I sat watching with quiet, observant grey eyes that bore straight through the beautiful man, parading around on his sleek pale mare. There were waves of cheering among the rosy cheeked crowd, their clapping oddly resembling the way a log cracks consumed within an inferno and the betting men's useless shouts of jubilation or dismay echoed inside the walls and against those breathlessly tall towers of Harrenhal when seeing fates chosen outcome; all of it raising above the tourney like a universal scream to the heavens.
There were more stars out than usual, especially for Harrenhal's part of Westeros and that time of year, and constantly I caught the prince's eyes straying to the orbs of silver lights, staining his platinum hair into a rich molten river of silver, hidden only when he pulled on a well polished helm. I wondered why he kept checking up there, round after round, when the other victorious tourney knights only glanced at the encouraging rows of faces.
For some reason that confounded and, secretly, to my dismay, fascinated me.
Robert laughed loudly, and I tensed underneath my skin at the hoarse chortle. Watching him jeer and encourage our royal prince as Rhaegar unhorsed one of the few knights still in the running made me want to smile at his juvenile enthusiasm. He clapped a big, meaty hand against my brother's shoulder and shook him vigorously, in a cheerful way, until my stiff, grave Ned was forced to smile back at Robert's robust grin. Then he caught my eyes behind my brother's back and grinned all the wider, a spark igniting in the back of those ample, blunt eyes.
I smiled thinly back.
Then while Robert mouthed something dirty at me, there was a sudden recharge in the waves of screams, deafening my ears. I saw a man on his back, laughing despite bitter defeat. Rhaegar sat on his horse, elegant, staring down at his competitor. The event was over. He had won.
The handsome prince threw back his helm and tucked it under one of his arms when he was handed the crown of roses. They were blue this faithful marquee tournament; a soft, wild throned blue rose that only grew in the north and that I was familiar with since a little girl. There was a gleam in his smile. A controlled smile, I noticed, peculiarly. He won the championship, and he stared at the crown wrought in roses laid across the palm of his hand as if puzzled by it.
I'd seen Robert win countless tourneys and heard many tales of them, as well, about his endless friendly speeches and roars of laughter, all the while stampeding his horse in victorious laps to get a share of everyone's attention within the seats.
Rhaegar lifted his head slowly, as the people around us raved and screamed their loyalties, and he nudged his mare into a slow trot, circling right past his golden Dornish princess.
There was a moment when I thought I saw his lips moving, saying something. A prayer? Those keen, compassionate violet eyes of his darted towards the heavens once more, before they suddenly sought mine, boring straight into me. I flushed for some reason, feeling the heat pool underneath my face. I felt as though he knew I'd been watching him, the whole long day, observing, one sly look or open stare after another.
Instead of bequeathing his wife with the crown of roses, the symbol of Love and Beauty, he went straight to me, Lyanna Stark, and boldly, wordlessly tossed it into my lap. I was speechless, as the crowds noise turned quickly into a thunderous silence, all eyes dancing to Eddard and Robert and Rhaegar in a whirl of confusion, uncertainty, and glass shattering intensity.
Finally, I opened my mouth, the air sucking down my throat with a sharp sear, and I said, "Thank you."
He looked shocked that I had said anything at all, because he had been looking away by then, at my fiance, Robert, who looked so confused that it made me want to laugh at the way his expression and eyebrows scrunched up like that. There was a momentary spasm of surprise and uncertainty of his own across those piercing purple eyes, before there was a twitch of his lips.
And he smiled at me. A soft, genuine smile, flavored with curiosity and the intensity of a summer's hottest day. Then he wheeled his horse's reigns back around and galloped across the yard, beaming at his people, who stared back, uncomprehending until he was escorted away by the members of his father's Kingsgaurd.
The crown of roses were still in my hands by the time people began to reanimate themselves, the common ones clueless to his gesture, the highborn all taking on various states of offense to or defense for our dragon prince's action. I brushed a finger across the velvet petals, wondering if Rhaegar's lips were this soft, before I felt a rough hand reach past mine, rip the thing from my grasp and I looked up sharply to glare into my brother's face.
"What was he thinking?" Ned said, obviously bothered. "Does he have no sense of honor?"
"No, but he has honesty. You have to give him that," I heard my older brother laugh from beside me. Brandon smiled up at his younger brother, not so seemingly disturbed by the gesture as the rest of them. "It was the crown of Love and Beauty, and so what if he's got a sudden hankering for northern ladies than the usual Dornish ones. That was a compliment, Ned, learn to receive them." He reached up to pat him reassuringly on the shoulder, but Eddard only shrugged it off, and Robert stepped up to loom beside him.
The big, black haired blue eyed Baratheon eyed the crown still hanging from Ned's hand as if it had claws and would jump at him with the intent of murder. "That was an insult. He knows about the betrothal, and his own wife was here, tonight. If I were her I would weep at such a sight."
"If you were a princess, Robert, than I pray that the Seven would save us from such a sight. Dresses instead of chain mail, jewels to replace helm, and tears for your war hammer, is it?" Brandon laughed, shaking his head as he rose from his seat and he looked down at me from the corner of his eyes, a warmth there, that Robert and Ned seriously lacked. "Come, Lyanna, you must be weary from hours of sun and excitement, I'll escort you to your room."
Throughout their whole interaction I had stayed silent, in my seat, watching, waiting... wondering. Now that I was addressed I suddenly remembered all those rules and society standard regulations for me, of which I should act on, in such a situation as this. I should be abashed, not ungrateful per say, but disapproving. Mother would never have approved of becoming vain or overly pleased. I had to be the perfect little lady, Lady Stark...
