A/N: We're at the end. God, I'm crying just typing this. Long author's note at the end so stick around but...until then, enjoy!
The snow had started to melt.
It had been five years since the end of the Long Night. Five years of a hard, cold winter. But all things considered, those years were not as bad as the Citadel had suspected. It would have been longer, they claimed, if the dead had not been defeated at Harrenhal. But for their efforts, the living were granted a bit less suffering.
It was good to see the grass making itself known again-little spots of green popping up through the white-and watching the rivers run clear. Arya was even glad to see the mud on the banks of the God's Eye. The ground was no longer frozen and would soon be able to take a new harvest.
The God's Eye itself had not been frozen since that day five years ago when Arya plunged a knife into the Night King's once beating heart. The Children of the Forest remained on the Isle of Faces, though their numbers were fewer, and their magic kept the water flowing.
And Bran was there too.
She had seen him only in wolf dreams-a face in a great tree that resembled her brother. She did not know if he was living or dead or something in between. She had waited too long to find out.
So long as they were headed north, she knew that she had to go to him.
She crossed the lake alone in a small row boat, slowly and steadily, knowing the island might turn her back but hoping that it wouldn't. Every once and awhile she stopped to glance across the water. Harrenhal stood out against the blue sky, a blasted ruin. The site of the Battle of the Long Night.
The site of where it all began for her.
She had thought about going there too. Walking about the flow stone yard, climbing what remained of the towers. Finding that little room where she once played cupbearer. But she had decided against it. That time was long passed now, and there were some ghosts she did not yet want to face.
The ghosts on the Isle of Faces would be difficult enough.
The island did not push her back. In fact, the lake did not even stir as she crossed. And before she knew it, her little boat had slid up onto the shore, wedging itself between two large roots.
Arya hopped out onto the bank, feeling a rush of memories come over her. It was colder the last time she was here, and there were fewer trees. Now the grove was so plentiful the trunks seemed to form a solid wall in places. And they all had faces and eyes that watched her as she made her way up the hill.
The shadows had eyes as well-the Children of the Forest spying on her from the gaps between the trees. She did not trouble them and she was careful to keep her hands out and extended so that they could see she was unarmed. Though she was sure they knew she was not a threat. They had all seen her kill the Night King with the very dagger which rested at her hip.
To her right, one of the shadows stirred, and Arya turned to see a familiar face loping out of the woods. She smiled, dropping to her knees as her wolf nudged her huge head into her hands.
"Hey girl..." she murmured. "Did I leave you here too long? Did you have enough to eat?" She stroked a hand through Nymeria's fur. "I'm sorry. I should have come back for you earlier, shouldn't I? Forgive me."
Nymeria nudged her face with her nose. She seemed healthy. Strong. Her time with the Children had clearly not weakened her. Arya just hoped she hadn't mistaken any of them as prey.
Arya straightened again. "Come on. Will you see him with me?"
Nymeria let out a low whine and trotted ahead of Arya up the hill. She followed, trying to ignore a growing ache in her chest and the burn on the skin of her throat, which throbbed with the memory of her last battle here.
At last they reached the top of the hill, and Arya found herself looking up at the most splendid weirwood tree she had ever seen. Its trunk was thicker than it should have been considering it had only been growing five years and its branches formed a canopy above the others, practically blotting out the sun with its red leaves. And at the center of the tree, she saw her brother's face.
He seemed almost carved from wood, for his skin was as pale as the bark. His eyes were rolled back into his head and there was a red mark where his heart once beat, still dripping down the trunk even five years later. Arya shuddered at the sight of him, pushing down her tears. She knelt in front of him.
"It's been awhile," she murmured. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. I came in the wolf dreams I suppose. But that doesn't really count." She swallowed hard. "What you did...Bran. Everything you sacrificed. I hope you can see that it was worth it. The seven kingdoms are recovering but they're at peace for now. I hope they will stay that way. Five years without war has been...a welcome change of pace." She looked up at him. "I wish I had your sight sometimes. So I could see what's coming. I wish I could peer into the future and know exactly what I need to do. But more than that, I wish I had you. I wish I had been faster."
