For Noemi (xv12 on tumblr). HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Noemi! I hope you have a fantastic day and a fabulous year, full of good and happy things, and everything you can wish for :) You're AMAZING, and I LOVE being able to talk to you, and having you as my friend :D (Posted late in this website, originally posted on the 12th of August)
This year, I finished this fic for you. I started this last year, before changing to the Outlander idea, and I was finally able to finish it - as I told you, it's mostly day-to-day things, and there's not really a huge plot
This follows The Moon and the River and also the drabble "Bits and Pieces: Chapter 139", since I know you liked that :) (For those that are interested, I think you can read this on your own). But this is a AU inspired by the world of the Shadowhunter Chronicles (written by Cassandra Clare), so first a few background things about this world:
- There is a race of warriors called Shadowhunters, their power is drawn by the runes they draw on their bodies (that give them different especial abilities). This group mainly fights Demons or other supernatural creatures that could put mundanes (mortal/normal human people) in danger.
- On the other hand, there are Downworlders - warlocks (similar to wizards), vampires, werewolves and fairies (elves, mermaids, satyrs, "classical" fairies, ogres, etc).
- I'm still writing this story in a time period similar to the one in ASOIAF canon (which for the readers of the Shadowhunter series means no Accords are in place yet, but at the same time I kinda of made Westeros a bit different from Idris, so with different behaviors).
I hope these notes help you understand the story better. I'm hoping the story flows well - I'm not really sure because of putting this information in, but also due to the time jump, and having fill on a few things over the last 15 years
But overall, I really hope you enjoy it! Sorry, it's not as long as last year's (still don't know how I wrote that much last year)... And again, happy birthday! Have an AWESOME day!
Entreat me not to leave thee,
Or return from following after thee—
For whither thou goest, I will go,
And where thou lodgest, I will lodge.
Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.
The Angel do so to me, and more also,
If aught but death part thee and me.
Catelyn smiled at hearing her son and nephew say the words, and squeezed her husband's hand. Ned was so proud of both Robb and Jon; when Robb first came to his father about wanting to become Jon's parabatai, Ned wasn't sure – he knew it was an amazing feeling, and that would make him stronger, but he also knew the pain of having the connection broken – Ned would forever miss a part of himself, the one he and Robert had both lost when he first changed – but Robb and Jon had been sure, so neither of the Starks could deny them that.
"Do you remember when it was us?" she heard Robert ask Ned, with a laugh. Robert had travelled North for the ceremony, he had brought both his youngest children, one was at an age with Robb and Jon, and had been training with them for the last few days, and the other closer to Sansa's age.
"Better behaved than us, you just wanted to leave," Ned answered him and Catelyn could believe him without any doubt.
"Can we leave?" her youngest son asked. Rickon rarely spoke, so she always appreciated when she could hear his voice. She held him closer to her body, resting her hand on his chest, telling that he needed to stay in place for now.
"We'll go running after," Arya told him, after smiling at Catelyn.
"Will Ned go?" Rickon asked. He was still not good at calling them Mom and Dad. He did when he was tired, but almost never in any other occasion. He was still so young, and it wasn't easy for him to be human. It had just been a couple of moons since Ned found him living with the wolves – it seemed he had been with that pack for a very long time, so at three, he was more used to being a wolf than a human.
"It will do me well to run, son," he said, ruffling Rickon's wild hair.
They now drew the parabatai rune on each other's skin, she still wasn't a fan of those runes. They always looked like they hurt them.
She remembered Robb's first rune – voyance – he had been ten, and Catelyn had been so worried. Even when everything pointed out to Robb having Shadowhunter blood – after all that must have been the reason he had been dropped at the Storm's End Institute as a baby – there was no absolute certainty until he took his first mark. Robb had been okay, and after that he and Jon had trained together everyday under Lyanna, Brandon, Benjen and Rickard in different areas. Sadly only Benjen and Lyanna were in charge of the training now; Ned's father had died on a mission three years ago and Brandon had taken off, wanting to explore Westeros and Essos.
Catelyn had been distracted and when she came back to reality, she realized the Silent Brothers were giving the ceremony by finished. As they left, Robb and Jon hugged each other and started laughing, when they pulled back, Jon went to hug his mother, and Robb came to hug her and Ned, and then his siblings, who all threw themselves at him, after that Robb joined Jon on hugging their uncle Benjen.
"I think now, all we want to see is a demonstration," Lyanna asked of her son and nephew.
"Ned, what about you and I attack the boys?!" Robert suggested. The boys had grown up knowing how to fight downworlders, especially werewolves, training with Ned very often, and more recently with Arya (much to Catelyn's worry). But Catelyn had also taught them how to read between a fairy's words – they need to know that while fairies couldn't lie, it didn't mean that they always told the truth.
"I think I'm going to run for a bit," Ned told them, realizing that he couldn't let Rickon down, so he offered his hand to their youngest boy and traded a look with Arya, who nodded happily.
"I'll fight with you, Lya," Robert said with a grin. "Gendry, do you want to give it a try?" The boy nodded eagerly, and took his weapon – a hammer like his father; while his youngest son asked for permission, but was denied, telling him that he could join in later.
The two Baratheons and the two Starks attacked the younger Starks, now connected with the parabatai bond, and the differences were noticeable to someone who had seen them fight all their lives – their movements were more coordinated and in synch than ever before, like they could always tell where the other was.
Ned watched the first few minutes, before kissing the top of Catelyn's head and telling her that they would see her later. Rickon was already in his wolf form, with hair as black as coal, while Arya and Ned were waiting to change in the cover of the forest.
Ned couldn't believe his oldest had found a parabatai in Jon, he remembered both as little boys, always lying in their cots, just moving their little arms and hands, and making incomprehensible sounds. He remembered Jon just after he had been born, and he remembered little Robb when Robert brought him North, home, to his and Catelyn's arms.
Now, he ran behind Arya and Rickon – two of his five children. Ned had never imagined this for them, not after the demon had not only asked for Catelyn's immortality, but her fertility as well, in exchange for the possibility of a life outside the water. Ned had told her not to take it, even at the time he had known she had always wanted children, but she told him that any children she would want were with him. And now they had children – not by blood, but children who needed a home, love and care that they could offer.
He thought of this as he raced after Arya and Rickon, and they howled to the moon (still barely visible with the light of the small rays of sunshine that escaped through the clouds). After they ran for awhile, he lay on the ground of the Wolfswood, as they ran around him, chasing each other – the smaller black wolf, chasing the bigger (but still much smaller than Ned) grey wolf.
Ned remembered finding both of his children. Rickon had been with them for a little less than three moons, when running he had met a pack, like he normally did – he liked running with wolves – and he recognized a different heartbeat, he recognized a human one. It had been hard to coax him into human form, and then to get him to talk, but after, Ned understood that he didn't have a family and that he had been living there for a long time – Rickon didn't remember any other life. Ned took him home, and they gave him love, food, warmth and a bed – the boy was getting used to it now. Arya had been different; she lived with her own family in Wintertown, when they were attacked by werewolves, her parents had been killed and she had been changed – Ned felt like it was his responsibility to take care of her, and his responsibility as well to go with his siblings to handle the violent and rogue werewolf problem going on at the time.
Arya and Rickon started nuzzling his fur, and he knew they wanted to play, so he licked their faces and started chasing after them, when he caught them he started nuzzling on their fur as well, and after awhile Rickon turned back, he let out a little yell, because of the cold on his back – Rickon still had a problem with the back-and-forth transforming – but quickly changed back to wolf form. Ned picked up Rickon and put him on his back, and then did the same with Arya – they loved when he ran with his full adult speed, with them on his back, they just kept howling and howling, for sure being heard by their mother and siblings back in the castle.
After running for a long time, he took the path home. Both his children understood, and neither seemed to mind, since they had calmed down, and lay carefully on Ned's back.
They all lived in a small house that they had built when Ned brought Catelyn home. The cabin was outside Institute's grounds, built close to some of the hot pools that Catelyn had always loved. Every time she entered the water, she was a mermaid again – the legs for which she had given her immortality and her fertility where luckily only temporary. The house had now a second floor that had to be built when they started having more and more kids.
