Kill the Boy 1
It was a dark night when the call came, a sudden and pained scream of "Jon!"
The cry roused the men of Winterfell to their swords and the women to their rooms, but more than anything it drew the attention of a power far greater than any of the people who resided in the ancient keep. From above, staring down at the happenings of Winterfell, the three-eyed raven showed all to the curious greenseer a thousand miles north. Brynden Rivers did not know what he was seeing, but he knew that his successor was responsible. Whatever the lad, Bran Stark, had managed to do some five or six years in the future, was now reshaping the course of history.
In the courtyard of the ancient seat of House Stark, Eddard Stark and his family rushed into the courtyard where Jon Snow, the bastard son he could not acknowledge this or any night the King was in the castle, was slowly crumbling to the ground. Above the falling boy, Benjen Stark was trying to check him over, get a look at him, and see what was wrong.
It was he who had cried for the boy, and it was he who say the sudden breaking of skin around his right eye, as though beast had clawed across his face. The boy, who had been expressing his desire to join the watch, had blinked at the pain and moved to raise a hand to it. Before he could do so, however, his chest collapse inward, as though struck with a great blow. Benjen had been unable to react, too confused even to think, before another spectral blow came, this time taking Jon in the back. There was a splattering of blood as the bastard of Winterfell spat, and the ground in front of him was coated.
It was then that Benjen had cried out, and drawn forth the attention of Tyrion Lannister first, then the revelers within the Great Hall. Ned, his son Robb, and the King pushed their way to the front of a rapidly growing crowd, and beheld just as Benjen did the terror that was happening to Jon Snow.
The boy was now on his knees, gazing at the assembled people with pain, and they watched in terrible fascination as the side of his face seemed to come open at a seam and start spilling blood. There was silence for a brief moment as nothing else seems to plague the teen. A sigh of relief echoes through the assembled crowd, and the King steps forward to try and see if the boy was still able to walk.
Before the massive monarch could step more than two feet from him, Jon is once more beset by wounds with no true culprit. His eyes widen as he stares up at the King, and he stops breathing for a full second, and then whispers out, "Olly?"
And then he falls, his face pale, and blood pooling out from beneath his clothes. Ned and Robb push past the King in their rush to their fallen family member's side, and then tear from him his shirt. They, and the gathered spectators, see ghastly wounds marring the boy's flesh; stab wounds, brought about by unknown and unseen daggers.
"No! Jon!" Father and son turn to see the younger of the Stark girls rush out of the crowd and before they can tell her to get away, she is beside them, cradling Jon's head, "No, please, what happened? Wake up! Jon, wake up!"
And as though he had been listening, Jon does. His eyes break open, filled with terror and confusion as a restorative gasp brings air into lungs destroyed not ten seconds before. The King, thinking that the terror is over, turns to the gawkers and orders, "off with you! The maester and the family can stay, the rest of you clear out, back to your du-"
Jon gives another pained and terror filled gasp, and his hand shoots into the sky, clawing at an unseen force holding him down, and then he is on his feet with a roar. The King turns from berating the assembly and with them watch as Jon Snow strides forward, and like a man possessed smashes a training dummy across the face. Even more startling is when the wooden dummy is ripped from the earth and the boy falls upon it, beating it with mindless ferocity.
And then he looks up, and he sees Lady Catelyn Stark and her first daughter Sansa. But it is not them he sees, clearly, it is something else. The pair, and the other Starks do not move as the bastard boy pulls himself with clear reluctance from the dummy.
"Well, that was certainly entertaining," The new voice finally seems to break the spell, and Jon Snow turns to Tyrion Lannister.
There is confusion at the sight of the dwarf, and then as the boy's eyes travel the men and women of Winterfell who had stood and watched his ordeal, the confusion grows. He blinks, tilts his head, and then as though realizing his lack of shirt for the first time, he rubs a hand across the now finished bleeding wounds on his chest.
It is not just the stabs, ten in total, that seem to have healed and scarred, but every mark that had grown on him in those terror filled ten minutes. Ned Stark climbs to his feet and steps over to him, "What happened?"
Jon's eyes meet his in a flash and to the Lord of Winterfell it looks as though the boy is frozen with horror at the mere sight of him. Ned straightens himself and nearly demands an answer, but the boy turns his gaze from him and sees the rest of the Starks assembled, as well as the King and a few stragglers, including the much interested Tyrion Lannister. It takes a moment for the sight to sink into the lad's head, Ned can clearly see, but the conclusion that he would come to was far from the one he expected.
"I'm dead, again," Jon nods to himself. He stares at the assembled Starks for a long second, and then turns to move to a nearby stool. He sits, and again stares at the Starks, and turns to Sansa first, "How were you… was it Littlefinger?"
