"Lady Lyarra, mayhaps we should return to the castle now?"
The girl being spoken to lifted her head up, peering into a cloudy, mist-filled sky that her eyes could never see. She felt the delicate touch of early snowflakes falling to her nose and cheeks; imagined that the melted ice would drip off to reveal flushed skin. "Lady Lyarra?"
"Yes, let's go inside," Lyarra replied softly. She turned towards the direction of the voice, offering a smile to the unfortunate guard selected for her today. He was more cautious than the last, insistent on getting her to a hearth soon. He needn't worry. Cold didn't affect her as much since she woke from her illness with fire in her veins. She tried not to be resentful that they would have to leave so soon.
He was being kind. They were all being kind. It drove her mad.
Lyarra had been born into the confined life of a noblewoman in Westeros, however tenuous her claim. She had been educated by a Septa, taught to sew and curtsy and dance, to bow her head and smile when she had rather cry, to be a dutiful daughter and sister and wife and mother. She had excelled in those lessons though hadn't cared for them any but had also found adventures of her own. Lord Eddard Stark allowed his bastard daughter more freedom than most lords, especially as Lady Catelyn foreswore any claim to her education and Lyarra took full advantage. The dark-haired girl read books with Maester Luwin, explored Winterfell with Arya, practiced swordsmanship with Robb and even climbed the walls of Winterfell with Bran, whenever she could sneak away to do it.
Then last moon's turn, the pox had struck Winter Town. Lyarra had survived a strain of smallpox as a child but she soon succumbed to this more virulent plague. Bran, Arya and Rickon had gotten ill too but they had recovered quickly. Lyarra had not.
The dark-haired girl had been bedridden for a fortnight. The first days were spent with burning fever, aching limbs and becoming violently acquainted with the taste of bile in her throat. Lyarra had spent them shaking from the pain and begging more milk of the poppy from the Maester. The old man had let her a mere few sips of the drink before she succumbed to a fitful sleep. One that she did not wake from until a sennight past. When she opened her eyes, it was to complete darkness. The bastard had thought winter had come. Then she realized that she couldn't see her hands.
Lyarra had screamed.
She didn't think she could ever forget the events after. Ned Stark had thrown the door to her room open with such force that it sounded a cannon shot. Her father had gathered her in his arms, warm and unyielding and there, while Lyarra thrashed in her bed. Barely a young woman at three-and-ten, Lyarra Snow had felt terrified and broken and alone. She couldn't see anything. She was trapped in the darkness and her eyes didn't work and oh gods, she was blind.
Father and Robb had to hold her down, whispering reassurances that flew past her ears, as Luwin forcefully opened her eyelids. Pupils as pale and cloudy as milkglass had broken more than one heart. With a heavy voice, Maester Luwin had announced that the pox had stolen away her sight.
Lyarra was now a cripple.
Suddenly all of the freedoms and skills that Lyarra had taken for granted disappeared overnight. They wouldn't allow her to walk anywhere alone, a servant at her heels within the castle and a guard out. Books could no longer be her refuge, one of her siblings, often Bran, had to be the one to read to her. Meals were presented with a single piece of cutlery, often soup and bread that she needn't help to eat. Her lessons with a sword immediately ended and all of the others were temporarily halted, even needlepoint with Septa Mordane. A cane was commissioned for her use, not that there was any shortage of arms to guide her around her own childhood home. Everyone walked delicately around her, spoke carefully, as though afraid of upsetting the blind girl.
No one treated her like Lyarra anymore. Theon had made a single jape at her expense for dinner but after Robb decked him, he wouldn't speak to her anymore. Her older brother hovered around her at all times, until Lyarra didn't even need eyes to know when his hands were fluttering uselessly around her. Arya sounded miserable whenever they spoke, insisting on reading or gods forbid, singing to her quietly in their room, rather than play. Bran clung to her whenever she saw him; apparently the idea of death had frightened the most level of her siblings. At two namedays, Rickon did the same though he evidently had no understanding of what had occurred. And Sansa… Sansa was being uncommonly kind and considerate to her needs.
The bastard suspected that Lady Catelyn didn't even frown anymore when she saw her, though naturally, being blind she was unable to check her belief. And it seemed discourteous to ask one of her siblings to answer it for her.
Yet Lyarra wasn't the same either. She had woken from her sleep with a loss of her sight but a gain of fire in her blood and a snarky old man in her head.
