In truth, fleeing the city was not as difficult as Lily believed it would be.
They made their escape by the Mud Gate, the red head using all her faculties to mask their presence. By the time they had made it to the stables and ridden out of the keep, the city had already been crawling with red coats.
For a moment, she had nearly panicked at the sight of red and gold armor as far as the eye could see. But with Jaime leading, and already a superb horseman, they didn't have too much trouble. The knight had led them on a winding path through alleyways and behind buildings and warehouses, out of the main path of soldiers and screaming civilians.
Though they were reasonably protected by magic and cunning, it didn't prevent the three travelers from seeing the mass chaos in the city.
The stream of Lannister soldiers didn't seem to end, nor did the screams and the woodsmoke from the fires that were constantly burning. They avoided the Street of Steel altogether and in some places had to make their way through alleyways that were barely wide enough to fit their horses.
Lily who was riding in the back with Elia between her and Jaime, was gripping her reins so tight, she thought they might tear. But there were no shouts from behind them, no cries of alarm at their escape as they made their way deeper into the city.
It was oddly comforting to see that Jaime was just as tense as she was, his hand never leaving the hilt of his sword as he guided them onward.
Lily was infinitely grateful that Tywin Lannister was never seen, as she feared that that might be the end of Jaime's courage. However, a part of herself chose to focus on how Jaime had subverted her expectations by siding with them and killing one of his father's men.
She peered at him just ahead of them as they paused in an alley for a contingent of soldiers to ride past. I have underestimated him. It would seem that he is far different from his father. I will need to remember that.
With the Mud Gate just ahead of them, the trio cautiously urged their horses forward, keeping to the edges of the street and away from the crowds. As they drew closer to it, Lily realized with a start that there were Lannister guards standing watch just inside, not letting anyone out.
We're going to need a distraction…a significant distraction.
She glanced at her companions, promising to explain later. She raised a hand and closed her eyes. "Bombarda Maxima!"
The large wooden doors to the Mud Gate suddenly blew outward with a terrific crash, sending the soldiers flying in all direction and the horses whinnied in fright. Jaime's head whipped around to stare at her and she shook her head frantically. "Go! Go! We will not get this chance again!"
Fortunately his instincts overrode his shock, for the knight spurred his horse onward and all of a sudden a shadow was passing over them and they were through.
Lily didn't stop to look back however; it didn't matter after all. Once they were well away, perhaps she would find the desire to look back and see how far they had come, but at the moment, safety was her only concern.
It seemed that Jaime and Elia were of the same mindset because they too did not pause to look behind them as they thundered down the road towards freedom, the screams of the city following them like angry ghosts.
Lily could still practically taste the smoke from the fires that had been disturbed and if she listened very hard, she could hear the clashing of metal from distant swords.
It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter anymore.
She urged her horse onward. We have to make it to Dorne. That is the only place that I know will welcome us.
The red head took a moment to adjust the straps clinging to her shoulders and back and glanced over her shoulder quickly to ensure that Rhaenys was secure.
A quick decision had been made before they departed that Jaime could not carry one of the girls and help defend Elia if she needed it. So a makeshift sling had been made for Rhaenys and Lily had strapped the elder of her friend's daughters across her shoulders so that she could lie and be comfortable in it.
She had calmed down somewhat since the Mountain's attack, the stress of the events leaving her exhausted and sleepy and for that Lily was glad. It was much easier to flee a city with a tired child rather than a terrified and crying one.
Visenya had followed her sister's lead and fallen asleep in the sling that they had made for her on her mother's back and now their ride was punctuated by nothing other than a tense silence.
"We should not stop until nightfall your grace, my lady," Jaime called from ahead of them. "We need to put as much ground between ourselves and the capital as possible. We don't know how many of my father's soldiers are on the road."
"Isn't it unlikely that they would be watching the road to the south Ser Jaime?" Elia asked. It was the longest sentence that she had spoken since riding out of the stables. "After all, I don't think they would have expected us to escape."
"It wouldn't be unwise to underestimate my father your grace," the knight replied grimly. "He is a ruthless man."
The princess fell silent as the weight of that statement settled over all of them and they continued their ride in silence.
"Might there be a way to get a raven to Prince Doran?" Lily asked suddenly. "I realize that we don't have access to one right now, but surely we could find one. Perhaps he could send Prince Oberyn with soldiers."
