A/N- Welcome to my new story! Yes, as you can see this is a Game of Thrones story, in commemoration of that bloody brilliant trailer that dropped yesterday for season 7! This is definitely canon-divergent and R+L does not equal J. And yes, it's a sort of multi pairing thing but will be mainly Jon/Sansa, and there probably will be an alternate companion story to go along with it. This will be mainly compliant with the show's canon, but will definitely diverge into something different. Anyways enjoy.
Chapter 1- The White Wolf
Jon Snow, The Bastard on Winterfell, absolutely hated the fact that he was unable to transform like his cousins. So far, Robb, Arya and Bran had successfully transformed into their impressive direwolf forms. Direwolves, an ancient breed of wolf as large as a horse yet far more muscular. It was believed that the First Men had the ability to change their skin- not in the traditional sense where one's mind would transfer and take command of an animal- but rather into massive beasts that many in Westeros now considered either extinct or nothing more than legend. The Starks had always possessed the ability to change into the animal of their house sigil, and many in the South feared the Stark's prowess in battle thanks to it.
Jon was forced to watch from a distance as his cousins practiced getting used to their new forms within a sacred grove in the Wolfswood. Ancient magic protected the grove, preventing those not of Stark blood from entering, and for centuries the grove was where young Starks learned to harness the magic that flowed through them.
Jon watched as Arya, in her smaller, dark grey-furred and golden-eyed wolf form pounced on the larger wolf that Jon recognized as Robb. Jon watched enviously as the two wolves wrestled amidst the leaves and dirt of the grove, both snarling ferociously and snapping their jaws, though Jon knew it was only in jest. Bran watched them as well in his creamy-yellow wolf form, staring at his siblings in boredom.
Jon noticed that Sansa and Rickon were not in the grove as well. Rickon was too young to undergo the First Change, and Sansa often commented on how 'unlady-like' it was to turn into a giant wolf. Jon had often seen Sansa trying to convince Arya to stop transforming and act like a proper lady, but Arya would have none of it. She was every bit a she-wolf as a human.
Jon was upset however, because for years he had hoped he too could turn into a direwolf. He often wondered what he would look like as a wolf, as the colour of the fur and eyes were supposedly representations of the person's personality and innermost being. Robb often joked that if Jon were a wolf he would his fur would be dark as night, either for the dark curls that framed his face or because of his tendency to brood.
Unfortunately, Jon had never been able to transform, and Lady Catelyn would occasionally remark that it was because he was baseborn and had thus tainted the magic. It was not Jon's fault that he was the bastard son of Brandon Stark and Ashara Dayne, yet he could not help but allow Lady Stark's words to pierce the carefully constructed walls he had built throughout his lifetime. He had indeed tainted the magic that ran through his veins, and because of it Jon feared he would never be legitimized as a Stark.
While Jon so desperately wanted to be like his cousins, he feared what would happen if he were to transform for the first time. You see, when a Stark successfully transforms for the first time, the wolf takes complete control for a short while, making them incredibly dangerous both to those around them and themselves. It was why Jon was not practicing at that moment, because his Uncle Ned, by far the most experienced wolf in the pack and the Alpha was not there to supervise.
Jon's only source of comfort came from that of his uncle ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary Sword in the Morning. He had promised Jon that he would travel to Winterfell in the coming months to train Jon as a worthy heir to the legendary sword Dawn, made out of the metal of a fallen star and said to be as sharp and resilient as Valyrian steel.
While many in Westeros, including Lady Stark, scoffed at the notion of Jon possibly becoming the new Sword in the Morning due to his social status as a bastard, House Dayne, and all of Dorne for that matter, didn't treat bastards as less than dirt but rather as equals. Jon spent most of his waking hours dreaming of wielding such a sword, and only hoped that his uncle would find him worthy.
Jon was broken from his thoughts when Arya ran up to him, now as a human and sat down next to him, panting heavily and covered in mud from head to toe.
"I saw you brooding again and thought I might stop you before you fall into depression," said Arya, looking at Jon with amusement.
"I wasn't brooding," said Jon grumpily, though the corners of his mouth were twitching slightly.
"Of course you were. It's your defining trait," retorted Arya as she punched him lightly on the arm.
Jon laughed and pushed Arya away, and Arya laughed as well. "What were you thinking about?" she asked.
Jon shrugged. "My uncle," he said simply.
Instantly Arya's eyes brightened. "Ser Arthur Dayne? Is he coming with King Robert?" she asked excitedly.
"I am not sure," said Jon. "Possibly. he is Kingsguard."
Uncle Ned had received a letter earlier in the month, announcing the King and his family's intentions to travel North to Winterfell.
"Will he be training you to wield a sword?" asked Arya.
"I think so. He did promise in his last letter to me," said Jon.
"You'll become the greatest swordsman in all of Westeros!" proclaimed Arya, making Jon chuckle lightly.
"I am not sure about that, but I might become close to my uncle," he said.
"I wonder if he will allow Robb to train with you," mused Arya.
The two fell into silence after that, watching as Robb chased Bran around the grove. Jon felt another wave of melancholy pass over him then, once again reminded of the fact that he would never change like the rest of his family.
Nearly a month later and Jon was once again watching his cousins play in the grove in their wolf forms, though this time they were accompanied by Uncle Ned and Sansa. Uncle Ned was sitting on the roots of an old oak tree, polishing the blade of his greatsword Ice, while Sansa was embroidering a handkerchief with a stag, no doubt to present it to Prince Joffrey when the royal family arrived next week. Jon was sitting next to his uncle, performing the exercises that Uncle Ned had shown him that would call upon the beast.
Supposedly, Jon would feel another presence in the furthest depths of his mind, and was supposed to encourage that presence to the forefront of his mind until it consumed it entirely and he would change into a direwolf. Arya had described it to Jon as being as easy as changing clothes, yet Jon was unable to make the connection.
It frustrated Jon to no end, but he possessed the Stark stubbornness and so he persisted. Arya and Robb were continuously supportive of Jon, while Bran and Uncle Ned would often look at him with pity. Rickon, being only a few years old, often wondered aloud why Jon was so angry all the time. Sansa showed Jon little interest, often being too busy with her lady duties to pay him any attention. Lady Stark, on the other hand, would snort derisively whenever she saw Jon attempting to change. And it was on this day, a week before the royal family arrived in Winterfell, that Jon snapped.