"Daddy!" Sansa exclaimed when he came in, and she immediately picked up little Rickon, who was now stark naked. As Ned lay back down, so Arya could properly get off his back, she took off to the cloaks they kept at the house entrance, and Ned followed her when she was human and with the cloak.
"Where's your mother?" Ned asked.
"In the pools, I think she went deep under water," Sansa said, and Ned thought he should have guessed – Catelyn always looked for the water after a stressing time, and it was never easy to see how much their children were growing up.
"And your brothers?"
"Robb is staying in the Institute for the night – he and Jon are overjoyed. And Bran is still with Howland and Old Nan." Ned smiled, knowing that his son was happy to be with other warlocks, especially Howland who had rode North for the parabathai ceremony and always enjoyed teaching Bran a few tricks – Ned would always be in debt with Howland, since he had been the warlock responsible for invoking the demon that gave them the chance for the life they have now. "But he'll be home for dinner."
"Thank you, darling. I'll go inside to change."
"I'll start dinner, father," she said, after kissing his cheek.
"Ask your sister for help," he told her, before going back inside the house. In his bedroom, he put on some clothes, and after he was dressed, he found Arya outside sitting by the pool, and from her laughter, he knew that Catelyn was blowing bubbles on Arya's feet – Arya always loved that.
"I guess you didn't ask her," Ned said, reaching Sansa.
"I did, she didn't want to," Sansa answered. Ned always loved that she couldn't lie – a trace, that as a Shadowhunter, he had been taught to look for and be careful when talking to fairies. Catelyn was the same way but since she had grown between others fairies, she knew how to not say the truth, and not lie at the same time – not that Catelyn had to lie to him - but Sansa had not master that technique yet – it would be much easier to raise the boys and Arya if they couldn't lie either. "She's playing with mother, and Rickon got in the water as well," Sansa continued.
"Do you want to go and join them, sweetie? I can handle dinner."
"Thank you, father," she said with another kiss on his cheek. The kids were growing quickly, he would give anything to keep them small and just playing with each other.
Ned was still breathing hard, resting next to Catelyn, while she looked at him, with her hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat.
"You are still as beautiful as the day I met you…" he whispered, reaching for her hair as always.
"Flatterer… When you met me I had the appearance of a nineteen year old and could never age… Now I've gotten old," she told him, and sadness grew on his eyes – guilt seemed to always haunt her husband. "And I don't regret it for a single moment."
"You looked beautiful in the water tonight," he told her. "I think we should travel to the White Knife, and the mountains – we haven't gone for a long time," Ned told her, they hadn't gone since Rickon had joined their family, since they both felt he was too young and too new to the family to travel.
"I would like that. Maybe after everyone leaves," she said, as he got up to open the window – he always felt too hot in here. And as every other time she had seen his back in their fifteen years of marriage, she flinched – they were the reason she wanted to hate Shadowhunters, and if it wasn't for Robb and Ned's family, she would, none other were worth it (Robert wasn't too bad either).
The marks were awful, but she knew she was lucky he was alive at all. The Clave's initial plan had been to kill him, but his family and Robert stood by him. Ned had still been whipped and beaten with a silver stick, those had left the worst marks on him. Catelyn didn't want to think what would have happened to Arya if they hadn't found her, when she had been changed, there was a very prominent a group of werewolf hunters that tortured werewolves with silver around the time she was changed, which also coincided with a large group of rogue werewolves that hunted around Wintertown.
Catelyn knew the marks didn't hurt him anymore, but she still didn't like what his own people had done to him. And to Robert, who was almost stripped of his marks.
Ned's body had other marks as well. Scars of his years as a Shadowhunter, and scars of his years as a werewolf, she could recognize the little scars made by Arya's and Rickon's little claws, and there were the bruises from helping their son and Jon train. And now she could also see love marks made by her just a few moments before.
"Bran looked happy today," he said, sitting on the windows' bench, as she pulled the furs higher – she was always cold, but she had never gotten used to using clothes to sleep, or really anywhere, but she couldn't walk around naked everywhere, but in their bedroom, she kept her clothes to a minimum.
"I think he likes having Howland here. He loves Old Nan, but Howland can teach him more."
"He could go there when he's older," Ned told her.
"You're not taking my boy from me," she told her husband. "He has a long life to learn." The only time she ever regretted giving away her immortality was when she thought of Bran and Sansa, and how they would keep growing and changing and she wouldn't be there to see them. And she selfishly wished that neither of them ever gave away their immortality, she wanted them to always have each other at least.
"Yes, he does have a long time to learn. Do you think they will be happy?"
"Who? Bran and Sansa?"
"I know you were thinking about them. I know you feel guilty you will not be there."
"And you don't?"
"I do, but I never had a chance to stay. And you shouldn't feel guilty…"
"I know you feel guilty that I gave up my immortality," she said, and Ned didn't even try to fight it. "Come here, my love." He came as she called, and sat near her, as she took his now cold face in her hands. "I wanted to be here with you. It was my choice to give up my immortality, and I never wanted it in the first place – I only want it now, because of the children, and they are here because of you, us."
"You could have had children of your own," he told her. He always felt guilty that she had to give her ability to have children as well – the demon they had negotiated with hadn't been stupid, he knew how little immortality meant to Catelyn and how much having children meant to her.
"I do have children. Five beautiful and darling children, Ned. I wouldn't trade them or you for anything," she told him, with all the truth in her heart. He always smiled when he heard this, no matter how many times she had said it before.
"I love them. And I love you, Cat."
"I know, my love. Now close the window and come lay down." He got up again to close the window, even if he didn't lock it, and then lay back down next to her, bringing her in into her arms.
It would be a lie if he said he didn't often wake up with his arms around a beautiful woman, but it wasn't a lie when he said that he rarely woke up with a woman he cared as much as he did for her.
Lyanna was lying half on top of him, half next to him, and her naked body fitted perfectly with his, and he could feel her hot breath on his chest, and her fingertips on his skin.
"Does it still hurt?" she always asked when they were together, she always traced Robert's parabatai mark, carved into his skin, with a hot knife, that he could still feel sometimes.
"No. It's a badge of honour," Robert said. It was, just like the whip-lashes on his back were. He would do it all again if it meant protecting Ned. "I don't regret any of my scars. I'm a warrior above all else."
"Those weren't made as a warrior, they were made for love and friendship. And I will forever be grateful that you gave me Ned back – I know you would do anything for him."
"It wasn't just standing up for Ned. It showed me what the Clave can do, I want to be better than them.
"We are. The Starks will stand by Ned and his family until the end of days. I'll make sure of that, as will Jon after me, and his children after him, and so on and so on."
"Bran and Sansa may still be here," he said. The Stark kids had all grown since the last time he had been here, he wondered when Bran and Sansa would stop aging – he guessed that Catelyn and Ned rejoiced on their growing and changing features. But this time, it had been easier to see Bran and his third eye, a warlock mark that made his blood so obvious that his mundane parents immediately what he was.
"I hope they are. They are strong children – they all are: my Jon, and Ned's children." She mentioned Jon's name with a prideful smile as she always did. "I love them with all my heart as well. I can't believe that the Clave, Nephilim like us, would want to hurt them."
The Clave did not take kindling to Downworlders carrying a Shadowhunter name like Stark, it didn't help that the heir was Jon, the son of an unmarried woman – he had been at first named Snow (the bastard surname in the North), but with Ned a werewolf, every evidence pointing to Brandon's inability to have children (something kept in secret of course, the Shadowhunters would see him as less of a man if they knew) and Benjen planning to go to the Castle Black as a Centurion when Jon and Robb finished their studies; the Starks thought the best would be for Jon to given the name Stark, and officially become the heir to the Institute and the Winterfell.
"Your boys seem great as well. And how's Mya?"
"She's happy. I'm really glad that Jon took her in – I like to picture her in the Eyrie. They're all good fighters. Edric is quite good with a sword, but he rarely uses it, always reaching for the hammer."
"He wants to be like you, Robert. And it doesn't help that Gendry is very good with a hammer."
"Edric is not as big as Gendry or I were at his age."
"He will learn, Robert, don't worry. And tell him to train with Arya. Ned still insists in training all his children in Shadowhunter fighting techniques, and she's good with a blade – very small, very fast."
