Chapter 6: A Promise Kept

Eddard Stark

Promise me… Promise me…

Yet another promise. The last one caused so much turmoil and secrecy in his life, and yet it seems like the last one was nothing compared to the one he made now.

"I'm sorry father, I didn't want to run… but I had to, I couldn't stay in Winterfell… Frostfyre, she, um… isn't exactly easy to hide." As if to emphasize his point, the little creature stood atop his shoulder with pride and flapped its wings before hissing in his direction.

"No, I would imagine not." The lord of Winterfell commented even as his gaze switched to the little dragon sitting atop his nephew's shoulder. The creature was glaring at him, and he couldn't tell if he imagined the hatred in its silver eyes or if it was actually there. I won't even begin to imagine what would have happened if you were caught in Winterfell. Small blessings I suppose.

Jon had just finished his recounting of how he got here, and Eddard knew that he told him everything. Finding the egg, hiding it in the broken tower, how he got the horse that was nearby, the dead wildlings that his household guard were disposing of, and even his plans of holding up at an abandoned castle at the Wall until the dragon was old enough to release.

"I understand Jon, and I forgive you." The lord said, though he decided to try and lighten the mood. "Though, Robb and Arya might not be so forgiving."

Jon's face scrunched up as the thought hit him. His eyes found the ground and his hands interlaced. "I didn't want to leave, but… " the boy started, but was unable to speak past that. He glanced up to the little dragon that was now staring hatefully towards Eddard from Jon's shoulder. The creature let out a menacing hiss in his direction before Jon shushed the creature like a misbehaving child. To Eddard's fascination, the creature listened. Its small spikes and horns that were puffed out then pressed themselves against its neck as it lowered its head in clear chastisement from the thirteen year old's command.

Of course it did. He might have the looks of a Stark, but he has the blood of the dragon riders of old Valyria flowing through him too.

This whole thing was a massive problem, and yet he couldn't help but think that Jon might have been on to something with his mad dash to the wall. There were unmanned castles, unsettled land to the south of the structure, and vast lands north of the wall that would be able to house a creature like this one without suspicion from any southerners. Who would believe a live dragon existed there when there were constant stories of grumpkins and snarks going south as well? Who would see the dragon in the unpopulated gift? Who would know if some supplies branched off from the Night's Watch to feed his nephew?

He had no doubt that if he didn't catch up to Jon, the boy would be dead from one thing or another by the end of the moon, but now that he was here? Perhaps the only thing that could save his nephew now was his support.

Hearing something he hasn't heard in a very long time, Eddard looked up at the sound of Jon's laughter. His nephew was now on the ground, rolling around as the little dragon flicked its forked tongue onto his face and neck. "Frostfyre! Stop!" He yelled, his voice high pitched and full of happiness as he giggled like he used to when he was young. Sadly for the boy, the little dragon didn't seem to care, continuing its slobbery assault. Eddard hadn't seen Jon smile like this since he was too young to understand the burden of being a bastard.

The burden I imposed upon him.

Unable to sit there and stew on his own failures, Eddard turned his attention to the crescent moon above. He needed to think, to do the one thing that he hated to do.

Scheme and plot.

The southerners were almost certainly watching his house now, their spies and schemers trying to worm their way into his household if they haven't already. He needed to be careful with what he was doing, and that meant that he had to guard his secret all the more closely. Sadly, it also meant entrusting it to the few of his bannermen that he'd brought with him.

He could trust Rodrik and Jory, but the hunter and the guard named Heward? No, he would watch the hunter closely on the way to the Wall, and he instructed Rodrik to send the untrusted guard home after making it explicitly clear not to tell the man about the dragon. It was bad enough that the hunter knew, and he was already thinking of options on that front.

He needed to tell Jon the truth. His heart clenched at the thought, and he felt a feeling of fear that he never had before. Would Jon hate him for what he has done? Would he reject him for lying to him? He almost didn't want to do it, and the middle aged lord knew he was being a selfish coward at that moment.

