Winter's Child

Willam Stark, firstborn son of Cregan Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North was heading south to King's Landing to foster. His presence along with those of several other highborn children had been requested by King Aegon the third of his name, to serve as companions for his children Daeron, Baelor, Daena, Elena and Rhaena. It is the 150th year since Aegon the Conqueror's landing nineteen years after the Dance of Dragons tore the realm in half, though King Aegon along with his brother Prince Viserys has done much to restore peace to the realm, there are still divisions between the lords and their bannermen. Aegon means to end the distance put between the royal family and their wardens and so has asked all four of his wardens to send their first born children to foster in King's Landing.

Willam, when he was told that he would be going south to the capital had been very excited. It would be a way for him to explore more of Westeros outside of the North and plus he would be away from the stern eye of his father and mother. Not that he didn't love his parents and his siblings, it was just that he really wanted to meet more people, not just northerners, he wanted to meet the people from the south to see if the stories that Old Nan talked about really were true, whether the southerners really were just a bunch of statue worshipping ninnies or if they were something more. Plus he might also get to see dragons, those creatures that the Targaryens were so famous for.

His initial excitement had now turned to nervousness. The day had finally come for his departure, he would be heading south with ten men, all of them men he had grown up with in Winterfell. His father had spoken to him that morning, reminding him about what an honour it was that he was going down to King's Landing, and that he should remember that whilst he was there he was representing Winterfell and the North and their family, and that he should strive to make a good impression on the Royal Family. Willam had of course promised to do just that, and though he felt confident that he could make friends down south – he was not too shy after all- there was still a little bit of nerves floating around his stomach, he was from the north after all and he had heard rumours about what the southerners thought and said about the north.

His mother had spoken to him as well, before he had mounted his horse. His mother, whom he loved above all else, she had come to see him off with tears in her eyes, and a smile on her face. She had told him she loved him and that she knew he would make them all proud, Willam nodded and then as he hugged his mother tightly he prayed to the Old Gods that when he returned she would still be alive and well. Next he had said goodbye to his siblings. Artos, his oldest brother big even now at seven, Jeyne, his sweet sister with her dreams of songs and knights and then there was Beron, his baby brother the youngest of their pack at the age of three. He said goodbye to them all a lump in his throat throughout.

He turned round rather briefly, before he rode through the gates of Winterfell with his escort. He looked back at the castle that had been his home for all of his life till now, trying to memorise each and every detail of it, and all those who lived in it. Then he raised his hand in farewell and spurred Duty- his horse- onward and did not look back.

It took them a month to get to the capital. When they reached the Red Keep they were met by one of the members of the fabled Kingsguard, Ser Odrick Arryn, and brought to the throne room, where upon entering Willam found that there were five other children present and with them Willam guessed by the number of white cloaks present were the King's children. Ser Odrick announced his arrival to the room at large and soon all the hustle and bustle stopped as all eyes were turned to him. Swallowing nervously Willam stepped forward trying to stop him from shaking, and walked toward where the King sat on the Iron Throne. He stopped just in front of the steps leading to the Iron Throne and bowed, saying as he did so "Your Grace. I am Willam Stark, son of Cregan Stark Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North."

