A/N: This is my first story. I've had the idea written down for quite a while and finally decided to publish it. Please make sure to leave a review and if you like it don't forget to follow and faviourite.
p.s please no flames
Disclaimer: I do not own A Song of Ice & Fire or any related works
Ned was in the training yard practising his sword forms and sparring against one of the many straw mannequins Jon Arryn kept in the Eyrie. Near by, he could hear the heavy thumps of Robert's war hammer hitting the hardened wood shield carried by the knight, sworn to house Arryn, who was unfortunate enough to be chosen as Robert's training dummy for the day's session.
"Robert, ease up on the man. He'll have a few shattered bones by the time you're finished with him at the rate you are going!" Ned shouted over the loud noises of various swords and other weapons clanging against each other.
Robert let out a belching laugh. "The man's an anointed knight Ned! He should be able to take it with ease!" The knight let out a soft whimper that was nearly lost to Ned over his best friend's boisterous laughter.
"The lad is right Robert, the man looks like he couldn't go another round with a child, never mind a hulking lording as yourself." A commanding voice called out from above them. Ned looked up to see the mirth filled face of Jon Arryn. The Lord of the Vale was a man that commanded respect and authority, he was a stern faced but loving and caring man, that came to be a second father to both Stark and Baratheon boys.
Jon had been fostering the two young lords for eight years now and had imparted on both of them lessons on combat, ruling and teaching all of noble birth learnt. If there was one thing Ned took to heart from the old lord it was his teaching on honour, Ned had really taken a liking to the words of House Arryn 'As High as Honour'. There were so many negatives in Westeros that Ned believed if he was able to stay true and Honourable during his life, he would die a happy man.
Jon's voice broke Ned out of his musings, "Ned, two letter have arrived bearing the Stark seal, one for you and one for me, come by my solar once you boys have finished with your lessons so we may see what your father has written."
Ned nodded to him and once again returned to his training, but this time deep in thought. 'I wonder what father has written, is it just a letter asking about my progress, or is he recalling me to Winterfell…I do miss my sibling, but if I am to leave I will miss Robert and Lord Arryn. They have truly been good to me.' Ned continued hacking at the training dummy deep in though, unknown to the fact the moment he opened up his father's letter his life would change forever.
After bathing and cleaning up, Ned made his way to Jon's solar, ready to read the letter from his father. Deep in thought, he made his way through the castle until he arrived at the door to the lord of the Vale's solar. He knocked on the wooden door several times before he heard the deep voice of the presiding lord call out for him to enter.
"My lord, I have come to collect the letter from my father." As he stated this, Jon reached into the a pile of papers collected on the hardwood desk and pulled out a scroll sealed with the direwolf seal of the Starks. Taking the scroll from Jon's outstretched hand, Ned broke the seal and unfurled the scroll reading aloud the contents of the letter.
My son, I have received the letter from Lord Arryn, pertaining to your studies and am proud to see you are flourishing under his tutelage. I have written to inform you, that as you are approaching ten and six namedays it is past time for you to find a bride. I have brokered a deal with the Lord Dayne of Starfell and have agreed to see you married to his daughter Ashara Dayne. As you receive this letter, she will be making her way to Winterfell where the two of you will meet and wed. I have commenced the reconstruction of Moat Cailin, which when completed, you will rule over and use to serve your brother as a loyal Bannerman once he becomes Lord of Winterfell. For the time being, you are to return home and wed the Lady Ashara three moons after she arrives.
Lord Rickard Stark,
Lord of Winterfell,
Lord Paramount of the North & Warden of the North
As he read this Ned could not help but feel both excitement and trepidation at what he had just discovered. He would be leaving for Winterfell, and would soon see Brandon, Lyanna and Benjen but he would also meet the Lady Ashara for the first time before they wed. He had heard whispers of her beauty throughout the time he spent in the Vale and was anxious as to whether she would settle for a second son and whether their marriage would be a happy one.
Jon must have sensed his nervousness, because he set one of his large callous hands on Ned's shoulder comforting him. "It will be alright lad, you will make a fine husband and an excellent lord. Now, go tell Robert the news and the both of you pack your belongings. Both of you will leave for Winterfell at first light with a host of my finest knights to escort you."
"My lord, will you not be accompanying us?" Ned asked with a hint of sadness in his tone.
