Disclaimer- I do not own the characters or the world or anything of that sort, it belongs to GRRM and HBO…

Time-travel fic, I admit that it's a clichéd shit storyline. Mostly canon but with 'some' deviations... This is my first GoT fanfic, it's my first fanfic ever, so read at your own risk.

"Words" – Normal speech…

"Words" – Thoughts and stressed words…

The Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell sat on the monstrous, treacherous seat of King Aegon the Conqueror, the man who once united all the kingdoms into one realm under the Targaryen banner and established the Targaryen dynasty. A seat forged out of the swords of his fallen enemies; it was meant to be a reminder that even 'kings should never sit easy'.

His leg still ached, throbbing sharply every passing minute. If that was not enough, his head ached as well. He wished he could climb down the dreadful chair and pace on the floor, but he knew that it would not appeal to his leg, hence he sat there enduring the sharp ends of the reforged swords that were fanning out like talons. He now understood why Robert had no interest in sitting on the throne and ruling the realm, as much as he had enjoyed winning it. He cursed inwardly for Robert and his damned hunting trip.

Before the throne stood Ser Marq Piper, the son and heir of Lord Clement Piper, the Lord of House Piper of Pinkmaiden. Beside him stood Ser Karyl Vance, the son and heir of Lord Ronnel Vance, the Lord of House Vance of Wayfarer's Rest. And then there was Ser Raymun Darry, the Lord of House Darry. Alongside the three noble knights clad in armour were several peasants and common folk all of whom were kneeling before the throne, they were survivors for the towns Mummer's Ford, Sherrer and Wendish Town.

Littlefinger, Varys and Pycelle were there below, questioning and discerning the common folk and the three knights who have come before the throne. While Ned watched carefully, the three knights were mostly at ease despite being questioned, their postures said as much.

However, Ned could feel the unease in the hall, as high lords and servants alike strained to listen in. He could not pretend to be surprised. The west had been a tinderbox since Catelyn had seized Tyrion Lannister. Both House Tully of Riverrun and House Lannister of Casterly Rock had called their banners, and armies were massing in the pass below the Golden Tooth. It was only a matter of time until the blood begins to flow like a river.

Grandmaester Pycelle, ever the faithful creature of House Lannister, was completely convinced that the man who led the brigands that attacked these towns was not the Mountain. He believed these men; Gregor Clegane was no true knight. If Tywin Lannister wished to strike fear into the hearts of the Riverlords, the Mountain is the one whom he would send to do the dirty deed. Gregor Clegane the Mountain was nearly eight-foot-tall and weighed thirty stones, the man was known for his inhuman strength. As a man who was well acquainted with big men such as Lord Greatjon Umber and the simple-minded stable boy Hodor, it rarely surprised him to see bigger men, but Gregor Clegane was an oddity. Truly a monster for all intents and purposes. He could picture Clegane as a brigand attacking towns and slaughtering men and women for his amusements.

Grandmaester's words brought him out of his own musing, "My lord hand, I urge you not to consider these accusations. There are many large men in the realm. As per the commons, these brigands did not wear the Lannister colours or banners. Ser Marq is confused."

It was then the maester was interrupted, "Are there really men as large as the Mountain That Rides?" Ser Karyl asked looking bemused at the maester, with an ever-present smirk on him, "I have yet to meet one."

"Nor has any man here…" Ser Raymun's voice was supportive, calm and he shared the same smirk that ser Vance did, his eyes, however, were sharper, "Even his own brother is a pup beside him. My lords, open your eyes. Do you need to see his seal on these atrocities? It was Gregor Clegane."

Something was amiss, Ned could feel it. The commons were fearful over the ongoing argument, which was understandable, but the three knights were all confident, too confident in their allegations. He glanced subtly at Littlefinger and Varys below, both of them were facing the knights and keenly watching, but he could tell from their posture that they felt it as well. It assured him that he was not imagining things in his pain. The knights had some proof, they were just playing along to reveal it at the right moment.

"Why should Ser Gregor turn brigand?" Pycelle asked still oblivious as the old fool argued, "By the grace of his liege lord, he holds a stout keep and lands of his own. And above all else, the man is an anointed knight."

"A false knight!" Ser Marq said calmly, the accusation spilt out as if it were absolute truth, "Lord Tywin's mad dog."

"My lord Hand." Pycelle once again turned to him all too quickly and declared in a stiff voice, "I urge you to remind this good knight that Lord Tywin Lannister is the father of our own gracious queen."

"Thank you, Grand Maester Pycelle." Ned said, his voice even and smooth, "I fear we might have forgotten that if you had not pointed it out." His jape came out as a grimace as his leg throbbed, but it did silence the old maester immediately.

Ned cleared his voice to gain their attention, "Noble Sers, I do believe that these were no ordinary brigands, and I might believe that the Mountain was at the helm of this. But a large man leading the raiders who rode warhorses, wearing maille and plate armour is not enough to implicate Gregor Clegane of these crimes. You admit yourself that these brigands did not wear Lannister colours, neither did they carry any banners. Do you have any proof to substantiate these allegations?"

As soon as he spoke, the three knights either smirked wider or grinned, it told him that his probing query had done its trick. Varys and Littlefinger looked intrigued, Pycelle seemed alarmed at the ease of the knights.

