Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based on the ASOIAF universe. All recognisable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of GRRM; I make no claim to ownership.


Acknowledgements: This chapter was edited by Void Uzumaki. Cheers to Bub3loka, my beta reader, who helped me immensely.


Robb Stark

Something was wrong. Ever since Grey Wind howled a few minutes ago, he was whining restlessly and nudging at his feet, and the unease within the heir of Winterfell grew with each passing moment. It had even begun to attract the attention of the passing smallfolk, who gazed at the direwolf suspiciously.

And Robb couldn't blame them; he had seen the enormous size of the pup's mother - she was rightly terrifying.

"Your new dog is going to deafen us, Stark," Theon groaned. "Mayhaps you should return it to the kennels for now?"

"It's a direwolf, not a dog," Robb retorted without bothering to hide his annoyance. Usually, he'd enjoy Greyjoy's amusing cockiness, but he did not feel like it right now. "Mayhaps we should find you a squid to keep you busy?"

"It's a kraken," his friend scowled, "and I'm plenty busy already."

With his whores and flirting around with every maiden that caught his eye in Wintertown, no doubt.

"If you say so," he nodded with a chuckle and picked up Grey Wind. The pup finally calmed down when he was scratched behind his ears. Gods, the direwolf was so adorable when he lolled his tongue!

Theon was just about to try and give a not-so-witty comeback when Desmond came running.

"Lord Robb, Lord Stark has called for you in the courtyard," the guard urged grimly.

"What happened?" Robb asked as they followed the man back towards the gatehouse, a small grey direwolf trotting behind them.

"Lord Bran... fell."

"What do you mean by fell?!"

The heir of Winterfell stopped dead in his tracks and looked at the sombre man.

"Lord Bran fell while climbing one of the curtain walls," Desmond tensely explained, waving them over to continue moving.

"Is my brother... well?"

Robb felt foolish as soon as the words left his mouth. If Bran were well, his father wouldn't have sent a guard to fetch him. His insides began to twist into painful knots, imagining what had happened to his brother.

Desmond just shook his head sadly and continued.

Winterfell's courtyard was deathly quiet, and Robb choked and felt like something punched him in the gut when he saw a small body carefully being carried out in a black shroud by servants with their faces covered by grey cowls. Robb's eyes found his mother, who, with puffy eyes, trailed after the black shroud, sobbing quietly. Next to him, Theon stood frozen, unsure of what to do.

If there was any doubt in his mind, it was gone now. He could feel it in his bones; Bran was dead.

His father was standing in the middle of the courtyard, face carved from ice and harshly barking out orders as the gathered guardsmen quickly dispersed.

As Robb approached, he saw that his father's soft grey eyes had hardened into two chips of slated stone as he listened to Rodrik Cassel.

"Robb, Theon," Eddard Stark nodded in acknowledgement, and Robb could see that the rim around his eyes had reddened slightly.

"Father… how?" he eked out weakly.

"One of the servants saw the whole thing," his father's voice was cold and stern but cracked slightly at the end. "Bran's hand slipped when he tried to lift himself up on one of the protrusions, and he simply fell and hit his head a few times on the way to the ground. By the time the servant ran over, he was already gone,"

"But Bran never falls," the words slipped out of his mouth, and his father's eyes bore into him.

"Remember this, Robb," a tinge of grief leaked through Eddard Stark's stern words. "Remember this. There's always a first time. A time to fail where you previously always had succeeded. Where expectations are betrayed, and some blows come from where you least expect them."

Everything became a numb blur for Robb. Two guards escorted a disbelieving Sansa and a shaken Arya, and he watched how their expressions crumbled as their father explained the situation. His sisters cried and cried, and he wanted to join them, perceptions be damned, but he couldn't.

Robb just felt... numb, angry, and helpless for the first time in his life. How could Bran be gone just like that?! He had seen his brother running around and laughing happily in the morning just a scant few hours ago...

