A/N:
Credit to DylanTheDemon who is serving as co-author on this story (along with working in the backroom for my other series).


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Prologue 5

Oberyn and his daughters stayed at Starfall for around three weeks before leaving. In that time Oberyn spoke with me a few more times, though he didn't attempt any further training for me. However, Obara and Nymeria both offered me pointers at random points during their time in the castle.

After they left, life returned to normal for my family. Sadly for me, that meant a return to my lessons with Cordin. Three more months of practising my Common Tongue and reviewing the houses, banners, and words of all the current houses of Westeros took place before my lessons changed.

After that, mother allowed my education to evolve. My lessons changed to the history of Westeros – focusing on the times since the Conquest or events in Dorne like the arrival of the Rhoynish – and elementary mathematics. That soon changed to, for Westeros, advanced mathematic and basic science terms.

On my fourth nameday, along with my gifts from my family (which mainly consisted of books and new clothes), was a package from Oberyn. Inside were two wooden daggers, though for me they were more akin to longswords, and a note from the prince. In it, he stated that he hoped I would enjoy his gift, and trained regularly with them as when he next met, he would want to see improvement from my first attempt.

While that wouldn't be hard – I could barely lift a small branch and hold a stance for more than half a minute – the fact I'd gained his attention was good. I'd wanted that because he was one of the better fighters I knew of (so long as he wasn't thinking about his sister) and held enough power in Dorne to, potentially, be useful to my plans for the future. Said plans were still all on the drawing board, so to speak, but most involved me staying and being trained in Dorne for at least my first ten years.

However, mother had been seething about the prince's gift, and I wasn't given the daggers to train with for a week after my nameday. Sometime later mother told me she was both angry with the prince for trying to circumvent her instructions and also that they might be a danger to me. From that, I suspected she meant that the daggers may have been soaked in poison.

While it was unlikely that Oberyn would've done something so obvious – and since I did eventually get them, hadn't been the case – I could understand her fears. I was a bastard of House Stark, with my uncle being referred to by some in Dorne as the Usurper's loyal dog. That characterisation irritated me, but I let the comments go as, quite frankly, I had more important things to be concerned about. Namely my studies and training.

After about a moon mother had relented in letting me train and Uncle Benjen had taken control of my training, for which I was only allowed one hour a day with the training daggers – my mother putting her foot down in a slightly irrational but expected way – though I quickly found a way around that ruling. With Benjen's help, I began simple physical training. I didn't want to push my young body too hard as if I recalled correctly too much exercise at a young age was dangerous, but I still wanted to begin training my body for the challenges that life would throw at me. This was further helped by getting riding lessons, which was something I had never learnt in my old life.

One thing I'd started doing, both with the daggers and with other things like my writing lessons, was using both hands. I was pleased that I was still left-handed in my new life – having to retrain my mind to use another hand would be weird as fuck – and both Ser Bradyn and Benjen commented that it would give me a slight advantage against some people but being able to use either hand would be an even greater advantage. Though I wasn't sure if I'd dual-wield. While that was fun in games, this wasn't a game.

One thing I discovered was that, even though I could remember how I'd learnt to fight in my old life, I struggled to train my new body in those methods. Now, some of the movements and katas were beyond my current body, but several of the ones that I should have been able to work through I couldn't. Much like when I'd tried to adopt a basic stance for Oberyn, it was as if something was blocking me from being able to move my body correctly. Hopefully, once I turned five and learnt how and why I was reborn here that would become clearer; though a part of me suspected it wouldn't.

About a half a moon after my nameday, Joenne revealed she was with child. That made everyone in the castle happier and meant my Seven-loving goodaunt got off my case (slightly) about my father's family being heathens for following false gods. If not for my mother and uncle doing their best to keep me away from her, I might've ended up grounded again for cursing. Though with the number of curses floating around my head whenever she brought up the 'glory of the Seven-Who-Are-One', if I verbalised them, I'd likely be kicked out of the castle.

However, near the end of the year, the child – that I later learnt was a girl – was stillborn, which left both my uncle and goodaunt in, an understandably, sour mood. During that time mother and grandmother took over many of the duties of the lord and lady of a castle. When Joenne finally broke from her funk, tension existed between her and my mother; likely due to some fear Joenne had that mother was trying to undermine her and ensure that she would inherit Starfall once my uncle died.

