She made him mad, he threw her flowers down a well. That was how they started the morning. Furious wasn’t a strong enough word for how she felt about him. The flowers had all been beautiful, they held their scent well and they were colorful. Whoever had picked them out for Prince Rhaegar had even made sure there were some that were only buds, and they had just started opening. They would have lasted the rest of the tourney. In Brandon’s defence, she had spilt a good amount of her perfume on his exceptionally clean and lovely doublet , by accident. Benjen had been the first to join in their excitement. He tried to comfort his sister by picking some flowers from by their campsite. She responded by throwing them back at him. The noise was so loud by the time Ned intervened he wasn’t sure if a war had come to their camp.
“What is going on?”
“He threw my flowers down a well!”
“She dumped all of her rose oil on me!”
“It wasn’t all of it! A little spilt, your just going to smell bad after you joust anyway why do you care if you smell good now!”
Ned gave them a blank stare, he didn’t understand why there was a problem to begin with.
“Well…..What happened, from the beginning.”
“I was sewing part of his sleeve, the hem was getting worn. It’s his favorite after all. He likes to wear the direwolf for everyone to see, like he’s already a lord. He was laying on the bed, telling me how he fought for his lady’s hand, I went to touch his arm, and my perfume fell over. I thought I had closed it.”
Ned looked at Brandon. “And then you threw her flowers down the well?”
“They’re just flowers! She’ll get more! Meanwhile, I smell like I frequent whore houses!”
“It isn’t even that strong! Father gives me rose oil and a lovely lily scented oil. I use them both together sparingly. Father is good to us, but I don’t expect him to pamper me like you do!” She turned to Ned and whined in angst. “It was just a little bit. He’s overreacting.”
Brandon scoffed. “Now expect her to cry.”
She swung at him and he laughed. Ned sighed. “You’re older than I, and you’re out here yelling at her and tossing her flowers down a well. Don’t you think it looks odd? Like, something siblings wouldn’t necessarily would do? For the love of the gods, think about what you’re doing before you get that angry.”
“You could just rub it on one of her dresses?” Benjen suggested.
“He’s going to smell once he starts jousting anyway. Once he puts on his armor he’ll sweat and he’ll smell like a man again. It’s just on the direwolf’s paw…”
“It looks disgusting.” He scolded.
Benjen shrugged. “I couldn’t tell.”
“You can’t see much.” he snapped. “She did it intentionally.”
“I did not! Why would I waste perfume on you? Especially if I don’t have to be close enough to smell you later anyway!”
“If she says she didn’t do it on purpose Brandon, she’s telling the truth. You know as well as I do, once she’s caught in a lie she’ll admit defeat admirably. It was an accident, you made yourself look like a fool.You need to control your temper, imagine how much more idiotic this would look if you were to do something like this with your wife, while Winterfell watches.”
“Are you scolding me?”
Ned shrugged. “Come here.” He told Lyanna she obeyed and he let an arm fall over her shoulders in a protective way. “Let’s take a walk, it will make you feel better.”
They left and Brandon cursed and stormed back into his tent. They walked back to the woods, they’d made good distance from their camp, she sighed and took to skipping stones across the lake.
“If he were less angry that would have made him suspicious.”
“Why? They were lovely and thoughtful gifts.”
“Yes, but you know they hadn’t been from Robert. The flowers he gave you yesterday are still in my tent.”
“Why should that matter?”
“Men tend to get offended when other men send their ladies gifts. You need to calm down before we get to the hall and Benjen and Brandon spread the news you’re upset he threw your flowers away. I hadn’t minded, I might have even said I gave them to you to keep you happy. I was the one who found them after all. But this has to stop, this useless squabbling is much too childish for either of you. While he’s here he’s is representing Lord of Winterfell, and you’re the Lady. You two look ridiculous yelling and acting like you’re ten years younger than your age. You need to…”
“I act like a Lady!”
“Yes, you are very good at it when it served a purpose. You like having your way, so does he.”
She sighed, “I’m not apologizing for the perfume.”
“I didn’t expect you to. But, you should apologize for the yelling, and embarrassing behavior. You complain on how he always angers and acts on that, that it isn’t Lordly, and he needs to be concerned. Father isn’t getting any younger, but you were exactly the same. A Lady would have gone to her Lord and said what he’d done, you would have been given new flowers. You know that, why did it make you so upset?”
