Author's Note: Wow! Another chapter is done! So sorry about the long wait! I'm so excited about this story and I love the attention that it's getting so far! Thank you for all of your kind words, they really inspire me! Just know that I am going to be taking a lot of liberties from now on for storylines and expanding on topics for my own benefit, so please don't point it out to me later. XD Let me know what you think, seeing as it's 1:30 at night and I am exhausted! Enjoy!
Warnings: Unbeta'd and OOCness.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Word Count: 5,579
Solas hugs the small ten-year-old boy close as he talks into his ear. "You're here!" Jon says, his voice lifted in excitement. "I went back, you know, to the city. But you weren't there. You're always there, but you weren't this time. You left. But every time I went back you were not there. I wanted to go looking for you. I was so worried about the bad things outside. But you wouldn't come back. No matter how long I waited." Jon pulls back a bit as Solas goes down on one knee in front of the boy and looks up at him. Jon, not ready to completely depart, rests his hand on Solas's shoulder as if he couldn't believe that the elvish man was there.
"You didn't leave, did you?" Solas frowns, resting his staff down onto the hard earth next to him, taking Jon's little hand and resting his over on his knee. In the corner of his eye, he spots a beautiful human woman with dark red hair like fire, stepping up next to some of the guards, placing her hands on the shoulders of one of the boys.
Jon looks away, long black lashes stretching out past the bridge of his curved nose. He doesn't have to answer, though, his actions speak loud enough. Solas may not have seen the boy in two or three years since exiting the Fade, but it's nice to see that some of the little ticks that he has haven't changed. The boy is no doubt older; taller with longer limbs and a longer face. His cheeks are slimming out too, not as much baby fat.
"Jon," Solas says sharply, his eyebrows pulling together, "don't tell me that you left the palace."
"I'm sorry," Jon says softly, looking through his lashes at Solas, ashamed. He doesn't need to be a mind reader to know that Solas wasn't happy with him. Solas wasn't glaring at him, but sharp blue eyes did stare through him.
"Jon, I told you never to leave the castle," Solas says slowly, somehow managing to keep his voice even despite his anger.
The young boy turns gray eyes toward him. "But... I didn't know where you were! I was worried about you..." He studies Solas's face, his other hand, the one not resting on Solas's shoulder, moves to push some of the braids out of the elf's face. "I was worried that the monsters - "
"Demons," Solas interjects. "They aren't monsters, they are spirits and demons, Jon."
"Demons," Jon amends softly. "I was worried that the demons had hurt you."
Solas sighs, reaching up to pet the top of the boy's head. "I thank you for worrying about me, Jon, but you should never have left the castle. It is not safe out in the Fade. Do not leave it again, understood?"
Jon nods. "I didn't leave the city, I promise. I stayed close to the castle."
"Nothing spoke to you? You didn't run into anything?" Solas asks, scanning the body of the boy for any sign of demonic possession, but he doesn't see anything nor does he sense it.
Jon shakes his head. "No, I didn't run into anything. Mother was there, she scared them away."
Over the top of Jon's head, a part of Solas was always watching the Lord of Winterfell and his men. The Lord's entire posture became positively rigid when Jon passed him by, and hearing him say those words, the look that crossed his face piqued Solas's curiosity. Unlike the children, most of the men have darker, tanner faces from years outdoors, and the tan that Lord Stark has pales until there is almost no color left in his skin.
"You remember her?" Solas asks, pulling his eyes back to Jon. "It's been so long, I thought that you had forgotten her."
Jon shrugs his shoulders. "We talk about her a lot, my father and I."
The immediate image that came to Solas's mind was the large white dragon with the pretty purple eyes. Most of the time he hid behind the huge throne, allowing his child to crawl all over his face while humming softly whenever he got too rambunctious. He remembers having gone out to check on his temple when Jon had arrived while he was out. He made it back in time to see Jon's father sitting much like a dog in front of his tiny human son, neck twisted so that he is staring straight down at the boy, humming softly while the boy giggles and runs little four-year-old hands up and down the dragon's large nail, oblivious to the fact that those claws could easily slice through him.
The nail was larger than Jon was.
