Winterfell 296 AC
"100 gold dragons in gemstones as a signup bonus, 100 in precious gems! In your hand or too you're family, but don't think much of it, where we're fighting the gems have no value, so don't sign up thinking you'll desert our ranks a rich kriffer, cause we'll get you and then you'll be a hanged kriffer!"
The night's darkness was flooded by the glowing light of a red star that day many months ago, the very same star that the Lord Protector of the North was now watching from the battlements atop of his castle.
The man standing in the centre of the square had bellowed out that day three years ago for recruitment for the army and navy of what he called the Empire. Which empire Eddard Stark was not certain as he gazed over the horizon as thought's turned to those that left.
Many sons and even a few daughters had signed up in exchanged for the bonus, which they all left to their families, winter was coming as it always was in the North and the appearance of a man that promised both riches and one less mouth to feed was something out of a dream for many families and many dutiful ones had left their ancestral lands for the promise of gaining glory and bringing home the spoils of war.
That was not true, those where only the sleeping dreams of a heart broken man.
The delusion that helped him each year to this day overcome his pain.
It was his way of dealing with the pain of that night.
The night when Jon disappeared, leaving only a note that said he was going to make his own place in the world.
Where was his son in all but name?
Where was the one who carried his blood in his vanes?
Where are you Jon?
Did you find a place of your own.
Did you find your own heaven? Or are you now in the seven heavens or with the Old Gods?
"Looks like this year's a bust as well."
The voice of Theon Greyjoy, his ward was heard from down the battlements, where Eddard silently moved to see what was going on.
"He'll be back, he said that he'll one day join the Watch, and the only road to the watch goes through Winterfell, he'll be back." Arya's voice was heard saying as they both gazed over the battlements.
Behind them stood Robb, along with Rickon and Bran, Sansa was probably with either his lady wife or the septa, she and Jon had never really been close and Sansa idolized her mother as the perfect lady and as such was as cold and hostile to Jon as Catelyn was.
This pained Ned greatly, his lady wife he could understand for her loathing, but Sansa?
His thoughts turned back to the rest of his children and his ward, who where heartbroken when he left.
Robb had since then lost some of the cheerfulness a boy his age should have, Rickon was too young to understand he was gone, Bran missed his big brother, he too was too young to understand what it meant for him to be a bastard.
And Arya? Arya took it the hardest of all.
She and Jon where as thick as thieves.
When he left Arya locked herself in his room crying and wouldn't come out for a full day.
After hours of her mother trying to make her unlock the door, he stepped in and managed to convince her not to come out, but to let him in to talk.
He found her crouched down in a corner, hugging a wooden practice sword and clutching a crudely carved toy in her hand.
It was supposed to be a carved knight, but this night had long flowing hair and was wearing a dress, the bottom read: 'To the next Nymeria.'
Words failed him that day as he only sat next to her, placed his arm around her frame and pulled her into a hug.
Tears immediately started flowing out of her as she cried her eyes out.
She eventually left the room and came to dinner, things immediately fell apart.
Catelyn had tried to hide it, but even she couldn't stop a smile to come from her lips as she savored each bite, while his children and himself where barely touching their food.
He saw the look that Arya gave her mother that night, and he also noticed the one she gave Sansa who also took after Catelyn and copied her joy.
His lady wife noticed this too and when she said that Jon would have eventually left and a bastards place in the world and how he was a danger to Robb and to her, the whole table and the servants present all held their breath for what would surely be a great argument between them.
"Could you please pass the peas Robb." Was Arya's reply, which made the table give out a breath of relief.
All except Ned, that night he saw what was to come, he saw how something broke between Arya and her mother, something that to this day remained broken.
Arya was still Arya, but whenever Catelyn and Sansa was near she immediately became someone else.
She barely spoke to the two of them and when she did it was always words like: May I be excused? Is there anything else? And most of all silence and coldness.
Theon's reaction had been not how Eddard expected it to be.
Emotionally he wasn't as devastated as the rest, but his actions spoke loudly.
While before he had gone to the whorehouse and spent his days drinking like other noble sons, after Jon left something changed inside Theon as well.
He spent all his free time now practicing with his bow and crossbow.
And he played with various models of ships that he designed. Clearly he now saw Jon's action of leaving to make his way in the world as one to motivate his own person to do something with his life that just waste away in wine and women.
He and Robb had also become closer from this.
Arya too since, Theon would not built scaled models of his ships that where the size of rowing boats and would take them to the river to be tested.
Mane of them where quite 'imaginative' but a few like his 'turtle ship' that had a covered hull and his 'seashell rowboat' that where both covered to protect the sailor from boarding and arrows had potential.
"What are you thinking off?" Robb asked.
"I'm not thinking."
"No surprises there!"
"Shut up Theon!"
"I'm asking that star to bring Jon back."
"Well, let me join you! Dear Lord Star, if you bring Jon back, I'll do the most horrifying and life threatening task imaginable…I'll kiss Robb!"
"HA! As if! Ser Star, if you bring that my dearest brother back then I'll forfeit the kiss and instead face the greatest beast in existence, I'll marry Theon's sister!"
"I don't hate you enough Stark to make you suffer like that."
At that they all gave out a great laugh as they followed the trajectory of the ever fading star.
"That star seems to be, well, becoming brighter!" Bran said.
"And bigger!" Theon added.
"And closer!" The warden of the North exclaimed as the star now massive in size stated flew hundreds of feet over Winterfell and made its way towards the Godswood, where it touched down.
"Robb, wake up ser Roderick, get him to ready the guards, Robb send word to every one of our bannermen, to come to Winterfell as fast as possible with their cavalry and to get their infantry rallied."
"F-father, what's happening? What was that falling star?"
"That's not a star." Theon said as he turned towards them, his face pale in horror.
"It slowed down and landed in the woods like a ship docking at a port, falling stars don't do that. There should have been a great bang and an explosion. Whatever that thing is, I'd bet every cunt by the Old Gods and the New that whatever that thing is, it's manned by someone or something."
"Aye, you're right Theon. Go to your room and bring out you're finest armor, you do so as well Robb, come tomorrow we ride to see if they will stand with us or against us in the coming war."
"What war father?" Arya asked.
"The war for the dawn."
Eddard Stark said as deep within the forest the fallen star opened its hatch doors releasing its cargo.
"Imperial troops assemble!"
Author's note Disclaimer:
Besides being the author of this crossover fic, I'm also the author of the second series BALADA A Symphony of Eternity .
That said I will do my best to give a balanced and well crafted read.