“I appreciate what you’re doing. I did act rashly, but…I was upset….”
He sighed. “You know who gave them to you. You are betrothed, you need to act like your betrothed. Who is it? I will tell him personally not to bother sending you anymore gifts.”
She frowned and bit her lip. “I….I will tell him myself.”
“I will see if I can convince Robert to give you something nicer than flowers. But stop picking fights with Brandon. He isn’t going to listen to you. He could careless if you just want to help him. He’s always been careless, the way he treats us shows that. But to hell with anyone that tries to hurt us. He’ll rip anyone apart, for you. Robert as well, he was quite taken with you yesterday. I don’t know what was said or done, but he seems more pleased than any of us had expected. You will tell whoever your admirer is to stop, or you will have him suffer greatly at their hands.”
She followed his advice, and for some reason Brandon had been feeling a little apologetic too. She followed Ned to the dinning hall early. But her mind was wandering. How could he possibly know? Had she said something to him, or had he caught her glancing in his direction? Besides, they were just friends after all. That’s all they could be. He was married, but there was something about him that made her smile. Maybe it was easier because he’d really talked to her. Not just in passing, but he really knew something about her. They made a connection, and she didn’t mind so much if no one else thought it suitable.
She hadn’t really wanted to see the jousting at all. But there was Brandon, and his pride to think of. And of course, the added thrill of the prince. She might have been amused, had the kind and noble prince called to her in the crowd, and challenged her as well. When she explained the idea to Benjen, he found the idea hilarious. He teased her, and taunted her, and she rebutted until he could hardly breathe from laughing so much. Finally it became too embarrassing and Ned scolded them both.
“Once we sit, you need to stop playing around. Brandon will have his eyes on us the entire time…”
“Well surely he should be paying attention while jousting.”
“He’ll be looking so he can see you.” He told Lyanna. “We’re sitting with good Northmen. Do not say anything about him you wouldn’t say to Father.”
“That isn’t helpful for your cause Ned. I tell our Lord Father he has some trouble acting lordly. Well…Lordly in a noble way. He has no problem playing at how a five year old would play at Lord.”
Benjen sniggered. Ned turned to him next. “Any bets you have made you should call off. Father would not approve.”
“Come on Ned, it’s just who’s cleaning Brandon’s armor. I said he’d win, Ethan thinks the prince will unseat him.”
“Brandon will lose to the prince. He’s an excellent rider and a marvelous jouster.”
“Ah? When have you seen him joust?” Ned asked.
“I heard it. I hear…the Prince unseated Lord Robert’s father. They say I must be quite the Lady for him to lose interest in retribution.”
“Robert is not a man of dates and appreciation for old events…”
“It’s a shame. I would love a husband with appreciation for old events.”
“I have no doubt you would, you have an opinion on everything. Do not let opinions get in the way of the match.”
For the start of the match, she’d sat between her brothers. Benjen seemed impressed. He not only cheered for his brother, but he found himself cheering for Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Barristan Selmy.
“Are the King’s guard really going to joust him?” Lyanna asked.
“Brandon? No, I doubt he’d be so foolish…”
“No, the Prince. Do they really mean to challenge him.”
“They’re the King’s guard.” Benjen teased. “They shouldn’t care much about the Prince at a tourney. It isn’t like it’s the battlefield.”
“But they call him the Mad King, aren’t the frightened he might call them traitor?”
“For all you know, the King asked them to compete. Don’t question their honor. You’ve seen them both with the prince often, talking like old friends. There should be no animosity between them. Do not let people hear you calling our King, ‘Mad’. House Stark is loyal…”
“I didn’t call him mad, I only said I’ve heard him called that.”
“Either way, it’s best not to hear it come from your mouth.”
She knew he was right, and turned her attention back to the field. Benjen shoved her and grinned. “There’s Brandon. Want me to call him over so you can wish him luck?”
“No, you can wish him luck. Poor Ethan, he’s had deal with him all day. He’s saddled his horse, listen to him gloat…”
“I will remind you one more time. You still have the flowers Robert gave you. How you expect them to survive on the way back to Winterfell is beyond me…”
“Ned, I don’t want to argue with you. We all know it would do more good than harm if Brandon were unseated. It would teach him a lesson in humility….”
“That is not the opinion his sweet sister should have.”
“Oh, but it is the opinion I have. I know, you would rather I not share.”
Benjen laughed. “Winter is coming, and she’s cheering for the Prince.”