The heir of Winterfell wanted to scream and shout and just... hit something. But looking at his distraught sisters, Robb slowly began to calm down. Something nudged his leg, and he saw Grey Wind look at him with sharp yellow eyes. Robb picked the pup again with a sigh and ran his fingers through his fluffy fur, and the tension slowly bled out of his body.

"From now on, every single one of you is to have a minder," his father's steely eyes bore at the now defiant Arya, who looked like she was about to protest. "And if you try to evade or escape your minder, you will be confined in your room for a moon, where only the Septa will be allowed to visit."

That seemed to finally cow his younger sister... for now, at least. Robb also had to hide a grimace at the prospect of being constantly babied by one of the guardsmen.

At that moment, Harwin ran over, face dripping with sweat.

"My Lord, we cannot find Jon," the guardsman reported after wiping the beads of sweat from his brow.

His father closed his eyes for a few heartbeats, and his face somehow became grimmer.

"Jon usually goes towards the Godswood after the morning training," Robb hesitantly said. "But I am unsure if he would be there still."

The Crypts and the Godswood were the only two places where only members of House Stark were allowed, and anyone else required special permission from Lord Stark to enter, guardsmen included. His brother oft stayed there, choosing to brood away in peace. Robb oft found him lounging at the hot springs when not praying at the Heart Tree.

"Let us go fetch your brother, then," Eddard Stark finally spoke and turned to Sansa and Arya. "You two return to your quarters for now."

Arya had the sense not to protest this time, and his sisters headed back to the Great Keep while Robb and his father strode towards one of the wooden inner gates, which led to the Godswood, accompanied by Rodrik, Harwin, and Theon.

The usually tranquil canopy of trees felt solemn and dark as they quietly trudged through the soft, mossy ground.

The hot springs were empty, so they headed towards the Heart Tree. Robb couldn't help but feel a sense of foreboding as they approached the thick, bone-white trunk of the ancient weirwood.

"JON!"

Robb froze when he saw his brother, spasming amidst the pale roots of the tree, skin blue with frost and face covered with blood. No, not blood. His spine crawled, and blood ran cold when he realised that the carved face above was weeping tears of crimson sap on top of Jon's brow.


Selyse Baratheon

The sun was slowly setting in the west, and it was time for the evening prayer, but Melisandre was gone. The guardsmen had reported the priestess boarding a vessel headed North earlier today. And while her Lord Husband thought nothing of the 'red woman' as he called it, she did not doubt it was only a matter of time until Stannis could be converted. But alas...

Had Selyse done something to insult the Lord of the Light?!

She had fervently prayed every day and every night, but R'hllor's priestess abandoned her anyway. She began restlessly pacing along the wooden floorboards of her chamber.

But... mayhaps one did not need a priest to pray to the Lord of the Light, just like one could pray to the Seven without a septon!

Selyse racked her mind to remember the exact words as she called for one of the servants to pour her a glass of spiced honey wine from Lannisport.

She dismissed the servant and slowly began taking sips from the cup as she stared at the flickering fire in the hearth.

Ah yes! Melisandre oft gazed upon the flames to divine R'hllor's will.

The Lord of the Light speaks through the fires, but one must sacrifice first to receive in return.

R'hllor permitted his most faithful servants to glimpse the future from the fire! And there was none as faithful as Selyse was.

The hearth would not do. It was too small, too flimsy, to let her see the one true god's will. Selyse quickly placed one of those annoying gaudy tapered chairs carved with draconic motifs in the middle of the room and piled a few useless pieces of cloth. A few pieces of firewood were added for good measure. But no, his was not a good enough sacrifice. She tossed in her fox-shaped pin and her favourite silken bodice and poured the spiced honey wine on top.

Deep in the back of her mind, a weak voice told Selyse she was doing something incredibly foolish. Yet Selyse ignored it with a snort; the Lord of the Light would guide her!

With some struggle, she managed to get a glowing ember from the hearth with a fire poker and toss it on the pile she had gathered.

Selyse Baratheon watched with fascination as a furious fire combusted and quickly began to rage, bathing her face in searing heat.