One upside to mother having to spend more time ruling was that I was finally taken out of Starfall. Mother had to meet with the mayor of the nearest town, Riverguard, which sat on the western shore of the Torrentine river a league downriver of the tidal limit. From what I knew, there were two more towns and a dozen or so villages dotted around the territory controlled by Starfall, though all bar Stonepass – which sat on the eastern banks of the Torrentine – were further upriver or along the mountain passes that led into Dorne and the Reach.

Further upriver were the lands of Daynes of High Hermitage; a cadet family of House Dayne that, in theory, guarded the upper reaches of the river for House Dayne. However, from the way mother and Cordin spoke of them, there were clearly tensions between the two branches of the Daynes. Even further upriver was the territory of House Blackmont, my grandmother's house of birth.

Getting out of Starfall was nice, though I wasn't allowed to ride by myself just yet and Riverguard was, frankly, an unimpressive place. While the size was hard to tell given I didn't get to explore the town, it likely didn't have more than seven thousand residents and the place seemed a touch empty. When I asked about that, mother informed me that many of the men of fighting age had died during Robert's Rebellion (though she referred to it as the War of the Usurper). The place also stunk of fish. While that wasn't unexpected – it was a town on the coast – the smell was worse than what I remembered from similar towns back in Scotland.

A raven arrived later in the year announcing Prince Joffrey's birth, which landed him on my kill list. While I'd always expected for that to be the case, with the changes that had occurred since my birth, I held off on doing so until he was confirmed to exist. Now, there was a small, almost insignificant, chance he wouldn't grow to be a spoilt sadist, but until I knew for sure, I'd leave him on the list. Another thing was that I had no hint of his colouring, so I couldn't say for certain that he was the bastard of Jamie and not the trueborn heir to the Iron Throne. I'd had a sleepless night as I considered the idea that he would be just as bad as I expected but trueborn as that would royally fuck up so many things.

That idea, like many, was making my mental list of how to go about things, who to watch, who to kill and the like grow massively. The ripples of my birth had forced me into all but ignoring my metaknowledge beyond having a possible – maybe even likely – direction of the Seven Kingdoms over the next ten or so years. Thus, I had to make plans, counter plans and multiple contingencies for things that might or might not happen. That had me having respect for the work Varys and Baelish did in manipulating whole kingdoms to serve their goals.

Thankfully training in the yard, learning to ride, or physical exercise helped my mind let go of my concerns about the future. Uncle Benjen had even commented – more than once – that I seemed more at peace after a training session than before.

It also helped that I could now count the number of months until my fifth nameday – and learning how and why I was here – on one hand.

… …


… …

It was about a moon until the turn of the year, and I found myself standing alone outside the Lord's solar. Why mother wasn't with me was strange, but I had to assume she was either busy with something else or was already inside.

This was the first time I'd been invited in since my outburst over Alysanne Snow; though it had taken me a long time to not call her Fem!Jon in my head. I was still confused as to why Ned had revealed that, but my best guess was that learning about my birth knocked him off his stride. Still, it was a strange choice for him to make and would likely make things interesting in the future. Of that I was certain.

One of the two guards knocked on the door, and a moment later my uncle's voice called out. "Enter."

The other guard pushed the door open, and I walked in to see my uncle, goodaunt, and mother sitting around the table. None of them looked happy but, and the glare Joenne sent my way had me concerned that I was here because of an incident with Septa Railey a few days ago.

Two days ago, I'd had the misfortune to knock over the Septa. She'd screamed about the objects she'd been carrying; claiming that they were meant for the Sept but were now covered in mud. I'd retorted that could be fixed by covering the entire Sept in mud and maybe suggested that would be an improvement. Unsurprisingly she didn't take that well, and against the demands of Benjen – who as normal, was watching my training – dragged me towards the main hall screaming about my blasphemy. Mother had intercepted the Septa, and while barely managing to contain her anger at the Septa's actions towards me, promised I'd be punished for my mistakes. So far, however, nothing had happened.

Whatever the reason for me coming here was, it was clear Joenne was aware of my comments to the Septa. Which was an issue as my goodaunt was a fervent follower of the Seven, more so than even the Septa. She reminded me heavily of the worst elements of religions in my old life. Preaching loudly about the virtues of their religions, being blind to and contradictions or flaws within, and slamming any other religion.