“Oh I am not cheering for anyone. I’m going to be stern and severe like our brother. It will be so much fun. Besides, it would be what Brandon least expects.”
“I have the feeling you will not be silent or still.” Ned told her.
“I have been still.” She argued.
“You have not.” Benjen teased. “You’ve been pulling on my shirt and kicking my feet.”
She looked at both of them, as they shared a smile and crossed her arms and huffed. “I’m only bored.”
“The finest Knights in Westeros are jousting and you’re bored.” Benjen replied.
Then a new rider had come onto the field. He was clad in red in black, there was no doubt in her mind that was the prince. The jousting was finally coming to an end, as he was facing the best of the tourney so far. She couldn’t help the look of admiration that showed on her face once she knew it was him. Neither could her brother, for a moment she thought he might have suspected something between them. But if he had, he said nothing and they watched as the first of his challengers approached. They were all strong riders at this point, it wouldn’t be like how some matches ended as quickly as she could blink. There was nothing to mock, no one to tease, and she had every intention on watching every movement the prince made. Then Benjen turned to her and whispered.
“Hey, you’re doing a good job acting like Ned.”
“I am watching the jousting. Be quiet.”
“I am too, but loudly.” He taunted. She turned to glare at him, then smacked his shoulder and went back to the match. It had however been just enough time for her to miss how the prince had unseated Lord Yohn Royce. She responded by hitting Benjen several more times.
“I thought I told you to stop.”
“He’s ruining it for me.” Lyanna complained.
“Well Brandon will ruin everything for the both of you if you embarrass him.”
Lyanna looked back at the field, she expected he’d be riding around and looking like an idiot like the other knights, and her brother had in the days before. But Prince Rhaegar dismounted and knelt next to the man, as if he were checking if he was all right. She looked back at her elder brother expectantly. Certainly since he was fond of the Vale, he would see the gesture of camaraderie as something that would make him fonder of the Prince. However it seemed her brother didn’t care much at all.
“For the love of the Gods, be silent and still while he is jousting.” Ned told her.
“I’ll be as silent and still as a Heart tree beloved brother.”
Brandon seemed to hold his own well. In her opinion he had held on as long as he could, and he did make being unseated look like an art. Just like before the Prince had dismounted and went to his side. Ned had noticed he was bleeding before she had a chance to and he pulled her close to him shielding her eyes from what could have been a scary sight. Regardless the Prince had helped him up. By the time he let go of her the field was clear, and Ethan Glover was leading Brandon’s horse away.
“What happened? Brandon fell…Where’s Ben?”
“He went to check on our brother, he must have fallen on something sharp. I thought I saw him pull something from his saddle when he fell. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
She tried to hold back a giggle. “So, we’re continuing to watch, so we don’t add insult to injury?”
“Something like that.”
When she looked back at the field he was watching her, and when their eyes met he bowed to her from his horse. She started to smile.
“You didn’t make any bets, did you?”
“I did not. He’s just being friendly…He’s very kind. With how many people are near us, I’m sure he was just being formal.”
Once they started again she seemed much more excited by the Kingsguard. She smiled and leaned in to her brother so she could whisper excitedly how she knew they were the best knights in all of the realm. It would be something if the Prince could best them both. Ned had been under the opinion that no matter what happened next, Ser Barristan would be the victor, he was so skilled, and so fearless there was not a doubt in his mind. After they watched Ser Arthur Dayne fall they were silent. He only needed to defeat one more person then he would be champion. The crowd was with him, they cheered louder than they had before. Despite how the crowd was cheering Ned seemed unmoved and silent. Then as he unhorsed Ser Barristan he shook his head and sighed. She however was pleased.
“I’m sorry, I know you were hoping he’d lose.”
“I thought wrong. We’ll all live to see another day. Do you like the jousting? Robert is very fond of tournaments, when you two are married I suppose he’ll have one then.”
She smiled lightly. “I think they can be fun. I do hope if he has a tourney he doesn’t try for grander than this.”
She turned back to the field, she let out a small sigh at the sight of the crown of winter roses. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, to be newly married, in a new place and to have a jousting tournament like this. Lord Robert Baratheon could give her a crown just like that. She would like that more than how things had happened yesterday. She wasn’t entirely sure if the whole spectacle had been to show he was pleased with her, or more delighted to have something he could show the realm was his. Then everything seemed to quiet, and she looked back at her brother who looked a mix between furious and panicked.
