2nd Month of 298 A.C. Winterfell
It felt strange to think that he had grown up within Winterfell and had only seen the north. Growing up here, within these walls he had felt safe and sometimes alone, that was something he guessed he could attribute to Lady Catelyn, she had done her best through ignoring him to ensure that he was not part of the family. Then again, as he had grown up, he had realised that he could not truly blame her, she had been put in a difficult situation by his father, the honourable Lord Eddard Stark. Jon snorted a little at that, his father was so honourable and yet could not even find the balls to tell him who his mother was, that was something Jon could never understand, it was almost as if his father was ashamed to admit that he had slept with someone, and that Jon was his son. Jon had thought that by now he'd have gotten used to it, but it seemed that he had not really, he supposed that one could never really get over such things. There was just too much hurt and pain there, he'd be glad to leave Winterfell and go anywhere else, perhaps across the narrow sea to become a sellsword, or perhaps to the wall like uncle Benjen, anywhere but here.
The more he thought about it, the more he began wondering if that was why he had been drawn into the sense of family that was there amongst Prince Joffrey's retinue. Yes, he was close with Robb, but recently there had been a distance between them, as Robb and he had grown, and Robb had increasingly begun focussing on his duties as heir to Winterfell, Jon had been left behind. He was not sure what to think about that, he loved his brother, he truly did, it was just that, he was angry about being left behind. And so when the royal court had come to Winterfell, Jon had sort of been swallowed up by it all. That the crown prince had showed an interest in him had come as a huge surprise, he had never truly thought that the prince would do something like that, Jon had always thought royals cared more for the nobility than they did any poor bastard, but it seemed the crown prince was different, that he did care. Jon had found some companionship amongst the crown prince and his friends it was something good and something that took his mind off of things with Robb.
Of course the fact that he was now speaking with his brother, was something that was good, but Jon was not sure just how true this whole thing was and what more there might be behind his brother's motives. "So are you certain of what you want to do Jon? Do you want to go to the wall or do you want to remain here?" his brother asks.
Jon looks at his brother and sighs. "You know I cannot stay here Robb, Lady Catelyn does not like me, and she would not want to see a constant reminder of her husband's shame when her husband is not here."
"My mother is not the Stark in Winterfell, I am. If you want to stay you need merely ask and you can." his brother responds.
Jon looks at Robb then and sighs. "I do not want to cause more trouble. And we both know that that is what will happen. Bran is not well, and your mother is not in the right frame of mind for this sort of thing. No it is better that I do not remain here."
"So you will just turn your back on your family and do what? Go north to the wall, and freeze yourself half to death there?" Robb asks.
"There is honour in serving in the Night's Watch, Robb." Jon responds feeling a bit of anger beginning to stir within him. "And besides Uncle Benjen serves with the watch, I could learn from him and become a ranger."
His brother looks at him a moment and then says. "I suppose if that is what you want. Though I have to admit, I am surprised that you are not going south with father and the girls."
Jon looks at his brother and asks. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well, I know that the prince has taken a liking to you, as has his retinue, which to me suggests that they might well want something from you. And I know you have been spending time with them, so I am surprised you have not asked to go south either." Robb responds a hint of something within his voice.
Jon feels something akin to pleasure that his brother sounds a little jealous. "I did not think it would be right to ask to go south. I am a bastard after all, and it would be seen as strange or perhaps a dishonour for me to go south."
"So you are merely going to head northward to the wall, where you will sit, eat and shit for the rest of your life, doing nothing of use?" Robb asks incredulously.
Jon looks at his brother, anger growing ever larger within him. "The Night's Watch helps defend the realms of men against the wildlings and against other things that lurk beyond the wall, as you well know considering what we learned from that deserter."
His brother looks at him surprised then. "Surely you do not believe the nonsense that that man was sprouting. He was half mad when we found him, he could have been saying anything to keep his head on his neck. He was a deserter and he was a fool."
"But we did find the direwolves, and we all know that they have not been seen south of the wall for hundreds of years, and yet he said they would be somewhere nearby. What do you call that then?" Jon asks.
"Luck, pure and simple luck." his brother responds.
Before Jon can respond, there is a knock on the door, and then it opens, Jory stands there looking at them both, a strange expression on his face. "Your father wishes to see you Jon. He is in his solar."