"I'll make sure of that. I did promise the boys I would go with them to the training yard after breaking our fast. And I still want to convince Ned to fight me, I miss training with him."
"Tell him that it's a teaching experience – he won't deny it then." Robert laughed at how true that was. "We should get up. The sun has been up for a bit, and I have things to do."
"If we were married, we could do this everyday," Robert suggested again. Lyanna only laughed, kissed him on the lips, before getting up – her marvellous scarred and marked naked body turned to him.
"You should leave. This is my bedchamber after all. And as a good host, I did prepare some very comfortable guest chambers for you." He got up at that, pulling on his breeches, as Lyanna came closer, to touch his whip-lashes.
"They're good," he said, before pulling on his tunic. "I will see you in the Great Hall." He disappeared from the room, and tried to walk to his room without being noticed, but he was caught by one of the worst people to find him.
"Jon," Robert greeted him, and the boy nodded at him. "I'm just going to my bedchamber, which I left for…"
"You don't need to explain, Lord Robert. And I should let you go to your bedchamber, I'll see you in the training yard – Uncle Ned has always said great things about you, and your sons are great fighters."
"Are they in the training yard already?"
"Ohh… no. Gendry was still sleeping from what I know. Edric is in the Great Hall."
"So I should be quick to join him and see about my other son. Thank you, Jon." The kid nodded at him again before he continued walking down the hall – he looked and acted so much like Ned, that it was mostly unbelievable – he really could have been Ned's son.
Robb looked at his reflection on the water and focused his eyes on his new rune. He couldn't be happier that he and Jon were finally parabatai. He had grown up listening to his father tell stories on how it was to fight next to Lord Robert; but he had also always known how the cut still pained Father.
He was still amazed how it had felt to fight next to Jon. All his life, Robb had fought next to Jon, and he had learned to fight and know where he was at all times, but with the rune he didn't need to focus on that, he just knew where Jon was. If they kept training they would be able to actually make a difference when fighting, they would be unbeatable.
Robb couldn't wait to train with Jon today again. He wished he had at least one parabatai duo to train against. Even with Robert here – he and Dad didn't really fight as parabatai anymore; but at least now he would be able to fight Lord Robert's children, besides his siblings that he often fought with.
Robb felt weird training to kill Downworlders. The Starks hadn't been trained to kill Downworlders at first sight for a few generations now, unlike some other families of Shadowhunters, but they still had to kill them. Rogue and violent Downworlders were as common as demons, and they saw all Shadowhunters as a threat, with reason a lot of time. But sometimes they just looked too much like his family to kill.
Robb threw some water on his face and shook his head, pushing the thoughts away. He was quick cleaning the rest of his body a bit and getting his clothes to go to the Great Hall – he didn't need the training gear yet, so he only put on some breeches and two tunics so he could keep warm. Now dressed, he left his room to the Great Hall, excited to see his family again; everyone was breaking their fast at the upper table, and he went to join them.
"My boy, we missed you at home last night," his mother told him, pulling him for a huge hug. "We wanted to do something special. Tonight, you're coming home, right?"
"Yes, Mother, I'm going home. But please, stop," he said getting embarrassed, since he should be an adult now.
"Sorry, dear. But really congratulations on yesterday, I'm really proud of you and Jon – you've been training for this for years."
"Yes, congratulations, son," Ned told him, with a clap on the back. "I wanted to see you fight, Robb, what if you face me and Robert after the meal?"
"What do you say, Jon?" Robb asked turning to his cousin and parabatai.
"Of course, Uncle Ned, Lord Robert," Jon said, making Lord Robert pull away from Aunt Lyanna. Robb knew that his cousin wasn't a big fan of his mother's infatuations with Lord Robert, and that he wondered if he could be his father. Robb didn't think so; Jon looked nothing like Lord Robert or Gendry and Edric.
"Dad, can I fight?" Arya asked him excited.
"Sure, but not while Robert and I are fighting with your brother and Jon."
"You can fight my son," Robert suggested, "I've heard you're really quick with a sword."
"Yes, and I can change during a fight," she said with a smile, "I can fight both of you at the same time," she looked excitedly at Gendry and Edric. And Robb looked at their mother and she didn't seem very happy, and Gendry didn't seem very sure about fighting her either.
"She's good. You won't hurt her," Robb whispered to Gendry. "She may bite you, but an iratze fixes it easily."
"Bite me?!" Edric exclaimed.
"Why are you telling them about my fighting? Surprise is the key about fighting, or have you forgotten about everything that Mom taught you," Arya complained, throwing a bit of bread at him, which Robb caught easily and took a bite of it.
"Thank you, little sister," he thanked her with a smug smile, and Arya went to pick another roll of bread, but father stopped her.
"No more throwing food," Father told them.
"Also I did not mean in fighting, Arya," Mother reminded Arya. Mom had taught them to expect surprises and tricks from the fairies every time they spoke, and now the Starks actually had made some agreements with some of the fairies, especially with the Children of the Forest – Aunt Lya still took Mom with her in some of the conversations. "But Robb, Jon, how are you feeling? Any different?"
"Stronger," Robb admitted.
"We can draw strength from each other," Jon said. "I really want to train, and fight with you."
"So finish eating, child, and let's go," Lord Robert told them as he stuffed his mouth with food, everyone else ate a bit more carefully, and it was soon that the Shadowhunters left to go put on their training gear. Robb went back to his room in the castle and changed to one of the training gears he kept there. After changing he looked out the window, and he saw that his father and sister were already waiting, with Arya training with Dad, both with swords.
"Come on down, Robb," Arya yelled from the courtyard, being then thrown on the floor by Dad, and while Robb couldn't hear him, he was sure Dad was telling her that she should never take her eyes off a fight – Dad had said that to Robb enough times.
Robb left the room and walked outside, Dad and Arya were still fighting, and Robb silently, after getting a sword and putting a simple rune on him, prepared to attack her. But Arya sensed Robb and as he came behind to hit her (carefully, of course), she changed and dropped to the floor, leaving Robb's sword to hit against Ned's.
"Good choice, Arya," Ned told Arya as she got back to her four paws, and scratched her head. "Robb, you can't forget that our hearing and sense of smell is stronger that normal people. Even with a soundless rune, we can sense you, at least we who hear you all the time."
"Right. And sorry, Arya," he told his sister as she disappeared into another room, changing into simple clothes she kept nearby – Mom always complained that werewolves wasted so many clothes, and then there was also the point that his mother didn't really see the appeal of clothes.
"I was saving my changing for my training with the Baratheon boys," she complained.
"Ned, I'm ready!" Robert said boasting, entering the courtyard, and with that Dad and Robb joined him, Jon and Lyanna. As they joined them, Robert immediately gave Dad his stele, while Jon and Robb readied themselves with runes as well.
"Will you help me throw Lord Robert to the floor?" Jon asked, he wasn't normally that violent, but Robb sure would help him mess up with Lord Robert.
Robb stood next to Jon, blades in hand, as Robert and Ned got in position as well, and with a nod, and with Lyanna's encouragement, they started.
Robb ran against his father, aiming for the legs, but before he could hit him, Robert appeared throwing his hammer against his chest (with a bit too much strength if you asked Robb).
"Be careful not to kill my son, Robert," Ned warned his friend, "And smart play, Robb."
"You shouldn't be distracted when fighting, Uncle," Jon said, hitting him on the back. Robb couldn't help but laugh at that.
"Ned, let's take this seriously," Robert said, lifting his war hammer, ready to hit Robb, who quickly caught a shield that Jon threw at him and defended Robert's blow, while Robb took the sword and hit him on his side, but Robert quickly protected the blow, by stepping out, probably due to his speed rune. The fight continued strongly, their swords answered the blows one after the other, Robb got hit a few times, and so did Jon – Robb realized he could feel the blows Jon felt.
"You're feeling Jon?" Ned asked, as he raised his sword, and Robb raised his to protect the blow, but he was surprised when Dad hit him with the back of the sword on the stomach, right where Jon was just hit by Robert. And as Robb was doubled over, Dad fully changed into his werewolf form and jumped on top of Robb, pinning him down; but Robb knew his father and hit him on the spot in his neck that always threw him down, and Ned fell to the side, and Robb was quick enough and held the sword to his neck.
