The entire time they rode on the Kingsroad, she wanted to get away from them. Brandon spent the past two days telling Ned everything he could about how great he was. Of how he should come back to Winterfell while their father was absent because he would see how smoothly he could run things, he was so wonderful. To spare her ears the torture of listening she’d have a coughing fit, or yawn unnecessarily loudly. Brandon would forget what he was talking about and Ned sometimes manage to say something. She led her horse slowly from the road hoping she’d be able to sneak off, have a quick run through the forest and beat them. But Benjen was diligent in watching her, and every time she’d try he’d learned to bring his horse next to hers and block her path. This happened six times on that day, until it turned into a sort of a game and Benjen stopped teasing her about being a chore.
“Are we stopping?” She asked.
“We should be close.”
“Glorious day. I thought we were just going to miss everything because of how slow Brandon rides.” She replied sarcastically. “Let’s race just a little ways…to those pine trees over there.”
Benjen shook his head. “No, the last time you said something like that, you kept going.”
“But it was fun.” She teased.
He laughed. “It was fun. Maybe once we’re settled.”
“We have three tents and there are four of us.” She started to complain loudly. “Why would Father, in all of his infinite wisdom, do something like that? Oh, that’s right, because Brandon planned our trip, with only three tents for the four of us. I refuse to sleep with Brandon, he snores loudly. Do you remember when we were small, Father had us all sleep in the same bed during that huge snowstorm?”
Benjen sniggered and she giggled with him. “Too well Lyanna, too well. You cried to father that there was a bear in the room.”
“And Ned helped me build a snowbear once the storm was done the next day. We named him Brandon.”
Then Ned started to laugh as well. Brandon stopped and turned to glare at her. “Shut up. No one wants to share a tent with you either. We’re alternating the duty of babysitting you.”
“You mean the honor of my company, brother?”
“No, the misery of your pestering,” he rebutted.
“Ned hasn’t complained on sharing a room with me. My company is an honor. Yours is a chore. Making Benjen sleep on the floor. He’s your brother.”
“Shut up, you probably make Eddard sleep on the floor too.” Brandon replied. They started again. “You probably whined and cried to him about how father always lets you have your way because you’re too damn hard to control. So he’s given up, which is why he threw you at the first man interested in you.” Ned attempted to intervene gently, but his siblings were both so vocal it was as if he hadn’t said anything at all.
“I did not and it’s not true! We shared the bed, like peaceful coexisting siblings. He slept on one
side, and I, on the other. It wasn’t like he was going to have a dream about some sweet lady
and molest me in my sleep, which to think of it, is probably why Benjen was happier on the floor
last night with you.” Benjen broke into a snigger, and she continued. “He wouldn’t have rather
slept on the floor in our tent. You probably had some crazy…sleep kissing fit and traumatized
“ENOUGH!” He yelled at her. “I’ll ride back to Winterfell with you now! Father said you were to listen to me….”
“No. He said to listen to Ned, and not to embarrass you.”
“Which is exactly what you’re doing now!”
“No it isn’t. Our brothers don’t care.”
“We’re close. There might be other travelers within an earshot and you’re making the heir of Winterfell out to sound like an idiot.”
“It’s not the the heir makes that very hard.” She replied airily.
They came to the top of a hill and she smiled widely. “The castle!”
“I told you we were close.” Benjen replied, bringing his horse next to hers.
“You had said the same thing yesterday, and Ned told you we hadn’t even made it to the Vale.”
“I’ll go ahead.” Brandon announced. “I’ll have a look around and see where they want us. Looks like we made good timing after all, there’s still plenty of room.”
She watched until he disappeared from their view and she grinned at Benjen. “Alright, back to those pine trees, as fast as you can!” She glanced back over at Ned and he crossed his arms. “We’re just going to race a little ways, you’ll be able to see us the entire time.”
“We both know you’ll do as you please regardless of what I say. Go on, you better be back before Brandon notices you’re not here.”
“We will, we will. You know you want to race too. Okay, Ben. On the count of three and Ned gets to race the winner and the loser has to listen to Brandon at dinner.”
“If you’re not quick enough you won’t be able to race me.” Ned added quickly. “If I were to agree.” She began the count and then they raced off. They hadn’t even been halfway back by the time Brandon came back up the hill.
“You were supposed to watch her!” He yelled at Ned.
“I am watching her. I see where she is, no bandit, or kidnapped has come after her. You and I both know she would’ve just given me a headache until I agreed.”
He glared at his brother. “You sound like Father, just like Father…’I only let her have her way to get the peace and quiet back….’ Spoiled little…” He stopped when he felt something soft and wet hit him on the back of the head. Benjen started to laugh.