"Yes, my lord, we do." It was Ser Vance who had spoken. Now that made the entire hall to erupt into murmurs.

Ser Vance looked at the man behind him, the man gave a nod immediately and turned around as he walked away to the throne room's large doors. A few minutes of anticipation built in the hall, the high lords and everyone seemed to murmur and shift about in place, keen to find out this so-called proof. And then, six men walked into the chambers carrying a large stout wooden box in their arms, carefully walking down the steps and proceeded towards the throne parting the crowd as they marched.

Ser Raymun stepped forward when the box was set down, "This is our proof, my lords!" He loudly proclaimed to everyone in the large hall.

One of the six men opened the lid and pulled the cover for them, and they saw it. There were gasps from all around the chamber, many whispering and muttering, some chattering. Ned stood up from his seat as he stared at the large corpse of Gregor Clegane, rotting green with a foul stench that overpowered their senses.

The sudden stench drove everyone in the immediate vicinity to part away from it. Soon, the entire throne room was filled with energy, everyone was speaking amongst themselves, ladies and noblemen alike gossiping.

Pycelle looked as if he had seen a ghost, Littlefinger was for some reason appeared delighted but with only a thin smirk on his features to indicate it, Varys looked impassive as ever, but he could tell something had changed in his features, unseen energy bubbling underneath the veneer. He wondered these changes in the small council members, Pycelle may act like a fool, but the old maester was sharp, however without any power, the man was essentially harmless. Littlefinger and Varys were hard to discern, the realisation came slowly, but once it came, he understood that this was no news to them, they knew of this beforehand and were clearly expecting this to happen.

The rotting corpse of the Mountain was still clad in maille and thick plate armour with dried blood and mud marring its lustre.

"How?!" That was the only thing he could ask, as it was the question in everyone's minds.

Clegane's raids were a surprise, that much was certain, the knights had claimed as much. If it were not, the houses of the Riverlands would have called their banners and amassed men to meet the Mountain in the field, they would not have allowed three towns and nearly a dozen villages to be sacked. And a smart commander would have attacked quickly and retreated before anyone could intercept them. And yet here was the Mountain, dead in a box, slain in battle. The Mountain may not be smart, but the false knight had a killer's instinct and had loyalty to his liege lord, dog or not, he would have followed Lord Tywin's plan to the last letter.

"Your son, is an accomplished swordsman, my lord!" It was Ser Marq who had spoken loudly.

The statement broke him out of his ponderings. Confusion spread across his features, so did in the entire hall. A new query came about suddenly. His son?

"My son…?"

Who were they talking of? He could only think of it as a mistake. What was Robb doing in the Riverlands? And why was he fighting the Mountain? Did he march south? If so, when did this happen and why was he not made aware of this? More questions came about bubbling in his mind.

Ser Raymun continued in the other knight's place, "Yes, my lord. The lad bested the Mountain in single combat, while his wolves slaughtered the Mountain's men."

Wolves…? Wolves, not a wolf. Then, it dawned on him. His eyes widened as his thoughts fell in place. Jon!

Jon was the one in the Riverlands protecting Sansa's and Arya's wolves. It must be him, he concluded. Jon had slaughtered the Mountain? He could not fathom it.

Ned never felt prouder of that boy as of this moment, how could he not? To best the Mountain in single combat at five and ten, it was no mean task. Furthermore, his gallantry would avenge the death of Lady Elia Martell and Jon's own half-siblings. The notion wasn't lost on him, perhaps the gods had delivered justice for the deaths of those innocent children by their brother's own hand.

Ned, however, still had to ask to confirm, "Jon?"

"Yes, my lord." Lord Darry replied with a nod, careful not to insult the Hand of the King by mentioning his son's baseborn status, "It seems your son was passing through on happenstance, saw the town being sacked and intervened."

"One man, alone?" Littlefinger asked curiously.

This time it was Ser Vance who replied, "Yes, Lord Baelish, he was one man. All reports suggest an unnatural skill with the blade he has, must have inherited Lord Stark's skill. With his Direwolves, however, he was truly a monster."

The knight then looked at one of the commons and gave an assuring nod, as if to prompt the girl to speak up. A girl with tear-stricken cheeks, she craned her neck to look at him on the throne, "They killed my mother, yer grace." She hiccupped softly, "He…he…he helped us. Slew the men who were hurting my sister, gave us their swords and went into the town to slay the rest." The crowd in the hall murmured at the girl's words.

"Where was this? When?" Ned asked now pleasantly glad.

"At Wendish Town, my lord..." Ser Marq's tone was that of levelled disinterest, or at least that was what the man intended it to be, "…nearly a fortnight ago."

Seeing the doubts and confusion among the lords at court, Lord Darry then elaborated, "My lord, your son and his wolves slaughtered thirty and six of the Mountain's men and stopped the assault on Wendish Town by ending the Mountain's life in single combat."

Ned nodded; however, he was no longer interested in the boy's accomplishments, he was always aware that Lyanna's boy would become a great man wherever he went, his worry was of Jon's safety. With Clegane dead, Lord Tywin would not sit still, the queen herself may demand Jon's head, not for the Mountain's death itself, but for harbouring the wolves that were sentenced to be put to death by Robert himself. King's justice, they would call it.

