Follow the North Star
When Oberyn Martell adds two and two and gets five, Lyarra Snow finds herself forcefully relocated to Dorne as the newly discovered House Martell bastard. A child still longing for home, Lyarra unexpectedly blossoms under harsh sands, high expectations and the insufferable pain that can only be named Ser Gerold Dayne. fem!Jon, Lyarra x Gerold
It all began with a letter.
A letter written by a princess.
A princess left for dead in the Red Keep.
The Red Keep where the stags and lions now roamed but had once been held by the proud dragons. Where the last true dragon of House Targaryen had been wed to a Dornish Princess, kind and clever and fair, with warm-toned amber in her eyes and hair as black as a raven's wing. The princess was named Elia and while her limbs may have been frail and her womb weak, her spirit shone as fiercely bright as the sun on her banner. Nine years past had she brokered an agreement with a dragon over the silent walls of the Keep. The Princess Elia loved children, the dark-haired daughter and fair-haired son from her own womb, as well as the daughter borne by a she-wolf of the North. She was a devoted mother and in the way of mothers, sought to protect her children. A daughter she lost, a son she lost and one, not of her own blood or flesh but loved nonetheless, she saved by a letter written when the hourglass hadn't yet been broken.
It all began with a letter written by a princess left for dead in the Red Keep.
A letter that never met a raven's claw or its recipient's hand but was carefully guarded by loyal servants awaiting a chance to come across a scorpion or a viper. A letter hidden under the dusty sheets of an elderly washer woman's linen closet, brought out with other effects when a prince was summoned to the capitol. A letter gifted discreetly, shortly before the Stag King issued demand the Viper's presence before the Small Council.
A letter that Prince Oberyn Nymeros Martell held in his hand now.
"Thank you." He spoke with quiet sincerity, "It took great courage to hold these for years underneath the Lannister's eye."
The woman's rheumy eyes looked at him tearfully. "It was nothing, m'lord. If there's anything I can do to lessen the pain for you and yours, then simply ask it. The princesses' and little prince's deaths were a tragedy. She didn't deserve any of that. She was a good person, m'lord, a good one."
Oberyn merely nodded, withdrawing a small pouch and offering it to the servant. He placed it away when she refused him and then brought out a beautifully embroidered handkerchief instead. The elderly woman sniffled into it a few times, offering him a teary smile before turning and walking away.
'More of Elia's things.' Oberyn thought, with that familiar clench of his heart. The one that gouged holes inside of him, constricting his throat and burning his chest with nothing but pure, vile hate. The Viper's eyes stung but he had cried out his tears long ago. None would come to him anymore. There would be nothing more associated with Elia's death than sheer hatred and a vicious, bloody beast in his heart that demanded to come out and tear her killers into pieces. 'Better in my hands than the Usurper's domain.'
Doran had recovered little things of Elia's from the Red Keep over the years, often smuggled out by either loyal servants seeking closure or crafty ones desiring profit. Unlike Oberyn, his brother liked to keep them in a chest of drawers by his desk, to take them out and turn them around his fingers, to imagine a world where Elia had not had her life, spirit and babes stolen by the lions. The Viper wanted to throw this bag away, this innocuous reminder of an Elia that was whole, but he kept it close at hand instead. His Prince would want them and Oberyn was a glutton for punishment anyway.
'The Usurper demanded my presence. Shall I make him wait or not?'
To stay would mean looking through the bag to hurt himself with reminders of his dear sister.
To go would mean dealing with the fat, callous bastard that called his sister's children dragonspawn.
Eventually, the knowledge that the latter would irritate the Usurper more, had Oberyn sit down. He was provided a room befitting his status as the brother of the Prince of Dorne. It had an attached solar with a fittingly large teak desk that he emptied the bag onto. Spilled out were a handful of shiny pebbles, the kind that Rhaenys loved to collect from the streets, a copper toy of a viper, a nearly-done seven-pointed star prayer wheel and finally, a folded parchment embossed with his sister's seal.
'What's this?' Oberyn plucked the parchment out of the pile and, with a brief apology to his sister's spirit, unbroke the wax. He promptly took his apology away when he saw that it was addressed to Doran and himself.
