10th Month of 283 A.C
Lord Eddard Stark
The rebellion was over, Robert was king, Rhaegar was dead, Aerys was dead, Princess Elia was dead, and her children were dead. So much bloodshed, and for what? Ned did not know, nor did he much care. All he knew was that Robert was not the same man that he had been, the crown and the war had changed him, had changed them all, but Robert most of all was changed. His friend, his brother was now a mere stranger, for Ned did not think, could not think that the man who had gone drinking with him in the Eyrie, would ever dare condone the murder of children. And yet that was what his friend had done, it saddened him truth be told, it angered him even further, his friend was gone, dead, as far as he could see, there was nothing he could do, nothing that could change that, and yet, and yet something seemed as though it needed to be done. He could not in good conscience allow his friend to slip into the throes of madness, into the crutch of depression not again, not this time. Ned had not fought through the seven hells to see his friend fall into depression, at least that was what he had told himself when he had set off from King's Landing, still angry with Robert, getting to Storm's End word had come from the capital, a slaughter had occurred of some of the Targaryen's extended family, those innocent of anything but being related to Aerys, Ned had been horrified, it did not sit well with him, it reeked of Tywin Lannister. He did not know what to make of it, and yet he would do his duty if asked, and yet Lyanna came first, she had always come first for Ned, and now here he was, where she was said to be, and his heart hammered.
Word had come in the form of Ashara Dayne, his brother's former lover, as to where he could find his sister, hidden in some god's forsaken tower in Dorne, the audacity of Prince Rhaegar struck him then, the fact that the prince would even consider hiding Lyanna in the home of his wife, that was something that made Ned question whether the prince had truly been sane. He had placed the northern army under the command of Lord Jeor Mormont and instructed them to return north following the lifting of the siege of Storm's End, there was no time for them to come with him. Only six others had come with him, Ethan Glover who he had found in the black cells near death but determined to serve, Ser Mark Ryswell quiet but loyal, strong and tough, then there was Martyn Cassel old, loyal and firm, Theo Wull a giant even compared to the Greatjon, Lord Willam Dustin another one of Brandon's friends and someone Ned was not sure of and finally Howland Reed, who had confessed to him the nature of Lyanna's abduction. All had become friends to him during this war, and he would trust them with his life, and yet, he knew that what they were about to see within the tower or perhaps even witness would test their loyalty. Ned sighs, he knows that things are going to grow more and more uncertain as time goes by, but he does not know whether or not that is a good thing or a bad thing. He orders his men to a halt and dismounts. He sees three white knights standing before the tower, and he knows then that his suspicions are confirmed.
Ned with his companions' advances forward, his hand on the pommel of Ice. He stops before the three Kingsguard and says in a voice full of authority. "I have wondered where you three were. I had looked for you on the Trident, but you were not there."
"Had we been there, the Prince of Dragonstone would live, and the usurper would be dead and rotting." Ser Gerold, the old bull says.
"I had looked for you in King's Landing, and you were not there. Not even when Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and sat the throne himself." Ned says.
"Had we been there, the king would yet live, and our false brother would burn in the deepest of the seven hells." Ser Oswell says.
"Ser Willam Darry has fled to Dragonstone with Queen Rhaella, and Prince Viserys, I thought to find you with them." Ned probes.
"Ser Willam is a good man, loyal and true." Ser Arthur says.
"But not of the Kingsguard," Ser Oswell intones.
"The Kingsguard, does not flee." Ser Arthur agrees.
"Not now, and not then." Ser Gerold says in agreement.
Ned looks at the three men and says. "It does not have to be this way. Bend the knee and I know Robert will be merciful. Ser Barristan bent the knee and now is in the Kingsguard."
Ser Gerold snorts. "Ser Barristan is weak, he is not a true knight of the Kingsguard. As for your friend the usurper, he is no king. Any man who comes to the throne over the bodies of dead children is not worth the title he seeks to claim. We shall fight."
Ned looks at the Lord Commander and says. "This is not a fight you can hope to win Lord Commander. We are seven, you are but three. Would you truly believe me capable of causing harm to my own sister? She, who your prince took by force and against her own will?"
Ser Arthur laughs then. "If you believe that, you are a greater fool than we all thought Stark. I thought it was your brother who acted first and thought later, not you. Your sister came willingly with the Prince, and you are a trusted commander of the usurper you will forgive us for being somewhat suspicious of you."
Ned looks at the man and says. "Let me see my sister, and we need not resort to bloodshed here. Too much blood has been shed already."
"I am afraid that will not be possible. We swore a vow, and we do not break our vows. For our king we shall give our lives. For his protection we shall ensure none dare harm him." Ser Gerold says.
