Author's Note: I am sorry for the long wait! Thank you, everyone, for your support so far! I just love hearing what you have to say, it really does help urge me on. I'm happy that you guys are starting to enjoy it and I hope that you continue to enjoy it! Thank you for taking the time to chime in! There is a little bit of a time jump as things are starting to get interesting. I hope the characters aren't too crazy OOCness. Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Warnings: Nothing much. OOCness, Unbeta'd.
Word Count: 5,071
Jon and Robb were more than happy to show Solas around Winterfell. They showed him everything that could ever possibly be mentioned. Anything he could ever need to go to for whatever reason, he was shown day one. It was a very fast tour, but Solas kept up with their quick pace as they only had so much time to roam around before they would be called back to the castle for dinner time and would have to focus on their evening studies before going to bed. Solas humored the boys, asking lots of questions about what specific places meant and when he would use them.
He wasn't sure he was ever going to need to know that the pathway from the storehouse to the smith's shop bypasses where they usually store the fresh fruits before they are moved into the storehouse, but it was nice to be clued in. Just in case.
The place that really caught Solas's attention was the Godswood. He felt the magical energy radiating from the trees there and it reminded him of his homeland. The trees were imbued with ancient energy that passed through the Veil a long time after it was put up and has since permeated the land. Solas isn't sure how far south or north it goes, but here and all the way from White Harbour to Winterfell, Solas has felt the magic in these trees. And they treat the Godswood as sacred. Or at least they seem to cherish it enough to preserve it.
Solas is starting to suspect that ancient Starks may have had a better idea of the magic that surrounded them and held a healthy respect for it, but over the years the stories may have either been twisted far enough from the truth, or it was forgotten altogether. Either way, Solas is enjoying the nods to the magic that surround Winterfell, even if the people don't seem to realize it. Or have forgotten their true meaning.
Jon and Robb eventually brought him back to the castle and introduced him to their little siblings - well, Robb's siblings, Jon's cousins.
The first was Sansa Stark. Now she must have a lot of her mother's blood in her, with hair like orange fire. Her mother's hair was more auburn, but the similarities weren't lost on him. Robb's hair had a touch of red to it, making it look brown but he could see the red in the proper lighting. Sansa had the pretty blue eyes of her mother, same as Robb. She's six years old now and still growing into herself, but already learning to be a proper little lady. She pulls up the hem of her dress and offers a curtsy to the ancient elf in greeting with a soft, "ser."
"I'm am no ser, little lady Stark," Solas says, resting his cheek against the side of his staff and looking down at the little girl. "My name is Solas. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Sansa offers a sweet little smile, innocent and kind. "Pleasure, my lord. I am Sansa Stark, eldest daughter to Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell."
"My," Solas says, "so proper. She's shown you boys up in three sentences."
Jon rolls his eyes. "You don't have to be so formal, Sansa. Solas is my friend and father said that he can stay here, with us. He's going to become a new teacher for us." He looks excited at the prospect of being able to continue his training after such a long reprieve from it. Solas also suspects - or hopes - that the boy just missed spending time with him. No doubt he's also interested in showing off to his siblings what Solas can do.
"We are getting a new teacher?" Sansa asks, blue eyes wide. "Why?"
"Solas is going to teach us about magic!" Jon says, smiling excitedly.
Blue eyes widen further. "Magic?" Sansa gasps.
Robb comes bouncing into the room with a toddler in his arms, a little girl on his heels and his parents not far behind. Robb walks right up to Solas and holds the baby toward him a bit, grinning proudly, "This is my baby brother, Bran. Short for Brandon. Like I'm Robb, short for Robert. But he's only three right now, so he's not really going to be able to take lessons. But this is my youngest sister, Arya. She's four."
Bran Stark, while three years of age was showing more signs of his father's blood than his mother's. His hair was darker, but there was still a touch of red to it that must come from his mother, but a set of blackened eyes stare back at him, innocent and curious. His cheeks were puffy and rosy and Solas honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a child so young, aside from Jon.
Elves of his time were immortal and therefore reproduced very slowly. The birthrate of Elves was so low as to not overpopulate the world. It was a rare sight to see anyone with siblings, especially with more than one other. Then again, humans were much shorter-lived than elves and reproduced quicker, so there was that. But Solas definitely didn't know what it was like to be around so many siblings - especially since he didn't have any himself.
Well, Solas didn't have any parents either. He was an orphan. For as long as he can remember. But it would have been nice if he could have had someone of his own to always have at his side. A family that would never leave him. It's why Solas loved spirits so much. They don't die as easily as the living do, and if he was good enough friends with them, they would lead him all around the Fade whenever he dreamed, so he was never alone. It was a nice reprieve from usually always being alone.