Watching the sparkling of the moon ripple off of the surface of the lake, Eddard steeled himself for what was to come. It took him a long while, but he had been through worse before. He would get through it, whatever the outcome.

"Jon?"

The lord of Winterfell turned and glanced down to his nephew who was now soundly sleeping on the ground nearby with his impossibility sitting atop his chest. The dragon he named Frostfyre stood vigil on top of Jon's chest as he slept. The little dragon's eyes were piercing, unflinchingly staring into his soul with an intelligence that he didn't expect, its fangs bared silently in his direction.

Despite the angry look on the mythical creature's face, the lord of Winterfell couldn't help but feel a moment of relief. The conversation he was going to have with Jon could wait another day.

Eddard supposed he was lost in his thoughts longer than he expected. Jon was clearly sleeping soundly, his chest steadily moving with his breathing as he lay sprawled out on the ground. Eddard was happy his arm was bruised yet unbroken, otherwise the way he was sleeping at the moment would cause further injury.

The situation he was in caused Eddard to think to the future for the first time since he found his sister rather than delaying what was now the inevitable. Jon's parentage would come out now, it was only a matter of time. The only way he could now keep his sister's promise to keep her son safe is to make him strong enough to defend himself. The Night's Watch couldn't help him now, as Robert's wrath would overcome any oath he made due to the dragon that followed him.

No, now Jon would need friends, family, and allies. Eddard himself would now have to choose between the brother he chose and the nephew he saw as a son, something he had tried to avoid. For now though, the best he could do was to delay, delay, delay. Sometimes, it seems that was all he ever did. Delayed telling Jon the truth, delayed telling him of his mother, delayed the pain of reality to enjoy the sweet bliss of the lie.

Oh how the gods can be cruel.

Ser Rodrik returned then with Jory and the hunter, pulling three horses behind him. "My lord! As you commanded, we sent-" Eddard interrupted with a hand held up and a gesture towards the sleeping boy nearby. Immediately, the knight caught on and lowered his voice. "… we sent Heward back south with instructions to let your household know that we found Jon. We didn't give any information about when we would be returning."

Eddard nodded, his face morphing into a frown as he readied himself to do what he never thought he would have to.

Reveal my greatest secret.

Walking over to the hunter, he looked the man up and down. He was wearing furs, had a long knife and bow strapped to him, and a few scars on his face. He was young, no older than thirty name days, and yet his eyes spoke of experience. He was most likely a veteran of the Greyjoy rebellion.

Eddard was sure he never interacted with the man in any legitimate capacity before this whole debacle started, and he didn't speak to him even when tracking Jon north. He didn't trust the man fully, but absent any legitimate reason to punish or silence him, he couldn't just kill him for doing the job Eddard himself asked him to do. He had committed no crimes, and he might end up being an asset to the situation. He needed to trust him, even if his best judgment said otherwise.

Walking over, he stood directly in front of the hunter. His direct attention alone was having an effect on the man, as he swallowed and took a step back.

"What is your name?" The lord of Winterfell asked, his no-nonsense tone demanding an answer.

"M-Martin m'lord. Of White Harbor."

"Alright Martin of White Harbor, listen closely. There is nothing, and I mean nothing in this world that I take more seriously than the safety of my family." The two Cassel bannermen and the hunter seemed put off as he spoke, but Eddard ignored that. "What I am about to entrust to you is my house's biggest secret. If you all keep it in confidence and do as I say, I will reward you all to the best of my ability. Betray my trust, and there is nowhere in this world where I will not find you. Do I make myself clear?"

The three men nodded, and Eddard paused to make sure they knew he was serious. Closing his eyes, he took another deep breath. "The rebellion was built on a lie."

Ser Rodrik was the first one to speak up with a questioning look. "My lord?"