In all the time he spent around them, mostly just sitting around in the space they occupied while waiting for Jon to come back to them, there was never a peep from the boy's parents. But never once, for a moment, had either of them spoken at all. Their communication with one another has always been in looks and vibrations they give off in the Fade. Solas can get feelings from them but no words, no discernable way for him to understand.
"You spoke to him?" Solas asks, bringing himself back into the moment. He supposed if the dragon spoke to anyone, it would have been his own young.
Jon nods, then, "Oh, well..." he looks over his shoulder at the Lord of Winterfell, who now stands only a foot behind him, dark eyes wide and swimming with confusion and worry, "with my living father, I did."
"Jon..." Lord Stark says softly, looking at the little boy for a moment before Solas, expression hardening with worry and trepidation. "Who are you, stranger?" Mistrust and unease shine in his eyes as the frown on his face becomes more pronounced. "And how do you know my son?"
"Forgive me, my name is Solas," the ancient elf says, tipping his head in greeting. His mind is spinning. He admittedly didn't know everything there was to know about human anatomy, but there isn't a way for there to be two fathers and one mother, is there? Biologically speaking. He's pretty sure it works the same way for humans as it does for elves. So who is the real father? This man, or the dragon? Solas thought he had a good idea of what was going on, but now he's not so sure. Jon doesn't appear to know the difference between the two men. To him, they must both be his father. One in the Fade and one in the waking world.
Solas sense something in the air and the tension in the Lord of Winterfell leads him to believe that there is definitely more going on than he knows.
"Ned," the woman says, giving Solas a weary, mistrusting look, "what is going on?"
"Go inside, Cat," the Lord of Winterfell says, not even looking over his shoulder at her. His eyes are locked onto Solas. The men sense the tension in their lord's voice, and glare at Solas, ready to draw their swords and defend their lord and house if they need to. "Take Theon, Robb, and Jon inside."
"Father..." Jon looks over at the Lord of Winterfell, eyebrows pulling together tightly in worry, "he's my friend. He just got here."
"What does he mean?" the woman asks, walking forward until she is right next to the Lord, her blue eyes burning hotter than veil fire and asks, in a harsh whisper as not to be overheard, even by the men behind her, "Eddard Stark, what did he mean when he said 'living father'?" Lord Stark's eyes close as this horrible look crosses over his face. Worry, fear, tension, agony, and then defeat.
Solas can feel the lie that hangs between them drawing the life out of the Lord of Winterfell. When gray Stark eyes meet the hot blue of the red-haired woman, Solas can see the love and regret in his eyes. Whatever this lie is, he hated having to tell it, and he hated having to tell it to her especially. Their years together must have built an understanding between them in such a way that when their eyes met, she seemed to realize something. Her face goes slack as she studies his, as if unable to understand her own thoughts.
"Lady Catelyn doesn't know about my other father and my mother," Jon says to Solas. Then he turns his eyes to the Lord of Winterfell. "Mother is sad for the pain she brought you, father."
At that moment, Solas felt her; the she-wolf. His eyes draw up to the wall surrounding Winterfell to see her large, imposing figure perched up there, looking down at them. Even in the waning light her fur is sleek black and rolls off her like darkness. The Fade ripples around her as she paces back and forth slowly, eyes locked onto the Warden of the North. Those untrained wouldn't be able to see her, but her presence speaks volumes to Solas. So this is where she went. She latched onto Jon at some point, he suspects, and when he woke up in the physical world, he brought her with, as a Dreamer could. She must have been roaming about like a wolf spirit in the physical world for years now.
That must be why he sometimes goes months in the Fade without seeing her. She's so protective she can't leave her son alone. No matter which world he's in. Yes, Solas had no doubt that she was his mother. Her eyes meet Solas's and she tips her head in greeting, recognition clashing in her dark gray eyes, even in the waning light. She looks down at the Lord of Winterfell, her ears dipping low, as if sad before she turns around and leaps off of the wall and into Winterfell somewhere.
Solas glances down at Jon, to see that his eyes were following her too. Jon finally looks over at Lord Stark, slowly blinking big gray eyes. "Are you mad that I've been talking to mother and father?" Jon looks like a little, wilting flower. His 'living' father definitely means a lot to him. But Solas can't figure out what the problem is between them. Something is going on here, that he's missing, but it seems like years of cultivating this... whatever it is, and they seem to be tearing it apart stitch by stitch in moments.