And Arya Stark, four years old and already staring up at Solas as if she knew everything there was to know. Her dark hair was pulled back into what was probably once a neat knot on the back of her head now had loose strands framing her face, a stark juxtaposition to her sister, who looked dutiful and refined, not a hair out of place. Ayra's hair was also a dark brown to match her eyes, seeming to have almost all of Eddard Stark's features. She looked almost nothing like Catelyn aside from the shape of her eyes which all of the Stark children seem to share.
Jon puts his hands on Arya's shoulders and both of them smile at him, Arya completely unafraid. So this was the little girl that Jon adored. He could see why. There was a fire in her little dark eyes that threatened to burn everything away.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, little lords and ladies." Solas tips his head again, offering a small smile.
"Do they all have it?" Catelyn asks, pulling Solas's blue eyes over to her. "The magic, I mean. Like Ned? Like Robb and Jon?"
Solas nods. "Yes, Lady Catelyn. All of your children have powerful magic flowing through their veins. Even those so young as Arya and Bran, although they won't be able to start practicing for a few years yet, they are already showing signs of magical potential."
Catelyn doesn't look as though she knows how to feel, relieved or terrified.
"Do not worry," Solas says, softly, empathizing with the worried mother. It wasn't common in his past to know people without magic, although he did know some, but he had met human mothers before, and they cared deeply for their children. Solas supposed all mothers would, but not having much of a reference for that, he can't comment. But he understands how confusing and worrisome it must be to not have magic, live in a land where magic is weak, and suddenly have children powerful in magic that could be in danger of entities that she has no means of protecting them from.
"It is hard not to," Catelyn says plainly, taking Bran from Robb and holding him to her chest. "I don't want anything to happen to my children."
"That is why I shall teach them to protect themselves and each other," Solas says easily. "Magic is a powerful tool, but it comes with great responsibility. In time, you will see, I'm sure. Your children will be better off knowing how to control their magic, then not."
"Come now, boys, it is almost time for your sword lessons," Solas says, stalking around the two oldest boys in the Stark family. He watches as twigs and leaves float around them, carried by their magic, whisps of green energy keeping them afloat.
"We almost got it, Solas," Jon says, dark eyes focusing hard on the sticks and leaves he's moving.
"Almost there..." Robb says slowly before both boys combined the two sets and they spin around one another before twisting and turning until a shape comes from it, looking almost like a person. It's barely holding together and the smallest movements are jerky and mismatched, but Solas is impressed that they were able to intertwine their magic at all. Especially considering that it's an advanced ability that they're playing around with. Both boys grin happily at it, before letting the leaves and sticks go.
Solas smiles, amused and also proud. "I am impressed, boys. You are picking up the small details well." He links his hands behind his back and walks around the boys until he's standing in front of them. "You two are strong, and I am confident that you will be able to unleash powerful spells, but you must also focus on the smaller, more controlled movements as well. It won't always be explosions and waves of energy, sometimes it'll be the small moves. And the two of you are getting really good at it."
Magic wraps around the sticks and leaves again, pulling them up into the air and molding it into the shape of a person. The movements are smooth and practiced. They wave their hand and spin around in the air, mesmerizing the boys in front of them.
Solas laughs, eyes crinkling. "But not as good as Sansa is, unfortunately."
Both boys twist around to see Sansa and Arya standing in the doorway with Ser Rodrick right behind them, Sansa's hand spinning around in control of the sticks-and-leaves person. Arya is grinning broadly at her eight-year-old sister. Ser Rodrick looks amused now, whereas just last year, he was still overly cautious and mistrusting of things moving around with almost invisible power. Ser Rodrick has since taught himself - with Solas's help - to be able to catch the subtle movements of magic.
"As a knight of House Stark it is my duty to be able to hold off against anything, and that starts with being able to see it coming," he had explained to Solas. The ancient mage hadn't needed an explanation to help him, but he appreciated being clued in on the why behind it.
"Sansa, knock it off," Robb snaps, crossing his arms over his chest in playful annoyance, but Solas can sense the pride coming from the oldest of the Stark children. "Showing off isn't becoming of a lady."
"And being a sore loser isn't becoming of a lord," Sansa claps back quickly, grinning playfully. Robb fights a grin, shaking his head.
"Fine," Robb says, sparing a glance over at Jon, who shrugs his shoulders, smiling back, and both bow their heads, "we yield to you, Lady Stark. Have mercy on us unworthy young lords before your greatness."