"Do not worry Ned, I will be there for the wedding, but before that there are certain matters that need to be attended to before I can leave the Vale. You lads go on ahead and I will see you in a few moons."
They had been travelling for what seemed to be weeks, crossing the Mountains of the Moons and the Bite, until they had reached the snow covered lands of winter. Ned knew that he was home when he spotted the many buildings that made up Wintertown. His father must have pushed the extension of Winterfell further forward than Ned could have ever expected. He could see a new outer wall that had enveloped the entirety of the old Wintertown and beyond, adding land for new barracks and houses to be added. There was now an entire new city bustling with citizens trading goods from what looked to be from all over Westeros as well as the Free Cities. Ned was truly amazed, in the eight years he had spent away fostering in the Vale, his father had transformed Winterfell and the surrounding city into what would one day be one of the largest settlements in Westeros.
"By the gods Ned! You said that although Winterfell was a sight to see, the surrounding area wasn't much." Robert's voice rang out.
"I know, but never could I have imagined my father would expand in such a short amount of time." He replied "Winterfell really has changed"
As the group rode through the streets of Wintertown Ned greeted the increasing number of townsfolk; winter was nearly upon them and so multitudes of people had flocked to the safety the Lord of the North offered.
The greatest shock came to Ned when the group approached the gates to Winterfell itself. Where the east gate once stood was now a massive iron reinforced hardwood gate that looked as though it could withstand any siege. Flanking either side of the entrance stood granite statues of the finest quality and detail Ned and the others had ever scene.
Both statues stood ten feet tall and resembled Stark men with long faces, a lean build and other similar features common to his family. Situated on the heads of the statues were the crowns of the Kings of Winter Ned had seen in the crypts below Winterfell. The crown was an open circlet of hammered bronze incised with runes of the First Men, surmounted by nine black iron spikes in the shape of longswords. Each of the stone med carried an iron sword and were accompanied by a wolf so large, Ned could only justify them being direwolves.
As they entered through the gate and over the drawbridge, Ned noticed another statue flanked by a direwolf, but this one was different, it stood at fifteen feet tall and somewhat resembled the other statues except this one carried a long handled double bladed war axe. The axe looked to be made from one material and was completely covered in runes from the old tongue.
But what really gave away the identity of the statue was the massive work hammer that hung from the waist of the ancient Stark.
"Bran the Builder" Ned let out softly.
Next to him, Robert adopted a confused expression. "Ned what did you say? Speak up!"
This time Ned spoke audibly, "Brandon the Builder, he is my ancestor, believed to be the founder of House Stark and the first King of Winter."
As Ned continued to explain to his friend and surrounding Valemen, the more unknown history behind his ancient ancestor, he noticed out of the corner of a small blur racing towards him.
Just as he turned, a small figure collided with him, shouting out in a high pitched voice;
"Lya, little sister, I have missed you terribly." He replied in a soft voice.
Ned looked down at his sister, she had grown since he had last seen her. When he had left for the Vale Lyanna had only been three years of age, but now she looked much bigger. She had always been a small child and still was, but Ned could see she had grown up.
Just as those thoughts came to him, Lyanna had started loudly asking him multitudes of questions, on how his journey was, if he was excited to be wed and whether he would be staying in Winterfell once more.
Ned chuckled internally, 'she truly did inherit the wolf blood, just like Brandon.'
As he was about to calm his little sister down, a deep stern voice rang out around the courtyard,
Ned looked up to see his father, the stern but loving Lord Rickard Stark, standing with the rest of his siblings and the household.
He had been so mesmerised by the new additions to his home he did not notice his family had been standing there ready to receive him and his guests.
"Father" he called out as he walked in front of the Lord of Winterfell and bowed before him in a sign of respect.
Before he knew it, Ned had been pulled into a tight embrace with his father, Rickard's hand holding his head as he planted his lips to his son's head.
"My son, it is good to see you returned home." His father let out softly.
Ned simply responded by tightening his hold on his father. This was a side to his father rarely seen; the lord only ever displayed this affection to his wife and children. To the rest of the north, the old Stark was as stone faced and absolute in power as Tywin Lannister.
Once released from his father's embrace Ned to a moment to look over his elder and younger brothers. Brandon looked the same as usual, long dark hair and grey eyes that shone with mischief and energy.