He wished to be irritated, but could not bring himself to blame the boy for using the wolves in battle, not when it could have cost him his life had he not. Jon's life was more important to him than the queen's displeasure of the wolves being alive. Meanwhile, he still wasn't glad of this development, this would only serve to spark more tension.

"Why is my son not here?" By now, the entire court was murmuring and Ned voice, once again brought silence as they all tuned in to listen.

"My lord, your son was injured in the skirmish. While he did manage to slaughter the Lannister dogs, he was not conscious when Ser Desmond Grell of Riverrun rode into the town having vanquished another fifty of the Mountain's men on the road who were fleeing towards the Lannister hills with the loot. The townsfolk were doing their best to care for the lad, Ser Desmond had his men take him to the closest castle for the maester's assistance, Seagard is where he is." Ser Raymun had a son of his own, the lord could understand his concern, evident due to the softer tone.

Relief washed across him. If the fifty Mountain's men that Ser Desmond the master-at-arms of House Tully had intercepted hadn't fled away from the Mountain for whatever reason it was, Jon could have died. He thanked the old gods for their blessing. Seagard was under the lordship of the Mallisters, he was well acquainted with Lord Jason Mallister, an honourable man who was fair and good. The renowned knight would not acquiesce with dishonourable deeds if the queen were to demand Jon's head or the wolves. It was strange that he hadn't received a raven from Seagard by now. It could mean that either a raven was not sent, or it was intercepted by the queen or one of the councillors. He made a note to send a raven as soon as possible to ensure Jon's safety.

Ned calmed himself before he asked, "Are his wounds grievous?"

Ser Marq answered with a frown, "We have not seen the boy's condition ourselves, my lord. However, Ser Desmond reported to Lord Hoster that your son's neck was nearly crushed by Clegane before he slew the Mountain. Fear not, my lord, the lad survived the wound. Ser Desmond assured that he fought off the fever but was still struggling to breathe when he was taken to Seagard by Tully men, my lord."

Ned sat back on the throne, his face must have shown the tension and pain, as everyone in his immediate vicinity portrayed pitying looks. From his seat, he could see men slipping out the door at the far end of the hall. Rats running off to nibble at the cheese the queen offers them. He quickly schooled himself, this was no time to show weakness.

Baelish once again posed a question, "Ser Marq, Ser Karyl, Ser Raymun, I ask you this. These holdfasts were under your protection. Where were you when all this slaughter had happened? Do you often rely on random bastards with wolves to protect the townsfolk?"

Ned's gaze sharpened, as he noticed the mention of Jon's status. Littlefinger was not only trying to provoke the knights, rather he was subtly allowing the entire court to know that Jon was his baseborn son and not trueborn. For what purpose Baelish did this, he could not guess yet, but it must be some ploy if Baelish was bold enough to risk antagonising him publicly. All three knights glared at the Master of Coin, just as he did for a moment, but for different reasons.

Ser Karyl Vance answered just as calmly, his earlier smirk now missing, "I was attending my lord father in the pass below the Golden Tooth, as was Ser Marq. When the word of these outrages at Mummer's Ford and Sherrer reached Ser Edmure Tully, he sent Ser Desmond with a small force of his men to find what survivors could be found."

Ser Raymun Darry spoke up, "Ser Edmure had summoned me to Riverrun with all my strength. I was camped across the river from his walls, awaiting his commands, when the word reached me. By the time I could return to my own lands, Clegane and his vermin were dead at the hands of Lord Stark's son and Ser Desmond and his men."

Littlefinger stroked the point of his beard thoughtfully. "And if more of these brigands were to come, ser?"

"If more were to come again, we'll use their blood to water the fields they burnt," Ser Marq Piper declared hotly.

"Ser Edmure has sent men to every village and holdfast within a day's ride of the border." Ser Karyl explained, "The next raider will not have such an easy time of it."

And that may be precisely what Lord Tywin wants, Ned thought to himself worriedly, to bleed off strength from Riverrun, goad the boy into scattering his swords. His lady wife's brother was young, and more gallant than wise. Wisdom often came with age, the boy has yet to truly live. Edmure would try to hold every inch of his soil, to defend every man, woman, and child who would name him lord, and Tywin Lannister was shrewd enough to anticipate that.

"If your fields and holdfasts are safe from harm, what then do you ask of the throne?" Varys asked quietly in his usual powdered and smiling disposition.

"We seek justice, Lord Varys. We seek justice." Ser Raymun repeated as he stressed, "The Mountain is one of Lord Tywin's bannerman, a loyal dog, he would not ride into the Riverlands with his men on his own without permission for his liege lord. The Lannisters have broken the king's peace. This is proof of that. We ask leave to answer them, steel for steel."

"Yes, my lords." Ser Marq declared, "Ser Edmure agrees, we must pay reprisal for these atrocities committed by the Clegane, but Lord Hoster commanded us to come here to beg leave."

Thank the gods for Lord Hoster. Ned breathed a sigh of relief. If Riverrun had retaliated without permission from the crown, Cersei with her influence at court would have spun the tale and insisted that it was the Tullys who broke the peace first. But having Clegane's corpse brought to the crown first was wise of Lord Tully, now this was undeniable proof of the Lannister's deceit. When Robert arrives, he would now have no choice but to order Tywin to stand down, and bring this chaos to an end with a neutral dialogue, rather than commit to war. Thank you, my son. Ned thanked the old gods again for granting Jon the courage to fight and ensuring his safety. If the Mountain had escaped, this situation would have been worse than what it is now.