"Lead me through the darkness, O my Lord! Fill my heart with fire so that I might find my path!"

She gazed into the angry flames, and she saw.

The fire danced and danced, and she could finally see.

Herself, being skinned alive by an ugly-looking lowborn in a field of snow?!

The flames twisted-

Her daughter, burning on a pyre, and Selyse jumping in to join her...

-and spun-

Her daughter, now a young maiden, lost amidst a vast field of snow...

-again-

Her daughter, with grey scarring gone, exchanging wedding vows with a northern savage... before an old, gnarly heart tree!?

-and again-

Her daughter, a woman grown and beautiful, a bronze crown atop her brow, surrounded by a host of happy children.

-and-

Her innocent daughter, riding a naked man in her maiden day suit as one would ride a horse?!

A pair of angry purple eyes gazed at her and-

Selyse staggered back as if something had crashed into her, mind muddled. She coughed and touched the wetness on her cheeks. She gasped as her fingers were covered by blood, but everything felt unbearably hot. Selyse looked around and let out a raspy gasp; the room was filled with black plumes of smoke, and the fire was slowly spreading through the varnished planks on the floor.

At that moment, her gown caught fire; she opened her mouth to yell but only managed to inhale a mouthful of black smog, heave over, and cough even harder.


Eddard Stark

Ned hated it, feeling powerless. It was a bitter lesson, learned long ago, but he did not think he would have to taste grief and despair again so soon...

He had been blessed, and all his children were born healthy. Many tales of miscarriages, stillbirths, and sickly babes not surviving to see a full year haunted him every time Catelyn got pregnant. But the gods had proven generous, and no such thing happened. And yet here he was, with one son to bury and another one on the way.

But it was not the gods at fault, only himself. Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He was supposed to rule and defend a whole kingdom, yet he could not protect his own son from himself. A boy of scarcely nine with a deadly penchant for climbing. Had he been more strict and more careful... this could have been avoided.

And now, a vigil awaited him after Bran's body was embalmed.

But first, he had to know if he would lose a second son today. One not of his loins but a son in all the ways that mattered. It was first about family and his promise to Lyanna. But as the years passed, he came to love the boy as his own.

Yet now, the gods had proven cruel. The weirwood sap had done something to his son, and he had been so cold to the touch that it burned. So unnaturally cold that Jon should have died. No normal man could be so cold and live, but his boy proved otherwise. Was it an ember from the fickle blood of the dragon furiously resisting the chill? Or mayhaps something long forgotten from the ancient, brutal history of House Stark, where they took the daughters of every king, sorcerous or otherwise, they vanquished as brides?

He stood in the dim hallway and waited on the opposite side of the wooden door. Robb had wanted to wait here with him, but Ned had sent his heir away - he preferred to be alone with his thoughts.

It had been hours since then, and Luwin had yet to leave Jon's room, so the Lord of Winterfell held onto a small spark of hope.

The door suddenly opened, and searing heat struck Ned square in the face, making him sweat. Luwin tiredly walked out, his grey robes damp as if he had taken a soak in the hot springs with them.

"Will Jon live?"

The short, old maester tugged at the chain around his neck and sighed.

"I don't know, my Lord," he confessed, grey eyes heavy with worry, and used his damp sleeve to wipe his face futilely, as it remained just as sweaty as before.

"What do you mean you don't know?!"

Luwin took a staggered step back, and Ned realised that he had finally lost his composure and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm down. The maester had no fault here, and yelling would accomplish little.

"I have never seen or heard about something like... this before. It should not be possible!" Luwin worriedly tugged at his chain again. "When Jon arrived, he was so cold that his clothes had frozen stiff, and I had to slice them open. It should have killed him, yet he showed no signs of frostbite. Then, he suddenly became feverish, and his skin became reddish hot as a heated metal in the forge. I barely managed to stop the seizures, but Jon kept alternating between searing hot and freezing cold. He should have been dead long before he got to me, yet he still lingers!"

"How?"

The maester grimaced heavily.

