"Should we proceed up the tower, my Lord?" , asked Ser Howland. But scaling that tower and facing what he had been dreading for the past year was the last thing Ned wanted to do. He had killed hundreds of men whose crime was being loyal to the crown. He had left his home undefended in times of war, that too with his wife carrying his first child. He had sent his brother, the heir to his seat if he died in the war, to the wall to join the black brothers. And now, he stood at the foot of the tower in which his sister was imprisoned, the body of Arthur Dayne lying at his feet.
There was another scream, and Ned came back to his senses. He knew, that this rebellion had been sparked because his sister's abduction. It would all be over now. With this in his mind, he started hurrying towards the entrance.
It felt like days before he could reach the end of the long, winding staircase. His heartbeat grew faster with each step. All the times he had spent with Lyanna started to flash before his eyes, when he wasn't Eddard Stark of Winterfell. When he was just little Ned, the middle brother who had been the centre of attention as a child. Who had never worried about the trials and duties of a Lord, who had always dreamt of being a Knight and defend the North when the Long Night came. But here he was. It had all happened in the blink of an eye. He had lost his father and his brother to the Mad King. He had been named Warden of the North. He had been entrusted with the family heirloom, the Valyrian Steel blade called Ice, which Ned had never even dreamed of touching ever in his life.
He stopped. He had reached the top of the staircase. A cold shiver ran up his spine as he considered the possibilities of what lay behind the door in front of him. It was all silent now. He could hear Ser Howland breathing behind him. Gathering all the strength he had left in him, Ned took hold of the doorknob and turned it.
She seemed almost at peace. She looked exhausted, yet wizened. All this, despite the fact that she lay in pool of blood. A handmaiden sat weeping at her bedside. "She..She's not g-gone y-y-yet. I can hear her b-b-breathing.", she said. A tear came trickling out of Ned's eye. He moved forward and kneeled beside her.
"Lyanna? Can you hear me?", he whispered, trembling with fear.
Her lips moved, and Ned let out a tiny sigh.
"Ned. You came. I knew you would."
It seemed as if saying these words had drained her of all life. With much effort, she motioned towards the handmaiden. "Sansa here told me all about your adventures. And Robert's too."
"Come with me, Lyanna, come home."
"No, Ned. My days are over. Besides, you have him now." She tried pointing somewhere, but couldn't. As hard as it was, Ned looked away from her and spotted something he had not seen before. A cradle. And in the cradle, was a newborn babe.
"I want you to take care of him, Ned. Take him to Winterfell and raise him as one of your own." Her voice was barely a whisper now.
"Robert has avenged you, Lyanna. He has punished that monster for what he did to you."
Lyanna smiled. "He isn't a monster, Ned. He might have wronged by being disloyal to Elia, but he had never loved her. Never as much as he loved me or as I loved him"
He remained silent.
"Promise me, Ned. Promise me you will raise him. He is the child of ice and fire. He is destined to do great things. Promise me."
It was evident by her voice now that she had said all she had to say. Slowly, she closed her eyes and drifted into eternal rest.
Ned was overtaken by realisation. He did not want to say anything. He just wanted to look upon his sister for the last time. Soon he would have to return. A part of him didn't want to leave the tower at all.
After what seemed like hours, Ned got to his feet.
"Take her body, Ser Howland. Take it to Winterfell and have it buried in the crypt."
"As you say, My Lord."
Ned couldn't bear to look as Ser Howland and the handmaiden carried her away. He then turned to the babe. He had the eyes that Ned and Lyanna shared. One look at this boy, and anyone could tell that he was a Stark. He seemed to have very little of Rhaegar in him. But Ned assumed that that his father would be reflected in his deeds, rather than his appearance.
Ned walked out of the room carrying a prince's child and a heavy heart.