"Brother" he called out as he embraced Brandon, "it truly is good to see you once again."
Brandon had been the one Ned had not seen for the longest amount of time, he too had been sent away to foster with another house, House Dustin, when he was eight namedays.
"Ned, still so serious I see." Brandon laughed out, "look at you, all grown up, hopefully your time in the Vale loosened you up little brother."
Ned just gave his brother a look of exasperation and a small smile. Brandon was always like that, they were born one year apart and yet he acted as though their difference in age was as large the North itself.
Next he moved over to Benjen. Squatting down to his little brothers level, Ned placed his hand upon Benjen's head and ruffled his dark hair.
"How big you have grown little brother, when I left you were but a babe at mother's teat"
With this Ned pulled Benjen into a tight embrace, all the while, his youngest sibling gazed up at him in wonder and excitement. Because Ned had left for the Vale when Benjen and Lyanna were still but babes, they did not clearly remember his face but had been sending him ravens from Winterfell from as soon as they could write and read.
As the rest of the household dispersed Ned lifted his head up and gazed into his father's eyes,
"Mother?" He asked quietly
"She is not doing well son, the maester has restricted her to her chambers, her body to weak to move from the bed" his father replied solemnly.
Ned sighed sadly, moons ago a raven had arrived from Winterfell informing Ned of his mother's deterioration in health, it was not good to hear that she was still so frail. Clearing his mind and promising himself to go see his mother immediately, Ned lifted himself up to stand before his family and made his way towards his mother's chambers, but before he left he introduced Robert and the rest of the Valemen that had travelled with them, his father organising for one of the servants to show them to their quarters.
After some time traversing the ancient castle, Ned happened upon his mother's chambers. Knocking softly he entered to the sight of his mother's frail form tightly tucked under her furs.
Walking over to her side Ned softly grabbed her hand and planted his lips upon her head.
"Mother" he whispered softly in anguish.
To see the woman who would run around and play with her children when they were younger, looking so sickly broke Ned's heart.
She must have read his expression because he softly heard her say, "Do not worry sweet child, I may feel weak and frail but mother can feel her energy slowly returning."
Ned spent the remainder of the day sitting by his mother's side regaling her with tales of his time in the Vale with Lord Arryn and Robert.
Day past with Ned catching up lost time with his family and showing Robert all the different areas of his home. Some parts he hardly recognised by how much his father had added onto the great keep, and some areas were cleaned up and repaired such as the broken tower. When Ned had ventured into the crypts playing with Benjen and Lyanna, he had noticed that his father had cleared out the lower levels of the debris and gossip around Winterfell was that the men had almost reached the lowest chamber.
It was around midday when the guards came to inform them that purple banners depicting a star and a sword could be seen on the horizon.
Ned had rushed to clean up in order to receive his intended and her family looking proper and worthy to receive who many people considered one of the most beautiful women in The Seven Kingdoms.
He was standing next to his Brandon and his father when he first caught a glance of the Dayne's processing in through the northern gate gazing around in wander at the sights before them.
The first to ride up to the Starks was Lord Dayne, who dismounted his horse and walked forward to stand in front of the lord of Winterfell.
"Lord Dayne, a pleasure to receive you, I hope the journey from Starfall was not perilous?"
"No Lord Stark, it was long and different to anything I've ever seen but it was refreshing to have the opportunity to come and see the North."
The two lords continued small talk while the rest of the Dayne household travelling with their liege lord dismounted and greeted the Stark family.
When Ashara descended from her carriage Ned could honestly say that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She looked to be the same age as himself, maybe younger. She was tall, with long dark hair that cascaded down her shoulders and eyes that were the perfect shade of violet.
Ned had not realised that he had been staring until Brandon nudged him with a lecherous grin on his face. He looked to his brother and gave him a hard cold look, as if to say, don't you dare try to make her one of your so called accomplishments.
She made her way over to the Starks, escorted by someone who looked to be her brother. Ned knew this man had to be Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning; though he wondered how he was able to be here as he was bound to the Kingsguard.
Eventually they made their way over and when Ashara spoke it was like hearing the sweetest melody; "my lord, a pleasure to meet you"
"The pleasure is mine Lady Ashara, truly tales of your beauty do not do you justice."