“My Lady, I would name you Queen of Love and Beauty.”
She looked up at him and blushed. Nothing had ever been as silent as the field for those few moments, where he set the crown in her hands, with roses blue as frost, and it looked like her brother would throw it back at him. She set it on her head with some pride, and she tried not to glance in the direction of Princess Elia of Dorne. If one thing was certain, it would be complicated for her to get near the Prince again.
When they left all she could do to stop thinking about the whispers was turn to her brother and ask, “So, do we try and hide this from Brandon?”
“Absolutely not. He needs to hear this from us. I won’t have him hear it from someone and have in misconstrued.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
His wounds hadn’t been bad. The maester said they’d heal in no time with rest. But he was still embarrassed. All three of his siblings were in his tent, like he was dying in some way because of a wound he’d taken at war. It would be a touching gesture, had his sister not been hovering by the bed trying her best to act concerned between small smiles and giggles.
“I’m fine.” he admitted. “But I do need to find the prince to workout how he’s ransoming my armor. It must have looked more serious than it was.”
Lyanna smiled. “I’ll ransom your armor for you.”
“I’ll do it myself. Don’t meddle in my business and stay away from the prince. The last thing we need is you to say something stupid to him.”
Ned frowned. “You hadn’t heard then?”
“That our sister was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty.”
“Why did you let that happen? She’s betrothed to your friend, and the prince is married!”
“What was the better course of action then? Throwing the flower crown on the ground and insulting him?”
“It’s stupid to be mad, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s all just for the fun of the tourney.” She argued. Brandon only glared at her.
“You can be silent for a change. It’s all your fault anyway.” Then he turned back to Ned. “You watched her all day? When did she even have the chance to meet the prince?”
“She’s been by my side all day.”
“Benjen. It had to be when you were watching her. When did you let her run off?”
“Why are you blaming Ben? Maybe I ran off with him under your watch. Maybe we stole secret kisses from each other by your tent while you were sleeping…”
“STOP!” He yelled. “The only time you would have had anytime to sneak away was when he hit me with the blunt lance. Which is why Ned took you…Wait, I remember. Ned said he’d taken you to the tourney but you ran off. Benjen said you went for a ride. What use do I have for my brothers? I should take you home.” He pointed to Lyanna. Then he pointed at the two of them. “I can’t trust either of you. She’ll end up dead on the Kingsroad and father will blame me because I’m to be giving the orders.”
“She did go riding. I had them check the stable. I knew you’d be like this. I asked anyone and everyone I saw. She met the prince in passing. They say she’d had a chance to meet the Knight of the Laughing Tree but the prince came along shortly after.” Ned replied in vain, because he would also not settle for that response.
“It’s just Benjen to blame then. If he weren’t stupid enough to let her go off alone…”
“She said she’d be fine.” He replied.
“And so she is, thanks to the prince! No thanks to you, or Eddard for ‘checking on her’ he means to tell me he stayed through the whole tourney while she was missing then the thought comes to him, maybe he should check to see if she’d been hurt.”
“The fact of the matter is Brandon, I am not hurt, and you need to ransom your armor so shut up and go do it.” She took off her necklace and gave it to him.
“What is this?”
“Something to ransom your armor with, since I’ve wounded your pride so! Or give it to him as payment for our brothers’ error of not dragging me back through the dinning hall and causing a scene. But stop yelling about it. I met the prince, he saw me back to the stables. Nothing happened.”
“Then why would he give you the crown? Why not his own wife? You’re never innocent Lyanna, you’ve done something. You’re ALWAYS up to something.”
“Maybe he felt guilty after you fell from your horse. She was crying. Maybe he felt a little guilty and wanted to offer something to sooth her….”
“I don’t care what my useless brothers think. You can give me counsel when you can obey commands.”
“I stayed by Ned’s side all day. Do you really want them to follow me everywhere? For all Ben knew I went to make water. I can leave the table without being attacked! Everyone else has, your overbearing this is not what father had asked you to do! If it bothers you so much, why don’t you ask the prince yourself since you have to see him anyway.
He sat up tossed the necklace back at her and pulled his boots on. “You best stay here this time.” He looked back between his brothers “And you two actually watch her! Lyanna, if I find you missing I’ll throw ‘Ned’ down a well, and ‘Ben’ can be flogged before we send him to the wall. Like he could even protect the realm! He can’t watch his own sister!”