“Leave Ned alone!”
“Did you just throw mud at me!?” Brandon charged at her on his horse and she galloped down the hill as he followed after her shouting.
Ned turned to Benjen. “So you lost then.”
“I always lose, she’s just too good with her horse.”
Ned smiled and pat him on the back. “Enjoy the feast tonight, without wine. Because he’s going to say your too young for more than a glass.” He turned his horse around and started down the hill himself. Benjen followed wearily.
“Maybe she’ll forget all about it by the time the feast.” he ventured hopefully reassuring himself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
She had offered to help them set up the tents, but each brother declined for his own reason. So then she asked if she could at least ride around, and Brandon was so busy concentrating that he’d nodded and told her it was fine. So there she was, riding around the God’s Eye watching the water and musing on the mysteries Isle of Faces. She knew that people said every tree was a heart tree. But there might be so much more. It would at least be a better place than Winterfell’s Godswood to talk to the Old Gods. She followed the water’s edge just at a trot until she found a view of the castle she thought was pretty. But still it looked intimidating.
She hadn’t wandered much further before she heard a disturbance. It sounded like someone was beating something down with sticks. So she drew her horse in closer, and she realized that whatever they were beating was moving, then she heard the taunting.
“Don’t you know how to fight?” one teased.
“He doesn’t even have a sword!”
“Must be crazy too, coming from that island!”
She was beside herself with anger. There were three squires, assuming from their dress, each with a sword hanging from their belt. So, she reacted the only thing she could think of, she reached for her sword. They hadn’t heard noticed the sound of her horse approaching, or the sound of her soles hitting the hard ground when she dismounted. But, they started at the slip of from scabbard when she drew her sword. The second the sword was unsheathed there was a brief moment where they were terrified, until they turned to see she was a girl.
“Come to give your lord his sword?” said the squire she considered to be the most foolish.
“No, my sword defends me from men with no honor. I’d only thought I should introduce it to you three.”
They laughed and she flourished her sword a little, showing them she was no stranger to the steel she was holding. Then she pointed it at the one who’d spoken to her. “Draw your steel.”
He did as he was told, and she wasn’t surprised by the smug look on his face. It didn’t last, because the second he drew, she swung her sword knocked his from his hand. He stumbled back in surprise right into one of his companions and they both fell to the ground. The third one advanced on her and she struck him across the wrists with her blunt tourney sword and scoffed.
“Move again and I’ll give my horse the signal to run off by himself. My brothers are at the tourney, the second they see him alone you can bet they’ll come to beat the three of you seven feet into the ground. All three of them, only they’re men of honor you’ll be given the chance to defend yourselves. Not that you deserve it.”
That had the affect she was looking for. In a panicked frenzy they ran back toward Harrenhal trying their best to forget everything that had just happened. She turned to the man, sheathed the sword, and walked over to him and offered him her hand.
“A lady knight.” He took her hand and stood.
“Not a knight. It doesn’t seem I’m arrogant or horrible enough to be a knight these days. Are you alright?”
“I am now, thanks to you, my lady. I must admit, I’m not the strongest of men even at my best.”
“You really went to the Isle of Faces?” He nodded and they started to walk. “What was it like? I bet it felt like you were with the old gods.”
“It was wonderful, peaceful – a truly amazing sight.”
She took the reigns of her horse, put her sword back and they walked beside him. He smiled at her.
“You can ride, it’s fine by me. You are a lady.”
“My lord father always walks if one of his men has no horse. Do you have somewhere to stay? With the tourney, I’m sure they could accommodate you for the night. My brothers are good men. They wouldn’t want you walking after that whole ordeal.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, who is your lord father? It has become the last age of honorable men and with so few to meet, I’m certain I’ve heard his name before.”
“Lord Rickard Stark, of Winterfell.”
Then he smiled. “I accept your invitation after all, there likely isn’t a safer place for me than a wolves den.”
“What is your name my lord?”
“You think I am a lord?”
“You must be highborn because of how your speech and manner. You must be northern to go to the Isle of Faces. I just assumed you were of noble birth, but I wouldn’t stand for anyone to be treated in that manner.”
“The lady would have helped any man in distress. The smallest of common folk is welcome in her company.” She only smiled at him and nodded. “She hadn’t known, the man she had valiantly saved was indeed her father’s own banner man. The old gods saw it fit for her to come by at the right time in the right place. A story of honor and kindness I will share with my children when I have children. We are indeed indebted to our liegelord’s daughter. I am Howland Reed, and any loyal Stark banner man could only guess the lady’s name to be Lyanna Stark.”