And the way that Lord Stark is staring at them, he doesn't seem to appreciate it either.
"Ned?" The woman asks slowly. "What is going on?"
The handful of people that gathered in Ned Stark's study are as follows; Ned Stark; lord of Winterfell, Catelyn Stark; lady of Winterfell, Rodrik Cassel; master-at-arms and loyal knight for House Stark, Maester Luwin; Maester and longtime friend and trusted ally of the Starks, Jon Snow; supposed bastard son of Ned, and Solas; the strange elf that is somehow friends with Jon.
Jon is the only one sitting down, in Ned's chair on the other side of the large desk, looking impossibly small. All of the adults in the room stand around in front of the desk, staring at each other. Solas isn't sure he knows how he got trapped in the middle of this situation, but he's got to wonder if it's entirely Jon's fault or not. He's going to bet the only part of it that's his own fault is that he couldn't leave the little boy alone. Despite what he thought since leaving the Fade, he can't abandon Jon, even though this situation is just getting worse and worse.
"What is going on?" Catelyn asks again, looking over at Ned.
Ned doesn't look like he knows how to answer that. He looks over at Jon as if the answer is floating around the little boy's head. He stares back innocently, not certain he knows what's going on. At least Solas is on the same page as the ten-year-old.
"I suppose I should start, then," Solas says, seeing as no one knows how to address this strange situation that they are in. "My name is Solas, I am an Elf from Thedas."
"Where is Thedas?" Ned asks, seemingly happy that he doesn't have to face his wife yet. She looks at him with a frown but figures that this is going to ultimately lead to the answer to her question so that she can let it go for now. "In Essos?"
Solas shakes his head. "No, it is the continent of Thedas, and it's south of Essos."
"Forgive me," Catelyn says, crossing her hands neatly in front of her, "Ser, but what is an Elf."
"Oh," Solas shakes his head again, "my lady, I am no Ser. I am a mage, not a knight. And I am an Elf. A species that has existed long before humans did. Personally, my lineage isn't all that impressive, but my people have a long, and interesting history. We used to have an Empire that spanned the majority of the world. But now, as far as I've seen my people aren't in Essos or Westeros." He shrugs his shoulders.
The Maester perks up at this, from where he was looking at the map of Essos and Westeros behind Jon's head on the wall, seeing the top of Thedas at the very bottom of the map, over to Solas. "A mage? What is a mage?"
"Solas knows how to do magic!" Jon practically yells, making everyone in the room jump, having forgotten that he was there.
"Yes," Solas says, noting that everyone is looking between the two of them, not sure where to go with this. "Magic isn't in abundance in Westeros, but it is particularly strong in the North and in your family. I am a mage, thus I control magic, as it were." He waves his hands around and gentle embers of fire trickle from his fingers in the air around him before it vanishes.
The immediate imagination was awe, then varying degrees of wonder and fear. Maester Luwin reaches up to touch the chains around his neck, dark eyes wide as he watches the flickering embers sputter out before even hitting the floor. He looks like a million questions just crossed his mind. "Magic? Real magic! Can you do more? How is it done? Are there more like you? Did you say that magic is here in the North?"
Solas doesn't miss a beat. "Yes, it is real magic. I can do plenty more. Magic comes from within and takes years of practice to perfect. And there are plenty of others just like me, not as many as in my childhood, but still a decent amount. And yes, there is magic here in the North. Particularly here." Solas looks over at Ned. "You have strong magic in your blood and it seems to have passed on to your children. At least the boy out there." He nods over to the door, sensing the little magical power beings listening in on the other side of the door.
Catelyn jerks, then stomp across the room and open the door. "Robb Stark!" She swings the door open and reaches out to grab onto her son's arm before he can run away. He looks sheepish when she pulls him into the room. She pauses and peaks out into the hall before closing the door and glares down at her oldest son. "Was Theon with you?" He opens his mouth before she cuts in, "Don't you dare lie to me."
He swallows worriedly. His dark eyes flicker around the room, shrinking when his eyes land on the disapproving look his father is directing toward him. Jon smiles at his brother.
"He's not out there," Robb says, blinking long, thick lashes up at his mother for sympathy and mercy. He hesitated, glancing over at Solas, curiously. "I just wanted to know what was going on."
"By spying?" Catelyn asks, frowning. "That is very dishonest."
