"You are to go to Casterly Rock, to be fostered with Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, and Hand of the King. Do you understand?" Lord Rickard asked.
Eddard nodded solemnly. "I understand Father."
"You are going now, so that you might learn a few things from a man such as Lord Tywin, and to ensure that there are good ties between our two houses. I expect you to be on your best behaviour." Lord Rickard stated.
"I will Father, I promise." Eddard replied, with as much seriousness as an eight-year-old could manage.
His father nodded and then said. "You may go."
Eddard bowed and then hurried out of the solar. The solar was quite an intimidating place and Eddard had only ever been in there once before, when he had been very small, and when Mother had still been alive. He arrived back in his room, and saw Lya sitting on his bed. She looked upset, but then again Lya always looked upset. "Well?" Lya asked. "What did Papa want to see you about?"
Lya was only two years younger than him but she still called Father, Papa, it was something he had never quite understood. "I am to go to Casterly Rock to foster with Lord Tywin." Eddard replied excitedly, or as excitedly as he could get.
"So you are leaving?" Lya asked, her lower lip turning up as she began to pout.
"Well only for a little bit, and you'll still have Benjen." Eddard said quickly, trying to reassure her.
Lya sighed. "It's not the same, Ben is only a baby, he can't play the same games as we do, not now anyway. Why do you get to go away, and I don't? It's not fair!"
Eddard took a minute to think about that and then said. "Because you will be going away later, to marry, to become someone's wife. Father just wants to keep you here now so that he won't miss you so much when you go away." Lya smiled and they talked some more about the cakes that were being cooked and when Brandon would next come home from Barrowton, perhaps this time Brandon would be interested in what he said, after all it was not every day one of them to go to the Rock.
The next few days passed by in a blur, Eddard spent much of his time reading up on the Rock and the Westerlands, he also spent it packing. There was so much he needed to take with him, books, quills, clothes, all sorts of things. He admitted to himself on his last night that he felt nervous but he was also very excited, the feast was interesting, he was given the chance to drink a cup of wine and he was the talk of the feast, not just Brandon, though of course Brandon entertained with all his stories. Though they were a year apart, one would never think it. Brandon was loud and brash even at nine, whilst Eddard was quiet and sombre.
The day of his departure from Winterfell, he hugged Lya, and Benjen, Brandon and he shook hands, formally, though later Brandon pulled him into a hug. He left Winterfell, the only home he'd ever known and then they left Winterfell. They rode south from Winterfell down the King's Road stopping at a variety of places, Father came with him as did Martyn Cassel, and Osric who was a friend and a brother. They spent time at Moat Cailin and Eddard marvelled at how the ancient structure could remain so sturdy despite being so old. Father saw him staring at it and laughed. "Moat Cailin is thousands of years old, Eddard. It is one of the oldest structures in the north and the key to defending it from land. One day it might even belong to you."
Eddard looked at his father surprised. "You would give me Moat Cailin?" No second son had ever been given Moat Cailin since Artos Stark had died. To be given it would be a huge honour.
Father smiled, something Eddard had never see him do since Mother had died. "It would need some repairing, but I do not see why not." Eddard smiled and then they spent the next two days at Moat Cailin before they travelled southwards, toward the Twins. Lord Walder Frey was a strange man, he was old, older than ever Father, and he was a rude man.
"Ah, Stark, had any more wolves up your end?" Frey had asked Father.
Eddard had not understood what Frey had meant, but clearly Father had, for his mouth tightened and he replied curtly. "No, all the wolves are dead."
Frey had spat then. "A shame, I had liked your wolf, she was a fine looking one, with a nice arse on her." The other Freys had laughed at that, and Father had gone white with anger, but he had not said anything. Guests were not allowed to insult their hosts, that was what Mother had always said.