Ned continued to talk with his betrothed of her journey from Kings Landing where she had , up until now, served as a lady in waiting for Princess Elia. This woman was elegant in every way and Ned started to doubt whether he would be good enough for her. All he knew that was he would try his hardest to prove to her that he was worthy of her love.
Two moons had passed and it was finally time for Ned to be wed. During the wait for the wedding Ned had gotten to know Ashara and he was not shamed to admit that he had started to fall in love with her. At first it had started out tense and uncomfortable, they were both being forced into a marriage with someone that they had never met, but over time they learnt to enjoy each others company.
They had often gone on walks through the Godswood for hours a day, talking to each other, learning of their lives and simply basking in each others presence. At night they would lay underneath the Weirdwood tree staring up at the stars and listening to natures call.
As Ashara was marrying into the Stark family it was agreed that the marriage would occur in front of the Heart Tree.
Ned was standing in the Godswood under the Heart Tree with his Family, Robert, Jon and other northern lords and ladies his father had invited to spectate the day one of the sons of Winterfell was to be wed. Standing opposite the Stark family were the Dayne's, although they seemed uncomfortable and out of place, Ned could see that they were accepting of Northern and First Men traditions, after all the Dayne's were descendants of First Men and Andals unlike other houses.
He was nervous, because although he had resigned himself with the fact that he would one day marry, the fact that it was now about to happen scared him.
Ned calmed his nervous and took a deep breathe, when he finally saw Ashara being led towards him by her father. She looked stunning, her dark locks flowing down her back in soft dark waves. Her dress was an elegant pearl white with specks of amethyst purple spread throughout it. A soft white fur was spread around her keeping her warm in the cold northern climate, and her purple maidens cloak with the Dayne sigil clear to see clasped around her shoulders.
Ned looked to her face and could see her violet eyes sparkling and a bright smile plastered on her face as she made eye contact with him. She truly was a great beauty.
As she stepped up Ashara's father placed her hands in Ned's, placed a kiss on her brow and stepped back to allow the ceremony to begin.
Rickard had decided he would officiate, and with a loud voice he stated; "who comes before the Gods?"
"Ashara of House Dayne, a woman grown and flowered comes before the Gods seeking their favour" Lord Dayne responded.
"And who claims her?"
"I Eddard of House Stark claim her" he stated in a powerful voice.
"Lady Ashara" Rickard said. "Do you takes this man?"
"Yes" Ashara stated. "I take this man"
"And do you Eddard of the House Stark take this woman and pledge to honour her and provide for her until the end of your days?"
"Aye, I swear it" Ned replied.
Rickard nodded and with a smile stated. "Then you may cloak the bride under your protection."
Giving Ashara a smile Ned unclasped her cloak handed it to her father and received a new one from Brandon. This cloak decorated with the sigil of House Star, the mighty direwolf. Gently pulling the cloak around her shoulders he clasped it at the neck with a silver brooch in the shape of a direwolf with purple amethyst for eyes made specifically for this occasion. With one hand gently rested on the back of her head, his forehead pressed against hers as gazed deeply into her violet eyes, "With this kiss, I pledge my undying love." He said before pressing his lips gently upon her own.
Ned was pacing outside of one of the many rooms in Winterfell, cringing every time he heard the screams of pain resonating from his wife. Eventually he couldn't take it anymore and retreated to the solitude of the Godswood. Every time Ned needed to calm his mind and nerves he would sit under the Heart Tree cleaning and sharpening his blade.
His father had taken his siblings on a round to visit all of his Bannerman, and would be gone for a minimum of two moons. He had left Ned in charge of ruling Winterfell in his stead, hoping his son would gain experience for when he would one day rule Moat Cailin. With Robert gone back to Storms End and Jon back in the Eyrie Ned only had the new maester and his mother to help rule.
Ned had sat on the rock in praying to the old gods to safely deliver his child into the world and keep his loving wife safe and healthy. He was there undisturbed for what seemed like hours before one of the household guards rushed into the clearing delivering the news that the new maester, sent to replace maester Walys after his death, was looking for him and wanted Ned to meet him outside.
Ned rushed out of the Godswood sprinting through the hallways until he could see the man that was looking for him.
