7th Month of 283 A.C. King's Landing
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen
Rhaegar had never thought it would come to this, truth be told he had never really thought it would come to war. He had not stopped to think that his father would truly be so mad as to execute a Lord Paramount and his heir, nor had he stopped to think on what he knew of Brandon Stark. Truth be told his naivety was embarrassing for someone such as him. Rhaegar knew he had failed in one of the things he had promised himself he would never fail in, he would not allow himself to fall to the madness, the madness his father had willingly embraced, but as he thought on it now, he could see just how mad he truly appeared. It horrified him, it truly did horrify him, and he was not sure if he knew just what to make of all that had come and gone. He worried for Elia and their children as he had never done so whilst at the Tower, and that, that made him despise himself, Aegon was in grave danger, but his father in a fit of madness or rare sense had sent Rhaenys back to Dragonstone, not wanting something so overtly Dornish in his presence, and yet he kept Elia there, determined to use her to make Doran send men.
Rhaegar looks at his wife and son then, and he feels a deep well of regret. He looks at her and says. "I am sorry Elia, truly I am. I never meant for it to come to this. I…I did not think."
His wife looks at him, her eyes hard. Her voice is remarkably soft though when she replies. "No, you did not did you? You never do, do you Rhaegar? It is something that has happened now, and we must accept that whatever may come will come."
"You are not angry?" Rhaegar asks
His wife laughs. "Why should I be angry with you? I knew you were going to take the Stark girl, I am angrier with myself that I did not see just how wrong that could go. I should have heeded Ashara and told you of what Lyanna Stark's brother truly was. That I did not is my fault, and my fault alone."
Rhaegar shakes his head. "You could not know that. Ashara, she…she has always been careless with her words my lady. It is not possible for us to know how someone such as Stark would react. Considering his father was all for this marriage, one would have thought the son would know."
His wife laughs once more. "Surely you have realised by now Rhaegar that fathers do not always tell their sons the things they need to know. Brandon Stark is a clear example of that. And you, you are another."
Rhaegar is surprised by this and asks her. "What do you mean by that? How am an example of that folly which the Starks seemed to have developed so well, that my cousin's father seems to have ingested so well?"
Elia looks at him, her eyes filled with sorrow. "Your father never told you things, things he has been saying since you disappeared. He speaks in his rages, and there is a fear of mine that he means to spread a rumour that could well end us all. Tywin Lannister is not one to take such a thing lying down, and with Ser Jaime here, I do not know what could happen."
"Rumour?" he asks. "What rumour? What are you speaking of Elia?" Rhaegar asks.
His wife takes a deep breath and says. "Of what happened when Lady Joanna was still alive and at court, of a dalliance that happened when Lord Tywin was away on business as hand. Of the children that might have come from that dalliance."
The implications of her words, hit him hard then. "No that cannot be true. My father is many things, but surely he is not mad enough to do something such as that? He must know saying such things would only endanger us all."
Elia laughs bitterly. "I do not think your father much cares. He believes himself a dragon, a man who knows no fear, does not care to hold his tongue. You told me that once, do you remember?"
Rhaegar looks at his wife and his son then and says. "I will get you out of here before I leave Elia I promise you. If it is the last thing I do, you will leave from King's Landing."
His wife merely looks at him and asks. "And where will I go? Your father's men watch me more than they do you. And that is because I hold your heir. I will not leave without Aegon, Rhaegar, and we both know that Aerys will never allow Aegon to leave."
"Then what am I supposed to do? How can I leave you here, and go knowing that if I die, you will all die?" Rhaegar asks frustrated.
"I did not think you would go for the fighting." his wife says her voice cold. "You never did take an interest in most of those things before, I was not sure now would be any different."
No matter how true her words, they stills ting. He looks at his wife, and asks. "When did we become like this Elia? Why are we arguing now?"
"What would you like me to do Rhaegar? I cannot keep up the act for much longer. The whole damn realm knows that you took Lyanna Stark, and her betrothed is fighting a war. Maybe for her maybe not for her, but all know that I was spurned for lack of being able to give you another heir. Another one of your heads." Elia says her voice bitter.
Rhaegar feels stung then. "Elia. I…" he does not finish though for the door opens and Ser Jaime enters.
The young knight looks nervous then. "My prince, I am sorry but your time is up. The time the king gave you is done."
Rhaegar looks at the young knight. "Very well, thank you Ser Jaime. You may wait outside." he stands and looks toward Elia and their son and whispers. "I will see you safe Elia, I promise."
His wife does not reply, sighing, Rhaegar turns toward the door and walks out. Ser Jaime is there waiting for him, and as they begin walking Rhaegar asks. "Tell me Ser Jaime, what do you know of your father and my father's relationship?"
