Of White Trees and Blue Roses
I really don't know what George RR Martin has in mind with this back story, but I really couldn't get this out of my mind. I may be proven wrong, but this is my homage to the awesomeness that is Lyanna Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire. I'll stick to canon so far as I know it, forgive me if I stray. Prequel begins before Robert's Rebellion and slightly prior to the tourney at Harrenhal.
I'm in love with the series and no copyright infringement intended.
Chapter One – The Wolf Pack and the Stag
Smiling, young Eddard Stark—Ned to those who knew him well—reached the gnarled old tree first. Patting his horse's neck, slick with beads of exertion after being pushed to its limits, he whispered, "Good boy."
Seconds later, with a loud roar, his friend joined him. Robert Baratheon's face was red with both exertion and frustration. "Not a fair race. This is your country. You know this road too well."
With a mild grin, Ned disagreed. "And I haven't ridden on it in years. There are new pot holes, lower branches..."
"Your horse is faster than mine," Robb argued, but Ned shook his head.
"No, the reason why I won is because you're hung over." He gave his friend a mildly scolding look. "Your first visit to Winterfell and you drink like a pig the night before. You reek like a brewery."
Laughing hard, Robb had to nod his agreement, the truth apparent in the unusually sickly tinge on his face. "Aye. Coming here to the wild north I dropped my courage in the bottom of my cup and I had to sup it back into me."
"Your courage?" Ned looked puzzled. "I thought Robert of House Baratheon feared nothing." Robert never needed the excuse of looking for courage to pick up a cup of wine or ale—something that their guardian, Jon Arryn, constantly scolded him about. On the road, he'd had no voice in his ear to curb his appetite for it, and last night he'd been the drunkest Ned had ever seen him.
"Oh, I fear no man, but I hear she-wolves roam these parts." Robb looked ahead, his eyes focused on some distant object. "There's only one thing I'm afraid of...and that's your sister."
"My sister? Last time I saw her she was skinny as a weasel and acted more of a boy than a lady. How can you be so scared of her?" Ned looked at his friend. The only thing that Robert Baratheon enjoyed more than a cup of wine was the company of young women. In the taverns they'd stopped at along the way, Robb had talked himself into many a bed—not that he needed to woo much with his square jaw, broad shoulders, and thick arms. The more he matured the more success he seemed to have.
Being the less attractive option, Ned had still found himself left to fend off Robb's castoffs after he'd retired for the night—or afternoon. Despite the strong bond of friendship, the two boys could not be more different. Determined to stay pure for his wedding night, Ned had always sent them away disappointed. Though he often found a girl appealing and his baser side tried to sway him, his honour and the honour of his future wife, whoever she may be, was more important.
"There's nothing so fearsome as the woman you've been told you'll wed." Robb ducked as his horse passed under a low branch. "One day, you'll understand. Who do you think you'll marry in the end? Has Lord Stark suggested anyone?"
Shaking his head, Ned replied, "No. I'm the second brother. Until Brandon's wed I doubt Father will find a bride for me. Being heir he's worth the better match."
"The trials of having a better looking, more famous, and much more talkative brother." Robert guffawed. "Do you ever wonder how she'll be? What she looks like? What she's like in bed?" His eyes twinkled mischievously.
"She'll be some daughter of some lord, I imagine. Someone Father wants to strengthen relations with. The rest...what does it matter?"
"What does it matter?" Robb's voice grew loud. "Me, I want to marry someone I can grow to love. Someone who I'll gladly fill with sons rather than some sour-faced, bitter shrew who I'll have to fuck out of duty once a year."
"Good luck with my sister. If she hasn't changed, she has a certain...disposition. She may have three brothers and the Warden of the North as her father, but Lyanna has a strong will and rules the roost." Pausing as he realised he wasn't allaying his friend's fears or giving his sister a glowing recommendation, Ned changed his tone. "But it's been a while. My little sister will no longer be a wilful child but a woman grown." Ned nodded his head to the horizon "Winterfell is just over that hill. Do you want to ride along talking about love like a pair of maidens, or do you want to race me?"