He kept his head bowed as he waited for the king to speak, and when the King did so his voice sounded oddly soft. "Rise Lord Willam. And come and meet your fellow children." Willam raised his head up and saw that a whole line of boys and girls were coming to greet him. A boy with the golden silver hair of the Targaryens and with their violet eyes stepped forward and shook Willam's hand, as Willam heard the King say. "My son Daeron," Daeron nodded at Willam and smiled slightly. Then he moved off and another boy who looked startlingly similar to Prince Daeron stepped forward and shook Willam's hand and he heard the King say."My youngest son Prince Baelor." Then Prince Baelor moved away and two more boys who looked similar to Prince Daeron and Prince Baelor, albeit slightly older looking stepped forward. And the King said. "My nephews Aegon and Aemon." They moved away and then four girls stepped forward and curtsied before Willam, and the king said. "My daughters Daena, Elena and Rhaena and my niece Naerys." Then they moved away and a big young lad with golden curls and green eyes and a cheeky smile stepped forward and shook Willam's hand. The king introduced him as "Damon Lannister." Another boy stepped forward with raven black hair and summer blue eyes and King Aegon introduced him as "Robar Baratheon." Then another boy stepped forward with fiery auburn hair – kissed by fire Willam thought briefly- the king introduced him as "Gregor Tully." Then a boy with brown hair and big brown eyes stepped forward and the king introduced him as "Steffon Arryn." Finally a boy with big broad shoulders and hair so pale it was almost white stepped forward and the king introduced him as "Quellon Greyjoy." Once the introductions were done the King left them all to get to know each other, and Willam felt the butterflies return.

As the days turned into weeks and then turned into years Willam Stark grew more comfortable in King's Landing. No longer did their strange accents and customs puzzle him. He learnt his lessons with the Grand Maester alongside his fellow wards and the princes and princesses, and when the Grand Maester was busy they were taught by Maester Marwyn. They learnt about the histories of the Seven Kingdoms and how to be good lords and kings and queens. And when they were not in lessons Willam spent time down in the practice yard along with the other boys practicing his sword fighting and his archery, though he quite liked fighting with a sword than with a bow, bows were for cowards he thought, though he didn't say that to Quellon, as the Ironborn was twice as big as Willam was even at their young age.

Willam developed friendships in King's Landing he became especially close with Prince Daeron, Prince Aemon and Steffon Arryn. The four of them would cause all kinds of havoc in the courtyard with their pranks and their japes, and they were a tightly knit group. Daeron and Willam especially grew close out of the four of them, and they exchanged jokes and told each other their deepest desires and told no one else only the two of them knew. So when King Aegon decreed that Prince Baelor should marry his sister Daena, following the Targaryen tradition, Daeron understood why Willam looked like he wanted to murder Baelor, even though he knew it was not the prince's fault. For you see over the years that Willam had come to spend in King's Landing, and when Baelor and Daena married he had been there for six years, he had come to truly have feelings for her. Not the sort of feelings that one had for a sister, but the sort of feelings Willam thought his father and mother had for one another. He wanted to marry Daena and start a family with her, he wanted to wake up beside her each every day, he wanted to kiss her all the time without worrying about being caught. He wanted her, and he wanted her badly, but he said nothing and remained quiet as he stood and watched Prince Baelor marry her.

It was after Prince Baelor and Daena's wedding that the raven came from Winterfell. Dark Wings Dark words were a common saying and this time the saying proved true. Willam's mother who had been unwell when he had left for King's Landing six years ago had passed away of a fever in the night some weeks past. He had prayed and prayed to the Old Gods that she would still be there when he came back home in three years time, but like so many things the gods did not listen and his mother was dead. It was Daena who found him, alone in the Red Keep a sword in his hand and tears in his eyes, and it was Daena who held him as he cried even more, for his mother, for his mother who was not like other mothers, for his mother who was gone and had left him behind when she had promised she would never leave him. And it was Daena who promised him that she would never leave him, that when Daeron became King she would beg him to dissolve her and Baelor's marriage so that the two of them could be together.

Willam keeps Daena to her word then, and when his father writes to him about accepting a marriage proposal for his hand, he writes back saying that he wishes to wait, he wants to write that he will only marry a dragon princess, but he knows his father would dismiss his word, and would arrange a match for him before Daeron ascends the throne, and so he merely writes that he would wait till he comes back to Winterfell. His father writes back that that is acceptable, and tells him of how Artos has married one of Lord Karstark's daughters and how an offer has come from Lord Bolton to wed his heir to Jeyne, Willam shivers when he reads that. The Boltons may not have rebelled against Winterfell since before Aegon the Dragon came to Westeros, but there is still something about the family that gives him the creeps, he knows his father would never seriously consider marrying Jeyne off to Lord Bolton's heir, Willam remembers the boy from when they were little and even then there was something wrong with him, from the letters he gets from Artos and Jeyne, the boy has only grown worse as the years have gone on. Though he does not tell his father this.