Jon was meditating quietly on the far side of the grove, his eyes closed and all senses dead to the world as he concentrated, when he heard the footsteps approach. He opened one eye to see Lady Stark storming towards him with a look in her eyes that would freeze all seven hells. Jon automatically stiffened and prepared himself to accept the blame for whatever he may or may not have done wrong.
"Can I be of service, Lady Stark?" said Jon politely when said woman stopped a few feet in front of where Jon was sitting, just outside of the grove's boundaries as she could not enter.
"You can be of service by leaving," hissed Lady Stark.
Jon froze. Leave?
"Pardon?" he asked.
"Leave the grove. Now," she ordered. Lady Stark had always hated Jon, as he was a reminder to her of the betrayal she felt when Brandon Stark, Jon's father, lay with his mother while he had been betrothed to Catelyn Tully.
"You are no true Stark, so you do not belong here," continued Lady Stark.
Jon looked over his shoulder and saw his uncle staring at the impending confrontation with a cold look in his eyes. Ned stood up, sheathed his sword and strode over to where Jon and Lady Stark were, drawing the attention of the others.
"Catelyn," said Ned cautiously.
"He must leave. He does not belong here," insisted Lady Stark.
"He may not have our name, but he is of my blood," said Ned.
"He is not a Stark!" screamed Lady Stark.
Jon couldn't handle it. It was as if he wasn't even there any more and it infuriated him. Jon was often the most reserved, the most in control of their emotions of all the Starks but today it felt as though he was a bomb ready to go off, and his aunt and uncle had just lit the fuze.
He felt it in his chest first. It was a warmth that enveloped his heart and quickly spread throughout the rest of his body, and the heat increased until it was a raging inferno that threatened to consume Jon. Uncle Ned saw it first and his eyes widened in horror.
"Cat, get back!" he yelled, pushing his wife out of the way hard, sending Catelyn to the ground while Ned drew his sword, pointing the Valyrian steel greatsword at Jon, whose size had increased dramatically.
Behind Ned, the true born Stark children looked on in surprise as Jon's body was encompassed in fur as white as fresh snow. Robb and Arya transformed into their direwolf forms and stood in front of Sansa, Bran and Rickon in a defensive manner, ready to protect their siblings from the volatile first transformation. Sansa shrieked in fright and pulled little Rickon closer to her, and Bran too transformed, though he stood closer to his sister and younger brother.
Jon's body continued to grow and his shape twisted and morphed into the form of a quadraped. His head expanded and lengthened as his curls shortened and turned white like the rest of the hair covering his body. The whites and irises of his dark grey eyes turned blood red, making the beast he was transforming into appear like one of the monsters in Sansa's tales she often loved to read.
His transformation complete, Jon had become a white direwolf with blood-red eyes that dwarfed even Robb. He lifted his massive furry head and howled, a chilling sound that sent shivers down the spines of the humans in the grove and making the hackles of the other wolves raise. A few miles away, the denizens of Winterfell paused in their daily activities and shuddered at the haunting sound echoing from the Wolfswood.
"Jon!" called out Ned to his nephew. The white direwolf's attention was drawn to his uncle and he snarled ferociously at the man holding the sword. He took a cautious step forward, his instincts screaming at Jon, telling him that the man with the greatsword was a threat. A deep growl resonated in Jon's throat as he stalked forward, his eyes never leaving Ned and his sword.
"Jon. It is me, your uncle," pleaded Ned. "You must control yourself, rein in the beast before you are consumed by it!"
His words fell on deaf ears, however, and the white wolf continued to move forward, his massive fangs bared. Ned looked at his nephew in both fear and bewilderment, having never seen a direwolf so large in his life. Not even he was as big as Jon.
Jon let out another snarl and he charged at Ned, with every intention to rip the Warden of the North's throat out. Ned raised his sword, silently praying to his dead older brother for forgiveness for what he was about to do. But before Ned could bring the greatsword down on Jon, Jon was intercepted by two smaller direwolves with grey fur. Robb and Arya.
The two grey wolves tackled the white wolf to the ground, sending dirt tumbling into the air. The ground shook at the sheer force of three enormous wolves hitting the ground, and the air was soon filled with the sounds of snarls, growls and the gnashing of teeth. Ned looked behind him and saw Bran standing protectively in front of a shocked Sansa and a crying Rickon, his eyes never leaving the skirmish taking place in the sacred grove. Catelyn had retreated beyond the borders of the grove, her face contorted into a look of pure amazement at the spectacle.
His attention was pulled back to the battle when he heard the high-pitched whine from one of the wolves. He looked back just in time to see the white wolf snap his jaws over the back of the neck of Robb and throw him away from him, then pin Arya down on the ground. Robb hit a tree with a sickening crunch and sank to the floor. Arya growled angrily and smacked one of her massive paws into Jon's muzzle, dazing the larger wolf. Arya was able to then kick Jon off herself and she ran behind him and sank her teeth into Jon's flank. Jon howled in both agony and fury and lashed out with his back foot, kicking Arya in the chest and sending her sprawling on the ground, her fur matted with mud and tangled with twigs and leaves.
Ned knew he had to do something before either Jon or one of his children were killed, so he charged forward and leapt into the air. In midair he called forth the beast within, transforming into his dark brown-furred wolf with piercing grey eyes. He landed on all fours with a loud thud, drawing Jon's attention away from Arya. Ned could instantly feel the mental connection he had to the rest of the pack, including Jon's. He was surprised to note that Jon's presence was unlike anything he had felt before, not since Brandon and Rickard were alive.
Jon! Ned called out through the connection, hoping to reach out to his nephew. He saw the white wolf pause slightly, he felt waves of confusion emanating from him. However, anger quickly overcame that and Jon growled again, hoping to challenge the Alpha of the Stark pack.
Do not do this, warned Ned, forcing the voice of the Alpha onto Jon. Jon shook his head and charged at Ned. Ned charged forward as well and the two largest wolves in the grove collided together with a loud crack that echoed through the Wolfswood.
If one were to ask any of the witnesses of the events as to what happened, they would say that it was the most ferocious battle ever seen between two direwolves, a battle worthy of song and recorded in the annals of Westerosi history, It was a short battle, with Ned coming out as the victor, but only just.
