A/N: Hey guys!
I didn't expect to get this up so soon but I have a few chapters ready and I just thought I'd gauge the reaction by posting up the prologue. It should give you a feel for exactly how AU I'm planning on going this time around.
Also, you should be able to tell that I'm spanning more of Westeros and getting into the heads of more characters. With this in mind I'm sure you can understand that daily updates are unlikely. I will try and get at least two, if not three, chapters up a week.
Anyway, please let me know what you think of the prologue, any feedback would be fantastic!
Disclaimer: I own nothing from GRRM's fabulous world of GoT. I only own this little idea of mine and any OC's that might crop up!
Please drop me a review and I hope you enjoy!
He staggered against the man, their swords pressed firmly against one another, neither one of them willing to give an inch. The walkway was littered with bodies, the flagstones running red with the blood of the fallen men. It was near done now, he could hear the clashing of another fight behind him but that was not his fight. This right here was his fight as he huffed, pushing away with everything he could against the man he was duelling. The knight staggered backwards then and he seized his chance. This is for her, he thought to himself as he plunged his sword into the stomach of the man so hard it cut clean through his fine armour with a sickeningly metallic noise before it pierced his skin. He didn't scream in pain. His breathing was cut off almost in an instant, the gurgling noise at the back of his throat telling the victor he would be dead in seconds. Sure enough when the sword was pulled back from his body he fell to the floor and moved no more.
It took a second for the man standing above his lifeless body to remember why he was here. To remember the other fight that had been going on behind him. He turned sharply then and saw his friend pulling off his helm and wiping a hand across his brow, the final opponent dead at his feet. It had taken almost all his men to get this far and now only two of them remained. There were more not far away, camped in a secluded area just off the road so there would be a large enough group of them to return to King's Landing.
He swallowed hard then and looked at his friend who gave him an encouraging nod. He turned back to the tower then. The reason they were here was in there, he didn't even want to think about the state he would find her in. All that had happened. All the war and all the death had been for her. He wondered if she had any idea as he slowly walked along the walkway towards the door. Unsurprisingly it was locked and he turned back and searched the body of the nearest white cloak. He had a key on him and he straightened up and tried it in the lock. It turned easily and he pushed it open silently, the hinges not even creaking slightly.
The light inside was dim but he could make out the stairs and he took them two at a time, the further up them he got the more his heart pounded and before he knew it he was calling out her name. He got no response and fear gripped at him as he rose higher and higher up the tower, finally coming to the final floor, the door he was faced with closed but thankfully not locked as he turned the handle, still shouting her name. It faded to a whisper then as he fell through the door and caught sight of her.
"Lyanna," he whispered, her eyes were already on his but they were full of tears.
"Ned," she managed to say back, her voice so weak he could barely hear it.
Somehow he managed to put one foot in front of the other and approach her, the slight whimpering that did not come from her confirming his fears as he came closer. She seemed to be using all the strength she had left to cling to the bundle of blankets in her arms. The bed was soaked in blood and Ned felt sick, sicker than he had when he had stepped along the walkway and felt his boots sticking to the stones. This was his sister. What had that monster done to his sister?
"Ned," she gasped out again, "Ned you have to take him"
"What did he do to you Lia?" he asked her, his eyes darker than usual as he stared down at her.
"Take him … take him … he needs to be with … his … father," she managed.
"Lia …?" he shook his head, kneeling on the bed and putting a shaking hand to her clammy forehead.
"I'm … sorry I … ran … I broke my … promise," she choked.
"What do you mean ran?" he questioned her, his brow furrowing.
"I love … him … Ned," she said and he saw her hold even more tightly to the baby in her arms.
"Rhaegar?" he asked and she could only manage a faint nod.
"Promise me … you will take … Jon … to him," she said then, her voice fading further.
"Lyanna … I don't …" he started but stopped himself. How could he tell her now she was dying?
"Promise me Ned!" she said desperately, a coughing fit taking over her.
"I …" he staggered over the words. If anyone knew about this her son would die.
"I know father … must be … angry … and Brandon … oh Gods … he will be … furious …" she gasped.
"No," he said, shaking his head and stroking her hair soothingly, "no one's angry with you," that part at least was true.
