AN: I just want to note that this is told from my take on Lynesse's POV. So expect a perspective on situations and characters that not everyone will agree with.
A Hightower of Oldtown
In any other time, in any other place, Jorah Mormont would have been nothing to Lynesse Hightower of Oldtown. Just one lord among many from a land she had scarcely heard of. But the end of the Greyjoy Rebellion dipped the world and everyone in it in the golden hue of glory. Nowhere more so than Lannisport, where King Robert held the tourney celebrating his victory. There, heroes of the war strode proudly from every side.
Jason Mallister, who slew one of the rebel's sons and threw the Ironmen back into the sea. Ser Barristan the Bold, whose feats at Old Wyk were already the stuff of songs. Thoros of Myr, the first man over the wall at Pyke, his sword aflame with wildfire…
…and Jorah Mormont, who was not far behind the red priest and whose valor earned him a knighthood.
As his eyes followed about, Lynesse thought of how much older than her he was. He must be in his thirties, at least.
But Ser Jorah was a knight now.
As he approached, she noted how plain and hairy he was, much like the sigil he donned.
But he was strong and brave. All the stories she heard said so.
When he begged for her favor to wear during the tourney, Lynesse found herself agreeing. All her life she had dreamed of a hero asking for her favor. With trembling hands, she secured the cloth-of-silver scarf embroidered with a white tower around his arm and wished him luck.
"You are my luck, my lady."
When she looked up into his eyes and found the naked devotion all the bards promised, Lynesse knew this was her time. This was her song.
And she was right.
Her bear struck down a silver eagle, the Bronze Yohn, two twin towers, a black bat, and a white sword. Lynesse's heart pounded in her throat as he broke lance after lance against a lion of Lannister. But the day was hers and she soon donned a crown of roses.
If only she had known they would leave their song behind in Lannisport after the wedding.
"Seven help me…" Lynesse gasped as she reined her mare to a stop. "What is it?"
On the gate of her new home, a carving of a savage woman stared her down. A babe suckled at her breast, an axe hung comfortably in her hand, and a fur draped over her shoulders.
From atop his own steed, Jorah stammered an explanation of Bear Island's history with raiders from the Ironmen. "Long ago, our women found they must needs take up arms to defend themselves and their your lest they be taken as salt wives or thralls. Our women have been trained in arms ever since."
"You cannot still fear attacks from the Iron Islands now, surely."
"No," he admitted as the gates opened. "But our women still keep to our traditions. They are mothers, they are warriors."
Before she could question him further, her eyes fell upon the dark bleak structure beyond the gates. Instead of smooth stone, the building (she could not call it a castle) was made of row upon row of stacked trees. Fresh rain water had turned the yard to mud. A line of women and girls stood just beyond the muck to greet them, each garbed in plain gowns without ornament. Some even donned breeches and jerkins. As they greeted her, their eyes crawled over Lynesse – her gown of fine silk and Myrish lace, the necklace and earbobs, her golden hair intricately dressed and curled.
Many times Lynesse had felt the appraising gaze of another woman. This was the first time she felt as though she had been found wanting.
"They don't think me a true woman, your family."
Lynesse rested her head upon Jorah's chest one night four moons after their arrival at Bear Island. Her husband was the only one to make her feel completely welcome, so she clung to him fiercely even as she blamed him for tricking her into this life she wasn't meant for.
"What's all this?" he asked.
"Oh, something Maege and Dacey were saying."
Throughout the fortnight it took to travel from Lannisport to Bear Island Lynesse had longed for her family and her Oldtown, and she desperately hoped to find a new home and family in this foreign land. That was not to be.
They all tried. Lynesse would invite them to share in her needlework. Dacey, who she hoped would be like a sister to her, would offer to help her begin training in the yard. None of them seemed eager to join the other's pursuits.
Even simple talking seemed to lead only to unpleasantness. Lynesse made the mistake of suggesting they remove that carving of the savage woman from the gate. Maege stared at her as though she had just proposed they turn to cannibalism. When Lynesse dared complain of anything – the cold, the lack of entertainment, the monotonous meals, the absence of a goldsmith – the other women exchanged looks and wry smiles.
It was after one such conversation earlier that day when Lynesse overheard Maege and Dacey.
"She doesn't ask for much, does she?" the older woman said, as Lynesse had begun her retreat from the great hall. "All she wants is to change everything we are. If she spent half as much time wielding an axe as she does complaining, she would be a right fit warrior already."
"She wouldn't know which end of an axe to hold, like as not," Dacey said. "She's a lady, that one. A lady, but not a true woman."
Lynesse didn't share all of that with Jorah. She only told him the important part.
"They mislike me because I don't belong here," she said into that hairy chest.
"I will have words with-"
"No, please," she said. They would hate her all the more if he did. "They are right. I am a Hightower of Oldtown. I wasn't made for this life. I was made for- for… beautiful things and warmer weather and bards and- and I want to go home."
She wanted her mother and her father and her sisters and her brothers. She wanted the Hightower.
Jorah was silent a moment. "You are young," he said at last. "I often forget that you are only five and ten. My love, you will settle in. I swear it. And I will help you. Tell me what you need to make this your home and I will give it to you."
A smile instantly stretched across Lynesse's face. Shifting, she folded her arms on Jorah's chest and rested her chin on them. Her scruffy bear had been looking quite grim, but when he glanced up at her beaming at him, Jorah smiled too.
"I will bring all of Oldtown to Bear Island if I can manage it." He brushed the golden hair that fell about her face. "There is to be a tourney in King's Landing to celebrate the birth of the king's daughter. It may be time to restore your crown."
Jorah hardly looked at her anymore. He hadn't since they fled Bear Island at Eddard Stark's approach. He couldn't even look her in the eyes as he told her they must make a new home in Essos, that they could never return to Westeros again lest he lose his head for selling slaves.
He could hardly stand to look at Maege either before he ran either.
"At least prove you have honor enough to face justice, Lord Slaver," she said.
To that, Jorah had no response but to give her his back.
"Who knew a tourney prize would be the ruin of our House?" the older woman said as they strode away, as though Lynesse was at fault because her husband didn't know how to manage his wealth.
Jorah may have been too craven to meet her gaze, but Lynesse watched him. She studied this man who promised her the world and stole away everything she loved. She watched him and wondered how she could possibly be fool enough to take Jorah Mormont for a hero of song.
During their marriage, he had brought her all the things he promised – the cook from Oldtown, the goldsmith, the harper. But then he tried to take them away to pay his debts. Her sisters found husbands who knew how to keep them happy and provided for. Why couldn't she?
Once, when they had passed Three Towers, he spoke of their future with a bit of optimism, telling her of his plans to take them to Braavos to begin anew.
"No!" Lynesse was started by her own ferocity. "I won't live anywhere cold, not again. I won't! If I must go into exile with you, let it be someplace warm." Somewhere like home.
If he had any resolve, it crumpled in the face of her stare.
His gaze lowered. "Lys. Lys is warm."
Warm. But not Oldtown.