“You should be more careful with my jewelry, it was our mother’s. You’re being horrible!”
“Well you’re being stupid! I may not be able to strike you, but I can do whatever I’d like to the two of them. Father only told me to be kind to you, vigilant for you, and gentle to you if you misbehave. So any punishment they’re dealt, will be entirely your fault for acting like a spoiled child.”
He stood and left the tent. She watched in fury before she realized he was being truthful, and he would be as unpleasant as possible if he was not obeyed. She sighed and sat between her two brothers and looked between them. “I hate when he’s like this.”
“Is he often on the warpath? Hopefully he doesn’t mouth off badly to the prince. He’ll be waiting a while in King’s Landing to be ransomed by father. He won’t leave Winterfell until one of the two of us is there to watch it for him.” Ned replied. “Shame our brother is so eccentric.”
“When he’s angry he’s a bit like a three wheeled wagon about to crash into a tree…This is actually quite mild for him. Once long before this he started throwing things, and I do believe throwing things from him ended when I dodged a helmet he threw at me. Which was very fortunate for me, but not for him. Father had come to see what the fuss was, it isn’t really the most proper way to greet your father.”
“The two of you are quite ridiculous together. Why not just let him be in charge? You have no problem doing what I ask of you.”
“Do you want to listen to him? Do you think he always chooses the best course of action?” She looked at Ned and he gave her a weary look. “You do the right thing, I don’t have a problem listening to you. You’re not as quick to anger and you consider my feelings. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. It’s like we’re all just toys to be discarded when we become inconvenient.”
“But he did have a point.” Benjen replied. “Why did you sit through the whole tourney? Why not look for her straight away.”
He smiled. “I did think about it. But thinking on our sister I thought it better to wait. Then the Knight of the Laughing Tree entered, said he was fighting for Howland Reed’s honor because of those squires. And I admit, it was a clever and kind gesture. But our friend had left early. I walked with him for some time before I came back to break my fast with you two. Her disappearance disturbed me, but you know our sister, where else would she rather be than amidst all of the action. The voice had fooled me, but the stance and execution I had seen before.”
She smiled at her brother and Benjen had to think on it for a long while before he pieced it together himself. After all, he’d never seen her joust because she could only ever do it with him. But he never did say anything more about the tourney and Brandon had a new reason to be angry by the time he’d come back.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Brandon found Rheagar near the keep. He’d had to ask dozens of people and it took far too long. But there was no mistake in his mind once he’d heard the sound of the harp. He’d play a melody and hum a little. But Brandon was impatient, so once he was within a good distance he cleared his throat. “Your grace.”
He looked up and over at him, then a smile formed on his face. “Brandon Stark. It’s good to see you well. I’ll have your armor sent back to you. At the moment it’s being cleaned and polished.”
He frowned. “And how much is the ransom?”
“Ransom…No, there is no ransom. You fought well, it was a good joust. It will be back to you before the end of the night in excellent condition.”
He played a few more chords and Brandon bowed like he was going to take his leave. Then he added thoughtfully. “Oh, and tell your sweet sister those troublesome squires have had some repentance.”
“About my sister…” He started with a growl.
“…they’re working diligently on shining all of the armor. It’s to be checked over for any signs of dirt. One of the three will be there with it by the feast. If he’s still rude, you can feel free to let me know and I’ll try a different method of punishment.”
“Of course your grace. But while we’re on the subject of my sister, why would you crown her…”
“Lyanna Stark embodies the good, just and honorable way we all hold in esteem. Why would I not? Such courage to confront those despicable squires and defend an unarmed man. As if that wasn’t enough bravery or kindness she invites him back to dine and rest with her own. The noble Starks accept him, and everyone is showed there is goodness in the realm. What other matters done in these few days have showed love or beauty at this celebration? It is a small meaningless honor. But if I were to reward her any other way I fear it would be more suspicious yet. Let her enjoy the splendor, she is a very interesting lady.”
“She is betrothed to Robert Baratheon.”
“Yes, yes I’m well aware. Have I done something to dishonor her? As I said before, I only wanted to honor her.”
“It seems an odd way to honor her. After all she’s betrothed, and you have a wife. Surely the best option would be to name your wife queen of love and beauty.”
“If I have offended you it was not my intention.”