She seemed soothed by his words and closed her eyes at his touch, her laboured breathing the only thing that told him she was holding on to life as she lay so still. The baby squirmed in his blanket then and let out an insistent cry and her eyes fluttered open again at once. Ned's eyes stung with tears at the look of regret and pain that crossed her features as she looked down on her boy, shifting him up closer to her. It looked like it cost her a lot of effort and so Ned moved to help her and she pressed a kiss to her baby's forehead, before her own head dropped heavily back against the pillows.
"Keep him safe," she implored him then, "safe until … until you can … get him to Rhaegar … will you … will you promise me Ned?"
"I promise," he assured her, pressing his lips firmly together to stop the tears escaping.
"Promise me Ned," she whispered again, her eyes fluttering closed.
"I promise," he told her again but she didn't hear him.
The tears leaked from his eyes then as he stared down at her, her chest no longer rising and falling and her face as pale and beautiful as freshly fallen snow. He leant closer to her and pressed his lips to her forehead, his tears falling down onto her still face as he pulled away slowly, the cries of the boy still clamped in her arms rousing him. He looked at the baby then, his face all scrunched up as he cried. The light sprinkling of hair on his head was dark and he could see that his eyes would be too once they changed from their baby blue. Thank the Gods.
With shaking hands he picked up the bundle and rocked him gently. The baby began to calm somewhat, only soft whimpers leaving his tiny little lips now and Ned couldn't help but smile slightly as he looked down on him. Keep him safe. That's what Lyanna had asked of him. That had been the dying wish of his sister. Keep him safe. There was only one way that he could do that now and his heart panged uncomfortably as he thought of his wife. Would Catelyn ever forgive him? Could she?
He forced her beautiful image from his mind as he rose up from the bed and cradled Jon against his chest, his heart beating furiously as he thought of his own son. The son he had yet to meet and hold like this. Robb would be much bigger than Jon, he had received news of his birth months ago, just before the Battle of the Trident. It would have been so easy to ride back to Riverrun once it was done with but he had had to ride instead to Dorne. He had to bring Lyanna home. He glanced back towards the bed then and swallowed hard. She would still be going home, he would make sure of that. He tore his eyes away from the sight of her body then and his eyes were caught by what sat atop the table in the corner. Roses. Blue winter roses. He could tell even though they were wilted and dying, the edge of the petals crisp, some of them having already dropped to the floor. They had been her favourites; blue winter roses.
Catelyn regretfully tore her eyes from her son who was kicking his legs up in the air and grabbing onto his tiny feet with his hands, a happy smile on his face as he gurgled up at her. There was a commotion in the hallway and she stood up to cross to the door to see what was going on. A maid was rushing passed as she opened it and she called out to stop her at once.
"What is it? What's going on?" she asked her.
"Banners approaching milady," the maid answered.
"Stark banners?" she questioned, her heart thudding in her chest.
"No milady, Arryn," the girl told her and Catelyn tried not to make her disappointment obvious.
"Thank you," she said and the maid smiled sympathetically at her before continuing on down the hall.
Catelyn turned back into her own chambers then and closed the door, leaning back against the wood and taking a few breaths to compose herself. For one shining second she had thought that her husband would soon be arriving. That she would have to bundle Robb back up in his swaddling and wrap him up tight to take him out into the courtyard to await the arrival of his father. But it wasn't Ned, it was Jon Arryn who was approaching, riding back to claim his wife before he took up the position as Hand of the King. She tried not to feel bitter and jealous of her sister but it was difficult not to. The war was over. Ned should have returned. She needed her husband back and her son needed his father.
His squawking drew her attention then and she crossed back over to the cradle and looked down on him, the smile tugging on her lips the way it always did when her eyes looked down on her baby. He was such a strong boy, the Maester was thrilled with him. He fed well and his eyes were always bright and curious as he gazed around at his surroundings. He favoured her Tully colouring, his auburn curls several shades darker than her own, his eyes the exact blue that stared back at her in the mirror. Robb was utterly perfect, the single most precious thing she had ever laid eyes on. The very definition of love.
Oh how she wanted Ned to come back so he could feel it too.
"Your daughter has arrived my Lord," the squire bowed to him and he looked up from his desk.
"Send her in," he said and the man bowed low before disappearing.
Tywin sat back in his chair then and sighed in satisfaction. It had taken some persuading but Robert had seen it his way in the end. A King must have a Queen after all and Lyanna Stark was dead. There must be some kind of cold irony in that, Tywin thought. The very cause for war had been snuffed out herself. Not that it mattered much to him, the death of the Stark girl meant nothing but being able to further the cause of his own house. He wouldn't be Hand anymore but that mattered little if his grandson would one day be King of the Seven Kingdom's.