Ned gave it everything he got into putting Jon down without killing him, and by the time the battle was finished both combatants were exhausted. Ned had managed to pin Jon down underneath him and clapped his jaws down on Jon's throat, who had been forced to expose it. Ned had bitten down lightly, accepting Jon's submission, and the two wolves transformed back into men.
Ned sank to his knees and wiped sweat from his brow, panting heavily. Jon looked around in confusion, he too looking exhausted.
"What happened?" Jon asked wearily, trying to stave off the exhaustion he was feeling. He saw Robb stand up from where Jon had thrown him, limping heavily on his left leg. Arya's face was covered in bruises as she turned back into a girl. Jon looked at his uncle then and saw his clothes tattered and covered in blood.
"Did I do that?" asked Jon before darkness claimed him.
Soft voices broke through the foggy darkness that had enveloped Jon. His mind registered the fact that he was laying in a bed, the furs covering his body up to his chest. He didn't remember how he got there in the first place, his last memory was of him meditating in the grove.
"How could he be so big? He was even larger than you and Robb!"
Lady Stark? Larger than Robb?
"I have a theory, but I do not think you will like it," said another voice that sounded like Uncle Ned.
"What is it?"
There was a pause before Uncle Ned answered. "That he is the son of Brandon Stark, the true heir to Winterfell."
Somebody else gasped. "How so?"
"Well, Jon is the only son of my older brother Brandon, who should have become the Alpha of the Starks. Brandon's wolf form was always larger than mine, though Jon is larger than even his father ever was."
Wolf form? Jon had changed? Wait, he had changed. He did it! And he was larger than his uncle? Jon mentally scoffed at that. he had never seen an animal as large as Uncle Ned's direwolf form.
"Are you saying that..."
"No Cat. Jon will not be the heir to Winterfell, though it is his rightful place."
"He is a bastard!"
"He is also my nephew."
Jon thought he had never heard Uncle Ned speak to his wife with so much venom in his voice before.
"Besides," continued Uncle Ned. "I do not think that Jon will even want to become the Warden of the North. I fear his destiny lays elsewhere."
"The Wall?" asked Lady Stark.
"Mayhaps. But Jon will figure it out on his own."
Jon decided to open his eyes then, having heard enough. He was in his personal bedchambers, a warm light bathed the whole room which emanated from the fireplace. He saw Uncle ned and Lady Stark standing at the foot of his bed where they were talking. Next to him sat Robb, Arya and Bran, while Rickon and surprisingly Sansa were on his other side.
Arya was the first to notice Jon's return to consciousness and she squealed in joy before pulling Jon towards her and wrapping him in a tight hug. Jon squeaked in surprise and winced slightly when Arya squeezed too tight on his tender ribs. Arya quickly pulled away and apologized, which Jon brushed off.
He noticed Uncle Ned next, who looked haggard and weary. He gave Jon a half-smile and sat down at the foot of his bed. "Are you alright Jon?" he asked.
"I think so," said Jon. "A little tired and sore, and my memory is a little hazy."
"That usually happens after one transforms for the first time," said Uncle Ned thoughtfully.
"So I did transform?" said Jon hesitantly, though he couldn't stop the excitement from bleeding into his voice.
"Indeed you did," said Uncle Ned.
"And you were enormous!" cried out Arya happily. "You were this giant wolf with fur as white as snow and eyes like the Targaryen rubies!"
Jon noticed that everyone else didn't look as excited as Arya, which quickly dampened the mood. "What happened?" he asked cautiously. Nobody answered him, giving each other worried looks, yet their eyes never fell on Jon. "What happened?" he repeated.
"You... sort of lost control," said Robb finally.
"In what way?" ventured Jon.
"You tried to kill us," said Arya as if it were just another thing that happened to her every day.
"I what?!" shouted Jon, startling everyone.
"It is no issue! it happens all the time!" said Robb in an effort to calm Jon, who had begun hyperventilating.
"I almost killed you, and you're the ones trying to comfort me?" said Jon in disbelief.
"It wasn't so much that you tried to kill us. All shape shifters go through that their first transformation. It was simply that you were a lot larger than we thought, and we underestimated your strength," said Sansa, once again surprising Jon. Yet her words calmed him somehow, but he couldn't shake that feeling of guilt. He suddenly remembered everything. The fury that took control of him as he transformed, the bloodlust that took control of his mind and the anger at being challenged by an Alpha, when the wolf's mind screamed at Jon that he was the rightful ruler of the pack. He had almost killed his family because he couldn't control himself.
Uncle Ned seemed to sense Jon's inner turmoil, and ordered his wife and children out of the room. Everyone listened without protest and one by one, they filed out until Sansa, being the last one out, closed the door.
"I know it is a lot to take in..." began Uncle Ned.
"I cannot stay here," interrupted Jon.
"Excuse me?" said Ned, as though he didn't hear what Jon said.
"I cannot stay here. I am too dangerous," said Jon. He looked at his uncle, the man who had raised him as his own son. "Send me away Uncle, please."
"Jon, what happened was not your fault," soothed Uncle Ned.
"Uncle. I cannot stay here while I am not in control of myself. Your lady wife would have my head on a spike if I hurt one of your children. Send me away to Essos, far away where I can learn in peace. I cannot stay here and remain as the Bastard of Winterfell. I need to carve a name for myself. I can do so much better out in the world, somewhere I may be someone other than a bastard."
"Perhaps," agreed Uncle Ned thoughtfully. "Though you might wish to accompany your Uncle Arthur to King's Landing, squire for him."
Jon shook his head. "I cannot be in the presence of others, especially my family and the king while I am not in control of myself," he said gravely.
Ned sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "Tell you what. If your uncle does decide to take you on as his squire, you will go to King's Landing," he said, then raised a hand to stop Jon from speaking over him. "Aunt Catelyn believes that King Robert is traveling to Winterfell to name me his new Hand, as Lord Arryn passed away recently. You will not be alone, for I will be with you. I can teach you to control yourself in our spare time, how does that sound?"
Jon said nothing for a moment, feeling lost in thought. Uncle Ned's plan was sound, and it would provide him time to practice with Ned while also spending time getting to know his uncle Arthur. "Very well," said Jon. "I will consider your advice Uncle."
Uncle Ned beamed at Jon and patted him on the shoulder. He left Jon alone by himself then, though Jon hardly noticed.
