Brandon still wasn’t in the best of moods, but she supposed it didn’t matter so long as he was in a better mood when he was going to play at being her shadow. Benjen however, seemed in a good mood. He tried japing with Brandon, in hope to cheer him up, but it failed. So, he turned to Ned, and tried his luck there.
“He’s going to be so thrilled to get you two idiots away from him. I bet Lyanna made him wish he’d stayed in the Vale. Poor Eddard…Sharing in my misery.”
“He does not! We were up all night talking on how he hates you.”
He didn’t take it as a joke at all. He had stopped walking and stared at the two of them for a long time before he started again. Benjen sensing something was wrong made his way back to him and smiled.
“What do you want?”
“Nothing, why did you slowdown?” He asked.
“Why’s it matter to you? Why aren’t you with her?”
“Well…Ned is still with her. He doesn’t mind walking with her. He did the same thing yesterday…”
“You’re supposed be sharing the responsibility. Don’t screw up like he did. Left you alone with her for five minutes and she disappeared. What good are you?”
He sighed. “She lied to me…”
“She’ll do it again. You best not let her off on her own.”
“Why are you being so rude to me? We’re on the same side. I don’t want anything to happen to her. I want father to be pleased. Ned told me not to let her outsmart me this time.”
He started to laugh. “That is the funniest thing I’ve heard you say all day. The day you outsmart her will be the day the others come back.”
Benjen shook his head. “It’s sad how the kindest thing you ever say to me is nothing.”
Brandon smiled. “It is very sad for you. Isn’t this the part where you go crying to our sister and beg her to defend your honor?”
He sighed and shook his head. “I don’t care what you think of me. I’m just doing what father told me to do. You hate this, you hate that.” He motioned forward where Lyanna and Ned were walking. “The anger is just a cover to make you feel better…” A glance at Brandon’s stony face told him all he needed to know and he continued. “You’re jealous, for once you’re not the only one who can tell her amusing stories and keep her amused and quiet. So…”
“Shut up.” He pushed Benjen aside and started to walk again.
“It’s not very lordly.” He called after him. Benjen had to jog to keep up with his angry stride. “She’ll be fine for you tomorrow. She’ll be so happy if you just walk around a little with her. That’s what I think we’ll do. Watch a little of the jousting, see on the archery…Did you know there is an axe throwing contest.?”
“I don’t care.” He replied in angst.
“Should I enter?”
“Go ahead, make a fool of yourself. Don’t let her enter.”
“Ned says she wouldn’t want to. She’d be more interested in things she’d win. He says, the softer melee activities. Anything with wooden swords, knife throwing, knife games, archery, horse racing, defensive sword play…Good things to avoid. Well, avoid letting her get close to.”
He smirked a little. “Yeah…she’ll rip your hair out and throw you to the ground if you don’t let her near horses. No one knows more about them. She knows everything, you’re feeding him too much, don’t give him so much water. You’re making him mad by kicking him like that. He doesn’t want to eat carrots, he likes apples….”
“She says the same things to Father. He always just gives up and tells her to tend to his horse then.”
Brandon scoffed. “She’s a spoiled little brat. She does whatever she wants, and Father just dotes on her. She so smart, and witty. She takes to everyone really well, she’ll be a fine lady. Until she goes out into the courtyard and decides she’s training her husband’s men. I hope father knows what he’s doing, Lord Robert Baratheon doesn’t look like the kind of man who would let her play at things like that.”
“Father knows what he’s doing…”
“You better not let her run off with Lord Robert either. If he has a problem with it he can come find me. I’ll be glad to explain to him why I don’t trust men with my sister.” They glanced back at Lyanna and Ned. They were just about to the dining hall, but they had stopped to listen to a bard play, since Brandon and Benjen were trailing so far. The bard put down his instrument and kissed her hand. He said something that made her laugh, and Ned pulled her away. “It was so stupid to have her come. She has no fear in anything. She’s not cautious, and she’s far too friendly.”
“For the last time I’m not going to let anything happen to her.” He replied wearily.
Lyanna turned and looked around for them. She hurried over to where they were and giggled. “You two are like gossiping ladies. You’re taking forever. If there isn’t anything left I blame the two of you.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He waited until Ned had left the dining hall with Robert. Then he turned to Benjen. A smile played on his face.
“What?” he asked, feeling a little intimidated.
“Don’t let her outsmart you.”
“Stop bothering Ben.” She replied. “This is one of the many times I do wonder if you were dropped by Winterfell by some foul cranky Wildlings. Father was so desperate for an heir he just decided he’d save you from the wolves.”