Turning to the lake, he stared up at the crescent moon. It took him a long moment to work up the strength to speak again, but once he did it all just came tumbling out. "Robert's rebellion was built on a lie. Lyanna, my sister, was never kidnapped. She ran away from home to try and escape her betrothal with Robert. She eloped with Prince Rhaegar after falling in love with him, the two marrying in secret on the Isle of Faces after having his marriage to Elia annulled." It felt liberating to speak the truth for the first time, and now that the floodgates were open, he just couldn't stop. "When I went south to find Lyanna, she was on her birthing bed dying after having delivered Jon. She made me promise to keep her son safe… and I have done so to the best of my ability."

Movement caught their attention as they all turned to Jon who was turning in his sleep. His eyes were scrunched shut, but he was still clearly dreaming. The little dragon, however, was still staring directly at him with its piercing eyes.

"I named him my bastard to keep him safe from Robert. I saw how he reacted to little Aegon and Rhaenys being presented to him." He said, his spine still shivering from the memory. Shaking his head, he turned back to the three men. "But now? His father's blood is showing more clearly than any silver hair or purple eyes. No one can know, not yet. Jon had a plan that could work to hide himself, but didn't quite have the means to execute it. I plan on helping him by escorting him north to one of the abandoned castles on the Wall. From there, the two of you," he said, pointing to Jory and Martin, "will stay behind to protect and guide him until the dragon is old enough to do it for you. I know I am asking for a lot…"

Ser Rodrik stepped forward, stopping his lord's rant by unsheathing his sword and kneeling. "I will guard him with my life, my lord." Jory nodded before doing the same as his uncle, kneeling in front of the lord of Winterfell.

Silence reigned supreme at that, the three men all turning to the hunter Martin. The man seemed dumbstruck at all the information, before he chuckled at the others. "You are both aiming the wrong way." He said, looking toward Jon. "Lord Stark said that Lyanna married Rhaegar, making Jon here…" he trailed off.

His secret out and his plan made, he turned back to see Jon still sleeping below piercing slit silver eyes.

"Aye, though no one but you here know it," Eddard said quietly, blatantly ignoring Howland Reed for the moment. "Jon is the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms."

Jon Snow

"Jon is the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms."

Jon's eyes snapped open, as if a bucket of ice water was dumped on him. "What?!" Jon yelled, sitting up so fast that Frostfyre was launched upward. Ignoring her circling the clearing to land next to him, Jon sputtered out, "I… you… what!?"

Staring up at his fa-uncle, Jon's eyes remained wide with disbelief. His fast awakening startled the other four men, but Eddard Stark's eyes were the widest.

He had another one of those waking-dreams where he was watching the world through the eyes of Frostfyre, but this time he didn't even have time to react to that before his entire world shattered. Everything he just heard, everything he just learned made everything that had happened to him click into place, and yet at the same time broke the boy once again.

I'm the WHAT?!

Eddard recovered the fastest, turning back to the other two. "Leave us, now."

Without missing a beat, Martin spoke first. "As you wish m'lord." Turning, he bowed towards Jon. "Your grace."

This earned him a punch to the back from Ser Rodrik, "Get a move on!" He said roughly as the three made their way away.

Jon still sat there, staring up to the lord of Winterfell in shock. The lord's only response was, "How much of that did you hear?"

Jon, unable to stop his voice from cracking, yelled "All of it!"

The lord stood unnaturally still, before his shoulders slumped and he quietly said, "I'm sorry." Jon, still in shock, just sat there listening with his mouth open. After a moment, he continued. "I'm sorry for everything, all the lies. All of the pain from being raised as my bastard was part of a lie designed to keep you safe. Everything you went through, all of it was my fault. Please know that I did it with your best interest and safety in mind."

He knew that, in the back of his mind Jon knew that. Everything he just learned was earth shattering, but it was clear that his mere existence was a threat to the King's power.

Not to even mention Frostfyre's existence…

"I don't want this, any of this!" Jon yelled, throwing his hands up. "Can't you just tell King Robert that I don't want it?"