He did not respond. She had not expected him to, but even so the silence hurt. Above her a raven cawed as she stood, stepping forward. She rested a hand over the red spot on Bran's heart.
Then suddenly...falling. She was falling, but not to the ground. Her mind seemed to tumble backward into blank space and for a long moment, Arya had nothing to hold onto. No solid ground. She was plunging down. Down. Down.
Until she wasn't. She opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of Bran again. Only this time, Bran was not wrapped up in the tree. He was standing beside it. Standing on his own two feet, resting a hand against the bark.
It was not real, Arya knew. She had only to look around at the woods which seemed to glow with a strange, pale green light. It was peaceful here and the air smelled sweet. But seeing Bran standing in front of her, smiling like he once did made her weak in the knees. "Bran..." She took a step toward him. "This is...an illusion."
"Yes. An illusion or a dream." Bran looked up from his tree. "Do you have dreams, Arya?"
"Every night," she said.
"Sometimes," she said. "But that's to be expected after everything I've seen."
"Perhaps," he said. "You should listen to your dreams when you can. Sometimes they do have meaning. But you will have to decide which ones are real."
"Do you still dream?" Arya asked. "In your tree. Do you still see the past, present and future?"
"I see the past laid out like a very long story carved into stone," Bran circled around the trunk, letting his fingers drag across the wood. There was a gap in the tree, almost like a seat. As if Bran had stepped right out of the wood to greet her. "And I see the present. So many moments happening right now. But the future is...covered in shadows."
"That doesn't sound promising," Arya asked.
"It may not be good or bad," Bran said. "It's been like this ever since I died. Perhaps the future is only meant for the living. Though...I find that the Red Priests obscure my vision of the present from time to time."
Arya's brow furrowed. She knew about the Red Priests. More and more of them had come flocking to Westeros since Daenerys was crowned, declaring her to be Azor Ahai, the one who would light the way and purge the non-believers in a sea of flame. The Queen was grateful for their loyalty, but she had no intention to set aside the faith of the seven. That would lose her a great deal of support, after all.
"Why would the Red Priests obscure your vision?" Arya asked.
"The Old Gods and the Red God...are very different. Theirs is a magic of fire. The Old Gods are of earth and water and winter," Bran said. "They rarely work in tandem. It was a rare thing...when you and Jon rose from the dead. You kept a hold of yourselves. That is not...usually what happens to those raised by the Red God."
No. Arya remembered Berric telling her as much. When one was raised by the Lord of Light, they were different from before, left to ceaselessly pursue the task for which they had died. In many ways, it was a shell of their former existence. Jon and Arya had escaped that...but only because of their wolves.
The idea of the red priests obscuring Bran's vision was concerning for more than one reason. It was after the arrival of one priestess from Volantis that Queen Daenerys bore a child. Which was strange, because one of Varys' little birds had told Arya that Daenerys was infertile. Was it possible that the Lord of Light had given her a miracle as well? The miracle to produce life again?
"Perhaps," Bran said, reading her thoughts. "I cannot say for sure. But magic that can raise one from the dead...can do many things."
"It's a question of whether those things are good for Westeros, I suppose," Arya said.
"That is up to you to sort out. The future belongs to you now." Bran sighed, coming to stop in front of the tree again-in front of his empty seat. "Even though you see me now...don't mistake me for one of the living, Arya. I'm something else now."
"I know," she murmured. "But at least I could speak with you. I wish...I could speak with the other dead."
Bran gave her a soft smile. "Take care of our family. Make sure that they do not join me. And be prepared."
Arya opened her mouth to reply but before she could, she was falling again, tumbling through empty space away from her brother. She reached out, wanting so desperately to grasp his hand. But her fingers only drifted through icy mist.
Her eyes snapped open and she found herself lying on her back in front of Bran's tree, her hand outstretched toward the sky. Tears trailed from her eyes and she slowly lowered her hand to wipe them away. A nose nudged her other hand and she became aware of Nymeria lying beside her, her tail wagging lazily back and forth.