Frey turned to him then and said. "So, you're the boy going off to foster with Tywin Lannister eh?" Eddard looked at Frey surprised that he knew something such as that, but Father shook his head, and so Eddard merely nodded. Frey spat again. "Well, I am sure you will learn some manners from the Lord of the Rock, a damn sight more than you'd learn in the north. Barbaric place that it is, eh Rickard?"
Father looked as if he wanted to hit Frey, but instead he merely nodded. "Something like that." The conversation ended, and the feast did some time later. As they were getting ready for bed, Father tucked him and said. "Ignore Walder Frey, Eddard. He is a bitter old man who has never amounted to anything. He will never amount to anything. Never forget who you are."
Father looked at him expectantly, and he said. "I am a Stark of Winterfell." His father nodded and kissed his forehead and then walked out and sleep claimed him.
From the Twins, they rode to Seagard, they were greeted by Lord Jason Mallister a man who was young yet old as well, there was no conversation but they got on a ship and set sail, hugging the coast to avoid the Ironborn who seemed to be growing more powerful according to Father. They sailed down the coast and Eddard was sick numerous times, he did not like the sea, and it seemed that it did not like him. Eddard was more than relieved when they docked into Lannisport. It was a great glimmering city at the base of the Rock. There they were greeted by a man who was tall and muscular, for a minute Eddard thought he was the King, but then Father said. "Lord Tywin, a pleasure."
Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King, had come to meet him personally at Lannisport? Eddard felt a blush rise on his cheeks, but quickly fought it. He was a Stark, and Starks did not blush. Lord Tywin nodded at Father. "Lord Rickard." The man then turned and looked at him. "And you must be Eddard."
"Yes my Lord." Eddard said, barely loud enough to be heard.
Lord Tywin nodded, and then turned back to Father. "I am sure you have had a long journey, I've got horses prepared, your son's things will be taken up by wagon. Come." They mounted the horses provided for them, and set off. Father and Lord Tywin in the lead, the second man who Eddard had seen before, brought his horse close to him.
"I'm Gerion by the way. Gerion Lannister, Tywin's brother." Gerion Lannister said.
"Nice to meet you." Eddard said formally. Gerion smiled but said nothing else, they continued their journey up to the Rock. When Eddard saw the great hulking, structure built into the Rock his mouth fell open. It was huge, there was a great golden castle jutting out from the Rock, and then there was the passageway, they entered through the passageway, getting off their horses and entering the castle properly through a pulley system. As they went higher up, Eddard felt his mouth drop further. This place was bigger than Winterfell, and certainly more impressive.
As they got out of the pulleys and out onto the hall properly, Lord Tywin spoke. "Maester Creylen will ensure that your things are kept in their rightful place." The maester, was young and seemed to have just arrived, a different sort of maester to Walys Flowers back home. Out of nowhere, their luggage appeared and was directed to their rooms. Lord Tywin then introduced them to the remaining people in the hallway. "This is my wife Lady Joanna." Lady Joanna was beautiful, she had fair hair and green eyes, and was heavily pregnant. "These two are my children, Jaime my heir, and Cersei, my daughter." They were hardly distinguishable, both with long blonde hair and green eyes and equally cheeky smiles on their faces. Eddard nodded to them all, and then they were led to the great hall for a feast.
During the feast, Eddard was peppered with questions by the twins. "What is the north like?" asked Jaime.
"It's big, and cold sometimes, but welcoming." Eddard said.
"What was your journey like?" Cersei asked.
"Long, but interesting." Eddard replied.
"Did you meet Walder Frey?" Jaime asked.
Eddard remembered the old and brittle man, and nodded. "Yes, he was a terrible old bore." That drew a laugh from the twins and made him smile.
Eventually though the feast came to an end. They retired for the night, Eddard and Father sharing the same room. Eddard slept peacefully, but in the morning, he was nervous. Father was dressed and ready, and after breakfast pulled him aside. "Remember that you are a Stark, you are here representing us in the Westerlands. Lord Tywin is Hand of the King, if you make a good impression on him, then you are set for life. Do you understand?"