'My dearest brothers,
I know not when it'll be safe for this letter to be sent but the importance is such that I place quill to parchment now, in the hopes that it will soon reach the sands of our home. Know first that I take pains to remain purposefully enigmatic about the subject of this letter, lest it fall to hands untoward. As the war rages outside of these walls, I pray nightly that you both shall survive this madness that the dragons, wolves and stags have brought upon us all. I pray also that the children of our House shall live, from the three that Doran brought into this world, to the unknown quantity of the progeny of your own loins, Oberyn, to mine own. Another child, a shadowed sun, will need more help to survive than most…'
Oberyn faithfully read through this letter, dated as one of the last Elia had ever written, and inferred the words she had so obliquely written in her correspondence. The reference to the Hammer of the Waters, a childhood myth in Dorne of a mystical weapon wielded by the Children of the Forest to stop the Andal Invasion, was particularly pertinent. In that story, hundreds of greenseers gathered at the Northern fortress of Moat Callain and sacrificed a thousand captive humans to the weirwoods, to instigate their dark magic. Breaking the narrow land bridge connecting Westeros and Essos into the Stepstones and the Broken Arm failed to keep the Andals away but proved the Children's strength and led the First Men into a Pact with them thereafter in the Isle of Faces. An ancestor of Bran the Builder was claimed to have led the pact in the God's Eye himself. That had been the favorite childhood story of Cousin Aliandra, despite the bloodiness of it all. Considering the Stark mythos, the bastard wolf found in Dorne, and the repeated allusions to an eclipse, symbolizing the concealment of a sun…
'This can only mean one thing,' Oberyn concluded. 'I'm going to have to kill Eddard fucking Stark.'
It wasn't the siring of a bastard or the 'dishonoring' of a woman that he was furious by. Cousin Ali was a bastard herself from Uncle Lewyn's loins sired upon a minor daughter of House Fowler. She'd been witty and bright, fiercely independent and able to bed any one she right well pleased. She'd also been a handmaiden for Elia and close to her cousin, despite her bastardry, until she rode out with Uncle Lewyn to the battlefield. Not a warrior herself, Aliandra had a gift for languages and cryptography and inscribed and decoded the secret messages between her father and Doran. Oberyn remembered his brother being quite exasperated when her duties were curtailed after a tryst in the nearby rivertown. They'd never discovered the name of the father- though Ali should have had better taste than Ned Stark, really- but she'd relocated to a small holdfast of her mother's family to give birth. The keep bordered the edge of Dorne and was one of those to be burned down by the rebel's forces. Cousin Ari and her child had died in that fire.
Or at least Cousin Ari had died because apparently her child was being raised in a frozen tundra by an inconsiderate ass that never bothered to tell House Martell they'd another cousin in Westeros. To some extent, Oberyn could infer the reasoning behind the Quiet Wolf's actions. To outsiders unaware of the close bonds of kinship in House Martell, it would be unwise to mention to the grieving family that Lyanna Stark's niece was born with Martell blood. It burned him to think so. Neither Doran nor himself would hold the sins of a parent against their child. They did not hurt little girls in Dorne, and moreover, they would not hurt their kin. The Stark's bastard was born in Dornish sands and there she should have grown, finding better treatment by her mother's family than anywhere else north of the Red Mountains. And Gods, Stark had married a Tully woman, hadn't he? What if she was like her sister? Oberyn despaired to his baby cousin's confidence and self-worth, raised in the home of a woman related to that harpy, Lady Lysa Arryn.
'One of Elia's final wishes was to see this child safe and well by her blood,' He thought glowingly of his deceased sister. Oberyn needn't the reminder, of course, but it was bittersweet to remember that Elia had loved children so. 'No better time to rescue a maiden from Ned Stark's bumbling attempts at parenting than now, I suppose. The poor girl has suffered eight years with him already.'
Rolling up the scroll, the Viper safely placed it in his pockets and began to whistle. While not his only, or even most important, reason, it did warm the cockles of his heart to know that this would irritate the Usurper greatly. He wouldn't desire handing a wolf over to the Martells any more than Ned Stark would. However, as the daughter of a royal House, the Martells had precedence over any baseborn children brought from the union of Ali and, again this boggled his mind, Ned Stark. The King might refuse to hand the child over out of spite entirely but Oberyn was willing to be as sharp a needle in his seat as any other. He had done far worse in the pursuit of his family's happiness after all.