"I'm all right, girl." Arya slowly sat up, looking up at Bran's tree. It was tempting...to try to go back to him. But she knew better than that. He would not want her to linger with him in that strange grove of trees.
She stood, brushing herself off, forcing herself to turn away from the great tree and look down at her wolf. "All right. Ready to go?"
The small Lannister caravan had found a place not far from Harrenhal to set their tents while Arya attended to business. It did not take her long to rejoin them. Her horse was a bit spooked by Nymeria, but she was able to calm the beast with a few whispered words.
"She's a friend to you," Arya murmured. "My friends are her friends. Don't worry."
The caravan came into sight and Arya spotted Jaime at the far end of the camp, sitting outside of the largest tent. Two smaller shapes stood in front of him, a two year old boy helping a one year old girl to walk. They all looked up when Arya approached and the boy beamed and laughed as she leapt off her horse. For a moment he looked like he might run to her, but then he remembered he was still holding onto his sister's hand and carefully lowered her to the ground before hurrying over.
"I told you I wouldn't be gone long," she caught him up in her arms. He was at the age where she was no longer terrified to hold him. Babies seemed so fragile, but after a few years they seemed to take more of a human shape.
Tybolt was past his second year, golden haired and green eyed, and lanky for his age. A Lannister child through and through, which had pleased the Lords of the West. It was fitting to follow that Lannister naming custom for him, and Tybolt seemed to suit him.
Elissa had more of the north in her. Dark brown hair with a shade of Tully auburn when the sunlight hit it right. And clear grey eyes. She could only take a few steps at a time and say a few words, but she was healthy and strong.
Naming them had been the hardest thing, for names had so much weight in Westeros. Arya had thought of naming them for those she had lost. Of course she had. Her brother had done the same with his children. But Arya did not want to curse her children with the names of the dead when they were still living. She feared dooming them to the same fate when they grew up. Better to pick the names of strangers from far back in history and give them a chance to make their own mark.
She had thought of naming Tybolt something else when he was born. But that name would have been a terrible burden for any Lannister child.
"Dog," Elissa said, pointing forward. Arya turned to see Nymeria loping forward, her eyes curious.
"It's a wolf, Elissa." Arya went over to her, kneeling down and setting Tybolt on the ground. "This is Nymeria."
Tybolt looked wide eyed from Arya to the wolf, gripping hard onto her sleeve. He was uncertain of such a large creature with so many teeth.
"It's all right," Arya said, beckoning Nymeria closer. "You can touch her."
Tybolt hesitated and Arya grasped his little wrist in hers, helping him to reach out and rest a hand against Nymeria's coat. His eyes widened at her softness and he began carefully stroking her shoulder all on his own. Nymeria lay down in front of him, resting her large head against the ground and he beamed, beckoning for Elissa to join him. She did, crawling quickly across the ground to pet what she believed to be a very large dog. There was no fear in her at all.
"You found her then," Jaime said, approaching.
"Yes." Arya straightened. "I should have gone back for her years ago. I was just..."
"Worried. I know." Jaime wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Did you...go to Harrenhal as well?"
Arya shook her head. "No. It doesn't feel like the right time."
He didn't press her on that. "So business here is done?"
"Almost," she said. "I still have to find the Brotherhood but they're close. Can you manage the children for a little longer?"
"That's why we have septas. To make sure I don't lose any of them." He grinned. "Go on. We'll be waiting."
"Going again?" Tybolt called out from where he sat beside Nymeria. She had rolled onto her back, like the terribly fearsome predator that she was.
"Not for long, Ty," Arya said. "Nymeria will look out for you while I'm gone."
"Do you trust them with the wolf more than me?" Jaime asked.
Arya smirked. "She does have an awful lot of teeth to defend them against attackers."
"And an awful lot of teeth to eat them if she gets hungry."
She gave him a small shove. "You can work together then. So long as no one dies while I'm away."
"Yes, my lady. I guarantee no one will die." He gave her a small bow.