“You’re correct. Would you mind telling me how you came here? What was on the Isle of Faces? I bet it was lovely.” Then she was quiet for a moment. “How did you get across the water? I saw no boat.”
“I will recount some tales for you if you like. Your kindness is unyielding. They’re likely boring, uninteresting tales.”
“I’d still like to hear them. I love stories of intrigue and adventure.”
“There is little of either.” He replied. “I am a simple man. But, the old gods made you find me, so there may be something I could share with you that would be interesting.”
“Everything is interesting, especially when you’re in a castle all day. My father is a good man, but there is little for me to do. Have you met Brandon? Brandon goes places, he visits, plans, does whatever our father wants. More so, he does what he wants.”
“I have heard things of Brandon Stark, but no, I have not met the man himself.”
She giggled. “I met one of our lord father’s banner men before him. Oh, he’ll be furious!”
“Brandon does everything first. He has the swords, he shoots the arrows, he visits everywhere, he follows father, he does everything. I wait to hear him recount his tales if he’s in the mood.” She giggled again. “He’ll be upset it wasn’t him. He’ll decide there’s an unwritten law that says I couldn’t do what I had done.”
“You acted like a knight. It was very brave of you.”
“Thank you.” She smiled. “ Hope he sees it that way.” They walked the rest of the way in silence.
When they arrived it had been just as he described. A wolf den. They left enough room between their three tents to have a fire at night. Brandon’s was the furthest back; Benjen’s and Ned’s were on either side of the hole they made in the ground. Brandon was arranging sticks in a pile, so they wouldn’t have to later in darkness. He glanced up at the sound of a horse and did not seem at all impressed with her new companion. He reminded Howland Reed of an angry wolf baring his fangs.
“Brother, don’t look so happy to see me.” She teased.
“Where have you been?”
“I went for a ride. You told me to get out of the way, that you didn’t need my help, I was only bothering the three of you, remember? I asked if I could go, and you said ‘fine, just leave me alone.’”
He glared at her. “That doesn’t constitute as proper permission.”
She only smiled. “Dear brother, I’m sorry. So, so sorry. But I invited a guest.” He was going yell at her, but she’d been too quick and pre-empted him. “This is Howland Reed, of Greywater’s Watch, one of our father’s banner men. I’ve finally met one before you.” Now his expression changed, his expression became more stone face. Like his father, and he extended his hand, they shook firmly.
“I hope she wasn’t a bother.”
“No, not at all. She was very helpful and courteous. I’m glad I met her. Your sister is an honorable woman.”
“Are you attending the tourney?” he asked.
“I hadn’t planned on attending. I spent some time traveling, I’ve been on the Isle of Faces for some time, it just happened the day I chose to leave was the start of the tourney.”
“It would be a shame if you didn’t stay for part of it. They’re very entertaining.” Brandon replied. Lyanna had snuck past them while they were talking and found her other brothers and forced them to come outside and greet him as well.
“I must confess I’m not much for violence and sport.” He replied. “I also wouldn’t want to intrude…”
She smiled. “You wouldn’t be intruding. There are so many people here already. Few from the north, everyone would be glad for our number to be a little higher.”
“I have brought nothing with me, and your campsite is only built for the four of you.”
She turned to Brandon. “See! You should have brought four tents after all.”
He scoffed. “I only brought three because you can’t be trusted.”
She glared at him and was about to fire off a rebuttal when Howland Reed replied. “Why would you say she can’t be trusted?”
Benjen started to smirk. “He didn’t really mean it. They fight as much as possible.” He stepped forward. “I’m Benjen.” He motioned to Ned, “This is Eddard. How exactly did you meet our sister?”
“I had a run in with a few bad squires. Your sister fought them off for me.”
“That sounds like her alright.” He turned to where Brandon was fussing over her appearance. He was yelling at her to go into his tent and change so she looked like a proper lady for the feast. “She’s very pleased she’s met you before Brandon.”
“We don’t travel often. We like staying where we’re from. I thought I would travel a little, see what the world has to offer. I hadn’t foreseen being attacked. I was very lucky she was so brave.”
“What nasty brats.” Benjen replied. He turned to Ned. “She’ll have to show them to us so I can ask them how it felt to be beaten up by a little girl.”
He started at him and shrugged. “You were almost beaten up by the same little girl yesterday.”
“What proper knight allows his squire to act like that?” Benjen asked ignoring the comment completely. Neither one of them answered. It was almost as if he’d made up his mind about the other three, but he wasn’t sure about Ned.