'Still, even with Elia's letter, it's hard to believe that the most boring man alive managed to seduce not one but two Dornish beauties…'
Lord Eddard Stark had been having a pleasant morning. He'd woken to few responsibilities for the day in the arms of a wife that he deeply loved. He'd broken his fast on a favorite meal of honey-laden porridge and ventured a jape that won smiles from all his children. He'd even the time to cross swords briefly with Ser Rodrik, a pastime that he enjoyed but could partake of too rarely for his own happiness. Then he'd arrived to his solar, began reviewing his correspondence for the morning and been accused of an affair with a woman he'd never heard of before.
'Who in the Seven Hells is Aliandra Sand?'
And why would he have sired a child on her? The accusation bewildered him, not because he had been unaware of such claims on men of a certain power and influence, but because Ned had been accused. He'd seen such accusations leveled on Robert more times than he'd care to remember, even once as a lad of four-and-ten in the Eyrie but himself? The Quiet Wolf of House Stark was known far and wide as an honorable, dutiful man (with admittedly no great talent for speaking to the fairer sex). It had taken him a full three years to charm his own wife, a woman sworn to him under the altar of her own Gods, and even then, he'd retained a reputation for a certain reserve.
There had once been a Dornish woman that he'd carried a torch for but Ashara…
'How did they convince Jon to lend support to their claim?'
The letter's surprise was swiftly shifting into absurdity as he read further on. His foster father's words were everything apologetic, even as he counseled Ned to do what was best for the realm and for Robert's reign. The Hand of the King had written forthright that, while it pained him to do this, the only option moving forward was for Ned to relinquish his primary guardianship over Lyarra and return her to her mother's House. It was when that name was finally revealed, in Jon's familiarly lopsided script, that Ned's blood ran cold.
Princess Elia Martell's family was demanding the guardianship of his only niece, Rhaegar's last living daughter. The last trueborn Targaryen in Westeros.
'Do they know the truth?' Distress squeezed his breast as the alarmed lord shifted through the possibilities unfolding before his eyes. He couldn't find any reason for the Martells to demand Lyarra's presence, if not for her bloodline and their revenge against Lyanna's child. The Dornish could have told Robert the truth, damning his entire family to the sword but instead they demanded a dragon child. To topple his brother from the throne? To suffer Lyarra a fate worse than her half-siblings by lion claws?
Another man may have fallen quickly to the strength of his trepidation but Ned was a Stark, born and bred. The blood in his veins turned to ice as he picked up the atypical parchment to land on his desk. Embossed on a light gold vellum, with a vibrant orange sunburst holding it closed, the Stark cut through the wax and opened the letter. It was from Prince Doran, a decisive slant that exposed the scent of orange blossoms and persimmons into the air. When he finished reading it, Ned didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
The Martells thought Lyarra was their bastard.
Not Rhaegar's, not Lyanna's, but the baseborn child of Ned Stark and again, a woman he knew nothing of, regardless of the passionate affair between them that apparently led to a child. Prince Doran had written circumspectly of a letter written by his own sister's hand affirming the match. If nothing else could persuade Ned to lend his words credence, this did. He, too, had lost a beloved sister to the Silver Prince's folly and the Mad King's rage. Never would Ned have stained Lyanna's memory by attributing a false wish to her deathbed and neither, did he think, would Doran Martell.
Princess Elia Martell had been well-loved. Just as Lyanna Stark was well-loved by a realm unable to save their own wolf maiden from war.
This, though, had left Ned with another problem. Prince Doran was insistent that his cousin's child be brought to Sunspear as her mother was before her. They had, he had written most eloquently, little to remind themselves of their beloved Cousin Ari after her tragic death and would be 'most pleased' to raise Lyarra Sand in the home of her ancestors. She would grow up knowing of her culture and raised with her cousins, who were very eager to know of her. Dorne was more welcoming to bastards than the other realms and Lyarra would find more freedom and happiness in the land of her birth than she would elsewhere. The Martells were even willing to dower her as Aliandra Sand had apparently died before the funds set aside by the previous Ruling Princess and her father, Prince Lewyn, were used.
None of this was untrue, of course, except for the minor problem of it all being built on a lie.
'One,' Ned thought, with an almost hysterical chuckle, 'That I cannot possibly dispel.'