Robb looks ashamed, wilting much like Jon did earlier as Catelyn walks him over to his father, her hands on his shoulders to keep him in place. "I'm sorry, mother, father. I didn't mean to be dishonest. I was just worried. You looked so mad, father." He looks over at his father again, sadly. "I'm sorry."
Ned sighs, rubbing at his forehead, as if suddenly tired. "Thank you for worrying about us, Robb, but it's fine." He crosses his arms over his chest. "You don't have to worry. Everything is going to be okay." He hesitates then reaches out and cups his son's cheeks, he offers a small smile for the boy.
Robb smiles back at his father. Then he looks over at Solas, curiously. "Can you really do magic?"
"Robb - " Ned starts but Jon is already jumping in.
"Yes! He can!" Jon bounces out of his seat and runs over to Robb. "Solas has been teaching me the basics, but won't teach me any spells until I was a little older! But I was really young then, so maybe he'll teach both of us!"
"Spells?" Robb echoes, his eyes blown wide. "Like what? What can we do?"
"Fire!" Jon says. "Oh! And protection spells! Shoot lightning from our fingertips!"
Robb's eyes get wider and wider, practically bouncing in excitement. Both boys are jumping up in down, blabbing in excitement at one another as the adults stare on in a mixture of horror and wonder.
"Offensive spells aren't going to be a reality for you for a long time," Solas says, shaking his head. "You will learn the basics and the first spells I will teach you will be either defensive or supplimentive. Throwing fireballs and shooting lightning may come later, but not while you're so young."
"Wait, what are you teaching them? What?" Catelyn asks, shaking her head.
"Nothing for now," Solas says, looking down at the little boy that he's watched grow up for the most part. "It's been a few years since I've seen Jon. And he has significant magical abilities, he has a ways to go before he's ready to be doing anything like that. I am willing to train all the mage children if you would like. At least I'll know that they are being trained properly."
Catelyn looks over at Ned borderline alarmed. "I don't know about this. It sounds very dangerous, and magic hasn't done anyone any good."
Solas frowns at that. "How so? Magic is the foundation in which this world was built upon. From the feel of this place, and your reaction to magic gives me the impression that it has all but been lost here. Make no mistake, Lady Stark, magic isn't something that can be avoided. Especially your son, and Jon. They are both powerful in their magic. They should be properly trained. It would be disastrous, otherwise."
Now even Ned is concerned, eyebrows pulling together tightly as he releases Robb's face. "What do you mean? Is something going to happen to them?"
Solas crosses his arms over his chest. "It's hard to say. I don't believe your son is a Dreamer, as Jon is. But his magical powers will be enough to draw the attention of demons within the Fade. It's best that, at the very least, you allow me to teach them how to protect themselves from possession and attacks within the Fade."
Now all the remaining adults are shifting, alarmed at the prospect of the children being endangered.
"If magic runs in my blood, how come I'm not in danger?" Ned asks, trying to keep as rational as possible. "Or anyone else in my family. I have a brother too. How come he isn't in danger?"
Solas doesn't miss a beat. "My guess is either he isn't magical like you are, or you both are in danger, you just don't realize it. Magic is so stagnant here that the Fade is extraordinarily strong so it is harder for demons and other spirits to interact with your part of the world, but of the limited places I have been here in the North - between White Harbor and here - Winterfell is the weakest point in the Veil. Unfortunately, the more mages brought together the more attention from the Fade you'll get."
"Even if they are untrained?" The Master-at-arms asks, trying to wrap his mind around all of this.
"They are more appealing if they are untrained," Solas says. "But worry not. I have spent a great deal of my life in the Fade and have met many different spirits and demons. I will be able to help them to identify them should they have to, and how to avoid any trouble, if it can be avoided."
There is a beat of silence before Ned asks, "You can see spirits? This Fade place is where you see spirits? Is that how you know about Jon?"
"When we dream we go to the Fade," Solas says easily. "Everyone, mages or not. The Fade is the place our unconscious mind goes as we dream. Most appear in the Fade as wisps of frosty light. They are easy to miss and mostly overlooked by the spirits there because they are so numerous in number and it is difficult to influence someone who isn't as deeply connected to the Fade as someone like myself would be. Mages, however, appear in the Fade like twinkling starlight. They are brighter and attract more attention, which is why having more and more mages gathered together makes the situation harder to ignore for demons and other spirits."
