A/N: I wrote this fic because I wanted to change the fate of Robb Stark and change it I have! This idea sort of ran away with me and I will warn anyone who is reading that this story will be very long but I hope you enjoy reading it as I have certainly enjoyed writing it.
Please leave a review and let me know what you think, any comments are much appreciated. I will update as regularly as I can. :)
I own nothing and no one but Ailsa Ardenne and her back story.
A Safe Place
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as I saw the flames atop the castle walls grow closer and closer; I dug my heels further into my horse urging him to go faster, desperate to reach my destination. I was so close now I could almost smell my freedom as I whipped my head around, my long hair swirling about my face as I checked for the thousandth time that no one was pursuing me. The darkness stretched long and black behind me and I almost allowed myself to smile as I turned back to the front to see that I could now make out the outlines of the guards above the gates. Thankfully they were open and I galloped right through them, pulling the reins of my horse to a stop just outside the stables. Shakily I slid off the back of him, patting him gratefully on his flank. It had been two days almost non-stop, hard riding and I was certain that he was even more exhausted than I at that moment, and I felt as though I could have lain down on the cold stones and closed my eyes at once. But I couldn't, I had to find Lord Stark and find him quickly, I looked around noting that the courtyard was empty and there was no sign of any stable boys to tend to my horse. I bit my lip, torn between finding Lord Stark and making sure my horse was well tended to. Really I had no choice, my horse had borne me here without protest, the least I could do was make sure that he was well fed and watered. I walked into the stables, calling out for anyone but there was no reply, my heart sank as I noticed that all the stalls appeared full. After a moment of panic I noticed that there was fresh hay at the back of the stable and a large trench of water, a bucket nearby. I took him the water first, knowing it had been almost a day since he had last drank; he began lapping it down furiously as I went back inside for the hay. After I had given him that too I was satisfied that he would at least be fine until the morning when I assumed the stable boys would return to their duties. My attention now would have to be to focus on finding Lord Stark.
It didn't take me long to realise that the keep was brightly lit and so I headed that way, noticing that as I approached sounds of music and merriment reached my ears. I was hard pushed to remember a time when my home of Radlan had sounded so happy; really it wasn't so hard to remember, it had been when my parents were still alive. Still, there was no time to dwell on that, I knew that thinking about them would only make things worse and I had to find Lord Stark. I hesitated as I approached the main doors, not entirely comfortable with the fact that I would have to walk into a dining hall crowded with what sounded like hundreds of people. I bit my lip, it would be so much easier if I knew the man I was looking for, but I had only ever heard stories about him from my father. As I contemplated this I heard the sound of a sword clanging and spun around. Several feet away a man with his back turned to me was hitting a sword dummy repeatedly, he seemed angry at something and I was reluctant to approach him. However, after watching him for a moment I realised that there was no one else around and so I plucked up my courage and approached him. "Excuse me?" I said when I was near enough for him to hear me. He spun around at once, sword still in hand and I couldn't help but flinch. He obviously noticed my reaction and lowered the weapon. "Sorry my Lady", he said, bowing shortly to me, "I did not mean to frighten you"
"You didn't", it was partly true.
"Is there something you needed?" he asked.
"I'm here to see Lord Stark but … I'm afraid he is not expecting me …"
"Lord Stark is entertaining the King", the man explained to me.
"Not a good time then", I concluded.
"If I know my father he would welcome a distraction", he replied with a smile.
"Your father?" I repeat with a smile of my own.
"How come you are not attending the feast then?" I ask, curious.
"Lady Stark prefers that I do not", he said bitterly. My confusion at his words must have shown on my face as he continued; "she is not my mother, I am Jon Snow"
"Ailsa Ardenne", I introduced myself, holding out my hand.
"Pleased to meet you", Jon replied taking my hand, looking slightly confused.
"Perhaps I could sneak in and free Lord Stark", Jon suggested.
"Would you mind?" I asked him, worried about getting him into trouble.
"Of course not, wait here, I won't be a moment", he said before heading towards the keep.
I watched as Jon opened the main door and disappeared inside, I shivered involuntarily and pulled my travelling furs more closely around me. I hoped that he would not take long to find Lord Stark; the length of my journey was starting to affect me now, my eyes tight and legs weak. After a moment I noticed an animal slide around the small gap that Jon had left in the door; I squinted in the darkness trying to make out what it was. It noticed me then and let out a yip telling me that it was a dog, then it skittered towards me and I instinctively bent down to pet it. As I felt its fur in my hands I felt an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me and I picked it up into my arms, realising as I took a proper look that it was no dog I held but a wolf pup. Before I could wonder what an earth a wolf pup was doing here the door to the keep opened wide again and two men were striding towards me. One I recognised as Jon Snow, the other I had to assume was his father; my breath caught into my throat, my eyes fixed intently on Lord Stark trying to read his expression. His face was shadowed but when he spoke his voice was kind; "Lady Ardenne"
"Lord Stark", I returned, dropping into a curtsey, the wolf still in my arms.
"This is a surprise, I have not seen you since you were but a year old"
"Forgive me my intrusion my Lord"
"There is no intrusion, your House has long been a friend to us", Lord Stark assured me.