No matter what he said it seemed he’d given him his answer. He thought she deserved something, and a crown of flowers seemed to be something lovely for a pretty lady. She wouldn’t be so cheaply bought, so he might as well leave the situation as it was, there was little he could do after the moment had passed. He should thank him. The ransom he wasn’t forced to pay would help them on the way back they would still need to plan for the road home and he hadn’t been overly careful while they were traveling about how much he was spending. He’d also saved his sister from a possible attacker. So, he’d let his face grow colder, like his father’s. “It just seemed odd. But you’ve proven to be a man of great thoughtfulness and kindness. Thank you for saving my sister, and my purse the burden of my folly.”
“For saving your sister?” he seemed bewildered.
“From the Knight of the Laughing Tree, your grace.”
A smile formed on his face, then he held back the barest bit of laughter. “Oh yes! How could I have forgotten. Lady Lyanna is very brave. She held her own well, I thought she might have caught him for sure. For who could think to harm such a lovely lady? The honorable men amongst us need to work together, else the kingdom will surely fall apart.”
“House Stark is grateful for it. I’ll leave you to your music. Thank you again.”
Brandon walked away and the prince played a few more chords then set the harp down and called back to him. “Do send your sister my regards.”
The strange interaction had made Brandon that much more protective of her through their evening meal. Even the Northmen they sat with weren’t entirely sure what to make of the situation. Ned had disappeared to see what he could do for Robert, since it had offended him so much he was shouting on how he should have been left to challenge the prince. He would have gladly beat him. Nothing was more embarrassing than how they looked at her for still wearing the crown. She thought it was beautiful, it was a marvel how it went with her gown, and was one of her very favorite flowers.
But even they whispered, and Benjen even hadn’t looked too happy about what he could overhear. For all she knew they were questioning if she were a maiden. She hadn’t done anything wrong, she certainly hadn’t done anything to draw his attention. He just decided he liked her company, and went out of his way to please her. She thought he was fascinating, and kind. He was truly noble and chivalrous. Now when she saw him, her heart raced and she had to look away, it didn’t matter if he were with his wife, another man, or by himself. One thing that was certain was she could not just walk up and thank him properly. Even if all three of her brothers had argued that she should not wear the crown at all, and it should be thrown away immediately. Yet not one of them had tried to take it from her, because it had after all been the first thing the Prince had noticed. Which had contributed to Brandon’s vice like grip on her arm until they were seated, and why he constantly checked around to see where he was. She was more than happy to leave. Once they were back in the safety of their camp she brushed her hair out and watched Ned pour over a letter. She was curious but if she knew one thing about Ned it was best left alone unless he asked for her advice. He worked things out himself. Then he sighed heavily and knocked the papers off the table.
“I can’t do it. I sound stupid, I have little to offer and less I know how to say!”
She left the brush on the bed and picked up the papers strewn across the room.
My sweet lady,
I hardly understood anything on the songs the bards sing until I met you.
He’d tried to scribble it out and wrote another.
There is no woman in any of the kingdoms near or far that can compare to your beauty.
He snatched them from her and sighed.
“You’re in love!”
“Ned! Who is she! Oh, I know!! I do!! Ashara Dayne, you love her!”
She froze because he now had a tone in his voice she had never heard before. Then his facial expression started to soften and she understood and embraced him. “You have no reason to be embarrassed.”
“Yes I do, you were just shouting it for everyone to hear.”
“I’m happy for you. I want you to fall in love and to marry her, and to have beautiful children to keep you happy. You could be the most perfect husband, and the most understanding father.”
He said nothing. She sighed and continued. “Have you told her any of this that you think she’s lovely. And you would be interested in courting her?”
She frowned. “Why not?”
He sighed. “Sit with me…” She did, but she knew he was bothered. It was almost like they’d gone back into time, to when they were small. He’d asked her if she liked Brandon better, and she’d laughed at him and said she would always love him best. He was her champion, her protector and most favorite Stark ever, and one day she’d like to be as good of a person as he was.
“What would you do if you received a letter like that from me, I hardly look lordly and I’m not handsome. I have no lands, no titles…”
“You’re kind and good…”
“Brandon hardly feels the same way. I only danced with her because he asked for me.”
“Your shy…She should be pleased to know how shy you are and how hard it must be for you to share your feelings in a love note for her. I’ve seen you with her, you smile.”
“It’s just been polite conversation. Like you she’s hard to find alone, but as I’ve taken interest so has Brandon. And who would a lady rather be seen with? The strong handsome heir to Winterfell? Of his landless, ugly younger brother?”