"I have him pinned down, Jon," Robb said.
"Me too," Jon said, and Robb looked at his cousin and he had actually given Robert a bruise, and he looked proud, with his knees holding Robert down, resting on his balls.
"Come on, son, get out of Robert, please," Lyanna said, "But you won, boys. You were very good, your training is paying off. But you need to work on working together better."
Robb moved out of his Dad, and scratched his hair for a bit, as Jon got out of Robert and helped her up.
"Robert and Ned, if you can train them from what you remember about being parabatai. There's no one else here prepared for that type of training."
"I can handle that Lya," Robert said.
"Lady Lyanna, at least," Jon said between his teeth.
"Thank you, Robert. And sweet boy, listen," Lyanna warned. "I have house matters to attend," she said probably retiring to the Lady's solar.
His father had disappeared by now, and after a few moments he came back dressed and ready to start their lesson.
On the other side of the courtyard, Arya faced the two Baratheon boys. They both stood afraid of hurting her, until the fight started and they realized Arya could handle herself quite well.
Gendry, the oldest of the boys, fought with a war hammer like his father, and he could swing it well over his head; and Edric immediately reached for his too, but Arya spoke up.
"Come on, pick up the sword, Edric. You're no good with a hammer, you can barely hold it."
"I can perfectly hold it. I'm Baratheon."
"I don't care if you are a Baratheon or someone else. You can only have a shot if you actually give your best and for that you need the sword."
"I do not. I'm a Baratheon."
"Mya uses throwing knifes," Gendry pointed it out.
"Gods, why couldn't your sister be here instead of you?! She sounds much cooler than any of you two."
"Edric, just get the sword, and let's show her how it's done," Gendry said. And after Edric finally picked up the sword and they drew the runes on each other's bodies, they got into some stupid fighting position and were ready to fight. Arya stood with her hand on Needle, ready to strike.
Both boys shared a look, since they probably had fought together before and had some techniques, and each took a side of Arya. Arya stood still, surprising them, and making them be more careful, and only when they were seconds apart from her, she dropped to the floor, and used her legs to make them lose their balance. Edric fell, but Gendry was still standing and turned to an already standing Arya.
Arya knew one thing immediately, she couldn't let Needle be hit by his warhammer, her small sword couldn't take the hit, so Arya focused on her footing, and on escaping Gendry's swings. Gendry was smart too, and started aiming for her midriff since that was the part of her body that she moved the slowest. She was hit on her stomach, but luckily she didn't feel anything break, but pretended too – Gendry, worried about her, stopped and Arya moved quickly to stab him repeatedly on his side. But the training gear was strong, so she knew that she didn't make much damage – it would be a miracle if she had drawn blood.
During this exchange Edric got up, and he was now coming closer, she could hear him and smell him, she could still smell the morning meal in him. Needle could answer the blow of Edric's sword, so she did it.
"You still smell like breakfast, Edric. You should work on that."
Gendry was coming behind her now, and Arya knew it was the moment to bring her best, so she changed. Both boys were caught by surprise and jumped back, which was stupid since they all knew she was a werewolf.
"Seven Hells, you're huge!" Edric exclaimed, and Arya wanted to laugh and she howled and pointed to her side, knowing that her father had changed while fighting with her brother and cousin. "That's your father?!" Edric continued. He was completely distracted and she took the opportunity to attack, she bit into Edric ankle, carefully, not to do any permanent damage, just enough to make him drop and then be healed by an iratze.
With one down, Arya growled at Gendry, and he started taking things a bit more serious. He confirmed if Edric was okay – living but not standing (like Arya wanted him) – and then attacked Arya, he tried to hit her, but she was too low for him. She jumped above him, planning to surprise him from the back, but the jump wasn't high enough, because he hit her on her left leg, and this time it did hurt – nothing she couldn't handle – and Gendry was playing seriously now. Arya couldn't stand straight, but Gendry's stamina's rune was probably fading already. She tried to paw at Gendry, but with his speed, he escaped her hands, and then he jumped on her fiercely, and they fought body to body with her – Arya hadn't done that in a very long time, they rolled around on the ground for awhile – the smell of the wet ground and mud swept into her nostrils. Gendry's own physical training but also his runes gave him the upper hand, and he was able to over power Arya.
Gendry held Arya down. His leg holding her back legs, his arm over her chest; and then he reached behind him and took his knife from his back and held it to Arya's neck.
"You're dead," he said. Arya howled at that, but gave him, licking his face, making him jump out of her way.
"Do you need help?" he asked, but Arya stood up alone and walked up to the hide out, to again change clothes.
"Edric, are you okay?" Arya said, coming in limping.
"Gendry is doing an iratze – it will help. My brother got you hard. Are you okay?" he asked.
"It will heal," she said, pulling up her shirt and pants to show her bruises and marks.
"Is there something we can do?" Gendry asked.
"You know iratze don't work on me. It will heal soon, don't worry. If you give me the steele, I can do some on you, Gendry," Arya said.
"You know how?"
"Robb and Jon, Gendry – and this are fun." Arya took the steele and rose Gendry's top and started marking him.
"It was a good fight," Gendry said, "we should train more. I haven't really fought Downworlders before. Like I have, but not training, just actually fought them."
"You've gone out fighting?"
"The Riverlands are filled with fairies-"
"I know. My mom and Sansa come from there."
"Right, but the Brotherhood needs to protect the mundanes."
"Wait, you're with the Brotherhood?" The Brotherhood was this rogue Shadowhunter community that worked in the Riverlands that protected mundanes – if Arya was a Shadowhunter, she would like that.
"Yeah. Father thought it would be a good place for me, after he got me from King's Landing, he brought me to them."
"And you, Edric?" Arya asked, as she finished the rune on Gendry's body.
"I train in Storm's End, with our uncle, Stannis. I mostly train with Shireen – we've been talking about becoming parabatai – that's why Dad wanted me to come. There's Devan too, he would be a good parabatai too, we should be able to pair in three."
"You still haven't figured it out?" Gendry asked to his brother.
"No, but Devan is talking about his siblings too, so I don't know what will come of that."
"Which ones? The Seaworths are more than the Starks," Gendry mentioned.
"Hey?!" Arya complained, "Seaworths? I don't recognize the name." Even if not a Shadowhunter, it had been asked of her to learn the names of every family, and even some of the few mundane families that held lordships, and after the North, the Stormlands were where they were focused more on.
"They are mundanes," Edric said. "They ascended. Davos, their father, helped Lord Stannis years ago, and he and his wife successfully ascended with their older children."
"Ascended?" Arya asked. She hadn't heard of that before – it wasn't something she had learned about Shadowhunters, probably since she had never had the need for it.
"Mundanes who drink from the mortal cup and become Shadowhunters. If they survive."
"The mortal cup? I think that was in Idris with the other Mortal Instruments," Arya asked. Again, she didn't know much about the Mortal Instruments – she really only knew the useful things about Shadowhunters – day to day things – the Mortal Instruments were not the case. They were only artefacts, especially in Westeros, Aunt Lyanna had told them that in Idris (where the Clave was), it was much more important. But people of Idris left Westeros alone most time, when they came was not good – Arya hated them, they had wanted to kill her father, and probably her too, and Mom, and all her siblings, probably even Robb.
"They came here. It was years ago, even before I was born." She wondered if it was when they came to judge her father. "And the Seaworths passed the ceremony and became Shadowhunters."
"Okay, about training," Gendry restarted the issue, and both he and his brother got up (but Edric still needed to rest a bit more). "Are you ready to go?"
"Let me heal a bit more," Arya said."
"You were doing alright. You should have kept yourself down."
"I should. And you're taller than Robb and Jon, so I didn't really calculate jump right – I need to work on that."
"So let's train."
"Gendry, you still broke my ribs and messed up my foot, let them heal," Arya reminded him. But Gendry stood up ad they started negotiating training techniques, with both of them suggesting things, and trying to know how they could do better.
"What should I do in case of biting?"