She smiled and returned to her horse. Truth be told, Jaime was a very good father. He never really got the chance to be a parent to his first three children. It would have been too dangerous for him to be present in their lives. Someone could have found out his terrible secret. But this time he could claim the children as his own, and he loved them dearly. He had actually been better than Arya at holding the children when they were babies. She was afraid to drop them every time the septas passed them into her arms. Jaime, even with one hand, had no trouble at all.
The idea of parenthood had rather terrified Arya for a long while. She did not trust herself to be a good mother. She worried about being around too much or too little. She worried about hurting them. She worried about them hating her one day. And those fears had not gone away...but the joys were beginning to outweigh them.
The Brotherhood operated out of many villages scattered throughout the Riverlands and spent most of their time these days helping the smallfolk recover from the many wars they had suffered. Arya always came to one particular village when she passed through the Riverlands with a small sack of money to help with their efforts. She felt honor bound to assist them. If not for their old leader Berric, she would not be alive. And he had wanted the Riverlands to be safe again.
The Lannister family had done its part in destroying the Riverlands. Arya intended to make things right.
The smallfolk stared when she road into town and some of them retreated into their homes. But one familiar face did not balk at the sight of her.
"Lady Lannister," Gendry stepped out of his forge, returning his hammer to his belt. The burns he had suffered during the Battle and Harrenhal were still evident on one side of his face and neck, but they had healed as well as they could. "We weren't expecting you for another few days."
"We made good time," Arya swung off of her horse. "You look well. How are things?"
"The Riverlands are doing well enough. We're relieved that winter is coming to a close," Gendry said. A few more of the Brotherhood drifted out of the shadows to flank Gendry, but they did not go for their weapons. They knew Arya was not a threat.
"That's good news for everyone," Arya passed a bag of gold to Gendry. "Here. Put it to good use."
"Thank you m'lady," he said. "We always do."
"You don't have to call me 'm'lady', Gendry," Arya said.
"You're the Lady of Casterly Rock," he said. "I absolutely do."
"Yes, but you're also an old friend," Arya said. "You get some privileges."
"Then I consider it a privilege to continue to annoy you without repercussion, m'lady," Gendry said.
"Careful Gendry," one of the other Brotherhood laughed. "She'll take your fingers."
"With the same blade she used to kill the Night King?" Gendry raised an eyebrow. "I would consider it an honor."
Arya sighed, but a small smile crossed her lips. It seemed her reputation was becoming known in the Riverlands as well. She hadn't really meant for it to become a reputation. The first time, she took two fingers from one of Lord Serret's nephews for thievery. She later did the same to a young lord who chose to comment on her and Jaime's lack of fingers at court.
Not even three hands between you, and you expect us to bow quietly?
He had been protesting Arya's choice to call in the debts of his family, which they had been cleverly hiding from the newly established lord and lady of Westeros, thinking that they would let them get away with it. She severed two fingers from his left hand in front of the court. Her Father in law had told her to strike fast and hard after all, and that moment had made an impression.
There. Now we have enough fingers for three hands. And if you don't pay your debts, my lord, I'll take your good hand. Then my husband and I will have a full set.
Suddenly, that had become her calling card. For lords who tried to undermine her or go behind her back or plot to turn Jaime against her, she took two fingers as a warning. They had one chance. On the second she would not just take fingers.
It served two purposes, of course. It cemented her reputation as a strong leader in the west, and it was something of a black mark on those lords who had tried to challenge her. Anyone could see their treachery. They had merely to look at their three fingered hands.
And yet, the punishment was still far more merciful than her predecessor would have given for some of their slights. She had not drowned any families in their halls. She hadn't even executed some of the lords for offenses that would have earned them an execution five years ago. But the threat that she might...that kept them all in line.
"I won't be taking any fingers today," Arya said. "You aren't my bannermen at any rate. You have sworn me no oath of loyalty."
"Good news then," Gendry said.
Arya turned to see a girl riding up on a horse. It took her a moment, but she recognized her face. Mary. The girl from the family nearly robbed by Lord Serret's nephew.
"Mother said she saw you passing through and I had to see for myself," the girl swung off the horse. "I'm sorry. Forgive me." She curtsied quickly. "You probably don't remember."