Sansa furrows her brow, not sure who that was, nor how she should respond. Behind her, Catelyn narrows her eyes in anger that the bastard would accuse her friend Petyr of murdering her daughter.
Before the matriarch can begin her tirade against the boy, he sighs, "I suppose he had me killed first. More'n likely did it in m'sleep so I couldn't fight back."
"Why would my Master of Coin have had you killed, boy?" the King asks.
Jon looks up at Robert Baratheon as the man towers over him, he furrows his brow for a moment, clearly trying to remember who the man was. There was a solid moment of clear confusion as he tried to place the face, before finally he realized who the man of great girth was and told the fat king, "Not your Master of Coin, your grace. He didn't stay on long after your death."
"My death?" Robert asks, and his tone grows dangerous.
"Aye," The bastard nods, looking down at the destroyed dummy, and tilts his head at it. After a few seconds of thought he looks back up at the King, "I suppose it's the way of things, you don't see the world after it happens."
"And how are you so well versed in being dead?" Tyrion asks, stepping slowly around the King.
Jon blinks at the dwarf, who still stands a little shorter than him on his stool, "I'd not heard you were dead, Lannister."
"Well, I rather like living," The dwarf tells him, "So I work to avoid death as much as I can."
"I'm sorry it didn't work then," Jon tells him, remembering fondly his interactions with the short man when he had first gone to Castle Black. Years, experience, and his first death had tempered him to recall the man with fondness.
"As am I, clearly," Tyrion agrees, trying to play along with the boy's delusion, "But I must ask, why do you claim to be so well versed in death?"
Jon blinks slowly at him, and then taps one of his ten stab wounds, directly over his heart, "I've already been killed. I am just glad the Red Woman can't bring me back a second time. My body should be burnt by now."
Tyrion nods, "Understandable, I have heard the red priests and priestesses in Essos have strange powers."
"They do," Jon nods, and frowns, "And they burn children, if their god demands."
"A terrible faith, I'd much prefer a god of wine, or one of whores, I'm sure the King would agree."
"I'm sure he would, considering all that's happened, I would as well," The black haired boy slowly closes his eyes and takes a breath, "I am glad it's done."
"You're glad to be dead?" Tyrion asks, "Why? There is so much more to life than just death!"
"Maybe," Jon agrees, "but now I get to rest, no more wars, no more white walkers, no more betrayal. I can just… rest."
He looks more glad, more at peace with himself in that moment than he had in his entire life. It was a dark realization for the Starks, especially Catelyn, who had never realized how truly miserable the boy was underneath his silence acceptance of her hatred."
"White Walkers, you say?" Tyrion asks, trying to ignore the stiffening of the gathered Starks, "The ancient ice monsters beyond the Wall?"
"And you've fought them?" Tyrion asks, having noted the lad's use of war before Walker.
"Killed one, and watched as another raised a hundred thousand of the dead by just… raising his hands," Jon closes his eyes, shaking his head as he tries to forget that terrible moment on the boat, not a hundred yards from the Night's King.
"If you fought White Walkers, you must have joined the Watch," Benjen notes, looking into his nephew's eyes.
"Oh, aye, and a pretty lot they were," Jon frowns, and rubs his chest, "Try to do good, try to stay to your vows, try to save a thousand men women and children, and get stabbed in the heart as thanks."
"My brothers killed you?" Benjen steps back, horrified
"Yes," Jon nods, "They named me their Commander, trusted me to do what I thought was right, and Throne got them to kill me for it."
"Alliser Thorne killed you?" Benjen breaths deeply through his nose, trying to keep his anger in check.
The King is not so calm, "Thorne!? I should have gutted that Dragon Lover when I had the chance!"
"You may well get your chance, your grace," Jon notes, "He and the others should be by somewhere."
"You think you would go to where your assassins would go?" Tyrion asks
"I think the Old Gods don't care where we go after we die," Jon tells him, "They barely care where we go when we live."
There is a long moment after he says this. Each of the Starks try to think of something to say, something to better the boy's mood, even Lady Stark. Robert merely stares dumbly down at the lad, likening his mood to an old veteran of Barristan Selmy's calibre; the old knight was still the best, but he was tired of the fight. Tyrion was considering what question to ask next, for he had several, but the one that was most pressing was not asked by him.
"How do we die?"
Eyes move from Jon to Arya, and the young girl stands tall, not moving her eyes from her brother. When he looks up at her, she asks again, "How do we die?"
It takes him a long time to respond, long enough that Arya began to think he would not answer her. She took a step towards him, ready to ask again, but his raised hand stops her and he looks down, thinking, before he then starts.
"The King died first, though, I'm sure you recall it. I don't recall how, never learnt. I was at Castle Black, and all I knew was that the King had died on a hunt."
Robert frowns, upset that he was the first to die, but clearly knowing himself he believed the boy enough that he could understand dying in a hunt. He was a drunken lout, and he knew it. A hunt could easily spell the end of him.
