Since Bran’s fall Rickon was having problems adjusting. He wanted his mother the most, but she continued to sit at Bran’s bedside. So he’d thrown a tantrum, or two, or three…but her attention never wavered. So, he was put in his room as punishment. In the short period of time he actually had stayed in his room he’d taken out all of his toys and clothes and spread them on the floor.
“Bran better wake up soon.” He told Shaggydog his dire wolf pup who decided to lay on his bed. He yawned in response. “You tell your brother to wake him up. I know, I know all the old stories. If you grow up with us, you act like us and your brother is still awake and mine isn’t. It isn’t FAIR!”
Shaggydog’s eyes moved to Rickon, then to the window, then back to the boy. He raised his head and howled three times then laid back down.
“Shaggy, your going to be the biggest, bravest dire wolf ever.”
He left his room and started off down the hallway. First he stopped at Sansa’s room, she was busy packing. He looked over her things, picking up her brushes, then tossing them back down carelessly, annoyed with how she hadn’t noticed he was there.
“Arya! I told you…” She turned, saw him and smiled. “Now little brother, mother has been teaching you to ask before you take things. When you come to visit at King’s Landing you must remember.”
He ignored what she was saying, but put last one back a little nicer. “Bran can’t play. Have you seen anyone? I want to play. Your packing, you won’t want to play with me. Maybe, I could take Lady and Shaggydog for a walk.”
“She already had a nice long walk with me. But thank you for the offer, sweet brother.”
“Okay.” He frowned and sighed.
She continued to smile. “You could help me pack. Could you bring me the gloved on the table there? Oh, and the bigger of the two hand mirrors.”
He grabbed them both and gave them to her. She ruffled his hair. “Thank you.”
“Where’d Arya go?”
“We were both told to pack. She chose to put dirt in my trunk, so I spent most of the day cleaning it out.”
He smiled. “It is kind of funny…Do you think she could play now?”
“I think if you asked her she might want to, but she shouldn’t. Maybe Robb could think of a game for you? Or he could find Old Nan. She could tell you a story…”
“No! I’m done with stories. All she does is tell me stories because Mother is busy with Bran. I want mother and I want to play with Bran!”
“If we keep praying, the gods will answer us. So keep praying and Bran will wake up. They’ll hear my prayers, Arya’s, Mother’s, Father’s and yours. Even Jon’s and all of Winterfell.”
“And all of our dire wolves. When they were howling, they were praying too. Don’t you think so?”
She smiled and knelt to his level. “Of course they do. Everyone loved Bran so much.”
“Does Mother love Bran more than me?” He asked. He thought it might be true since she was spending all of her time with him. Sansa shook her head.
“Mother loves us all. She’s so sad too. You know how much you want to play with Bran?” He nodded. “That is how much mother wants him to wake up. Maybe Robb hasn’t walked his wolf yet and he’ll go for a walk with you.”
“His wolf is Greywind, and mine is Shaggydog. Your’s is Lady, Arya’s is Nymeria, Jon’s is Ghost and Bran hasn’t named his yet. Do you think Robb will play with me?”
“I think if he can’t he’ll find something you could do.” She said nicely. He agreed with her, nothing Robb could tell him to do would be as boring as packing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He found Robb reading over sheets of parchment. Greywind sat on the floor and his tail started to wag when he saw the boy. Robb looked up because the sound.
“Rickon. What are you doing here?”
“I want to play with someone. Do you want to play with me? We could take Greywind and Shaggy for a walk or have them run in the courtyard. We can see who’s faster!”
“That does sound like fun little brother.” he started. He stood up and walked toward him. “But I’m to be lord in Father’s place. It’s going to be very different for me once he leaves, and I need to get used to what I need to do. I’ve been reading over the records, but there is still much more I need to do.”
Rickon frowned. For a moment he thought he might cry. Then Robb picked him up, spun him around and set him in the chair.
“No need to be sad. Now your lord of Winterfell. What will you do?”
He smiled, then gathered all the papers scattered across the desk, and tossed them into the air. However his giggles only received a long sigh from his brother.
“Rickon…that took me forever to sort!”
Then he started to pout, Robb only sighed and shook his head. “Fine, What if I just tell you a nice story. Then you can go and play…”
“Yes. Here we go.” He picked him up and set him in his lap. “Once in the land of always winter, there was a very strong and fierce dire wolf that protected a small village of Wildlings from the others.”
“And his name was…Stark, because our house sigil is a dire wolf.”