Jon couldn't shake the nerves he was feeling as the royal party pulled into Winterfell's main courtyard. He stood behind the rest of the Starks and beside Theon Greyjoy and he scratched his now clean-shaven face in annoyance. Lady Stark had ordered he, Robb and Theon to clean themselves up and look presentable to the King and Queen. Jon didn't see any reason as to why he had to clean up, it wasn't like he was going to be receiving any attention from the royal family. Besides, Jon liked his beard, it kept the cold northern air from getting to his face properly.
The Queen Cercei was the first to be seen, an undeniably beautiful woman with long, golden hair fashioned in the Southron style. Jon could almost hear the drool coming out of Theon's mouth and he had to repress a smirk. The queen's handsome twin Jaime, also known as the Kingslayer, stood to her left and behind her as her personal guard, his face exuding arrogance and carelessness, though his eyes never stayed still for long as he watched for any potential dangers.
The queen's two youngest children, Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen joined their mother next, both clad in thick fur pelts to ward off the biting winds of the North. Both had the same golden hair as their mother and uncle, and they had a look of innocence to them. The princess couldn't be much older than Sansa or even Arya, and fat little Tommen was around the same age as Bran.
The crown Prince Joffrey descended from his white steed, and Jon could hear Sansa's harsh intake of breath at the sight thanks to his newly acquired enhanced hearing. He rolled his eyes at both Sansa and the prince, Sansa because she was gushing like one of Winterfell's maids when they gossiped about Robb or even himself, and Joffrey because he had that same arrogant air about him as his uncle, though their was a glint in his eyes that screamed 'dangerous.'
Jon's eyes scanned for any sign of Ser Arthur, his attention focussed on the other white-cloaked Kingsguards, but he couldn't see anything. Jon was also disappointed at the sight of King Robert, who looked nothing like what Uncle Ned had described in his tales of the Trident and Robert's Rebellion. The King greeted Ned like an old friend, which they were, Jon had to remind himself, and watched as he gave his hellos to Lady Stark and their children.
Jon was surprised however, when the King looked Jon straight in the eye and marched over to him. Jon froze feeling unsure as to what to do, and looked to Uncle Ned for help. King Robert stopped directly in front of Jon and Jon bowed low, muttering "Your Grace."
King Robert beckoned Jon to rise and he obeyed, freezing again as the King studied him.
"You are Brandon's bastard, are you not?" the King asked gruffly.
"I am, Your Grace," said Jon, ignoring the sting he felt at Robert's blunt words.
The King let out a booming laugh that echoed through the courtyard and clapped Jon on the shoulder. "He looks more like you Ned! One would think he was actually your bastard!" laughed King Robert.
Uncle Ned gave Robert a tight smile but said nothing, and Jon couldn't help but feel relieved when Robert's attention was diverted from him. He shrank, however, when he saw Queen Cercei's eyes bore into his like daggers and Jon looked away quickly, his eyes following the King and Uncle Ned as Uncle Ned led Robert down to the crypts.
So focussed Jon was on the royal procession, that he didn't see the white armoured knight approach until he stood directly in front of Jon. Jon stood slightly shorter than the knight, and he didn't recognize the Kingsguard until he removed his helm.
"Ser Arthur!" exclaimed Jon, drawing the attention of Robb, Theon, Sansa and Arya, and all four of them gawked openly at the sight of the most famous warrior in the Seven Kingdoms standing before them.
To his credit, Ser Arthur laughed lightly and patted the pommel of his beloved sword Dawn, his body shaking in mirth. "For a second I believed I had gone back in time to see a younger Lord Eddard standing before me," laughed the Kingsguard. "How is my favourite bastard nephew?"
"I think I am your only bastard nephew," pointed out Jon. Unlike King Robert, Ser Arthur looked every bit like what Uncle Ned described. Tall, broad shouldered with dark, shoulder-length hair with a few wisps of grey on the sides and indigo eyes. A sword was sheathed on either side of Ser Arthur's waist, one the long greatsword Dawn, and the other a longsword. He had an air of power and intimidation about him that was coupled with politeness and chivalry, other traits that were described of the knight.
"That you are," said Arthur quietly. Jon noticed the Kingsguard looking behind Jon then and he followed his gaze, where he saw Ser Barristan Selmy gesturing for Ser Arthur to follow. "Duty calls nephew. Perhaps tonight you can sit with me at the feast and regal tales of your exploits in Winterfell?"
Jon nodded his head enthusiastically and his uncle patted him on the shoulder before following Ser Barristan. Jon turned back to his cousins and Theon with a wide grin on his face.
"I cannot believe it," said Robb in awe. "It's really him."
"He looks just like the songs describe him," swooned Sansa.
"I want to see his sword," said Arya. "I heard the blade is as pale as milk glass."
"Do you think Ser Arthur would be willing to train us?" asked Robb to Jon.
"Perhaps," said Jon. "My uncle did promise to teach me while he was visiting here. Maybe he'll want to teach us as well."
Jon couldn't help but smile at the beaming faces of his cousins when he said that.
Of course, Jon's happy mood was soured as he sat near the end of the tables furthest from the high table, where Lady Stark had relegated him, fearing that seating a bastard would be considered a slight in the presence of the King and Queen. The good news was that he could sip as much wine as he wanted to as he was not under supervision, though Jon thought it ridiculous in the first place seeing as he was a man grown.
Jon looked up at the high table and his trademark brooding face came back. Robb and Theon were asking Ser Barristan questions, possibly of King's Landing and the old knight's adventures. Robb was completely oblivious of the attention he was receiving from Princess Myrcella, who looked completely enamored with his cousin, though occasionally she would glance in Jon's direction. Sansa was constantly giving Prince Joffrey shy looks and Jon once again rolled his eyes at that, while Arya looked like she wanted to be anywhere but here. Jon suspected that she wanted to be out in the woods in her wolf form, but Lady Stark had prohibited them from transforming for the day, though she had said nothing about not transforming during the rest of the royal family's stay.
Jon was about to down his third cup of wine when he heard movement approaching behind him. He turned and saw the curious and wide-eyed stares of Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella, accompanied by Ser Arthur. Jon stood up and bowed to the royal children before sitting back down and returning to his drink, though the children did not leave.
"Why are you sitting here?" asked Tommen.
"Pardon, Your Grace?" said Jon.
"Why are you sitting here, when the rest of your family is up there?" clarified Myrcella.
"I have my uncle right here," said Jon, pointing to Ser Arthur.