"Magic. This can only be magic," Luwin explained grimly. "I thought... that it was a force long gone from the world, at least here, in Westeros, but alas, the gods laugh at mortal men like us."

The words chilled his blood, making the Lord of Winterfell grit his teeth. He could not accept this, he would not.

No.

"You have the Valyrian Steel link and studied the higher mysteries. Surely there is something you can do?" Ned asked, not daring hope leak into his voice.

"I've done all I could, my Lord. We don't study the practice of higher mysteries in the Citadel, but its history, lore, and limits," the maester shook his head. "There's very little on the properties of weirwood sap, and what is known is vastly different from Jon's situation. I will write to the Archmaester of Magic, Marwyn, to see if he could provide guidance, but Oldtown is on the other end of Westeros. It will be at least a fortnight before a raven returns with a reply, and by that time, it might be too late..."

Ned's knees lost strength, and it was only by sheer will that he remained standing. And maybe some help from the granite wall at his back. The thought of burying a second son pressed down on him like a gigantic boulder.

But no, his boy was still alive, still fighting; he would not hand him over to the gods just yet. But what could he do?!

"Is there anything else that can be done?"

"I will peruse the olden tomes in Winterfell's library," Luwin worriedly fiddled with his chain's rippled, smoky steel link. "But I can barely read Old Tongue, and they might not have anything on the subject. I would not lose hope just yet, my Lord. Despite all of this, Jon does not seem to be waning; only time will tell whether he will make it or not."

The maester's words made him feel a bit lighter if nothing else. Ned knew Jon was stubborn and would not give up, so there was yet some hope left. He dismissed Luwin and headed towards where Bran's remains were. The thought of standing vigil over his young boy made his insides twist into knots again.


Stannis Baratheon, Dragonstone

"My Lord! There's a fire in the Sea Dragon Tower!"

Stannis forced his tired eyes to open and quickly stood up from his bed. Two panicked guardsmen were standing at his door.

"Explain!" He curtly ordered as he quickly donned his grey woollen tunic and leather breeches.

"The Lady Baratheon's apartments were aflame a few minutes ago, and Ser Lothor Hardy has raised the alarm and sent us to notify you," Varly hastily explained.

It took a few heartbeats for his mind to finally shake off the drowsiness.

"My daughter?!" Stannis demanded.

"She is... at her quarters," Gared, the other guardsman, said with a gulp. "The master-at-arms has already sent men to fetch water from the well!"

As soon as his leather belt was strapped to his waist and worn boots were on his feet, Stannis grabbed his cloak and dashed out of the room. The bells began to ring.

The only thought in his head while he was rushing down a flight of stairs was Shireen. Stannis never considered himself a good father or husband, but he kept to his wedding vows. There might have never been much affection between him and his wife, but he loved his daughter, even if he was unsure how to truly show it.

The Lord of Dragonstone cursed his indecisiveness. His wife had insisted that Shireen stay with her all the way in another tower instead of in the family quarters in the Stone Drum Keep, where he resided. Unwilling to fight Selyse on this, he had let the matter go.

Guardsmen were scuttling about chaotically, but he paid them no heed as he ran through the gallery leading to a visibly burning tower. Red flames were hungrily licking just below the neck of the dragon-like structure, exactly where his wife's apartments were.

Stannis' breathing quickly became ragged, and he once again cursed himself for neglecting his time in the yard. Had he let himself go, just like Robert did?!

He ignored the burning pain in his lungs and immediately began climbing up the Sea Dragon Tower's narrow and twisting steps, passing over guardsmen carrying buckets of water.

A minute later, he finally stopped when faced with a dozen guardsmen blocking the flight of stairs from where searing heat and smoke were coming. More and more men were streaming in, forming a living line to pass on the water from the well, but their efforts were little better than pissing in the inferno and hoping it would die out.

"My Lord," Ser Hardy dipped his head as two guardsmen with a bucket full of water caught up and futilely tossed it into the roaring fire above.

"Shireen?!" Stannis demanded as he was heavily gasping for breath.