Robb smiled. “Of course, what a good name for him! Well, the others are so scary with their icy blue eyes and their inhuman speech, and everywhere they go they bring fear, and cold.”
“The others aren’t really just snow lords that came to life right? They’re really bad and Uncle Benjen makes sure they won’t come here right?”
“Right, their bad all they want is to kill, they don’t think like we do little brother. Alright so, the dire wolf, Stark, is very important to the villagers he’s like Uncle Benjen. He’s going to protect them. So, he decided he might need to find the children of the forest so he could ask them how to protect the Wildlings from the others.”
“Children of the forest understand dire wolf? I understand dire wolf.” Rickon said impressively.
“Can you? What’s Greywind thinking right now?” Robb asked.
“He likes the dire wolf in your story. He thinks Stark is very brave and he would like to do the same thing. But he’s never seen children of the forest. Also, he wants an extra sausage tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll see that he gets one. And Shaggydog can have an extra sausage too. So, Stark went to the children of the forest, but they already knew he was coming. So, they told him they would be there to help, but he needed to be patient and wait. So the others got closer and closer to the village ans Stark howled and howled, letting the children of the forest know he was worried.”
“They really do help him right?”
“Yes, the night they were to be attacked a thousand children of the forest stepped out of the trees and shot the others with dragon glass arrows, until finally the others melted away into pools of shiney water. And after the battle, Stark let the children of the forest know he’d help protect them too. They were to be allies and friends for the rest of his long dire wolf life.”
Rickon smiled. “Time for another story!”
“No, time for me to get back to this, and you, you should go play. It’s still light outside. You could…run around the courtyard with Shaggydog.”
“I already did that.” He whined.
Robb sighed the last thing he wanted was his little brother to throw a tantrum. Especially while around several documents his father would likely take to King’s Landing with him. “All right, how about this. I’ll give you a special mission.” He looked around the desk and picked up a quill. “Can you find Jon and give him this for me? See, I want him to pack one so when he gets to the wall he can write to us. So, bring this to him and let him know we’ll miss him.”
Excited by the task he smiled and took the quill with enthusiasm. “I will! Can it be a game? I can be a knight and I’m bringing it from the lord of Winterfell to another lord, one of father’s banner men.”
“Sure. Who can Jon be then? One of father’s very favorite and most trusted.”
“Father likes lord Reed. So he can be the lord of Greywater Watch. The quill is going to be.. I think it will be a letter to a grand feast okay? So I’ll bring the lord of Greywater Watch the letter from the lord of Winterfell!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jon had been praying in the Godswood Ghost had been sitting next to him, but now he was wagging his tail and pacing back and forth, it distracted him and he sighed. “Do you see a rabbit? Go on boy, get it and come back.”
He raced off and Jon went to kneel in front of the tree again. He started to pray, he prayed that the journey to King’s Landing would be peaceful for his father and sisters. That Bran would wake up soon. The Robb would be a true and just lord of Winterfell, like their father. And lastly, that he himself would take well to his new life.
Then he heard a happy yipping as if Ghost had found someone. He stood up and looked over toward the sorce of the noise. Ghost was chasing a dire wolf pup of a darker color than himself. They were playfully nipping at each other and pouncing around in the snow.
“You are here!” Rickon called to him happily. “I’m on a quest to find you! And Ghost lead me right to you.”
“Why? Did something happen?” He asked with some concern.
“No. Robb told me to bring you something.” he reached in his cloak and pulled out the quill. He handed it to Jon with a big smile. “At first I was going to play and he was going to be lord of Winterfell and you were going to be lord Reed but then Ghost came to play with Shaggydog and I told him to help me find you.”
“Well I think Robb was playing a game with you.” Jon replied and he took the quill and tucked it inside of his cloak. “Did you pray today? I was just praying myself. We could pray for Bran together. Maybe they’d hear us better if it’s the two of us at the same time.”
“I already did this morning…It’s what mother has us do…We pray in the mornings with Robb. And at night, she used to come and help me pray to the new gods. Do you pray to the new gods too? Or just the old ones?”
“Just the old ones. But I’m a Snow, not a Stark. If lady Stark tells you to, you ought to do it. We’ll go back to the castle in a moment.” Jon ruffled his hair and smiled lightly.
Jon knelt again in front of the tree. Rickon decided he would too. They were both silent, and Rickon closed his eyes. He only prayed for a little while then back at Jon. He kept his head low, he reminded him of their father. So he decided to do one more prayer, for Jon. Jon pat him on the shoulder and he smiled at him.