"Mary, yes?" Arya asked. "I remember. That horse is the one we gave to your family, isn't it?"
"Yes. She rides very well." Mary stroked her muzzle. She looked absolutely delighted that Arya had remembered her name. "Though...mother says its only right that I return her if you wish her back. To pay the debt."
Arya smiled. "That's kind of you to offer. But I already have a horse, and I wouldn't take her from you. It seems you're taking good care of her. She's yours to keep. There is no debt, Mary."
The girl beamed, dipping into another hasty curtsy. "Thank you m'lady. I'll keep taking care of her as long as I can."
"See that you do." Arya swung back onto her horse, glancing back to Gendry. "I'll see you again I'm sure. Until then, take care of yourself."
"Aye. You too, m'lady," Gendry said with a nod.
Arya made it back to their little caravan by sundown. The septa had already put the children asleep in their tent and Jaime was sitting outside on a large rock, watching the horizon. He looked up when she swung off of her horse and tied her to the post with the others.
"Did everything go well?"
"Terribly," Arya said. "I was set upon by bandits."
"Those poor bandits," Jaime said with a grin. "Was that Gendry boy among them? The Brotherhood I mean, not the bandits."
"Depending on who you ask, the Brotherhood are bandits," Arya said. "And yes, Gendry was. But I'm not sure he's young enough to be called a boy, Jaime."
"He's younger than me," Jaime said. He was pretending to be uninterested but she could hear the slightly strained note in his voice. "And how was it seeing your old friend?"
"Wonderful," Arya said flatly. "He confessed his undying love for me. I'm going to run away with him and live in the woods."
Jaime gave her a look, reaching up to grasp her wrist and pull her down to him. "Not if I stop you."
She landed in his lap, already laughing. "Best of luck with that. I'm the Hero of Harrenhal and I have exactly three more fingers than you."
"Details," he said, leaning down to kiss her. She let him, running her crippled hand through his blonde hair. The kiss lingered for a long moment and when he pulled back, she sighed.
"All right. Fine. I'll stay, I suppose."
Jaime grinned. "Glad to hear it."
She shifted to sit beside him on the rock. "Did you know my 'two fingers' reputation has spread to the Riverlands now?"
"Of course it has, Arya," Jaime said. "You're the Lady of Casterly Rock and you killed the Night King. Every rumor about you is going to spread."
"I suppose. Apparently it's an honor to have fingers removed by me because I killed the Night King."
"That's a nice touch. You should tell that to any uncooperative bannermen."
"I should, shouldn't I?" Arya shrugged. "Of course they wouldn't be around to tell if...someone else was in charge."
"True enough," Jaime said. "I'm not arguing with your methods. They are efficient. I still remember when some of the lords started coming to me in private, hoping that I was the easy one between the two of us."
"I remember that too," Arya said. "And then they discovered we're both the hard one."
"That we are," Jaime circled an arm around her shoulder and she rested slightly against him. "And... what about the Isle of Faces. How did things go there? Good or bad?"
"I'm...not sure," Arya said. "A bit of both, I suppose."
"Did you find Bran?" Jaime asked.
"Yes. He spoke to me," Arya said. "He's not...alive. He's something else now, trapped in that tree. But I had a vision of him, almost like a dream."
"And what did he tell you?" Jaime asked. He was unfazed by the notion of her having visions. She could warg into the mind of her wolf and her brother had practically ascended to godhood. Visions were almost normal. "Is the future dark and full of terrors as some of those red priests say?"
"He doesn't know," Arya said. "He said the future is obscured from him. Covered in shadow. So...I suppose it is dark and full of terrors then."
Jaime's brow furrowed. "Does he know why?"
"He has a few theories," Arya said. "Red God magic and Old god magic don't mix. Or it could be that he can only see what has happened...now that he's not fully alive."
"The fact that he doesn't know makes me nervous," Jaime said.
"Me too. But...we'll be prepared for whatever it is, I'm sure," Arya said softly.
They had to be. They had children now. It was one thing to face a burning world when one was alone. But she did not want a single flame to touch her son or her daughter or any other children she might have.