"This Fade place is where people go to dream..." Maester Luwin asks slowly, trying to wrap his mind around all of this, "is also where the dead go when they die? Is that it?"
"Is that where you met Lyanna?" Ned asks suddenly. The kids look confused but Catelyn, Luwin, and Rodrik become rigid, looking over at the Warden of the North with confusion.
"Lyanna? Your sister?" Catelyn asks, and suddenly it all makes sense to Solas. Well, not all of it. Just the connection between Ned and Jon becomes clear.
Solas's narrow blue eyes widen at his realization. "You are Jon's uncle. Not his father. The wolf," he says, shaking his head, "it makes sense now."
Jon's thin dark eyebrows pull together in confusion in tandem with the boy next to him. Both of them utter a high pitched, "What?" that was easily drowned out by Catelyn's sharper one.
"He's your... he's Lyanna's..." Catelyn continues, her own blue eyes widen enough for Solas to fear that they may pop out of her head. She looks down at Jon as if seeing him now in an entirely different light than before. Her surprise quickly fizzles away and a deep-rooted shame takes its place. Her grip on her son's shoulders tighten and the shame colors her face red. "Oh, by the gods..."
"If Robert knew the truth... that Lyanna bore a child..." Ned hesitates, looking down at Jon now with sad eyes before looking between the three other adults in the room besides himself and Solas. "You know what he did - or I suppose, allowed to happen - to Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys. I couldn't..." He shakes his head again, rubbing at his forehead, exhausted. "I couldn't let him do that. Not to Lyanna's child. Not to the only piece of my sister left in this world."
Catelyn's shoulders droop as she stares into Ned's eyes, looking tired and defeated. "You lied. He isn't your blood."
Ned's expression hardens, locking eyes with his wife. "He is my blood. He is my son. He was born of my sister and Rhaegar Targaryen, but he is my blood and my son." The boys look back and forth confused, trying to follow along with what's happening.
Those words that once seemed like they brought Catelyn physical pain and sadness, now seems to bring her a mixture of relief and shame. If Solas had to guess, Catelyn Stark must have thought that Jon was born of infidelity on her husband's part and that was probably the reason for Jon's adamant belief that "Lady Stark doesn't like me".
Solas isn't sure how he feels about Catelyn's treatment of Jon, or if he's allowed to feel any sort of way for it, but he's not sure it matters much anymore. It seems like all, or at least most, of her resentment toward him is because of his birth and the circumstances that surrounded it. With that no longer being in question, perhaps the issue has simply solved itself. However, Solas isn't liking the indication that this Robert person is dangerous in regards to Jon and whatever it was that he "allowed" happen to whomever this Prince and Princess where. Especially since it sounds like there is still a tangible connection between the Lord of Winterfell and this Robert person. This leaves a very sour distaste in his mouth. He doesn't care who this person is, he won't allow anyone to harm Jon. No one.
"Jon..." Solas says slowly, drawing the eyes of the other adults back to him, "is a dreamer. He is able to physically manifest in the Fade, which makes him an extraordinary catch for a hungry demon. They would be able to latch onto his soul and he could bring them into the physical world far easier than any other type of mage could. I met Jon in the Fade when he was but a baby. Probably about two or three. He was crying in a nearby palace when I stumbled upon him. His mother and father were standing guard, protecting him in the Fade."
Ned's eyes flash in pain at the mention of Jon's parents. No doubt the mention of his sister who it seems passed shortly after Jon was born. "You saw her? You saw Lyanna?"
Solas sighs. "Unfortunately, the human part of your sister is gone. Her spirits true form awakened and it is all we can interact with now."
Ned looks confused. "What does that mean? What's her spirits true form?"
"That of a she-wolf."
The laugh that escapes him makes all the inhabitants in the room jump in surprise. None of them had expected that, or the softest, most loving expression that crosses his face at that. "I bet," he says mirthfully. "She was always a she-wolf." Then with a more somber expression, he asks, "Does that mean that Rhaegar was there too?"
"I'm assuming that is Jon's father?" Solas asks slowly, hoping that he's getting all these names right. Ned nods. "Yes, he was there. His human form was also gone, but his spirits true form was there to help the she-wolf - Lyanna - in protecting him."