Eddard didn't really understand but he nodded anyway. "Yes Father."
His father did something unexpected then and pulled him close for a hug. "I am proud of you, you must always remember that." Eddard nodded and then his father pulled away and they began the process of saying goodbye formally. Eddard watched as his father rode down the pulley and down toward Lannisport, his throat dry.
Eventually, Lady Joanna spoke to him. "Would you like to see your rooms?"
Eddard nodded and followed her down the hallway and into another set of rooms, there he found himself looking at the room he had seen Jaime in the other day. "You will be sharing with Jaime; I hope you do not mind?"
Eddard shook his head. "I shared a room with my brother, Brandon, in Winterfell."
Lady Joanna smiled. "Come then, I shall get Jaime, and let you two get to know one another."
Jaime and he spent the next however long talking about games they played and who their favourite knights were, Eddard found himself growing to like Jaime more and more, even though the boy was only five, and he was eight. Eventually, they were called for dinner, and it was nice, not as nice as the food at Winterfell, but nice nonetheless. After dinner, he settled into bed, and listened as Jaime told him about a game where someone was tagged and then had to find and tag the other people. It sounded fun, and he wanted to tell Lya about it, but then remembered that she was in Winterfell. He felt a pang then, but pushed it down.
The next day, he had lessons. One was with Jaime, and there he showed he knew a lot. After that, the rest of the day he spent his time with Maester Creylen and Damion Lannister, learning more about the Westerlands and about the role of the Kingdoms and the council of the King. It was interesting stuff, and explained in a far better way than what Maester Walys would explain things.
His first week at the Rock flew by, and then the first month did as well, he got used to the meal times, he discovered through exploring with Jaime and Cersei, the best ways to navigate through the tunnels and the passageways, he played with a lion and nearly got a thrashing for doing so. It was fun, it reminded him of being at home with Lya, and it eased his homesickness somewhat.
His first Yule at the Rock was filled with gifts and presents, it was a fun time and he deeply enjoyed it. Lord Tywin who spent most of his time in King's Landing ensured that he was given money, whilst Lady Joanna gave him a special book about the Kings of the Rock. He thanked them and gave them something he had drawn, it was badly done, but Lady Joanna thanked him.
Then after Yule, Lady Joanna went to the birthing bed, and the castle fell silent.
"He looks funny." Cersei said, staring at the baby in the cot.
"That's because he's a baby, Cersei. Every baby looks funny." Eddard said.
"I know that, but he looks really funny and ugly too." Cersei said, grabbing a hold of the baby's member and twisting.
The baby cried out. Eddard grabbed Cersei's hand and lifted it off the baby's member. "Stop it Cersei."
"Why should I? He hurt Mother, and made it so that she couldn't get up." Cersei replied pouting.
Eddard sighed. "Yes, Lady Joanna is still in bed, but she wouldn't want you to hurt your brother. You are his older sister, you are supposed to protect him, not hurt him."
Cersei went to protest, but before she could, a voice sounded from behind them. "Eddard is right. Cersei, I am very disappointed in you."
They all whirred around and saw Lord Tywin standing there in the doorway, his eyes were burning with anger. Usually it was hard to tell what Lord Tywin was thinking, but one look at him now and one could see he was angry. "Cersei, you are to help Maud clean the kitchens for the next month. Now leave." Cersei kept her mouth shut and walked out, but Eddard saw the glower she sent his way.
Lord Tywin sighed, and Jaime immediately asked. "How is Mama doing, Papa?"
Lord Tywin's eyes softened as he took in his eldest son and heir. Even to Eddard it was obvious that Lord Tywin loved his eldest son and was immeasurably proud of him. "She is doing better Jaime; she will be able to see you before the week ends." Jaime cheered with happiness and hugged his father before disappearing, no doubt to tell Cersei the good news.