Brandon’s grin widened. “I often wonder the same about you.”
She reached over to strike him but Benjen took her hand. “Lets try and find a bard, you said you liked the music before.”
“That was when I didn’t want to hit my brother.” She scoffed.
He smiled. “Maybe they could sing a song, about a lady hitting her brother.”
Brandon frowned and picked up his glass. “Maybe they’ll sing a song about a little girl that should be more respectful to her brother because he brought her here.”
She smiled then stood up and courseyed then kissed Benjen on the cheek. “Thank you brother, for bringing me to the tourney.”
Brandon scoffed and took a drink. Benjen smiled. “Well…what do you want to do today?”
His older brother raised his eyebrows and stared at him in horror.
“You complete idiot what are you doing?”
“Shut up Brandon! No one is talking to you!” She yelled back.
“No, Benjen, you’re asking the problem to resolve itself. It becomes more difficult when you let it have it’s way.”
“I am not a thing!”
Benjen frowned. There were people looking over at the three of them because of the noise. “Brandon…”
“YOU DO NOT TELL MY BROTHER…”
“PLEASE! Can you two stop!” Brandon looked at him in disgust. Lyanna sighed and shook her head.
“There’s a horse race.” He encouraged. She smiled at the thought and stood up and took his arm.
“I love horse races.” She said with enthusiasm. “Do you know who the best horse racer is in all of Winterfell?”
“I do believe it’s Lyanna Stark.” Benjen replied nicely. They walked off, and she giggled. He watched them while they left, then decided it might be for the best he pursue them for the moment. He followed them all the way back to camp, Benjen went into his tent and brought out two wooden swords.
“NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!” He called over to the two of them. “Lyanna, give it to me.”
“No.” She replied hotly, “We did fine yesterday. It was fun.”
“Ned didn’t mind…” Benjen added. He had to step back from Brandon, he let out a long, low pitched growl.
“Do whatever you want then. I don’t care. Let her get herself killed.” He stomped off, and they watched stunned.
“What is wrong with him? He’s never that crabby. Sure, he’s an ass, but he’s never just agitated.” She replied.
He frowned. “I don’t know.”
“What were you talking about before we ate?” she asked.
“Just things….He was telling me what to do with you, just being Brandon.”
She sighed. “He’s never that agitated for no reason. Oh, I don’t want to spar anymore, his crabby attitude sucked all the fun out of it. Should we look for some bards?”
“Or we could see the horse racing. I don’t think we’ve missed it.”
“Could I enter?”
Benjen laughed. “No, Brandon would be so upset if you did.”
“I don’t care.” She crossed her arms and sighed.
“Besides, I’m sure all the spots are filled by now.” He took the wooden sword from her and brought them back to his tent.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He leaned back and passed her his skin of water, she passed it back and sighed. They’d walked around most of the touney waiting for the races to start. Now that they had they were both tired and over heated from chasing each other and playing games. She raised the skin to her lips, then stopped.
“Please?” She asked one more time.
“No, no matter how many times you ask, the answer will always be no. Father told all of us, you’re not to wander, your not to enter anything, and you’re to be watched at night so you don’t sneak away.”
She sighed and put her head on his shoulder. “I’m older than you.”
“So are Brandon and Ned.”
She sat up and sighed. “They aren’t even doing it right! Torrhen and I are the best pair. I don’t even want the prize money. I’ll give it back. No, on second thought I’ll give the prize money to the Night’s Watch Father will be so pleased he’d forget he’s angry I entered in the first place!”
“Only men compete in these kinds of things.” He argued.
“Which should change. Half these men don’t know what to do with their horse! I don’t kick mine like they do.” She pointed. “That one put his saddle on wrong, if he falls I won’t be the slightest bit surprised. That one is watering his horse too much, he’s just slowing the poor thing down. None of them look as happy or cared for as my Torrhen and I’m not allowed to race! They’re knights and lords, what danger is it to them if a lady bests them this once?”
“You can’t be mistaken for a lady they’re soft spoken and gentle.” He teased.
She scoffed and tossed her head to the side. He waited another moment waiting for her new plan of attack, she surely wouldn’t give up so easily. “Ben.”
“You’re awful! I was going to say I love you. But fine, be like Brandon!”
He chuckled. “No you weren’t.”
“I could enter as you.”
“It isn’t that we don’t think you capable. You’ve only ever rode your horse against the ones we keep in Winterfell. There are close to twenty racing at once. All of us, are more concerned you’ll fall from your horse because he’s scared of the others. Father could care less about the men and their pride, so long as his daughter isn’t trampled to death.”