"You summoned me?" I asked, having given up on making mistakes in my Common to hide my intelligence. While I wasn't sure how well that had worked, with me being nearly five, I saw no need to hide my intelligence as much.

Mother turned at my voice and my uncle looked up for the table. "Ah, Cregan. Yes, I called for you because there is a matter that needs to be discussed."

"I'm sorry for what I said to the Septa." I offered, hoping to cut off a lecture before Joenne could start on one. "She just wasn't very nice to me after I accidentally knocked her over."

Aldric snorted before glancing at his wife. "While that still has to be resolved, that isn't why I summoned you." He began but my focus had shifted to my mother.

While there was a smile on her face, it felt forced as it didn't reach her eyes. In addition, her fists were clenched tightly enough that her knuckles were white and her lips thin suggesting she was angry about something.

"Mother?" I asked as I stepped forward and placed my small hand on one of her fists.

I felt some of her tension dissipate as she replied. "I'm alright little one." She shifted and glared at her brother. "Your uncle has just been discussing a topic that I have no interest in."

Aldric shook his head and sighed. "I am aware of your opinions on the matter, Ash. However, it isn't something we can keep avoiding and I felt having Cregan here might help you come to a decision." He focused on me as he continued. "The issue here, Cregan, is that your mother has received offers of marriage. Offers that would mean the both of you leaving Starfall."

"From whom?" I asked slowly. While I had expected there to be offers for her hand – mother was gorgeous after all – I wasn't keen on going to a place where bastards were looked down on, or the faith of the Seven was strong: basically, anywhere that wasn't the North or Dorne.

"Houses Hightower, Costayne and Vaith," Aldric began. "Garth Hightower is from the most prestigious house, though he is only the second son of Lord Leyton Hightower and won't inherit Oldtown. Tommen Costayne is the heir to his house while Daeron Vaith is a young, unmarried lord to House Vaith."

I pulled the information about each from my mind. Hightower was easily the largest, which was what Aldric had stated, and mother marrying into their house would place me near the Citadel. While that seemed interesting, there was a concern that the Hightowers would try to push mother to send me to the Maesters. That is something I'd fight against, and if she capitulated to those theoretical demands, I'd be forced to run away from home to avoid.

House Costayne was a minor house from the Reach that was about two-thirds of the way between Starfall and Oldtown. That was easily my least favourite choice as the house was minor, in the Reach and on the coast; meaning it would be a likely target for Ironborn attacks. Sadly, the one book I'd read didn't mention when the Greyjoy Rebellion took place, beyond it happening about a decade before the canon timeline.

House Vaith was in Dorne, however it was a very minor house on the river Vaith; one of the tributaries of the Greenblood. Mother marrying into House Vaith would at least let me stay in Dorne.

Still, as I considered the options – none of which were great – another option came to me. "What about uncle Benjen?" I offered, though that made mother snort derisively.

"I will not marry the youngest brother of your father." She replied tensely. "I know your grandfathers were considering for me to marry Eddard, but Benjen is neither him nor Brandon."

Well that was a blunt dismissal.

I knew mother wasn't happy with Benjen being here to help train/protect me, but obviously I'd missed something between them. I'd realised things between them had grown tense after my last nameday – and Oberyn's gift of wooden training daggers – but I hadn't realised things were still frosty.

"That and I would prefer my daughter and grandchild were close enough that visiting them would be feasible." Grandmother added, which drew a glare from Joenne. The woman was still, righty, testy after the stillbirth of her child, but this fear she held that Ashara would one day become the Lady of Starfall was just irrational. I mean, they were discussing marrying her off and sending her away from the castle and they had years to birth an heir.

I put my goodaunt's misplaced anger out of my mind as another suggestion came to me. This one was, well, different but if there were going to be ripples, why shouldn't I create ones that might benefit me.

"What about Prince Oberyn?" I suggested, drawing a sharp intake of breath from mother as everyone turned to look at me.

"What?" Mother asked as she pulled her hand away from mine. It might have been subconsciously as her reaction was as if I'd somehow burnt her.

"The prince is unmarried and it would be a good political match." Aldric offered, making my mother's head snap around so fast I wore I heard her neck complain.

"He has a paramour! One I have spoken to on occasion." Mother snapped in what was likely meant to be a counterpoint. However, her knowing Ellaria made it a better choice because I doubted that – no matter how beautiful mother was – Oberyn would give up his paramour for her.