Then comes the day that Willam had both prayed for and felt guilty over thinking about. King Aegon III is found in his bed, having died in his sleep. A fortnight later Daeron is crowned and becomes, Daeron the Young Dragon. He names his uncle Viserys as Hand of the King and names Willam to the small council, as Master of Laws. Willam is surprised by this considering that he is no older than Daeron, and has little actually experience of court politics. But Daeron is insistent saying that he needs someone on the small council who will not just nod their head and go along with whatever he says, and he says that Willam and his uncle Viserys are the only people who will do that. Willam goes and speaks with Daeron then, and asks for him to set aside Baelor and Daena's marriage, and he can see from the look of sympathy in Daeron's eyes that his request is about to be rejected. Still it does sting when his friend, his best friend tells him that he cannot do that, that his uncle would simply have him marry Daena instead. Willam walks back to his rooms dejected and angry with his friend and with the Targaryens.

He is still angry when Prince Aegon marries Princess Naerys, and he sees the sorrow in Prince Aemon's eyes. He wonders what Aemon has to feel sorry about, he swore himself to celibacy earlier that year when he joined the Kingsguard. Willam looks across the Sept and catches Daena's eye, she still makes his heart beat quicken, and she flashes him a cheeky smile that makes him blush, Daeron nudges him in the ribs to stop him from smiling like a fool. Then Daeron marries Steffon Arryn's sister and the Arryns come to court. For a family renowned for their honour Willam notes that the Arryns – or atleast Steffon's father- seem content to sucking up to the king, and Willam spends half the feast exasperated with the Arryns and their blatant ass kissing, the other half he spends pushing Daena up against a wall in the dark shadows of the Red Keep kissing her until they are both breathless with pleasure. He has gone so long without kissing her that he does not even feel guilty for kissing another man's wife, for when that man is Prince Baelor, and when the Prince refuses to bed and even kiss his own wife, why should he feel guilty?

She smiles at him and then walks away straightening her dress as she re-enters the feast. The next day Daeron announces before the small council that he means to march on Dorne. His friend as often seen it as an insult that Dorne remains independent, and that so long as it did, the work of Aegon the Conqueror was unfinished. The ravens go out that same day calling the banners of the Kingdoms for war. Willam feels his heart beat heavy in his chest, as Daeron's best friend he will be riding with the King, but it still does not feel real, not even when the armies of Westeros have assembled 120,000 troops assembled in King's Landing, over the past three moons. The only time it feels like he is truly marching for war is the night before they are due to leave when he goes to say farewell to Daena and finds her not in her room, but in his bed, wearing nothing but a shift and no smallclothes. He tries to resist, but he is not as strong as he should be, and he beds her and kisses her as if doing so could keep him in King's Landing with her and not away to Dorne. She leaves in the dead of the night sneaking back to her own rooms, and he feels hollow inside.

The royal army of King's Landing marches three moons to the day that the ravens went out. 120,000 men march for Dorne to bring it into Westeros and make true of Daeron's title as King of all Seven Kingdoms. The Dornish put up a stiff resistance. The first battle of the campaign is in the Dornish Marches, where the royal army go up against the armies of House Manwoody, Dayne and Yronwood plus three companies of sellswords. The fighting is bloody. Willam leads the left for the battle, Daeron leading the main host and Prince Aemon leading the Vanguard. Willam leads the charge that breaks the Yronwood's flank. Willam wielding a longsword from the armoury in King's Landing swings, hacks and slashes his way through the Dornishmen in his path. He keeps hacking and slashing, cutting off an arm here, a head there, he cuts a man in half and then cuts a man from shoulder to leg and watches stuck to the spot as the man bleeds to the death.