The Lord of House Stark had been careful throughout the years to obfuscate the details of Lyarra's birth. He had neither confirmed nor denied his affair with Ashara, raising a good deal of speculation on the relationship Ned had with that lady, without inciting anyone to look further into the story. If they did, the Quiet Wolf knew, it would quickly fall apart as the basic maths of Lyarra's conception made it exceedingly difficult for him to have sired her.
Difficult but not impossible. If Aliandra Sand had followed her father to the Riverlands. If they'd had a tryst before the Battle of the Bells. If she'd receded to Dorne to wait out her confinement. If Lyarra had been born early and sickly- which she had been- if Ned had taken his child and fled after finding Lyanna's bones, if he'd kept it secret all these years to protect his daughter from prejudice against the Martells. If, if, if… If he was willing to castigate a woman for an act that she'd never partaken in and give a family false hope for another daughter.
'Not entirely false.' A scowl broke apart his stoic face as he recalled Rhaegar's Dornish blood, still strong after years of intermarrying that even Lyarra had a few Salty Dornish traits. 'Princess Elia must have known. If she wrote to her brothers of a child with Martell blood, born to a Stark, than she meant to speak of Lyanna's child.'
It astounded him to think of the generosity of spirit necessary for such a letter. Lyanna had been fiercely loyal, yes, but mostly to her loved ones or those she perceived as facing an injustice of some kind. She had been a champion of the weak and oppressed and Ned admired that about his sister but he could admit the she-wolf hadn't the same gentle soul as Princess Elia. Not for the first time, Ned felt the deepest remorse that such a warm-hearted woman had her life snuffed out in the violent manner she did.
'Now how can I deny one of her final wishes to her grieving brothers?'
Despite Ned's fierce desire to deny this, citing amongst other things, that Lyarra deserved to grow up with her father and half-siblings, also in the home of her ancestors, he couldn't. The treaty signed by Prince Dareon when he'd brought Dorne into the realm peacefully and by marriage had given House Martell a wide array of freedoms the other Houses were unaccustomed to. They rarely used so, preferring the dagger of charm to the bludgeon of law, but the laws were on the books.
Trueborn children were primarily belonging to their father's House, unless contracts explicitly stated that they would fall chiefly under matrilineal inheritance. In the case of baseborn children, the law was more murky and it was often left to the individual couples to decide the child's placement. Most remained with their mothers but if a father were to demand it and was of the position to do so, they could take custody of the child. There were no set laws for them and, as a Lord Paramount, Ned hadn't ever thought his guardianship would be challenged (for any of his children and Lyarra least, because who would demand a presumed bastard of an unknown mother from his home?). The Martells were loyalty though and, as with many in Dorne, valued bastards enough to explicitly state in the treaty that they held primacy over all bastard children sired by Martells of the blood.
In this case, were he to accept Aliandra Sand as Lyarra's mother, they would hold primacy over her.
Ned was tempted to deny the connection, regardless of its many pitfalls. At the moment, House Martell presumed the Stark child with Martell blood was his daughter by Aliandra. If he denied this, Princess Elia's kind but wholly inconvenient letter would drive their minds in another direction, one that Ned was loathe to lead them down. It would also raise inquiries about Lyarra's heritage again, this time from people no longer dismissing it as a mere washerwoman with a second Great House involved. Inquiries that could lead his flimsy lie to easily break down and put his entire family, his dragon niece included, in mortal danger.
On the other hand, leaving Lyarra in Martell hands, irrespective of his own heartbreak in the loss of a child, would invite other worries. What if they discovered her true heritage? What if they inflicted pain upon her for her mother's sake? What if they chose instead to mold her into a weapon against Robert?
'What if I start another rebellion?' Ned instinctively shuddered at the thought. Rebellions had not been kind to the princesses of the realm at late; he couldn't imagine Lyarra's sweet, melancholy face bloodied and beaten or her torso riddled with knives or her body lying listless in a pool of blood.
Doran Martell was a reasonable man. Ned knew he had kept his brother from escalating hostilities against the crown after Princess Elia's death. Mayhaps he could be persuaded from pulling a child from the only home she knew to a foreign land where her own appearance would be a black mark against her. He need solely convince the man that Lyarra was better raised in Winterfell.
After seven exchanges of letters, each one growing more desperate than the last, Prince Doran sent one final missive. His brother, Prince Oberyn, would be travelling to Winterfell to pick up their long-lost sun child. It was time for Lyarra Sand to come home.