It had only taken her until they broke their fast to become angry with Brandon again. She didn’t approve of how he was handling the situation. She’d caused a fuss that made it necessary for Ned to sit between them.
She rested her head on Ned’s shoulder and sighed. “It’s just not fair.”
“What isn’t fair?” Brandon scoffed.
“You won’t see that they’re punished!”
“Listen to me.” Ned said firmly. “He isn’t saying or doing anything cruel or unreasonable. I walked with Howland Reed for a while before coming back here. He told me himself he would rather Brandon not go through the trouble.”
She sat up straight and sighed again, but now she crossed her arms and gave them both accusing looks. “What if they bullied me?”
“I would break their necks and throw them to the dogs.” Brandon replied.
“I am not helping you calm her down if you encourage her.” Ned told him. “Listen.” He took her hand. “It’s very different if it’s toward a lady. We talked about this last night, we feel it would almost be more embarrassing to him if we went to these knights and told them what happened, and that our sister had to chase the squires away. The only reason we know anything about what happened was because you confronted them. The truth lies with a man who was just passing through and a young girl. Don’t you think they might be offended?”
“You mean to do the right thing. You’re trying to go about it the wrong way.” Brandon added. “You have no idea if the knights really let them get away with that or if they’re just like you, doing whatever they like whenever. They seemed like the sort that have some integrity, so let those squires enter some contest and be bested by real men. If you can beat them up I’m sure Benjen could enter at least one contest and best them.”
“I am trying to console her, if you want her to reach over me and try pulling your hair out, again, by all means; continue giving her ideas.” Ned told Brandon and he shook his head but fell silent. “You did well, it was the right thing to do. It was very just, and you were very kind. We’re still working on how to tell father. But, it might change his mind, ever so slightly, on sword training.”
She smiled at the thought. Then Benjen nodded and said, “I did offer my horse after you found out who the squires belonged to.” Benjen told her. “It should be his choice to say something. You can’t just go around defending people’s honor for no reason.”
“That is true, you gave him the information, he was offered a horse…”
“Maybe he didn’t know how to ride well, he didn’t come with a horse.” She told Ned.
“The fact of the matter is you did everything in your power. You have no reason to feel upset, offended, or angry because you were good, just, and honorable. We’ll watch the jousting, you’ll think it’s great fun, and you’ll enjoy the tourney. Worse things have happened.”
Ned gave her a reassuring smile, then Robert Baratheon called him over to him. In a matter of seconds he was gone. She looked back over at Brandon, who seemed to be watching the door to the dinning hall and scoffed. “It isn’t what father would have done.”
Benjen moved to sit between them, sensing something else might happen. But, Brandon didn’t say anything in response. Lyanna just continued to glare at him in frustration.
“Look! There is more bacon.” He said to try and break the tension, Brandon only rolled his eyes and shook his head. It seemed that he saw who he was looking for, and stood leaving Lyanna with Benjen.
“I still don’t think he’s right.”
“He might not be right, but you won’t change his mind.” Benjen told her. “He’ll do anything if he cares enough about the challenge. But he’s not going to demand them to punish those squires. It’s,” he paused. “It’s more politics, I think. Your heir of Winterfell telling men from the Riverlands what’s what, and he’s to marry Lord Tully’s daughter. If he is saying it isn’t right to pick on someone for no reason, why not go back to Lord Tully and tell him his daughter’s future husband harassed them? We’ll get them back somehow. Two of us, and three of them. We’re both stronger, braver, smarter, and better so we’ll get them.”
She smiled. “In the archery contest or the axe throwing contest. I want to see you throw an axe.”
“But I can’t use the squires as targets.” He teased.
“You listened in on them didn’t you? On Brandon and Ned?”
“Yeah, last night.”
She sighed. “Hypothetically speaking, Brandon is acting like a lord.”
“He is acting like a lord.”
“Well, Robert Baratheon is a lord. If Ned were just passing through, and squires bullied him, wouldn’t he do the same?”
“They have been friends, you were not friends when you brought them to a halt. We do things for our friends, yes, but…If someone hurt our brother he wouldn’t hesitate. But, that doesn’t mean he’d do the same for anyone. For all we know, he would of mistaken him as a farmer and turned the other way.”