Jon looks at Robb, a fleeting sense of anger still there, before nodding and turning to walk out of the room following Jory to his father's solar, he knocks and then opens the door. His father looks tired, there are lines across his face that were not there before the royal party came to Winterfell, Jon is not sure how to feel about that. He sits down in the seat his father offers him and remains silent, waiting for his father to speak.
Eventually the man does, and when he does his voice is soft. "It seems you have made quite the impression on Prince Joffrey son. He has asked for you to come south with us as a member of his retinue."
Jon feels surprised at this news. He looks at his father, looking to see if the man is lying to him, when he cannot see any trace of a lie he asks. "Are you sure?"
"Yes son, Prince Joffrey has specifically asked for you to accompany us as a member of his retinue." father responds.
Jon looks at his father and then merely nods. "Okay then."
"You accept?" Ned asks. "You know that this means you will be travelling as part of the prince's company, separate to our own? There might be other rules about Ghost."
"I know, and I accept that." Jon says, feeling something akin to joy flow through him, he will be going south, with the prince, he will get to see new things, the prince had kept his promise it would seem.
His father seems to be looking at him intently. "Very well then. Begin packing your things we shall be leaving within the week's end."
Jon nods, stands up and then walks out of the room, Ghost trailing after him. He spends the rest of the week packing his things and preparing for the time when he can leave Winterfell. The atmosphere around the castle is somewhat heavy, Bran has not woken up from his fall, and Jon feels as though he might never see his brother again, he does not know why that is, but he does feel that way. It is almost as if there is something hanging over his brother, something deeply disturbing that might prevent such a thing from happening. He sincerely wishes it is not so, but somewhere, some part of him thinks that that might be the case. The conversation with Lady Catelyn is one he would rather forget, it hurts, but what hurts more is seeing his father standing there in the doorway looking rather guilty, he ignores his father, but does not forget the anger that is growing inside him at the thought of his father standing there doing nothing, the same thing he has been doing for all of Jon's life.
His goodbye with Robb is somewhat less painful. He looks at his brother, with snow falling into his hair and says. "I will see you soon. When Sansa gets married."
"Aye," Robb responds. "Stay safe brother and be careful, King's Landing is not Winterfell. Keep an eye on the girls and father for me."
"I will, you keep an eye on Theon and keep yourself safe brother." Jon responds before hugging his brother, they hold that embrace for a moment before breaking. Jon nods and then mounts his horse, spurring his horse on to meet that of the prince, he nods at the prince and then turns back for one last look at the inside of Winterfell, that done, he rides on with the prince.
They ride out in a stream, Jon looks at Winterfell for a brief moment as he leaves, Ghost at his side, and he drinks in the sight before him, feeling for some reason as if this is the last time he will ever see Winterfell as it is right now. For some reason he feels that the next time he comes to Winterfell, things might be very, very different. He turns back to the road ahead of him and rides on, they ride in silence for a time and then the prince speaks. "Thank you for coming along Jon. I know my request seemed sudden."
"It is nothing my prince," Jon responds. "I am honoured truly I am."
"Well it is only right after all. So tell me Jon, what do you think of our little journey south. Is there anything you think we should stop and see whilst we are here within the north for the next few days?" the prince asks.
Jon is surprised to be asked such a question and spends some time considering it before finally responding. "I think that visiting the barrows of the First men would make for an interesting view my prince. There is a lot of history within these lands and it would be shame not to be able to explore them properly."
The prince seems to consider this before responding. "What sort of things might we learn from seeing the barrows Jon?"
"How the people of the north lived in the old days and the best way to cook meat on a raw fire." Jon responds grinning. Something about the prince, makes him feel more at ease when it comes to making jokes.
The crown prince smiles too then. "Very well, I shall tell my father about the great barrows. We shall stop there for a time. Now, tell me Jon, is there anything you would like to see in King's Landing when we get there?"
Jon thinks on this a moment, a thought keeps popping into his head, or rather has kept popping into his head during his time with the prince, but he is not sure why. And so finally to put the matter to rest he says. "I would quite like to see the dragon pit as well as the tombs of the dragons, my prince."
The crown prince looks at him intently, his eyes looking into Jon's and then he says softly. "Very well then, that shall be arranged."