"Then you are already comfortable with her? Good." Aldric responded, seemingly in agreement with my logic.

"This is Dorne, my child," grandmother began to add, "not King's Landing. Such things are common and even your father had one for a time. As do I."

I felt my brow rise at hearing that my grandmother was still active. Though since she was in her forties, it wasn't too shocking. Though the rapid-fire images of her doing… that which flashed through my mind were things I never wanted to consider.

"Mother! Think of Cregan!" Mother snapped back as I felt her hands reach for me. A moment later her hands were over my ears.

"I'm sure he's met Valdrion around Starfall." Grandmother replied as I slipped free of my mother's grasp. "Besides, I remember catching you and a young lady-in-waiting in certain situations when you were younger."

I really, really didn't need to hear that. Not when I already knew what my mother looked like naked and had issues dreaming about her.

"MOTHER!" My mother screeched, making me wince, as Aldric fought to hide his amusement behind a hand. However, I saw that Joenne wasn't in any way happy about this. Sadly it seemed even though she was Dornish, her beliefs about the Seven – and its issues against such relationships – overrode that. Which made me wonder if the members of her family were happy that she was now married and living in a different castle.

"And there were those rumours about you and a certain Princess of the Seven Kingdoms." Grandmother continued, making me wish I could clear such memories from my mind. Or wish I was older and not related to her so I could enjoy what my imagination was bombarding my mind with.

I turned to look at my mother and saw her staring at my grandmother in open-mouthed shock. Her mouth began to move, though no sound came out, making her look like a drowning fish. My mind wandered for a moment as I considered mother and Princess Elia enjoying themselves, though quickly I shook my head to clear said images. Those were so not things I needed rattling around in there.

A cough drew my attention to my uncle as he covered his mouth. His face was red and there were hints of water around his eyes as he strained to speak. "M-moving on. Would you be averse to a raven being sent to see if the prince is interested in such a match?" He asked while trying to keep his tone neutral.

"I, uh, ah, o-okay." Mother finally managed to get out as I saw Joenne's face was so red I was worried for a moment that she might explode. Which would be something I'd paid to have happen. Fucking religious wackjob.

"Good. I believe we can end this here, and Cregan, thank you for the suggestion." My uncle said, looking down at me at the end.

I smiled up at him as mother stood, for the first time in a while carrying me as she turned to leave. Normally, I would've complained about that, but given to rumours about her brought up – by her mother no less – and the out of right field suggestion I made about Oberyn, I was willing to allow it.

Thus, as my mother moved through the corridors of Starfall, seemingly in a daze about where she was going, I let my mind wander to the idea of Oberyn becoming my stepfather; or however it was referred to here. The ripples and alterations to the timeline from this, while not on the scale of Alysanne – after all, what could be – were going to be massive.

… …


… …

The time between the discussion regarding suitors for my mother's hand and my fifth nameday seemed to pass a snail's pace. Which was in no way helped by Lady Joenne all but demanding that my punishment for knocking over Septa Railey and then commenting on the decorations of the Sept resulted in me having to help clean said building for a moon.

One day rolled into the next, and while I was enjoying my training with uncle Benjen – both physical and martial – and my more advanced – for my age – lessons with Cordin, things just felt as if they were slowing down substantially. Now, Cordin's lessons were enjoyable, and I had started learning botany – though that was mainly how to recognize certain plants and the properties they held – and, after some persuasion, what little he knew about old Valyria, including rumours and stories regarding their magic.

Now, Cordin lacked the link of Valyrian steel on his Maester's chain that would signify an understanding of such subjects, but he had some books on the topic. However, in every discussion or lesson that dealt with old Valyria, or any subject where 'magic' was involved, he was dismissive of the idea. About the only magical topic that he didn't dismiss was dragons, though if he had I'd have questioned his mental faculties. As it was, it took a lot for me to stomach such the anti-magic agenda that he was trying to imprint upon me and not respond that he was talking out of his arse. Though one thing that did help temper my urge to respond was that, barring my rebirth here, I'd yet to see any sign that this version of Planetos had magic: well, outside of freaking dragons.

About two moons before my nameday, I was once more summoned to the Lord's solar. There I learnt that not only had Oberyn and Doran responded to my suggestion – though Aldric explained he'd left that part of the message – but that the details of the wedding had been discussed. Apparently, at my mother's insistence, the wedding was to take place a few days before my fifth nameday.

