LLM Book Two: Winterfell

Title: Winterfell
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series: Little Lion Man
Series Order: 2
Fandom: GoT/ASOIAF
Genre: Fix-it AU, Time Travel AU
Relationships: Jaime Lannister/Lyanna Stark, background relationships (M/M, M/F, F/F)
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Dark Themes, Discussion—Major Character Death (Cersei Lannister), Unreliable Narrator (Jaime Lannister), Bigotry/Religious Zealotry (Catelyn Tully)
Author Notes: 1.) I hate Catelyn Tully. End of. 2.) Did some editing for clarification and because I wanted to. No major changes though,
Beta: PNZ
Word Count: 19,660
Summary: Jaime travels to meet his future wife and good-father.



Chapter One


“Have you heard the news?” Lady Catelyn asked as she rushed in to Lyanna’s solar.

Lyanna frowned as she brought her latest project to a stopping point. She hoped her husband did not mind yellow rather than gold in their House cloth.

Few remembered outside the North, but there was a time when every First Man House, every House within the Red Mountains or north of them, had an individual tartan dictated by color and pattern. No two were the same though there were similarities between related Houses. House Lannister had not achieved a rank sufficient enough to be granted their own tartan before the Andals invaded, but House Casterly had. As House Lannister were the last living descendants of House Casterly, Lyanna figured they were the only ones with the right to the Casterly plaid.

Thankfully, her father had agreed.

“What news?” Lya asked as she left off her loom to focus on the Riverland lady.

“Word of the new evil that has befallen House Lannister!”

Lyanna stared at the older woman blankly.

“Lady Cersei has been killed,” Lady Catelyn continued. “The gods must be wroth with House Lannister to be punishing them as they are.”

It was strange, honestly, to witness someone speak with such conviction for reasons other than the words they offered. “Do you seek my attention because you wish to trade whispers or because you have grown tired of playing with my brother’s heart and wish to collect my betrothed’s as well?”

Lady Catelyn gasped and stepped back in shock. “How dare you!”

“My betrothed’s heart it is.”

Lady Catelyn spluttered.

“Let me make something clear to you, my lady. You have a great deal of work ahead of you should you wish to regain the regard of Winterfell,” Lya warned her. “Your vocal disapproval of a marriage offended many and your isolating of yourself when you are a guest of House Stark has won you no friends among my father’s bannermen that have arrived, either.

“You have not written Brandon once since your arrival. You have not dined in the Hall in nearly a week nor privately with my family at all. You tease Ned and he enjoys it but is then conflicted because he knows you are bound to Brandon. You disregard Old Nan when she tries to teach you our ways—as she has done for members of House Stark for generations—and now you think to turn me against my betrothed because his sister could not accept the consequences of her own actions.

“You need to stop,” Lyanna said firmly. “Stop ignoring Old Nan, stop refusing to socialize with Northmen, stop trying to entice my brother into being alone with you. We already know Littlefinger has taken your maidenhead, it is no secret.”

“I am a maiden!” Lady Catelyn proclaimed.

“As you say,” Lya humored the woman. “It makes no difference to me. In the North we respect a woman’s right to choose and do not cling so tightly to a woman’s so-called purity or maiden status as you Southrons do. We simply do not care. Laying with Ned will not force him to marry you. It will only hurt him because you will still be promised to Brandon. Once you keep that promise, he will know how much you never truly loved him.”

“No, you must understand,” Lady Catelyn pleaded. “My sister, Petyr, and I played kissing games when we were small—before we understood our duty to our Houses—but I have never lain with Petyr or any man.”

Kissing games, was that a southron euphemism? “So, you are a maiden saving your maidenhead for Brandon.”

“For my husband, yes.” Lady Catelyn more corrected than agreed, as though her use of specific phrasing did not give her away.

“Ah,” Lyanna realized. “It is not Ned you intend to break your betrothal with, it is Lord Lannister. You are merely practicing your wiles upon my brother.”

“Lyanna!” Catelyn protested.

“I have not given you leave to be familiar with me, Catelyn.” Lyanna stood. “If you will excuse me, I must report your plans to my father.”

“No, Lady Lyanna!” Lady Catelyn took hold of her sleeve.

Lyanna tugged herself free and opened the door to find the guardsmen stationed outside the solar.

“Ensure Lady Catelyn returns to her quarters quietly,” she ordered. “I have to speak with my father.”

“Yes, milady,” both men tapped their chests in salute before turning their focus upon Lady Catelyn.

“Lady Lyanna! Wait!”

Lya ignored the Fish, gathered her skirts, and took the stairs two at a time until she reached the level of her father’s solar. Once she reached it, she knocked on his door.

“Father?” she called. “I have news that I must report.”

“Come in, my daughter.” Her father smiled when she opened the door. “Your brother Benjen has confirmed Lady Cersei and Prince Oberyn had several screaming fights after their betrothal was announced until the day she died. He concluded that it had to be suicide as Princes Oberyn and Rhaegar were with Lord Jaime and Brandon when news reached Lord Jaime of Lady Cersei’s fall.”

“Poor Jaime,” Lyanna sighed. She hoped someone hugged her betrothed. The Gods knew she had needed hugs beyond number when she had lost her mother, and Lord Jaime had lost far more than that—his father, his aunt by marriage, and his sister all in such a short span of time. And his mother just a few years before. “Lord Lannister is what I wished to speak to you about.:

“Do you wish to read your brothers’ ravens again?” Father asked.

“No, I have all the reassurance I need on his virtues and training,” she assured her father. “I only wish to meet him before agreeing on the off chance that our instincts will repel each other.”

It was not common but it had happened in the history of House Stark where an intended pair had clashed upon their first meeting. It was rare but when it happened such circumstances lead to short, fruitless, and occasionally violent marriages. Lyanna did not think such was her fate with Lord Jaime but she would not tolerate such a match and had to be sure before she could agree.

“Then what is it, my little wolf?”

“Lady Catelyn,” Lyanna said shortly. “I believe she intends to lay with Lord Jaime to end both of our betrothals.”

“I can see her logic. While we would not care; Lord Jaime had certainly canceled whatever plans he had for his sister to marry her to Prince Oberyn for her indiscretion. Certainly, he would do the same for himself,” Father allowed. “What brought this up? Did you seek her out? I understood she had not left her rooms since the wedding of the smiths.”

“She left her rooms for my solar. She sought me out to bring me news of the new evil the gods had wrought upon House Lannister. She seems to believe House Stark superstitious brutes, that we would hold the crimes of others against one man.”

“Probably because if it were not for the Lannister gold, many would already be distancing themselves from House Lannister. Lannister gold and the rumor of Lord Jaime hatching dragons, of course.” Father contemplated their circumstances for a moment. “Lord Tully might expect House Lannister to pay the default to us if this half-brained scheme were to work. We have not been monitoring her communications out of respect for our alliance. Now I wish we had.”

“We must warn Lord Lannister,” Lyanna told her father.

“It is too late,” her father said. “Several days too late, in fact. I have received your brother’s raven confirming they have departed Casterly Rock for the North. Brandon, Benjen, Lord Jaime and Prince Rhaegar’s party.”

“Will they land in Barrowton or Torrhen’s Square?” Lyanna asked. “We could have a raven waiting for them.”

Torrhen’s Square would be the shorter overland trip to Winterfell but the longer and more difficult river to navigate. Barrowton was on a deeper, straighter river and there was more land separating Barrowton and Winterfell but the terrain would be easier.

“Lyanna, be at peace,” father urged. “As heir to Casterly Rock, Lord Jaime has been husband hunted for nearly a decade. He has avoided every trap ever set for him and chosen you for his bride. I have faith that he will maintain his integrity—regardless of what the Fish thinks.”


“Is it always this cold in the North?” Uncle Brynden asked.

“Cold?” Benjen asked, looking around as though seeking advice from the various men bustling around the docks of Torrhen Square. “This is spring.”

Jaime snorted and exchanged a look with Brynden Tully.

He had visited the North at the end of summer in his last life and he had never figured out how to dress properly for the weather. This time he had interrogated Brandon Stark on the Northern techniques for wearing armor without freezing his nuts off.

He had prepared Uncle Tygette, the only blood-uncle staying with him for his entire trip, but he had honestly expected Uncle Brynden to return to Riverrun to prepare his House for the issues they would inevitably encounter with the Citadel. Instead, Uncle Brynden had sent his small retinue home with a sealed message packet and come North.

Tygette nudged Brynden. “Below deck.”

Jaime let out a breath, knowing that Tygette, despite his quiet and angry reputation, would never leave a man to suffer if he could help it.

“Are you sure you do not want me to come too, nephew?” Uncle Gerion asked.

“Do you actually want to ride a horse through the Wolfswood in the North?” Jaime asked doubtfully. “It is the shortest overland route to Winterfell but it is not an easy ride—you heard Lord Brandon and Lord Benjen’s stories on our way here.”

Gerion stopped to consider. The man was certainly brave but he did prefer to take things easy and enjoy life when he could.

“Or,” Jaime teased, “you could return to Casterly Rock and woo Lady Alysanne Lefford with tales of navigating a Northern river with no name.”

“The river has a name,” Lord Brandon said as he rejoined them on the deck of Uncle Gerion’s ship. “It is Brandon’s Blade. In honor of Brandon of the Bloody Blade.”

“I have no idea why I am surprised by that,” Jaime admitted. “Everything is Brandon with you Starks, is it not?”

Benjen laughed while Brandon Wildwolf rolled his eyes.

“You have a raven from Lya,” Brandon held out a raven scroll.