She sighed. “You’d look funny wearing my dress anyway.”
He took her hand and smiled she was still unhappy but she sighed and put her head on his shoulder again. “Come on, we’re having great fun. You’re not at Winterfell, it’s different here. Lots of people to watch, things to do. We can race our horses down the Kingsroad later. Maybe you’ll be able to convince Ned to join us. You’ve never raced him.”
“What will the prize be?”
“Something from Brandon’s tent.”
She smiled and sat up straight again. “We could decorate it with flowers.”
He started to laugh. “You and Brandon are closest to Father’s heart. We can’t let anything happen to you. Or his world might end.”
They started the race, and sure enough the horses from the less promising, younger riders bucked and reared. She watched them fall one by one and realized he had been right. They were being trampled and there was little they could do about it until it was too late. Her horse knew when one of her brother’s mounts was nearby, he nickered in greeting and trotted over. He wasn’t suited for racing she’d spend too many hours grooming him, and saying sweet words to him with the greatest love and devotion to even consider him a war horse. He raced hard because she talked sweetly and fed few him apples because he often made her happy. She was a good rider, but her horse was bred far to gentle and quiet. She’d need a horse like Brandon’s one that had been everywhere, and was used to harsher conditions and riding as hard as he could. But, she could easily pull her own teeth than get Brandon to agree to let her borrow him for a minute.
“Does it bother you? We could go.”
“No, I’m fine Ben, I think I’d still like to try one day.”
“You likely will. Just make sure you beat Brandon, if the gods are good I’ll be far away from his wrath when it happens.”
“Are there days when he’s kind to you?”
“Of course. Everyday father isn’t near. We are all wolves, and he likes showing dominance.”
“I would think he’d be kinder around father. It’s a poor mark on his character to be so brazen.”
“To each his own.” He smiled. “I used to be jealous of you. When you first got your horse, and father showed up everyday when you had your lessons. The first time you fell, he scooped you up off the ground. I’ve never see you scared of anything, be he was so worried you were afraid…”
She laughed. “I remember. I yelled at him. I didn’t want to look after the scratches, I wanted to be on my horse! He didn’t know what to do.”
He started to laugh too. “Then as we grew older I realized what he was doing. He’d only been there when it was most important. He leaves us to each other because we teach each other better than anyone else can. You wouldn’t be so determined to do anything if Brandon hadn’t been the first to do them.”
“He isn’t all bad all of the time.” She admitted.
“He says the same thing about you.” He started to laugh again. “We need our pack, your too willful to be on your own, and I’m too meek to slap Brandon across the face when he’s boastful.”
“Every man who says, ‘morning lady Lyanna.’ ‘Evening my lady’ he mutters he’s going to kill them. That poor man Ned was talking to from the Vale! ‘You hadn’t said your sister was fair, what else is Winterfell hiding?’ Brandon almost drew his steel, it was a joke, a poor joke at best. Why is he so easy to anger?”
“Father gave him responsibilities as soon as he could. Brandon works like a steward, he does what father sends him to do as his diplomatic council. Of course he hides a lot of….anger and frustration. If Brandon had his way he’d fight in every tournament here. He would beat the prince, win the melee then ride off to spend his spoils however he thought best. He bears a large burden, as do you. His heir and his only daughter, you have more in common than you think. Only you bring father happiness by being his sweet daughter no matter how many times he hears you speak of politics or arms. A sweet yes father, or course father, goes a long way. But for his sons, the more we do, the more he expects from us.”
“So you think I’m lucky to be raised to be married off to a man I haven’t spoken a word to?”
“No, you’re lucky father loves you enough to show no anger toward you for doing as you like. You’ll see it eventually. But enough unpleasant talk, let’s watch the next round. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the winner will be someone we know so you can challenge him one on one.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the later afternoon she found herself often in the incredibly lucky situation that if Benjen had something better to do, he didn’t really care what she was doing. Today was no exception, they met a few Northern men as they were leaving, and as boys they talked about fighting, who was tougher, and who should joust. They all boasted, and she was getting rather bored. So once they’d returned to the campsite she told him she wanted to check on her horse, and would return quickly. So, he decided to let her leave. No one had seemed to notice the lance she had tucked under a blanket.
She did feel foolish for needing to borrow one, but it was a tourney so there were plenty of extra things to go around. If she borrowed Brandon’s he would know, he examined it since they day they arrived for chips and dents. He wanted it perfect for his first joust the next day. If she ruined it for him, there would be a higher price to pay than if she’d just borrowed one from the armory. As she expected no one was there. So, she put it back in it’s place, checking one last time before she left it that it was clean and in proper condition to be used again. Then she heard a sound and turned to see who it was in a panic. When their eyes met she smiled.