She knew what it was to grow up in the midst of too many wars.
It took another fortnight to reach Winterfell. The snows still lay thick around the castle, but the chill of the air was not quite so sharp. Arya felt her spirits lift, seeing the home of her childhood. She had made the Rock her home over these past five years. But it would never be Winterfell. She knew that.
Nymeria seemed just as happy to be home and she let out a howl as she darted past their caravan. In the distance, Arya could see the other dire wolves circling the keep to meet her and welcome her back-a lost member of the pack they had never forgotten.
"Gods they are huge," Jaime observed from his horse. "If you bring your wolf back with us, the lords will be terrified of you."
"I don't need a wolf to make them terrified. A knife is enough." Arya sighed. "Besides, I think Nymeria would be happier up here."
And then at least one piece of me can remain north.
When they entered through the gates, her nephews and her niece were upon her at once as soon as she swung off of her horse. It was Lyanna who plunged into Arya's arms and she picked her up and swung her around. "Gods above, you're getting heavy." She glanced to her left to see that Little Ned was nearly at her shoulder. "And you're getting tall. How old are you?"
"Nine years," little Ned said proudly.
Seven hells. He's going to outgrow me soon, she thought. Lyanna and Ben were still small at least, but somehow she knew they would all grow taller than her if given time. She dreaded the day when her own children passed her by. She knew they would, somehow. Most of the Lannisters were annoyingly tall, their father included.
"We want to meet our cousins," Lyanna crowed as Arya sat her down. "Let us meet them. Now, now."
That was right. They hadn't gotten a chance to meet yet. The last time Arya had visited the north, Tybolt was not yet born.
"All right, all right," Arya backed toward the carriage where the children were riding, leading her eager niece by the hand. Tybolt poked his head out between the curtains to look down. "Lyanna, this is Tybolt."
"Very pleased to meet you." She stuck out a hand. "I'm your cousin."
"Cousin," Tybolt repeated, trying out the word. He didn't seem to know what to do with her hand.
"You kiss it, silly. I'm a lady," Lyanna demanded.
Tybolt seemed to take her word for it, bending to kiss her hand. Lyanna giggled and helped him climb out of the cart. Jaime meanwhile had taken Elissa from one of the Septas and Ned and Ben had crowded around him.
"What's her name, Uncle Jaime?"
Arya couldn't help but smile to hear him called that. Who would have guessed that a Stark would ever call a Lannister 'uncle'.
"This is Elissa," Jaime said. "She's barely a year, so you must be gentle with her."
"Can I hold her?" Ned asked.
"Yes. Carefully," he warned as he slowly handed Elissa over. She squirmed a bit in Ned's grasp, confused by his unfamiliar face. But then she seemed to decide that she didn't mind it and reached out to grasp his nose. Ned was delighted.
"They rushed you before you even time to breathe," Robb's voice came from behind Arya. "Sorry about that."
Arya smiled, turning and catching her brother up in a hug. "They wanted to meet their cousins." She pulled back. "You haven't met them yet either, have you?"
"No. I'm afraid not. Hard to travel in the winter," Robb said.
"Well come on then. Come and meet them," Arya looped her arm through his, guiding him over. "Where's mother? She hasn't met Elissa yet either."
"She's on her way. Got caught up dealing with an issue with supper," Robb said. He knelt down as he came upon her son, a smile on his face. "This one is Tybolt? He's a Lannister if I ever saw one."
"Takes after his father," Arya said. "Tybolt this is Uncle Robb."
Tybolt looked him up and down and thrust out his hand. Robb gave it a little shake in greeting.
"Pleased to meet you, Tybolt."
"Gods, he's grown hasn't he?" Their mother swept into the yard then. "Last time I saw him he was a babe."
"Walking and talking now," Arya smiled, embracing her mother. "It's good to see you."
"You too. I hope the roads weren't difficult," Catelyn pulled back to cradle her face in her hands. "I've been hearing interesting stories about you."
Arya's lips twitched into a smile. "Some of them may be true. Others not."
"You can clear them all up at supper," Catelyn stepped back. "Let me see your girl, Arya. I've been waiting to meet her."