Jaime took the offered scroll. The small knob on the top was painted Winter Rose with the suggestion of a wolf’s face hidden among the petals. It was both exquisite and vaguely threatening. Perfect for the She-Wolf of House Stark. “How could you know it is for me? The seal is still in place.”

Brandon held up a short piece of raven parchment with a broken seal. “She included instructions.”

Jaime was charmed. He popped the seal and read the message his future lady-wife had seen fit to send him. He knew immediately he would have to burn it, which was a shame. Lady Lyanna’s calligraphy was lovely.

“Apparently, the Fish—” Jaime paused to give Lord Brandon a significant look. The older man just grinned, entirely unrepentant. “—thinks to end her betrothal to you by laying with me.”

“Any chance it would work?” Brandon asked, almost hopefully.

“I would rather fuck a squid,” Jaime admitted. “That one the hatchlings caught, specifically. But an Ironborn would also have more luck obtaining my compliance than Lady Fish.”

Brandon sighed. “I cannot argue with that.”

“If you do have to marry her, you could always bring her for a visit,” Jaime offered. “Sailing right past the Iron Islands, as you do.”

Brandon coughed and looked away to hide a smile.

“Have you not had enough of the Iron Islands?” Prince Rhaegar asked as he approached them.

“I figure they are bound to rebel at some point in the near future,” Jaime offered smoothly, tucking Lady Lyanna’s raven safely inside his chestplate. “No harm in discussing tactics. We do share a coast the Ironborn historically raid.”

Prince Rhaegar frowned. “How do you figure? Lord Quellon Greyjoy seems intent on becoming a true member of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“But his heir, Balon, is determined to return to the Old Ways,” Jaime pointed out. “And he is arrogant enough that I do not believe even dragons will deter his drive for independence.”

“Not just rebellion but independence?” the prince asked.

“Why rebel if you are not going to carve out a kingdom of your own?” Brandon asked.

Rhaegar nodded his understanding.

“Is your wife certain she wants to ride through the Wolfswood? It is not an easy ride.”

“A word to the wise, Lord Brandon?”

“Yes, my prince?”

“Never express doubt in my wife where she can hear you. She will always make you regret it.”

Brandon laughed. “Noted, my prince.”

“Everyone knows their assigned child?” Princess Elia asked as she joined them.

Prince Oberyn had left directly from Casterly Rock on a quest for the Crown to Essos that would most likely end in an excessive number of deaths. His only request was that his children remained with his sister for safekeeping, a charge she had taken with a will. As such they were taking all of Prince Oberyn’s daughters with them to the North. On the ship, as they became familiar with the children, Princess Elia had expressly entrusted each of the noble riders with the care of a child.

Other than Jaime, of course. They would not pry Tyrion from his grasp a single minute before the boy’s safety—and, yes, Jaime’s legal responsibility as a Lord Paramount and Warden of the Realm—required it.

“I do have a question,” Jaime admitted.

Princess Elia nodded to him encouragingly.

“Who is carrying the squid?”

Princess Elia burst out laughing.

The issue of feeding the hatchlings had come up before they had even left Casterly Rock. To Jaime’s relief, Rhaegar had announced that fish was the most effective meal to encourage growth in dragons. They could move on to first daily and then later weekly goats once they were a suitable size to ride. With the Long Night on the horizon, Jaime figured the hatchlings would remain on a fish diet for the duration, to prepare them for the war to come. Luckily the hatchlings had managed to hunt up a relatively small kraken just a few days into their journey-by-boat North and had been eating on it since.

“The hatchlings are gorging themselves on it now,” Princess Elia gestured to the front of the ship where, indeed, four of the five young dragons were tearing into the carcass. Prince Rhaegar’s Ñaqes squawked in offence at being left out, jumped more than flew down from his master’s shoulder, and scurried across the deck to the squid. “That should hold them until we reach Winterfell on the morrow. It will also induce a stage of sluggishness so we do not lose them in the Wolfswood.”

“And once we reach Winterfell?” Brandon asked.

“The barrels of fish I have ordered from the fishermen in and around Winterfell should be available to feed the little ones,” the princess promised.

Rhaegar beamed in his own gentle way, clearly pleased with his wife’s cleverness. “She sent the ravens arranging everything from Casterly Rock,” the prince bragged.

“You should give her the wife she has asked for, my prince,” Jaime urged. “She is far more clear-sighted than any of the rest of us.”

“Would you take a second wife, Lord Lannister?” Prince Rhaegar asked.

Jaime nodded. “If my wife had a wife of her own already chosen and I had the legal ability, certainly.”

“If you had the legal ability, Lyanna would already have one picked out,” Brandon muttered.

“Honestly, my prince, the women of the Realm do so much of the work organizing our homes and bearing our children, I think we should give them everything in our power that they ask for,” Jaime admitted. “But what do we do? Go out and kill some other mother’s children.”

Jaime hated it. He was sure war would come again, they were certainly facing a war with the Citadel, and he knew he was good at the art of war, but he hated it.

“Of course, I also think that Dorne is right about women inheriting and defending themselves. Though, I know that road will be a longer one to travel to convince my fellow lords of sense.”

Rhaegar seemed to contemplate that while Elia gave him an approving nod. “You may yet be my favorite, Lord Lannister,” she said gently.

“Lya will certainly be thrilled,” was Benjen’s opinion.


“HALT!” Jaime called; head turned carefully away from Tyrion to keep from hurting his younger brother.

“Halt!” “All, halt!” Echoed in different voices up and down the line.

Jaime focused on helping Tyrion contain little Caraxes until Lord Brandon joined him from the front of the column and Prince Rhaegar came forward from the back.

“What is happening?” Lord Brandon demanded. “The Hunter’s Gate is in sight!”

“Cara is agitated,” Jaime explained, ignoring Tyrion’s belligerent correction of “Raxes!” With the ease of older brothers everywhere. “We must discover why.”

“I agree,” Prince Rhaegar announced, eyes firmly on his little hatchling’s tense regard of the forest on left of their party.

Lord Brandon sighed but did not argue. He threw down his reins, ground tethering his horse, and dismounted.

Jaime took a more secure hold of Tyrion and Caraxes before throwing a leg over to slide down Honor’s side. With Rhaegar and Ñaqes leading them, there was no reason to endanger Tyrion by taking them with him into the woods so he passed his brother to his uncle when Tygette stepped forward to take Honor’s reins.

Room around them was limited—calling the goat track they were travelling a road would be overselling it. That did not stop the Dragon Guard from taking up positions guarding the children in the center of the column while Jaime’s handful of Red Cloaks started pushing into the forest around them, looking for threats.

Jaime followed Rhaegar and Ñaqes with Brandon and Benjen in his heels.

There was a sharp dip just beyond the bushes lining the ‘road.’ Across that bowl and down into a second one and they found it. A dire wolf mother—still alive but bleeding. She was held in place by the body of a stag with his antlers in her throat and four pups wriggling at her teats. It was the perfect intersection of House Baratheon and House Stark’s sigils as long as he ignored the bowels spilling out of the stag’s stomach.

The mother wolf started growling, threatening them as they forced their way past the brush.

“Benjen,” Brandon ordered sharply. “Go to Winterfell, bring everyone.”

Benjen did not take a moment to confirm his brother’s order, he just turned and ran.

“What killed the stag?” Rhaegar wondered, looking around.

“Hello, mum,” Brandon greeted the she-wolf more gently that Jaime had ever heard him. By the time he was kneeling at the direwolf’s head, stroking between her ears, Benjen returned followed by Ned Stark, a maester, and two people. One Jaime had never met before. One was an older lord that he knew to be Rickard Stark. The other was a lovely young woman Jaime rather hoped was Lyanna Stark.

“Five direwolves,” Lord Rickard breathed.

“A gift from the gods,” Brandon confirmed.

“A warning,” Lyanna argued. “The Baratheon stag is trying to kill a direwolf parent.”

“But what killed the stag?” Benjen asked, unknowingly echoing Prince Rhaegar.

“A lion of some sort,” Jaime told them.

Lyanna looked at him, their eyes met, and she blushed. “A lion?”

“There is no blood on the mother’s nails and the viscera is shredded. Her claws are not long enough to have done that much damage while leaving the rest of the stag intact.”

“There are Winter Lions in these woods,” Lyanna said agreeably. “I have never seen one but they are said to live in hidden caves all over.?

“Mayhaps I will bond with one myself,” he offered. “To go with your wolf pup.” He nodded down toward her boot.

She looked away from him to see a small black pup sizing up her boot for gnawing. Lyanna laughed and scooped the pup in her arms.

As Jaime looked around, he noted all of the males of House Stark, other than Lord Brandon, were clutching pups in various shades of gray. Lord Brandon’s focus was entirely upon the mother to the point of enrapture.

“My lord, the mother is more likely to allow my assistance if we have a smaller audience,” the maester offered.

“Of course,” Lord Rickard agreed. “My prince, allow us to see your party to Winterfell.”

“Of course,” Prince Rhaegar echoed graciously. “They may require a wagon to see the young Lady Mother home.”

Jaime moved closer to the girl that had to be Lady Lyanna but did not offer his arm or force his assistance on her in anyway.

“You are Lord Lannister, then?” Lyanna asked and they moved back toward the horses.

“Jaime, please,” he smiled his charming best and she blushed again. “I assume you are the Lady Lyanna?”

“If I am to call you Jaime, then you are to call me Lyanna,” she said boldly. “We are to wed, are we not?”

“It is my hope,” Jaime admitted. “If you and your father take pity on me.”