...but I wasn't abashed. I didn't know what I was feeling, I only knew what I should be. My stomach was in a turmoil, bubbling with giddiness that I'd never felt before and when I rose at Brandon's request, I felt a surge of dizziness came over me as well, that thrilled and soothed me all in one fell swoop. Boldly, I took back the crown from Ned's hand, just before Brandon's arm through mine dragged me away... away from Ned's disapproving scowl and Robert's appalled, baffled frown.
No one took it away from me after that. Even when I was being bathed, changed into the thinner, more comfortable night garb, and the servants were brushing out my hair as I sat in front of a vanity gifted to me in this room, I stared down at the thing. My fingers constantly brushed the palest blue rose, feeling it's velvety texture, wondering.. what had the prince been thinking when he stared at it, sitting ahorse in the midst of victory?
Robert had been thinking that the crown would make a nice gesture.. to get into any woman of his choice's corset. I rubbed the side of my cheek, thinking about it. Him. Robert, my fiance. I had known him a long time, him and Ned always playing as boys and men and there was no doubting his charms or poweress. Perhaps he was too charming. I always thought so, but never stuttered to smile or live in the shell I – forced to be – built consisting of constant highborn courtesy. Something my dear mother would be proud of, something that I built after years of our clashing.
I wanted to wear pants, she'd only order me dresses. I would want to play with Ned and Brandon in the yard, with sword and shield, while she only order guards posted around them to keep me out. When I tried to skip out on my lessons or sewing or dinners in Father's hall, I would be dragged back, unwilling, submerged in perfumes and silks and nonsense.
Always, I had admired Eddard's submission to it all. How could he stand there, solemn, all the time? Where was he, my sweet little brother? Who would promise to smuggle me his greenboy sword? The boy who secretly climbed up the side of the Winterfell's library tower where I had been imprisoned for study and punishment, just to say "Hi" and ask me how I was doing all at the age ten?
Then I recall the day that him and Father and his best friend foraged away the rest of my life, and I almost, so fleetingly, with all of my being, hated him for it. Father wouldn't admit it to Ned or Robert, but he knew my displeasure, no matter how many thin smiles I'd give, all of them very well rehearsed. Every single one of them taken by my sweet, oblivious Ned as pleasure and Robert as affection.
The end of my days as a proper Maid were ending, and no longer would I have to force myself into the shape of a Lady, while all I wanted to was run wild and free as the sigil of a direwolf on my silk dresses. Instead, I would become a breeding tool, I would give away all that I possessed to this man, the shape and health of my body, the strength of my womb, and slowly the muscles I had been hard-pressed to build would turn soft and I would be no different from that Dornish princess. Sickly, sad, an empty shell looking after babies and staring out behind the backs of guards from atop a dual throne.
Then, I heard the woman that was brushing out the lengths of my thick, curling brown hair give a startled hiccup. My eyes flew up from the roses to the mirror before me, taking in first her turned head, then the whisk of red and black fabric at the shadowed doorway of my bedchambers.
It took me a moment to fully comprehend, that he had come. Why? To what purpose? To take away all that I possessed before I was fully prepared to suppress my displeasure at the thought? Before Robert could? Because Brandon was right, and all it had been was a sudden pleasure he got when moving over the body of a northern woman than southron?
Then I knew. I felt sick at the thought, sure he had come to seduce me and when that failed, rape me. My hands clenched around the ring of thorny roses, drawing forth hisses from my lips and I stood to face the dragon prince, leaning against the doorway of my bedroom.
I dismissed my fretting servant and she flew from the room, sure to find me help or security. I heard a struggle beyond the door that closed behind her. A proper lady, though, pretends not to hear unpleasant things. "Lady Stark," Rhaegar said, and took a step closer, into the candle light, the warm apparitions licking up the side of his serene, pale, beautiful face.
But I wasn't one to be fooled by beauty. I could resist beauty more than anyone. It was his trained body and stronger arms that worried me. If he spoiled me, here and now, would Robert still have me? I wondered. Is that what... I want?
"Are you lost?" I asked. Blurted, unladylike, unlike me, awkward to the point that I felt the rare blush that only seemed recent when he was around suddenly pooling underneath my cheeks. But those weren't even my words, I was picturing my mother when I said them, of her telling me a lady doesn't put others down at the common mistake, such as the wrong doorway or clothes.
Haunted violet eyes watched my every movement when I walked forward into the room, closer to him and the light and the chest at the foot of my bed, clutching the thin edges of my night robe closed over my breasts. The exterior me was going toward him with the intent to escort him courteously out the room, with forgiveness and thin smiles... underneath I thought about the knife I kept tucked inside my riding clothes, sitting harmlessly on top of everything else inside that chest.
I was so reckless that I had not even stopped to consider that stabbing the crown prince would ever come back to lash me in the face. So when I did reach the chest, sat on the edge of my bed, and he said, "No, I'm not lost," I toyed with the wood on the lid heedlessly.
I could stab him, he wasn't wearing any protection. The guards he had outside my door would be so distracted with their worry for Rhaegar I'd be able to slip away. I could disappear in moments within the grounds of Harrenhal, and among the hundreds of foreigners visiting for that day's tournaments. It wouldn't be hard to find a horse, eventually, I would somehow get out, travel, become the person I always wanted to be...
Rhaegar paced closer, and for one moment I felt my first true pang of fear. My hands were blurs when he finally turned his eyes about himself, examining my rooms as if they were interesting, and intently staring up, at the ceiling, as if able to see the stars through it.
When the dragon prince lowered those eyes again, I was standing, and my whole world was standing on the point of the blade I held snug against the right side of his abdomen.