daenerys noticed that lady Stark liked her sister in law better than her daughter in law. “Sansa, little bird could you make sure Rickon is aslept as well?”

Lady Sansa nodded, “of course Lady Stark.” The redheaded woman curtsied and left. An uncomfortable silence followed and was broken by Aegon.

“Where are Lord Stark and his sons?” He asked abruptly.

Tyrion Lannister spoke up, “They are at the Wall defending it. My sweet sister wanted your graces to be rested but we have to talk of important matters.”

Aegon frowned, “we are. Where is your father? Your brother met the proper end. You are hiding your father and will be executed for treason.”

Lady Stark drank her wine. “Where are my daughter and her children?” She counterasked.

Daenerys looked at lady Stark and replied, “She escaped to the Free Cities.” The queen was sure Joanna Stark was safe and lady Stark knew her daughter was safe. She would speak to the older woman in private; without Aegon, who was so reckless.

“So you say. We have not seen them or my father. For all we know you executed them as you did Stannis.” Tyrion continued.

“Maybe you can be his replacement. I will kill you; that would hurt the old lion.” Aegon spat triumphantly, “His heir dead.”

Lannister and lady Stark chuckled. Aegon growled; “my prince must not be offended.” Lady Stark offered, “our father hates Tyrion. I daresay he would owe you a debt should you execute my brother.”

“My sweet sister is correct. Tywin Lannister is not of concern. If you have come to the North in hopes of finding him and exacting revenge, then we must surely disappoint you. Our father has disappeared as has our Joanna and her children.” Tyrion explained.

Daenerys looked at the siblings and evaluated them, “I do not understand your presence here. Your father has fled or is hidden; why then are you in the North? Your place is West.”

Aegon drank his wine, “It is most strange that you are here, as is strange that the Riverlands and the Eyrie’s wardens have congregated in the North as well. What is your purpose here? Must we assume you are starting a revolt; an ill-advised plan to overthrow my dearest aunt?”

“The crown faces bigger problems than claims to the throne or petty wars.” Lannister said somberly.

Daenerys and Aegon frowned, “I do not like your manner of speaking Lord Lannister. I must confess I share some of my beloved nephew’s concerns. I have sent raven upon raven waiting for responses. I had enough doubts as it was; the loyalty among your houses is not the best in Westeros. Lord Stark and the late Usurper’s treason killed my father and oldest brother. Forgive me if I mistrust you. Your houses should be grateful I have allowed you to live this long; another less forgiving ruler would have executed you and your loved ones long ago.”

Lady Stark spoke up, “my Ned has done nothing but to obey his king’s commands at all times. We now need your help. My sons and husband are fighting for the North. They are fighting for all of us.”

Daenerys knew about the wildlings and the threat of them to Westeros. The queen also remembered the letters Stannis received from the North. She waited until day Stark spoke once more. “Winter is coming and with it the long night. Tyrion and my sons are here because they are fighting the others, the undead.”

Aegon laughed. “Preposterous. You want us to believe the dead are rising.”

Lady Stark ignored her nephew and looked at her. “No one would have believed dragons would come back once more and yet here you are; you and three dragons of your own. Your grace would be good to listen to us.” The older woman stated.

Daenerys spoke, “Your husband sent letters to King’s Landing asking for men and help. He has been asking for help for almost three years now. Stannis sent men at first but he stopped about a year and a half ago.”

Tyrion Lannister nodded, “Stannis did not believe my brother in law. He sent men to humor Joanna. He stopped once he knew about your arrival. He requested men then.”

Daenerys looked at lady Stark who looked incredibly sad once more, “Your father answered the call. He sent his armies to protect King’s Landing and we defeated the Baratheon and Lannister forces. The Stark banners were absent however. We thought the Starks were more loyal; it is enlightening to know how quickly your house abandons their kin.”

Lady Stark’s voice was eerily low, “your grace knows nothing of family. Our family stands together. We face bigger problems than deciding who gets to sit on the Southron throne. Wake up girl.” The woman said harshly.

“Where are Joanna Baratheon and her children?” Daenerys asked once more.

Tyrion Lannister drank wine and answered, “We do not know; nor do we know where father is. What we know is that you killed Jaime and Stannis.”

Aegon growled, “Jaime Lannister paid for his treason. The Starks will pay for theirs as well.”

Lannister glared at Aegon, “Jaime killed the Mad King to protect King’s Landing. He would have burned the whole Westeros if he meant he could be king of the ashes. As for your gallant father; he orchestrated the kidnapping and subsequent rape of Lyanna Stark. Your prince father started a war for a girl who was promised to another.” He then looked at Daenerys, “Your father killed Rickard and Brandon Stark in front of court. He burned and hanged them respectively. Forgive me your graces but wars had been started for less.”