"Don't let yourself be bitten. I didn't want to hurt Edric, if I wanted I could have completely taken his foot apart," she warned, "if you see them coming step on their snout, hard – you're strong, break it if you can. Teeth are our biggest weapon. Also a bite can change you-"
"Of course, not, there are different kinds of bites – this one wouldn't change you. But you never know with outside werewolves, so be careful, step on their snout if needed."
"Okay," Gendry agreed. "Do you feel bad about telling me this?"
"You're a Downworlder and I'm a Shadowhunter, you telling me how to kill one of yours."
"Are you a friend of House Stark? Are you my friend?"
"Would you hurt an innocent werewolf? It would have been my fate if my father hadn't found me. Me. Tortured with silver."
"Of course not. The Brotherhood protects."
"Mundanes and Shadowhunters, and the occasional Downworlder when they ask for help and prove themselves trustworthy."
"Do the mundanes and Shadowhunters need to prove themselves?" she asked already knowing the answer; Gendry didn't answer, but he knew the answer, and his nod promised her to do better.
"I teach those I trust, Gendry, and I hope you'll do better than others."
Gendry smiled at that and to being trusted, and with Arya feeling better, they resumed their training with Arya as a werewolf. This time, every step and movement was thought, and they went over every option – mostly Gendry since he was the only one who could speak, but he was quicker than most to pick up on Arya's face expressions. And then their fathers asked them to join them, Robb and Jon, and Ned and Arya had something to show them about fighting a Downworlder.
Catelyn sat with Sansa at the water. Catelyn's legs changing between skin and scales, as she twisted them in the water. And Sansa stood with her intricate wings free, as Catelyn looked at the intricate and beautiful drawings, with the notes of blue and red, that marked as a Tully like her – probably a long cousin of Catelyn, from another branch of the Tully family (the Tullys were everywhere in the Riverlands).
"You should leave your wings free more often, Sansa. They are beautiful."
"Mom, I can't walk naked in here," Sansa said. Catelyn sometimes wondered if it was wrong to raise her daughter in this mundane and Shadowhunter society, that censored bodies and kept them cover even when they needn't be. Catelyn had been free as she grew up, and at home, when it wasn't too cold she would still be naked in the house, but Sansa could never understand it in here.
"Mom, it's okay for me to cover my wings. It doesn't mean I'm not a fairy and that I don't like who I am."
"I just wish I could show you more of our life."
"Mom, this is our life. And after you- after this life ends, I can meet some more fairies," Sansa told her, and then added immediately, "And take care of Bran, I promise."
"I feel bad for asking that." Catelyn should always be there for her children.
"Bran is my family, Mom. And you did nothing wrong by giving this life a chance. If you hadn't given your immortality away, you wouldn't have us or Dad."
"I love you, Mom," she said, kissing her. "Now go into the water, I know you're dying too."
"I love you, sweetling," Catelyn said, kissing Sansa's forehead and hugging her close, before diving into the water.
Catelyn knew these pools now as well as the rivers back in the Riverlands; there were passages between the pools very under the water, and while smaller and the water less rich, she found fishes that followed her, and beautiful species of plants that didn't exist in the south. But the pools were also much darker, and very rarely could she see anything proper under here, but by now she knew them without looking.
Catelyn stayed underwater, and visited the pools more deep into the forest and spend hours there, and when she came up the sun was close to setting. Sansa was no longer there, but she thought she could see her in the house with her mundane friend, Jeyne, whose family served the Shadowhunters of Winterfell.
Catelyn rose herself of the water, trying to pull her tail completely out of the water, and then she heard a voice.
"My lady," the voice asked, holding out a familiar hand.
"My lord," she said with a smile, as Ned took her hand, and easily pulled her out of the water, and Catelyn's feet touched the ground, and stood now naked on the bank of the water.
"Beautiful as ever," Ned murmured, as he touched her hair, that dripped water onto her body.
"You have bruises, Ned," she warned him.
"Yes, we've been training. You may want to check on our daughter," Ned said, with an unsure look.
"What did you do to my daughter?" Catelyn asked him, preparing to charge inside the house, but Ned held her back. "What, Ned?"
"Arya did great, today. She always does, but she trained really well with Robert's oldest boy."
"Yes, that's his name."
"I just want to make sure she's okay. I know you two heal fast, but it's not like with Robb that a rune fixes everything."
"Not everything, Catelyn," he said, and she immediately look at him. "Robb is okay. And go check on Arya," Ned said, and Catelyn disappeared into the house, with Ned following her.
"Arya, sweetling?" Catelyn called, entering the house.
"I'm fine, Mom," she answered.
"I can see you wincing, Arya."
"You can check on me. But you can get dressed first." Catelyn left for their room, and put on her clothes, before going back downstairs to see her daughter.
"Now, Arya, let me see," Catelyn asked, pulling Arya to somewhere she could sit. Catelyn raised her daughter's blouse, and touched the child's ribs. "Did you break them, Arya? I need to talk to your father, he can't go on-"
"Mom, it was awesome. I've really learned a lot today. And it's good for me to train with different people."
"I didn't jump high enough with Gendry, so he hit my leg-"
"It's pretty much okay now," Arya said, but Catelyn still checked them for herself. "But I didn't jump high enough, because I'm so used to Robb and Jon's height. It can be dangerous to get used to fighting partners."
"Arya, but you won't be in danger."
"Mom, I will always be in danger. I'm- we're Downworlders, Mom, people fear us… And I'm a Stark, Shadowhunters, especially the ones from Idris, Alicante, they hate what we stand for," Arya said fearful but also sure about it, and ready to fight them head on.
"They are stupid."
"You called them stupid?!" Arya asked with a smile.
"Someday everyone could come to accept us, and nobody should ever question you and our family, Arya," Catelyn told her, hopefully that it was true, but barely believing it. The scars on Ned's back reminded her of the monsters the Shadowhunters could be.
"Now, coming back to these bruises. No more running around today – you sit and you rest," Arya told her youngest daughter, before yelling, "Sansa, keep an eye on your sister."
"Mom…" Arya complained.
"And you come see me or Maester Luwin tomorrow before any more training."
"But I can still train?"
"Yes. Like I could ever keep you away from it," Catelyn told her, knowing that if she denied her daughter anything, it would become her heart's desire. "Now, go rest – rest – Arya."
Arya disappeared with that, jumping from the chair and preparing to run before remembering her mother's words; and Catelyn took a deep breath exhausted.
"So do you hate me?" Ned asked coming into the room.
"No, but you need to be careful with her. She's young girl."
"…Who can rip someone's legs with a bite."
"I know," Catelyn admitted, "but she will always be my little girl."
"I will always protect the children, Cat, with my own life."
"I know, Ned," Catelyn told him, pulling him for a kiss. Ned immediately kissed her back, and in seconds she was sitting on the chair that Arya had been before, with Ned buried on her neck. Ned got like this often enough when he found her naked in the hot pools, and Catelyn enjoyed his enthusiasm.
"The kids are coming," Ned murmured into her ear, and like he said, Robb and Bran both arrived home, joining them; Ned and Catelyn had now pulled away from each other, and Ned was resting behind her and asking their children about their day and how they felt.
"I'm a bit tired," Bran said, "But Howland taught me a lot today. I really want to show you, but…"
"Come here, darling," Catelyn said, extending her arms to her son, moving his hair out of his forehead and kissing the side, making sure to not hit his third eye. "Go rest, Bran. We'll call you for dinner."
"Thank you, Mom, Dad." Catelyn followed her son with her eyes, before turning to her oldest one.
"So are you as hurt as your sister?"
"Jon marked and healed me," Robb told her.
"And how was the training? The parabatai feeling – is it helping?"
"It is. Jon and I fought well, we won," Robb said.
"Congratulations, son. But Ned, did you went easy on them or are you getting old?" she asked, squeezing herself closer to him.
"If anyone is getting old, it's Robert." It was true that Robert had put on a bit of weight, but really nothing special, he still looked good comparing to other men his age. "But really, Robert and I fought well, our son has learned a lot."
"Dad and Lord Robert taught us more after, how to channel our energy together," Robb told her, taking a seat on another chair. "And Arya is fighting well."
"So you're responsible for your sister's bruises?" Catelyn asked him.
"It wasn't just me; and Arya gave us some bruises as well," Robb said, "Dad, show her yours?"