"If I know my brother," Elia began softly. "He would likely have left already. Perhaps with luck, we may meet him on the road."
Lily glanced up from the crackling fire to glance at the blonde knight.
They had ridden until the sun had sunk behind the horizon and had chanced upon an abandoned homestead. Likely its inhabitants had fled when they heard of the Lannister army coming, thinking their lives worth more than their land.
There had still been a few animals penned in the stable and Lily had wasted no time in making quick work of one of the chickens which they had roasted over the fire that Jaime had built and then eaten their fill before Elia and the girls had drifted off into an exhausted sleep.
Both Lily and Jaime had opted to stay up and keep watch.
Although Lily had set some wards around the house, alerting them if anyone approached.
"Yes," she replied and went back to poking the fire with a stick.
There was silence for a moment. "How long have you been able to –"
"My whole life."
Jaime nodded, his eyes straying back to the fire. "It certainly seems useful."
The statement itself was a loaded one and Lily couldn't quite stop herself from rolling her eyes. "Alright Lannister, out with it. Ask your questions or we'll be here all night."
The blonde raised an eyebrow at her. "I rather think we're going to be here all night regardless of my questions or not. We can't risk moving on the road with all the bandits about. Although I suppose we could if I am in the front and you are in the back."
Lily sighed tiredly and decided to ignore his sarcasm. "What is it that you wish to know?"
And so Jaime asked his questions and Lily was truthful but also as vague as possible. She explained how she had first been able to move objects with her mind when she was very young and that she had taught herself most of the spells that she knew, making up words for them as she had grown.
She was quite certain that Jaime didn't believe everything that she was saying, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. There was no way in all the hells that she was explaining reincarnation to him and that she had lived thirty-eight years of life in two different bodies.
"Is it something anyone can learn?" Jaime asked finally when it seemed that all his questions were spent.
"Not to my knowledge," she replied. "From my rudimentary understanding of magic, one has to have something called a magical core, something that they can draw upon to cast the magic. The larger the magical core, the easier it is to perform spells. If someone has a small magical core, they might possess….a magical awareness I suppose. But it is unlikely that they would be able to perform magic."
"I see," Jaime replied, thought it sounded very much like he did not.
They lapsed into silence for a long moment before the knight spoke again. "What was the spell that you used on Clegane?"
Lily felt a vicious stab of satisfaction as she remembered the effects of that particular curse. Though she knew it didn't become her, she couldn't help but feel glad that that monster was gone from the world. Tywin Lannister would lose one more weapon with which to frighten the Seven Kingdoms and the man who had caused women nightmares would pillage and frighten no more.
"Magic is all about intentions," she began, poking once more at the fire with a stick. "The stronger the emotion, the easier it is to cast the most….visceral of spells. The one I used on him was called the Cruciatus Curse. It is a spell that forces the recipient to feel a pain three times more excruciating than childbearing is for women. I have never had to use it before…and I hope that I never will again."
She glanced at Jaime and noticed his face had turned green. "If kept under the effects of the curse long enough, one can go insane. The pain will rob them of their senses and leave them a drooling mass of flesh."
"You seem very familiar with it," Jaime said in a voice that sounded a bit strangled.
"Only academically," the red head replied. "One has to feel a certain level of hate to cast a spell that devastating. And until today, I have never been able to muster the rage and loathing required."
"Pardon me for saying so, but the Seven Kingdoms can thank you for that," the blonde muttered sarcastically and Lily chuckled without much humor. "Let's hope I won't have to use it again before the war is over."
"Yes," Jaime said, the tenor of his voice changing somewhat. "The war."
"What is it?" Lily asked him, frowning.
The knight sighed and took her stick to once more poke at the wood of the fire. "You've been honest, I suppose I should be too."
That didn't sound very good.
"Honest about what?" Lily asked slowly.
"Right before I came to find you with the news that my father's army was outside the gate," Jaime began slowly. "I had come from the king's presence. He had been speaking with a man by the name of Rossart. He was the chief pyromancer."
Oh, Lily really did not like the sound of this.
"The chief pyromancer?" she repeated.