"Robert bid me to sit here in his place, to listen with his ears, and to speak with his voice. I mean to do just that…though if a war was to be declared, I believe that he must be told." He saw a familiar face beneath the tapestries, "Ser Robar."

Ser Robar Royce stepped forward and bowed in respect, "My lord."

"Your father is hunting with the king, is he not?" Ned asked calmly.

The knight replied carefully, "Yes, my lord."

"Will you bring them word of what was said and done here today?" Ned asked again, knowing that Robert's immediate reaction would be reported back to him and he would have the pleasure of giving the knights in service of House Tully their leave.

"At once, my lord." The knight said as he took a step back and turned to walk away.

Ned's gaze fell on the survivors, "People of Sherrer, Mummer's Ford and Wendish Town, I cannot give you back your homes or your crops, nor can I restore your dead to life. But perhaps I can give you some small measure of assurance that these trespasses will not go unanswered."

His eyes searched the faces along the wall, "Lord Beric." He called out, "Thoros of Myr. Ser Gladden. Lord Lothar." The men named stepped forward one by one, "Each of you is to assemble twenty men, to bring my word to Riverrun when Ser Royce returns. Twenty of my own guards shall go with you. Lord Beric Dondarrion, you shall have the command, as befits your rank. You shall ride to the pass below Golden Tooth, you shall be the eyes and ears of the throne."

The young lord with the red-gold hair bowed, "As you command, Lord Eddard."

His gaze fell upon Ser Marq, Ser Karyl and Ser Raymun, "Rest sers, word will soon be sent from His Grace. Wars will not start today, you shall wait."

When he saw that the knights were about to protest, he held up a hand, "The throne will hear no more petitions today."

Alyn and Porther climbed the steep iron steps to help him back down, as they made their descent. At the base of the Iron Throne, Varys was gathering papers from the council table. Littlefinger and Grand Maester Pycelle had already taken their leave, no doubt to plot he would guess.

He was handed his cane, which he used to limp his way back to the tower, he turned to Vayon, "Find a stout fast ship for ten of our men, they shall be on a journey to the far reaches of the sea."

"Where will they be going, my lord?" Vayon asked him curiously.

"Sunspear." He whispered, "They shall deliver the corpse of the Mountain to those out there who would be interested."

Trekking through the snow, ankle-deep on every step, he gazed down the valley below. His gaze lingered on the shimmering golden surface of the Milkwater as it curved downwind like a snake. They descended down the ridge without a sound, with the howling wind their only company.

He wore his black cloak proudly, even though Frenya had offered him wildling fur to wear, he had politely declined. He was a man of the Night's Watch, and he was still bound by oath, and he was not about to cower before this wildling horde.

In the distance, the welcoming fires were strewn like jewels across the floor of the river valley below. This was the settlement of the wildlings, the stronghold whispered among the whispers. The one Craster chose not to reveal to him, especially under the tip of his knife that had carved him in the end.

After having heard the vision of the mutiny at Craster's from Jon, he had devised a plan, one that would deprive the rangers of the Watch the confidence to ride out in force for a ranging and into a slaughter.

Craster may aid the Watch, but the detested wildling was a worshiper of the Others and sacrificed his sons to the cold gods. Craster very particularly disliked him, for his Stark name, and the feeling had been mutual. When Craster had refused to help them, he had seen the opportunity, one of his men had provoked the wildling with keen insults.

As Craster had succumbed to the provocation and attacked them, brutally cutting off his man's ear, he had enough reason to kill the wildling, but not before torturing whatever information he could about Mance Rayder. While he was not proud of what was done, he did not have it in him to care much, not when he knew in his heart that the world was a better place without that wildling in it. He had sent three of his most trusted men with specific instructions, men he was sure who would not rape or hurt those women, to escort them to the Wall, and to explain what had happened to Craster to the Lord Commander. By now, those women will have taken residence in Mole Town, which would be a safer abode for them than in the wilderness Beyond-the-Wall.

The thought of women brought him to the spearwife Frenya, she had tried to steal into his bed no less than a dozen times in the past moon's turn. She was comely enough, light brown hair, sharp black eyes, most of her figure was often covered in fur, but she had tried to lie with him more than enough times to tell that she was curvaceous. She reminded him of the Flint girl he was smitten with as a boy, the one Lyanna and Brandon used to tease him about, he could not remember her name. If he was not a man of the Night's Watch, he would have gladly bedded this woman, may have even taken her as a wife, but he was under oath and he wasn't one to break oaths.

His problems with the spearwife served as a constant source of amusement for Rayder and his men, they often implied that he was a eunuch. His practised mask of indifference to their japes secured him even more japes.

His feet were killing him. Sure-footed steeds were rare beyond the Wall, not many could survive in this scarce world of ice and stone. And those that survived were a good source of meat. The free folk would not miss the opportunity to taste horse meat. And yet, the king-beyond-the-Wall Rayder, his wife Dalla, her sister Val, and her man Jarl all rode steady steeds. Drifting through the snow on his feet was becoming quite tiring, he wished at least they allowed him to ride his own mount. They may hate him less or even fear him for slaying a Walker, but the lack of rope around his wrist did not allow him to hold any illusions, he was still a mere prisoner. And they were intent on weakening him, but he shall not give in.