Arya led her mother to where Ned and Ben were fawning over Elissa and Catelyn joined them, taking her granddaughter into her arms. She was their only living grandparent, and Arya was glad they could have at least one.
It was such a strange scene to watch. Years ago, Arya had barely given thought to the idea of being a mother. How could she when she did not even know for sure if she would survive the winter. It was only after the Long Night was at its end that the Lannister legacy finally became the focus. But even then, she had wondered if she could manage it.
Watching her children now, in Winterfell...it made her feel warm enough to ignore the chill of the wind.
"I trust Sansa as well?" Catelyn asked over supper. They had time to talk as adults while the servants watched the children for a while. "I assume you have seen her more recently than I have."
"Yes," Arya said. "Her daughters are well too. I can't believe little Cat has grown so much."
"Well, she could hardly stay little forever," Robb said. "I still haven't met her second daughter. Wylla, wasn't it? Sansa was intending to visit soon but now it seems she's pregnant again."
"As if you can criticize," Jaime said, turning his spoon between his fingers. "Aren't all your children quite close in age, Lord Stark?"
"I was not criticizing. Just stating a fact," Robb said. But he did not seem particularly irritated by Jaime's remark. Arya was glad to see her husband and brother got on much better than they used to. Jaime's gift to Robb five years ago had lowered some of the walls between them. "Tybolt and Elissa are rather close in age as well. Do you have any news for us Arya?"
"None yet," she said. "Two are a handful enough right now."
"Speaking of news," Catelyn said. "Did you receive a raven from Jon before you left?"
"Yes I did," Arya said, smiling a bit. "It seems Margaery is also with child."
"Lovely that it worked out so well between them," Jaime commented.
"Yes," Robb said, glancing at Arya. "No one could have possibly predicted it."
Arya held up her hands defensively. "All I did was point Jon out to Margaery, Robb. She did the rest. You can't blame me for that."
"He's not blaming you, I'm sure," Catelyn said, giving Robb a pointed look. "It's a fine match for Jon."
"A fine match, aye. But I wish I could have had him here in the north." Robb sighed. "But I suppose Arya had other plans."
"You really should blame Margaery. Or Jon for that matter," Arya said innocently. "It was barely my plan."
Jaime snickered quietly behind his hand before he continued eating.
Their supper conversation strayed to many topics. From the recovery of the north and the Riverlands, to the gold problem in the west. The newly discovered silver mines were certainly helping keep the Lannister coffers full, but Arya knew better than to rest on that discovery. These mines were not nearly as expansive as the gold mines of Casterly Rock had once been and they would not last forever. She would need to look to other ways of expanding the Lannister fortunes outside of mining silver and collecting debt payments from the crown. But it was a start at least.
When supper was done, Arya excused herself from the table. "I think I'll visit the crypts. It's been too long since I have."
Her mother nodded once with a soft smile. "We'll wait for you here."
Arya had not visited the crypts since the last time she was in Winterfell three years previously. Before her children were born. It was harder to make the trip north in the middle of winter when one had small children who were not adapted to such cold.
But the crypts were as she remembered-ancient and full of memories and ghosts. She walked along the path until she found her father's statue. The stone face had always bothered her. It did not look like him. Arya could not clearly remember what he looked like anymore, but she knew it wasn't this. If the sculptor had captured his likeness...perhaps more memories of him would return to her.
"Father," Arya said. "It's...been awhile. Forgive me. It's good to see you again. Well not, 'see' but...as close as I can come to it." She rubbed her hands together. "Things are peaceful now. More peaceful than they were, though that's not a real feat. Thus far, Queen Daenerys seems to be taking to her role. I know you fought to unseat her father, the Mad King. I hope she will be better. I'm not eager to fight another rebellion.
"The west kept me away for the past few years. Not just children but...a few minor rebellions. I managed to deal with them. The Serrets in particular." Arya sighed. "I'll spare you the details but I think it worked out for the better. I'm not sure if I handled things how you would have but, I'm walking the line as best I can. I will try to continue. I hope...in spite of everything...you would be proud of me, father."