Learning of my mother's apparent acceptance of the marriage, I'd asked her why she'd agreed. She'd revealed that years before Elia married Rhaegar Elia and Oberyn had come to Starfall with their mother; the then ruling Princess of Dorne. That voyage had been to find suitors for the pair, and while no marriage came from their visit to Starfall, mother became close to both and would later serve as a lady-in-waiting to Elia once she wed Rhaegar. She danced around how close she'd become to the princess, but I heavily suspected that my grandmother's comments had an air of truth to them.

Mother then explained that, while she would prefer to stay unmarried and raise me in Starfall, she accepted the fact she needed to marry. House Dayne had cast their lot with the Targaryens before the war and, with the Usurper now on the throne, their standing outside of Dorne was at an all-time low. Bonding their house to the Martells, while making the King (though at no time did mother refer to Robert as that) even less happy with them, would secure their standing in Dorne.

When I asked her about her feelings regarding Oberyn, she'd blushed and looked away before commenting that he had a certain charm to him. Though not in the same way my father had. She also mentioned that from the ravens she'd exchanged with Ellaria, the woman would likely make a good friend and held no dislike of me. Something proven by the fact she served as a stand-in mother for Oberyn's bastards.

The castle became abuzz with energy about a moon and a half before my nameday as preparations for the wedding began in earnest. Grandmother had commented on the fact that having a Prince of Dorne marry in Starfall was a high honour as they were one of the Great Houses of Westeros, and I learnt that the normal practise was for the wedding to take place at the husband-to-be's holding, or that of the more important house. To have both of those overturned for this wedding was an impressive coup for House Dayne, though I wondered if it was done by Oberyn as a gift to mother. Or if there was a more political reason – which would suggest Doran was behind it – to it that I couldn't quite see.

There wasn't much for me to do in the leadup to the wedding, save for being dragged to the tailors every week to ensure my measurements were correct. While I dreaded having to put on another set of fancy clothing, I couldn't complain about their comfort or lightness. Which was a point in Dorne's favour as I suspected that in the other Kingdoms, heavier and more numerous layers were worn to formal events. Well, most of the time.

One thing I did learn was that after the wedding, mother and I would be moving to Sunspear. That wasn't in any way surprising, but it was going to be a change. Sunspear was said to be drier than Starfall, but the fact uncle Benjen had promised he'd come with was a concern. Or it was until I learnt that Prince Doran had promised Benjen safe passage in Dorne while he was helping to train and protect me, which was how I learnt that once I turned eight, my uncle planned to return to the North and join the Night's Watch. When I'd asked him why he wanted to do that, he'd replied that 'there was always a Stark in the Watch' and such a posting held great honour. However, something in his tone and body language then, and whenever I asked about his childhood in Winterfell had me thinking there was more his choice than because of those reasons.

Thus, about two weeks before my nameday, I found myself once more standing with my family I the courtyard. We were once more gathered at the bottom of the steps that led to the Great Hall, though because of who was arriving and why my mother was standing to my uncle's left while I was at my mother's other side.

The courtyard was far more crowded than the last time the prince had arrived, though that wasn't a surprise. Then, he'd come unannounced – or as close as one of his status could – while this time the castle had been preparing for his arrival for two moons. Throw in that mother was marrying the prince, and well, it seemed as if everyone from the holdings of House Dayne had arrived. Including, much to my family's annoyance, Gunther and Gerold Dayne of High Hermitage. Both were stations off to the right, even father from the main family than Benjen; who this time was wearing new leather armour more suitable to Dorne than what he'd worn last time, though they'd been crafted in a more Northern style.

My clothing, like my family's, was dominated by purple, though the edgings and other sections were in a light grey. And the collar was far less restrictive than the last one.

"When will he get here?" Allyria asked from somewhere to my right. While she was five years older than me and looked like a younger version of my mother, she had all the patience of a child. Though I agreed with the sentiment as we'd been standing here for nearly ten minutes after learning that Oberyn's party had arrived in Riverguard and an honour guard sent to greet them about an hour ago.

"Soon sister. Patience is a virtue after all." Aldric replied with hints of amusement in his tone.