Robb groaned. "I don't think my stomach could manage it."
Lyanna and Benjen were taking turns riding around the ring. Wearing her plainest, most soiled blue dress, Lyanna beamed widely as she ignored Hullen. It was about time the Master of Horse's young son, accepted that she didn't want to learn to ride ladylike, and instead she remembered what he had instructed Ben to do instead.
Hullen finally realized that his words were falling on deaf ears, saving his voice and letting Lyanna do as she pleased. Many a stronger willed person had tried to change her ways. Her septa despaired and she now spent more time at archery than needlework, though so far she had not been allowed to practice jousting at rings. Her father had forbidden it. She went too far, he told her. She must remember that when she married and left for Storm's End, the liberties she took here at Winterfell would not be accepted.
Instead, when she told him she was going "hawking" or for a "pleasant ride through the snow" with her youngest brother, they would head to the same clearing where they'd made a makeshift tourney field, complete with rings and lances. Benjen would pass on what he'd been taught, and they would try to outdo each other. If any of her father's men had stumbled upon it, they'd said nothing.
Despite being of the fairer sex, Lyanna was naturally talented—more so than her youngest brother.
When she was smaller, she'd been able to pass for a boy, but now she grew closer to womanhood, Lyanna found herself cursing the fact that she'd been born a girl. Ben would grow up to be a knight, and she would be left with the task of making babies and the other unappealing things that ladies were expected to do. Often, she considered cutting off her hair and living the life of a hedge knight, but she wasn't so stupid that she didn't know how that would end the moment some thug found out that it wasn't a cock she had between her legs.
It wasn't fair, she often declared to herself, and aloud to others.
Hearing the sounds of hooves and shouting, Lyanna pulled up her horse. She galloped towards the edge of the circle, clearing the wooden fence easily, and rode towards the sound.
Two boys on horseback trotted across the drawbridge ahead of their guards. She recognized her brother instantly—his features so northern now he'd grown into them that he might as well have had "Stark" written on his forehead in ink.
"Ned!" Her horse cantered over. "You're late. We expected you two days ago. Why didn't you send a raven to let us know you'd arrive today?" She smiled at her brother's companion. "Lord Baratheon."
Robert had been staring since his eyes had found her, his mouth held open in an expression of abject horror. "I think I'm going to be sick," he muttered, jumped off his horse, and headed for the nearest building, which happened to be a stable. It wasn't long before the sound of retching could be heard.
Sister and brother mirrored one another with puzzled look, before Ned dismounted. Lyanna did likewise, and almost knocked him off his feet as she ran to him for an enthusiastic hug. "Are you well? How was the road? You've grown...how tall you are now!"
Ned gave the same silent grin she remembered from when they were both children, tearing around Winterfell. Everyone always said that Lyanna and Brandon had made more than enough noise for the four of them. Ben had some of Ned's quietness about him, though maybe not to the same extent.
"I'm well. Look at you..." Ned broke the embrace and held his arm up to allow his sister to do a twirl, and laughing, she obliged. "What happened to the weasel I left behind? You've grown beautiful."
Lyanna rolled her eyes. She had heard that often of late, and did not value such silly flattery. "I didn't seem to impress my betrothed. A few moments in my presence and he runs off to be sick. It doesn't bode well for the wedding night."
Ned gave a small chuckle, as he wondered whether he had underestimated the extent of his friend's self-inflicted ailment.
"Next time, give me a warning, and I'll make sure I don't wear a dress with a hem full of mud that stinks of horse." Lyanna took Ned by the hand and began to lead him, eager to make everyone aware that the missing Stark brother had returned.
Benjen, a good half foot shorter than Ned, had since joined them, and now his sister had finished monopolising the attention he allowed his absentee brother to muss his hair in greeting. The horses were taken away as the three young wolves made their way to greet the rest of their pack. Lyanna paused briefly to look back through the commotion to see if Robert Baratheon was likely to join them.
He stood in the entrance of the stables, but as soon as their eyes met, he turned back into the shadows and the sound of him emptying his stomach was heard once more.