“Pity?” Lyanna laughed.

“I have never heard of your House saying anything negative about mine,” Jaime allowed, watching in amusement as Lyanna encouraged her direwolf to chew on the fur collar of her dress rather than her hair. “But everyone knows of the friendship between Lord Stark and Lord Arryn, honored by the fostering of Lord Eddard in the Vale, as it has been.

“Lord Arryn openly disdains my House for the way my father put down the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion. I did not count your House’s agreement to be likely before I met your brothers.”

“And after?” she asked.

“After meeting Lord Brandon and Benjen, I learned that Northerners are refreshingly blunt. If I had no chance of gaining your hand, Lord Rickard would have told me immediately via raven. He certainly would not have sent your brothers to evaluate me—House Stark would have spurned the invitation to view my father as House Arryn and House Baratheon did.”

“House Arryn and House Baratheon?” she asked in surprise.

Jaime nodded. “I have come to learn that Lady Arryn died not long before my father. They were a love match so I do not begrudge Lord Arryn his grief. Lord Baratheon, however, did not even send a response of his own. He simply signed Lord Arryn’s. And there was no direct response from Storm’s End even though they were sent the same raven as all the other Paramount Houses.”

“Awful,” Lyanna decided. Then, “Blunt does not mean we cannot be dishonest.”

“That is true,” Jaime agreed.

Lady Lyanna grinned. “You must tell me what mischief my brothers got up to in the south that they did not see fit to write us.”

Jaime threw his head back and laughed.

Unfortunately, they had made it back to the column before he could tattle. Jaime took Tyrion and Honor’s reins back from his uncle. Caraxes moved from Honor’s saddle to Jaime’s shoulder as he began to walk forward with the rest of the party.

“Remind me to tell you about the Rose that hunted the Wolf,” he offered his lady.

Lady Lyanna’s face lit up. “I certainly will!”


Lyanna was in love.

She knew from her brothers’ ravens that Lord Jaime took care of his brother personally, as though the boy were his own son, but watching him do it— Watching him carry the boy with a dragon on his shoulder as though it were the most normal thing to happen on any given day, was life changing for her.

This was a man that would honor her children. A man that would teach them everything he knew, whether they needed it or not just in case something happened once he was gone. A man that would accept their children whether they bonded direwolves or—as he had joked—winter lions and Lyanna knew she would accept no other.

“Would Caraxes like a bath?” Jaime asked Lord Tyrion Targaryen gently as Martyn Cassel led them away.

Little Tyrion stared at the dragon on his brother’s shoulder seriously before nodding. “But he needs a fire to dry!”

“I imagine we can find a hearth big enough for her,” Jaime assured teasingly. “She is not yet the size of a hound.”

He will get bigger!”

“Of course, all newborns do.” And they were out of sight.

Lyanna turned to her father with a sigh.

Father rolled his eyes but nodded.

“Is all well?” Lady Catelyn asked as she stepped within view. She stepped into Ned’s space confidently and spoke softly. “I understand there was an emergency.”

“The incoming party found direwolves in the woods,” Ned said.

“Direwolves?” Lady Catelyn asked even as she held out her hand for the pup in Ned’s arms to sniff.

“Aye,” Ned agreed. “Like my Grey Wind here.”

Lady Catelyn pulled her hand back sharply. “That is not a dog?”

“Does he look like a dog?” Ned frowned. The pup was quite large for one so young but then his mother had been approximately the size of a warhorse, so mayhaps he was simply to scale.

“He is a direwolf,” Lyanna said, deliberately interrupting the moment. She noted how Lady Catelyn stepped back from her brother as if caught doing something inappropriate and Lyanna supposed she was. Lady Catelyn was supposed to be growing familiar with the Stark Family in general and Brandon in particular. Not Ned. “Like my Vycher.”

“Do you name him night or black in the Old Tongue?” Father approved with a smile.

“Either fit,” Lyanna said with a smile.

Father nodded. “Both, then.”

“Will you be keeping them in the kennels?” Lady Catelyn asked and Lyanna frowned. It sounded like a question but she was not fooled. The Fish was trying to bend them to her expectation.

Ned was frowning as well, displeased with the suggestion. “They are direwolves. Like all members of House Stark. I do not sleep in the kennels, why would they?”

“Well said, son,” father agreed. “If the gods have chosen to return direwolf companions to House Stark, we would be fools to dishonor the gift with kennels. They will sleep in your rooms, my children. You will train them to respect our staff and household or you will deal without their assistance. You will clean and feed them yourselves.”

“And the mother?” Lyanna asked.

“Brandon sent a request for a stretcher. Young Walder has gone to help carry her in.

“If you will excuse us, Lady Catelyn, we need to prepare a place for the young mother to recover. The majority of the family quarters do not have hearths.”

“The Lord’s Nursery does,” Lyanna pointed out.

“A sound suggestion,” father agreed.

“You would risk exposing your children to such filth?” Lady Catelyn asked but was entirely ignored.

Thankfully, Lady Catelyn could not follow them into the family level. The guards two floors below had stopped her and forced her to turn back.

“That woman does not belong in the North,” Father sighed.

“I have tried to explain Northern ways in a manner that she could understand,” Ned scrubbed his free hand over his face. “I had thought I was succeeding, but every time she sees something her father would not allow, she falls back into a southron mindset.”

“So, every day?” Lyanna asked pointedly. “Multiple times a day?” She had yet to see Lady Catelyn in anything other than a southron mindset. Lady Catelyn was either good at fooling Ned or Ned wanted to be fooled. Or Lyanna had just never found Lady Catelyn while she was in a mindset of Northern Acceptance. Not once in all of the weeks she had been the guest of Winterfell. Lyanna did not know what to believe, much less where the truth was to be found so she dismissed the matter for another time.

Father had opened the door to the nursery that was adjoined to the Lord’s Suite. “Thankfully, we moved out the furniture after your mother passed.”

Lyanna nodded. “There should be furs in the store room on this level. Should we include a mattress for the Lady Mother?”

“It would be more comfortable than stone floors,” Ned offered. “Though, softer than the forest floor.”

“I do not believe that to be a bad thing,” father decided. “Without a bedstead, the Lady Mother will not have to struggle to get down once she has regained her strength regardless of what sort of damage the stag did to her.”

“I do not think Brandon should go with us to Harrenhal,” Lyanna told her father. “The gods did not have to be so blatant in their warning but they made it clear that Robert Baratheon is a threat to you, father, as the parent direwolf. If there is a chance we cannot subvert the threat, Brandon must be kept safe so that he may inherit.”

“You could just marry Robert,” Ned offered.

Lya glared at her brother. “I will not be given to a man that would threaten our family.”

Ned gave her a queer look. “That is how wars have been prevented or ended for time immemorial—by giving a daughter of one House to the lord of the other. Sometimes daughters of both Houses to lords of each warring party.”

“We are not at war with that foolish boy,” father denied. “We do not share borders and we all answer to the Iron Throne. Should he kill me at Harrenhal, I expect you as the oldest of my children present to demand justice from the Iron Throne of my behalf. If you cannot do that, I will leave you here and trust my Lannister good-son to do it for me.”

Ned closed his mouth with a snap and took a deep breath. “I will do my duty to my House and protect our family, father,” Ned swore.

Father stared at Ned for several moments, evaluating him, before he nodded once in acceptance. “Good.”

“The stag was killed by a lion,” Lyanna reminded the men. “And Brandon’s ravens said Lord Lannister has been training exclusively against men using war hammers.”

“He expects Robert to challenge him when he is told of your marriage,” Ned realized. “I will train with him until we leave for Harrenhal,” Ned promised. “Men with war hammers are not Robert. I have been training against Robert since I was eight. I will prepare him.”

So that she would not lose her husband before she properly had him, Lya realized. It was…a comfort. She trusted Ned to keep his word and do his absolute best. Even if it would kill him to prepare someone to best Robert in a challenge that they all knew Baratheon would not count as lost until he died.

There was only one thing she could say to her brother for that. “Thank you.”


Chapter Two


One of the Stark men approached him in the training yard. “Lord Lannister.”

He was wearing leather and furs while the guards wore silvered breastplates studded with moonstones. In any other keep, the lack of precious metals and stones would mark the man as lesser. In Winterfell, it marked him as someone to listen to.

“Yes, Ser?” Jaime dragged the word out, hoping a name would be supplied.

“Martyn Cassell, Lord Lannister, and we prefer the salutation Master over Ser in the North.”

“Master Cassel,” Jaime nodded. “How may I assist?”

“Lord Stark has invited you to luncheon in his private solar. As it is on the Stark Family levels, you will require an escort.”

“I would be delighted.” He had no need to freshen himself, his training had been earlier. He had simply been watching Uncle Tygette and Ser Arthur working with Tyrion. “Uncle?” he called.

“Aye, milord. I will see Lord Tyrion cared for.”

“My thanks.” He waved back when Tyrion waved at him but Tygette did not allow his brother’s attention to wander toward further parting rituals. “Now?” he prompted Master Cassell.

“Now,” Master Cassell confirmed.

There was no one else in Lord Rickard’s solar but the two of them—lunch options were laid out on the sideboard. Jaime was amused to note that he and Lord Stark had the same habit of taking a working lunch with someone in their castle. Lord Rickard had shared luncheon with Prince Rhaegar just the previous day.

“Thank you for joining me,” Lord Rickard said as soon as they were both settled with their selections. “My son Brandon indicated that you gave Guest Right to all those that came to pay their respects to your father.”

“I did, yes,” Jaime confirmed.