"Aye," the knight said grimly. "Apparently, the king had a contingency plan in place should the rebels emerge from the Trident victorious. He had his pyromancers brew a lake of wildfire and place it in strategic spots throughout King's Landing. Apparently, he hoped to remove their armies along with turning himself into a dragon."
There was a ringing in Lily's ears that had begun since the words lake of wildfire were uttered. It only grew louder as Jaime recounted more of his story and by the time he had finished, she had to grip her hands together to stop them from shaking.
"I take it that you did away with Rossart?" she asked in a hoarse voice.
"I did," the knight replied grimly. "And I would have gone back to deal with the king as well…but then I remembered my duty was not just to him."
Despite her earlier terror, Lily smiled at the blonde. "And I'm very glad that you did. As it stands, no one will have to worry about the king anymore. I bound him with magic and left him for the rebels to find."
Jaime looked strangely relieved. "Good, that's good I suppose. I would not want to have the title of kingslayer added to my legacy."
"Instead, you can be known as the knight who chose to act with honor and save the remaining members of the royal family," Lily said in what she hoped was an encouraging tone.
Jaime smirked at her. "Somehow I don't think that title is quite as catchy."
Lily burst out in somewhat hysterical laughter. "Perhaps not, but it's certainly a great deal easier to bear."
They lapsed into silence after that, each of them contemplating the events of the day to the tune of the crackling fire.
"I was sorry to hear about Lord Elbert," Jaime said at last, breaking Lily from her thoughts. "He seemed a good man."
"Did you know him?" Lily asked.
"Not really. We met only once at Harrenhal, but he seemed as if he would make a good lord for the Vale."
"Yes," Lily replied softly, sorrow tempering the words. "He certainly would have. Instead he just became another casualty of this thrice accursed war."
She tossed a small branch into the fire with a bit more vigor than necessary and watched with misplaced satisfaction as it burned.
Jaime poked at the blaze with his own stick and summoned a smirk that was not at all happy. "Counting the dead will not be a chore that shouldn't fall to loved ones and yet it will."
Lily blinked at the surprisingly insightful statement. "So it will. But given the losses we have been able to minimize, maybe the dead will not be beyond the count of grief."
She meant that her family was safe and likely so was his but when she looked up Jaime was looking at her with a thoughtful expression.
"We can only hope," he said in a strange voice. A moment later and the look and tone was gone. "But perhaps we should focus on finding a way to Dorne when everyone in Westeros will be looking for us."
"I agree," Lily said, willingly letting the subject be changed. It was odd to talk about these somewhat personal things with Jaime, when most of his personality had been encompassed by arrogance and thoughts that neither of them would let the other see.
There was much about him that she didn't think that she wanted to know. But then, if this comradery kept up, she might not have a choice.
And so they sat up and talked late into the night.
Several weeks later…
It was with a heavy heart and weary bones that Ned climbed the steps to the upper room of the tower, sword in hand. He was half certain when he eventually did let go of the hilt that there would be indentations in the metal.
The adrenaline from the fight was just beginning to wear off and accompanied with the numbness of losing all but one of his men, his limbs were shaking, knees trembling as he climbed.
He gripped the rickety banister and paused in his stride, swallowing hard as he fought to control himself.
Later, Later there will be time to grieve, to bury our dead, to see to funeral arrangements, god even to rest.
He was deliberately not thinking of his father and brother, both of whom had been slain in the thick of the fighting. Ned still remembered the horrible shock of watching them fall, one by one, him being too far away to get to them, screaming their names as he fought through armor clad men to get to them.
He remembered falling to his knees beside Brandon and seeing the light slowly leeching out of his eyes, demanding for his older brother not to leave him and the latter wheezing: "I always thought you'd be a better lord of the north than me. Lead them Ned, you have what it takes, you always did."
The words were broken, spoken from between cracked and bloodied lips and he had stilled seconds later. Ned had only been able to take a single moment to grieve before he had picked up his sword and rejoined the fray.
He hadn't even had the chance with his father, whose body had only been brought to him afterwards.
And then as one, the Northmen had knelt, declaring him the Stark in Winterfell, Warden of the North and every other title that had been Brandon's by right and birth.
He had barely heard the words, barely felt the weight of Ice as its hilt was pressed into his hand. The only thing that he had been able to register was that this blade wasn't his, that it had belonged to someone else.