She looked up at his statue, longing for an answer, but knowing she would never receive one. Still, it seemed to her that her father would be proud. She had not forgotten his teachings. She tried to deal fairly with most people. And whenever she passed a sentence, she swung the sword. Or the knife, depending on the punishment. But his were not the only teachings she followed.
"I miss you," she murmured into the darkness. Not just to her father. He was not the only one she missed after all. She missed Bran. She missed Rickon.
She missed Tywin.
The anniversary of his death had passed recently. She remembered visiting the crypts at Casterly Rock to speak to him. She did that quite a lot actually. It made her feel guilty sometimes that she talked more to Tywin Lannister's ghost than her own father. But then, she supposed she couldn't help that the northern crypts were so far away.
And she couldn't help that her memories of her father were more distant.
Tears started to burn at her eyes but she forced them down. "We'll speak again. Now that the summer is here...it will be easier for me to visit you." She stepped back from his statue. "I'm sorry..."
She didn't really know what she was apologizing for. Not visiting more often? Forgetting? Becoming a Lannister? All things that he wouldn't blame her for. But the apology felt necessary all the same.
She paid her respects to the other dead then returned to the surface. As she stepped out into the waning sunlight, the laughter of children reached her ears. Seven year old Lyanna was running circles around Tybolt as he struggled to keep up and little Ned, who had grown to a spindly nine year old was sitting with Elissa in his lap while Ben told her the names of all the wolves that circled through the courtyard, scaring the Lannister horses. From above, her mother and brother watched them fondly alongside her husband.
A great wave of nostalgia washed over Arya then. She remembered when she was a child playing in this very yard. And somehow she and her brother had survived to watch their own children play without a care in the world.
Jaime caught her eye and gave her a smile. She smiled in return. They were happy, and Arya found that she was happy too. But she was not settled. She remember once long ago in the halls of Harrenhal, when Lord Tywin told her that the War of Five Kings would be his last war...only to be flung headlong into a series of conflicts that nearly broke Westeros. She would never make the mistake of claiming any conflict as 'the last war'.
There was always another war. But at the very least...Arya was looking forward to the spring.
A/N: And so it ends.
Just over a year ago, in the midst of another Game of Thrones hyperfixation, I watched all of Arya and Tywin's scenes back to back on a whim and found myself, not for the first time, wondering what would happen if he discovered her true identity. I checked for fanfiction to read but didn't find any that really clicked with me. So I decided, 'fuck it. I'm gonna write it myself'.
At the time, I planned for it to be something like twenty chapters. It was more of a concept piece that would move through the years to see how Arya and Tywin's relationship evolved. Lots of time skips and kind of minimal plot. But as I kept writing, I kept discovering new story threads and new character arcs. I realized that in order to REALLY nail Tywin's character arc, I was going to have to take a lot of time and very, VERY gradually move him along, one centimeter at a time. My end goal was to see if I could get people to cry when I killed him. But I knew I would have to earn that.
The regular update schedule started because I wrote about thirty chapters in one shot, therefore enabling me to easily update twice a week. Of course, by the time I caught up to the chapters I had written, I had a regular enough following that I didn't want to disappoint anyone, so I decided to see how long I could keep the updates going. I am a competitive being at heart and I made a challenge with myself: I would not miss a single update.
And here we are, 108 chapters later, and the longest I missed an update by was a couple hours. But that would NOT have happened, if not for all of you. Your comments, your messages, your general love. Your sharing the fic with friends, making fanart etc. I kept on going because I didn't want to let any one of you down. And because I love that sweet, sweet validation. This is far and away my most popular fic I've ever written. Most hits, most comments, most follows. I really can't thank you all enough for all of that.
I'm rambling at this point, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on this year and on this fic and on the end of an era. I'm not going away forever. I will be back with more fic so subscribe to me if you want updates for when I do post anything else. And please follow me on Tumblr as well at Kallypsowrites. You can message me there and ask about things. I am friendly.
I hope you'll all follow me when I return, whenever that is. So, for the last time: Review, subscribe and I'll see you next time!