Myrcella smiled bashfully at Jon's jest, while Tommen looked confused. Now that they were closer to Jon, he could actually inspect them in more detail. Tommen was rather short for his age, and he had not yet shed the baby fat, making him look like a plump pumpkin clad in Lannister red and gold. Myrcella, on the other hand, was a spitting image of her mother, though her green eyes were alight with an innocence and kindness not seen in her mother, and Jon thought it made her look more attractive than Queen Cercei. However, Jon thought that the two Baratheon children looked a little too much like their mother and uncle Jaime.
Sighing, Jon continued. "Because I am a bastard, and bastards have no place sitting at or near the high tale during feasts."
"That doesn't seem fair," said Myrcella. "They are still your family."
"I am not the one who makes the rules, my lady," said Jon quietly, his voice barely heard over the loud noises of the feast.
"You don't seem like a bastard," said Tommen.
"And what are bastards supposed to be like?" asked Jon, raising an eyebrow.
"They are supposed to smell of salt and be dirty, wild creatures," Tommen answered flatly.
"Tommen!" scolded Myrcella.
"It is alright," assured Jon. "Perhaps bastards in the North are different from the South?"
"Or it is a lie to get trueborn people and the smallfolk to treat bastards poorly," suggested Ser Arthur, speaking for the first time.
"When my brother is king, I will ask him to command the realm to treat bastards more fairly," declared Myrcella.
"I would appreciate that very much my lady. But I fear that it would take many years for it to sink in. Possibly beyond our lifetime," said Jon solemnly. "Would you like to join me?" he asked suddenly, thinking it rude for him to be seated while the Prince and Princess stood.
"I wish we could, but mother has forbidden us from sitting amongst the common folk and bastards," said Myrcella. "Besides, I believe you would like to spend some time getting to know your uncle," she added. "Though we would not mind if you gave us a tour of your home sometime tomorrow. Maybe even show us the direwolves we are told you can turn into."
Whatever it was Jon was expecting to come out of the Princess's mouth, it certainly wasn't that, yet he agreed all the same. And with that, Myrcella gave Jon a bright smile and took her leave, taking Tommen's chubby hand and leading him back up to the high table, leaving Jon alone with Ser Arthur.
Ser Arthur sat beside Jon and helped himself to a turkey leg, and the two ate in comfortable silence. It was strange for Jon, to be the nephew of The Sword in the Morning, and even stranger to be seated next to him having dinner.
"Your uncle came to me this afternoon with a proposition," Ser Arthur said finally.
Jon said nothing and waited for Ser Arthur to elaborate, which he did.
"He asked that you squire for me."
"Did he give you his reasons why?" asked Jon.
"He did," said Ser Arthur, nodding his head. "He said you wanted to sail East to Essos, because you fear your powers."
"I do," admitted Jon, casting his eyes down at his now-empty cup.
"Do not worry. Your uncle was just named Hand of the King and will be joining us when we return to King's Landing. I believe he and the King have brokered an agreement to a betrothal between your cousin Sansa and Prince Joffrey. I believe your uncle wishes for you to be your cousin's sworn shield," said Arthur, looking at Jon expectantly.
Jon's head shot up at the news of Sansa's betrothal, though he wasn't surprised that much. It was all Sansa ever dreamed about, to become a queen and live in King's Landing, married to a handsome prince with golden hair and she would bear a son for him. He was even more surprised at the suggestion of Jon becoming Sansa's sworn shield.
"I had not been told of Sansa's betrothal, or my becoming her sworn shield," said Jon.
"It was an idea I came up with," said Ser Arthur. He leaned forward then and beckoned Jon to do the same. "The truth is, I fear for the realm when Joffrey becomes king. He possesses a cruelty and madness I have not seen since the Mad King Aerys."
Jon was surprised at that. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked.
"Because I fear for the safety of your cousin. If Joffrey really is everything I fear he might become, Sansa will need someone to take care of her," said Ser Arthur. He straightened up then and looked Jon up and down appraisingly. "I heard from Ser Rodrik Cassel that you are the better swordsman between you and your cousin Robb," he said a little louder.
"I am," confirmed Jon. "But Robb is better with the lance than I."
"That can be taught easily," said Ser Arthur offhandedly, "You are a little old to be starting off as a squire, but if what I have heard from you is true, it will not be long until you become a full-fledged knight. Perhaps within the year. But if you wish to squire for me, I ask only for the best of you."
"Of course Ser," said Jon quickly.
Ser Arthur laughed heartily. "Please Jon, in times of celebration or when we are alone you will refer to me as 'Arthur' or 'Uncle.'"
"Sorry Uncle," said Jon.
Arthur looked at Jon again, and Jon felt the odd sense that he was being judged.
"I will admit Jon, when you were born I feared you would be just like your father when I hoped you would be more like your mother," said Arthur. "It's no secret amongst the Seven Kingdoms that I bore a grudge against your father for what he did to my sister, but I am glad to see that you are more like your uncle Eddard. He has taught you well to become a man of honesty and chivalry. Those are the most important qualities a knight must have, for without them you will never be a true knight."
Jon blushed at the praise he was receiving from the most famous knight in Westeros. "What was my mother and father like?" he asked suddenly.
Instantly Arthur's face darkened and he got a faraway look in his eyes. "Perhaps that is a tale for another time," he said quietly. "It is getting late, and you will need your rest to clear your head. After all, training starts tomorrow and you did promise to be the Prince and Princess's guide." And with that Arthur stood up and walked back up to the high table, leaving Jon alone in his thoughts.
"Oi, wake up!"
Jon's face was met with a pillow, pulling him from unconsciousness. He sat up groggily on his bed, blinking his eyes into focus. There stood Arya, who was frowning at him with her arms crossed.
"What happened?" he asked, leaning back down to rest his head on his pillow and close his eyes.
"What happened is that you promised the Princess and her little brother a tour of the castle," growled Arya.
Jon's eyes snapped open when Arya's words struck him.
"Oh fuck," he groaned. "Fine, I will do it." When he didn't hear Arya leave, he added, "that means you have to get out."
Arya merely snorted, but listened to him nonetheless. When Jon heard his door close, he jumped out of bed, putting on his breeches and leather tunic over his smallclothes. After that he quickly darted out of his room, down the winding stairs and into the hall, where he saw his cousins having breakfast with the royal children. The princess was the first to spot Jon and she gave him a bright smile before waving him over.