"Tired, are ya' crow?" Benjen felt no need to turn, he knew who it was. The one they called Longspear Ryk had taken it upon himself to provoke him at every chance. Frenya usually warded the fool off with a clever jape involving his cock, but the woman was nowhere near him now, which made the endurance quite harder.

At the bottom of the slope, they came upon a little stream flowing down from the foothills to join the Milkwater. It looked all stones and glass, though they could hear the sound of water running beneath the frozen surface.

He felt the spear tip of Ryk's weapon almost piercing the skin on his back. The steed that the one named Ryk was mounted on, stood beside him. That got him moving again. As they moved, eight figures emerged from the distance. Outriders, all riding atop their own mounts, men and women both, clad in fur and boiled leather, with here and there a helm, a bit of maille, with all sorts of mismatched weapons.

The one in the front, he recognised. Rattleshirt, they called him the Lord of Bones, for he had a sort of armour made entirely of yellowed bones, pieces of them, human and animal alike. Like Alfyn Crowkiller, and the Weeper and Harma Dogshead, this one too was an infamous raider.

"Mance!" Rattleshirt called out to Rayder.

"Have the rest of the clans arrived?" Rayder asked without even a greeting, just a sharp nod of acknowledgement. Rattleshirt did not seem offended at all.

Clans? How many clans, and how many men, he hoped they would specify.

"Almost all of em'. Nightrunners, Crabbers and a few Ice River folk left yet. Giantsbane's gone to get the giants…" He heard slivers of the rest of the conversation as they spoke in a whisper.

Giants? He was hoping that these giants were the name of some clan, but after witnessing dead men and wargs, he had little hope in his own hopes.

Then Rattleshirt's eyes landed on him, "Is this the one? The crow we've been hearing o'."

"Aye." Rayder nodded, "This is the one that slew a Walker."

"So those fuckers can die! We need to know how…"

With that, Rayder gestured with his shoulder and the outriders rode away still conversing away from earshot. It felt deliberate, to keep things that he ought not to know out of his ears. He waded through the shallow snow and moved beside Rayder's woman and the other spearwives.

The wind was blowing wet and heavy as they crossed the valley of the Milkwater and rode single file through the river camp. There were cookfires all along the river, amongst wayns and carts and sledges. Many of the wildlings had thrown up tents, of hide and skin and felted wool. And many others sheltered behind rocks in crude lean-tos or slept beneath their wagons. At one fire Ben saw a man hardening the points of long wooden spears and tossing them in a pile. Elsewhere two bearded youths in boiled leather were sparring with staffs, leaping at each other over the flames, grunting each time one landed a blow. A dozen women sat nearby in a circle, fletching arrows. As they moved, he saw women dancing, children running and playing, men fixing sledges, tending to weapons and more.

The camp went on forever, it was more like a hundred camps haphazardly put together in haste than one organised camp with a properly assembled supply line. Each one of those camps was more vulnerable than the last. It stretched out over long leagues, the wildlings had no defences to speak of, no deep trenches or pits dug around the camp, nor sharpened stakes, only small groups of outriders patrolling their perimeters. Each group or clan or village had simply stopped where they wanted, as soon as they saw others stopping or found a likely spot. This was the freedom of the wildlings? He almost scoffed at that.

If the Night's Watch were to ride out in force and catch them in such disarray, many would pay for the freedom these people cherish so much, with their lives. The wildlings had numbers, but the Night's Watch had discipline, and in a battle, discipline beats numbers nine times of every ten.

A hundred heavy cavalry riders on trained coursers covered on their flanks by units of stationary longbowmen committed into a determined charge would mow through this crowd without much resistance. It made him wonder, perhaps he had been too hasty in killing Craster and deterring a possible great ranging. He quickly smothered that thought and reminded himself of why he had to heed to the foresight in Jon's visions. The dead were the true enemy, not wildlings.

He was given a tent to stay in, one beside Rayder's larger kingly tent, but under heavy guard. He was after all the first ranger of the Night's Watch who had killed or captured many of the free folk, and now a White Walker among his victims. He was allowed no weapons on his person. He knew what was to happen, his fate was to be determined.

Benjen did not know how long he listened to the wind, but just as he decided to rest his eyes, a wildling man with a scarred face poked his head through the flap of the tent, "Mance wishes to speak with you crow!" The man barked at him; the title was said with such malice that was not new.

Before long, he stood inside the king's tent, surrounded by known raiders and chieftains of the wildling clans.

"Sit, crow." A woman said, her eyes narrowed and a curved bronze knife in her hand which she was using to clean her nails.

He was granted a seat farthest from them, and behind him two guards with long spears stood, ready to strike him down if necessary. By the fire at the centre of the tent was the pale crystal sword of the Other that he had killed, it was rested on a leathery mat.

Ben was hoping that these wildlings would see reason, realise that the Night's Watch and the Wall is the only thing that kept the realm safe from the Others. But then again, while he and his brothers kept the realm safe, who kept the wildlings safe? Hope was always painful.