Sansa smiles, pleased and Arya claps in excitement while Ser Rodrick shakes his head, bemused. "It's our turn to practice, brothers! Our time with the Septa is finished! Go, now!" Arya waves her hands around dismissing them. This is the only time of day in which Arya is quick to dismiss her loving older cousin as if he was in her way.
Jon laughs, sparing a look over at Robb before nodding. "I suppose it is our time, then." He turns, making his way over to Bran, who was still reading about the history of magic that Solas had written specifically for the people of the North - his students. He leans down and kisses the top of Bran's head before waving to Solas and leaving. Robb squeezes his little brother's shoulders and then pets his head.
"Enjoy double lessons while you have them, Bran," Robb says, forlorn before laughing and chasing after his twelve-year-old cousin.
"You're breaking Ser Rodrick's heart," Sansa says, as he races past, making him laugh more before vanishing down the hall. The Knight of house Stark shakes his head, amused before following after the two boys to the training yard to start their training for the day.
Arya goes barreling past her sister and lands right in front of Solas, dark eyes eager and shining as she stares up at him. "What are we going to learn how to do today, Solas? Are we going to fly? Throw fireballs?" Her little hands twist up in her dress, trying to contain her excitement. Her entire body shakes as she stares up at Solas.
Sansa shakes her head, frowning, as she walks into the room and closes the door behind herself. "Solas isn't going to teach us anything like that."
Arya pouts, her shoulders slumping.
Solas smiles, leading both the girls over to the space cleared out in the center of the room for practice. He can't believe it's already been two years since he came to Winterfell. It was odd at first, trying to integrate with humans. But he did look enough human, except for his ears and his sharper features. He definitely doesn't look like a man of the North, but they are growing accustomed to him. With the Starks at his back, vouching for him, the people were quick to warm up to him. Their mannerisms were crisp and clear cut, but they were good, honest people.
Solas felt like he was becoming more and more like family. It took Catelyn and Ned some time, but the kids were quick to take to him and Solas liked being surrounded by so many children eager and willing to learn from him.
He was even blessed with meeting the newest addition to the Stark family the night that he was born. Little lord Rickon Stark. He's still just a baby for now, but with him and all the other Stark children - including Jon - Solas has been able to see as time passes. He feels as though only a blink of an eye has passed, but he knows that isn't true as the children grow before him. They are a good indicator of such.
"Are you going to show us your Fade ability?" Arya asks, clapping her hands excitedly.
Solas tilts his head. "Fade ability?" He tries to think of what he's shown the children but isn't sure he's done any of his true Fade magic. No, the only one of the children who has been exposed to Fade magic is Jon, and that is in Solas's efforts to teach him how to control his Dreamer abilities. Which isn't going so well. They have a long way.
Bran chimes in, finally turning away from the book he hands clenched in his hands. "Yes, Solas, the one where you create green light!"
"Yes, yes!" Arya exclaims, bouncing up and down. "You would vanish into it."
Solas blinks a few times, before narrowing his eyes slightly. "Ah, you mean when I enter into the Fade. That isn't a skill I will teach you yet. I need the help of my orb to do that."
"Your magical focal," Arya gasps, brown eyes wide.
"Foci," Solas corrects. "My magical foci." He smooths out his tunic a bit before lacing his fingers together behind his back. "And you needn't worry about that for now, Lady Arya. For now, as your brothers do, you should work on control. Sansa is ready to move on, you are not." Sansa smiles, pleased while Ayra pouts, crossing her arms over her chest. "And Bran, you need to keep reading," Solas says, turning sharp blue eyes to the youngest in the room. Like his older sister, Bran pouts and turns away, but not before sharing a look with Arya.
Sansa rolls her pretty blue eyes at her two little siblings before looking over at Solas, her own excitement playing across her face. "What do I get to learn today, Solas?"
Solas waves for her to come over to the desk next to Bran. "I'll have you read up about supplementary spells while I get your sister ready and then we will learn about enhancements."
"But I want to learn about that too..." Arya says softly, frowning.
"You need more practice," Sansa says easily, taking the new book from Solas and sitting down next to Bran. "Maybe if you spent more time focusing on growing as both a mage and a lady, you would be able to move on. The Septa is going to tan your hide when she finds you for skipping out today."
"Soon," Solas promises. "You are very talented, Arya. In time you will excel too. Be patient."