'You needn't linger by the gate. The boy won't be here until tomorrow.' Brynden Rivers, her newfound however-many-greats Uncle said. The Snow had found him wise and begrieved once before realizing that grumpy was his default mood. 'Have you been practicing your warging child?'
'Yes Uncle.' Lyarra thought obediently. 'I've managed to draw one of the hounds to me yesterday but I can't warg into its body yet.'
The possibility of one day managing to do so, to see the world again, even with the limited scope and faded colors of a hound's eyes, had her brimming with excitement. It was a welcome change from the tears and self-pity that learning her true identity brought. Brynden Rivers hadn't believed in quibbling, thus bluntly sharing the identity of her parents and then demanding that she 'become a dragon', whatever that meant. Lyarra had curled up in bed and sobbed for a day, before deciding that House Stark was her family dammit and it was foolish to be angry at her Uncle for lying to her. Ned Stark had only wanted to protect her and besides, he would have told her eventually, wouldn't he?
Uncle Brynden had made some indecipherable grumbles at that before demanding use of her power to track down 'the most sensible of the four idiots Aerys sired'. Lyarra hadn't taken offense on her father's behalf; deliriously in love or not, a married Rhaegar had run away with another man's fiance. She was far more curious to the news of another hidden Targaryen, one that the Three-Eyed Raven had claimed was 'not nearly as stupid as some of his ancestors'.
Tyrion Hill would be travelling north soon and however apprehensive Lyarra was to meet him, she was still also pleased. She had a name, she had two more family members and, if Uncle Brynden's visions were true and Lyarra had no reason to believe otherwise, she had an alternative to a bleak future. It was daunting to step into the unknown but perhaps, just perhaps, she could find her own way to a better fate for her loved ones.
Tyrion Hill soon found that the harsh climate of the North did not extend to its people. No, that wasn't exactly true; the smallfolk here were far more self-confident, blunt and brisk than he was used to. There was less tolerance for word games and fripperies here, less respect afforded to the nobleman's tunic he worse. A wariness entered their eyes whenever they saw his Lannister eye or golden-brown hair irrespective of his dwarf status. However, they were steadfastly loyal to their liege lord and polite to him. Directions asked were freely given, children were thin but not underfed, people greeted one another with swift but genuine warmth and a palpable sense of safety existed in the shadow of the great Northern castle. Tyrion suspected the cause to be the community measures necessary for everyone to survive the harsh winters in the North.
The unimaginatively named Winter Town was far smaller than Lannisport, so it didn't take long for Tyrion to identify its sole two-story building as an inn. The dwarf ordered a room and meal for the night, once again receiving that strange non-look from the innkeeper and took a seat by the bar for some answers. However reticent these Northerners may be, enough pints of ale bought loosened any barman's tongue. Apparently the Starks kept the lower gates opened on the sixth day of every sennight to allow the smallfolk to pray in their Godswood. The nobles often abstained from prayers that day, though any who cared to could visit the Great Hall afterward for a simple and hearty meal.
"The wolves look out for us here," the man, who had introduced himself as Arnolf said gruffly, "The Maester comes down on the third day and on the seventh, Lord Stark hears petitioners."
The barman was also kind enough to explain how a town with so many tidy rows of log houses had such a small population. Apparently the town was only filled to the brim when winter came around, to benefit from the warmth of the hot springs around Winterfell. Otherwise four out of every five houses were empty and also available for rent at an impressively cheap price. Tyrion, who didn't even want a house here, was almost tempted to rent two. One could be his ideal childhood fort.
"Do they open the library tower for the smallfolk too?" Tyrion asked hopefully.
The man gave him a queer look. "What would they do that for? Don't need the Starks help if I want to stare at unintelligible squiggles all day."
'Right. Most smallfolk don't have any way to become literate,' the dwarf shuddered. A life without books sounded a depressing life indeed. 'Still these Starks sound like decent enough folk.'
An instinct that Tyrion had never had before compelled him to stay away from the wolves though. Instead it drew his attention towards the Godswood instead. He had never see a weirwood before! Maybe it was time to find out why these Northerners and wildlings worshipped the trees.
In accordance to that, the dwarf woke up far before the crack of dawn the next day. A few copper stars bought him breakfast and directions to the Hunter's Gate, which, inconveniently enough, meant riding halfway around the castle walls. Tyrion saddled his pony with every worldly item he owned, purchased a simple brown tunic and breeches at the market and then set off to find a godly tree.