Not a moment later the main gate horn sounded a single time. That meant an approaching party was friendly, and perhaps a minute later the lead riders entered the courtyard, banners of Dayne and Martell being flown proudly. While the Dayne escorts were outfitted in chainmail armour – since this was a formal occasion Aldric had insisted they wore heavier armour than they regularly wore on patrols – the riders for House Martell looked to be wearing light leather armour. From what I could tell, and it was hard to see them over the crowds even with me being on the upper step outside the Great Hall, the armour appeared lighter than what the Dayne guards usually wore, but if they were for riding in the desert, that made sense. Apart from the differing armour, it was easy to tell which riders were serving which house as they all bore the colours and banners of their liege's house.

As those guards moved to the sides of the clear lane between the main gate and the Great Hall – acting as another layer of defence to go along with the two rows of Dyane household guard who lined the lane – another group of riders came through the gate.

Oberyn was in the lead of this group, and he was followed by Obara, Nymeria and Tyene along with a fourth girl with a handful of Martell outriders behind them. The new girl had a far darker skin tone than the others, but from the way her eyes scanned the courtyard and the fact of whom she was riding with, I suspected she was another of Oberyn's bastards. She looked to be somewhere between my age and Allyria's (between four and ten), and there was a keenness to her eyes as they took in the courtyard and the gathered crowd.

Behind them came a carriage surrounded by a dozen Martell guards with the remaining Dayne honour guard bringing up the rear. I frowned at seeing the carriage, though more about why it had so many guards. I knew – thanks to mother – that Oberyn was bringing Ellaria with him, but as a simple paramour, I doubted she rated a dozen guards.

My attention returned to the prince as he dismounted with an ease that spoke of his comfort in a saddle. He lazily handed the reins to a member of the household who handled the horses before walking over to the carriage as it came to a stop near the Great Hall. While some people dropped to their knees as he walked, my family stayed upright, and I watched as he opened the door to the carriage.

A young girl, just on the cusp of maturing, stepped out – taking Oberyn's offered hand – and my uncle went to a knee. As my family and I followed, a voice called out. "Presenting Oberyn Nymeros Martell, Prince of Dorne and Princess Arianne Nymeros Martell, Princess of Dorne, heir to Sunspear and the Principality of Dorne."

That had my eyes coming back up to get a better look at the princess. Based on her height beside Oberyn, she looked to be in her early teens at best. Her skin was a rather appealing shade of olive, and her thick, curly black hair was held back in a simple knot. There was a little bit of bulk to her short frame and, without her clothing, I suspected she'd look very plain. Yet, for a moment our eyes met and in the dark pools of her eyes, I thought I saw a hint of intelligence mixed with regret.

Breaking eye contact, I returned my focus to the ground in front of me and waited patiently until given rise to stand.

"Princess Arianne, you honour my family and all of Starfall with your visit. Starfall is yours to command." Aldric stated, and from the angle of his voice, I could tell he was still kneeling.

"I thank you for the gracious welcome, Lord Aldric," Arianne began, her voice carrying a regal quality to it that I wasn't quite believing. While she'd likely been coached on etiquette and the like from a young age – something I'd been lucky to mainly avoid so far due to my heightened intelligence and maturity – this was likely the farthest she'd ever been from home. And quite possibly one of the first times she'd had to take the lead in these greeting rituals. "Please, everyone stand."

We did as she commanded, and I saw that while she was at the bottom of the steps of the Great Hall – and had Obara, Nymeria and a half-dozen Martell guards close by – Oberyn was walking over from the carriage. My breath caught at the beautiful older woman on his arm, and it took me a moment to realise that she was carrying something carefully with her other arm. This was undoubtedly his paramour Ellaria Sand and, after both cursing my young age and offering a prayer of thanks that I hadn't hit puberty yet, I mentally congratulated Oberyn on getting such a sensual woman as his paramour.

A gentle nudge of my side brought my attention back to the steps and as I blinked, I saw mother glancing down at me. There was a slight frown on her face as I wondered just how long I'd been staring at Ellaria.

"Sorry." I mumbled out, drawing a sigh from mother and a faint, chuckled from Aldric.

"Cregan, the Princess was speaking to you." Mother said, and I felt my cheeks heat up as I looked at the girl. There was a small smile on her face (as there was with the two Sand Snakes near her) but a twitch of her eye made me wonder if I'd offended her in some way.

"Princess, my apologies. I was simply curious who the woman with your uncle was, and what she was carrying." I offered before lowering my head slightly, though not enough to break eye contact with Arianne. "It was in no way a comment on me finding you anything less than captivating." I continued, before wanting to slap myself for trying to flirt with a princess as a four-year-old.