Daenerys knew about her father and his madness. She had asked both Jorah and Barristan. The queen had been living in King’s Landing close to a year and was aware of the very fragile trust that the commoners felt for her. They did not love her yet. The ladies and lords of Westeros were under her rule and she did not expect their devotion but she was surprised to not have the commoners’ love. Joanna and the late Stannis had their respect if not their love. She looked at Aegon and thought about what would happen if she had her dragons burn Winterfell and have the North bend the knee to her.

“The North will not bend the knee for anyone that does not have Eddard Stark’s seal of approval.” Jorah’s voice reminded her. “What would you have us do?” Daenerys asked lady Stark directly.

“Aunt, what are you doing? Will you seriously listen to this traitorous woman?”

Daenerys heard a growl and then looked at Tyrion Lannister. “You will not speak to my sister in those terms again. You forget yourself. You are not in King’s Landing anymore. You are in the North, under the Stark’s rule.

Aegon roused and unsheathed his sword, “You dare speak to your prince in that way? I should have you executed.” Her nephew roared.

Lannister looked at the sword, “your men are not far away from here yet they are not here. I suggest you lower your sword and shut your mouth. Our men guard this castle; be smart. Let the adults speak.” He growled once more.

Lady Stark took her brother’s hand, “Tyrion enough.” She said carefully. Tyrion looked at her and kissed her hand. “I will not let that boy disrespect you.” Daenerys never had anyone defend her like that. Viserys did not care for her; never like that.

“Lady Stark, I apologize for my nephew. He is sometimes blinded by his desire for justice and wish for my welfare.” Daenerys pushed her nephew to his chair.

“Your grace you have a great problem and need our men. We need more of your men. Our families will forgive what has been done to us if you forgive what has been done to yours. The Wall will not protect us from the dead. Every day my brother in law and my nephews stave them off but we are running out of time. Winter is almost upon us. We need more men and most important we need your dragons.” Tyrion continued.

Daenerys listened to the happenings in the North, “We have white walkers attempting to cross over. We have had a few attack the communities near our castles.” Tyrion explained. “Eddard and my nephews had been rescuing and transporting the free folk to northern strongholds. They have lessened the numbers of the undead but it is not enough.”

Aegon snorted, “So what destroys these walkers?” Her nephew was still disrespectful to these people.

Lady Stark addressed her, “Fire, Valyrian swords and dragon glass. Tyrion brought wildfire and we have been using it to destroy more white walkers. We are running out of wildfire your grace.”

“So you want my children.” Daenerys completed.

“And your men; the unsullied if possible.” Tyrion said with a smile.

“I want to see the Wall.” Daenerys demanded.

Lord Lannister drank more wine, “We shall go in a fortnight; once your men are here.”

Daenerys frowned; “my men are merely days away.” Aegon frowned alongside her.

“I thought we agreed to stop these silly power games. We do not intend to harm you or your men. The North is ours and we know. Did you honestly think your men would pass through the Neck and Moat Cailin so easily?” Lady Stark announced a little annoyed.

Daenerys looked confused, “I have my children.”

Lady Stark smiled, “the dragons and you are here and your men will be here as well because so we decide.”

Daenerys did not like her tone once more. She remained quiet because she heard laughter. She turned and looked at a boy and the biggest wolf she had seen in her life. “MAMA,” the boy yelled and ran to Lady Stark’s skirts. The wolf growled and stalked into the hall. He barked at Aegon who drew his sword once more. The beast bared his teeth at her nephew.

“Lan, down boy.” Lady Stark said from her spot. The wolf stood down and then slumped down at lady Stark’s feet. They were all quiet; Daenerys noticed the child once again. The boy was on the other woman’s lap, “I thought Papa was here.” He said with a frown and then looked at her. He had brownish hair, pale skin. She could tell by his hands.

“Who are you?” The boy asked her with beautiful grey eyes. He was a very handsome boy.

“Insolent child.” Aegon whispered and left the hall.

Lannister waddled away from his chair as soon as Aegon left. “My wife and child await. Your grace.” Lannister bowed at her and then kissed his sister. He also kissed the boy on his forehead. The boy kept looking at her. Daenerys did not want to leave, not yet.

Daenerys looked at him and answered, “I am your queen.”

The boy laughed, “you are not. My Joanna is queen.” He said seriously.

Lady Stark smiled sadly once more; “Our Joanna is not queen anymore my love.” Rickon nodded. “I am Rickon. You are prettier than my brother’s wife and aunt Sansa.” He grinned.

Daenerys smiled. “Thank you Rickon.” The boy nodded, “Go to bed Rickon. Take Lan with you.” Lady Stark said with a smile and kissed Rickon on his forehead.

Daenerys could not help but laugh when the little boy kissed his mother on the nose. “Papa will be here soon.” The boy giggled and wandered off with his wolf behind him.

Lady Stark smiled happily, as she saw him go,