"I've sent a man to try and fetch her and Lady Baratheon four minutes ago, but he hasn't returned," the master-at-arms reported grimly. "You should get out of here, my Lord. The top of the tower might collapse on us at any moment!"

The Lord of Dragonstone gritted his teeth as he stood still in a fleeting heartbeat of hesitation. Before Ser Hardy could object, Stannis took a deep breath and dashed into the searing heat.

The smoke stung his eyes, and the hot flames licked his clothes painfully. Eventually, he was forced to open his mouth and breathe, but every mouthful of air seared his innards. The wooden panes and flooring decorating the hallway's walls were all feeding the fires, but he had no time to look at any of them. He found a body on the ground, burning, and leapt over it. He ignored the entrance to his wife's chambers and continued deeper into the fiery hallway. It took him less than a dozen heartbeats to arrive at Shireen's door, which was also aflame. His boots were now on fire, and every step was more painful than the previous one.

He didn't stop for a moment and hurled forward with all his strength, ramming his shoulder into the door and smashing it open. His sleeve caught fire, but he ignored it as his gaze was immediately on his daughter, cowering in the corner, small face filled with fear and terror. He hastily ran over to her, unlatched his cloak and covered Shireen with it before hauling her up in his embrace and running back out.

His lungs demanded more and more air, but he had none to give, only roiling plumes of smoke. Not only his feet but his whole body began screaming in pain. He felt like roast beef as his vision began to swim, his head got dizzy, and moving became harder and more agonising with every passing second.

Stannis, teeth gritted, did not falter and kept his daughter securely wrapped in his cloak above the flames.

Lothor Hardy saw his liege Lord leap out of the roaring fire, gently place a squirming cloak on the stairs and collapse onto the ground, half his clothes aflame.

Out of the heavily singed cloak rolled out a coughing Shireen Baratheon.


5th Day of the 3rd Moon, Winterfell

Sansa Stark

The small burial ceremony ended as a granite lid closed Bran's tomb. Sansa felt like crying again, but her red eyes had no more tears to give. She had prayed to the Seven and even to the Heart Tree to give her younger brother back, but alas. Despite her ardent desires, what was dead stayed dead. In the end, acceptance came - she prayed to the Stranger to lead Bran into the afterlife and protect his soul.

Sansa hated it; everything was wrong now. Father was no longer warm and kind but stern and cold. A sliver of warmth remained underneath, but it was rare to see. Her mother now spoke curtly, was clouded by a veil of grief, and wore black clothes like a sworn brother of the Night's Watch. Catelyn Stark scarcely attended meals anymore, and the rest of her time was spent in the small sept, praying in vain. Robb… was angry and grim. Sansa had no idea what her elder brother was angry at, but she suspected he didn't know either. All his free time was spent either in the yard, furiously swinging a sword until he could no more, or with Grey Wind.

Rickon was the same as always. A bit too young to realise what was truly happening, but even he could see that something was wrong. Last evening, her youngest brother had asked for 'Bran', and Catelyn had burst into tears, making him cry in return. However, Arya had become quiet and glum and no longer fought with her. Usually, Sansa would celebrate, but she did not feel like it.

Now, with Bran resting in the crypts amongst their ancestors, the smiles of House Stark seemed to be buried with him.

If that was all, things would not be as grim. Yet, her half-brother, Jon, was also lingering near death. Maester Luwin had no idea what was wrong with him, but from what she had heard, it was a miracle that he had survived so far. Sansa drifted away from Jon as she grew up, and now she regretted it. Bastard or not, she did not want to lose another brother! Despite his sullen nature, he had always been kind to her.

After the funeral was done, she wandered aimlessly around the many courtyards of Winterfell, shadowed by her minder, Porther. There were no lessons today, and Sansa did not feel like talking or playing with Jeyne or Beth either.

Her feet unknowingly led her to the kennels. Thinking of her own direwolf, she made to turn back to her chambers; it would be time to feed Lady with warm milk soon. Their Lord father had decreed that all the direwolves were to be taken care of by their hand only, without any help from the servants.