The knight looks apprehensive, and Rhaegar curses himself for yet another mistake. He should have spent more time with this young man, just as Arthur cautioned. The knight replies calmly. "I know they were friends once, before something happened, that is all I know my prince. Why do you ask?"
Rhaegar hesitates for a moment and then enquires. "Tell me Ser Jaime, why did you join the Kingsguard? I know my father nominated you, but why did you want to become a member of the Kingsguard?"
The knight visibly hesitates for a moment then. "I joined because, the Kingsguard was an institution that growing seemed to be very ideal of knighthood and chivalry. We all grow up hearing about the stories of Ser Duncan the Tall, Ser Alyn Connington, Ser Corlys Velaryon, all of these people are told to us, and we learn about their feats. I wanted to fight amongst some of the best knights in the realm, I wanted to be a knight worth something."
"You did not want to be Lord of the Rock?" Rhaegar asks intrigued.
Ser Jaime shakes his head. "That life is not for me. My brother Tyrion would be far more suited to such a thing than I could ever be. I only ever wanted to serve."
Rhaegar nods. "A noble thought Ser. Now tell me, if I were to ask you to protect my wife and child with your life, would you?"
Rhaegar has stopped walking now, as has the knight, and they look at one another intensely. "Yes Your Grace, of course. I would give my life for theirs, without any question."
Rhaegar looks at the man intently. "Do you swear by all that is holy? On the Seven, and on your brother's life, that you would protect them above all else?"
The knight nods with fervour. "Yes Your Grace. I would not abandon them, not even if my own father was asking me to open the gates of hell to him."
Rhaegar claps the man on the shoulder, feels the solid weight of the armour and says softly. "You are a good man Ser Jaime. Never forget that, even when the day becomes dark."
The knight nods and they walk in silence until Rhaegar comes to his bastard brother's room. His brother Aurane, is a cut throat, Rhaegar has always known that, and if his father had had his way, Aurane would be the one who was Prince of Dragonstone, but Aurane, well Aurane was never much interested in anything other than fighting and fucking. That is why Rhaegar has come to him now. He looks at his brother and says. "You are ready?"
His brother smiles cockily. "I was born ready brother. Now tell me, which move should I use to kill Baratheon?"
Rhaegar looks at his brother and says. "You are not supposed to kill him brother. We have been over this, you are merely meant to injure him and make it seem as if you are fighting to win. To win would to be throw all else into chaos."
His brother merely looks at him and says. "You are no fun. How did you manage to get those two children from your wife I do not know? But nevertheless as you command sire."
Rhaegar watches as his brother puts on the armour, and walks out the room. Rhaegar remains in the room for a moment, and then he walks out as well. Ser Jaime is there waiting, watching as Aurane greets Ser Jonothor Darry and then moves on. The young knight is silent a moment and then he asks. "Are you sure it is a wise move to trust him Your Grace?"
"Aurane? Oh he is most definitely a cut throat, but he values our family more than he does anything else. Furthermore, he knows his name would never go down in history anyway, and he has always wanted to fight. So no I do not think it is unwise. I merely think it prudent. Now be on your way, I must go." Rhaegar replies.
"Are you sure Your Grace?" Ser Jaime asks.
"I am, we cannot alert the spider to this. Now go on and do not wait for me." Rhaegar replies. The knight hesitates, but then he inclines his head and walks forward and away from Rhaegar. Rhaegar waits a moment and then he slips back inside his brother's room and exchanges his clothes for the clothes his brother prefers, they look alike somewhat, so it should not be hard to slip away, especially with the commotion of the army departing. Once he is changed, Rhaegar, slips out the back way, the way he and his brother used to move for Summerhall, and he walks quickly, not stopping for anything. Eventually he comes to the Dragon Gate, and nodding to the man on the walls he begins making his way out of the city.
He stops and turns around, looks at the city, and toward Aegon's High Hill where Elia and his son sit, and he says softly. "I will return for you Elia, I promise you. I will not forget, no matter that Doran forgot." With that he takes a deep breath, turns and walks out of the gate, and away from the place that has been his home for his whole life. He does not turn round once.
8th Month of 283 A.C. King's Landing
Lord Eddard Stark
Sometimes he woke up screaming, his nightmares were becoming far more prominent. They were etching themselves inside his very being, and he did not know how to escape them. They were a torment, a living breathing reminder of the sins he had committed. Murder, treason, all of this was filling his mind now. He could not sleep, Ned wanted so desperately to sleep and yet he could not. Something was stopping him from sleeping, the image of Princess Elia and Prince Aegon's bodies there before the throne was something that tormented him daily. He, did not know how to handle that, he was not sure he could. The worst thing of all was Robert, Robert who had changed during the war, had gone from being his brother, to being a stranger, a monster. Robert who condoned the killing of innocent children, who would laugh with Tywin Lannister, and Jon, gods he did not know what to think anymore. He was not sure he wanted to.