She sighed. “But he’s betrothed to me…”
“You want to see if he’ll tell those knights off?” She nodded and he sighed. “Well, from what I’ve seen of him, I think he’d just pat you on the head and say, ‘that’s cute.’ then drink some more. Brandon convinced Ned, and Ned would convince Lord Robert. Don’t let it bother you. You already scared them once, we’ll get them again.” He smiled.
“Would you please tell Ned I went to ride my horse? I think a ride would help me feel better. I shouldn’t be too long.”
“Of course, do be careful though. Don’t go too far. Brandon wouldn’t approve.”
“Oh don’t worry. I won’t go far at all, wouldn’t want to provoke Brandon after all.”
She hadn’t been foolish, or so she thought. It was a clever act. She knew they’d check her things. So she’d hidden bits of armor with some of their traveling supplies, and the wedding gift. No one had touched it, figuring after all it may had been for Brandon to practice in. Or maybe one of her other brother had brought them incase. She didn’t take much time to paint the heart tree, once she’d finished she’d painted a smile and started to laugh. She was clever, and she would do fine, well enough to get done what needed to be done. After all, someone had to teach these knights humility she had plenty of practice at trying to keep Brandon humble. Dutifully she would do as they thought was right. But she wasn’t the type of girl who’d sit by and let the men handle things. She also wasn’t the sort who’d let them go unpunished. If they wouldn’t do it, she would herself. All she needed was her horse, the makeshift armor, and a borrowed lance. She’d use one of the blankets they’d brought to hide the armor and it would be fine left in the stables. She thought fondly on the night before. Howland Reed saw the men, Benjen had offered his horse, and instead he went to pray. Well she would see his prayers answered, she would do the honorable and noble thing, she’d show them a lesson. The same lesson in humility that she’d been trying to teach Brandon.
She knew little about jousting, but she knew for the first few rounds, if today were anything like the day before they’d accept challenges at the beginning, and save the better knights and lords, who had challenged each other for last. So she had little fear riding onto the field, to do just that. She heard sniggering, she knew she must look a sight, but even Benjen who was closest to her in age would have armor too big for her. Brandon had armor made for a tournament, and once they knew her house, it wouldn’t be hard to find out who she was. She’d try her best to use a tone like Brandon, commanding and assertive. That with the helmet should make her voice sound like she were male. It worked when they asked for her name, and who she wanted to challenge, and why she was there. No one seemed to think the knights would agree to be challenged. They thought it was a complete joke, then the word got back to them not once, or twice, but all three times that they planned to accept and the competition became more interesting. She hadn’t had the pleasure of introducing herself to the King and his party. The announcer would do the work himself. All she had to do was ride, and ride well.
She mounted her house, as did the so called knight. She had the advantage, the element of surprise because the large strong knight, had no idea the girl in ill fitting armor knew what she was doing. A lance wasn’t by any means light. But it had been easier holding a lance and charge at trees then to hold a sword and chance having to explain calloused hands to her father. The only part she had a worry about was her horse. But he held still as she charged at her opponent. He fell from his horse and she had to stop herself from giggling.
There had however been something she hadn’t taken into account. After being unhorsed the knight could take the rider’s horse or armor and hold it ransom. So, the fallen knight had been taking his armor off, she glanced around in the crowd and her eyes fell on Ned, he didn’t seem wholly amused. His arms were crossed and he watched her disapprovingly.
Her horse fell into an easy canter and she called out, trying to use a tone similar to her brother Brandon. “There is no need for that, the only ransom I ask for is that you teach your squire honor.”
The cheering from the crowd grew louder. It was like a bard’s song playing out in front of her eyes. The knight in ill fitting armor bested the then refused the opportunity to have a ransom in lieu of a nobler cause. She looked toward the King and his party. While the King himself seemed unimpressed, the Prince smiled.
“The next challenger.” someone announced.
With the confidence she’d just beat the first knight without problems she felt herself sitting on her horse a little taller. They took their positions and she leaned in and whispered something the her horse. Then she sat up straight and glanced to where Ned was. Unable to read any feelings from his expression she charged at the knight. The second seemed to be a little more difficult to unhorse, but he fell on their third charge. This time the crowd roared with cheers and applause. Except for Ned, he only seemed to let out a sigh of relief and shake his head.
“The same is true for you Ser. The only ransom I ask of you is to teach your squire honor.” This time however, when they cheered, she enjoyed it, and they only grew louder. So she did what the other knights did. She rode around and bowed until the next challenger was called to face her.