Sansa froze before she even made a dozen steps. If Bran was dead, and Jon was on the sickbed, who was taking care of their pups?! She spun, pulled up the hemline of her gown a bit, and quickly ran over to the kennels.

A storm of loud barking greeted her, along with the smell of privy, and it took a few moments for the Kennelmaster to quiet down the hounds.

"Lady Sansa, what brings ye here?" The stout man asked curiously after bowing his head.

"Farlen, do you know what happened to Bran's and Jon's direwolves?"

"Aye, Lady Arya came and picked them up that day," was the gruff reply.

"Thank you, Farlen," Sansa nodded gratefully and left.

After procuring a small wineskin of warm milk from the kitchen, she quickly headed towards her rooms in the Great Keep.

Her minder remained at the entrance. Thankfully, her father had agreed to allow her and all her siblings' unsupervised movement around the Great Keep.

As Sansa climbed the stairs to the family wing, she almost crashed into her sister, who was rushing downwards. The eldest daughter of Eddard Stark stilled at the three extra pairs of small eyes looking at her from below. Golden, yellow, and red.

"Arya, where are you going with all the direwolves?"

Her sister hesitated for a few moments but eventually replied. "To keep Jon some company."

"I'll come with you," Sansa's words rolled out of her mouth before she even realised.

"Why?" Suspicion dripped from Arya's voice.

"Can't I see him as well?"

She could see indignation in those grey eyes.

"You've never cared for Jon before; why would you do so now?"

Anger bubbled within her gut, and Sansa had to swallow back the biting remark on the tip of her tongue. She didn't want to fight with her sister, not today. And Arya was right; she did avoid Jon before, if only because of the urgings of Septa Mordane and her mother.

"I don't want to lose another brother," she quietly admitted, and her sister's grey eyes softened.

"Fine, let's go," Arya finally relented.

They slowly made their way to Jon's chambers so the young pups could keep pace.

"Have you fed them yet?" Sansa asked while eying the fluffy trio trotting behind them while eyeing the surroundings curiously.

"Only twice today," her sister admitted. "Was going to the kitchens to fetch some milk for them after visiting Jon."

They were at Jon's door now, and Arya nodded to Fat Tom, who pulled on his ginger whiskers and let them in with a nod.

A wave of heat struck Sansa when she entered the room as if she was in the hot springs.

Arya ran over to the shutter and opened it, letting in a cool summer breeze. Sansa's gaze, however, was stuck on the bed where Jon lay, skin with a slightly reddish hue, covered in sweat. She hesitantly walked over to one of the chairs near him and sat down. Jon stood still, and one would think him dead if not for the faintest rise of his chest. Her brother's face was oddly serene and peaceful, yet he seemed feverish.

"What's wrong with him? Can't Luwin treat him?"

"Nobody would tell me anything." Arya's eyes became downcast, and she sighed sadly.

At that moment, the two grey direwolf pups curiously trotted around the small room, but the white one silently went near the bed, rose on its hind legs and tried to climb up, but it was too small.

Sansa gently picked it up, and it started squirming in her grasp without making a sound.

"What's his name?" she inquired before letting the small direwolf on top of Jon's covers.

"Ghost," Arya absentmindedly provided as she watched the two grey direwolves chasing each other on the floor.

A soft tussle from the bed drew Sansa's attention, and she gasped as Jon slowly began to stir.


Author's Endnote:

House Stark is visited by loss early…

Maybe I wrote this a bit too angsty… but they never truly experienced such a sudden loss, with nothing else to distract them.

Some might notice that Bran was nine instead of seven. I might clear that up now; things changed as part of the ripples of sending Jon back in time. Harrenhal's Tourney came two years earlier than the book canon, along with the rebellion, with all sorts of consequences that will be seen later on. Don't expect a simple plus two years for everyone, though.

Things happen on Dragonstone. And no, Selyse doesn't see the future; she sees 'a future' of another world because the sight is so messed up.