“My lady.” He smiled at her. “Returning the one you used?” He lifted it back up, so he could feel the weight. “It is about the same weight as mine, I may still stand a chance at becoming champion after all.”
She started to giggle. “They say most of jousting is entirely dependant on the rider, my prince. I would pay less attention to the lance, and more on the horse.”
“I had heard the same. Much of the reading I’ve done has said the same. Are you a fair rider?”
“Better than fair, or so I hear.”
“You did seem like a natural to me. Lord Stark approves of his sweet daughter riding her horse as she likes?”
“Sometimes. My horse was a gift, Since he was mine I’ve taken complete responsibility for his care. I studied very hard on caring for him, my prince. My father hired a good instructor to teach me how to ride and it took my father a few months to decide I was well enough on my own not to need him there. Even father wolves are defensive of their pack.”
“May I see him?”
“Of course my prince.”
She was glad for the lack of people. Either they all were at the jousting, or they were watching one of the bards play. He instinctively knew she was coming and called out to her in a long whinny. He watched her as she approached him, whispering softly, and he tossed his head until she stroked his fur. Then he settled, and she smiled.
“Saddle him, lets go for a ride. If I am to be champion, I need to be better on my horse than the famous Knight of the Laughing Tree.”
Happily she followed close behind him through the courtyard. Then he’d decided to give themselves some distance from the castle. He lead her back into the forest, just off the Kingsroad. He dismounted and came to help her. She seemed at ease with the gesture, so he kissed her hand as well. Then he turned to look at the horse.
“You have to promise to try your hardest to beat me.” She teased.
“I will.” He touched her horse on the muzzle and stroked it lightly, he nickered. “He has a sweet temperament.”
She smiled and gave her horse a piece of apple. “He’s saying hello. My father made sure he would have a sweet temperament. I love him very much.”
“I can see you do, he is very well cared for. His coat is very shiny and soft. What did you name him?”
“Your devotion to your house is sweet. I’m sure your father must cherish you.”
She smiled slyly at him then mounted her horse. “I’ve never raced a prince before, well, as a lady.”
“Yes, yes, and you are not to have a head start this time. We’ll go ahead, to those two pine trees, then race around God’s eye, and back here.” He mounted his horse and trotted him back to where she was. “Ready?”
“Whenever my prince is.”
They galloped off and for the first few feet she thought he might be the better rider, then she’d caught up and as they turned around the lake he lost some speed. Then they both realized they heard someone shouting, and more hoof beats made their way toward them. Brandon Stark was riding toward them, telling her to stop and come to where he was. She continued on their path as did Rhaegar, neither wanted to lose but Brandon was gaining on them. She made it back to the clearing only seconds before him. He dismounted and in the same polite fashion helped her from hers. Unfortunately that was also the exact moment Brandon came back into view. He was livid.
“When I say come, you come.” He called over to her.
“We were having a fun time. Leave us alone.”
“A fun time? You are not to be off on your own. We were looking for you.”
“And you found me. Now leave us alone.”
He grabbed her arm a little too roughly and pulled her closer toward him. Rhaegar angry with the way he was treating her followed close behind him. She tried to pull away, whining, and jerking her arm. His grip however only tightened.
“Brandon you’re hurting me!”
“Then follow and stop fighting!” She relented for a few seconds, until she realized the prince was still close. “Benjen! Eddard!” He called.
“Let me go!” She pulled herself free and went back to Rhaegar.
“Lyanna…” He warned.
“Your cruel! I haven’t done anything wrong! I’ve been out of your way. The prince and I had a race.”
“Our father told you you’re not to be with anyone without one of us present.”
“I understand your concern for your sister, Brandon Stark, but I have treated Lady Lyanna kindly. The same can not be said of you.”
He glared at him. “She is my sister! I know what to do with her!”
“I don’t?” he smiled lightly. Kindly he reached for her hand and kissed the top of it courteously. “My lady, if you would like to get your horse, I would be glad to escort you back to your camp.”
She obeyed and Brandon approached gritting his teeth and even more furious than before. He threw his hands in the air. “How dare you!”
“How dare I? How dare you, lords are kind to ladies.”
Brandon scoffed. “As you can see, she isn’t much of a lady.”
She coerced his horse to follow as well and handed him the reigns. “She certainly has the look of a lady.” He caressed her cheek, brushing some hair out of her face to the side. “She has the heart of a knight, but I would say she is very much a lady. In thoughts, and actions.”
She started to blush. “Thank you my prince.”