“It is late and you’re more likely to be attacked at night, I’ll share my tent with you.” Ned told him. “Brandon made up his mind about Lyanna, and Benjen….I’m sure you’ve heard enough from him.”
They started to laugh. Benjen shook his head. “I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. My company is well appreciated by most.”
“I think after the feast, our friend might have had enough of your enthusiasm.” Brandon replied firmly. “Why is she taking so long? How hard is it to put on a dress?”
Benjen sniggered. “You told her to look like a lady, so it could take her hours to get dressed.”
He glared at his brother and shouted. “HURRY! Or we’ll have you sit next to someone boring!”
She threw open the tent and scoffed. “I already have to sit by someone boring. You.”
“Put your shoes on!” He growled.
“I was trying to but you’re impatient.” She leaned on Benjen and put them on quickly. “Whom are you so eager to see?”
“No one. I’m just irritated you ran off by yourself.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh I am so helpless I’ve been murdered and I am actually a ghost. Shut up, Brandon. I still have to take my horse back. You’re wasting time complaining, and we have a guest. You should be more polite.”
Ned pulled her aside and gave her a meaningful look. “Walk with me.”
“Don’t do this.” He whispered. “Do not aggravate him, do not bother him. He’s only going to scream and yell, and it’s far too early in our time together to have something like that happen. You have to stay with him all night three times while we’re here. You need to be as peaceful as you can for as long as you can.”
She took her horses reigns and sighed. “I know…I was just being funny.”
“He didn’t find it funny.” She sighed and looked at the ground in annoyance. She knew he was right, but she had had fun. “You did the right thing. Father would be proud.”
She smiled. “You think so.”
“You acted like a true Stark. You have real goodness and valor. He won’t argue with that, he knows he should do the same thing. Ben might even be jealous he didn’t have the chance first.”
She giggled and he smiled at her. “Don’t argue with him for Father’s sake. You’ll make him look like a fool to his own banner man. Shortly after showing you know how to behave. You’d be no better than those lousy squires.”
“It’s not all their fault. It’s the knight’s fault too. What kind of person lets them get away with something like that?” she replied bitterly.
“Either one who can’t control and unruly boy, or someone that doesn’t care. I want your word you won’t argue with him again at least until Howland Reed leaves for home.”
“You have my word.” She sighed. “Ned?” He said nothing, but that didn’t stop her from asking. “What would Father do about the squires and the knights?”
He thought for a moment. “I suppose he’d find the knights and tell them what’s what. They had no reason to do a thing. He isn’t armed; he certainly wasn’t going to attack them. They treated him like a criminal, that’s a dishonor both to him and his house.” He noticed she looked a little pensive and stopped. “No, you are not to say anything to those knights. They’re bad news, they have no respect for our people, they certainly won’t have respect for a lady. Let Brandon handle it.”
“Not everything is up to Brandon!” She cried.
“No, but in this matter it means more from him. They know who he is, he has a high claim and they’ve insulted one of his lords. He will be the one to demand them to take responsibility.”
She handed over the reins to one of the stable boys and then sighed. Then she stopped dead in her tracks and stared ahead. “Ned.”
“What?” Then he realized what she saw, the boy must have been one of the squires. “Are you nervous? He won’t recognize you in a dress with your hair down.”
“Please, please, oh please let me say something.”
“No. We’ll let Howland Reed know, and Brandon. You have done enough. No man wants a lady to tell him what to do. I will not have something happen to you because you can’t control your tongue.”
“Who is he?”
He sighed. “You know the sigils as well as I do. Why would you assume I’ve met him?”
“He’s from the Riverlands, it’s close to the Vale…”
“But it isn’t the Vale. I haven’t traveled like our brother. Maybe he’s met them. Discuss it with him.”
Ned sat with Howland Reed, Brandon to her right, with their other banner men. The ones he’d met and talked to often. Benjen to her left. But, every so often Ned would look up past her and stare. She began to feel self-conscious but and though to turned around. There was a lady talking with a few others that his eyes had fallen on. She was tall, and had long dark hair and violet eyes. She smiled excitedly.
She nudged Brandon. He sighed and waved a hand dismissively at her. She felt angry and stomped on his foot. He glared at her and threw his hands up in frustration. “What!”
She tilted her head toward Ned and smiled. He looked over at his brother, then across the way, then back at her and shrugged. She crossed her arms. “Brandon!”
“Do something nice for your brother. He’s enchanted!”
“He can do it himself. He’s old enough to know what to do.”
She stomped on his foot again. “Damn it stop!” He growled, as he was now effectively out of their conversation. “What is your problem?” he grumbled.