"As happened under King Aegon the Unlikely, we fight one more battle to stop a Stark from claiming that which is not his to claim. It ends as it began. Be prepared to meet your death." Ser Oswell says drawing his sword.
Sighing, Ned draws Ice from its sheath, holding it in two hands he advances forward, his men with him. He goes for Ser Gerold first, knowing that the Old Bull is old enough to be slowed down. He swings his sword at the same time that Ser Mark swings his sword, it is not honourable this, but as he has learned there is little honourable about war. His sword connects with the old man's sword and he grunts under the weight of it all, he holds the connection for a time, and then pulls apart, and then goes in for another swing. This time he hits the man's armour, and he sees blood falling from the man's wounds, he continues pushing onward. Mark and he, attack the man doing all they can to force the issue, swinging their swords, pushing the man as far as he can go. Ser Gerold, though he is old is still good, he is strong, Ned is beaten back by the force of one of his counter blows, and as he tries to get his bearings back he watches the old bull cut Mark down, the sight of a fallen friend spurs him on, he roars a challenge and enters the fray once more. Hightower is strong, even for his age, Ned will give him that much, but gods this is tiring. Ned ducks, and parries he does all of this, and still it takes both himself and Theo to bring down the White Bull, Theo himself is heavily wounded, and Ned can feel blood slipping through his wounds as well, and yet the fighting is not done, there is still two more Kingsguard to deal with.
As Ned and Theo advance on Ser Oswell who it seems is duelling Willam Dustin, Ned watches with horror as the man falls to his death, the Kingsguard knight continues forward advancing to join Ned and Theo in their clash of steel. Ned fights through the paint that he feels and slashes at Whent, the man parries and slashes back, it goes on and on, this exchange back and forth, determined to see it achieved. It becomes automatic, a natural reaction it seems, Theo falls cut in half by either Ned or by Oswell Ned does not know, will never know, all he knows is that this furthers his own anger, and desire. He fights Whent with all he has, everything within him and he fights and swings, cuts, parries and blocks and when Whent falls he lets loose a roar of triumph, he sees Whent fall just as Ethan falls to Ser Arthur a cut and bloodied mess. Ned feels anger flow through him, another fallen comrade, and another person who must needs be avenged.
Ned moves on the Sword of the Morning, the brother of the woman Ned had thought himself in love with. He advances on the knight and the fighting resumes once more, but this time, there is an urgency to his swings and slashes, he can hear his sister screaming for him, crying out for him. Ned pushes, using every muscle that he can to force Dayne's sword from his hands, he points his sword at the man's throat and barks. "Let me see my sister, and your sister need not mourn the loss of another brother."
Dayne looks at him and says. "You promise not to hurt the child you find inside the tower?"
"Of course not, I am not Robert." Ned snarls.
"Then go." Dayne says.
Ned moves his sword from the man's throat, and sheathes his sword, he looks at Howland and Martyn and both men nod, and they will keep an eye on Dayne. Ned hurries toward the tower, and then hurries up the steps, and eventually bursts into the room, where he finds his sister, lying in a bed of blood, a child in her arms. Ned kneels beside her. "Lya, it's me, it's Ned."
His sister looks at him then her eyes milky. "Ned…. I knew you would come, I told them that you would come. I am sorry Ned….so very sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for Lya. I should have done more to help you, to protect you." Ned whispers stroking his sister's hair.
His sister shakes her head. "No, I am responsible for father and Brandon's deaths. Had I sent a letter, perhaps they would not have died. Perhaps we could have changed things. He wanted me for our claim…only our claim."
"Claim? What do you mean?" Ned asks confused.
His sister snorts then, and the baby stirs. "It is nothing Ned, but please, I do not have long left for this world. Please Ned, promise to protect my child, and promise to protect my son."
Ned wants to protest, to say that his sister will survive that she will live, but he takes one look at her and he knows that she will not. "Lyanna, I… I…"
"Promise me Ned." his sister says.
"I promise." Ned responds.
His sister smiles and then whispers. "You always were the best of us." she stops breathing then, and Ned looks at his sister, he looks at her for a long time, he does not know how long, but eventually he wakes from his reverie when the babe starts crying. He shakes his head and moves to take the babe from his sister's arms. He looks at the babe and nearly gasps, the babe has a long face, Lyanna's face, but has streaks of silver in their hair, and the babe's eyes, a boy, judging by the thing between his legs, are a mix of grey and violet, a confusing mix. He looks at the babe and does what he can to soothe the babe, eventually he stands, and he finds Howland, Martyn and the bound Ser Arthur waiting for him.
He looks at them all and then looks at Dayne. "Explain, and quickly."