The door opened then and his daughter swept in. He smiled in satisfaction at her, he had once hoped Rhaegar Targaryen would take an interest in her but it was for the best now that he hadn't. He thought of the Princess Elia and her children, and of what the new King was riding to Dragonstone to do and silently thanked the Gods that Rhaegar had not wanted Cersei. She stood patiently before him, already holding herself so regally, and his satisfied smile grew wider.
"You're to be Queen," he told her after a moment and her green eyes widened a fraction.
"Truly?" she asked him and he nodded, a smile spreading across her face at his action.
"You're to be married when the King returns from Dragonstone," he informed her.
It was her turn to nod then, her mind spinning with what her father had told her. She was to be Queen, she was to be Robert Baratheon's wife, the man who had started a rebellion to reclaim the woman he loved. That woman was dead now though and Cersei was very much alive. Her beauty would bewitch him she was sure of it. He would fall in love with her and forget the boring Stark girl. How could he not? She would be his wife, the mother of his children. The thought made her giddy and she worked hard to not let it show on her face.
"When will that be?" she asked her father then.
"When he had done what he set out to," he told her and she frowned.
"Why has he gone to Dragonstone?" she questioned.
"To deal with the last Targaryen's," he replied and her eyebrows raised slightly at his hidden meaning.
Ned dismounted his horse and hurried up the steps of the keep at once. Gods he hoped he was not too late. They had met some of the Kings men on the road, some stragglers behind the main group and they had told him where Robert was going. They didn't need to tell him anymore, he knew at once why his friend was riding to Dragonstone and he wasn't about to let it happen. Not again.
"I want that fucking Targaryen cunt found!" he heard the familiar bellow as he ran down hallway after hallway, bursting into the chambers that Robert was occupying.
"Ned!" the man burst out in surprise.
"Don't do it," Ned said at once and Robert stared at him.
"Can't do anything, the little bastard has escaped," Robert snarled and he felt relief flood him; "We still have the girl though," Robert said then and Ned's heart dropped.
"A babe!" Ned gasped as a shaking wet nurse was marched into the room, a baby clamped tightly in her arms.
"A Targaryen babe," Robert emphasised.
"You can't be serious Robert!" Ned protested.
"She's a threat!" he snapped.
"She's a babe at the breast! The war is over! Stop this madness!" Ned insisted.
"Her blood carries madness, best stop the poison spreading," Robert said.
"Not again! Not after Elia's children – the people won't stand for it! They may forgive for the others but not this, not now the war is done!" Ned implored him.
"She's a threat to my throne!" he growled.
"Only if you let her be … show mercy Robert … a King must show mercy lest he be known as a tyrant," Ned insisted.
"So what would you have me do Ned? Bundle her up and take her to the Capitol and raise her as my own?" he asked mockingly.
"No … no of course not," Ned shook his head.
"The what?!" Robert snapped at him, finally meeting his eyes.
"Let me take her … I can take her to the North, she can be my ward," he said after a moment.
"Are you mad Ned?" Robert almost laughed.
"I can make sure she's raised right … to know that you are the rightful King," Ned insisted.
"You're a damn fool Ned," he said, shaking his own head now.
"Is that a yes?" Ned asked almost desperately.
"If you have to … but one sniff of trouble and I want that girl put down you hear me?!" Robert snarled.
"There will be no trouble," Ned assured him.
"There better not be," Robert finished, a threatening edge to his voice as they met eyes again.
Ned kept his eyes on his for a long moment before finally turning away from Robert and approaching the wet nurse who was still clamped firmly between two guards. He could see her wincing slightly at the strong grip the men had on her but her own arms stayed securely around the baby. Ned started to think about what he had just done as he walked towards them, he'd now be presenting Catelyn with two babies. Funnily enough he imagined he would accept the little Targaryen babe a lot quicker than she would accept Jon … if she would ever accept Jon. He shook his head then to clear it of that troublesome thought as he came to a stop in front of the wet nurse.
"Unhand her," he said to the guards and they hesitated for a moment before doing as he asked; "What is her name?" he asked the shaking girl then.
"Dany … my Lord," the girl told him, "Daenerys Targaryen"
"Hand her to me," he said, holding his arms out but the girl hesitated, her grip tightening on Dany; "I won't hurt her … she will be safe with me," he promised.