"Arya, got you, Ned. You should sit down."
"I'm okay, Catelyn. It's nothing."
"Let me see, Ned," Catelyn asked.
"Sorry, Dad," Robb apologized, before leaving the room.
Ned opened his shirt with that, and Catelyn immediately noticed a deep claw scar on his body, but still little, since it was still Arya's small hand.
"Don't call Arya here. She was really great – she's becoming such a great fighter. And this is just a scar," Ned told her.
"Is she really that good?" Catelyn asked him, as she searched for some salve to put on him.
"Yes. Soon it will be hard to keep her home while we go out," Ned said, as Catelyn came back, and got closer to rub some salve on his cut.
"She's young. She's not going out."
"I know, Cat. I don't want her too, but it will be hard to keep her here."
"I'll get her something to do. No, you and Arya rest today, so you two get better."
Ned didn't leave her, but followed her to the kitchen where he sat as she prepared dinner for them. They dined at the Great Hall very often, but some nights, Catelyn wished for time with just her family, and through the years she had learned some dishes proper for non-fairies – she still wasn't a fan of preparing meat or fish (especially fish).
But Catelyn got some rabbit ready, as well as some plants, vegetables and fruit; Ned helped her with a few things, but she mostly had him resting, and she called for the two oldest children and Bran to help set the table, which always included a lot of fighting.
The meal that followed included a lot of fighting as well, Arya even threw some food at Sansa, before Catelyn stopped them. Robb had the floor and talked about his day, and his training with Jon; and everybody else threw something in, besides Bran who seemed to be falling asleep at the table.
"Bran, are you okay?" Catelyn asked him.
"Just tired. I was training with Howland Reed most of the day."
"Should I tell him to go softer on you?" Ned asked him.
"No, Dad, please don't. I'm really learning useful stuff."
"You're still young, so don't worry too much about it," Catelyn told him. She trusted Howland Reed to teach her son, but he was a powerful warlock and Bran didn't need all this power right now. She didn't need her son to be powerful enough to summon her demon parent-like figure – he didn't need those powers at seven.
"I know, Mom. But he's teaching me good things."
"Can you show us?" Ned asked.
"I'm tired. On another day, Dad."
"Okay, son, as long as you're okay."
"I am. Can I go up to my room? I'm really tired…"
"You can. Just come here, first," Catelyn said, and Bran come up to her to kiss her goodnight, as well as his father, and then waved goodbye to his siblings.
Rickon fell asleep on the table not much after, and Catelyn carried him up to bed and covered him with his furs and blankets on his own bed; and he kissed his head, making sure he was safe and that he hopefully wouldn't be scared or have nightmares.
Catelyn went back to the table with most plates put away, and with the children eating a few pieces of fruit, and Robb had even brought lemon tarts, just two – they were both for Sansa, but she let Arya and Robb keep one, while she kept another.
"Ohhh, Mom, do you want a bit? Dad doesn't want any."
"No, dear, you can have it," Catelyn said, going to sit next to Ned, and stealing some apple slices from his plate.
"So keep on with the story, Arya," Robb told her. And Catelyn listened to her talking about her fight, and she feared for her daughter's life, and Ned squeezed her closer.
After dinner, the children found something else to do, and Catelyn and Ned packed the rest of the things around the house, before retiring to their bedroom, and making the children promise that they would go to bed soon (luckily Sansa would make sure).
Catelyn had checked on Ned's chest one more time, to find it completely healed (hopefully Arya was better too, she almost got up to go check on her too), and then they moved on to a talk about Ned's own training, and Catelyn also shared about a few strange things she had felt under the water today.
Before they finally retired to sleep. Catelyn finding her place under Ned's arms, who always kept her warm, even on the nights she barely wore any clothes to bed.
"Goodnight, love," Ned told her, with a kiss on her neck. "And the children are down," Ned promised her.
"Thank you, Ned. Goodnight," she said, closing her eyes, and squeezing his hand one more time.
Catelyn was later woken up by someone pulling on her clothes and blankets, and looking to the side, she saw young Rickon and she immediately pulled him to the bed, and put him between her and Ned, laying her arm over him to protect him. Rickon quickly fell asleep again, hopefully with his nightmares no longer haunting him; Catelyn looked at his face, he looked so young and calm in this photo, like he had never been through the awful things he was put through as a child.
Catelyn felt herself falling asleep as she touched Rickon's curls, quite similar to Robb, just bit darker than his, and then Rickon changed to his werewolf form as he often did to sleep, curled himself and made himself more comfortable. Catelyn still held him, close, and Ned opened his eyes a bit, and shared a look with Catelyn, before scratching Rickon, under the ear.
Catelyn finally fell asleep a bit after. She wasn't sure for how long she slept, before waking up with a jump, as she felt something on her arm, a painful pinch. She let out a yell, and as she came to the realization of the blood on her side, and that Rickon was just trying to hold on to her.
"Catelyn!" Ned exclaimed, worried, and looking around.
"It's okay, it's just Rickon," Catelyn said, trying to take his paws from her – the one in her clothes was okay, but she was still in pain from the one stuck on her arm.
"Rickon, kid, you need to change, please human," Ned pleaded.
"Ned, it's hurting more."
"Rickon," he called, shoving Rickon, and he was finally awake. "Change, kid. Please, son. You're hurting, Mom." It wasn't working, and then she felt a shift on the bed, the weight of Ned's full wolf body, witch also made Rickon puncture even more; but Rickon understood, after Ned changed back, Rickon changed too, and it was now his little fingers holding on to Catelyn's shirt and arm.
"Mama," he said looking at the blood.
"I'm okay," she told him, still feeling the pain.
"Catelyn," Ned murmured and he moved forward to look at the scar, as Catelyn pulled Rickon to her lap, and she yelled again in pain. "This is bad, Cat," Ned said, looking at the cut, as she winced. And after two more times, Arya was at her door, with her siblings behind her.
"I heard you, Mom. A lot. And it sounded like real pain." Arya was now good distinguish noises, she had caught her and Ned in some uncomfortable positions – there was a downside to enhanced hearing.
"Rickon was in wolf form, and his claws stuck to my skin."
"It smells like blood," Arya said, coming into the room.
"Let me in," Bran said, entering the room, and he immediately got into the bed, and sat between her and Ned.
"Hey, darling, I'm okay."
"I know, Mom. But you're still bleeding and I can help you," Bran said, looking at the cut. "Howland taught me."
Catelyn believed her son, so she gave him her arm; and his siblings moved closer to the bed to see what Bran could do. Catelyn focused on Rickon who was starting to fall asleep, and then she felt warm on her arm, and she looked at Bran's ball of magic.
"Bran, that's spectacular," Sansa said, she was now flying above them and looking closer to his powers. And after a few minutes, Catelyn felt no more pain, and the cut was completely closed.
"Brandon… Thank you," she said hugging her son. "Healing, that's so good. Why didn't you tell us earlier?"
"I hadn't properly tried it yet. I wasn't sure."
"I'm so proud of you, son," Ned said, resting his hand on his shoulder, before Catelyn hugged him and pulled him down to sleep.
"Mom… I should go."
"Stay, my child," Catelyn said, "You too, all of you. Find your place." Catelyn readied Rickon to sleep on top of her.
"Give me Rickon, Cat."
"He's good here," Catelyn said.
"He can change, Catelyn. Give me Rickon," Ned said, and took the child after Catelyn kissed Rickon's head. Bran snuggled closer to Catelyn then, tired, probably from performing such strong magic, and Sansa fell from the sky on her other side; while Arya was behind Bran next to their father. Robb still looked from the door, trying to find a place.
"Robb, you're not too old for this. Come here," Catelyn said.
"There's a space next to me," Ned said, "It will be good for Rickon to have someone next to him."
"Okay," Robb said, coming forward and taking a place next to Ned. And Catelyn with all her family together, she slept much better.
Gendry was woken up by someone knocking at his door, he could barely move and he wasn't really in the mood to get up – the sun wasn't even out yet. But someone entered the room anyway – it was Jon.
"Your father told Maester Luwin to wake you up," Jon said, getting into the room.