Dayne looks at him and says. "The boy you hold in your hands is Prince Aegon. The boy who died at the sack of King's Landing was a fake, someone brought about to ease the suspicions of King Aerys. Princess Elia was never able to give birth after Princess Rhaenys was born. Prince Rhaegar needed an heir."
Ned looks at the child in his arms and says. "From this day forward his name is Jon. As for you, you shall be coming with us, but not with your white cloak. You must give up Dawn."
He expects Dayne to protest, but the man merely says. "Very well."
The next few hours pass in a blur, there is a wetnurse by the name of Wylla who was brought from Starfall, she is tasked with caring for the babe for now, as Ned and his fellow men move Lyanna's body and cremate it. The same is done for the fallen, the tower is torn down. All that done, they ride forth from the ruins of the tower and head for Starfall. Starfall is painful for Ned, Ashara looks as if she has been through the deepest of the seven hells, and he supposes she has, she lost her eldest brother during the fighting, her second brother Alor is now Lord of Starfall, she has lost her friend in Princess Elia, and now her third brother is having to fake his death. Arthur Dayne dons a grey cloak and never removes his helm, Ned sends a letter to Robert informing him of Lyanna's death and the deaths of those knights of Aerys Kingsguard who were not there in King's Landing. He gets no response, but he does not care, something Lyanna had said plagues him, he wonders at it, and then thinks of something Robert had said during the war, his anger with his friend grows.
They ride forth from Starfall, the cloud of grief hanging over all of them, Ned knows that perhaps he should send the babe ahead of them, but worry is making him keep the babe close. He decides to stop by Riverrun, he knows he has a son, and he wants to see his son and his wife. He arrives there almost three weeks following his sister's death, Lord Hoster greets him with some nervousness, and that evening when they are alone in his solar Ned speaks. "I am sure you are wondering what really happened at the Tower my lord, I will not insult you by lying to you. The three Kingsguard who were closest to Rhaegar Targaryen were there, and they died there. They were there fighting to protect their king, my nephew, King Aegon Targaryen, who I have named Jon for safety. He is the true ruler of Westeros, and he is in grave danger, for if Robert were to ever find out about him, then we would all be in danger."
His goodfather looks at him and says. "I will not tell anyone. Robert Baratheon is a grave danger to us all, I think we might want to keep a look on him for some time."
"What has happened? What has he done?" Ned asks wearily.
"Before your sister's body was cold, he had pledged himself to marry Tywin Lannister's daughter. And it seems the hunt to bring the last two known living Targaryens has begun. He wants them dead not alive. He is growing more and more power crazy." Hoster says.
Ned sighs. "I fear Robert is lost. He is not the man he was during the beginning of the war. I fear that perhaps the time for his redemption has long since passed."
His goodfather nods. "I would agree with you on that count my lord. We are here together now, we must make sure we work with one another. We cannot make the mistake of allowing ourselves to be caught off guard, for surely that is what will happen now that Tywin is goodfather to the king."
"What do you suggest my lord?" Ned asks.
"A pact of mutual convenience. You are married to my eldest daughter, we are family, and there is nothing us Tullys take more seriously than family. I propose that the north continue onward with the economic development that your father was doing before his death. Already White Harbour has become a good place for trade, the development of the canal should continue I suggest. Furthermore, a pact against Lannister aggression." Hoster says. "And perhaps sending word out to Dorne perhaps?"
Ned considers this and then nods. "That sounds agreeable to me my lord."
Both men stand up then, and before Ned leaves his goodfather says. "I would recommend telling my daughter the truth of your nephew, and coming up with a lie to disguise his true identity for now."
Ned merely nods and then walks out of the solar, he finds himself in his wife's room, he looks at her and their son and then says. "I am sure you are aware of the babe that I came with."
"I know that babe is your sister's my lord." his wife responds. He must look surprised for she laughs. "I am not a fool, I know that we were not together long, but your sister and Prince Rhaegar were together for a long time, and it does make sense there would be a child. So how do you plan on protecting the child?"
Ned swallows, "I had considered naming the child as my own, but seeing as the child is more definable than I am, I would think perhaps naming him as Brandon's would make more sense."
His wife nods, and Ned notices that she had briefly tightened her hold on their son. "I agree." a pause and then. "Would you like to hold your son?" Ned nods and takes his son from his wife, he looks at his son and sees the auburn hair and the blue eyes, and feels such love for this child, such protectiveness. "I named him Robb, my lord, I hope that is okay?"
Ned looks up from his son, Robb, to his wife and nods. "It is a perfect name. And please, call me Ned." His wife smiles at him briefly, and Ned wonders if things will be alright after all.