"I did not know where else to come", I confessed, my heartbeat accelerating.
"What has happened my Lady?"
Before I could answer Lord Stark, the door of the keep opened again and another man strode out, even from a distance I could see that he was worried about something. The three of us turned our heads towards him as he called out into the night; "Grey Wind!" At the man's call the wolf in my arms turned its head with a start but made no move to leave me; I could only assume that it was his name being called. "He is here Robb", Lord Stark said as I came to my conclusion.
"I only took an eye off him for a moment", the man named Robb said coming towards us. Even in the darkness, with only a few flames for light I could tell that he was handsome; tall and well-built his presence seemed to command my attention. Before I could decide how best to conduct myself Lord Stark was speaking again; "Robb this is Lady Ardenne of Radlan, her father and I fought together for the King, Lady Ardenne, this is my eldest son Robb"
"A pleasure my Lady", Robb said courteously bowing his head to me, disguising his confusion well.
"My Lord", I returned, "I believe I have something of yours", I nodded towards the wolf.
"He appears content where he is", Robb smiled to me. As his eyes caught mine I felt like fire, all my words getting twisted in my mind until I was at a loss of what to say, instead I merely contented myself with dropping into another curtsey. "Lady Ardenne, forgive me but I must ask what brings you to Winterfell?" Lord Stark asked me.
"It is a long tale my Lord", I answered him, eyes dropping to Grey Wind.
"Perhaps you could tell me what I need to know?" he countered.
"Don't be afraid my Lady", Jon Snow's soft tone brought me the strength I needed.
"My father once told me the safest place in the North is Winterfell", I began.
"And you need to be safe?" Lord Stark prompted me.
"Radlan is not the place it once was", I confessed in a whisper.
"Since your father passed", Lord Stark guessed well. I nodded, tears stinging my eyes.
"Radlan was left to my Uncle, but he could not be less like my father"
"I know Marius", Lord Stark said darkly and I took comfort from his tone.
"In truth my Lord I do not know if I would have survived another of his rages", I said, tears leaking from my eyes now. I lifted a hand to wipe them away and noticed Robb's hands were balled into fists, his knuckles stretched white.
"She must stay with us father", Robb said as I tried to contain my emotion.
"Lady Ardenne is that what you want?" Lord Stark asked me.
"If you would have me my Lord"
"I could not turn you away"
"Then I thank you"
"We will have to find room for Lady Ardenne, Jon, would you fetch Sansa?" Lord Stark said.
"Of course my Lord", Jon said, nodding his head.
"Lady Ardenne should not have to share!" Robb said scandalised.
"With the King and his court staying we are stretched as it is", Lord Stark explained.
"Then I shall share with Jon, Lady Ardenne can have my rooms"
"I couldn't possibly!" I began to protest but Robb held up his hand to silence me.
"You do not mind Jon?" he asked.
"Of course not", Jon replied without hesitation.
"Then it is settled", Robb addressed me with another smile.
"Then you must show Lady Ardenne the way", said Lord Stark; "I am sure she is tired from her journey and in need of food and wine"
"I shall see to it father", promised Robb.
"Then I must return to the feast, good night my Lady", Lord Stark nodded to me.
"Thank you my Lord", I replied, dropping to a curtsey again.
"Jon, come and join us", Lord Stark beckoned.
"What about Lady Stark?" he asked worried.
"Pay no mind to Lady Stark, I would have you join us", Lord Stark assured, putting an arm around Jon's shoulder's and leading him back into the keep. I felt a smile tug at the corner of my lips as I watched them disappear from sight leaving me alone with Robb.
"If you would follow me my Lady I will show you the way", Robb said after a moment. I did as he bid me and followed him into the keep, his wolf still contentedly laying in my arms. We walked past the dining hall, the laughter and merriment fading into the background as we ascended several flights of stairs. I tried to remember exactly where we were going so I would remember my way in the morning as Robb led me down a small corridor that ended in a heavy wooden door. I stood still as he turned the handle and opened it, gesturing for me to enter first, I moved past him nervously and stepped inside. The room was large, larger than my own back at Radlan, a huge four poster bed dominating it and a large fire crackling in the hearth against one wall. "I hope you have everything you need", Robb's voice came from behind me. I turned to face him and nodded shyly; "you did not have to do this"
"I would be no kind of man if I did not", he said seriously.
"Then I thank you", I replied, not sure of what else I could say.
"Can I fetch you some food? Something to drink?" he asked me.
"Honestly all I can think about is sleep my Lord", I confessed, realising how tired I was.
"Then I shall keep you no longer", he said and I moved closer to him to shift Grey Wind into his arms.
"He is beautiful", I commented.
"As are you my Lady", he replied. I looked up at him and he averted his eyes looking embarrassed and ever so slightly furious with himself.
"Thank you my Lord", I replied, the blush creeping into my own cheeks.
"I shall leave you to rest my Lady … and please, you must call me Robb", he insisted.
"And you must call me Ailsa", I countered with a small smile.
"Very well … Goodnight Ailsa", he said, returning my smile.