The boy with purple ringed eyes glances up from where he was stacking the swords up from training that day. He smiles at Arya standing in the doorway to the shed. He can hear Theon and Robb going at it outside, pushing each other around and jesting about being able to best one another in a bout of sword skills. Jon rolls his eyes at them with a little shake of his head before offering a smile to his sister.
"Hello Arya," Jon says. "How was practice today? Did you learn something new?"
Arya nods. "I think I got a little bit better at controlling smaller objects, but I'm not as good as Sansa." She kicks at the ground with the toe of her boot, walking into the shed, sparing a curious glance at all the swords and shields hanging up around them. She reaches out and lets the tips of her little fingers touch the smooth steal of one of the blades.
"That's good," Jon says, tilting his head slightly. "And don't touch that. Lady Stark will have my head if she realizes that I let you play around with a sword at six years old."
"I'm learning how to shoot fireballs, what's wrong with swords?" Ayra asks. "And I'm almost seven."
Jon gives her a look. "Are you really learning how to shoot fireballs?" He already knows the answer, but he wants her to say it anyway.
Arya avoids his eyes. "No."
Jon gives her a thin smile. "That's why. And don't worry about Sansa. She's better at it than we are too." He shrugs his shoulders. "She has better control than any of us do. It's okay. Everyone has their skills. We just have to keep practicing and we'll get there." He doesn't seem too bothered, which is just like Jon. He accepts that he will get better so long as he keeps practicing, but Jon is dedicated and patient like that.
"Can you tell me about it again, Jon?" Arya asks, not interested in being taught another lesson.
Jon blinks a few times, turning to make sure that everything was in the right place before nodding for Arya to leave and following her out of the shed. "What do you mean, Arya?"
She takes his hand while they walk, watching as the people walk about around them, talking and going about their day. It's early evening now and everyone is getting ready for the end of their day so they're finishing up anything else that needed to be done or shouldn't be held off until tomorrow. Jon spots both Robb and Theon already heading into the castle for the night, pushing and shoving each other along the way.
Theon wasn't a mage, as they were. He didn't have magic in him so he wasn't able to train with them, but last year Lord Stark took pity on him and told him the truth. He saw Theon as another of his sons and felt bad for all of them having to lie to him and somehow dance around his curiosity at being left out through parts of the day. Although, he has been able to spend more time with Ser Rodrick one-on-one, which is indeed helping him with his swordsmanship. But no doubt, in some ways, he feels left out as he is the only of the children that can't do anything. Well, Rickon too, but he's just a baby but Solas has already assured them that he would have magic too.
So whenever he's free, Robb spends his time with Theon to help make him feel less left out. Jon feels bad and tries to help out too, but Theon... well, sometimes, he was exhausting. Robb never seemed to mind so Jon is content with letting his brother handle the ward of the Stark House.
"About your powers. As a Dreamer, I mean." Arya's voice pulls him out of his thoughts.
Jon gives her a curious look. "I don't know what more I can tell you, Arya. Sometimes, when I dream, I enter into the Fade in a physical form. I can then interact with the Fade around me in ways that most cannot. But I don't have control over it, and the ability itself is dangerous."
Arya waves the hand around that isn't wrapped up in Jon's. "No, not about that. I mean, tell me more what it's like there?"
"The Fade is... hard to describe if you haven't been there," Jon says slowly. "It's a place entirely of magic. Spirits there control the realm and bend it to their will. In the Fade, Spirit can do whatever they want. Most of the time, they spend it wandering about and doing their own thing. Some powerful Spirits can create separate sections of the Fade called Domains. In these Domains, they hold almost complete control. Everything there is unnatural because nothing there has to obey the laws we humans do."
"Like..." Jon tries to think of an example that wouldn't scare his sister. He could talk all day about the demons he had seen doing battle against his mother in the Fade - both before and after Solas made her go back and taught Jon how to keep her from latching onto him. She wasn't happy about it, but then again, she couldn't speak or otherwise show a lot of emotions and she always came to him when he went into the Fade so surely she wasn't too mad.
But anyway, he remembers clearly about two months again. He was half asleep when he felt the pull into the Fade. He has been learning to detect this feeling and is at least getting a bit of warning when his powers are acting up - not that he's able to do anything about it yet. Being able to recognize the feeling was the first step and he was finally starting to pick up on it.
So he felt himself be pulled into the Fade and awoke somewhere outside of the Palace, in the streets surrounding it. The darkness that permeated that place was clawing away at his heels but he shook it off. That's when he heard it, the sloth demon.
"Surely you must be tired of it all, little Dreamer?"