“I’d rather have you any day. Your not ugly either, you have a very strong northern look.”
He smiled. “Well she’s a southern girl, do you think she’d like the northern look?”
“Your strong and brave. She’s lucky she caught your eye. To hell with Brandon!” She teased. “What can he do? He’s betrothed to Catelyn Tully.”
“To hell with you too.”
She smiled widely at him as he stood in the opening of the tent. “Sit with us! Talk with us, we love our older brother!”
He scoffed but sat with them the same. He held in his hands a small box that he passed to her. She looked surprised, but was happy all the same.
“What is this?” She asked. She traced her fingers over the design of leaves on the top.
“It’s a gift for you. Left in my tent. Open it up.”
Ned frowned. “Was there a note?”
“It was some stupid poem. I threw it into the fire. Just something from Robert, again. Like the flowers.”
She lifted a bracelet out and smiled. “It’s so pretty…”
“Do you remember what it said?” Ned asked Brandon. She sat between them looking at it from every angle. They had both thought on the same suspicion, the decorative pale rose in the middle looked much like the winter roses in the crown she hadn’t let them throw away.
“I glanced at the damned thing. Thought it might have been meant for me, it was in my tent after all.” He sighed and thought for a moment. “Something about roses, something tomorrow night. Rubies wouldn’t shine, a Stark would do better with pearls but they would pale against the lady’s beauty.” He looked back at Ned and rolled his eyes. “I honestly don’t care, it’s from your friend. You had to have seen what he gave her for their betrothal. The color in the metal would go well with it. They’re both dark colors, she has a fair complexion it’s not like he’s going to give her rubies, they’re much too Targaryen. It’s bleak but pretty and she will thank him properly for it.”
She gave Ned a reassuring smile and held out her wrist. He looked over the bracelet and then the ring and he shrugged. “It is nicely made…”
“It cost a bit of gold, the box too. It was very clearly made for her. The dire wolf is made a weir wood. They’ll only be found in the north so he had to have someone fetch it for him to give to the carpenter to make it. It couldn’t have been done quickly with how well crafted it is.”
“I’ll thank him for his thoughtfulness in the morning.” She replied fondly.
Brandon seemed pleased enough and took his leave. Ned however still had some suspicion. “Take it off your wrist and let me see it.”
She obeyed reluctantly as ever and frowned. “You don’t think it was him.”
“Don’t you find it odd if it was to match your ring, it isn’t a stag?” He held it in one hand then held each end and sighed. “When he went to pick up that ring he’d asked me to come with him. To make sure you’d like it. The first time I held it, it was as heavy as a bar of gold. So I told him he’d have to have it fixed it was much too heavy for a lady’s delicate fingers…”
She shrugged. “Maybe he’s having them work on something as a wedding present. Please I don’t want to get rid of it. My things are all made from iron, few are silver, and fewer look so lovely. Father has horrible taste in jewelry.”
“Brandon is of the opinion you can keep it, who am I to tell you no.” He gave it back to her and she immediately put it back around her wrist. “We’d know for sure if he hadn’t thrown the note into the fire.”
“I want a love poem, he ruined it. I bet it was beautiful.”
“Robert doesn’t write poems.” Ned replied firmly.
“Neither do you. But you felt inspired by someone enough to try! He may have paid a bard, if he had already spent so much gold on this, it may be true.”
“Clearly someone is very fond of you, I only wish we knew who he was.”
He passed the box back to her. “Can I trust you?”
“Always.” She smiled.
“Don’t leave I want to see him a moment.” She let her eyes fall back to the box. The top seemed a little lighter than the rest of it. She let her fingers run across the top, as if she expected it to turn. Then, she let them run over the top. Once she’d placed them on the dire wolf she was sure she’d found the right spot. Sure enough with just a little pressure she’d slid the dire wolf to the left and exposed an opening in the top. She reached in and found something else inside, only it was wrapped in velvet. She felt giddy, and her smile grew wider. Inside the small velvet bag was a golden stag necklace. She sighed in disappointment. It hadn’t been the prince after all. She had been hoping it had been him, just like the flowers. There she sat a little dumbfounded and upset. She’d hoped and hoped he had thought the same of her as she had of him. If she were Brandon’s age they could have married, if she were older there would have been a chance. She sighed, maybe Robert Baratheon wouldn’t be as bad as she thought but he couldn’t play the harp and he didn’t have a sweet voice that seemed to melt her heart. She had hoped she’d stolen the prince’s heart. She hadn’t intended on doing anything of the sort, but she found she like the idea, it was reckless and daring, just like her. She went to put the velvet bag back, but paused, the fabric felt a little too stiff. So, she reached her hand inside and pulled out a bit of parchment.