She let her horse trot back to the starting point for them and looked over the King’s party again. Only this time the King seemed aggravated. Regardless, she sat as straight as she could on her horse and held her borrowed lance steady. She charged at him and he fell just as easy as the first. The crowd was ecstatic, save her brother, who by now she felt knew who she was. She bowed and rode her horse in a circle giving everyone a polite wave. Suddenly things went quiet, and in her euphoria she couldn’t quite grasp why. Prince Rhaegar had stood up, and clapped for her as well.
The King turned to him and scoffed. “This farce has gone on long enough.”
“It is hardly a farce, it is a great tale of friendship and honor.” Prince Rhaegar argued. “This is what all great tales are made from, and I am glad to be witness to it.”
She felt proper protocol would bring her to them, so she rode back and knelt in front of where they were sitting, like any other good knight of the realm.
“It is an honor for you to have let me participate, your grace.” She said.
“I think now would be the time to remove your helm, Knight of the Laughing Tree. So the whole of the realm can see who has wasted their time.”
There was a split second where she thought she might take off the helmet and reveal her identity. But Ned had told her not to do anything, and she knew he was in the crowd, waiting nervously in case something happened. In the situation she had to put herself in his position, and decided it would be best to say nothing, to do nothing more, and to leave the helmet firmly in place.
“I hardly think it was a waste of time father, the lad has a talent for jousting.” Prince Rhaegar told him. “You accepted his challenge to the three knights. Surely you hadn’t wanted to do so to have him humiliated at his humble request.”
“I’ll ask you once more. Remove your helm, if you were a true knight, loyal to the kingdom you serve, you would not fail to head a request from your King!”
She stayed in a low bow, but did not make a movement to suggest she would do what he said. Instead she did quite the opposite. “A true knight isn’t measured by the grandeur of his armor, only by the noble cause in which he fights for, your grace.”
Rhaegar had to hide a smile, but the King had not been so amused. “Arrest this, Knight of the Laughing Tree. Who refuses to make his identity known, because he has made a mockery of all the good knights of the realm.”
She had no other option than to get back on her horse and ride past the guards. They had been quick enough to block off the exit with a makeshift fence. But it hadn’t been any higher than the fences her father had let her have for training her horse, so he easily jumped over it and they were gone. They disappeared from sight long before the Mad King announced he wanted everyone to be on the look out and capture her if possible, and they would be rewarded greatly for bringing the criminal to justice. She also had no idea that he had already started preparing his best men for the task of finding her. All she knew was that she had a great day at the tourney. She won every match. She smiled at the thought. It had been a mistake for her to ride around the castle in the armor, because word had traveled fast. But she could hardly bring it back with her, and she had no idea where she might hide it until the angry King would forget about the incident. She rode into the woods, and looked around but felt no place was safe enough. So, she went back around on the Kings road a little ways and started to panic. She heard hoof beats and she felt herself panic. She rode off again, circled around the castle and straight to a dead end. She was at the top of a cliff, all she could see was fog below. She started to breathe heavier feeling for the first time the weight of the words the Mad King had spoke. He wanted her captured and possibly killed. Yet the horse and rider came into view.
“Come now, I’ve chased you this long. Just admit you’ve lost. I’ll see to it that you get a fair trial.”
With nowhere else to go she sat there, on her horse, with her heart racing. The prince dismounted and strode toward her, maybe if she ran past him he couldn’t catch her on his feet. But it was as if he read her mind.
“Don’t think of running off on me lad. Two of the King’s Guard were following close behind. You’ve given us quite the chase.”
She knew what she had to do. She dismounted, meet him in the clearing and threw down her sword. The she left herself fall to her knees, and bowed her head, yet she hadn’t removed her helmet.
“Now that’s better. Your cooperation is all we need. I don’t mean to be unkind but you’ve made us all look foolish. Who are you boy?”
She took the helmet off and tossed it to the ground. She inhaled deeply, and untied her hair letting it fall around her face. Then she bowed her head again, showing no uneasiness or sadness. “My prince. I’ve been foolish, I leave my life in your hands.”
“You’re not a boy…” Was all he could manage.
“No, I’m not a boy.”
