Now, I am not a fan of Catelyn Stark for many reasons, but the one thing that I do admit is that she is a woman who loves her children. That's why I've always felt that one of the most intriguing and complex relationships in the series of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, is the one between Catelyn Stark and her sort-of stepson of Jon Snow. I decided to explore a bit of it, with a little thought that popped into my head.
Quote of the day:
My father's wife is old and harsh with years,
And drudge of all my father's house am I—
My bread is sorrow and my drink is tears.
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
—Rudyard Kipling, The Love Song of Har Dyal
The name lingered in the cold air of Winterfell as she said it, and Catelyn Stark wasn't sure what she felt, whether it was anger or hatred, envy or betrayal, or perhaps an odd combination of all the above, the woman unable to hide her frown as she stared down at the sleeping babe silently drowsing in his cradle, the child unaware of what he was, and of just what kind of life awaited him. She knew that it was one thing for a Lord to have a bastard or two, that even King Robert Baratheon himself was rumored to have them all across Westeros, but it was another altogether for a Lord to demand on raising his baseborn son among his own trueborn children, as Eddard currently was with their dear little Robb and the bastard Jon Snow.
A recent sour memory came to her in that moment, of little Robb and her husband's bastard giggling together and crawling to one another in front of the fireplace in the way that only children who love each other do, and even though the thought of it made her stomach twist in ways that made Catelyn ashamed of herself, every time she thought of the boy and her son, every time she thought of this Jon Snow, the bitterness in her heart only grew. Even now she knew that Robb would grow to love his father's bastard, that he would maybe even see him as a brother, and Lady Stark felt like the worst woman in the world, wishing in that moment with all her soul that her baby boy could grow to hate this child named Snow. Perhaps the worst thing about it all though, the thing that made Catelyn twist and turn even in her sleep, was the way that even now, that Eddard often looked down and smiled at Jon in the same way that he smiled down to Robb.
Catelyn's thoughts were interrupted when she heard some walking through the hallway behind the door of Jon's room, and the woman froze in place, not sure what people were to say if they found her alone with Ned's bastard. They wouldn't say anything directly to her face of course, for she was the Lady of Winterfell, but they would most definitely whisper about it behind her back. It was no secret that she had no love for Jon Snow, and what would people think if they found her standing over the bastard boy, with no one else there to see?
As the steps in the corridor behind her faded though, and as the only sounds that then kept her company were a babe's soft snores and the cold wind that eternally raged on in the North, Catelyn's gaze once more rested on Snow. Her hands gripped onto the barricade of the boy's crib, and as she watched him, Snow looking just like Robb did as he slept, her thoughts drifted off once more, not only to Jon, but to what the bastard represented to her own family of House Tully. By every social grace in Westeros, the bastard boy's existence was an affront from House Stark to the honor of House Tully, and Ned's insistence on raising the boy as his own, at the side of his trueborn son, was more than just a slight to Catelyn's own honor; it was one of the greatest forms of disrespect that a husband could show to his wife.
She frowned as another memory then came to her, of her little brother Edmure, and of the future Lord's very last visit to Winterfell not so long ago. Edmure had shown up with his host, to feast and drink and to forever proclaim the friendship between Winterfell and Riverrun, and the night was mostly a haze to Catelyn if she had to be honest, except for the moment where she caught her younger brother sneaking off from the feast, carrying with him two small wrapped boxes, one for his nephew Robb, and one for a boy named Jon Snow. She still remembered what Edmure had said, that it wasn't little Jon's fault that Ned had betrayed her trust, and that at the end of the day that he wasn't some great insult that stained House Tully's honor, but instead that Jon was just a child; one that would never know a mother's love. She still remembered her little brother's words that pierced her heart, and she still remembered the red mark and the look of surprise on his face after she had slapped him.
Soon enough though, another sound interrupted her thoughts once again, but this time, it wasn't any sound from the corridor behind her. Jon was awake now and staring at her, and for a moment, the two of them couldn't help but to continue gazing at one another, Jon for a reason that Catelyn wasn't sure, and Catelyn for a brief second feeling just a twinge of something motherly whirl inside her as she watched the boy in the crib below her. The two shared solemn faces with one another, baby Jon gurgling something incoherent, before the bastard boy did something that surprised her, Catelyn never once having shown the babe anything even close to affection. He smiled at her.
She watched as the stirring child reached out into the air, it's babbling slowly turning into tears, and she knew just what exactly it was that this young Jon Snow wanted. Like any babe, the child yearned for its mother, a woman he would never know, and for a moment, a fleeting one that would forever define her relationship with this boy, Catelyn Stark and Jon Snow were the only two people in the world. And so, she did the only thing she felt she could.
She walked away.
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