“Good job. That’s the stillest I’ve seen you.” Jon teased. “Are you ready to head back? I’ll give you your good bye present early?”
He smiled. “A present? What kind of present?”
“You’ll have to wait and see. It will be a very nice surprise.”
They left the Godswood and were almost through the courtyard before he spoke again. “Jon, what did you pray for?”
“I pray for the happiness of everyone I love, and the strength to do the right things always, like father.”
“I prayed for father to tell you who your mother is so then you could tell my mother and then you could stay here with us. Because that would make he not sad about it anymore.”
“Rickon, I don’t think that would make her less sad. As much as I would like to stay, it is the right thing to do.”
“But won’t you miss Robb and all of us?”
“Of course, but the wall needs good men to defend it. Robb has all of father’s banner men if he needs them. Father is always noble and just, like his father, and Robb will be the same way. If he needs help, they’ll all be there. I’ll protect you all from the wall.”
“Do you think I should go too? When I’m big enough?”
“You could do anything you want. You could be a kinght of the King’s guard. Or maybe you could sit on the King’s council. Maybe you could be the hand of the King after father. Don’t think too much on it, I’m sure you’ll be someone very special Rickon. But you’ll have to take my place at Robb’s side while I’m gone. You, Bran and Robb with have to keep lady Stark happy too. She’ll miss father.”
“Why does everything have to change?” Rickon asked. They were now back inside the castle, and close to Jon’s room.
“It’s just how things are. Remember, winter is coming. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” he opened the door and they both went inside he only had a small bag packed and what he could carry in his saddlebag. He picked Rickon up and set him on his bed. Then went to the closet and pulled out a trunk, full of old toys and other things he thought his younger brothers would like.
“Here you should share them with Bran when he’s better. There’s a bow, a couple of balls, a nice wooden dagger, I thing we hardly used them..” He set them on the bed next to him. Rickon picked them up and looked them over. “There’s a lot here you two will like. Here, look there’s even chain mail we used when we used to play knights….” Jon smiled lightly and put it over his tunic. “You look like a knight already.”
He knelt down in front of Rickon and his little brother gave him a hug. “I was really sad before, everyday Bran isn’t awake I always get worried he’s not going to be able to. I miss playing with him. But, today was fun! I’ll miss you. But I’ll come visit and I’ll have my own chain mail, and I’ll name my son Jon after you, and when you meet him, he’ll wear this one just like I am. I’ll take the best care of it.”
Jon smiled. “Don’t tell lady Stark that, you be good. I think I might have lent my old wooden sword to Arya. I’m sure she’ll give it back to you if you ask nicely. She won’t need it at King’s Landing. If she complains, just tell her I have something good for her too.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He found Arya in her room. Despite what Sansa said, she’d been playing earlier. Maybe he should of looked for her first instead of Sansa. However now she was sitting on her bed, tossing dresses into her trunk in an attempt to pack it quickly.
“Sansa was packing too. You can play with me tomorrow right? Since your already done?”
“I can, we’ll have to play something good though.” She looked over at him and gave him a strange look.
“Do you like my chain mail? Isn’t it the best? Jon gave it to me so I can play knights better. He has a whole trunk of stuff!” He pulled the wooden dagger out of his belt and held it up. “It’s the BEST!”
“Let me see.” Rickon ran over and sat on the best with her. He passed her the wooden dagger and pulled the out the other one. She looked it over and smiled. “They’re Jon and Robb’s, let me see that one.”
He gave it to her and he looked at the one she gave back to him confused. Then she gave him back the second one only when she passed it back she held it upside down. “See, he scratched Jon into this one, Robb’s is the one in your right hand.”
“Why’d they give them to us? Robb can still play with his, he’s not going to the wall…”
“Robb doesn’t need play weapons, he’ll be using real ones. One day father will give him a sword of Valarian steel. But they have two brothers, and if Jon was going to give everything to you and they have two brothers, Robb would give up his too so you’ll share for once. Why are you here anyway?”
“Jon said you have his wooden sword. He said I could have it too. And he said he has something better for you.”
“Fine, if he has something better I’ll give it to you. But until then I’m keeping it, besides you already have a wooden sword. What are you going to do with two? Or two daggers like you have now?”
“I’m going to give one to Bran, Jon said to share. Who’s chain mail am I wearing?”
“How would I know? They fit them when I was too young to remember. Robb’s clothes would have the Stark crest. I remember mother made him something for his name day once so he could be lord of Winterfell. Jon liked being the dragon knight. So I guess that’s how you could tell the difference.”