"What have you decided?" He asked just as bluntly as usual.

The men and women in the tent were glaring at him, but Mance Rayder kept his calm, "We have decided to let you go back to join your brothers at the Wall."

If Benjen Stark was surprised, he hid it well. He squashed the relief he felt and calmed himself to think carefully, "Why?" He asked as it seemed appropriate.

"Hm…" Rayder snorted, "The Old Bear is dead."

Now that drew the surprise out of him by force, he could no longer hide his shook, "Seven hells…"

Lord Commander Mormont was dead? He could scarcely believe it. The former Lord of Bear Island was an aged warrior, but the man was fierce and brave. To have died, it felt like a lie.

"How?!" He nearly demanded.

Rayder viewed him blankly, "Whispers from the Wall is scarcer these days. They say the Lord Commander was killed by a dead thing. Whether this is true or not, I cannot say."

Seeing the First Ranger's shocked silence, the King-Beyond-the-Wall continued, "As you can see, your brothers are without a Commander to lead them. Denys Mallister of Shadow Tower and Cotter Pyke of Eastwatch is currently riding to Castle Black with their men for the Choosing. We want you gone from here, and perhaps a man who has seen and fought the true threat of the approaching winter might succeed in convincing the new Lord Commander."

Rayder's words shook him out of his stupor, it took him a few moments to comprehend the Wildling King's words. One thing was clear, the words were prepared, Rayder was mindful of what to say, but he could read the words within, it made him burst out laughing, "Har har…" He laughed at the King-beyond-the-Wall.

"You wish for me to convince the Watch to grant you and your army passage through the Wall. Is that not what you wish? A debt that you expect me to repay?" His words only seemed to make the tent colder as every chieftain now looked furious. Their reaction made one thing clear, none of them was happy with their king's plan.

"Do you Starks not honour your debts?" Rayder stood up, "Winter is coming, is that not the Stark words? And this time, the dead come along with it. Do you think it matters why we fought for what, when both our people may perish? We want the same thing you want, the safety of the Wall. Help us, just as I helped you. A debt must be repaid."

Benjen's eyes narrowed, "And how will you repay that? A band of rapers and raiders who care not for the laws of men set loose on a peaceful realm. Chaos will be the outcome." He stood up, and felt the men behind him stepping closer, he didn't care, but looked at all the men and women in the tent and asked, "I ask you this, would you…" He stretched his arms and gestured to all of them in the tent, "…free folk, abide by the laws that exist on the other side of the Wall?"

The tall earless man whom they called Magnar growled at him, "Why should we abide by your laws, crow? We are free men."

"Here, you might be, but if we were to let you pass through, you will become one the people of the realm…"

He never finished as a woman stood up and spat, "We're no kneelers like you southron cunts!"

Benjen shook his head in disappointment, "Would you condemn your own people for your pride?"

A tall, brown-headed, long-bearded man stood up and cried, "Let me kill his tricksy kneeler crow!"

"Enough!" Rayder ordered and the men in the tent glared, "This one slew a Walker. This one has more of those dragonglass that we need."

Rattleshirt took a swig of whatever that was in his horn, "The crow may be lyin'. We ain' trusting this crow's words."

"Believe whatever you wish. I am no liar." Ben's words were ice but steady, "I fought an Other, and I nearly died, but I managed to slay it with dragonglass. If I had not, then I would not be here…, alive."

And with that, the screaming began, quarrelling with each other. One thing all the wildlings agreed on was that they should not trust him. And he could not blame them for it, if he were in their boots, he might have said the same thing.

Eventually, Mance silenced them with a gesture of his hands, "Know this first ranger. We are the free folk, our knees do not bend easily, if at all. You wish for assurances; I cannot grant you any. But know this, if unprovoked, we would keep our word and our peace."

"Go now, Benjen Stark, before I change my mind. And think on it while you ride to the Wall. We have an army. We can either pave our way through the Wall ourselves, or we can bargain an alliance to find a way through. You say you wish to preserve the peace, then make your choice. Tell your brothers the tall tale and decide. I hope you would choose the right path, and I hope they do as well."

He was given a rouncey, some food, his weapons, except for the dragonglass, in return, he was given the weapon of the Other wrapped in leather. Before long, he was riding through the snow, against the howling wind, galloping towards the Wall at a brisk pace.

The maester held a mirror for him. Mirrors were rare items, expensive too, noblemen and women were the only ones who could afford such luxuries. It gave him an idea, which he decided to think of at a later time. Meanwhile, he viewed the reflection of his healed wounds on his neck and his right cheek. The scars that were proof of his struggle. When he had fallen after his battle, he must have fallen on some sharp rock, his cheek right below the eye was cut, it had healed, but the scar remained.

"The wounds seem to have healed well." Maester Branston said as he observed the wounds himself.

The maester grabbed with his nimble fingers at the blade of his left shoulder and pressed his thumb hard, he winced as the maester's grip, "Does it pain you, here?"

"A little…" He replied hoarsely, clearing his throat.

"The bruises are dull. They are healing well, give yourself some time to heal."

The maester was a middle-aged man hailing from the Reach's Vinetown, the man was amiable and welcoming, but was not above hatred, the man held a deep grudge against the Lannisters. The maester's father was a petty lord from near Tumbleton, his mother and sisters had chosen to reside in King's Landing during Robert's Rebellion for their safety in response to the growing number of raiders from the Crownlands. When the Lannister soldiers had sacked the city, they had slain the man's family.