She patted her hand down on the empty seat next to her, and Jon hesitantly complied, casting Robb a confused look. Robb only shrugged in response and continued on with his eating, and Jon grimaced at him before helping himself. He couldn't help but feel extremely self-conscious as he sat next to Princess Myrcella, though she seemed to be unbothered by his tenseness. It was more likely that she was choosing to ignore it, but Jon was grateful for it anyway.
"When are we going on our tour, my lord?" asked little Tommen from Myrcella's other side.
"I am not a lord, Your Grace," said Jon.
"Regardless, my little brother is quite keen on seeing Winterfell," said Myrcella placatingly.
"Very well," said Jon, standing up. "Shall we?"
Jon wasn't particularly surprised when Ser Jaime accompanied them, seeing as they were the king's children, so he made no qualms about it, though the piercing gaze of the Kingslayer made Jon feel uncomfortable. He showed Myrcella and Tommen around as much of the castle as he could fit into one morning. He showed them the great walls that surrounded Winterfell, the stables, the kennels, dungeons, barracks, he even took them to the entrance of the crypts, where the ancient and not-so-ancient kings and lords of Winterfell rested for all eternity. When Tommen asked if Jon's father was buried inside, he only nodded his head in response.
Much to his surprise and relief, Jon actually enjoyed the company of the youngest Baratheon children. Tommen was a sweet boy and very inquisitive, and seemed to be quite the animal lover, always asking questions about the animals they kept in the kennels and stables, and would often be almost left behind because he would stop to pet a stray dog or cat.
Myrcella was a lot like Tommen, though her interests leaned more towards the historical aspect of Winterfell. She asked questions about the different towers, the former Wardens of the North, even where Jon slept. She was polite and proper, every bit a lady like Sansa yet Jon could see the curiosity that glimmered in her emerald eyes.
The tour would have been even more pleasant however, were it not for the Kingslayer's arrogant and cutting remarks about Jon's home. In fact, Ser Jaime was quite vocal about his surprise over Lord Stark fostering his brother's bastard, which had begun to grate on Jon's nerves after the man had mentioned it for the umpteenth time.
When Jon decided to take the group over to the barracks and training yard, they saw Robb sparring with Theon, with Prince Joffrey and several other Southern men watching. Jon also spotted Ser Arthur guarding the Crown Prince, and his uncle gave Jon a slight nod of the head to show his recognition.
"This is tiresome to watch," groaned Joffrey. "It is like watching green boys fight." Several of Joffrey's snickered at that.
"Seven hells," muttered Myrcella, and Jon raised an eyebrow at that.
Jon could see Robb getting frustrated at Joffrey's remarks, his face reddening with anger. Theon too was beginning to look agitated.
"Perhaps you would like to show us a demonstration of how you do it in the South, Your Grace?" asked Ser Rodrik Cassel, Winterfell's Master-at-Arms.
"With blunted steel?" scoffed Joffrey. "Please, I only train with live steel."
"Then show us," encouraged Robb. "You and me. Live steel. Right now."
"Not at all, Lord Robb," reprimanded Ser Rodrik.
'Ser, I am a man grown. Let me fight," urged Robb. There were several nods of assent from the men gathered, Ser Arthur included.
Ser Rodrik probably would not have relented, were it not for Ser Arthur's own interest on the matter. "Very well," he said, "Theon, fetch the live steel."
Theon nodded his head excitedly and rushed off to fetch the swords. Meanwhile Joffrey cantered off into the middle of the training yard with all the arrogance of the world, though Jon could smell the nervousness wafting off him, and he knew that Robb could smell it as well. It was getting the primal side of Jon excited, like when a predator knew its prey knew it was about to die.
"I would like a practice round," declared Joffrey, his voice shaking slightly. "With the bastard," he added, pointing at Jon.
Jon had never met a person who could put so much malice into the word used to describe people like Jon, not even from Lady Stark.
"Your Grace, you know you cannot..." began Ser Arthur.
"I understand the law," snapped Joffrey, "but regardless, I would like to put the bastard in his place." He snatched one of the blunted steel swords off Ser Rodrik and refused the padding offered, stating that he would not need it. Joffrey twirled and swung the sword around several times and earned the cheers of a few of his lackeys. There was no gracefulness in the swings, noted Jon. It was like Joffrey was not comfortable with holding a weapon.
Jon stepped into the yard and Ser Rodrik handed Jon the other sword. He looked over at Robb, who had a vicious smile plastered on his face. Ser Arthur nodded his head at Jon, mouthing the words kick his ass, and Jon smiled.
Ser Rodrik called the start of the match, and immediately Joffrey lunged at Jon, swinging the sword over his head into a downwards arc, intending to strike Jon over the head with the weapon. Jon was ready, however, and easily sidestepped the swing, but didn't attack yet. He wanted to see the prince's strengths and weaknesses, though already he could tell that there were a lot of weaknesses.
Joffrey's footing was spaced to closely, which only served to throw him off balance with every swing. He was unconfident holding the sword, and his arms were thin, not suited for swinging, let alone actually holding a sword properly.
Jon easily parried Joffrey's next strikes, and he could feel the lack of strength behind the attacks. He did not falter once nor press his obvious advantage. Behind him, Jon could hear Myrcella and Tommen cheering their older brother on, though even he could tell it was half-hearted. Robb and Theon were roaring with laughter at Joffrey's pathetic attempts to prove himself superior to a bastard.
"Come on Jon, stop playing with your food!" shouted Robb, and Jon allowed himself, which only served to anger the prince.
"Come now, Your Grace, surely the knights of King's Landing have taught you how to fight?" taunted Jon.
Enraged, Joffrey charged at Jon, intending to skewer the dark-haired man with his sword. But Jon spun around and smacked the flat of his sword against Joffrey's knees, forcing them to buckle and Joffrey collapsed to the dirt. He quickly recovered though and lunged again, but Jon was done being on the defensive. He swung his sword from the side, and Joffrey was only just able to parry the blow.
Jon did not relent however, and soon less and less of his strikes were being blocked and more were hitting Joffrey. Whenever Joffrey would change his stance and position his sword, a strike would come in from the other side. No more were Joffrey's lackeys laughing at Jon, but they had fallen silent and were glaring at him with contempt. Ser Arthur wasn't even hiding his pride and amusement, and even Myrcella and Tommen had changed sides and begun cheering for Jon.