He dreaded having to give Lyanna the news. She and Brandon had always been so close.
He swallowed hard again, thinking of his siter and continuing his upward climb. At the very least he would have her back, her and Benjen.
Half of their number had been wiped out, but having his sister back home would dull some of the ache of his sire's loss.
There was a landing at the top of the winding stone steps which led to a small wooden door where they would be keeping her.
Ned felt a residual spike of rage when he thought of the traitors and oathbreakers who had chosen to keep a young girl against her will, the utter gall it would take to lose every moral, disregard every promise that had ever been given.
He quickened his stride and found himself at the landing, hand grasping the rusty handle of the door and wrenching it open.
What greeted him was a tiny, cramped room, only large enough for one old bed with a chest at the end and two small and dirty windows on either side.
But it was the being in the bed that immediately arrested his attention, a figure that sat up alert at his entrance and whose grey eyes lit up upon seeing him. "Ned!"
"Lyanna," he breathed, all but stumbling forward until his knees hit the side of the bed. He fell forward and gathered her in his arms, absently noting her slender shoulders. She looked tired, only arrayed in a nightgown, her hair loose and hanging about her shoulders.
"Oh thank all the old gods," he murmured into her tangled tresses. "You're safe."
"Of course I am," his sister replied sounding confused. "Why wouldn't I be. The men outside were entrusted to keep me safe."
Ned suddenly pulled back, a strange feeling that he couldn't name twisting his stomach. He looked at his sister's face, eyeing the flush in her cheeks and the glimmer in her eyes. She looked almost unrecognizable. "Lyanna…they were meant to keep you in. Were you not being held prisoner?"
"Gods no!" the younger girl said, looking appalled. "Rhaegar instructed them to keep me safe. He said that there would be many who would want to take me away. I was to remain here under guard until he triumphed at the Trident and returned for me."
His head was spinning.
Her words seemed to come from out of a long tunnel, echoing but having little form or meaning. There was a ringing in his ears that had suddenly grown deafening and his breath was suddenly shallow.
Words clogged in his throat and then withered away to ash as realization struck him.
All this time…
All this time he had been so certain that Lyanna had been held against her will. But his sister was a fighter, she would not allow anyone to take her against her will and even if she had been taken, there would surely be more damage on her than what he was currently seeing.
But there would be none if she had gone willingly.
He felt as if he were going to be sick.
"Tell me," he said in a voice that sounded faintly strangled. "Tell me that you have not done what I am dreading. Tell me that he stole you, tell me that you were taken away and hidden where none could find you. Tell me that he was a monster and that you were the innocent victim. Tell me anything but the truth!"
Lyanna was now leaning back against the worn bedframe, her eyes wide and her face pale. Her lips were pressed together and bloodless and she was looking at Ned as if she had never seen him before.
"Ned," she whispered. "I don't know what you were told but – "
"What I was told?!" the quiet wolf bellowed. Distantly he could not remember a time where he had shouted as much as he had. Brandon had been the one to do all the shouting between them.
"Do you have any idea, any inclination, any concept of what has happened in the Seven Kingdoms in the last few months?" he roared. "Do you know how many have died in pursuit of a girl who, it seems, was not kidnapped, but instead, ran off with a married man under the guise of romantic intentions. Do you know how many men of the north have bled and died to ensure your safe return, to make it so that you would never be touched by a Targaryen mad man? DO YOU?!"
He took a deep breath and might have continued had a mewling cry not broken the sudden silence in the wake of his rage.
Ned whirled away from his shell shocked sister towards the source and was confronted with a woman dressed in plain rough homespun clothes holding a bundle of cloth in her arms that was moving about and squirming. She was shushing the child and looking at him fearfully as if he were seconds away from drawing his sword.
The room was spinning as realization after realization crowded into Ned's mind, the answers to more terrible questions that he had been asking over the better part of the last year since his sister went missing.
He may not have been a man of many words, but he was a quick study.
"Is the babe the prince's?" he asked in a tone that was just shy of freezing temperatures.
Lyanna looked terrified and he realized dimly that it was because she had never seen him like this. Perhaps that was his fault, perhaps she should have been exposed to more of his consternation if it were necessary to check her and prevent things like this from happening.