"But who will feed her … take care of her?" the girl asked almost desperately.
"It will be taken care of," Ned assured her, she could share with Jon until they reached Riverrun.
"Please … my Lord, would you consider allowing me to come too?" she asked him.
"To the North?" he questioned in surprise, not many southerners ventured up there willingly.
"Yes," she said, her voice shaking slightly as she met his eyes for a moment before they slid to the men who had held her and Ned too saw the hungry expression in their eyes.
"If you're sure," he said quietly, "what's your name?"
"Loral my Lord," she curtseyed slightly.
"We leave in an hour, make sure you're both ready," he told her.
Edmure was making a racket as he crashed down the hallway. Catelyn jumped up in irritation and went straight for the door, she had just got Robb to sleep and she would be damned if her little brother woke him up again. He hadn't been sleeping well at all since a tooth had been threatening to poke out of his gums, he had taken to hauling himself onto his knees and gnawing at the edge of his cradle. The Maester told her it was normal but it looked anything but to Catelyn. He seemed to chew on anything he could get his hands on when he was sat up in the nursery surrounded by toys and pillows. Robb could hold himself up well now and rarely teetered but she was still worried about him toppling over onto the hard stone floor.
She wrenched open the door then and saw her brother practically skipping down the hallway towards her exclaiming so many things at once that she could not make out a word of it. Whatever it was he needed to be quiet now.
"Will you shut up," she hissed as she marched towards him, "Robb is sleeping"
"Sorry Cat," he apologised, "it's just … banners have been sighted"
"Banners?" she repeated stupidly.
"Stark banners … with the wolf!" he exclaimed again and she hushed him at once.
"Ned," she whispered then.
Catelyn stayed in the entrance hall twisting her hands together until she heard the sound of hooves against the stones of the courtyard. She took a deep breath then and swallowed hard before making her way out of the doors. Robb was still in the nursery, she was loathe to wake him when he so rarely slept and she hoped that Ned wouldn't be annoyed with her. Knowing Ned he would prefer to meet his son in private anyway, far away from the prying eyes of the people of Riverrun. Her eyes scanned the courtyard for him as she made her way carefully down the steps. Eventually she saw him, dismounting at the side of a carriage which she frowned at the sight of. He came towards her then – was it her imagination or did he have a slightly apprehensive look in his eyes?
"Cat," he greeted, his voice sounding almost relieved.
"Ned," she smiled back at him and in the next instant his arms were around her.
"Where is he? Where's our boy?" he asked then and she pulled out of his warm embrace.
"In the nursery," she told him, "I'm sorry … I would have brought him out but he is sleeping and he has been getting so little of it that last days as he has a tooth coming"
"A tooth?" Ned repeated wonderingly, "Gods I have missed so much"
"He's strong Ned … everyone says it," she said proudly and his lips twitched up.
"Thank the Gods," he said then and she saw that strange look in his eyes again.
She was about to tell him that she would take him up to see Robb when the carriage opened and a woman stepped carefully down with a bundle in her arms. Catelyn knew at once that it was a baby but for the life of her she could not work out why Ned would have brought women and children back with him. He had come from war … why were they here? She looked at him quizzically then and he steeled himself. This was it.
"We have another addition," he said and her eyes widened.
"I don't understand," she stated.
"This is Dany … Daenerys Targaryen," he said, pulling back the blankets so Catelyn could see the baby girl in Loral's arms.
"Targaryen?" she repeated.
"She's to be our ward … it was that or …" he tailed off and Catelyn understood at once.
"You should take her inside," she said to Loral then, "one of the maids will show you up to the nursery"
"Thank you my Lady," Loral curtseyed before making her way carefully towards the keep.
"Thank you," Ned said gratefully.
"She's an orphaned girl … an innocent babe, did you think I would turn her away?" she asked in slight amusement.
"No of course not, I just …" he started but cut off as another woman came down from the carriage with another baby.
"Gods Ned! How many wards are we taking?!" Catelyn laughed then, stepping towards the woman before he could caution her and pushing the blankets aside herself.