"I cannot remain here Jon." Ned says finally, his thoughts not allowing him to speak any more clearly. "Robert is turning into something I cannot stomach, and I do not think I want to know what he will become with Tywin Lannister here. I do not understand why you have to allow the man pardoned for his crimes, or his son."
"Not this again Ned," Jon says. "Surely you can see the sense in not antagonizing Tywin Lannister. The man did us all a favour by ensuring that the city was taken and that a threat was removed, he has made the throne more secure for Robert. As for Ser Jaime he did what we all wanted to do."
"How can you say that Jon?" Ned asks surprised. "Where was the honour in the killing of innocents? The Lannisters killed without a thought for who was guilty and who was innocent. Gregor Clegane raped Princess Elia for god's sake man. Ser Jaime broke his oaths to the Kingsguard, he killed his king. Such a man should be sent to the god's damned wall, not rewarded."
"Do not be so foolish Ned." The Lord of the Vale says sharply. "You know it needed to be done, Ser Jaime did us all a favour. As for Lord Tywin, he too did us a favour, and now Ser Jaime remaining in the Kingsguard, is a sure way to ensure Tywin does not get any ideas about supporting Prince Viserys who remains on Dragonstone."
"Viserys is but a child. What threat can he pose?" Ned asks.
"If you must truly ask that Ned, then I do not know how to help you. You are more naïve than what I thought you would be considering all that has happened. Why do you continue to try and protect the Targaryens when they are the reason for us being in this situation? Rhaegar is dead, and his death is justified for the raping of your sister and the deaths his actions caused." Jon Arryn says.
Ned looks at this man in surprise and says. "I do not know what to think anymore. You are not the man I know Jon. Neither you or Robert are the same people you were before this war began."
"No, we have grown and realised the truth of the world. It is you who is naïve Ned, you who is clinging to something that is not real." a voice says from behind him. Ned tenses and sees Robert standing there.
"Your Grace." He says stiffly.
"You know what I say is true Ned, I am merely speaking the truth. You are clinging to something that is not real, has never been real. It makes good sense to ensure that the Lannisters are kept happy for the time being. They helped take this city, punishing them for something we were going to have to do anyway makes no sense Ned." The king says.
"You would have allowed the sack to happen? The killing of innocents, of children and women? Of the Princess and her son?" Ned asks.
"They were not innocent. Those dragonspawn were working for him." Robert spits. "They did his bidding, they were his. They had to die. For Lyanna, for Lord Rickard, for Brandon. Do you not see that Ned?"
"All I see is butchery and murder. I do not see the justice you claim it is Your Grace." Ned replies. "I see cold blooded murder, and I want no part of it. I want to find my sister and to return home to my wife and son."
Robert shakes his head then. "You are too naïve. Too damn honourable, too good for your own good. It will bring you nothing but pain Ned. Why can you not see that?"
"Because I am not butcher Your Grace. I hope you enjoy your time here, I have other things to do." Ned says turning to leave.
Before he exits the room though Robert holds up a hand and says. "You will go to Storm's End first, end the siege there and get the Tyrells and their men to swear fealty, and then you may go and find your sister."
"Yes Your Grace." Ned replies. "Is there anything else you wish for me to do? Shall I bring Lyanna here to King's Landing?"
There is a long moment's silence then before finally Robert speaks. "There is actually. Do not bring Lyanna here. She is spoiled goods now, after the dragonspawn has been through with her. I am a king now Ned, I will not have another man's left overs. I will marry someone else. You can deal with Lyanna however you want."
Ned feels a deep seated anger flow through him then, he feels the urge to hit Robert, to break him into pieces, but instead all he merely says is. "Yes Your Grace."
Still Robert does not let him leave. His parting words are even more blood curdling. "And Ned, if you find a child, kill it."
Ned merely nods and storms out of the room. His men are waiting for him outside the city, they say nothing, and his expression is dark and cloudy. "We ride for Storm's End." he says loudly and then spurs his horse on and rides for the castle. His thoughts are a whirlwind as he rides south. He does not know what has become of Robert, what has happened to his friend, all he knows is that he does not know him anymore. He does not know Jon Arryn anymore. The man who raised him would never have condoned the killing of children, would never have allowed such a farce to happen. The man who raised him would have spit on the very thing that he allowed. He remembers something his father once told him about Jon Arryn. "The Arryns claim to be as High As Honour, but in truth they are no different to us. They will fight and lie as any Lannister. Jon Arryn is no different Ned." He had argued with his father about that, had claimed Jon was different, now he sees just how wrong he was. He misses his father, his father would never have allowed such a thing to happen. His father would have killed Robert for saying the things he said about Lyanna today. But Ned, Ned only allowed it to happen, he did nothing to stop it.