“That is unusual for a southron lord.”

“It should not be,” Jaime retorted. “I found when I was travelling as a squire that not every host was kind or generous. It was difficult to sleep in the keep of a man that openly hated me because of who my father was but welcomed me because of the Lord I was squired too. The uncertainty was torturous and I resolved that when it became my turn to host guests, I would never leave those guests to stew in the fear I suffered as a boy.

“It is my hope that other Houses will follow my example and, indeed, Lady Olenna Tyrell has seen the value of Guest Right. Even if they only do it for fashion, I believe other southron Houses will follow the examples of House Lannister and House Tyrell.”

“I agree,” Lord Rickard assured him. “I also agree to your suit of my daughter. I wish to discuss contract terms.”

“I am certainly willing to discuss terms on the understanding that I have much to explain before we finalize our agreement.” Jaime felt strongly he had to warn Lord Rickard, Brandon, and Lyanna about his other life before they left Winterfell again. If he could inform Prince Rhaegar and Princess Elia at the same time, he would consider it a boon.

“You think what you have to say will change my mind about you,” Lord Rickard guessed.

“I cannot see how it would not,” Jaime admitted. “I would prefer to speak of it only once, however, and it relates to a number of questions Prince Rhaegar has asked and graciously allowed me to put off for this occasion.”

“Who would you invite to this discussion?” Lord Rickard asked.

“You, your children, Prince Rhaegar, and Princess Elia,” Jaime answered promptly because he had thought about it extensively.

“Your uncle?” Lord Rickard asked.

“He has no patience for the topics I will have to cover and I doubt he would believe me,” Jaime admitted. He could not risk a reducing his uncle’s faith in his leadership. Uncle Tygette, in particular, had been distant from his father for as long as they had known each other. Jaime could not afford to revisit those circumstances.

“Lady Catelyn?”

“Absolutely not.”

Lord Rickard snorted. “Ser Arthur?”

“Not a bad option,” Jaime allowed. “The information is sensitive. I would like to keep it contained, but I am also willing to speak in front of the weirwood tree so that you may trust my honesty. I know not how to reconcile these opposing needs.”

“If I ordered the godswood cleared, it would be cleared, but that would draw attention to our discussion that could work against your desire for privacy.” Lord Rickard went quiet, considering.

Jaime continued his meal, giving his host the time that he seemed to need.

“Two levels above this is the Lord’s Suite,” Lord Rickard eventually offered. “The Suite includes a large space intended for the Lord’s family to meet in absolute privacy. I will invite all you have listed to meet with us there, as well as a greenseer from House Reed. There is very little that happens on Westeros that a greenseer cannot See once they know to Look. House Reed’s most powerful greenseer will verify the truth in your words.”

“Can a greenseer verify things that have not happened yet?” Jaime asked.


“I—” Jaime hesitated. “I suppose the simplest way to explain is that I saw a future and I have done everything in my power to prevent it. Not all of it can be prevented. Some of it we must prepare for.”

“I will ask,” Lord Rickard promised. “Finish your meal, lad, we do not waste food in the North.”0

Jaime snorted but applied himself regardless. “What terms would you like to discuss for the betrothal?”

“My daughter wants to marry before a heart tree,” Lord Rickard said. “She is willing to accept a Septon leading the rite as a compromise but she insists it must be done in front of a heart tree.”

“You have a marriage rite that does not require a Septon, correct?” Jaime had to check. “Here in the North, I mean.”

“We do,” Lord Rickard confirmed.

“And it requires a heart tree?”


“Okay,” Jaime agreed.

“Okay?” Lord Rickard repeated.

“I have no interest in placing myself or my wife under the authority of a Septon,” Jaime admitted. “Any septon. I would prefer to marry using your Northern rite beneath a heart tree. Is that acceptable?”

Lord Rickard laughed; it sounded like relief. “That is acceptable.

“I would prefer my daughter marry under the Winterfell heart tree,” Lord Rickard offered.


“I expect our affairs will grow extremely chaotic after we leave Winterfell for Harrenhal.”

“So, before that,” Jaime guessed. “Do you not wish to tell Robert Baratheon his suit has been rejected before I wed your daughter?”

“I sent a raven to Storm’s End this morning but I do not expect that he will accept my refusal gracefully.” Lord Rickard raised an eyebrow at him.

“I am prepared for Lord Baratheon’s inevitable tantrum. I expect he will challenge me. He is larger and older and will assume to cow me and force my compliance in his desire for your daughter. Failing that, he will assume he can kill me. I assure you that will not die and leave your daughter vulnerable.”

“I will hold you to that, lad,” Lord Rickard said gruffly.

“Is Lady Lyanna willing to marry twice?” Jaime asked.

“In what way,” Lord Rickard frowned. “And why?”

“I only tell you this because we will soon be family,” Jaime warned. Lord Rickard accepted that with a tight nod. “My Aunt Genna is desperate not to marry the Frey her father gave her to. Our latest excuse was that no member of our House can marry before the Lord and any who try are cursed. Emmon Frey is a coward and the unfortunate death of Dorna Swyft, my aunt by her marriage to my Uncle Kevan, proved to him the tradition is true and marrying before me will see him dead.

“To fulfill the ancient terms of the tradition, my aunts and uncles must watch me wed. Only one of them is here and I would prefer to keep Aunt Genna far from Emmon Frey for as long as possible.”

“Have you considered arranging an accident?” Lord Rickard asked.

“I have him paired with Gregor Clegane as we travel in the hope that Clegane will lose his temper with the coward and kill him. Gregor Clegane is notoriously short tempered and Emmon Frey has never learned the art of silence. I can legally execute Clegane without appearing to be a tyrant once he rids me of my unwanted good-uncle.”

Lord Rickard frowned. “Why do you seek Clegane’s death?”

“He is a powerful warrior,” Jaime allowed, “but he has no limits. You have seen the burns of Sandor Clegane’s face?”

“They are rather hard to miss,” Lord Rickard agreed.

“Officially, Clegane the Younger left a candle too close to his bed, the bedding caught fire, and he suffered for it.”

“And unofficially?”

“Gregor held his brother’s face to a hearth for daring to touch his own toy that Gregor wanted,” Jaime explained. “And I have reason to believe that Gregor killed his own mother for giving him a brother that could usurp his place in House Clegane’s succession but I have no proof.

“My father kept Gregor Clegane focused and on task, leaving him room for the cruelties he reveled in to be part of his service to House Lannister. I have neither the patience nor the desire to have such a man in my service. I need to catch him in a new crime so that I may execute him without dishonoring my father and undercutting my House’s authority.”

“I will help you keep watch,” Lord Rickard promised. “And yes, I am certain Lyanna will help you protect your aunt. Particularly with something so simple as having a second marriage rite.”

“My thanks.”

“If you are prepared, we will have our meeting,” Lord Rickard stood. “And you will leave the meeting with a copy of the standard House Stark betrothal contract for your review.”

“If you change your mind, I will not hold it against you,” Jaime swore. “You and she are free to say no at any time.”

Lord Rickard gave him a wry look. “My thanks.”


Lyanna would be lying if she said the people they gathered in their family’s private meeting space—in their sanctuary—did not make her nervous.

She had had to pry Brandon away from his direwolf while Ned and Ben had been sent for and returned with Princess Elia and Prince Rhaegar, respectively. Ser Arthur Dayne had come with the prince while Ser Barristan had been left to guard little Rhaenys. Lyanna loved the little girl and hoped that one day they might finally have a ruling queen. Then, Lord Reed entered with a crannogwoman. Finally, Jaime entered with father.

They all sat in a loose circle of chairs and couches. The prince and princess were given the spot closest to the hearth with their backs to the fire as they seemed to crave a heat that not even Winterfell’s warm walls could sate.

“Lord Reed, if you would introduce your companion?” Father instructed.

“Of course,” Lord Reed stood. “Lord Rickard asked that I bring our strongest greenseer to this meeting. Our very strongest is my son, Howland, but he has been on his coming-of-age quest for six moons and will not return for another six at the least.

“Young Jyana here is my Howland’s match, however—both in greenseer ability and as she is his betrothed. She will serve this gathering in my son’s stead.

“I believe I am not required for this meeting, Lord Stark?”

“You are dismissed,” father confirmed. “With thanks.”

Lord Reed bowed and left.

“What is a greenseer?” Prince Rhaegar asked.

“It is part of the magics the First Men learned from the Children of the Forest,” father explained. “At the base level, there is a skinchanger or a beastling. They were said to enter the minds of animals and control their actions. There is a specific type of skinchanger called a warg that specifically bonded with wolves or occasionally dogs. The Kings of Winter were all wargs.

“Greenseers are a level above skinchangers.”

“We skinchange weirwood trees,” Lady Jyana offered, her voice high and clear. “We use them to influence nature. Historically, my forefathers used them to direct murders of ravens, packs of wolves, and armies of lizard-lions to defend our homes before our enemies ever made contact with our warriors. We can encourage plants to grow. We can see the past. If we are very powerful, we can see the future.”

“You can see the future even though it has not happened?” Jaime asked and Lyanna tensed. She could not understand why Jaime would ask such a thing.

“I have seen flashes of several futures,” Lady Jyana answered. “If you have seen a specific future I have not, I will be able to find it if I touch you while I seek it.”

“I dare say, we will hold that until this lot decides I am mad.”

Lady Jyana gave Jaime a sad smile but inclined her head in acceptance. Jaime took a deep breath and stood.

“I would like to start by making it clear that I am neither a greenseer nor a dragon dreamer.”