Jon Arryn came up with the design. He thought it fitting since Ned tells me you’re so bright, to give it a hiding place.
She couldn’t help but giggle. Maybe Robert Baratheon wouldn’t be too bad after all. He was handsome after all. It was decided it would be the best course of action to share the secret with her brothers, after all, she could tease Ned for a little while at the least, and Brandon the rest of his life. She picked up the weir wood piece and went to slide it back into the grooves, but before she could she noticed there was a very big difference in the design on the other side. The front had shown a wolf in the godswood, whereas the other side showed a stag in the storm lands. Her name day had only been days before the tourney, she’d assumed that was why Ned had come back to Winterfell before he spoke on the tourney. He’d planned something, but with the excitement of the tourney he’d let five days pass, and he didn’t even give it to her himself. Then she heard Benjen call to Ned, and Brandon started to shout. So she was left to do the only thing any sensible sister would do. She brought the things outside with her to successfully save Ned from Brandon’s wrath.
“Ned.” She called.
“She’s fine. Safe as can be…” He told Brandon before going to where she was. “What is it?”
“There was a stag. The box was made to have both as well.” She handed him the velvet bag and the box. Both Brandon and Benjen came to see what she was talking about. “Might it have been intended for my name day? There was another note, I left it in your tent I suppose…”
“I told you it was safe. Who else would waste money on you, especially this much?” Brandon replied. “You’re both a waste of time, Eddard wandering off to meet with his drunken friend to ask about a box that had to have taken months to craft.”
“Oh shut up Brandon, you’re just upset you can’t yell at him for anything as I was unmolested in his tent.”
“And when he goes to look for his drunken friend in the middle of the night you best remain unmolested!”
“He is my brother!”
“I didn’t mean him! I meant the drunken oaf buying you frivolous gifts!”
“Just because you don’t gift your lady doesn’t mean all men are as heartless as you.”
“Sister, there is only one thing he wants from you. Your maidenhead, if it takes a bit of gold to get you to lay still on your wedding night so he can take it from you of course he’ll spare the expense.”
“Brandon let her be…”
“You can shut up.” He yelled at Ned. “The only reason you need to be here is to force her to listen.”
Ned shook his head and sighed. Lyanna glared at Brandon and shoved him away. Benjen tried to hold back a grin.
“Don’t you think you can boss me around!” Then he pointed to Benjen, “No one even needs you here leave!”
“You’re the most awful brother!!” She replied.
“You’re an awful excuse for a lady.” He teased. “These two idiots, couldn’t even stand up to a dog pissing on their boots. Your lucky to have me here.”
“I liked you better when the prince put a lance in your side!”
Brandon gritted his teeth, it looked almost as if he were a wild wolf about to bear his fangs and strike. Ned sighed and took Lyanna by the arm. “This is enough of this, I want to rest, you need to get ready for bed.” He ushered her into his tent and let the opening fall fully closing it.
“You let her get the last word…” he warned.
“She is fourteen, you’re a man grown why do you let her get to you?”
“She will learn to hold her tongue and to do as she’s told.”
Ned started to smile. “But obviously not from you.”
“Ha ha ha. Your so funny Eddard, so so witty…You know the day will come when you’ll feel sorry for giving me so much trouble…”
“I was unaware I was giving you trouble. I told you a fact, you know she’s willful the more you tell her not to do something the more she’ll want to do it. If you stop a sentence earlier each argument you’ll save yourself a little bit of a headache.”
“Your giving me advice? Where have you been all this while…Oh that’s right the Vale. Because father has no use for three sons, might as well send one off to a man who doesn’t have any. So tell me, how do you know more about our sister who has only been in Winterfell, while you yourself have been in the Vale for pretty much the last ten years…”
“She likes to write to me. I know more than you’d think…”
“The only lady you’re likely ever to have correspondence with, our sister.”
He stared at his brother with resentment and loathing before turning back to the tent and entering it himself. It did however leave a satisfied smirk on Brandon’s face.