“Thank you Lady Lyanna. It has been a long while since the last time I had so much fun.” He looked back at Brandon, his hand was on the hilt of his sword, he still looked furious, but seemed to have better sense than to draw it. So he kissed her hand one last time. “It might be best if you go with your brother. It seems he is harboring ill feelings toward me.”
She frowned, but she watched him mount his horse and ride toward Brandon before stopping once more. “I do hope I hear no complaint from the lady while she’s in your care.”
“She’s my sister, there isn’t a thing wrong with how I treat her.” He snapped back. “Who are you to be running off with a fourteen year old girl.”
“I am your crowned prince. You would do well to remember crowned prince is above the rank of heir of Winterfell. If you must know, I found her in the armory, she is quite knowledgeable in arms. I thought it might have been better to cajole her into a more…delicate activity. I think a horse race could hardly dishonor your sweet sister.”
He rode off leaving Brandon feeling foolish for his actions. With a sigh he started back over to her. “What were you doing in the armory?”
“Returning the lance I borrowed.” His eyes narrowed and he was on the verge of yelling again so she smiled and started to giggle. “I am only japing!”
“You made me look like a fool.” He replied.
“You made yourself look like a fool. What did you think he was going to do to me? It must have been horrible in your eyes, he’s very kind. Our Prince…”
“You shouldn’t be wasting his time.”
“Are you jealous?” She teased.
“I’m not jealous. Your annoying.” He watched her mount her horse again.
“You’re jealous. We had a lovely introduction, and he thinks you’re an ass.”
He scoffed. “Maybe I should just let men do whatever they like with you.”
“I’ll race you back to camp!” She took off again as fast as she could before he had the chance to say anything else.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ned sat in their campsite honing his sword with a whetstone when Brandon came back. “Where is she?”
He didn’t look up. “In my tent. Changing.”
“Where is Benjen? This is his fault. He should have been watching her!”
“He went off with our bannermen to spar.”
Brandon dismounted, kicked up some dirt and cursed. Ned continued honing his sword. “Nothing bothers you, does it Eddard?”
He shrugged. “Some things do. If you want to find them, go ahead. I’ll take her to the jousting with me. I’d heard a few people I know will be jousting either today or on the morrow.”
That seemed to cheer Brandon up. “Keep her away from the prince. He signed up as well.”
“I doubt he’ll be there. He’ll want to save his strength for the best. Why the prince, if you don’t mind my asking. He shouldn’t have any interest in any of us.”
“That’s where she was when I found her, with the prince. Three days we’ve been here and she found him.”
“She met him yesterday actually.” He knew better then to not tell him. He’d found out sooner than later, and it would be better from him then Lyanna. “He brought her back to she stables.”
“I told you to tell me everything that happens with our sister. Why would you keep something like that from me?”
Ned shrugged. “I knew you would overreact had I said something before now. There isn’t anything to say about it really.”
“It is not over reacting! She’s a complete idiot, she’s a whiny, little girl! She talks with the ladies at Winterfell about him, she already thinks things about him!”
“You’re an arrogant fool!” She bound over toward him, but Ned reached out and grabbed her arm, and pulling her back toward him. “Let me go!” She cried. “I want to slap him across his arrogant face and deflate his ego!”
“He called me stupid!”
“Why do you find it so funny to make her upset? She is much brighter than you take her for. There is nothing wrong with her meeting the Prince, it was bound to happen. She’s curious. She isn’t your child to scold, Father told me to watch her behavior and she has had a very sweet temperment. You would do better with her if you were kinder, you would also find you have no reason to worry if you keep her amused….”
“Who do you think you are giving me advice? I know her better than you.”
“Do you? I think you’ll try and find a reason to pass her off onto me before our noon meal.”
Lyanna started to giggle and she leaned into him and smiled at Brandon, who only scoffed in response. “Benjen dumped her on you.”
“No he didn’t I wanted to stay with Ned.” Lyanna replied.
“Only because I told you I wouldn’t let you use my sword to fight with them.”
“What do you plan on doing with her?”
“I told you. We are going to watch the jousting. If we miss it, I’ll take her with me to check in with Jon. You know how our sister likes stories.”
“It must be nice, feeling so popular.” Brandon replied with sarcasm they had no appreciation for.
“It isn’t funny to tease him.” She replied. “You aren’t putting up a fight to watch with us, or to take me instead.
“Why would I put up a fight? The only real people to challenge are going to be there tomorrow, or the day after.”
“I’m not going so I can find someone to challenge.” Ned replied. Lyanna leaned into him, stood on her toes and whispered something in his ear that made him start to laugh.