The yawning guardsman let him through the gates without a single jape for his size. Tyrion was starting to think that he should have been raised in the North. He was unaware of the presence that slipped into the men's minds afterward, wiping away any memory of the halfman with the heterochromatic eyes. Said man was soon traversing the nearby Godswood on foot.
'Log. Log. Moss covered log. A big stone. How much further away is this?' Tyrion wished that he had his brother's legs or at least that he hadn't tied Belarion to one of the bushes near the entrance of the Godswood. Jaime could have traversed this area with ease. Rhaegar and Viserys likely could too.
In a related complaint, how had he been born from two of the most beautiful bloodlines in Westeros and still ended up this deformed and ugly?
All of Tyrion's complaints, and he had many with Jaime Lannister and Rhaegar Targaryen as brothers, died when he stepped into the center of the Godswood. It was as if a hush had suddenly fallen over the forest, though he could still hear the flutter of bird's wings and the rush of falling water. There was a pond before him, the reflecting water still wafting off steam despite the snow-dusted lichen surrounding it. A bone-white tree was situated above it, the branches extending outwards, heavy with palm-sized, five-pointed leaves of crimson red. A face was carved into the tree, one that could have belonged to the Crone herself, with eyes that leaked thick red sap like tears of blood.
Tyrion walked up to the face at the tree and knelt before it. A sense of peace enveloped him.
The Hill didn't know how long he had been sitting there when he heard the rustle of feet on leaves and branches. His head moved towards the noise, one hand drifting towards his dagger but then drawing short when a slim girl staggered out. For a second, Tyrion wondered how a girl that delicate had made so much of a racket when traversing the woods before he caught her eyes. As pale as milkglass, cloudy and unfocused, and lacking a pupil. A sense of pity enveloped him; the child was blind.
It was evident in how she continued forward, her eyes pointed unerringly at nothing in particular. The slight imperfections to her clothes, one sleeve pulled too short, buttons mismatched and fur collar crooked. Her hair was loose, the occasional dark curl falling in front of her eyes and not being tucked back. She hadn't worn a cloak and was shivering from the pre-dawn frost, chill evident in the flush around her cheeks and nose. Despite that, there was an attraction about her, light figure and fine features, full lips and a button nose. Even her moonlit pale eyes added to the ethereal beauty.
Tyrion cleared his throat when she was still several feet away. He didn't want to frighten her, not when she looked rather like a Stark. Though Tyrion hadn't heard Lord Eddard Stark to be so pretty.
Her head spun unerringly in his direction and a hesitant smile broke. Had she been expecting someone? Oh Gods, Tyrion hadn't interrupted a planned tryst, had he? "Hello," he ventured.
"Hello." The voice was stronger than he expected, almost eager. "I'm sorry for bothering you. Are you done praying to the Heart Tree?"
"Is that what this is called?" Tyrion asked back. "Ah, no. I don't follow the Old Gods. I'm just here to satisfy a curiosity."
"A Heart Tree is the name for a weirwood with a face carved into it. This one was done by Bran the Builder himself to hold the spirit of the ice." The girl had a cane that tip-tapped its way forward, her footsteps tentatively following behind.
"That's interesting," the Imp said, "I wouldn't have thought ice would have an expression though."
"This one was an old God and one that had seen much grief. He infused his essence into my ancestor's Wall or so the three-eyed raven told me."
"...I see." He hadn't expected the blind girl to be mad as well but she still looked harmless to him. The dwarf stepped backwards as the cane approached and the girl stilled at the sound. She crouched down and extended one soft hand, patting the ground for a firm spot of soil to sit by. "I'll be going then."
"Wait." The girl didn't quite frown but a melancholy expression crossed her face. It suited her well. "You didn't ask for my name."
"What is your name then?" Tyrion decided to humor her. He was tempted to offer his cloak as well but he would be leaving soon and therefore, didn't bother.
The dark-haired child leaned forward, as if to share a secret. In the hush of the Godswood, he mimicked her. "My Uncle named me Lyarra Snow."
The line alone revealed several unexpected details. Tyrion didn't know much about the Starks but he knew Ned Stark had six children and a brother sworn to celibacy. Five were trueborn and one a bastard; with the name of Snow, Lyarra must have been the one. Had Benjen Stark named her then?
"My Father named me Visenya Targaryen," the girl continued, shattering all of his preconceptions. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Tyrion Hill."
