There was never fear in his face. Never a drop of apprehension in his tone. Nothing. He was nothing, air, smoke. I might as well have been holding the knife to the wall, at least then I would get some sort of emotional reaction, from the owner of the house, worried about scratches. But Rhaegar stared fearlessly down at me, as afraid as a lion with prey clenched between his jaws.
I let my hand fall limp between us. "What do you want?"
"To offer you something," he said, his voice void of care, void of everything. His eyes roamed across my face dipped toward his with an unnerving amount of precision.
That's when I noticed we were too close, far, far too close. No lady should be pressed into a man who means or knows as little of him as I did Rhaegar. I could hear my mother raging in my mind. Throwing things. Lying through my teeth when Father or Ned or Brandon came running. I slipped. I tripped over it. And Mother nodded eagerly.
I shook myself mentally, stepping away from the prince, the air rushing to fill the space. "You have already given me more than enough," I said, softly, delicately. I turned my face toward the bed, indicating the crown of blue roses there.
He shouldn't be there. I should not be taking anything from him. I had more than enough... but, oh, how much I wanted to know. I could see something behind the void. Something as sensual and tantalizing as fire. I could hear it in his whispery, musical voice, too. A building beat, a muffled shout. Readying to break free.
"Those were nothing," Rhaegar said, and a smile twitched at the edges of his lips. A soft, amused smile. Like my sudden snap back to lady-like entertained him to no end. "I meant them as a warning. I thought maybe you'd be ready for me when I came..." but he trailed off there, as evidently, I had not taken the same message from the gift. "You're very beautiful, Lyanna."
I crossed my arms stiffly over my chest, affronted. I was a little more than that, I thought. I was Lady Stark, second heir to Winterfell should my brother Brandon fail. It took all of my training to turn away to hide my sneer from him, offer me what? I thought. You? Your physical affection, then nothing else?
"And you're very kind to say so," I told him, my fingers twisting the knife along the wood of the bed frame, my back still to him. He had to have been a well-thoughtful person to notice the rigidness of my form, or the slightly less delicate tone of my voice.
"So wild, yet you hold it in," he continued, drawing closer. "So beautiful and majestic and caged."
I forced a laugh. "You are humorous, for a prince." My acting was in order again, so I turned to face him, only to find him too close, his face meeting mine on the turn and I staggered back against the chest, sitting heavily.
"It wasn't a joke."
I turned my eyes away from the fiery purple. Away from the temptation, the uncomfortable. I tried not to let my uncertainty show. "You must be indisposed," I finally managed, standing. He's forced a step back to give me room and I latched an arm through his, "Please, let me show you to the maester's chambers. Was it the wine? Or did you take a bump on the helm in the tourney?" I saw his face fall blatant and I pulled him quickly to the bed, pushed him down on the edge. "Stay, I'll go get someone."
Rhaegar caught my hand before I managed even to walk away. "I'm not drunk. I don't have a concussion." When he pulled me toward him, he was too strong to fight, and I didn't spit or kick like I oh so wanted to. It would have been impolite. "I came to ask you to come away with me."
"Away with you?" I burst, because I could not untangle the meaning fast enough, and my perfected mask fell in the face of Rhaegar's mystery. He pulled me to sit on the bed next to him, and he pivoted his face and shoulders to me. "Where to? I can't... I have my wedding as soon as this is over, when we reach Winterfell. I can't delay it, Robert will be–"
"Robert is a brute," Rhaegar declared. "I can't bear it. When I saw you there, up on that stand sitting with him and your brothers, that look of pure misery in your face..." One of his hands reached up to my face, deliberated and re-coursed to run along the top of my hair all the way down to the tips. "I know what it's like," he whispered, to my complete confusion, "to be changed because of others. I loved books, reading was a passion of mine while I was a boy. When I was young and my father's wards would encourage me to play sword and spear, I would rather play musical notes. Make melodies, not blood. My father hated it, hated me. So, one day, he took my books and burned them. He loves burning them, and I cried, tried to reach into the flames to save my harp, but he had the guards hold me back. I was only ten. And it didn't end there. Every time I was found without some sort of blade or practicing war tactics, I would be cuffed, or forced. Sooner or later, the anguish got to be too much for me, the fighting got harder, and my father grew harsher in his punishments. It was easier to give in, to do my duty as the crown prince, as a Targaryen. And so I taught myself to be a warrior, and the public seems to think it had been my choice, though in the end it was mine, to give in."
He stopped then and I could not look away from him, or understand. Why would he tell me any of this? What does that have anything to do with me? "I-I am sorry," I finally choked out, because I knew mother would have wanted me polite.
Rhaegar's face had remained void throughout the story, but after my statement, I saw it grow frustrated. "Come with me. Speak freely. Don't you see? You and I, we're similar. We're opposites. Look me in the face and tell me that you were not forced into the docile, book loving lady, who must admire music and the chosen husband assigned her. Tell me you love Robert Baratheon and want to give him all the sons in the world and spend your days in Storms End. Tell me that, and I shall never speak to you again, if you wish it. This is your choice. I will give you choices, if no one else in this world will, but know that this can only be chosen once. I saw something in you tonight, something in the sky..." A hand of his, found mine meekly sitting in my lap and tightened around it, painfully. "You're beautiful, Lyanna. More beautiful when you hold a knife to my throat, than when you try to hide your face behind a mask."
I didn't know what to feel. Couldn't find it in my memory, when my mother or septa prepared me for an encounter like this. A real lady, I knew, would have been gracious, but disapproving. She might of laughed it away or given her sweetest voice, bid him to find the beautiful golden Dornish princess that was his wife. I might have shared Robert and Ned's outrage, or Brandon's curtesies... but all I could see behind those veiled violet eyes was freedom. "No," I said.
"I don't love him, I don't want to have his sons."
Rhaegar's lips trembled, teetered toward a smile as he stared intently back into my eyes, but then he turned his face away. It grew serious, his voice grew grave, but not unkind. His hands were gentle when he pulled me to my feet, commanded me to not say a word. And then he led me out the door, into something I thought was personal. A choice that I made, the first choice I that made for myself. It exhilarated and terrified me in one feel swoop, but I never imagined, never could have known.. what it would spark.