“It’s nothing. Just something that happened yesterday. It really wouldn’t interest you.”
Brandon stared at him and crossed his arms. He looked back at Lyanna and she grabbed Ned by the arm and smiled. “Let’s go brother, let’s find my betrothed. We’ve wasted so much of Brandon’s time already.”
He watched as they walked away, she walked at an easy pace, and he stayed next to her. Then he told her something, which she only laughed at then skipped a little closer and threw her arms around his neck. He shrugged her off and said something to her, Brandon shook his head. Whatever they were talking about. It had better have been Lord Robert Baratheon.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I told you Ben!” She said with enthusiasm. “That is how I met him, we were watching Ser someone or another and I was thirsty, so I asked Ned if he still had his skin of water. He said, ‘It would be warm because he kept in in his cloak all day but there would be enough if I were thirsty enough to need it.’ Then when I went to take it from him Jon Arryn leaned over from above us and said, ‘I had been wondering who the lady you were with was!’”
He laughed. “I miss everything by being with Brandon! How did he know it was you? Who else did you meet?”
“The ring on my finger. Robert had sent it to me when Father announced we were to marry. He told me the whole story about my ring too. Everyone else he introduced me to were soldiers, there might have been a knight or two…I told Ned I’m getting rather impatient with waiting for a chance to talk to Robert.”
He scoffed. “You’ll have plenty of time for talking when you’re married to him. You should have heard Brandon when he found our campsite. He saw Ned, thought of charging over here to say something, then he must of realized if all of us were there, you would be too. So, he glances over at you and Brandon turns to me and says, ‘If you ever let a man near our sister that looks at her like he is right now, the Wall will seem a gentile place.’ It might just be Brandon, maybe they had a less than friendly talk.”
She sighed. “He has such a temper…”
He looked at her warily. “Just him?”
She giggled. “Do you think he’s asleep? We could go sit outside of his tent and howl, so he thinks wolves are out there.”
“Let him rest.”
“He complained that you were supposed to be watching me and let me stay with Ned. Then he goes off and does the same thing. How is that fair?”
“When he decided we were doing things this way the Prince hadn’t entered. Now that he’s jousting the Prince, he wants some more practice. It’s just a round or two… He told Ned he’d take you in the morning, it’s just for a little while later in the day. He’s mad because I didn’t plan anything out, I just went off by myself, I just didn’t think he’d really mind. The only time I’ve seen him enjoy the tourney was when he was with you.”
She yawned and smiled at him. He smiled back, then moved take a blanket. “Where are you going?”
“To lay on the floor, like I was told.”
She scoffed. “Brandon is an idiot. It’s fine.” She held his hand. “Let Brandon be Brandon, you’re Benjen, and Benjen doesn’t need to sleep on the floor like a dog. We’re siblings, I can trust you. Brandon has too much pride to share things.”
“Father might disagree…”
She started to giggle. “No he wouldn’t. He’d probably applaud you. You know how I am, sneaking off to the Godswood, playing in the courtyard late in the night, he’d think it a very successful way to keep me in place.”
He smiled. It hadn’t taken him long to fall asleep she realized, the excitement of the tourney mixed with the rigorous training he’d had that day put him in a deep sleep faster than she expected.
“Ben…” She called, he didn’t respond. “Ben?” She tried again louder. There was still no response. So she giggled and kissed his forehead. “Thank the gods my little brother is a heavy sleeper.”
She moved back to her cloak and found the bit of parchment tucked inside. She didn’t want to keep him waiting but she had to, or else the three of them would likely follow. He’d slipped in into her hand in passing. It was polite to kiss a lady on the hand, he had then she felt the parchment. Benjen had been too awestruck by the prince to really notice her stuff it away in a panic. Brandon would have, and he would have taken it without hesitation. Ned, well, if she were careful he might not notice. But if he did, he would want to read it first before giving it back to her. She unfolded it and smiled.
My sweet Lady and brave knight,
Fleeting days we spend at Harrenhal for this tourney. As your Prince, this should not matter, and oh how I could care less for the events and the people! Except you, your Prince had been quite interested of such a brave girl, fighting knights for the honor of a man he had never heard of. The courage, compassion and loyalty are one thing, but to be so fair over all else should be a crime. There is only so much room left in this awful world for perfection, it seems a shame that it be placed all in one person, and that person is to be hidden in a castle. You should be admired, and revered.