Arianne's cheeks darkened and I caught Nymeria giving me a wink and Oberyn smirked before the princess replied. "I, I was asking if you were looking forward to being a member of my family."

I chuckled. "Truthfully, I wouldn't be, princess. Oh, your uncle will be my… goodfather, but by blood, I'll still be a Stark and a Dayne."

"You see yourself more as a Stark than a Dayne?" She asked as her brow creased.

"According to uncle Benjen, I take after my mother more than my father; though I wonder if he'd have fitted in better in Dorne. He was known for being hot-headed and passionate." I replied. Oberyn and Ellaria both chuckled at my words while the new Sand Snake narrowed her eyes as she stood beside Tyene at their father's side.

"That… was very much a non-answer, young Cregan." Oberyn commented as he reached his niece's side. "A smart choice for a wolf in Dorne."

"Prince Oberyn," mother cautioned, which made the prince raise his hands in mock surrender; mirroring his behaviour after his impromptu training session with me over a year ago.

"No offence is intended, my lady. I merely find your son to be a most curious riddle." His focus returned to me as he placed a hand on Arianne's shoulder. "One that was able to tempt my dear niece into leaving Sunspear."

Arianne's cheeks darkened as I turned my attention to her. "I, I've never met a Northman before. You're not as savage as many say."

I chuckled and glanced over at Benjen. There was a soft smile on his face though it was combined with a tensing of his jaw. "I really couldn't comment on that, princess. Though perhaps my uncle could." I offered, making the princess turn to see Benjen.

"Lord Stark."

Benjen lowered his head. "Lord Stark is my brother, princess. I am simply Benjen."

Arianne spent a moment examining my uncle before she spoke again. "To call you by your name alone is… a touch personal, Lord Benjen. While that may be the way of the North, I wouldn't feel proper doing such." Benjen lowered his head once more, in seeming acceptance of her words. "Though I, and many, are curious about why a Stark of Winterfell came to Dorne to protect a bastard."

"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." Benjen offered, making Oberyn laugh loudly.

"He said the same thing to me, dear niece." The prince said, as he turned to my uncle and smirked. "Northerners, it seems, are much like Dornish. Blood is more important than is the child is base or trueborn."

"While we are not as, accepting, of bastards as Dorne, we understand that every body matters. Winter is Coming." Benjen responded, a slight smile creeping onto his face.

"As you remind us every month," Aldric commented, drawing a chuckle from most people. "Though perhaps before winter does come, we should step inside. If we stay here any longer, I fear the kitchen staff will grow angry at us wasting the feast they prepared and seek work elsewhere."

That drew another chuckle before Arianne replied. "Of course. And we thank you for the food and drink, Lord Dayne."

The princess walked forward and took the arm Aldric offered. Oberyn came close behind and offered his arm to mother. She smiled and accepted it, and I turned to follow them in when I heard footsteps behind me then a hand ruffled my hair.

"Stop it!" I snarled - rather pathetically since I was still a bairn - and pushed the hand away.

"What's the matter little wolf, don't you like me playing with your fur?" Nymeria asked as she pulled her hand back. That drew chuckles from Tyene and the dark-skinned sand snake.

"No, but I'd rather not have mother fussing over it for hours again." I replied as I turned my head to look at her. She'd grown a few inches since I'd last seen her and looked to be on the cusp of physically maturing. "I'm sorry, I think I missed your name, I'm Cregan." I said to the dark-skinned girl who was only a head or so taller than me.

"Sarella." She replied as her eyes seemed to scan me before moving off to look at something else.

"Ignore her," Tyene said as she slipped between us and slid her hand onto mine. "Tell me what has happened since we last were here. Did you receive father's gift?"

I managed to keep my confusion from showing at having these two speak to me instead of my aunts. A glance to my left showed my aunts were busy talking – or in Adrya's case, flirting – with Daemon. So either this was planned by the Sand Snakes – a possibility – or they were just talking to me as my aunts were busy.

With a resigned sigh, I began to detail everything that I knew had happened in the years since their last visit.

… …


A/N: And with that, the Prologue is over, with many changes to the timeline.

The next short arc will deal with revelations about how Cregan got here and his abilities.

Then an arc covering his time in Sunspear.