"Father was next," Jon frowns, "He attempted to take up regency for the throne, hold it in Stannis's name and remove the Queen from power. Joffrey had him behedded."
"Stannis?" Robert asks as the Starks slowly shift in discomfort, "The fuck happened to my children?"
"They aren't your children, according to King Stannis, your grace," Jon looks up at him, "He told the entire kingdom that they were born of incest between your wife and the Kingslayer. I never bothered to confirm when I met him, it was not my business."
"Not your business?" Robert demands, anger forcing him to latch onto the boy so that he did not make the mistake of murdering his wife or her brother, or especially the brother closest at hand, "You said they murdered your father!"
"And I was a man of the Watch," Jon tells him.
Ned moves to his friend, sets a hand on his shoulder, and tells him, "I would hear the rest."
Robert turns to his brother, and the rage in his eyes dims momentarily and he nods, "Who dies next, lad."
"Robb and Lady Stark both die at the Red Wedding," Jon tells them after a moment, realizing that Bran and Rickon were not actually the next to die, "Betrayed by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton at Tywin Lannister's command. They told me they slit Lady Stark's throat, butchered Robb's wife, and Lord Bolton stabbed him in the heart himself."
Robb's eyes widen in horror, and he steps over to his mother to hug her as hard as he can. She, in turn, returned the embrace and dragged any of her children she could reach as close as she could get them."
Arya, rather than cling to her mother, hugs Jon and asks quietly, "Who was after that?"
"I was," Jon tells her, "As far as I know. No reports came of Bran, Rickon, or you dying that were confirmed. But you were lost when the men Father brought south were slaughtered and were not seen after. Bran and Rickon, for a long time, were thought to have been burnt to death by Theon who tried to prove himself more a Greyjoy than a Stark. I did not know that he had lied until years later. After my own death."
"How did you die?" Arya asks, cupping his face and speaking to him more gently than she had any other person in her life.
"I let the Wildlings through the Wall," Jon told her, "It was that or let them die against the White Walkers and join the army of the dead. So I saved them from that, and in return my brothers murdered me."
"And you said a Red Priestess brought you back?" Tyrion asks, deciding that he might as well know, seeing as it was better to die informed than ignorant. Chances were that he would be dying, judging by the anger in the King at learning of Cersei and Jamie's betrayals.
"Melisandre, advisor to King Stannis," Jon supplies, "She left him when he lost the battle for Winterfell and she burnt Princess Shireen, and came to the Wall. She brought me back at the bidding of Ser Davos Seaworth."
Jon shakes his head, "And then… and then you came to Castle Black."
Sansa, caught in her mother's embrace, forces her way free and stares at Jon. The boy, who she had not been as kind as the rest of her siblings to, was looking at her as though she were the last drink of pure water in a desolate and burning desert. After a moment he turns from her and looks to Lord Stark.
"After your death she'd been hostage, then married to," He nods to Tyrion, "And then she was spirited from King's Landing after King Joffrey was assassinated, by Littlefinger. She was brought to the Eyre, then sold to the Boltons, again by Littlefinger. She was wed to Ramsey Bolton, Lord Bolton's Bastard, and he was a monster. It was while there that she learnt that Theon had not killed Bran or Rickon."
Catelyn, hearing the fate of her elder daughter, falls to the ground, her legs collapsing under her. She is slowed in her descent by Robb and Bran, who had remained in her embrace. Jon closes his eyes, recalling the terror of his only interaction with Ramsey Bolton before the battle.
"Rickon died next," Jon tells them, "I do not know if Bran died before or after, but Ramsey was given Rickon by the Umbers and killed him in front of me. It… was a battle… for Winterfell. We won, but Rickon was lost, along with near a thousand good men under my command."
He frowns, rubs his face, and for the first time in the telling of his story, feels the chill of the night. He had been cold for a long time already, but it felt like this was the first time the cold was creeping at his skin, etching its way across his frame, demanding his attention. It felt like the first time he went North of the Wall.
"And then you believe you were killed by Petyr?" Catelyn, who had at least regained the ability to speak, asks.
"I was named King in the North," Jon tells her, "Robb's heir to the northern throne, and Sansa told me that Petyr wanted Westeros to himself. With everything she told me of the man, I would not put it past him to have me killed."
He sighs, and stands, and starts to leave.
Robert Baratheon catches him with a hand against his chest, "Where do you think you're going, boy?"
Jon looks up at him, and it is not a child that looks at the King of the Seven Kingdoms, it is a man; the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, the Bastard of Winterfell, the King in the North.
"I'm dead, your grace," He says calmly, "I'm going to do as the dead should, and rest."
Robert's arm falls slowly, and he watches with the Starks and Tyrion Lannister as Jon Snow enters the keep in hunt of bed.