One moment, Lyarra was sitting uncomfortably on the cold ground, introducing herself to her Uncle. The next, she was splayed on her back, Tyrion Hill hovering over her in a position that could be easily misinterpreted had a dagger not been held to her throat. Lyarra offered him her most serene smile.
In her head, though… 'Uncle Brynden, why didn't you warn me this would happen?!'
'Not my fault that the tapestry of the Wyrd was rewoven, Visenya,' the old man sniffed. 'I'm still in the process of acclimating myself to the changes you've unintentionally wrought.'
'I thought Fate was supposed to be a river fed into by a thousand streams only you could see.'
'Don't ruin my metaphor, child. Now say something before he decides to slit your throat.'
"Please don't slit my throat," Lyarra said. She felt a vibration by her throat, one that had her add softly. "You've never killed before, have you?"
"I have not," her Uncle admitted freely. "Do not think that you cannot be the first."
Lyarra's smile faded and she focused her milkglass eyes, unnerving as they were, to the sound of the voice. "You are not a kinslayer."
The dagger abruptly stilled at the mention of shared blood. "How do you know that?"
"The Three-Eyed Raven," Lyarra answered simply. "You may think me mad but I have uttered no lie here. If you step back then we may speak and I will utter no lies then."
"How do I know you will not run and expose my secret?" There was an undercurrent of fear in her uncle's voice, one that held merit in a kingdom that would slaughter dragons freely.
"You can expose mine just as easily." She could not read his expression but the man didn't move.
"We are in your Uncle's home and that Lord Stark claimed you as his bastard shows his love for you," the Imp said. "His ears will be deaf when I claim your blood dragon but ready when you claim mine."
"Then you think I am a kinslayer." Hurt bubbled up in her chest. It was true that she had never met this man before but to think so lowly of her?
The words took time to form. "I do not easily trust."
It was not an apology but the man did move away and Lyarra slowly moved her body back up. She decided to offer one in return, not because she thought him deserving but because she wanted, needed, to establish a peace. "Nor should you. Blood may be shared but we have never met before."
Again, Tyrion Hill waited to speak. "My… stepfather wanted to kill me for my blood. He would have done it, had he not been afraid of tarnishing his legacy as a kinslayer."
Lyarra cocked her head to the side and considered those words. In light of that fact, Lady Catelyn's actions were downright heartwarming. "My Aunt doesn't like me very much. Father hasn't told her that I am not his bastard."
"If he's not your Father, why do you call him such?" There was an honest curiosity in that voice.
Lyarra shrugged, a faint smile present. "I have never met Rhaegar Targaryen, though I acknowledge him as my Sire. My Father was Eddard Stark, the man who raised me in Winterfell for three-and-ten years. He accepted the scorn of siring a bastard, protected and guided me as any parent would and raised me to be the woman I am today."
"The type of child that spills a secret that could lead to her death to a man that she has just met?"
"Yes." Lyarra's grin widened when her Uncle let an involuntary huff of amusement through. "Why did you come here Tyrion Hill?"
"I told you that it was at a whim. I merely wanted to see a weirwood."
"No, I mean, why did you come to the North?" Lyarra leaned forward again. Although she didn't know it, the early rays of dawn caught off on her eyelashes, briefly painting them silver and enhancing her milkglass eyes. "Why did you leave everything you had ever known to venture into the unknown? How did you travel here without any danger coming to you? Do you not think it odd that you came, on a whim as you say, to the exact place where another dragon would come? In all of Westeros?"
This silence was the longest yet. "Since you know all the answers, why don't you tell me?"
So she did. Sitting down Lyarra related everything Uncle Brynden had told her: the truth of her mother's abduction, the gifts that her blood afforded her, the salient points of their wyrds, the result of her illness and the hope she had for a better future. One where both of them could survive.
With a hoarse voice and clinging to the cloak silently placed around her shoulders halfway through, Lyarra was earnest. "We could tell my Uncle of our kinship. I am certain that he will offer you refuge here! We would be able to plan for the Game of Thrones years in advance. We can save all of our loved ones and put a worthy ruler on the Iron Throne. What do you say? Will you stay here?"
Tyrion's reaction was surprising. "Not for all of the gods be damned gold in Casterly Rock."
"I- what?" Confusion swept through Lyarra for a second before a crushing realization accompanied it. "You don't want to stay here?"
You don't want to stay with me?