His men and his army can tell there is something not quite right, but they do not speak on it, they merely allow it to go unchecked, and as they continue their journey south, Ned feels his anger grow. Robert has become corrupt, but then again there was always the chance he would be corrupted, that was something Ned knew would be a risk, but he had always thought Jon would be there to negate it. Now he realises that perhaps Jon had always been there pushing Robert toward the darkness. He does not know why or for how long he has been blind to this, but now that he can see somewhat more clearly, he realises that there is much and more that has been kept from him. Benjen's confession at Winterfell when he came home to call the banners, the note from his father, all of it makes sense now. Anger grows inside of him. Anger at Robert, at Jon, at Lyanna, at Rhaegar, at them all. They made their plans and now he is left to deal with the mess. He knows where Lyanna is being held, a message in the night, a caress in the dark, all of it makes him wonder whether he has been led astray, whether the south holds any truth to it. If there is anywhere that holds any truth in it. Storm's End comes and goes, the Tyrells dip their banners, and the castle is replenished with food and supplies. Stannis Baratheon knights a smuggler who prevented the castle from dying of starvation and Ned sends word to King's Landing, and also leaves instructions for Lord Stannis, to build a fleet to go to Dragonstone. Ned sends the army under Lord Umber to return home, he sees no reason why they should continue to tarry, not with the war done. He chooses Howland, Mark, Willam, Martyn, Ethan and Theo to come with him to where Lyanna is being kept.
They ride in silence once more, Ned's mood darkening as they come through the Stormlands, passed Summerhall, where Tywin Lannister it is said showed just how treacherous he could be, and then into Dorne. That Rhaegar Targaryen would keep his sister of all places, Ned thinks just shows how mad the man must have been. Either that, or he was very, very bold. For Ned can think of no greater insult. He calls his men to a halt when he sees three men in white cloaks and white armour standing outside the tower, armed and waiting for him. He and his men dismount and he speaks. "Greetings, I have come for my sister."
The men look at him a moment and then a man he knows to be Ser Gerold Hightower speaks. "Have you come here on orders of the Usurper?"
Ned thinks of Robert's words before he departed the capital, and in that moment a deep rage fills him. "I have come for my sister. Now give her to me, or I will kill you." he barks.
Hightower merely looks at him and asks once more. "Have you come on orders of the Usurper?"
"No! For God's sake I have not. I have come to get my sister and take her home." Ned growls, his anger beginning to grow.
He sees the three knights tense at his tone, feels rather than sees his men tense as well, but then he hears a voice, and is surprised when he sees Lyanna walking out of the tower, a babe in her arms, and this is where he believes he is seeing things, a man with silver hair and violet eyes looking at him, his arm around Ned's sister. "Let them be Gerold. Lord Stark is here for his sister, but we must speak."
The three Kingsguard knights look at Ned briefly, and then back at their prince, and then they move back, allowing Ned to move forward. Ned looks at the man and then asks. "How? You were slain at the Trident, I saw you die."
The man laughs softly then. "That was my brother Aurane. He took my place, for I knew something might happen if I were not here when you came Lord Eddard."
Ned stares at the man and then says. "You allowed your wife and son to die."
A hard look passes over the man's face. "I did not want that to happen. I did not think Tywin would do such a thing. But he will pay for that in the end. But it does no good to speak of such things now. Now do you wish to speak with me, or do I need to have you killed?"
His sister who had been quiet until then squeaks then, Ned looks at her a moment, so many emotions pass through him at that moment, but the main one is relief. He looks at her and then at the bundle in her arms. "Are you okay Lya?" he asks softly.
His sister nods. "As well as I could be Ned. I and Jon are well."
"Jon?" he asks.
"Our son, your nephew." Lyanna says.
Ned looks at the bundle in his sister's arms and then looks at Rhaegar and asks his voice tight. "What do you want from me?"
"Nothing my lord. I merely wish to know if you will take myself and my wife and son before your friend?" the man asks softly, phrasing it all so lightly.
Ned looks at the man, and then at his sister, and then at the child in her arms. A tuft of hair shows, and as Ned looks more at the child, he feels his heart stop. The babe looks a lot like him, a lot like Lya, a lot like Benjen did as a babe. He stares at the babe. "Would you like to hold him Ned?" Lya asks.
Ned nods numbly, and soon finds himself holding his nephew, he stares at the baby, traces the image of the boy's face, with a finger, and finds himself thinking of his own son, and the worries he has for Robb, the babe, that is Cat's as much as his. Then he thinks of the image of little Aegon crushed into nothingness, he looks at the babe, then at the father and he grits out. "I will not take you to King's Landing."