His f-uncle shook his head. "No. Robert hates the whole Targaryen family with a passion beyond reason. He would kill you if he knew, I'm sure of it. That's why I hid you as I did in the first place Jon."

Jon slumped, biting his lip. "I didn't want any of this to happen…"

"Then why did you go and hatch a dragon?" His uncle said, giving Jon the most deadpan look he has ever seen.

"I didn't mean to…" Jon said, but the words fell flat as Frostfyre chirped and pushed her face into his right hand. The breath he held for the rest of his rant escaped him, and he slumped.

"It doesn't matter now anyway." His uncle said, making his way over and sitting down to his left. "You need to stay hidden. You are part of something much larger now, and the only thing we can do now is prepare for what is to come."

Swallowing a lump that found itself in his throat, Jon hugged his knees and his eyes found the ground. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Jon looked back up to meet his uncle's eyes. Leaning into his uncle, Jon sighed as his mind began thinking of the future. "I'm going to need to live in exile forever now, aren't I?"

Eddard patted his back gently, earning a small growl from Frostfyre to his right. Ignoring the petulant dragon, the lord continued to console his nephew. "You will always be welcome in my home Jon, always. Thrones and kings and dragons be damned." He said, which settled Jon's nerves a bit. Sadly for the boy's anxiety, Eddard continued. "But until you learn to control the dragon,"

"Frostfyre." Jon interrupted as he spoke into his knees. Frostfyre, for her part, perked up at her name and tilted her head. Jon was just happy she wasn't snapping at his… uncle anymore.

"Until you learn to control Frostfyre, it is best for you to continue with your plan." Eddard continued. "This does mean that you will live in exile for a time, but who knows? Maybe you can fly down and visit us sometime soon?"

Jon looked down to the dragon, who was seemingly trying to decide if she now liked the lord of Winterfell or not, Jon whispered, "Do you think I could?"

Eddard's response was quick, "Do you?"

Jon thought back to his dream of flying as Frostfyre that he had what felt like a lifetime ago. The feeling of freedom, of bliss, of how she thought of him as her rider already. Jon wasn't able to stop the smile from reaching his face at the thought. A chirp caught his attention as the little dragon pressed her face into his hand again. Laughing, he found the spot between her little horns that she loves and began scratching.

A thought came to Jon's mind, and he spoke up without thinking. "I… unc- umm…" Jon started, not really sure how to ask what he was thinking. "Can I ask you something?"

"Anything, Jon." His uncle's voice was kinder than he had ever heard it.

"Can I still call you father?" Jon asked quietly. Everything in his life was changing, and he wanted to keep at least that one thing.

Eddard smiled down and nodded. The two then sat in silence for a long while before Eddard spoke up once again.

"Aemon." Jon looked up, confused. "No more lies. Your mother… and father named you Aemon Targaryen. I renamed you Jon, after Jon Arryn to help keep your identity safe."

Jon smiled at that. "Aemon… Like the dragonknight."

Eddard chuckled, "Aye, like the dragonknight."

The silence continued, before Jon broke it this time. He said something he was never able to before, it being improper due to his bastard status.

But I'm not, am I?

"I love you, father."

Feeling the hand on his shoulder squeeze him a bit tighter, Jon smiled and for a moment everything was right with the world and nothing else mattered.

"I love you too, my son."

-Author's Note-

Have some fluff. Look at me, doing action, stress, then dramatic reveals and fluff! What's next? Who knows!

Ya' know, I don't appreciate all of you predicting the fact that this would start with Ned's POV! I was going to do it anyway, then I got like 3 reviews all saying that I should, and I started with Jon's part out of spite then moved on to Ned later.

:(

So, I hope you enjoyed the fluff and stress that was this chapter. That should be the end of most of the emotional turmoil in Jon's life, and we got one or two more chapters before things should be fully set up for the story and it picks up. He knows almost everything now, with the notable exception being everything… since he knows nothing.

He can't know things! He's Jon Snow! That's a paradox!

In all seriousness, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter, read, review, follow, and favorite if ya liked it. 3