"Ned – "
Lyanna swallowed hard, her eyes darting back and forth between the wetnurse and her brother as if struggling for an anchor to grasp onto in the ocean that was this conversation.
Ned didn't offer her one.
"Yes," she said finally, and it was like she deflated in the wake of her revelation. "Yes, he is."
As if this day could not get any worse.
It was bad enough that a child had been born out of this…illegal union. But for it to be a son….
The realm had already bled in the wake of a civil war and it might now again with the revelation that Rhaegar Targaryen had produced a son before he died, a son who was the heir to the Iron Throne.
"Do you have any idea," he began in a voice that did not sound like his. "what you have done?"
The last word was spat out with more venom than he had ever uttered in his life and Lyanna must have felt it for she flinched back again. "Ned – "
"You have knowingly and with full consent, run off with a married man, the heir to the throne, a man who already had a wife with two legitimate children. You have started a war that has claimed the lives of countless men on both sides of the realm. The amount of blood on your hands is enough that you could drown in it. An ocean has been filled with the action of the last nine months and chief among them are our father and brother. Brandon and Lord Rickard are dead because of you!"
The blood drained from Lyanna's face and she pressed her hands to her cheeks, looking ghostly and sick. "No, no that's not true. Rhaegar said that he would be kind to every member of my family. He said that he would not harm the kin of his future queen."
Ned couldn't believe his ears. "Even if that were so," he said through gritted teeth. "His soldiers made no such oaths. Brandon has fallen and so has father and I am now the Lord of Winterfell and the North. And as such, it will fall to me to bury them. Because of you."
His words were falling like blows and Lyanna was flinching as if he were striking her. A hysterical part of him wondered if such an act might make himself feel better.
"When?" she asked in a breathless voice.
"It does not matter!" Ned roared. "What matters is that they are gone and it is all your fault!"
The babe in the blanket sent up another howling wail and Ned cut himself off, trying to regain some semblance of control.
Tears were falling in liquid tracks from Lyanna's eyes and even now, he felt a pang that he had caused her upset. He had never done something like that before, spoken to her this way and yet there was another larger part of himself that did not feel guilt at all, that felt she deserved to hear in visceral detail, the consequences of her decisions, hers and the prince's.
He would have done worse to the dragon prince as well, but the man was dead and he was not about to waste his energy yelling at the skies, to a man who could no longer answer.
Gods, all of it.
"I thought," he said in a considerably lower voice than he had the last time. "That you had been kidnapped. I thought that the prince had taken and violated you, I thought he had committed as great a sin against you as a man can commit against a woman. I thought that you had been wronged, and in turn all of us had been wronged. But it was never that, was it?"
"Ned I –"
"Speak!" he burst out again, his emotions coming and going like the tide. "I am not speaking as your brother, I am speaking as the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, a title that you and the prince have forced into my hands. Speak. Tell me what you have done!"
And so Lyanna did. She told him in halting words of the smiles and dances she and prince had exchanged at Harrenhal, the earnest conversations and the feeling of fellowship and comradery that she had found with him. He had spoken of the burdens of his title and the fact that he could have no more children with the princess. Two children, and yet he needed a son, a son that Elia Martell could not give him.
She spoke of her intense desire to not be shackled to Robert, fearing that he would become nothing more than a war mongering, wine drinking lout who would jump into the bed of any woman who so much as smiled at him. He had already fathered one child, what was to stop him from fathering another with someone else after they were married.
"I would not be insulted in such a manner," Lyanna said, some of the earlier fire that Ned remembered her having, returning with a vengeance. "He would not insult me like that."
His sister was a stranger to him.
That was the long and short of it.
"So instead, you let us all be insulted instead," he said in a much harsher voice than he had ever used before. Her eyes flashed at him. "Ned, what I did – "
"You murdered them!" he burst out, you and the prince have killed Father and Brandon as surely as if you both drove blades into their bodies. And do you feel any remorse at all? Anything?"
Before she could answer, the door to the room opened and Howland Reed stepped through, his sword still drawn and bloodied from the fight below. He looked weary and exhausted but still determined and Ned felt a surge of thankfulness for his friend.
Howland took stock of the situation and his eyes widened as they fell on Lyanna on the bed and the crying babe still in the corner. "Lord Stark?"