He thought for a moment, but they heard more hoofbeats. “My lady, are you by any chance wearing proper clothing beneath that armor?”
She paused, but remained still and bowing. “Yes your grace…”
“Then for the love of the gods take the armor off.” He walked past her and helped her hide the armor and she stripped down to her riding clothes. They came closer and she recognized them both. Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Oswell Whent. She held her breath as he walked past her again, unsure if she should fall to her knees and beg for forgiveness.
“Did you see where he went?”
The prince shook his head. He kicked up some dirt and seemed very angry. “He went right by here! Frightened this poor lady, he went east. You two go ahead, I’ll meet you after I escort the lady back to Harrenhal.”
He motioned for her to follow him and she got back on her horse and brought him to a canter at his side. The knights rode east, as he told them to and she started to smile. She was so relieved she’d live another day she couldn’t help it. The thought of the knights and how angry they would be as they would find on one and she laughed. He couldn’t help but smile as well.
“What’s so funny?”
“I thought you were going to kill me.”
“As did I. Then once I’d seen your face, it was as if the world had been turned upside down! Who could brutalize a lady? What were you doing in armor?”
She smiled smugly. “Enjoying the tourney, your grace.”
“And did you?”
“Yes, very much.”
“You’ll have to enjoy the tourney from a different perspective tomorrow.”
“That is true…” She replied. “Thank you my prince.”
“No need for thanks, any honorable man would have done the same. But, perhaps if you feel a debt is owed, you could tell me your name.”
“Stark? There’s to be a Stark jousting with me. I hope he has the same level of expertise as his sister.”
“My prince is charming. You do flatter me, a silver tongue, to match your hair. But if you don’t mind my asking, your grace, how do you know he is my brother and not my lord husband?”
“Just an assumption based on the general…actions of the lady. Along with the amount of jewelry and the way you’ve managed your hair. You I believe are of the age to marry, but have not. Was the guess incorrect?”
“No, you’re correct. He’s my brother, I am unmarried.”
He smiled. “You’re quite the interesting lady. Lyanna Stark.”
They brought their horses to a stop, the stable were close by. He didn’t say much more, he dismounted then he helped her dismount hers.
“It’s probably best we part. But I’ll be looking for you on the morrow.” He took her hand and kissed it. “My Lady of Stark.”
She smiled and curtseyed for him. “My Prince.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She cleaned herself up for their evening meal and wore one of her new dresses. It had been warmer, much warmer than Winterfell. She’d much rather wear her riding clothes, but Brandon would never have it. He was here for the power and influence he could care less about the dancing, feasting, and whatever the days brought. She sighed and fixed her hair, it was tiring being a lady but he’d be content enough if she made some attempt, she was fair after all. She heard someone call out to her from the outside of the tent. She was confused, surely it was too early she should still have plenty of time before their meal.
She smiled. “Come in Ned.”
When he opened the door she noticed he was holding a bouquet of flowers. It was a lively variety, multicolored flowers each in their best bloom.
“They’re lovely.” She replied with enthusiasm.
“They were left outside of the tent.” He replied simply.
She took them and looked them over. “Your friend is a charmer, Robert Baratheon.”
“They can’t be from Robert, he doesn’t do things like this. If he wanted to give you a gift it would be lavish.” he replied.
She shrugged. It didn’t matter who they’d came from really, did it? “Well whoever sent them was very sweet, I love the flowers.” She filled a vase with water for them then came back to her brother. He was reading a scrap of paper with disgruntled face. “What is it Ned, what’s wrong?”
“To my sweet lady, you’ve stolen my heart.” He read, then he looked up at her, back at the flowers then at her. “We’ll give them back, they were meant for a sweet lady.”
“Ned, now you sound like Brandon.” She teased.
“Yes, Brandon. Where were you? The first day of jousting your excited as can be. Chattering excitedly to me the entire time, and Benjen over our meal. Then, when time comes to see it your no where to be found. Benjen told me you’d gone riding, you should tell me first. I wouldn’t have refused but really it seems odd, of course he’s furious with you.”
“It really isn’t that big of a deal. I’m unharmed and well.”
“It is a big deal. This isn’t father’s castle, not everyone is looking out for his best interest. We don’t know who we can trust…You were told…”
“I can trust you, my brothers. I can care for myself, I promise.”