"What?" Jon turned to the creature, feeling the malice dripping from every aspect of it; goopy blackened body, blazing reddish-purple light in the center of its face, and even its voice.
But with that malice is a sweet whisper, bored and taunting. "It must be so exhausting all the time, little Dreamer, to be continuously pulled back and forth between the Veil. I envy your constitution. Don't you want to be released from it all?"
Jon shook slightly, never having come across a demon before now. At least, none that he remembered. "No, I don't. I'm going home now."
"Home?" The demon echoed. "You cannot go home yet. You just got here. You will use up all your energy at this rate."
Jon wasn't fooled by its half-hearted concern. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
It tilted its head in mocking worry as its power stretches out around them. From what Jon remembered from Solas, Sloth demons tended to keep to themselves. They opted not to fight if they could avoid it, but they were like any other demon out there - they couldn't ignore an easy ticket out of the Fade. Or a powerful enough mage to satiate their hunger for power, even if it is only momentary relief.
"Oh, but I am concerned." Suddenly, its unnatural body twisted like a snake until it was directly in front of him, standing at well over six feet, dwarfing the young boy in front of it. Its power stretched out, further and further until the area around them started to look strange, no longer looking like the streets he was used to, but appeared to be a palace of a different kind. It wasn't the Palace he was used to either. There were banners hanging from the wall that looked like the sun with bloodied prints across it.
Frightened, not understanding what was happening at the time, Jon turned and started to run away. He felt like his limbs were stuck in the mud as the magic of the demon wrapped around him, pulling him further into this place. He screamed, terror coursing through him like ice in his veins.
And then she came.
His mother launched herself off of the nearby building and tackled the demon to the ground, surprising them both. In moments she was ripping and tearing into the demon without mercy. Her teeth were bright and flashing and every whip of her tail seemed to push the image away further and further. The demon finally managed to free itself and flee into the shifting image before all of that vanished.
Jon sat crying on the ground as his mother trotted up to him, whining softly. She was hurt, he could tell, but instead of bleeding blood, her wounds poured out energy into the Fade. The magic of her soul, he later learned. She curled around him and licked his face as if to ease his fears. He buried his face into her pitch-black fur and cried until Solas came to him and pulled him out of the Fade.
Jon later learned that the image he was seeing was the sloth demon pulling him into its domain. If it had managed it, Solas grimly reported, "It would be impossible for you to have awakened on your own. That demon would have devoured your soul."
Jon is a lot more careful when he awakens in the Fade, especially when he isn't in the Palace when he does. Thankfully there hasn't been a repeat and Jon's mother was fine, but he never forgot that feeling. He knows it's foolish but he hopes that his siblings never have to feel that as he had. Never.
"I don't know what to say," Jon admits, pulling out of the memory and back into the present. "In the Fade, something that shouldn't be... like rocks! Yes, rocks! In the distance, you can see rocks the size of mountains floating high in the sky!"
Arya's eyes widen greatly, her grip on his hand tightening as she bounces up and down excitedly. "Oh! I want to go! I want to see!"
Jon smiles down at her, giving her hand a little squeeze in return. "Maybe someday you'll get to see it."
Arya's excitement turns into a pout. "But I want to see it now."
"You would either need to be a Dreamer, as I am or have something like Solas's foci to be able to just walk into the Fade," Jon says, casting her a sideways look. "And since you don't have a foci and you aren't a Dreamer as far as we know, you're just going to have to wait until Solas teaches you something or... well, I don't know." He shrugs his shoulders. "Be patient. Besides, technically, you go to the Fade every night when you sleep."
Arya looks disinterested in that. "Yeah, but I don't remember anything. Not really. And there are no floating rocks in my dreams."
"Maybe tonight there will be some," Jon teases.
He expected Arya to pout again, or glare up at him and give a snippy remark, but instead, she looks curious, thoughtful even. Jon watches in real-time as her mind starts to stitch something together. Her dark eyes dart around for a moment, working her way through a problem in her head before she looks up at Jon with a smile that leaves him feeling uncomfortably on edge.
"I'm going to go play with Bran before dinner, okay?"
Jon nods slowly, wondering what the little girl could be up to. "Are you alright, Arya?"
She grins, nodding confidently with a mischievous gleam in her dark eyes. "Yes! Goodbye Jon! We'll see you at dinner!" With that, she releases his hand and runs off in search of her little brother, half-hazardously remembering to pick up the bottom of her dress after she nearly tripped over it, not at all caring the bottom was turning brown from the dirt and mud.
Jon looks after her, having a bad feeling about this.