Lyanna was not the only one to turn to Lady Jyana for confirmation.

“No,” Lady Jyana confirmed, “but you may yet be a beastling. There is a winter lion that has chosen you.”

“And I will accept them when they seek me out,” Jaime agreed. “We will need people to teach us to skinchange. Myself, the Starks, House Targaryen. Does House Reed have people that can do that, or do we need to search out Free Folk beyond the Wall?”

“We will teach you,” Lady Jyana agreed.

“What?” Brandon demanded with a frown.

“Do you think to train a direwolf as a dog, Lord Brandon?” Lady Jyana asked. “The gods have chosen to gift House Stark living direwolves. You must master skinchanging to honor the gods and their gifts.”

To Lyanna’s surprise, Jaime Lannister, of all people, was nodding. Like such a thing was expected! That she and her family would just— just skinchange!

“The second thing I have to admit was that there was a time when I was in love with my sister,” Jaime admitted and Lyanna had to press her lips together to keep her mouth from falling open. “Looking back on it, I can see it was all a manipulation on my sister’s part. She was grooming me to be her personal weapon and, I think, she was hoping my father would see me as unfit so she could inherit Casterly Rock in my place. I cannot be sure now.”

“Because she has now passed through the Veil of Tears,” Lady Jyanna offered gently. “But before?”

“Before—” Jaime shook his head. “I do not want to get into that.

“I thought I was in love with her until—” Jaime hesitated. “I fell asleep on a weirwood stump. It gave me a dream.”

“What did you see?” Father prompted.

“There was a life. Where I defended Lord Crakehall’s life from the Kingswood Brotherhood and was knighted for it but we did not join Ser Arthur in his mission to bring the brigands to justice until after that event,” Jaime admitted. “I ran to my sister in King’s Landing to tell her that I was knighted. She decided that I would join King Aerys’ Kingsguard so she and I could be together when she was queen and she convinced me to agree. She took on the task of convincing the king so she would have me around after she married Prince Rhaegar.”

“I was already married by the time you were knighted,” Prince Rhaegar objected. “Was I married at that time in your dream?”

“Married and with your daughter born,” Jaime agreed. “The time of my knighting and who knighted me changed—I believe because of the dream—everything before that was the same as what we have lived.”

“Then how would Lady Cersei think to become queen?”

“When she was younger, she received a prophecy from a swamp witch that she would marry the king and have three children,” Jaime admitted. “In that other future I saw, it came true.”

“How?” Prince Rhaegar demanded.

“King Aerys attended the Tourney of Harrenhal because Lord Varys told him you were going to use it to hold a Great Council in secret.”

Prince Rhaegar raised a single eyebrow.

Lyanna did not know him well enough to tell if that was an admission or just a prompt to continue.

“Before the festivities began, I was raised up to the Kingsguard and sent to King’s Landing to guard the queen, so I do not know what all happened. One thing I do know is that you, my prince, won the joust and crowned Lady Lyanna the Queen of Love and Beauty despite Princess Elia being in attendance.”

Why?” Lyanna asked the prince in horror. “You are married!”

“He has not done any such thing, yet.” Jaime told her before the prince could object. “This was another version of him under different conditions.”

“I…can try to accept that,” she agreed. She could try to remember that.

“I do know that a year later, just before Lord Brandon’s wedding to the Fish, you disappeared. Littlefinger told your brother that the prince had kidnapped you but that does not fit with the man I know Prince Rhaegar to be. Littlefinger, however, is a liar. He has a grudge against Brandon and has a history of setting Starks up to die.”

“Brandon died?” Lyanna asked.

“Brandon,” Jaime turned to the brother in question, “took himself off to King’s Landing to demand the prince come out and die for taking you. He was, of course, apprehended and thrown in the Black Cells by order of King Aerys. King Aerys then demanded Lord Rickard come to King’s Landing to answer for his son’s crimes. Which Lord Rickard did—without his banners.”

“You have a great deal of judgement for our actions in this hypothetical future,” father observed.

“I have had years to think about it.” Jaime frowned. “In a way. I lived a long time in the life? That dream? It was long.”

“Very well,” father agreed. “Knowing myself as I do, I would have demanded trial by combat.”

“And you did,” Jaime agreed. “And I had expected I would fight you and die. Or mayhap Lord Commander Hightower would fight you. But the Mad King named fire as his champion. He strung you up, armor and all, and lit a bonfire beneath your feet. He had Lord Brandon secured with a noose around his neck and promised that if he could cut you free, he would be found innocent, and the two of you would be free to go. Then he sat back and laughed as Lord Brandon strangled himself to death reaching for a sword to save you.”

Father was pale. Lya slipped her hand into his as an offer of comfort.

“Lya missing, Brandon and father dead, that left me to stand as lord?” Ned asked with a ferocious frown.

“Yes,” Jaime confirmed. “You were in the Vale at the time. The king wrote to Lord Arryn. He demanded your head as the brother of a traitor and Lord Baratheon’s head as the betrothed of a traitor.”

“Lord Jon refused,” Ned said, sick but confident in his conclusion.

Jaime nodded. “All three of you called your banners and you, Lord Eddard, kicked the south’s collective arse.”

Lyanna had to smile. It was probably inappropriate but she could see it. Ned could take on even the feared Lord Tywin and win. Lord Arryn might have diluted Ned’s Northern blood with his high honor but Ned still had the Strength of the Wolf where it counted.

“You married the Fish, unfortunately. You seemed to love each other; you had five? Five children,” Jaime nodded. “But she was an idiot.”

“What did she do?” Brandon wanted to know.

“I will get there eventually,” Jaime promised. “My father stayed neutral during Robert’s Rebellion, as it came to be called, because I was a hostage. Dorne, too, remained as neutral as they could because Princess Elia was the king’s hostage. It was not until the Battle for the Trident that Ned’s side—the North, the Vale, the Riverlands, and the Stormlands—met the Dornish spears in battle.”

“Where was I?” Rhaegar wanted to know.

“Off somewhere with Lady Lyanna,” Jaime said. “The war lasted for a year and you did not show up until the Battle for the Trident—where Lord Baratheon killed you, by the way. He caved in your chest with his hammer in single combat.”

Lyanna gasped in objection. Who would become king if Prince Rhaegar was dead? His brother Viserys? Viserys was a child. Historically, an extended regency was not good for the peace of the Realm.

“My father decided to make his appearance around that time,” Jaime admitted. “He came to King’s Landing and requested entry. I told the king not to, my father was not to be trusted because I knew my father hated King Aerys, but Pycelle convinced the king that my father was a friend and the gates were opened. My father sacked the city.”

“What happened to my father?” Prince Rhaegar asked.

“I killed him,” Jaime admitted. “He had been conspiring with the Alchemists Guild. His Hand had resigned in protest and been sent to the Black Cells because King Aerys had huge caches of wildfire all over King’s Landing. I was overseeing the defense of the Red Keep when I saw Wisdom Rossart trying to sneak out, dressed like a random soldier. I knew exactly what he was trying to do—your father had been shouting it for hours: Burn them all! Burn them all!

“I killed every Wisdom in the Red Keep and then I slit your father’s throat to keep them from killing more than half a million people on the mistaken belief that King Aerys would rise from the ashes as a true dragon.

“I am not sorry,” Jaime said flatly.

“Nor should you be,” Princess Elia swore. “You may have broken your oaths but you did the only thing a good man could. The action was honorable and, as you said before, they were carried out by a different man.”

Jaime inclined his head. “I would spare you the details of your fate, my princess. Suffice it to say, you and your children were not spared my father’s wrath.”

Princess Elia nodded. “I assume Robert Baratheon took the throne? They did name the rebellion after him.”

“He did,” Jaime confirmed.

“And Lord Robert married your sister?” the princess pressed, showing both intelligence and discernment. “The swamp witch’s prophecy was met?”

“She did and it was.

“The witch had told my sister she would have three children while the king would have three-and-twenty. That came true, too.”

Twenty bastards?” Lyanna demanded.

Jaime nodded and she was even more convinced she had chosen the right man.

“Twenty-six bastards in all,” he told them. “Cersei’s children were not her husband’s.”

Lyanna felt sad for her husband. He had truly loved his sister. “They were yours.”

“At one time I thought so but I am unsure. My sister was disloyal, she did not make a single oath she did not break, and used her body to pay for obedience on many occasions.”

That was worse! Lyanna shook her head.

“Seven-and-twenty, I suppose, if we count the boy Ned claimed as his own bastard but Jon Snow was no bastard. He was the Song of Ice and Fire.”

Ice and Fire?” Prince Rhaegar asked. Demanded, really.

“My son,” Lyanna said and she knew it. The certainty rang in her soul. “Her son,” she corrected. “With that Prince Rhaegar.”

“Yes,” Jaime confirmed. “And Catelyn Tully hated him. I cannot blame that Eddard for not telling her the truth about the boy because she has proven—then and now—to be horrifically indiscreet.”

Oh, boy. “What did she do?”

“Brandon, the second son of that Eddard, had caught that Jaime and that Cersei,” Jaime blushed, “in a compromising bit if treason.”

Lyanna translated that to having sex. “Oh, no.”

“Oh, yes,” Jaime confirmed. “That Jaime threw him out a window in the hopes it would kill him. He survived but was crippled. I remember Robert kept saying how horrible it was to live life as a cripple. I assume that was why someone tried to assassinate the boy.” Jaime pointed at Rhaegar’s hip. “With that knife.”

“This is the king’s blade!” Rhaegar objected, clutching the handle as though someone would take it from him.