“Your not to be looking after yourself. Your to be by my side where father said you were to be. When Brandon jousts, if you are not by my side watching him he’ll know.”
She sighed, she remembered the prince was to joust too. A smile formed on her face and she nodded. “Then you win Ned, I’ll stay by your side.” Then she smiled. “He’s to joust the prince, isn’t he?”
“It is an honor for him and our house. You must be there. Promise me you will not run off.” He paused. “How did you know that? He extended the challenge to the prince this morning.”
“I promise I won’t run off.” She smiled. “He told me himself, the prince.”
Ned frowned. “And what did you do to get his attention?”
“Nothing really, he is very kind. Just like everyone says.”
“And do not steal anymore hearts!” He held up the letter.
She laughed. “I didn’t know I’d stolen any. Who do you think they’re from?”
“I don’t want to think on who they’re from. We can’t tell Brandon, that is certain. I’ll try and find out if I can and put a stop to this nonsense. If he sees them and asks, tell him they’re from Robert and you’ve thanked him properly.”
“Are we to dine now?” She asked politely.
“We’ll be a little early.” He offered his arm so he could escort her.
“Afraid I might run away?” She teased.
“I have no reason to be afraid, if it pleases you, your going to run away, if It please you to feast and dance there is only one place you can go.”
She smiled at him and wrapped her arm around his. “You should dance.” They started walking down the hallway and to the dinning hall.
“I did dance.”
“It isn’t fair Brandon will marry, I will marry, and he hasn’t said anything about you or Benjen.”
“Nor will he. The heir and his daughter are good for alliances. There isn’t anything wrong with Robert.”
“I haven’t said a word to him. Last night when I rode with Benjen before dark he had his eyes on me. I tried to get him to come closer, but he wouldn’t. And through part of the feast his eyes were on me throughout our meal. You were next to me, why does he continue to say nothing. Does he not think me fair?”
“He thinks you’re fair. Maybe Brandon has scared him.”
“Why would he have reason to scare him?” Ned looked down at the ground and sighed but he said nothing. “You know something, a secret. Tell me. Please Ned, how could you keep a secret from me? Especially one of this magnitude…” She let some fake tears fall and he relented.
“He has an unsavory aspect to his personality. He’ll settle down once he’s married I’m sure…He wouldn’t hurt you. He’ll treat you kindly.”
A sudden realization seemed to form. “No, no, no, no, no, no. I will not marry anyone like Brandon. I absolutely refuse!”
“You can not refuse. It’s been decided.” He stopped and took her hands and looked over the furious expression on her face. “He will be good to you, he’ll provide you with all you need. You’ll give him children, and he’ll protect you. He’ll settle down, he’ll tell you jokes and make sure your happy…”
“And bed who he likes.”
“Lyanna…” She started to walk off without him, but he followed close behind. “He did father good by suggesting he wanted to marry you. He’s a little rough around the edges, but he’ll let you sword fight him. Or shoot a bow, or even hold his war hammer. He knows how you are and he wants to accept the challenge. He’s been a good friend, he’s more like a brother to me than Brandon.”
“Are you sure.”
He hesitated and sighed. “I trust the man.”
“I trust you.” She took his arm again and they started to walk again. She smiled. “Hold on just for a second. I’ll be right back.”
“I just want to get something.” She ran back to the tent and came back to him with some of the flowers. “It’s perfect. You can give these to your lady, the pretty one you danced with. She will love them! Then if Brandon sees the flowers he’ll just think I complained until you shared them with me.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She had no idea it hadn’t been completely proper to give Ashara Dayne the flowers on behalf of her brother. They had the same boring conversation ladies have, she offered her the flowers, as Ned’s thanks for being so kind as to dance with him. Then they talked on the day, the events, but not her brother. She felt a little annoyed, then she became more annoyed when Brandon decided he’d pull her away. She danced with her brother, although she really didn’t want to at all.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked.
“Talking to another lady, what do you think you’re doing?”
“You ought to be more careful, she was with Elia Targaryen, your prince’s wife. Future Queen. You should have paid her attention, you should be trying to win her favor.”
“I hadn’t wanted to win anyone’s favor, my dear brother. I only offered Ashara Dayne those flowers from Ned because he likes her. Don’t you think our brother is deserving of a lovely lady?”
“Ladies aren’t worth nearly the amount of trouble men go through for them.” Brandon replied. “If you go to them again, you show her proper respect.”