"Some people came from Wintertown telling of a Demon attack. We need to go check it out," Jon said. "And it seemed your father was already in my mom's room, and he told the Maester to call you too."
"My dad is not that bad," Gendry said, noticing the way he talked about his father.
"Didn't he and your mom…"
"Sure, keep pointing that out, Gendry," Jon said and he seemed a bit mad, and Gendry wondered if he shouldn't have brought it up.
"I'm sorry. I just… I know my dad can be a bit of an asshole, but he likes your mother," Gendry said honestly, as they rode up North, Robert would always talk about Lyanna.
"I get that, Gen. Don't worry. Just get dressed." Jon left after that, and Gendry went to search for his fighting clothes, and then cleared his face with water, before marking himself where he could.
He met his father in his room, and Jon was obviously right about his father not spending the night in his room, since the bed was still made.
"You're ready, son? Do you need any runes?" Robert asked, and Gendry asked for a few, as he marked him as well. Gendry walked with his father to the Great Hall, where they met Lyanna, who asked Gendry and Jon to go get Ned and Robb.
"Come on," Jon said, as he started to run to the house and Gendry followed him. It was still pretty dark and Gendry didn't really know where he was going, but Jon seemed to know the way rather well. They found the Stark house, still completely dark. Jon knocked on the door and it took five times until someone came to the door, and it was Arya.
"Jon!" Arya exclaimed, waking up quicker. "Gendry," she greeted him with a smile as well.
"Can you wake up your father and brother?" Jon asked; and Arya disappeared after that and went to search for her family.
"Can I go with you?" Arya asked.
"No," they heard her father answer, as he came downstairs in simple clothes. "Robb is finishing dressing."
Lord Ned went to get something to eat, and than offered something to Gendry and Jon; Gendry took him up on the offer immediately.
"Didn't eat in Winterfell?" Lord Ned asked.
"No, should I?"
"Never fight hungry, but I suspected you didn't really know how to do things."
"Jon, are you sure you don't want something else?"
"If you want to go up, to Robb's room, and start on each other runes, feel free. You know where to meet us?" Jon agreed, and Gendry walked out with Lord Ned to meet his father and Lady Lyanna.
Soon after they appeared and went up to the forest. Gendry held a seraph blade, his sword, and finally his war hammer with another seraph blade on the back. And followed the adults into the village, following the indications they had given to Lady Stark.
Gendry noticed that his dad had drifted to Lord Ned and they stood side by side, with Robb and Jon together too, and Lady Lyanna leading them, it left Gendry alone at the back. He was nervous. He had obviously fought demons before but not in the North, and with the Brotherhood, they were almost ten fighting, and no one was paired – they were one together. According to the mundanes, they had thought they had seen between four to seven demons, and they couldn't recognize them – the only thing they said was that they were cold and white and blue (nothing Gendry remembered from his classes, but the Brotherhood wasn't that rich in classes).
"I smell something," Lord Ned said, "something cold. No demon I've smelled before."
"Any creature we know?"
"None, Lya," Lord Ned told Lady Lyanna, "but we're close," he continued, "Robb, pay attention, son, to everything," he said, looking very seriously to his son, and then added to him and Jon. "Jon, Gendry, you two. Robb and Jon, this is your first fight together – you will know where you two will be, don't let yourselves be overpowered by that. Use each others' strength."
"I know, Dad."
"Ned, we will be fighting together again," Father told his friend.
"Gendry, keep close to me," Lady Lyanna said, "since they have paired up." Gendry didn't know how to react to this – she was a proper lady, and Gendry really didn't know how to fight with her.
"I hear something," Jon said.
"Weapons ready," Lady Lyanna started, "boys, you stay back. Ned, Robert, with me."
Then the fight started, they were attacked from all sides by these blue creatures, who looked very much like humans; and they were many more than they had expected to appear. And in the mess the fight was, Gendry could barely focus on anything else, any hit with the hammer barely affected the creatures – sure it never killed any demons, but his brutal force normally hurt them.
Gendry saw glimpses of his father, Jon and Robb, a wolf, who he supposed was Lord Ned, and Lady Stark; but he continued fighting, hoping they were okay, and pulled the seraph blade and tried to stab them, since the hammer wasn't really working.
He killed two, and now he was face to face with a stronger demon, less human like, and he couldn't hit him with a blade and the hammer did absolutely nothing. Gendry was so distracted with this fight, that he didn't hear another demon coming behind him.
So Gendry was almost killed until he heard a roar of a wolf that ripped the demon apart; he almost looked back, and then remembered that he should never turn his back on the fight. The demon seemed to not know that, and Gendry got his chance to attack and kill the demon.
Gendry killed one more before the fight was given as over.
"Son, are you okay?" Robert asked, coming to him, looking more worried than any other time before.
"I'm fine, Father. Thank you, Lord Ned."
"Just call him Ned," Robert said, throwing his arm over his shoulders. "Thanks, Ned, for saving my boy."
"How did you know I was in danger?" Gendry asked. "I couldn't see anything besides…" he said, "Right, you're a wolf, you can't talk."
"It was probably the enhanced hearing," Lyanna said. Robb then pulled something from his back and gave a pelt to his father, and then Lord Ned disappeared behind the trees, and came back dressed in some quick clothes.
"I can smell and hear everything, boy. I can very easily tell your father apart, and of course, the same with my son, nephew and sister – you stood out. I've never fought next to you, your walk is similar to your father's but still distinctive – I always knew where you were as well."
"Thank you, my lord. I could have died."
"Like your dad said, call me Ned."
"I'm normal a better fighter-"
"You're a good one, but I've seen the Brotherhood fight – it's a completely different style," his father said.
"And these demons were nothing like the ones I've fought before," Lady Lyanna said.
"They are not," her brother said, "We need to see about this, send ravens…"
"I know, Ned," she told him, standing next to him. "But for that we need to get to the castle first."
Gendry and the rest of the Shadowhunters reapplied their runes for endurance and velocity to make sure they got home okay. Gendry walked with his dad, as they talked about the fight and their blows, sharing tips. They had been distracted when they heard Jon and Robb exclaiming something out loud; and they stepped forward.
"Mom, it's the symbol of our house."
"Yes, Aunt Lya, it was meant for Jon – a wolf for the heir of the house," Robb added. And Gendry was finally close enough to see a small creature, completely white, with red eyes.
"It's sick," Ned said, "It will die in just a few days."
"I can nurse it back to health – it will definitely die here, but if I took it…"
"You need to take care of it, son. You will feed it, you will train it, and you will bury it when the day comes."
"I will, Mother, thank you," Jon said, as he picked up the small wolf.
"I don't think it's a wolf," Robb said a few steps away. "It's too big to be one." And as Gendry came closer there was a dead wolf – or direwolf as the others suspected since it was too big to be any wolf – with small pups around it.
"Dad, can we keep them?" Robb asked. "Jon, if you would like any of these, I can take yours. You're the heir."
"Ghost is mine," Jon said, "but my cousins are Starks too, Uncle, and there are exactly five pups."
"Dad, you know they would love it. And you would have your own pack at home."
"Robb, you and your siblings, will follow the same instructions as Jon – you train them, you feed them, you bury them."
"Yes, Father," Robb said, "Thank you."
Robb chose one immediately, as the little pup ran to him, but then he picked the others, and then Jon helped too, and then finally Gendry picked two too and helped carrying them home, but it was obvious that the direwolves didn't like him as much, as they did Robb and Jon.
"Maybe I should get you a stag," his father commented laughing as he walked by him.
Catelyn couldn't stop thinking about the words on the letter that arrived from the capital – she knew it wasn't good news for Winterfell, and it was especially not good for Catelyn and her family.
"Lady Catelyn," Maester Luwin said, bringing her from her thoughts.
"Yes. I'm sorry, the news were just surprising."
"I know, my lady." The man still always called her lady, even if she had no titles by right; most people in Winterfell considered she had, since they still gave Ned the lord title, even if he was stripped of it.
"How long do you think they will take?"
"A moon, unless they are waiting for too many people to come from the South."
"You suppose all the families are coming."