“Princess Elia carried it for the duration of the Rebellion,” Jaime explained. “She did not trust the Kingsguard, for which I do not blame her, and she had two children to defend.”

“Two?” Princess Elia asked.

“Prince Aegon,” Jaime confirmed. “You must be pregnant with him now, if the timing remains the same. I think that is why the garnet hatchling rarely leaves your side.”

“I am carrying, yes,” Princess Elia confirmed. “Maester Luwin confirmed it today. He feels I should remain here until the child is born but that would mean missing the Tourney of Harrenhal.” The princess pressed her lips together like she wanted to say more but did not dare to. Lyanna supposed the tourney was going to be a secret Great Council after all.

And she would attend as Lady Lannister. Lyanna tried not to blush.

“It would be worth it, for a healthy child,” Prince Rhaegar told his wife.

“Winterfell would benefit both you and the child magically,” Lady Jyana offered.

“The only place better for the dragon blooded would be Dragonstone,” Jaime agreed. “But that is far too close to the Mad King for safety.”

“My father is mad, then?” Rhaegar asked.

“He already consorts with the Alchemists Guild,” Princess Elia reminded her husband. “To be prepared to destroy all of King’s Landing with wildfire just two years in the future must mean they are already crafting their supply.”

“He has not left Maegor’s Holdfast since Duskendale,” Jaime pointed out. “He is so afraid of blades that he has allowed no one to trim his hair or nails or beard in four years. In a more compassionate world, a man so consumed by fear would have already been removed from his position for his own sake, not just the benefit of the Realm.”

Prince Rhaegar frowned but inclined his head in agreement. “You really were a Kingsguard.”

“Yes,” Jaime agreed darkly, “I was.”

“How many wars did you go through?” Lady Jyana asked, her eyes were distant and dreamy.

Jaime frowned and held up a hand, adding a finger with each name. “Robert’s Rebellion, the Greyjoy Rebellion, the War of Five Kings, the War for the Dawn. I died in the future, fighting for the Dawn.”

“War for th— The Long Night returned?” Father demanded.

“I want to hear about the War of Five Kings,” Prince Rhaegar said.

“Better to do things in order,” father conceded and sat back.

“Lord Jon Arryn was Robert’s Hand from the moment he was crowned. He held the Realm together while Robert whored and drank his time away—they called Robert the Whoremonger King.

“Lord Arryn was murdered. His wife, Lysa Tully, poisoned him. But her lover, Littlefinger, convinced Eddard and the Fish that Cersei and I had done it to hide our treason. He also convinced Lady Catelyn that the dagger used in the attempt to murder her son belonged to my brother Tyrion. That Littlefinger had lost it betting on me when Tyrion won a bet against—as if my brother would ever bet against me for any reason.”

“So, we have the new Lord Hand. Eddard Stark, in King’s Landing, visiting pleasure houses to compare the king’s bastards to the queen’s suspected bastards,” Jaime summarized. “He has sent his wife back north for her safety and to prepare their heir for the war that was bound to happen.

“Then the king was gored by a boar and returned to King’s Landing for a wasting death. Lord Eddard, aware that queen’s children are bastards, sent a letter to Lord Stannis to come claim the throne. But.”

But?” Everyone prompted Lord Jaime simultaneously.

Jaime rewarded them with a tight smile. “But. On her way North, the Fish came across my brother who had been visiting the Wall as he had travelled most of the way there with the royal party that went to fetch Lord Eddard to serve as Hand. She kidnapped him and took him to her sister in the Vale.” Jaime sighed. “I did not take it well.”

“What did you do?” Ned asked.

“I found that Eddard in the street and asked him what his wife was doing. He said she was following his orders, seeking justice for their son. I was furious. Tyrion would never harm a child. I had actively harmed that child but no one thought to blame me, they just heaped hatred upon hatred on one of the kindest men I had ever known.

“I killed every single man that stood with Lord Eddard, injured his leg, and threw him in the Black Cells. By then Stannis Baratheon had denounced my nephew as a bastard of incest and named himself king.

“Renly Baratheon thought he would be a better king than his brother who actually had the right to the crown and made his own declaration—with all of the armies of the Reach at his back.

“Balon Greyjoy decided to declare his own independence again despite having half his Islands wrecked in last bid for a crown.

“And Robb Stark was in open rebellion against the Iron Throne my nephew sat upon. I am still unsure if he or his bannermen thought an independent North would be a good idea but he was the first new King of Winter and he had his father’s talent at warfare to back it up.”

“What about me?” Eddard asked.

“My nephew, King Joffery, declared you a traitor and had your head taken—after promising his betrothed, your daughter, Lady Sansa—that he would be kind and you would be sent to the Wall.”

Ned sat back, blowing out a weary breath. He was too far away for Lya to offer him a hand as she had done with their father.

“Your daughters were fierce,” Jaime told Ned. “Lady Sansa ruled the North after she and Jon won Winterfell back from the Boltons. Jon was called king, but Sansa ruled. Arya had escaped King’s Landing after your death and somehow—I am not entirely sure—rumor was that she went to Braavos and trained with the Faceless Men.”

Ned looked devastated. “Faceless Men.”

“I have already asked the gods to have her born to my line,” Jaime said, dismissive of Ned’s distress. “I believe they will favor me.”

Lyanna could see it now. She did not have any sort of Sight but she could feel it in her bones. They would have seven sons, not a single daughter. Jaime would be heartbroken until they day they claimed a granddaughter and there she would be! His beloved assassin Arya. She wanted to laugh.

“Jon had gone to the Wall when Eddard had gone south with the king. He had risen to Lord Commander of the Watch and he knew the dead were marching south. He urged the Realm to put aside their wars to defend the Living. He was ignored so he brought the Free Folk south of the Wall to reinforce the Wall and prevent them from joining the Night’s King’s army.

“He was betrayed and assassinated for it.”

“If my son died as part of the Watch, how did he help his cousin reclaim Winterfell from the Boltons?” Lyanna asked. She had to sit back then, to wrestle with the realization that her father was correct to distrust House Bolton as strongly as he did.

“He was resurrected,” Jaime admitted and Lya wondered if she was supposed to be surprised by the fantastical aspects of her son’s journey. “By a Red Witch of R’hllor.”

“Of course,” Lyanna sighed.

“Of course,” Jaime echoed. “The Wall fell and the fight came to Winterfell. I cannot tell you if we won that one.”

“Lady Arya slayed the Night’s King before he could kill her last living brother, Brandon the Broken,” Lady Jyana supplied, eyes misted over a creepy white. “She survived but paid for the Dawn with an injury that stole her fertility—a line of kings, lost.

“The dragon queen was broken by the loss of two of her dragon-sons while fighting for the Dawn. Facing Queen Cersei’s defiance, she used her final son to destroy King’s Landing and Jon slayed her for it. Brandon the Broken was crowned King of the South. The Red Wolf, Sansa Stark, was crowned Queen in the North. Jon Snow was banished to the far north to stand watch in his undeath for the return of the Night’s King.”

“What he saw was true, then,” Lord Rickard concluded.

“It was, my lord,” Lady Jyana confirmed.

“You have already removed the traitors Pycelle and Varys from the Realm,” Princess Elia said warmly. “You have my eternal gratitude.”

Jaime blushed and focused on the floor.

“Was it that dream that made you suspect the Citadel of their crimes?” their future queen asked.

“The Citadel did the most of anyone to prevent aid from being sent North to fight the Dead,” Jaime said. “When Lord Commander Snow sent his most trusted, Samwell Tarly, to the Citadel to learn what they needed to push back the Dead, the grey sheep stymied him, they denied the existence of the Night’s King because that would mean acknowledging that magic existed.

“Archmaester Marwyn of the Higher Mysteries warned Samwell that, of course, the Citadel hated magic and dragons. They had been the ones to kill the dragons in the first place. The Citadel claimed the man was mad but what else would they say if he was right?

“In this life, I knew I did not want the maester that failed to save my mother to touch my wife, so I requested a new maester from the Citadel and took the opportunity to question the man I had in hand.

“The rest, as they say, is history.:

“How could you?” Prince Rhaegar asked. There was so much betrayal in his tone that Lyanna flinched. “You knew I needed Lyanna and you took her from me.”

“First of all,” Jaime snarled as fiercely as any winter lion ever had, “Lady Lyanna is a person, not some resource you can seize in your personal quest to fulfill a prophecy you do not even understand.”

“You said our son was the Song of Ice and Fire!” the prince objected.

“Any child of Stark and Targaryen raised in Winterfell would be!” Jaime hissed. “Mount him on a dragon! Done! Prince that was Promised. Prophecy met.”

Prince Rhaegar’s mouth fell open.

“You have a daughter,” Lady Jyana pointed out gently. “Lord Brandon will inevitably have a son. Marry them. The birth of their first child will wake the Night’s King. That child’s twentieth year will see the onset of the War for the Dawn.”

“King Snow was four-and-twenty when the Battle of Winterfell took place,” Jaime pointed out.

“The Night’s King used the time he was given to bring down the Wall,” Lady Jyana told Jaime. “We cannot allow him to do that again.”

Jaime nodded and turned back to them all. “We need to start preparing now,” he told them. “There will be at least fifteen years until the Prince can be born. We may have as much as forty years to prepare.

“We need the peace of a stable Realm. We need the bodies to fight and the goods to feed and arm our armies.” Jaime turned to focus of Brandon. “Should the Fish slip your contract you must offer for Lady Janna Tyrell immediately.”

“I will,” Brandon promised. “Allow me to discuss it with my father.”