“I was not disrespectful. I said hello to them all. I made conversation with them all, I just brought the flowers for her.”
“Did he ask you to bring her the flowers?” Brandon asked.
“No.” She admitted. “I want to see him happy. I think married life would suit him, don’t you?”
“He’ll do whatever he’s told to do. I’m sure if you ask nicely, your husband will find someone for him.”
“You don’t want to help him?”
“He’s a man, if he wants a lady, he can find himself a lady.”
She sighed. “Did you know that our brothers are not like you? Ned isn’t inclined to talk to most people. Besides, you didn’t know who he was when you saw him on his return to Winterfell. What kind of lord are you going to be if you didn’t recognise your own brother?”
“What kind of wife are you going to be if you blackmail your brother to bring you to a tourney?” He replied.
“Surely Robert Baratheon wouldn’t have a problem if I were drinking water with my brother. Come ten years from now, I’m almost certain he’d remember what Ned looks like. You however might need to be careful for his warhammer should you visit.”
“He left when he was eight, of course he’d recognise him ten years from now he’s a grown man. There is a difference between recognising a boy who’s become a man and a man grown. Besides, at the current moment, your Ned isn’t very happy with you.”
She seemed surprised. “Why? Because of the flowers?”
He laughed. “You always do something to make one of us mad. You’re always up to something, that’s why you needed two men and Benjen to escort you everywhere. Not even father trusts you. He’ll dote on how pretty you are, how bright you are, but he’d never trust you.”
She purposely stepped on his foot and then the other. He let out a few practically silent curses and she smiled in triumph. The next thing she knew Ned had taken her hand and pulled her away from their brother. “We need to talk, but now you’ve delayed us.” He sighed, “Can you wait on the balcony until I’ve calmed him down?”
“You aren’t mad are you? I only wanted to show her you were interested in her…” She complained.
“I am not mad, Brandon is clearly mad. I’m frustrated with you, and we’re going to talk about it once he’s calmer so it won’t happen again. Go on, it shouldn’t take long.”
She obeyed him, but she did pause and look back twice to see Brandon fussing about something. But, it probably would be nicer to be outside. It was getting awfully warm in the room. Outside she could smell the flowers growing around the castle. The moon was also radiant, and the stars shined more brightly than she remembered. Even the chill of the air made her relaxed and comfortable.
“Everyone is inside, why are you out here?” He asked. He stood beside her and looked out to the grounds and the tower as well.
“Brandon is angry with me.” She said. “Ned is calming him down…”
“Why would he be angry?”
“It’s just how he is. Yesterday I yelled at those squires and fought them off. It isn’t proper for a lady he says. Then today I’ve had to tell him I went out riding. And he’s been screaming at Ned because he was supposed to be watching me. Ben is in trouble too, but he’s threatening to take me home!”
“Don’t fret, he won’t take you home.” He put an arm around her comfortingly and smiled. “We’re to joust the last day. I hope he does as good as you. But I still won’t give away your secret.”
She smiled then looked up at the stars in the sky. “Do you have any secrets my prince?”
He pulled away from her and leaned against the railing. “It just so happens I do.”
“Would you tell me?” she asked.
“I think I could. You can’t tell those brothers of yours though.” she nodded and continued. “I’m the Prince that was Promised. Have you heard the tale?”
“I…I think not.” she admitted, feeling foolish.
“There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” He looked back over at her, saw she was impressed and kept talking. “I’ve read everything I can. Targaryens are immune to fire, we have the blood of dragons, we can not be burnt. I could wield a sword of fire, and in all honesty, my father is hardly capable anymore.”
She smiled. “I have heard the tale, only not that name. It may have been predestined for you to meet a Stark my prince. I know the tales of the Long Night, Bran the builder built the wall. It has magic woven into it, from the Children of the Forrest.”
“Predestined. I don’t think you could be my Nissa Nissa, I wanted so desperately not to harm the lady, I lied to my father.”
“Maybe my prince is amidst his sword making? A sword of fire….I would love to see it.”
He took her hand and kissed it. “Maybe you shall.”
She couldn’t help but blush and giggled. He was so handsome, so refined, so intelligent, and for the moment they were alone. “Thank you for the flowers.” She added, hoping she was right in her guess.
“Your welcome. What flowers are your favorite?” He asked.