Daeron slays Lord Manwoody, opening him from shoulder to foot. Aemon kills Lord Dayne piercing his throat with Dark Sister. Willam fights Lord Yronwood and wins though only after a bloody confrontation. Swinging their swords at each other like mad men, the sound of steel on steel, the screeching of it, the sparks flying it sounds like music to Willam. If music could be dark and perverted. Lord Yronwood swings his sword and Willam ducks. Willam swings his sword and Lord Yronwood moves to the left. They both swing their swords and the clanging of steel as it meets in the air resounds around the battlefield.

Lord Yronwood swings again, and this time Willam is not quick enough to block the swing and gasps as the sword cuts into his skin through his armour, opening up a fresh wound to go with his already sizeable amount. Willam manages to retaliate though. He manages through pure brute force to shove Yronwood's sword out of the way and gives himself enough time to thrust his longsword into the man's chest before pulling out again, blood following his sword on its way out.

Yronwood's answering blow nearly knocks Willam to his knees. The man maybe old but he is still strong, he slams his sword into Willam's sword with such force that Willam's grip falters and in that moment, Yronwood knocks Willam on his helm, denting it and impairing Willam's vision. Yronwood's next blow is a sword thrust through Willam's left rib, that pierces through his armour and punctures his ski, causing blood to flow out at an alarming rate. Willam falls to his knees then, seeing the end in sight. Yronwood lifts his sword up readying it to bring it down into a big arc to lop Willam in half, but he is slow to do the deed.

This gives Willam enough time even with blood pouring out of him like the water flows through the Blackwater, he struggles to lift his sword up, Yronwood's age really shows in this moment, for Willam knows that a younger, quicker foe would have realised what he was about to do and would have brought their sword down already to prevent him from doing anything of the sort, but Yronwood is not young and Willam thanks the gods that he is not. He lifts his sword up and then tries to lunge but ends up falling forwards, piercing through Yronwood's armour and piercing his skin inside, Willam leans so heavily on the sword that he thinks it may have pierced several valuable organs, and judging by the way the blood begins to pour out of Yronwood's mouth and stain Willam's sword all the way up to the hilt, he guesses he is right. Lord Yronwood dies with Willam's blade buried deep within him, Willam himself struggles to wrench himself and his sword free from the old man, and when he does he realises that the battle around them must have stopped for he can no longer hear the sounds of men fighting, dying or screaming. But he lifts the visor from his helm and sees that no he was wrong the battle still rages on.

He staggers up shouting for a maester, and when does eventually come he thinks he might faint from the amount of blood he has lost. As it turns out he does feint, but when he comes to it is to the sight of his friends gathered around him, talking quietly about the battle and what their next point of action should be. He remains quiet during the discussion but from what he hears, he gauges that they won though they sustained heavy losses. Robar's father died as did Steffon's. Both are now the Lord's Paramount and are both still boys, hells they're all green boys in this tent. He, Daeron, Robar, Steffon, Damon, Aemon, Aegon all green boys who've just had their first taste of war, and they're about to get some more.

A week later their march through the Prince's Pass goes largely unhindered, though there are a few bandits who try and raid their supply trains, they are easily dealt with by the soldiers, therefore allowing the commanders sometime to rest. Their next battle comes at the edge of the Prince's Pass when their army is nearing the end of the treacherous terrain and are between High Hermitage and Skyreach, more Dornish men and women come out and attack, except this time they attack at night and slip away once they are done. After the second night when they wake up to find sentries and other soldiers dead, killed at their post or in their beds, Daeron decides that the whole army shall be on alert and shall not rest till the Dornish force responsible are dead or captured.