“Robert will challenge you over Lya,” Ned said, looking sick. “You have to defeat him.”

“I will,” Jaime promised. “I served him as a member of his Kingsguard for more than a decade. I am aware of how he fights.”

Ned shook his head. “I have trained with him. We were trained by the same men and I know him like no other. If you enter the ring with him bearing confidence, he will be cautious and be on his guard. You will lose. If you act uncertain, he will be cocky and you can destroy him. I will train with you.”

“I would not ask that of you,” Jaime said.

“I offer. My sister’s life and happiness depend on you. I will not let you fail her.”

“As you will,” Jaime agreed. Then he focused on her father.

“Will you wed Uncle Brynden?”

Father blushed for the first time Lyanna had ever seen. “I—”

“The two of you were eager to become reacquainted,” Jaime said, lightly teasing. “I heard a thump as I entered the rooms I was assigned and turned to see if someone required help but he had only pinned you to the wall. I decided to mind my own business after that.”

“We cannot afford a war with the Faith and the Citadel,” father said dismissively.

Lyanna did not like that. “We already have one,” she said. “The Citadel and the Faith are each other’s greatest allies. We might as well benefit the most people with it.”

Father turned to the prince who shrugged. “There is no law against it; men marrying men. Or women marrying women, for that matter. Once the throne is mine, I can pass a law protecting such couples from religious persecution. With the North, the West and the Reach behind me, we can make it stick.”

“I will speak to him,” father promised. “I do not think he will chance anything until we know where Riverrun stands in the war to come. His brother would certainly oppose our alliance if he and I were to wed.”

“We look forward to your wedding,” Princess Elia offered. “What are we going to do about Riverrun?”

“Ideally, House Tully baring Uncle Brynden would suddenly and mysteriously die out, leaving the House Stark to take control of the Riverlands. Preferably, promoting the second son to a Lord Paramount of his own,” Jaime told them. His eyes narrowed in consideration. “I am willing to split the cost of a contract with the House of Black and White with House Stark and House Targaryen. They specialize in making their work appear either natural or accidental.”

“We do not currently have the time to send anyone to Braavos to negotiate,” Princess Elia denied. “Mayhaps when my brother returns. For now, the gods may yet provide.”

Jaime nodded before turning his speculative gaze to her. “If you wish to retract your agreement—”

“I do not,” she said firmly. “You have been working to give my family a better life since you were knighted—long before we ever met and you have done so despite my family hurting yours so thoroughly in that other life. You are the only man I will have as my husband.”

Jaime gave her a relieved smile. “You will not regret it.”

Lya rolled her eyes. She already knew that.


Chapter Three


“It works, then?” Jaime asked. Again.

Because he honestly had no idea what he was doing with a betrothal contract. Betrothal contracts had never been relevant to his life before. He could honestly say he had never even seen one.

“I think so,” Uncle Tygette agreed. “Kevan and Genna have more experience with this kind of thing. Stark’s men were talking about the Fish’s betrothal contract but none of that fits here. I sent a raven the Barrowtown yesterday.” It went unsaid but not unheard—by Jaime, at least—that he and Tygette were the bluntest objects in their family. Thankfully Tygette knew this and was smart enough to seek outside help. “I wanted to make sure Gerion stuck around in case we needed help with yours.”

Jaime sighed in relief. “You are amazing.”

Uncle Tygette snorted.

“I will write a letter and ride for Barrowton on the morrow to get Gerion the contract so he can set sail for Casterly Rock with all available speed.”

“Take Lady Lyanna with you,” Uncle Tygette advised.

Jaime nodded. “And Benjen or Ned for a chaperone.” Though he honestly did not know if they needed a chaperone once the betrothal had been agreed upon. He and Lyanna certainly deserved time to come to know each other.

“I will send Casterly Rock a raven to warn Aunt Genna and Uncle Kevan,” Jaime continued. “If one of them needs to come to negotiate, I will insist on it being Uncle Kevan to come North.”

“Genna is more than capable,” Uncle Tygette warned. “But we need to keep Genna away from that fool, Emmon.”

“Agreed. And I would rather not subject Aunt Genna to that ride through the Wolfswood.” Jaime snorted. “She would be horrified.”

Uncle Tygette grunted in agreement.

“Will you speak with the Stark Maester for copy of this document?” Jaime requested. “I will speak with Lord Stark to arrange the trip.”

Uncle Tygette grunted something that sounded like agreement though it could be a question. When his uncle did not follow the noise up with an actual question, Jaime decided the grunt was agreement and that it was good enough.

“How is Tyrion’s training going?” he asked rather than pushing for a more articulate response as his father would have.

“Not so much training,” Uncle Tygette allowed. “More teaching Dayne the lad’s limitations.”

“I do not believe Ser Arthur will allow Tyrion to be injured or allow his training to slack. He will be a member of House Targaryen. Mayhaps not a prince, but a Targaryen.”

Uncle Tygette grunted. Again.

Jaime knew when to stop pushing. “Very good. If you would?”

Wordlessly, Uncle Tygette took up the scroll they had filled out together and left. Jaime was viscerally aware of why his uncle and father were constantly in conflict but it did not matter. It did not matter at all. Jaime was going to hold House Lannister together.

Even if it killed them.


“Are you prepared?” he asked as he moved his horse to her side.

Lyanna looked up and smiled at her future husband. First, because he was beautiful. Second, because he was not so arrogant to assume he knew everything and was more than willing to seek help from those he trusted—hence to reason for their trip at all. Third, because he respected women even more than the most open-minded Northman she knew.

Finally, because he was hers.

“I am, my lord,” she agreed with a smile. “It is a relief to leave my brothers behind.”

Jaime laughed. “I cannot argue with that.” He sighed. “I think they mean well but I cannot be certain. My only brother is not old enough yet to trounce me in the training yard.”

Lyanna chose not to point out that Lord Tyrion would never be old enough to trounce Jaime in the training yard. Prince Tyrion. Whatever. “If you can be rid of your Red Cloaks, I can show you a Stark-only path to Barrowton.”

“Benefits of this path?” Jaime asked

“It is faster—a day and a half rather than a full two days and the path is less arduous.”

Jaime nodded. “Is it dangerous?”

Lyanna laughed. “Everything in the North is dangerous, my lord. All you can do is learn how to handle it.”

“And you know how to handle it?”

Lyanna raised an eyebrow. Was he doubting her? “Of course.”

“Very good.” Jaime turned his horse around and started issuing new orders to his Red Cloaks. He rolls his eyes where only she can see when he returned. All of his Red Cloaks have departed. “Are we prepared now?”

“We are,” she agreed. “Stay beside me or you might miss it.”

“Is there room for that?” he asked but he followed her instruction easily enough.

“There will be.”

She led them in taking a sharp right turn once they exited the Hunter’s Gate. They rode in the shadow of Winterfell’s outer wall until they reached the long stretch where she knew the stables were on the other side of the walls. There she led them through a blind turn into the forest.

“What?” Jaime objected, looking around. “What? I had no idea that could be done with trees in a forest.”

“You did not know what could be done?” she asked.

“A blind turn. A turn you cannot see until you take it,” Jaime explained. “Casterly Rock is riddled with them. I can make entire hallways disappear by removing carpet.”

“And people just forget that there had been a hall there?” Lyanna asked doubtfully.

“They do, actually.” Jaime shook his head. “Without decorations to differentiate them, all the public halls look the same. I know I have assumed I had my halls confused due to a change until my father explained the change he had made to me.”

“Sounds awful,” Lyanna decided.

“It is a security measure,” Jaime explained. “If we are invaded, we can strip the walls so our invaders cannot navigate. There are ways to tell where you are without the decorations. I will, of course, teach you, but it is not helpful to begin those lessons when you have never seen the Rock.”

“Fair,” she decided.

“Will we be able to ride together the entire way?”

“Should be able to,” Lyanna nodded. “The cave is certainly large enough for three riders to travel together.”

Cave?” he demanded.

“Old Nan says it used to belong to the Children of the Forest,” she explained. “I do not know if that is true but people have wondered into them and never returned. Even with hounds to guide them through. We are not allowed to use them at night for any reason. House Stark has an established camping site on the far side of the cave. We will sleep there tonight and be in Barrowton before midday tomorrow.”

“Hooray, cave, I guess,” her future husband said with a frown. “How is—” Jaime cleared his throat. “How is your family taking what I have told them?”

“Brandon has remained awake for the entirety of the two days since you told us, plotting how to ensure House Stark’s continued control of the North and unite the Seven Kingdoms in the event Prince Rhaegar proves to be an unworthy king. Last I heard, his plan included three wives and no less than four-and-ten daughters.”

Jaime laughed in surprise. “Has your father given Brandon leave to arrange your brothers’ marriages?”

“Oh, no.” Lyanna shook her head with a grin. “All three of those wives are for Brandon.”

Jaime matched his grin to her own.

“I believe there was a love letter written to Lady Janna Tyrell that father denied him the right to send.” She paused when Jaime groaned. “You never told me the tale of the Rose that hunted the Wolf.”

“Ah,” Jaime straightened. “You have siblings, so you know how some people react to being denied something someone else has, yes?”

Lyanna nodded. “Ned would nobly accept being denied and manfully wait for whoever denied him to do the Right Thing. Brandon would make a plan to get the thing he was denied or create something better and deny it to everyone else, depending on the object. Benjen would take his denial as a rejection and give everyone the sad pup eyes.”

“Right. Well, Brandon’s reaction is rooted in pride. House Tyrell has a great deal of pride.”