“Winter roses.” She heard music start up on the inside of the castle, where everyone else was. He stepped forward and bowed.
“May I have this dance?”
“Of course my prince.”
He took her hands and they moved into position. She thought he was a fine dancer, she couldn’t take her eyes off his. He seemed to feel the same way. They twirled around under the moon and stars, and they both smiled. Then, he’d tilted his head and moved to kiss her. Then the door opened, and they froze.
He sighed, “We were going to leave for the night. Brandon wanted to challenge someone tomorrow, if he could. Everyone is fussing about the Knight of the Laughing Tree.”
She hesitantly pulled away from Rhaegar and sighed. But, before she was gone he whispered in her ear. “Be sure you hang your shield.”
She nodded and started back towards Ned. She took his arm, and he glanced back one more time at the Prince, who was now leaning against the rails enjoying the scenery. She expected them to go back to the table, where Brandon and Benjen were, but instead they were leaving, just as their table was getting crowded.
“Ned you’re going the wrong way.” She complained.
“Oh, we’re going the right way. I think you’ve had enough excitement for today. All anyone is talking about is the Knight of the Laughing Tree. You are vocal, I won’t make the mistake of allowing you to defend anyone else’s honor, even if it happens to be your own.”
She smiled. “What are they saying?”
“They’re all talking on who’s going to capture you and hand you over to the king, which is why we’re going back to the camp. You’re not saying any more about it, and you’re not challenging anyone else. You should not take justice into your own hands. I understand, I do. Your intentions were good. But you hadn’t thought on the consequences. I did, which is why I had to sit back and watch you make a fool of yourself. If I tried to put a stop to it he would have known who you were.”
“The prince is kind.”
“Yes, he was very kind. You were very lucky he was there to find amusement in your antics. Most men likely wouldn’t have acted the same way.” He sighed. “You need to not mistake him for a friend.”
“Why? He’s been very kind, I would like to consider him a friend. Father is loyal to the King.”
He sighed and shook his head. “Fine, what I mean to say is, you’re young and it is very easy to make mistakes. It is fine to be polite to the Prince, he has been very kind. But do not think he means anything by it. To him you’re like anyone else here. You’re a sweet, simple lady, who knows he’s powerful and handsome….”
“I’m not stupid…”
“I hadn’t said you were.” He stopped tilted her head so their eyes would meet. “But underneath everything you are a lady. Before father agreed to let you come with us we had a long talk. Your very fearless, he knows you like to play kissing games with the boys who come to Winterfell. He can not watch you all the time after all, but you don’t seem to understand outside of his castle they aren’t afraid of hurting you because Lord Rickard Stark isn’t staring at them in his courtyard while they try and charm you. Not all men act with honor, you’ve already seen it. You need to stay close….”
“I can protect myself why can’t you understand that!”
“I didn’t mean standing up for yourself. I am far less afraid of you breaking a bone, then someone breaking your heart. Father wants you to marry Robert for the piece of mind that you can be happy and protected. I remember when I left, you acted like a selfish brat father said it had been a fortnight before you’d talk to him again. Then when you were old enough he’d let us write.”
She giggled. “My writing wasn’t very good. He let me write on his letters to you. It made me feel lordly.”
He smiled. “He’s of the opinion you can not adjust to any changes. He thinks you need to be with someone you love. So, it’s a better idea to have you marry a friend of one of the three of us. Where we can watch you, and you’ll feel loved, and cherished.” They started to walk again. “I don’t think it would be very long before you would take to him. There would be a problem, however if you become unhappy. If you’re unhappy it makes us all unhappy because you radiate that energy just like your smiles and laughter are contagious. So, we need to keep you close, and happy, and thoroughly entertained.”
“Did you tell Brandon about the jousting?” She asked.
He shook his head. “I told him I had reason to believe you would come back. So I waited in the stands, we also, won’t be telling him about the prince.”
She frowned. “Are you angry with Prince Rhaegar?”
“What is there to be angry about? He spared your life, he lied to his men, and to his Father. He’s a man with honor.” He sighed. “That’s all it is. He did the honorable thing, he saw you for a little girl playing at Knights. That’s all he sees, if he says anything more to you the entire time we’re here. Which seems doubtful, you can talk, there isn’t any harm in talk…But remember your to marry Robert.”