"Maester Luwin, how is Ashara? Is the baby…"
Gently the middle aged maester cut him off. "Worry not my lord, Lady Ashara is weak but she will recover. As for the baby my lord, it is strong and healthy."
Ned let out a sigh of relief and entered the birthing chamber with the maester. There he saw Ashara laying on the bed holding a babe to her chest, while handmaidens ran about cleaning up the mess and disposing of the bloodied sheets.
Walking up to his wife, Ned leaned down and gently planted a kiss on her lips.
"Ash" he said. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm alright my love, a bit weak but I shall recover." She responded. "Here, see your son."
Ned took the babe from her arms and held him gently in the crook of his arm. Just looking at his son he could see the beginning of Stark features, the long face and dark hair among others.
"I know we haven't discussed it in length, but I was hoping we could name him Jon, after Lord Arryn." Ned said quietly, so as to not wake the child. "The man has done so much for me."
"A strong and good name my love." She responded in kind. "Our son, Jon, he will serve the north well, and I hope, will one day join the ranks of legendary figures, known not only in the north but throughout the seven kingdoms, just like his uncle and Stark ancestors.
Ned smiled at his wife and gently placed Jon in her arms; sitting bedside Ned sat vigil over his wife and son while they rested. He finally had a child of his own, and he would make sure that Jon knew how much his parents and family loved him. No matter what.
Time had gone by so quickly, Ned could remember Jon's birth as though it were yesterday. His son had grown so much in the five years that had passed. Where he was once a small newborn not even able to do anything for himself, he was now a small child that was largely independent.
Ned was happy with the way Jon had started to grow up. He was surrounded by his family, where his uncles and aunts doted on him constantly, where his grandparents played with him whenever the opportunity arose, where his grandfather taught him the rich history of his house and his mother regaled him with tales of the great knights of House Dayne such as his uncle Arthur who he loved so much.
Jon had been born at the start of winter and had started growing up in a season that pushed even the strongest of men over the edge.
Looking at his son below in the training yard learning sword play from his Brandon, Ned could honestly say that Jon was the splitting image of a Stark, with the long face and dark brown almost black hair, except for one feature, his eyes. Jon had inherited his eyes from his mother, those vibrant violet eyes. He was proud to be a Stark, but he never forgot about his Dayne family either; Ned and Ashara had often taken Jon south to visit his uncle in Kings Landing as well as his maternal grandfather, uncle and baby aunt Allyria.
Gazing down at his son training with his uncle, Ned could see that Jon had obviously inherited his uncle Arthur's skills in blade dancing. Whenever someone of the household complimented Jon on his taking to sword play he would look up to them with a bright smile plastered on his face, let out a childish laugh and boldly say, "but of course, I'll be the first Stark to be the Sword of the Morning!"
Ned laughter every time he heard his young son claim this. Although Jon was a Dayne, he was first and foremost a Stark, and therefor would never wield Dawn unless he was the last Dayne from his grandfather's line. His cousins would always be given preference before him. But Jon would never let that stop him. His mother had instilled in him a burning desire to complete any task he put his mind to.
At times Ned felt jealous of the bond Jon shared with his mother. Although he and his son were extremely close, Ashara's bond with the child was unwavering and invisible. The boy would do anything for his mother, and all he did was to make sure his mother was happy.
Ned was pulled out of his thought when he felt his wife's presence next to him.
"Ash" he spoke as he planted a kiss on her lips. "Just look at him down there, his only five namedays and yet he is training as hard as possible. He wants to be just like his uncles."
Ashara let out a melodious laugh. "My sweet boy, he wants to be strong like his father one day and protect his family."
"Maester Luwin says his studies are going well, but I fear he is pushing himself to hard. He wants to learn all that he can. But he is only a child" Ashara spoke out in concern.
"I fear that to be mine and his aunty and uncles fault, not so much Ben, but Bran and Lya. We fill his head with tales of his ancestors and all their achievements. He's especially smitten with Brandon the Builder, claiming that he will be as great as our founder and build a monument so grand that the 'Starstarks', as Lyanna likes to call us, especially his beautiful mother, will never be forgotten." Ned finished with humour in his tone.
Ashara simply cooed as she looked down at her son.
Jon must have sensed what his parent were talking about because he looked up and saw his mother cooing at him because he ducked his head, face scarlet red.