Jon soon grew tired though, and quickly finished Joffrey off with anther strike to the knees before kicking the sword out of his hands. Satisfied with his work, Jon walked away from the yard, ignoring the murderous looks of the Lannister guards, amused grins of Sers Arthur and Jaime, the proud stares of Robb, Theon and Rodrik.
Later that night, Jon stood stoically before Uncle Ned, Lady Stark, the Kingsguard, The Baratheon children and the King and Queen. Cercei had spent a good twenty minutes spewing obscenities at Jon for hurting her 'precious boy,' demanding Jon's hand be cut off. Uncle Ned had tried to act as the mediator, but every attempt to speak had been shut down by the enraged queen. Myrcella and Tommen looked terrified of their mother's anger, while Arthur and Ser Barristan merely looked bored, though they would occasionally send Jon sympathetic glances.
"Be silent woman!" King Robert finally bellowed, and in shock, Cercei complied. The fat king leaned forward in his chair and stared at Jon, not speaking a word. Finally, he said, "Why did you duel with my son? Do you not know that hurting the Crown Prince, is punishable by having your sword arm removed?"
Jon swallowed thickly. "Aye, I do know, Your Grace," he said. "But in my defence the Prince himself challenged me, and I could not refuse an order from the Prince."
"Tell us your side of the story," encouraged Uncle Ned.
Jon took a deep breath. "I had been giving Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen a tour of Winterfell, accompanied by Ser Jaime," he began. "We had just come to the barracks, where Prince Joffrey had just challenged Lord Robb to a duel with live steel. Theon greyjoy had been sent to fetch some proper swords, but the Prince had decided to warm up with the intention of using me for practice."
"And?" pressed the king.
"I beat Joffrey," finished Jon.
"Lies! The bastard attacked me!" shrieked Joffrey, who was cowering behind his mother.
"There are several witnesses standing in this very room that can attest to my words Your Grace," continued Jon, ignoring the loud simpers coming from Joffrey.
"Arthur, you were there, were you not?" said Robert, turning his head to look at Jon's Dornish uncle.
"Yes Your Grace, what Jon says is true," said Ser Arthur.
"The bastard's own uncle, coming to his defence," sneered Cercei.
"Fine. Ser Barristan, can you concur?" asked Robert.
"No Your Grace, I was with you," said the old knight.
"Father, Myrcella and I were there," squeaked Tommen timidly. He stopped talking, however, when his older's brother's vicious stare fell on him.
"Jon speaks the truth," said Myrcella, and Jon was barely able to hold in a sigh of relief.
"Well then, I see no problem here," boomed Robert with a clap of his hands.
"But husband..." hissed Cercei.
"Joffrey challenged the bastard to a duel, and is now suffering the consequences of his actions. Besides, it was quite stupid of him, trying to best the nephew of two of the greatest swordsmen Westeros has ever seen!" interrupted Robert, laughing loudly. He stopped however, and looked between Jon and Ser Arthur. "Since we are all gathered here anyway, I thought it best to get this out of the way.
"I have received numerous ravens from the Wall, each asking that I go there and inspect the place. However, time is of the essence and we will depart within the month back to King's Landing. I am sending you, Ser Arthur, and your squire to the Wall within the week and report back your findings."
The Wall? Jon had never been to the Wall, but he had heard all of Old Nan's tales of White Walkers and ice spiders that lurked beyond the Wall. It was said that the Wall was built by giants, mammoths and the First Men and held together by ancient spells to protect the realms of Men from the evil beyond. Of course, those stories were just that, stories.
Then again Jon could turn into a giant wolf, so anything was possible.
"Or course, Your Grace," said Ser Arthur, placing his fist over his heart and bowing slightly. "Come Jon," he said, before exiting the solar, Jon following hot on his heels.
They went outside to the courtyard, where Ser Arthur stopped abruptly.
"You fight well," he commented. "Much better than I did when I was a boy."
Jon flushed at the praise and ducked his head in embarrassment. "It was not much of a test of skill when facing someone as incompetent as the Prince," he said.
"No it is not," agreed Arthur. He then drew his longsword and tossed it in Jon's direction, who caught it easily. "Your fighting style is more suited to the use of a longsword, but you should not depend on one kind of weapon, because you might be forced to use one you might not be accustomed to on the battlefield."
Jon's eyes widened when he realised that he was getting a lesson from his uncle himself. He looked down at the steel blade he was holding. It was a little longer than he was used to, but the blade was smooth and sharpened, polished to perfection. He gave it a swing and it was like an extension of his arm.
Arthur soon drew his other sword and Jon was stunned into disbelief at the blade. Dawn looked every bit the legend spoken of in tales and songs. It was shorter than Ice and the blade was not as wide, and the handle was shorter as well, allowing for one handed use. The blade was as pale as milk glass and seemed to almost glow in the dark skies over Winterfell.
Suddenly Arthur lunged forward and Jon raised his sword up to deflect the blow, and soon the clash of steel could be heard echoing around the castle's courtyard.
Arthur certainly lived up to his name, and despite his skill Jon had been forced on the ground more times than Robb ever did to him his whole life in just one night. Arthur was impossibly fast and graceful with Dawn, each strike hard and true like a viper. By the end of it Jon was aching and covered from head to toe with bruises and cuts, but he loved every bit of it.
"You are very skilled nephew," complimented Arthur, "but you still have a long way to go before you are up to Kingsguard standards."
"Thank you Uncle," said Jon, bowing respectfully to his new teacher.
"You are welcome. Now, off to bed with you, we have more training in the morning."
True to his word, Arthur woke Jon up the next morning to train, and the next morning, and the morning after that. They would train until the sun had reached its peak of its arc over the land, and Jon wasn't quite sure what colour his skin was supposed to be, what with the ugly purple and yellow bruises that covered every inch of him.
Maester Luwin certainly had his work cut out for him, creating strange smelling poultices that were slapped onto his skin after every training session. Occasionally, one of the handmaidens would help the old Maester, but Jon found it irritating because they would giggle and whisper excitedly over touching Jon's naked torso.
Robb excitedly joined in with the training every chance he got and soon he too was sporting his own set of cuts and bruises to match Jon. Both thought it worth it though, simply for the chance to train with the Sword in the Morning.