Bran and Bloodraven were careful, it was obvious that they had gotten him here on purpose to protect him from danger when he had been helpless.

The maester had shown him and Lord Mallister the raven sent by the queen. Cersei had demanded his and the wolves' heads be sent to King's Landing, claiming it as the fulfilment of the king's justice. Lord Mallister had burnt the letter right before his eyes while asking the maester, 'Did we receive any ravens as of late from the Capital, maester?'

'No, my lord. I shall keep a closer watch at the Rookery and let you know if anything were to come up.' The maester had replied smoothly without as much a single slip of his words.

Not long after that, uncle Ned's letter arrived, thanking Lord Mallister for protecting him, while querying about his physical condition. Lord Mallister had told the maester not to write back, that any raven going to the Capital would be read by the queen before it reached the hand of the King's Hand.

Lord Mallister had returned from the field to Seagard upon hearing of Jon Snow's arrival in his castle, leaving his son and heir Ser Patrek in command of their house's forces at Riverrun. He had awoken two nights after Lord Jason arrived at the castle.

When he had awoken, suddenly he knew a new tongue that he could not understand, it felt so foreign to him that he could not even make sense of it. Whatever Bran and Bloodraven were playing at, he had hoped they would explain, but they never came in his dreams to speak.

The healing magic sung by the Children of the Forest in his dreams had healed his wounds, wounds which would have otherwise killed him. His throat had nearly been crushed by the Mountain. The maester claimed that his voice, however, would remain hoarse and gravelly, that the injury to his throat had been too severe to fully heal.

Jon softly placed the hand mirror down and he glanced back at the maester, "When…(cough) can I leave, maester?" He rasped in his new chafed voice.

"That is up to the lord, my boy. A man of your skill can be of use."

"I'm not a man yet." He reminded the maester, he was yet to turn six and ten.

The maester shook his head in amusement, but before the man could reply, there was an urgent knock on the door. The knock was spaced with urgent intervals, "Maester!" Someone called.

The maester stood up and strode to open the door. It was one of the maester's assistants Nate, "Maester, Lord Jason requests your presence in his solar along with Jon Snow."

The maester turned to him, giving him a look of curiosity before turning back to his assistant, "What is it, Nate?"

"A raven arrived. From the Capital. The king's dead." The assistant replied subdued.

It did not bode well. His gut twisted sharply; he felt a bad feeling about this in his heart, knowing what happened last time, he had every reason to feel it so. Bran or Bloodraven hadn't spoken to him in a while, with his only source of information gone, he needed to know.

Jon stood up and walked out of the chamber, brushing past the maester and the maester's assistant. The two followed behind him quickly. He proceeded up the serpentine stairs into the Lord's Tower. The guards at the entrance of the lord's solar opened the chamber's door for him and allowed him inside. The maester entered behind him a moment later.

Lord Jason Mallister was a clean-shaven, tall and lean man. His brown hair had a mix of white in it and he had fierce blue-grey eyes. He was handsome in his youth and still handsome today, he had a gaunt, chiselled face with high cheekbones. Every time Jon looked upon the man, he was reminded of Robb, this is what an older Robb would have looked like, had he inherited a little of Stark features.

Lord Jason motioned for him to sit, "Maester, pour us some wine, will you?" While the maester poured him and the lord some wine. Jon took a seat and took a sip of wine.

"A raven came from the Capital. It says that the king is dead. But that is not all… Lord Eddard has been imprisoned. He is charged with treason. It is said he plotted with Robert's brothers to deny the throne to Prince Joffrey."

"That…" He began immediately, but winced when his throat ached sharply, he paused and tempered his tone, "…(cough)…is impossible."

"I cannot make heads or tails of it either, lad." Lord Jason told him with a shake of his head.

"Father is too…(grm)…honourable; he would never betray the king. It does not make any sense." He scratched his forehead in feigned confusion.

"Be that as it may…" Lord Mallister said, "It is not for me to say. Nor for you."

He thought for a brief moment before asking, "What is it to happen to my father…(grr)?" He cleared his throat again.

"As to that, I cannot say, lad. I mean to send a letter. I knew some of the king's councillors in my youth. Ser Barristan or Janos Slynt might be inclined to shed the truth. Whatever your father has done, or hasn't done, he is a great lord. But that is not why I called you here."

With that, Lord Jason stood up from his seat, his wine cup untouched and opened the door at the back, which led into another chamber, motioning for them to follow. Jon finished his wine and he followed behind the lord and the maester.

The path led down a flight of stairs to an antechamber below. There at the centre of the chamber was a structure covered in a long, white piece of cloth. The lord gestured him to unfurl it, and he did. Beneath the sheet was a full set plate armour, custom-made for him resting on a short wooden stand. The armour was full black, it had all the pieces, the boots, greaves, cuisse, breastplate, plackart, tassets, vambraces, pauldron and the bevor. The most appealing part was the helm, it was in the shape of a Direwolf head, its moveable jaws making the visor.