She froze when she peered down at the baby, his eyes blinking inquisitively up at her. Grey eyes. Stark eyes. She snapped her head back to Ned then and saw the look on his face and it took all her poise and strength not to break down and cry. She wanted to cry, she wanted to scream and rage and tell him he was a liar. It was Brandon, they told her, Brandon would be the one to break her heart and take mistress after mistress. Then, when she was to be married to Ned instead they told her she was lucky, that he was good and honourable. Faithful. He would keep his vows. She met his eyes then, the same eyes as this baby. Liar's eyes.
He grabbed her arm lightly as she made to march passed him but let go quickly at the look that flashed in her deep blue eyes when they met his.
"You promised me Ned," she said venomously, "I don't want that child anywhere near my son do you hear me?"
All he could do was nod then and he saw her beautiful accusing eyes fill with tears before she tore them away from his and marched back towards the keep.
Lord Tully eventually came into the room that Ned was awkwardly occupying. He didn't know where his wife was and he didn't know where his son was. He knew nothing about the layout of Riverrun save where the main hall was and where the Sept was. He couldn't even remember the room that he and Catelyn had shared for that one heavenly night and he was ashamed at his forgetfulness. When he looked up into the eyes of his good-father he instantly wanted to look away again. They were Catelyn's eyes and they were just as accusing.
"Please," Ned said before Hostor could speak, "I have not even seen my son yet"
His good-father frowned at him slightly but Ned could see the conflict in his eyes and eventually the older man sighed in evident frustration and nodded his head slightly, gesturing him to follow. Ned did as he was told and dared not say anything else as they walked down hallway after hallway. The silence was almost crushing him and he could barely stand it. Just when he thought he could take no more they came to a stop outside a door.
"He's in there," Hostor told him, "mind you don't wake him now or Cat will be furious … mind … she already is," he finished and Ned flushed in shame.
"I'm sorry," Ned told him.
"It's not me who needs your grovelling Lord Stark," he almost snapped before walking away.
Ned pushed open the door carefully then, his eyes wandering right over Loral who was rocking Dany in an armchair and fixed on the cradle at the other side of the room. His heart was pounding and he barely heard Loral as she made her apologies and excuses to leave him alone with his boy. His boy. His heart soared at the mere thought of it as he finally came close enough to be able to peer into the cradle. He was sleeping. He was tiny. Bigger still than Dany and Jon but still tiny in Ned's eyes. He favoured his mother, his hair darker than hers but still unmistakably Tully. His nose could be Stark Ned supposed, and perhaps his lips as well. He wondered what colour his eyes were then as he watched him sleeping, resisting the urge to reach down and touch his tiny hand.
The door opened behind him then and he didn't turn. He somehow knew it was Catelyn and he didn't have it in him to look her in the eyes yet. Conflict was raging in him and he had no idea which side would win out. Loyalty to his wife or loyalty to his dead sister. Did it even have to be a choice?
You promised me Ned! Catelyn accused him.
Promise me Ned. Lyanna's dying words.
You promised me Ned! Could he live with her hating him forever?
"He's not mine," he said then before he could stop himself.
"What?" Catelyn whispered so quietly he barely heard her; "you dare say that to me after what you've done? I know he favours my colouring but he is your son Ned!"
"Not Robb," he soothed her at once, finally turning away from the cradle to look at her; "Jon"
"That boy?" she questioned, her tone hard.
"He's not mine," he told her again.
"You expect me to believe that?" she almost snorted.
"He's Lyanna's," he said quietly and she stared at him, he could see her mind working it out and as her eyes widened he knew she had got there.
"Rhaegar?" she breathed, her eyes flickering to the door before she took several paces towards him.
"No one can know Cat," he said firmly, gripping the top of her arms, "no one"
"No one," she agreed, meeting his eyes, "not ever"
"Not ever," he nodded.
"He's yours," she said then and he swallowed hard.
"He's mine," he agreed.
A noise from behind Ned roused them both then and their eyes left one another's, Ned turning to look down into the cradle where his son was wide awake and kicking his blankets furiously away from him. Robb ceased what he was doing as he caught sight of his father, his bright blue eyes shining in confusion for a moment before his lips broke into a wide gummy smile. Ned's heart soared and Catelyn saw the look of wonder in his eyes as he bent down to lift Robb carefully into his arms.
"Meet your son," she smiled then, blinking rapidly to stop the tears coming.
"My son," he breathed against Robb's soft head, "my boy, my only boy."
A/N: So yeah ... that's how AU. Hope you liked it. Please let me know.
I will most likely put the first proper chapter up on Friday/Saturday.