"I believe so, at least some members to represent each Great House," he told her. "With the exception of the Tullys," he added, but Catelyn already knew that. The Tullys felt that her own person was an insult to their house – afterall the Tullys didn't like to be remembered how new of a Great House they were and how they shared blood with Downworlders. The story went back to two mundane brothers, one who married a Shadowhunter girl from a rich and powerful house, and the other who fell in love with a mermaid (Catelyn obviously descended from the latter).
"We need to make sure we have enough food to feed everyone."
"I'll talk with Vayon soon. Hopefully he will have the information," the Maester said, "Do you need anything else, my lady?"
"You're free to go. Thank you, Luwin," she said, "I'll make sure to give the letter to Lady Stark."
"I know, my lady," he said, before leaving.
Catelyn tried to do a bit more work, so she could help Lyana; but when she heard the sound from the gate, and she knew that her husband was arriving to Winterfell, and Catelyn got up to leave the solar to look for them.
Neither Ned nor Lyanna were in the training grounds, but she saw Robert, who would also have to be told this information, and then she saw her son, Robb, and before looking for her husband and good-sister, she went to check on him.
"Were you safe, son?" Catelyn asked him.
"I'm okay, Mom. But they were strange demons," he told her, "even Dad couldn't recognize them." And then Catelyn heard a few noises and noticed the small wolves with him, Jon and Gendry.
"Who or what are these?"
"Direwolves. We found them today, Mom. There are five – one for each of us," Robb said.
"You're telling we'll be adding five direwolves to our small house."
"They can stay in the kennels," Robb told her.
"I need to talk to your dad about this," Catelyn told him.
"But can I show them to the girls and the younger kids?" Catelyn should tell him no, but she knew that she couldn't stop him – Arya or Rickon could probably already smell the creatures.
"Yes, but don't tell them we're keeping them."
"Okay, Mom. Thanks," Robb said. And Catelyn continued walking, knowing where the other adults were – they always found the Heart Tree after a mission.
Catelyn always felt something weird stepping into the Godswood, she felt the Old Gods presence, but it felt like she was betraying her angel and demon parts that always kept their distance from the Westeros religions. As she entered, she didn't hear a sound, Ned had his head lowered in pray, while Lyanna cleaned Ice near the water, and Catelyn entered carefully.
"Catelyn," Ned greeted her, but he didn't look up.
"Robb said something about being unusual demons."
"They were like nothing I've seen," Ned said, looking at her, and Catelyn stepped up to him, "There's not really much to tell you."
"Besides that your son and mine fought very well, Catelyn, we have reasons to be proud," Lyanna said, still cleaning the sword carefully and slowly.
"No one is hurt, then?" Catelyn asked.
"They are okay, my love," Ned answered.
"I don't bring good news," she told them, "A raven arrived from King's Landing. Lord Arryn died," she told, looking at her husband on the eyes, "I'm sorry, Ned, I know how much he meant to you." The man had trained Ned as a Shadowhunter for most of his training years.
"There's something more…" Lyanna said.
"The King is coming here, and he is bringing the court. Lord Arryn left no heirs, as you know; so he is coming here to discuss the future."
"Here?!" Lyanna asked surprised. "Why is he coming here? He could call the people to the Red Keep."
"I need to go talk with Robert," Ned said, standing up, and not really noticing his sister's face. Catelyn wanted to follow him, he really looked heartbroken, but her good-sister needed her right now; so she took a seat on the rock.
"Lya, are you okay?"
"I'm just worried. Rhaegar, the King, coming here – it doesn't look good, Winterfell will be full, it will be a burden on our stocks." But Catelyn could see that there was still something else going on.
"Ned and I could take the children and Jon to the river. We've been talking about it, we were just waiting for Rickon to be a bit more acclimated with us."
"Why should you leave?"
"The Tullys are the only ones not coming, but you know that more people are insulted by our presence here. Jon would enjoy the time away, and maybe it would make things easier."
"Jon?" Lyanna asked, and Catelyn didn't answer, but her look said it all. "You think that's the reason."
"He's been calling you to court for years. You've always sent Brandon, and this is his chance."
"Does Ned know?" she asked.
"We've never known, Lya, but you just confirmed it. We discussed it years ago, in private, nobody heard us."
"Don't tell him."
"I won't, but do you want us to take him?"
"No, he should be here. He's the heir, he should meet the other families."
"You stay. I can't get through this without you. Maybe they will learn something about Downworlders."
"We can always hope," Catelyn told her.
"I won't let anything happen to you, Cat, don't worry. No one will touch the children," Lyanna promised her, "And I would like Robb to take part in the meetings – you know Jon plans to always involve him in ruling and decisions."
"If you think that's good," Catelyn told her, "Maybe I can teach Robb a few more fairy tricks."
"Teach Jon too. My boy is too honest. Too much like Ned, I think."
"They all want to be like Ned," Catelyn reminded her; they both remembered when the boys were young and spent their days following Ned around, and trying to do everything exactly like he did, after all that was how they got them to eat their vegetables.
"He is a good man to be," Lyanna told her. "Do you think the King will ask for anything?" she asked.
"He's married." It wouldn't be good for King Rhaegar to acknowledge Jon, who could bring trouble for his heir, but also for Winterfell, since Jon was the only heir here.
"Promise me that you won't let me be alone with him."
"I'll try, Lya. I will have Ned look out too, and I can do it without telling him."
"Thank you," she said taking Catelyn's hand in hers. "I also should keep Robert out of my room for their stay, right."
"It would be the most appropriate thing, I believe," Catelyn told her.
"I still have-"
"One moon with him," Lyanna said, smiling. "I should get to that," she said with a laugh, getting up, and putting her sword in her scabbard. "But I should go talk with Maester Luwin first, those demons weren't normal, maybe he can find something in the books."
"Tell him I can help him look, and I can probably convince Bran – he loves those books," Catelyn told her, Lyanna had always hated research, so Catelyn helped.
"Thank you, Cat," Lyanna said, walking out of the Godswood, and Catelyn followed her soon after, looking for her husband.
He wasn't on the courtyard, but Catelyn found Robert training with both Edric and Gendry and he stopped when he noticed her.
"Cat, Ned went up to the house. I think he wants you."
"Thank you. And I'm sorry for your loss, Robert."
"Jon had a good life. I can only hope to be that lucky," he said, before turning his back to her. "Now, come on, kids, stand straight!"
Catelyn went home after that and she could see Ned from afar, he was sitting by the pool, his feet dipped in the water.
"My love," she asked, coming behind him and dropping her hand on his shoulder. "I'm really sorry, Ned, I know that he was like a father to you."
"He trained me to be the Shadowhunter I was – the man I am even."
"I know," she said, dropping to the ground next to him, and as she pulled her skirt up and dipped her feet into the water and they then turned into her tail. "I saw Robert…"
"He wanted to train with Gendry and Edric. I told him about the King coming, he said he would probably be going South with them – they will have to stop in the Eyrie whatever the decision, so he's going to take the opportunity and visit Mya."
"He should do that. And you, Ned, what do you want?"
"I was wondering if we should be here when the King and the other families come."
"Lyanna wants us to stay, and she wants Robb in the Shadowhunter meetings."
"Do you think that's the best solution?"
"I think that's what Lyanna wants."
"So you don't think it's the best solution?"
"It would be easier for us to go, but Robb will deal with this all his life. And we want Sansa and Bran to always be Starks, so they will probably need to know Shadowhunters – Lyanna and Jon will always stand by us."
"Can we ask that of them?"
"We didn't ask, Ned. You never asked, they love us."
"I know," he said, taking her hand, while the other worked on the laces that held her dress together.
"Ned, I can stay here, we can talk."
"You want the water and seeing you swim gives me peace." So Catelyn let her dress fall and dove into the water, she swam deep into the pool before finally coming up and finding Ned gone; his clothes to the side, he was now changed into a wolf and was cleaning his bloody fur.
Ned was older than when she met him, and so was Catelyn – children would do that to you; but for a few moments Catelyn felt like they were back to the time when she had first met him – when Ned hadn't suffered any lashes, when Catelyn didn't know that Ned couldn't only comfortably sleep with the window open, when Ned still didn't know what being a werewolf, a Downworlder, meant, and Catelyn had immortality waiting for her.
Life had changed since then, and it would continue to change, but she knew that for whatever came next she would have the support of Ned and their family.