“We’ll play knights tomorrow then! If it looks like it will fit Bran and I’m supposed to share you can wear it too! Your only a little taller than him. It’s big on me, you could try it.”
She smiled. “We’ll try. It would be fun to play knights before we go. Sansa won’t play it with me and those Lannisters, they’re boring. The imp is the most interesting and he isn’t going to be riding back with us, or so said father, he’s going to visit the wall.”
“It won’t be bad. At least you can go. I want to go!”
“Why do you want to go? Father doesn’t even want to go. You can see it in his eyes when he talks about it. All it’s going to be is more work for him, and I have to spend all my time with Sansa and the princess. All we’ll do is go riding, and sew, if we get really lucky once or twice maybe we’ll go hawking. If we’re really lucky, there will be a tourney.”
Rickon sighed. “But here mother is sad, Bran won’t wake up and Robb can’t play at least you can do something. I’ll be bored, not you!” He pouted.
“You have toys. See if Ser Rodrick will help you practice. He’ll think of something. Maybe he can set up a straw man for you to practice with.”
Still pouting he shook his head. “Maybe father will buy you a sword on the Kingroad and teach you himself.”
“Don’t be a baby.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Then stop acting like one! I’m trying to make you feel better brat.” She sighed. “I miss Bran and I’m not even gone yet.”
“Me too….I miss mother too…”
She nodded. “Yeah, I won’t see her for a long time. I miss hearing her voice, even if it is only scolding me. I hope she’ll come out of Bran’s room to say goodbye.”
“I’ll tell her to when I give Bran my present.”
She smiled. “Thank you. Your already being a noble knight. Must be the chain mail.”
He grinned. “I’ll be a good and noble knight. But you promise we’ll play tomorrow before you leave tomorrow? Right after we break our fast, or before if your awake. One more time before you go?”
“Of course I will, I want to get in one or two more bouts before I’m at King’s Landing and they try to force me to become a lady.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Catelyn Stark hadn’t left Bran’s room since his fall. Rikon came into the room a few times since then, but she was always very quiet and sad. He’d asked Robb, Sansa and even Arya if she had been different with them too. Which they told him she was just as unresponsive. But still he hoped she’d be different now. He looked around the room, and she was asleep, holding his hand like it was going to give him the strength he needed to wake up. Rickon set the wooden dagger on the table next to his bed then moved to where his mother was to rouse her.
He touched her shoulder and called out to her. “Mother…mother..”
She opened her eyes. She started to smile for the first time in days. “My sweet baby….” for a moment he thought she forgot she was heartbroken. She picked him up and held him tightly. She was so warm, and she still smelt faintly of flowers. Then she seemed to remember about the fall, that Bran still hadn’t woken up. She let him sit in her lap but she reached for Bran’s hand once more.
“I got to play with everyone today mother. Arya said she’d play with me in the morning. I talked to Sansa when she was packing, Robb told me a story and Jon gave me all of his stuff because he can’t use it at the wall. Arya told me she wanted to see you before they leave tomorrow.”
“My daughters…” she stroked his hair. He looked up at her the pain was clear on her face, and tears were in her eyes.
“Rickon, come here child.”
He looked to the doorway to his father, then back at his grief stricken mother. She still stroked his hair but her eyes were still on Bran. It was as if she didn’t see he was there at all. When he finally decided to go to his father she moved to hold Bran’s hand with both of hers.
When he was close enough Ned scooped Rickon up and held him. The boy was scared, he didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t know why she was so upset when everyone else was all right.
“What are you doing little one?”
“I wanted mother…I miss her…”
“Come on, lets go outside now. Let your mother be..” he cried a little but Ned soothed him and once he was calm he looked up at his father and frowned.
“I wasn’t trying to be bad…”
“I know my sweet child, I know wait out here, just a moment and I’ll talk to your mother. She’s very sad. I know you only want to make her happy, but she’s still very upset. We all are upset he hasn’t woken up yet. Be a good boy and wait outside. I won’t be long.”
He kissed his forehead and set him back down on the ground. Ned went back into the room and Rickon sighed. Sensing the boy was upset, Shaggydog came to him and licked his hand. He giggled and hugged his dire wolf. “Father will make everything better. You’ll see.”
It felt like he waited for what felt like an hour, but he did come back, he picked him up and brought him back inside. She held him again, but it didn’t feel the same. Before she radiated warmth and comfort, but now he didn’t feel any of it.