Ned shakes his head slowly. "Let me guess; a dragon?"
Now Solas is shocked. "Yes. How did you know?"
Ned waves the question away. "Something tells me that you are going to be spending a lot of time with us. That part will become clear soon enough, I think. So they are in this place whenever Jon sleeps, protecting him?"
"Well, my father is," Jon says, scratching at the back of his messy black curls. "Mother came with me to Winterfell."
Everyone's eyes bug out at that before they are all talking at once and looking at Solas as their magical expert. Their concern and awe are written across their faces. Solas has to hold up a hand to silence all of them at once.
"I saw her just becoming into Winterfell. That is what I was worried about with Jon, yet Lyanna seems to be doing just fine. She didn't seem like she was in any trouble," Solas shrugs. "Although it's not a good idea for a spirit to be outside the Fade for too long. I'm not sure what she's doing, but she should return as soon as she can. No doubt she's using Jon to bounce back and forth between the Fade and the physical world, the problem is that Jon's power is still unstable. He doesn't go to the Fade every night as he should, or at least he did the last time I saw him, which means she's being held together here by her will alone and that's dangerous for a spirit."
"Isn't this Fade place where you are supposed to go when you sleep?" Luwin asks, confused. "If he's not going there when he sleeps, then where does he go?"
Solas considers how to answer this. "He is still going to the Fade, but he's not using his powers as a Dreamer, so he's not manifesting right away. My guess is she is using that to travel. It takes a lot of energy to physically pass through the Veil, and Lyanna is using Jon's inborn ability to look out for him in the physical world."
"Will she be okay?" Ned asks, worried.
Solas nods. "Yes, I believe so. Thankfully, I can bring her back if she needs it but I won't allow her to latch onto me and come back and forth and I suggest that Jon learn to deny her as well. She isn't thinking like a human any longer. She's thinking like a mother wolf. Jon is her pup and she's protecting him, but she can't be here in the physical world. It's not safe, or natural for her anymore. She has to remain in the Fade."
Ned looks sad by that. "Is that what is best for her?"
Solas nods. "It is." The Lord of Winterfell seems reluctant but accepts that Solas seems to know what he's talking about.
The Warden of the North lets out a long, deep sigh before lowering down to a knee in front of Jon Snow and Robb Stark, reaching out to take a hand from each boy. They both stare down at him with rapt attention, hanging on his every word. "Listen to me closely, boys. What you have heard today, about Jon and Lyanna and all of that, cannot be uttered to another. Jon would be in grave danger is anyone knew, do you understand?" Ned asks, sparing a glance up at Luwin and Rodrik, both of which nod their heads in unison with the boys. "Utter not a word to a soul. Not even your siblings. Never."
He gives both boys a nice hard stare, to which both met back evenly with a soft, "Yes, father." Ned smiles sadly, squeezing both of their hands.
There is a long moment of silence where no one says anything. This was a lot of information for everyone to digest. Solas could see everyone was lost to their thoughts, as he was lost to his before Jon's soft voice draws him back to the present, "Solas?"
"Are you going to stay here?" Jon looks up at the elf with purple ringed gray eyes.
Solas wasn't sure if he would be allowed. They had yet to get to that part of the discussion. "I suppose I would like to if Lord Stark would allow it. I want to keep an eye on you."
Jon smiles at him before looking down at Ned again. "Father?"
Ned's smile sent back up at Jon is tender and loving, already knowing what his nephew was going to say. "Jon?"
"Can Solas stay? I promise I won't ask for anything else again. He's my friend and it's been such a long time since I've last seen him."
Ned squeezes Jon's hand lovingly before he stands up and releases both the boys. "Solas?"
The elf tilts his head to the side. "Lord Stark?"
"Can you teach them to protect themselves? From those demon-things, I mean. I don't know about throwing fire or any of that, but some way to keep them safe in that place I can't protect them?" He asks.
Solas nods. "Certainly. I came here to be with Jon and to help him train. I do not mind teaching your other children as well. Knowledge is meant to be shared after all, and we enrich our lives by experiencing all that we can. It would be my honor." He tips his head, respectfully.
"Thank you," Ned says before holding out his hand for Solas to take, and after a beat, he does and they shake on it. "Welcome to Winterfell, Solas."