I would very much like to speak to you in private. While I am sure your three brothers mean well, my Lady is much more refined and civil than any of the three. I fear they do not see you as I do, for your full potential and worth. All I ask for is some of your time, you are quite the nice conversationalist. If you can, my ever so sweet lady, meet me in the clearing we found by God’s Eye. I do not mind the wait in the slightest, the waiting, no matter however tedious, will make the activity that much more pleasurable.
She changed from her bed clothes and into riding clothes. Then she picked up her mirror and brush and fixed her hair. She didn’t like trying to be a lady, but she felt she needed to try and make the effort if she was meeting with the Prince. She snuck out of the tent, still being cautious so she didn’t rouse him from his sleep. She liked the feel of the cooler air on her skin, it was warmer in the south but the night air felt more like home. It was a peaceful and welcomed reminder of who she was. She was careful of how she was walking, Brandon’s tent was dark, since he’d also gone to bed, but there were lights in Ned’s. He wouldn’t think anything of a little noise, she knew how to be quiet in her riding boots, she’d had plenty of practice sneaking around Winterfell. Once she was safely out of the camp she didn’t worry about how much noise she was making, she just ran, as fast as she could. Once she found the clearing she was worried he left. The only light was from the moon and the stars and though they were vibrant and beautiful, they did not provide with much light so she could see him.
“My lady of house Stark. Good to see you.” He greeted, in his hand he held a lantern.
She turned and looked behind and smiled once she saw him. “My Prince.” She felt silly and gave him a polite courtesy.
“The castle grounds are always quite crowded. Don’t you agree?”
“Yes, very much so my Prince.” She paused for a moment. Then looked back at him and smiled. “May I ask you a question?”
“What do you think is on the Isle of Faces?”
He approached her, and she watched him. In his arms he held his harp, she hoped he’d play it for her. “I would suppose trees.”
She folded the parchment and hid it away. “Only trees?”
“Some birds I’d imagine.” Their eyes met and he smiled.
“May I? she gestured to the blanket.
“Of course my lady.” As soon as she was settled she’d turned back to him and smiled shyly.
“Howland Reed told us he learned so much on the Isle of Faces. He only recently left, he said he’d been there awhile. There must be something there. I want to see…”
“If there were people on the Isle of Faces, you would see smoke from a fire. They would need fire for heat, or food.”
“That is true.”
They were quiet, she was pensive and he watched her for some time before he spoke again. “Would you mind if I played a song or two?”
“Not at all my prince. I do love music.”
“Do you have a request, my lady?”
She started to blush and giggled. “Whatever song you would like to play for me. Play your favorite song. I’m sure I will love it.”
He held the harp and thought for a moment. But she’d become impatient. “Please?”
He started to laugh. “I am trying to think on one that will please my lady. This has been the first time I have been asked to play what I would like.” He played a couple of chords. Then the melody came and she watched him in awe, from the way his fingers touched the strings so delicately as the music became more and more complex and intricate. Then she was looking at his face, into his eyes. She hadn’t noticed the song had stopped, or that he was looking at her with the same intense emotion. On impulse she leaned in and kissed him, he kissed back. When they finally pulled away, and realization had sunken in she started to panic.
“We shouldn’t have done that….”
“You’re married, I am betrothed.”
“It was just a kiss….”
“Wars have been started for less I’m sure.”
He smiled and played a few more chords. “Then it shall be a crime.”
“Kissing?” She asked.
“Stealing my heart. It is an awful crime on my conscience to have it stolen.” he replied.
“What is the punishment?” She asked.
“I do think another song.”
She smiled and turned her attention back to the water and to the island. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what it would look like while he played the song. Heart trees for as far as she could see. Red against white, against the blue of the sky. She started to smile.
He stopped suddenly and sighed. “My lady, what do you know about Robert Baratheon?”
“Little, he is very handsome. He is strong and lean. Ned has said he makes friends easily, as do I. He thinks we’ll take to each other easily. He wields a war hammer and takes to adventure and wine…”
“I would like to help you find out more about him. I am very curious myself as to why he’s gained your affections. As he is, well, he seems much less than worthy.”
She smiled. “Oh? He is a high lord, of one of the seven families my prince. It seems a shame for you to say something like this against him.”
“I have the most highest regard for house Stark.”
“Do you? But not for house Baratheon.”
“No, not at the current moment. He has only won a drinking contest thus far, and he’s to enter the grand melee. You, if you don’t mind me saying so, are a lady of fine character and refined taste.” He took her hand and kissed it. “This is much more proper.”
“My prince is kind. You’re the most thoughtful man I have had the pleasure of meeting. You know my big secret, and you haven’t told anyone.”