Brandon used the situation to hit his nephew over the head with the wooden training swords they were using. Jon looked up at his uncle and started chasing him around the training yard weaving through the men that the master of arms, Martyn Cassel, was training.
Ned was about to shout out for Jon to stop when Lyanna swooped in, grappled his son and ran out of the yard laughing. He smiled at the disappearing sight of the aunt and nephew. It was a common game that Lyanna had started playing with him; she would swoop in and grab him before putting him somewhere around Winterfell, then she would go and hide. Jon then had to find his aunt before he was called for his next lesson.
Ned had been putting his son to bed when Jon had boasted that he had explored the whole of Winterfell and knew every hiding spot there was. Ned had laughed joyfully with his son and had ended up sleeping in his room where Jon had told him of all his different hiding spots and the quickest routes to get there.
Ned was brought out of his reminiscing when Ashara pulled his arm, linking their hands and started walking, reminding him that they needed to do their daily ritual before their evening meal. He simply smiled and allowed himself to be guided along by his wife.
They eventually reached their destination and Ned got himself comfortable underneath the Heart Tree, Ashara sitting in his lap, her back leaning against his chest.
"The Moat is almost completely repaired, the keep and the walls have been finished, but father says that the towers still require a lot of work. Father says we won't move until the entire fortress is restored."
"That's good, Winterfell is home now, it would be a shame to leave it so soon. Jon doesn't have very many friends his age, he mostly runs around with your siblings and the guards." She replied. "I know it is asking much, but would you ask your father to allow us a few more years in Winterfell, just so that Jon doesn't get lonely?"
"Of course Ash! Father is a stern and strict person but he'll cave to anything if it has to do with his grandson." Ned finished with a laugh.
"One mor thing Ned, I want to give Jon something for doing well in his studies and lessons. Would you mind getting a replica of my broach made for him, so that he can always remember he is a star of House Dayne as well as a Direwolf of House Stark?
"I'll go down to the blacksmith on the morrow and request that he make the exact same broach." Ned replied.
For the next few hours the two spoke lovingly to each other of multitudes of things. Eventually the sun had set and left the sky black cleared of all clouds. It was nights like this that Ned really loved spending time with his wife. Ashara shone with beauty under the stars even more than she usually did. They would sit there, Ashara telling him of the different constellations and what they meant, where they lead and everything she had learnt growing up in Starfall.
They were whispering to each other, Ned laying kisses down her neck, when they heard the patter of feet on earth and a shout, "Mother! Father! Grandfather said it's time for sup. Hurry or uncle Bran is gonna each everything."
Just as he finished speaking Jon entered into the clearing with a cheshire grin on his face.
"Mother! Father! Come on" he whined impatiently.
Ned and Ashara simply laughed, grabbed his hands and allowed themselves to be dragged to the great hall by their son of five.
Once they had all settled in for their meal, Ned allowed himself to look over his family. Even though it wasn't complete, with his mother's passing one year back, they looked happy. He was seated to the left of his father with Brandon on the other side talking to Martyn Cassel, Ashara sat to his left with Lyanna, Benjen and Jon huddled up secretly whispering and giggling to each other.
Ned had been speaking to his wife when his father tapped his shoulder to get his attention and whispered to him; "Jon came to my solar earlier today. He said that he and Lyanna had been down in the crypts today, and he had finally gotten to into our founder's chamber and has decided he wants to learn the art of designing and building. The child wants to build something for his Mother and young sibling."
It hadn't started to show yet but Ashara was once again with child and Jon told anyone he found that he would be the best big brother ever. He couldn't even begin to image what the boy would be like when they left for the Tourney at Harrenhal in a few moons.
He let out a tired sigh. "That boy. He wants to learn and master all skills he can get his hands on. But he is his mother's child, and as she always tells him, he can achieve anything he puts his mind to. Don't worry I'll find teachers to start him on the basics."
As he was saying this he gazed over to where he's son was now laughing with his mother, he really was the best of all of them, he had his attitude, his mother's drive, Brandon's skills, Lyanna's will and spirit, Benjen's energy and his grandfathers mind. Ned only wondered how he would take to the supposed greatest tournament of its time.
Little did Ned know that it was at this tourney that everything would begin to change, the future of Westeros was about to be opened onto a dark path.