Ned swallowed hard, and then did so again. "Howland, might I speak with you for a moment outside?"
"Of course my lord."
Ned whirled to the serving maid who still looked terrified. "Madam, please hand the child to me."
"What are you going to do Ned?" Lyanna said from the bed looking fearful, her eyes darting from the babe to him and back. He could see her fear for her son and some part of him was warmed, knowing that perhaps not all of the sister that he had loved was lost.
"What the Stark in Winterfell commands," he said in a voice as imperious as the snows of the north before taking the child and sweeping out of the room.
"He's the prince's isn't he?" Howland asked the moment that they were alone.
Ned grimaced but nodded anyway and Howland ran a hand through his hair before cursing under his breath. "Gods, Ned, another Targaryen child…a son. Gods, that would make him the heir to the throne now that Rhaegar is dead!"
Ned was already shaking his head before his old friend could finish. "No, No Howland, no one can know who he is. The only beings alive who will ever know the truth are you and me and Lyanna. The child's safety depends on it. He cannot suffer for the mistakes of his parents."
Howland nodded slowly, still looking agitated. "Then what can we do Ned?"
The new Lord of Winterfell gazed down at his nephew, a small boy with a tuft of dark hair and grey eyes that were looking up at him with curiosity. He had calmed the moment he was settled in Ned's arms and his uncle took solace in the fact that at the very least, life had come from this war, even if the circumstances of the child's birth were less than ideal.
It was suddenly all too much and he wanted nothing more than to sit down and weep, weep for his brother and father and all the people that had been lost on account of the selfishness of two people, weep for the people that would still suffer in the aftermath. His father, Brandon, Elbert, all of his men who had died trying to enter the tower who needed to be buried, whose bodies needed to be returned to their families, for nothing more than the self-absorbed nature of two people who could not see beyond their own desire.
"We have only one option," he heard himself say. "The boy's origins must never be discovered. Tywin Lannister will hunt him to the ends of the earth. He had designs on his daughter being Rhaegar's wife before all this and now he will have designs on her being Robert's. He sent the Mountain and Amory Lorch after Princess Elia and her children to clear away all claimants to the throne and gods know what those monsters would have done had they found him. Thankfully the princess and her children had already escaped."
He neglected to mention the strange state that Aerys had been found in, bound without ropes but somehow still alert. He had immediately been sedated and with Milk of Poppy and confined to a room where he would await a trial.
There were many things about their arrival in the capital that were surprising to him. Aerys' state was one of them, the death of Lannister's dogs were another. Both of them had had their heads removed and were found lying on the ground in the corridor just outside of the royal chambers.
Ned felt sick at how close the monsters had gotten to the royal family.
He remembered that only Jaime Lannister and Lilian Tully had been there to act in Elia's defense and he was absurdly glad that they had, but also baffled as to how it had been accomplished.
But no matter.
All would be revealed in time.
"Lyanna must marry Robert," he said in a hoarse voice, feeling sick at telling his friend that his betrothed had chosen to insult him in such a way. "It is the only way to keep both her and the babe safe."
"And if she refuses?" Howland asked looking worried. Ned had briefly recounted how his sister and the prince had run off together and Lyanna clearly still held some feelings for the dragon prince. "What then?"
Truthfully, Ned did not know. He wanted to think that Lyanna still had some self-preservation instincts, if not for herself than for the life of her child.
"The child will go north," he said slowly. "He will not go to King's Landing."
"Will she be parted from him?" Howland asked again.
Ned did not want to be a monster. He did not want to separate the child from his mother. But if it was the only way to keep the both of them safe, then it was what he had to do. Lyanna's actions had shamed their entire family and if word got out that the only daughter of House Stark had run off with a married man, their name would be the laughingstock of the Seven Kingdoms, and Ned would inherit a land at war with itself. Half of their lords would be calling for Lyanna's head and the other half would wish to place her child on the throne.
Neither of those things could be allowed to happen.
"What if I were to take him then?" Howland asked suddenly. "I have no wife, I could claim him as mine and he does not resemble a Targaryen in any way. No one would think twice about my having sired a child in this war."
Ned blinked, could it really be that easy? He did not want to separate from the boy. He was a Stark after all, he should be raised in Winterfell. But he was no naïve enough to believe that his future wife would be pacified with having a bastard child in Winterfell.