He touched her cheek and smiled. “I could not bear to think of the consequences if your secret were revealed. We all do have our secrets. Like our kiss, and my mission. What is your father thinking, your marriage and your brother’s the Starks have always married to the north, always below themselves. I understand for you. Daughters should be as even as they can if not higher. A shame you were not the oldest.”
She understood what he meant, but it was much more fun to play coy with men. It always made them more interested. “What do you mean by that?”
“My lady is fourteen. I do believe your brother Brandon is twenty, and I am twenty three. It would have put you at the proper age to marry. Surely your father would not refuse the prince. Else, we would have to think he might be considering to withdraw the north from my kingdom.”
“My father is a loyal man. He is kind and true to your father.”
Her voice was wavering, as if she were nervous. He sighed. “I am not calling your father traitor. I would have difficulty considering him as such knowing you are of the same blood. You acted like a true knight, and you are the most delightful company. I had only meant to say, if you were your brother’s age we might have found what we needed. You deserve to be raised as high as you can, I feel he is a poor substitute for what you should have.”
“And what should I have, my prince?”
“Close your eyes, and look with your heart.”
She closed her eyes, and she did feel silly. Then he leaned in and kissed her again. She returned the kiss, then pulled away abruptly and blushed. “I feel like I should be scolded.”
He smiled. “No, if anything I should be scolded. Oh my lady, you should listen to your father more. I am almost certain every man tells their sweet daughters they must not trust the actions of men. It makes your brothers all so very troublesome. We do all of the bad things…” He touched her hair, then stroked her cheek, causing her to smile. “I have you for the moment. We are living for today, I will give you back to them, but the more I hear, the more I am tempted to take you for myself. When I am able to.”
“You are japing. You’re clever, and witty.”
“You intrigue me.”
“May I ask you another question?”
“Ask me anything, I will always oblige in answering everything you ask.”
“Your family came from Valyria. Yet…I hardly hear tales in the north about Valyria. There must be something passed down, tales, or songs, anything really…I would be very interested in knowing anything about it…”
“We had lived in Valyria when it still existed. Not my immediate family, but you’re correct. Before the doom we conquered the kingdoms and united them. But we were outsiders, and in many ways I do feel we still are. There is much I know, was there something more specific you wanted to know about?”
“I want to know about all of it. Every city you know of, or have been to. I want to know why it was great, how it became great and why it fell. I want to know why your family left and started here. I want to know about dragons, dragon riders, and if there are more. I want to see a dragon, I want an adventure…I want to…” She giggled. “I tell my father all of the time, If I were a boy I’d go North of the wall and tame direwolves. But I want to know everything I can. I love tales of adventure. I want to live my own so badly…”
“Do not wish such things on yourself. Adventure is a risky business and while you are quite capable of protecting yourself there are always things we never plan for.” Their eyes met again and he smiled. Gently he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Could we meet again? Away from the wolf den, in this location?”
“When?” She asked softly.
“When the lady can outsmart those brothers of yours. How have you managed it?” He inquired.
“Benjen is a heavy sleeper.” She replied proudly. “I do not want to get him in trouble though. He’s the youngest, he seems to get blamed for everything. I don’t want to create any hardship for him.”
“A shame. I could think more on what you asked me and we could share tales. I’ll find a good one for you and you could tell me something on the North.”
She’d looked away when she was telling him no, but she couldn’t resist the opportunity when she’d heard what he was saying to look back at him with a smile on her face. “I would love to.”
“And, when is the next night you’ll spend in the company of Ser Benjen?” He asked.
“The night after the jousting ends.”
He smiled. “Then we shall try our next meeting that night. Even a short period of time in your presence is enlightening.”
She started to blush. “You are a flatterer. Have you told your wife your interest in conversing with me? Surely she’s missing you in her bed now.”
His smile only faded slightly. “Do you know anything of my wife my lady?” She shook her head. “She is ill often. The Maesers are uncertain if she can give me a son, which I need so I will have an heir. You remind me of her at times, I am quite fond of her. But, my Elia lacks the strength to go on horse races, or challenge men on the field, or sit by my side at the water’s edge and gaze at the stars. Our daughter took a lot from her. I had said I am intrigued by you. You are a proper lady, yet in your heart you’re a young squire. Those brothers of yours can’t see that, they just see the sweet girl they grew up with. I would like to help you, maybe eventually you would even be helping me. I will however, start with our friend, Lord Robert. Brothers may lie to their sisters, but men do not lie to their prince.”
“I look forward to what you find. But please, think of something on Valyria as well. I never hear stories that are truly good about it.”
“I will, I will also find a Northern story you can tell me in turn. But first, how about one more song?”
She smiled. “I would love it.”