"I have just left the thumb of a man I despise. I will not be beholden to another's man protection again!" Before Lyarra could be offended by the comparison of her Uncle to Lord Tywin, he pre-empted her. "Lord Stark may be far more honorable than Lord Tywin ever was but in the end, I'll still be reliant on his generosity. I would still live in fear of his best friend coming north and killing me for my dragon's blood! I will have to play nice to his wife- the woman who kidnapped me and started a bloody war for a crime I never committed!"
Those were… not untrue. Lyarra still persisted. "Where would you go though?"
"To the Wall," Tyrion informed her. "I want to see the sixteen wonders of the world and by the Seven, I will. I want to ride a griffin and exchange riddles with a sphinx. I want to spend my entire purse at a Braavosi market and sample some Pentoshi cheese. I want to drink my own weight in Summer Island wine and fuck a Lysine pillow woman. Gods, I want to live."
"So that's it?" Lyarra demanded, suddenly getting angry. "You flee to Essos, while the people you love die to a threat they don't even know exists? What about your brother, Ser Jaime?"
"What about him?" Tyrion snapped back. "Jaime killed my father- your grandfather- and crippled your cousin. His fucking my sister led to a bastard in every sense of the word; a cruel idiot of a king that had your own uncle executed and beat your sister. Is that who you want me to suffer for?"
"Myrcella? Tommen? All of those other innocent people that have no idea what's approaching them?"
"It's not like the signs aren't there! They chose to close their eyes. You yourself admitted that you begged the southron kings for their help and that the only one who responded burned his own daughter at the stake." Lyarra slumped down, each word thrown felt like a blow. "I don't have to save any of them. They spent years spitting on me for being a dwarf. My own sister tried to kill me and even succeeded at the end. Gods, isn't that humiliating? Being killed by someone as stupid as Cersei?"
Lyarra's throat suddenly felt like it was being constricted. "Then you're leaving."
"Then I'm leaving," Tyrion agreed. "Maybe not forever. Maybe I'll send back warnings some day, to save Jaime at the least. He's an idiot but he's still my brother. And Myrcella and Tommen don't deserve any of their future. I know that. But I also know that it feels like I'm being suffocated here and that I need, I deserve, to go somewhere where I can breathe freely."
The sudden vehemence of his words spent, they both fell into silence. The entire clearing felt all too large and too small both at once. Lyarra wanted to cry and rage all at once. She had just found another family member, one of only four dragons in Westeros and had suddenly lost him. Yet in her heart, she couldn't even begrudge him the reasons for leaving.
"Come with me." The words came suddenly and from the shock of them, to the equal surprise of Tyrion. "We can explore the world together."
"I can't do that." She had to stay in Winterfell. She had responsibilities here, family here. She was blind.
"Yes. Yes, you can." An enthusiasm was injected into those tones, the man rising up with the extent of his passion. "You deserve better too."
Lyarra didn't know what her expression to that had been but the Imp continued fervently. There was the passion of genuine belief there. "If you stay here in Winterfell, then you'll be stifled for your entire life. Your family will pity you, mayhaps even come to resent you, though I doubt that. Robb Stark will leave you to the dubious safety of Winterfell when he marches down to war. When Theon Turncloak takes the castle, you'll be at his mercy and then Ramsay Snow."
Tyrion paused and made an inarticulate noise of frustration. "I have nothing. My means are limited and while I may be clever, I've never been taught a trade. I cannot guarantee your safety and travelling with me will never provide the comfort of Winterfell. Gods, I don't even know you. We may end up driving each other mad. But if you come with me, I swear on my mother's grave, that I will do everything in my power to guarantee your happiness. I will never chain you down. I will defend you with my own two hands, however little that may amount to. I will help you live."
"Run away with me. Let's find a home for cripples, bastards and broken things. There's so many wonders in the world and I want to find them with you." Tyrion reached out his hands, hardly bigger than Bran's and wrapped them around her own. He squeezed them, trying to convey the depth of his sincerity. "Run away with me, Lyarra Snow."
I wanted to have Ghost in this chapter but unfortunately, the dialogue got away from me. Also for Lyarra's blindness… it's regretful but magic does extract a price from its users. Don't worry about whether or not she'll become a swordsman though. If Symeon Star-Eyes can do it, then so can Lyarra!
Also I need a little help. I intend to have Tyrion and Lyarra create their own House but I don't have a name for it. I'm tentatively calling it House Wyvern but honestly, that's not all that creative. Anyone have a better idea?