“Come, your fine.” He lifted him up into his arms and smiled. “Give your mother a kiss and tell her goodnight.”
“Goodnight mother.” He said nicely and kissed her cheek. “I love you, feel better.”
It looked like she was going to cry. Ned stood up and kissed the top of her head. “I’ll take care of him. When he’s laid down in bed I’ll be back, my love.”
She nodded and took Bran’s hand again. Ned sighed and they left the room. “When does your mother have you bathe? In the morning or at night?”
“At night but I’m not really dirty…I wasn’t outside much today.”
“What did you do then? If you weren’t outside running around and digging holes.”
He smiled. “I played with everyone. Sansa, and Robb and Jon and Arya. Jon gave me things to share with Bran when he wakes up. I brought one so when he wakes up he’ll have something new to play with. That’s why I went to see mother. I didn’t make her more sad did I?”
“No, of course not my sweet son. Your mother is just so sad, we love you all so much. We never want anything to harm any of you, ever. It makes her sad that I have to leave too. You’ll understand when your older.”
“When I’m older, we can come and visit, right?”
“We’ll be looking foreword to it. Come now, let’s get you ready for bed.” He took the chain mail, and Rickon changed into his bed clothes. “Where did you get this? Your mother hasn’t been fond of the idea of Bran or you dressing up and playing knights. She was reluctant when Robb and Jon did it, and put a stop to it when Robb hurt himself.”
“But why?” He asked. “It’s the best toy ever. Jon gave it to me. I didn’t take it from anywhere. I didn’t know mother didn’t like it…”
“It’s fine, you’re a good boy. Lay down and rest. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day.”
“Can I still keep it…”
“Yes, you can still keep it. Starks are strong, especially my sons. Just be careful, if you hurt yourself too bad she’ll blame the game your playing. If she asks tell her I gave it to you, not Jon. I know it’s a lie but it’s one she’ll be happier for.”
“Can I wear it to bed? I’m not really tired father…”
He laughed. “No, it’s better you shouldn’t wear it to bed. It’s made for protection. Now lay down. I’ll try my best to tell you a story, but I’m not very good.”
He laid his head down and Ned pulled the covers over him, and some furs to keep him warm.
“Your grandfather, my father lord Rickard, he always wanted us to train as hard as we could even as soon as we could hold a sword. He had been trained the same way. I think I was only about four when he gave me chain mail like that one. Only it was much heavier because he wanted it to be like what we would have to wear in battle.”
“This one isn’t yours…”
“No, this one is much lighter. The ones I had made for Robb and Jon were toys, for wooden swords. I don’t think any of you need hard training like what we had. They’re both very good from learning all the basics with a wooden one. My father did mean well by training us with real weapons, but your mother would never have it that way until your old enough to understand the difference between playing, and fighting. That’s why she didn’t like the chain mail at all. They really wanted to fight, but they always looked out for each other. Well, after awhile since they’d played with them so much some of the links fell out, you’ll see them when you use it again. But they didn’t mind at all it was still chain mail and they could still be knights, but one hole no matter how small can be the difference between life and death in battle. I don’t think Jon knew the hole was there, or was trying to hurt Robb in anyway, but that was the only way he could see to make Robb fall back you he hit his sword there. This last part is very important because it was all your mother saw and was more than enough for her to think it was the worst idea ever. You know those stairs, right by the courtyard you always like to jump on and sometimes fall because your not careful?”
“Well, Robb fell down those. It broke the chain mail more and it cut him. So you mother was very upset, and angry with Jon because we tell you all not to play on those stairs and all of you do it anyway. But more mad at me because I let them have them. Then I had to explain to them that if they wanted to wear it they needed to check it to see if there are any broken links in the chain mail, because all real knights would have them fixed before they went into battle. Then you know what happened?”
He smiled. “Mother told you to fix them.”
“No, they decided they didn’t like the chain mail anymore and they’d play without it because there was too much work involved in doing like they were told. So if your going to play with it you need to do the same thing.”
“Okay…I’ll be strong and brave like Robb.”
“Of course you will, because winter is coming.”
“Where did your chain mail go?”
He smiled lightly. “It was melted down to make my new one, until I finally stopped growing. I still have it, not to worry. But remember, this one is a toy.”
Rickon yawned, and Ned leaned in and kissed his forehead. “Goodnight. I’ll see you in the morning. Be good while I’m gone, and stay strong for your mother. You and Robb with have to protect her and Bran.”