The third night is when the real fighting starts. They come with low burning torches; Willam and the men have no fires burning, are only listening for the sound of heavy footfalls and at the first sign of them draw their weapons. It is tricky business this fighting in the dark, hacking and slashing at an enemy that you cannot see, often means that Willam gets more injuries than he deals. He keeps hacking and slashing though, and eventually figures out a pattern. The Dornish will follow the sand paths to attack and then take the sand trails back to their hide outs, in the morning after the third night Willam leads a small party and finds the Dornish base of power, he goes back and tells Daeron without being seen, and then that evening just before the sun sets, the armies of Westeros converge on the Dornish guerrillas. It is a massacre plain and simple. Willam swing his sword till it is covered in blood, the ground is covered with blood and is littered with bodies, Dornish bodies. He cuts off arms, legs, heads; he pierces throats, chests, ribs and shoulders. All done so that Daeron can conquer Dorne.

After resting for a few days the army marches further east, all the while patrols are kept at night and guards are kept on the supply train at all time, Daeron is not going to be taking any chances. The raids continue though, men are killed both Westerosi and Dornish, and the nightly guerrilla attacks continue as well, draining their man power severly, so that by the time they come to Hellholt, the army is close to starving and the morale is beginning to drain, and still Daeron insists on marching and fighting. At Hellholt they find 2000 Dornishmen armed and ready to fight, they also find the desert ready to drain their resources away, as it turns out they smash the forces gathered at Hellholt, but suffer severe losses as well taking the castle and winning the battle, they lose roughly half their men either to death in the battle or starvation as they march further on through the desert.

A rider finds them as they march close to the Vaith river, he comes bearing news from King's Landing, Daeron's wife died during labour, their daughter stillborn. Daeron buries his sorrow and his grief by fighting yet another battle, this time against 1000 Dornishmen and their guerrilla tactics. Tactics which cost them 20,000 men though they still win the battle. Eventually House Martell sends a rider to bring them to treat at Godsgrace, Daeron accepts and so the king, Willam, Steffon, Aemon, Aegon and Lord Tyrell ride with thirty men for Godsgrace, Robar having died during one of the battles, whether at Hellholt or at the Vaith Willam cannot remember.

The terms discussed are ones of peace, Willam is in such a daze shocked from the battles he has fought and plagued by nightmares that he does not remember much of what is said. All he knows is that when they ride back from Godsgrace to their army camped by the Vaith, Lord Tyrell does not ride with them as he has been left by Daeron to be the steward of Dorne and to rule for Daeron. They begin their journey back north two years to the day that they began preparing for the conquest. Daeron seems smug and cocky as they ride back, all Willam can do is hope and pray that this conquest lasts, and that there will be no more need for bloodshed, for a long time.

It is clear that as they march back for King's Landing that the Dornish people do not like them, they do not see Daeron as their king, they only see him as their conqueror, their slaver, Willam tries to point this out to Daeron, but his friend only laughs and tells him to lighten up. They are at Grassy Vale when Daeron begins writing his book on the Conquest. In typical Daeron style the book is written with extravagant flourish and the prose paints Daeron as a hero, he is in truth, especially if he can hold Dorne. The book is published and becomes an instant hit for the nobility to read, three years after they set out for Dorne. To Willam though life in the south does not seem as glamorous as it once did, before when he thought war was just a game. He has seen different now, he has seen men die, has killed men, he has watched his friends and his enemies bleed to death screaming for their mothers. No he no longer thinks of the south with as much fondness as he used, and that is something not even Daena can change, and he begins looking forward to the time he can return home, with his father beginning to go into ill health he will be needed in the north soon.

His departure is delayed infinitely when news comes to King's Landing of Lord Tyrell's death by scorpions. News of the Dornish revolts taking place across the whole of Dorne anger Daeron and the rest of his cousins, he calls the banners once more, though this time 40,000 men come instead of 120,000 and they ride south once more Willam a reluctant participant this time around.