Eddard remained where he was, waiting for Lord Tywin to speak. He might be young, but Eddard knew when an adult wished to speak with him, and from the way Lord Tywin was standing, Eddard knew the man wanted to speak with him. Eventually the man did so. "I know I have not been here that often, and have not been able to properly teach you, Eddard, but I have heard that you are doing well in your studies, and you are helping with the children. I am much indebted to you for that. And a Lannister always pays his debts." Eddard did not know what to say to that, so he kept his mouth shut. As he suspected, Lord Tywin continued. "I also thank you for ensuring Tyrion is protected. Cersei is young, but she already has a vicious temper on her. No doubt something, she has gotten from me."
The Rains of Castamere was a favourite song at feasts here, so Eddard knew better than to contradict Lord Tywin. He simply remained silent and listened as Lord Tywin continued. "I want you to keep an eye out on both Jaime and Tyrion. I know they are both young, and a drain, but I want you to protect them."
That surprised Eddard, he was but eight namedays old, how was he supposed to protect them, and from what? But he found himself nodding. "I will, my lord I promise."
Lord Tywin turned away from his second son and placed a hand on Eddard's shoulder. "Good, I knew I could count on you." With that Lord Tywin walked out of the nursery, leaving Eddard to stand there nonplussed. He eventually walked out and got back to sparring in the yard with Damion, under the watchful eye of Ser Tygett Lannister, Lord Tywin's younger brother and a famous knight.
After that day, Eddard kept his eye on Jaime, he watched as the heir to the Rock spent most of his time either sparring with a wooden sword, or with Cersei, or pestering him about the North. There was something about the time Jaime spent with Cersei though, he couldn't put his finger on it. They were babes, little older than Lya, but there was something.
His nameday celebrations however, force all thoughts of the twins and whatever strangeness they might be getting up to from his mind. There is a great cake, a lion and a wolf on it, and a sword, a small one, but with a silver encrusted gem, in the pommel, and a book about the great chancellors of the Westerlands. A great set of gifts, and he gets letters from Father and Lya, and a present as well, a little handkerchief that Lya had stitched for him with the direwolf on it.
The festivities go on for a very long time, and he eventually finds himself being carried off to bed, by Martyn Cassel, someone he is surprised is still here. As Martyn tucks him into bed, he finds himself sleepily asking. "How are you finding the Rock, Martyn?"
Martyn Cassel is his father's man through and through, Eddard can see that quite clearly, but he has a good heart as well. Eddard is sure Martyn smiles when he replies. "I am enjoying it well enough my lord. And I know you are as well. Your father is very happy."
Eddard smiled tiredly. "That is good. Thank you."
"Happy nameday, my lord." Martyn said, before he walked out. Eddard fell asleep to the sound of his footsteps on the ground.
He woke the next morning and saw Jaime standing before him dressed in brown, he blinked again and saw that it was not in fact Jaime but…" Cersei, what are you doing?"
"I've come to go sparring with you. Wooden swords." Cersei said as confidently as a six year old could.
"But, you are a girl. And a little girl at that, I won't spar against you." Eddard replied confidently.
Cersei smirked, in that way of hers that made him think she was most definitely up to no good. "Well, are you going to fight me, or do I have to get Jaime?"
Eddard looked at her and asked. "Where is Jaime?"
"He is with Father." Cersei replied.
Eddard sighed and got out of bed. "Fine."
Cersei bounded away and Eddard found himself wondering what he was getting into. At the practice yard they both took their wooden swords, and Cersei held hers with grace, making him think she'd done this before. As they were about to strike, Lady Joanna entered the courtyard, and stood there watching. Eddard swung and Cersei ducked, and then hit his leg, causing him to grunt slightly. This continued until Lady Joanna called out for them to come for lunch, as they moved to the great hall, Eddard could have sworn he saw Lady Joanna giving Cersei a smile.