His future wife…Catelyn Tully…gods.
Brandon had sworn an oath to marry her after the war was over and the oath had been good enough for Hoster Tully. But now he would be expected to pick up where his brother had not succeeded.
He didn't know Catelyn Tully. He didn't know if she would be receptive to this child. And he refused for this boy to be mistreated because of the mistakes of his parents.
Ned didn't realize that he had come to a decision until the words left his mouth.
"Howland," he began slowly. "Do you trust me?"
His friend's brows furrowed in concern. "Of course I do Ned.
"Good, then here is what we are going to do."
Howland listened to all of it silently before giving the new Lord of Winterfell a single nod. "This is acceptable Ned."
"Thank you my friend," the quiet wolf replied. "The war is over, but I fear the true fight is just beginning."
And then before the Lord of Greywater Watch could answer, Ned turned and stormed back into the room. Lyanna jumped, and turned to him, her eyes wide.
"Prince Rhaegar is dead," he bit out, some of his earlier anger returning and he took in her wide eyes and bloodless face as he delivered the news and felt some sense of vicious satisfaction. Good, let her know that she had lost as well, that they had all lost something. "He was slain at the Trident by the hand of Robert Baratheon. As such, your grand aspirations to be his queen are no more. You have insulted our house in every way and I am ashamed to call you my sister. Now then, here are your options and you will select one of them before we leave this tower:
"The first is that you will return to King's Landing and marry Robert Baratheon who even now is being proclaimed King. You will be his wife and queen and you will never make such a move to insult our family again. You will not breathe a word of what has happened in this place to anyone for if you do, your life and the life of your child will be in danger.
"If the first option is not agreeable to you, then you will return to King's Landing and tell Robert to his face that you do not wish to be his queen. After all you have done to conceal your actions, you owe him the truth at the very least. And then, you will marry Lord Reed."
"What?!" Lyanna burst out, eyes wide and staring at the Lord who was standing next to Ned grimly.
"You heard me," the Lord of Winterfell bit out. "You will agree to be a married woman before you leave this tower and whether it is the future queen Westeros or the lady of Greywater Watch, I do not care, but you will marry one of them."
"And what of my son?" Lyanna exclaimed. "Would you make him a bastard?"
"He is a bastard," Ned shot back and she reeled as if he had struck her. "You were never married to his father, he is a child born out of wedlock, hence he is illegitimate."
"He is the heir to the Seven Kingdoms – "
"No he is not!" Ned roared, shocking himself and her. "He will never be because he is a child and I refuse to waste more of the blood of the north in a futile endeavor that was born of your selfishness!"
He paused for breath before continuing. "Howland will take the child with him back to the Neck and will raise him there in safety as his son. If you become Robert's queen, you will never see him again. But if you decide to marry Howland, to the realm, he will be Howland's child and your stepchild. No one will ever know what has happened here this day. Do I make myself clear?"
The words were spoken with deadly promise and Lyanna was grey by the time he was done. She nodded somewhat frantically, and Ned felt his heart begin to break. His family was now utterly destroyed.
"Good, now tell me…what is your decision?"
Well, how's that for a twist? Lyanna has survived and is being forced to face the consequences of her actions. For those of you who think that Ned is being a bit harsh here, he's just lost his father and brother and found out that he has fought a war for nothing. He loves Jon and I want to make that clear, but he is not going to go to war for him. He is also shrewd enough to realize that he could not successfully keep Jon safe from the actions of his wife and given Catelyn's words in canon, I think that's a good idea. He knows Howland, knows that Jon will be safe with him, far more than in Winterfell and no eyes will be on him there. In canon, he didn't have much of a choice in how Jon was raised because Lyanna died. But now that she's alive, he has options.
I really wanted someone to lay into Lyanna for her selfishness and it annoys me to no end that there are people who try to justify what she did (if the theory is true of course). But there are so many people who write stories that say she was more than right to run off with a married man, be a hypocrite and essentially do everything that she accused Robert of. Now that she's alive, she's going to get a serious wake up call.
I couldn't wait to write this chapter because this when the story starts getting really juicy. Next chapter, we meet back up with Lily, Elia and Jaime in Dorne and the fallout of the war continues.
Let me know what you think and I'll see you soon.