She started to whisper. “He’s shy. He’s just going to sit back and watch her all night. He’s been doing this for the entire feast. Please? Please, just go say something to her. Do it for your brother.”
“He can do it himself.”
“He can’t do it himself. Watch him! He hasn’t been able to cut his meat properly, he’s going to knock it on the floor. He almost spilt his wine three times, and he doesn’t complete any of his sentences! Watch…” She waved at Ned and called out his name. He looked at her and nodded. “Don’t you think the prince should play a piece? It would be so wonderful!”
“Yes…music….the prince. Songs.” His eyes wandered back to where they had been all night and she giggled.
“What do you want me to do about it? He’s a blundering idiot, it can’t be fixed.”
“Bring him to her and ask her if she’d dance with him.”
“Why would I do that?” He replied hotly. “I don’t care if he dances with her or not.”
“Brandon, if you don’t ask for him, then I will go up there and ask the prince to dance with me. Then I’ll apologize to him and tell him I only wanted my arrogant older brother to ask on the behalf of my shy brother to have that pretty lady dance with him. Then the prince will know you’re a self-righteous ass and Ned will have his lady.”
“You will not.”
“Then after the deed is done, I think I’ll go sit in Robert Baratheon’s lap and tell him you’ve given me far too much wine.”
She smiled and looked back at Ned, who seemed glum. She glanced back again and saw the woman he was watching was gone, off dancing with a man in a white cloak. Brandon stood up and went to Ned. He’d said something to his brother who nodded and followed then she turned to Benjen. “I love feasts, don’t you?”
He started to laugh. “It has been interesting. The whole way here you were saying you’d hope to hear the prince play. It looks like he’s engaged in other things.”
“We’ll be here ten days. That’s plenty of time for him to pick out the perfect song.” She looked over at the table again. Ned’s lovely lady was still gone, but the prince had his eyes on her now. She panicked and grabbed Benjen’s arm and blushed. “He was just looking over here.”
“The prince…Is he…?”
Benjen turned to look and she stopped him. “Don’t be obvious!”
Howland Reed smiled and shook his head. “He’s watching someone dance at the moment.”
She was ecstatic to see that Ned wasn’t bad at dancing at all. It was probably one of the very few times she’d seen him do nothing but smile. She couldn’t erase the smile from her face for most of the night. She lifted her wine glass and went to drink, but there was nothing in her glass. “Ben, did you drink my wine?”
“There’s more.” He poured it for her, and then some for himself. “We have to take advantage while Brandon isn’t here. He’s been counting the cups.”
“I hadn’t finished my first glass.” She turned and looked at the man that Ned had said was Robert Baratheon and sighed. “Someone should count his cups.”
“Want me to ask him to dance with you?” He teased.
“No, he’s far too drunk. When he isn’t stepping on my feet he’d likely vomit on me.” She sighed. “Oh I don’t want to dance, I would rather talk. Where is the man from the Night’s Watch, Ben?”
“I invited him to eat with us. He insists he’ll eat by himself. He set up camp on the other side of the castle. It’s a shame he didn’t come. He could sing with the prince. Maybe he would get more interest.”
“Is he a bard?”
“No, but he can sing. Why are you so impressed with singing? The man you’re betrothed to is into drinking.”
When Ned came back, she was so excited that she tried to get him to talk about what had happened. But he was very quiet, and only smiled. He wouldn’t say a word on what they’d been talking about. She glanced back and saw she was dancing with someone else, Lyanna sighed. After the next song stopped and the lords and ladies went back to their seats the prince called for their attention.
“I know it has already been said, but I would like to welcome everyone, and thank you all for coming. I would also like to thank our kind hosts of house Whent for seeing us all entertained for the next nine days. I have a song I’ve been working on, my wife has only heard a few lines, and I do hope you all enjoy it.”
“What a show off.” Benjen whispered to Lyanna. “It looks like you’ll get a song after all.”
“Shhhh!” She replied, irritated. The room fell completely silent,then he started playing the song. She couldn’t stop herself from staring at him. The music sounded beautiful, then he started to sing as well and she felt her heart beating in her chest. There was a longing in his voice, and he did take a glance at everyone, to see the general reaction. She blushed when his eyes fell on them. It was like he’d been staring directly at her. She thought his eyes stayed on her longer than anyone else. It was a sad song, one she hadn’t heard before. Once he’d stopped playing, everyone clapped, herself included. She hadn’t realized she’d been crying until Benjen turned to her and laughed.
“He made you cry like a lady.”
She promptly responded by dumping her entire wine glass out over his head.