The second time around, the Dornish do not fight them in open battle, they are not waiting for them in the Dornish Marches like they were three years ago. No they wait in the mountains covered by desert and sand, they wait and when the army crosses into the Prince's Pass they strike. Flinging boulders and rocks at the army, Willam manages to avoid the rocks that are thrown, but from the screams and shouts of the men behind him he knows there are hundreds- perhaps thousands- who are not so lucky. The barrage stops that night and they set up camp, Daeron weary due to attack in the morning has sentries and guards and patrols set up. They do no good. They wake up the next morning to find men dead, killed at their post beside the fire, in their beds, their heads mounted on spikes on the rocks and mountain side. The body of Ser Odrick Arryn of the Kingsguard is found two days later, his head smashed in with rocks, his armour taken, his body covered with scars and dried wounds, dead killed by poison Daeron says.

The destruction does not end there. Steffon dies next, an arrow to the chest in the night, the Dornish guerrilla's getting bolder and bolder. A massacre, men are found with swords thrust through their bellies and heads, arrows through their chests and arms and legs. Blood covers the camp; bodies litter the earth, and are burnt. Unmarked graves are made in the Prince's Pass, and Daeron rages.

Daeron's own death comes four days after that. They had stumbled upon a group of Dornishmen, the leaders of the resistance no doubt, planning their next move. Daeron had drawn Blackfyre and challenged them to a duel. There seven of them and five of us, Willam will remember later. Daeron, Aemon, Aegon, Gregor and Willam himself. Aemon killed two of them, Aegon one, Gregor one, Willam himself killed two, Daeron killed the leader but died later from his wounds. And as they were retreating back to camp they were set upon by a giant Dornish host, commanded by Prince Mors Martell.

They are taken to Skyreach and kept in cells there, for what seems like months until Prince Baelor, now King Baelor Willam supposes comes and treats with the Dornish Prince, he negotiates their release and they come back to King's Landing with Daeron's bones, his crown and the sword his wielded. Dorne remains independent and Willam seethes. They won their freedom through treachery and dishonest means, not through open battle like good honest men would.

Willam is there in the Sept when Baelor is formally named king and Daena Queen, though a few days later Baelor against the advise of his uncle and hand sets aside his marriage to Daena. That same night Daena comes to his room, and Willam still wallowing in grief and anger beds her, and he beds her again the next night and the night after that. It becomes a running joke that Aegon often throws at him when he sees him in passing. Willam lets it pass though, for five months after Baelor's coronation and Daeron's death and with Daena's urging he goes to Baelor and asks him for permission to marry Daena, Baelor refuses.

Not only does he refuse he calls Willam, "A Heathen, a savage, and not a man fit for a Princess of the Iron Throne or any Targaryen."

Willam seethes at the insult done to him and his family in front of the court and spits back. "Is this how it will be then? We grew up together Your Grace, we learnt how to be men, I served your brother loyally and I never once asked for a thing. And this one thing I ask for you would deny it to me?"

Baelor says nothing but remains still on the Iron Throne. "Very well then, I resign from the Small Council. I am done with this city and its politics. Good day and gods bless." Willam snarls and then stalks from the hall. He packs his things in a hurry, anger making him decided instantly what he needs and what he doesn't.

He almost doesn't see Daena standing in his room until she is pressing herself against him her mouth hot and insistent against his. "I know you are hurt and upset my love," she says between kisses and moans. "I will find a way to be with you I promise. You must take this with you." She presses a crown into his hands.

He looks at it stunned. "This is the crown Torrhen Stark wore when he was King in the North. Where did you get it from?"

Daena smiles a sly smile. "There are rooms here which no one has been in for years. Let us say I got the crown from there. Take it with you, and when we marry you shall wear it become a king my love." She kisses him once more and then walks out of the room.

The next day Willam rides with ten men back to Winterfell, the crown kept along with his most precious belongings. When he tells his father of King Baelor's humiliation of him and their family, Lord Cregan promises that the insult will not go forgotten and instructs Maester Osgrey to begin work on Moat Cailin, to have it rebuilt to its former glory. For the Starks are of the north, and the North Remembers.