Arthur himself was calm, yet ruthless when training the two younger men. He taught them how to hold and swing a blade in ways they never even knew existed, and was patient if one of them could not get something right the first time. He was an excellent teacher and an even better fighter, easily able to hold both Jon and Robb off in two-on-one battles.
Every day too, small crowds gathered to watch Jon and Robb get pummeled by Arthur. Even the king and Uncle Ned would come down and witness it, occasionally offering their own words of advice to the boys. Myrcella and tommen would cheer for Jon despite never winning a duel, but nonetheless Jon was bolstered by their support. Bran and Rickon would chatter excitedly with the Baratheon youngest as well, and Jon was pleased by the camaraderie that had formed between them.
Surprisingly, Arthur had allowed Arya to join in on their training sessions once, much to Lady Stark's dismay and Arya's excitement. She was not built for wielding a longsword, but Arthur encouraged her to keep trying anyway and stated that she was a natural fighter, like the warrior queen Nymeria of old.
Jon found himself spending more and more time with the youngest Baratheon children whenever he was not training or engaged in lessons with Maester Luwin, particularly with Myrcella. He was never good with speaking to girls, particularly beautiful girls, but Myrcella seemed to enjoy his company anyway. They did not have much in common, though Jon learned that Myrcella enjoyed watching the knights back at King's Landing spar, and reckoned that Jon was a better fighter than most of them.
Jon had been skeptical until Myrcella had pointed out that not many had the opportunity to train under Ser Arthur, and even less were able to last against him as long as Jon had. She reminded Jon a lot of Sansa, though she was much more friendlier towards him and had a more realistic view on life. Myrcella knew that not everything was a song, and had even confided in Jon that she hated King's Landing and preferred the simple lifestyle of the North.
Speaking of Sansa, Jon had not seen much of her since the King's arrival to Winterfell, ye whenever he had she had given him cold looks and would saunter off in the opposite direction of Jon. When he asked Arya about Sansa's behaviour, Arya told him that Sansa was jealous of him because of all the attention he had received from everybody, and was annoyed that the princess seemed to prefer his company over hers.
It was odd, to be honest, for Jon to have received such praise amongst the visitors from the capital, but Jon never considered that Sansa would be so petty about it. Nevertheless Jon ignored Sansa, because it wan't anything new.
Two weeks to the day since Jon's first sparring session with Arthur, he was preparing to leave Winterfell with Arthur, Uncle Benjen and Tyrion Lannister for the Wall. He was currently in his bedchambers, resting on the stone floor next to the fireplace in his wolf form. he hadn't had much of an opportunity to practice his shape shifting because of his busy schedule, and since it was his last night in Winterfell possibly forever, he wanted to make the most of it.
He lifted his massive head up and looked at the door when he heard someone knocking. The door opened, and Myrcella's head popped into view. She let off a small shriek at the sight of the direwolf but Jon quickly transformed back into a human.
"It is alright! It's just me!" said Jon quickly before mMyrcella could disappear, and it seemed to calm the girl's nerves.
"Is... is that what you look like when you turn?" she asked timidly.
"Aye, it is Your Grace," said Jon with a nod of his head.
"Can I see it?" she asked.
Jon took a step back, and calling forth the beast, he let the feeling of warmth wash over him and soon a giant, white direwolf was standing where Jon had once been. He could smell the fear from Myrcella slowly be replaced with curiosity and she took a tentative step forward, her hand stretching outwards towards his muzzle.
Jon met Myrcella's hand halfway, and let out a low whine. Myrcella, looking braver, took another step forward and began running her small hands through his snow-coloured fur. Jon couldn't help but roll his tongue out of his mouth like a dog and lay down. Myrcella joined him on the floor and began rubbing his belly, Jon's tail wagging excitedly.
Myrcella let out a laugh at Jon's antics, and he transformed back into his human form, grinning widely. "How may I be of service, Your Grace?" he asked politely.
"I heard you were leaving today," said Myrcella.
"Aye, I have some business to take care of up there. It should be exciting really. I've never been that far North before."
"Will it be dangerous?"
Jon shrugged. "I think it depends on what the Night's Watch want to talk about really," he said.
"Will you be careful?" asked Myrcella, concern crossing her features.
"I'll try," said Jon quietly.
Myrcella nodded her head, then pulled out something from her sleeve. To Jon's surprise, it was a favour, embroidered with the Lannister colours and sigil. She handed Jon the favour, which Jon held tenderly in his hand.
"I don't understand," whispered Jon.
"I am expecting this back for when you return," answered Myrcella.
"Oh," was all Jon could say, his cheeks beginning to burn. Myrcella took a step forward and raised her head upwards, planting a soft kiss on his unshaven cheek. With that, she left Jon's chambers, leaving Jon thoroughly confused.
When he went outside to the stables, he handed Hodor his things which he would take to the Wall and eventually King's Landing, and the gentle giant strapped them on to Jon's horse's saddle while Jon went outside to see Ser Arthur. As a squire, Jon performed his duties; he collected Arthur's things, strapped them to the horse Arthur would be riding, helped the knight into his armour and handed him his swords. After that Jon collected his own horse and sword and saddled up next to Arthur, Uncle Benjen and the Imp.
Uncle Ned, followed by Robb, Bran and Rickon walked over to the quartet and looked up at Jon.
"Be careful," said Uncle Ned worriedly.
"I will uncle," promised Jon. "I will see you in King's Landing in a few months." He quickly hopped off and his uncle pulled him into a firm hug.
Jon let go and faced Robb. Snowflakes had caught in Robb's dark auburn hair, and it was such a lovely sight that Jon committed it to memory.
"The next time I'll see you, you'll be wearing white!" exclaimed Robb.
"And you will be Lord of Winterfell," remarked Jon, smirking a little.
"You might even be a better swordsman than me," said Robb.
"I already am," reminded Jon.
"Oh you know what I mean. Soon you'll be lugging that Dornish sword of your uncle's and they'll be calling you the new Sword in the Morning," laughed Robb, and Jon laughed as well.
They said nothing for a moment, before Robb pulled Jon into a tight hug. "Farewell, Jon Snow," he said thickly.
"Farewell Robb Stark," echoed Jon, then let go of the man who was practically his brother. He gave his farewells to Bran and Rickon, the latter crying for him not to leave them, but Jon had to.
And so, Jon saddled up on his horse, and with one final look at Winterfell, he followed his entourage out of the gates and towards his new life.
A/N- Love it? Hate it? Let me know!