His swords Lamentation and Vigilance were in their scabbards attached to the armour, both the swords now had new handles and new pommels in the shape of a wolf's head. He was a little worried when he woke up, but the maester had assured that his priceless weapons were indeed safe. Lord Mallister had chose not ask him questions regarding the Valyrian steel weapons, for that he was grateful.

As his eyes danced over the new armour, his gaze fell upon a decorated Pollaxe. A beautiful weapon, a proper knight's weapon. He lifted it in his arm and he admired it, the weapon itself was quite long. It had a sharp spike at the end for stabbing, a large axe blade on the left side for smashing and cleaving, a toothed hammer head on the right side about the half the size of the axe blade but still a fair bit heavier. Even the flat side of the weapon had a decorative yet useful triangular metal head protruding out just enough to hit a target with. This was a weapon with many purposes, dangerous on all ends.

"It's beautiful." He slipped unknowingly.

The Lord of Seagard smirked, "My son wore this armour in his youth. I had the smith repurpose it for you, lad. The helm however was made specifically for you. This shall be my parting gift for your gallant service."

"I understand, my lord." He turned and bowed his head respectfully.

With his uncle's arrest, the lord wished him gone from his home so that House Mallister can deny any involvement and avoid the risk of being accused of treason. With the king dead and the Hand imprisoned, the queen's words were absolute, the lord was duty-bound to obey. Defiance can only serve to be so much against the entire might of the Iron Throne.

The slicing hiss of a metal blade against the scabbard alerted him to danger. He gently looked up to confirm that he was not in danger, since he did not believe that Lord Mallister would break guest rights and hurt him, but he can never be too careful.

Jon was flabbergasted when the Lord commanded him, "Kneel, lad."

"Kneel…" The Lord urged him.

So, he did, he went on his right knee. The knight corrected him, "Do not slouch!" He immediately straightened his back in response.

"Sword hand at the back." He quickly followed and folded his right hand to his back and placed it along his hip.

"Place your other hand on the knee." He gently placed his left hand on his left knee.

"Head down." And he did as he was told, he hung his head to stare at the tiled floor below.

Jon felt the flat-side of a blade rest on his left shoulder, "Jon Snow. In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave."

The weight of the blade lifted off his shoulder and fell on his right shoulder, "In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just."

An age ago, in another life, this would have been the most defining moment of his entire life, but now, it felt strangely unsatisfying. Titles and commendations meant little when life played cruel games to punish you. Living was painful enough, he resolved in taking pleasure when it can be found.

As he willed himself to care, a strange joy bloomed somewhere in his cold heart as he felt the weight of the blade shift again, resting on his left shoulder again, "In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the young and innocent."

The flat-side of the sword shifted again, "In the name of the Maid, I charge you to protect all women."

The sword shifted and rested again, "In the name of the Seven, I name you a knight of the realm."

"Rise, Jon Snow, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms."

Jon felt his breath quicken as he rose to his feet, he saw the sword now resting in between the Lord's hand, its tip firmly planted into the ground, "I name you, Ser Jon Snow. The Knight of the Hunt."

A full smile touched his lips despite his attempts at controlling his heart from leaping in joy. Did Bran see this, had they seen this and not told him, he wanted to know? But despite the curiosity, the joy never left him and a grin broke free without his control. Perhaps, small pleasure is to be enjoyed at the moment, he wondered fondly. Perhaps life wasn't all bad.

First things first, I get that the fandom hates Daenerys, but she's not that bad. I used to be a hardcore hater when the show ended, before I decided to read the books. I still don't think much of her as a monarch, but I definitely don't think she is a terrible person or a terrible queen, I mean compared to Joffrey, Cersei, Aerys and Tywin's schemes, she's practically a saint. In the books, she knew the importance of learning how to rule a kingdom, even more than conquering it, that's why she stayed in Meereen instead of moving on to conquer Westeros, I think that shows wisdom. Granted, she messed it up, but hey, you try ruling a kingdom perfectly your first time as a queen at 16 without having had the proper training from birth. I do not really see her as a heroine or as a pair for Jon, but then again, I don't see Sansa as a heroine either (sorry Sansa/Jonsa fans), maybe Arya because she's always been my favourite, so I might be a little biased there. And no, I do not ship Arya and Jon either, Arya is meant for Gendry and vice versa. In any case, you guys need to tone down the hate.

And people, the Jon here is not the Jon in the books, he has lived through everything once and he does not think highly of his heritage, neither of Rhaegar, nor of Lyanna. So, saying that he is insulting the memory of Lyanna and Rhaegar by denying to hatch the dragons, is stupid, he doesn't even know them.

Wow, I didn't know that fans hated Ned Stark this much. Just saying…

Also, heads up, I didn't want to make a big deal out of Jon's knighthood in this chapter. Don't get me wrong, it would have been a huge thing, but Jon has literally died and come back, and travelled to the past, compared to that, knighthood is not that big a deal in his mind. So, his reaction is subdued since he no longer sees any real significance of it aside from the title's reputation. I hope you like the nickname, Ser Jon of the Hunt.

Sorry about the long wait. Consecutive health scares at home. My father was affected by Covid-19, he's recovered and well now. Two scares in the family, and a death in the extended family. It shook us a little, the fear was palpable at the time. Things are back to normal now, but still in quarantine. Never expected 2020 would turn out this way, joke's on me, I guess.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all, I'll update soon…