Oh, Lyanna would bet she could see where this was going.

“The day before your brothers arrived, I had a private luncheon with Lady Olenna. I explained my reasons for seeking a match with House Stark and she agreed my reasons were sound. Then I explained that Lord Brandon would be arriving soon but he was betrothed and was by far too honorable to do anything to break it.”

“Oh, no,” Lyanna laughed.

“Lady Olenna behaved for three days after your brothers arrived,” Jaime allowed. “By dinner on the fourth, Brandon sought the refuge of the High Table at dinner when previously, he and Benjen had been sitting with different lords every night at the lower tables. I, of course, had to invite Lady Janna to join her mother and I at the High Table that night, entirely so we could watch the show.”

“Lady Olenna had decided she needed a wolf of her own,” Lyanna guessed.

Jaime nodded. “I have since been told that Lady Janna is set on becoming a Lady Paramount in her own right. That she felt she deserved better than the mere knight of House Fossoway.”

“It is not how things are usually done,” Lyanna allowed. The daughters of Lords Paramount had been used to bind their fathers’ lands to them since the Lords Paramount had been established. A tradition that had survived the time when each of the Kingdoms of Westeros had their own kings. It was her father and House Tully that had laid the foundation for Paramount Houses to marry each other.

Ironically, their groundbreaking agreement was less likely to be fulfilled with each passing day. “But she is the daughter of a Lord Paramount, it is her duty to seek out the match that will best serve her House.”

Jaime snorted. “That may be so, but the benefit of her House is not why she wants him. She is said to enjoy Brandon’s wild nature and asked if the Northern marriage rite required monogamy or if she could keep her lovers. Apparently, she does not mind if he impregnates her ladies as long as she and her children come first.”

“Bold for a Rose,” Lyanna decided.

“You have not met Lady Olenna,” Jaime reminded her. “She is called the Queen of Thorns for a reason.”

“I have been assured your crush on Lady Olenna is entirely platonic,” Lyanna teased. “That she is very much the disgruntled auntie for you that nearly every Northern House can claim.”

Jaime shook his head but Lyanna could see the small smile he was trying to hide. “Who assured you of this?” he asked.


Her future husband seemed conflicted until he leaned forward eagerly. “Lady Olenna has sworn to hold a tournament to honor my life should I pass before she does. You must not allow it,” Jaime urged.

Her future husband was baffling but oh, so earnest.

“How am I to stop her if she chooses to host the event at Highgarden?” Lyanna wondered.

Jaime’s face screwed up in frustration. Lyanna realized the she should probably not point out his resemblance to an angry bunny. “She would. Dammitall, she would.”

Lyanna laughed.

“How is Benjen?” Jaime asked with concern. “I have only seen him in passing on the training grounds. It is as if he is avoiding me.”

“He may be,” Lyanna allowed. “He has questions. He noted he was not mentioned in your dream but is afraid to ask why.”

“Ah.” Jaime was silent for a time. “Has Benjen always wanted to join the Night’s Watch?”

Benjen? In the Night’s Watch? “Never,” Lyanna denied. “He has been planning the reclamation of Moat Cailin since he was seven and father explained what his contribution to House Stark would be.”

“It is one of the southern-most keeps in the North and it has great strategic importance because it sits on the Kingsroad surrounded by swamp,” Jaime allowed, clearly aware that Benjen was the Whisperer of House Stark even though she knew none of her brothers would have told him. “You are certain? He has never wanted to join the Watch?”

“Certain,” she confirmed though dread grew in her gut. Had Benjen joined the Night’s Watch in that other life? Despite the fact that he had to have been Ned’s heir until his first child was born? His marriage would have had great value to House Stark, particularly after a war that had cut their numbers so ruthlessly.

She could see how it could happen though. Benjen was her favorite brother and her confidant. If that version of her had told any member of her family of her plans to run off and marry a prince, it would have been Ben.

“How has Prince Rhaegar reacted to everything you told us?” she wondered.

She had no interest in marrying the prince. All she had seen him do was train and brood. If she wanted such a man in her bed, she would marry Ned.

Jaime snorted. “Never fear, Princess Elia has him firmly in hand. Her brother, Prince Oberyn, is already in the process of fetching him a second wife from Essos. One with more dragonblood than she has.”

“Is there such a woman?” Lyanna asked. “Did the previous Lord and Lady Baratheon not pass from this world after failing that very same mission?”

“We received direction from Lord Varys before he passed,” Jaime explained. “He did not want us to have that information and I do not know how Prince Oberyn is faring on his mission but I know Princess Elia has consulted with your father to see if House Stark would be offended at being given a daughter of the second bride because of her double dragonblood would be better for,” Jaime shrugged but Lyanna got it.

More dragonblood for the Prince That Was Promised to draw upon.

“Princess Elia considers Princess Rhaenys the heir to the Iron Throne,” Lyanna pointed out. “I believe Prince Rhaegar is holding out for a son.”

“Men always seem to,” Jaime muttered. Lyanna would be hopeful on behalf of her future daughters if she thought she would have any. “How is Lord Ned taking everything?”

“He has sought solace in the arms of Lady Catelyn,” she admitted and then laughed at Jaime’s disgusted face.

“I would rather you spare me any details about the solace the Fish has offered your brothers.”

“As would I,” Lyanna agreed. “He does not believe Lady Catelyn will marry at all, so there is no harm in taking what she has offered.” she admitted. “We all knew before she came North that she was not a maiden so I see no difference either way.”

“So long as she does not fall pregnant, I agree.”

There was something she had to know. “What you said, about Braavos,” she paused and Jaime nodded to show he was following. “Would you actually make such a hire?”

Jaime shrugged. “It would be a final option, not one I would take easily, but I cannot remove it from possibility. I would prefer to trust the gods and their justice.”

“Would it be justice?” Lyanna wondered.

“House Tully should never have been trusted to stand as the Paramount Lords of a privy, much less the Kingdom of the Rivers. They were knights, never lord of anything before the Conquering. Aegon the Dragon chose them for their loyalty and eager submission, not their ability. An able House Paramount would never have tolerated the Blackwoods and the Brakens rivalry. House Frey is ripe for rebellion; it will take decisive action to prevent them from reaching beyond themselves. I would send half of Lord Walder’s brood to the Wall on the first excuse I was given. There are a number of things happening in the Riverlands that a wise lord would not allow.

“I do not fault them for ruling from Riverrun, however. I know many do because the keep is too small for a proper Paramount House to maintain but it is well defensible.”

“It is a tenth of the size of Harrenhal,” she pointed out.

“The Erie is smaller than Riverrun,” Jaime countered. “And no one complains that House Arryn’s primary keep is too small, because it is unassailable without the aid of a dragon. Riverrun is not quite so well defended but the planning that went into it was well done.”

“And not many could afford a keep like Harrenhal,” Lya agreed.

“House Whent does have the largest army in the Riverlands and the most men sworn to Riverrun through them. The Lord Paramount periodically marrying the House that rules Harrenhal is wise but maintaining their place at Riverrun is not a choice I will disparage. It gives them the most advantages available and leaves the most gold in their coffers. Gold they should be spending to improve the Kingdom of the Rivers and earn their vassals’ love and willing support.”

“How would you handle constant Blackwood-Bracken conflict?” Lyanna wondered.

“What are they fighting over?” Jaime asked. “Who was the King of Rivers? The answer to that is literally everyone. House Fisher was first as far as the Maesters tell us. House Mudd was next—from whom Bracken and Blackwood both descend. House Justman, in turn, descended from both Blackwood and Bracken. House Teague, House Durrandon of the Stormlands. Two different Houses Vance. Mallister, Nutt, Hoare of the Iron Islands. Their fight is entirely pointless. It proves nothing and is founded on nothing.”

Lyanna was stunned by the amount of information her future husband knew about a kingdom that was not even his own. “You are clearly knowledgeable but that does not tell me what you would do.”

“I would wait for them to take arms with each other, route them both, and send the survivors of their armies to the Wall. I would then foster the next generation with me while men I trusted ruled Raventree Hall and Stone Hedge. They would have instructions to send any dissidents to the Wall or the Motherhouse in Maidenpool, depending on their gender. I would marry each lord I raised to the daughter of the opposite House to ensure the future peace.”

“And if that did not work?” Lyanna pressed.

“I would banish both Houses and grant their keeps and lands to Lords and Ladies that would put their duty before their foolish pride and be done with it. People I could trust—even if I have to seek outside my lands for such people, I would do it. If sending their armies to the Wall took too many men from the management of the land, I would lure commonfolk—probably south from the North or east from the Westerlands considering the locations of Raventree Hall and Stone Hedge to tend the land.”

“And if that did not work?” she asked with a smile.

“Exile myself to Essos for failing at my entire life?” Jaime japed and Lyanna laughed. “Send myself to the Wall so I do not have to watch those fools burn Westeros to the ground.”

“You think they could?”

“Even the Blackfyre Rebellion can be traced back to the Bracken-Blackwood conflict, can it not?” he asked in turn. “The first one happened because Aegor Rivers, a bastard of House Bracken, hated Brynden Rivers, a bastard of House Blackwood that was standing as their trueborn half-brother’s Lord Hand. The only Blackfyre Rebellion Bittersteel did not have a hand in leading was the last one and that was because he was already dead!”

Lyanna was amused but she had a real concern. “I understood you were not the most studious of lords.”

“I am not,” Jaime admitted. “But Tyrion still requires a story to fall asleep and gods defend you, if you tell him a story that is not true because he will look it up later to get more information on the subject.”

Lya laughed at that. It was adorable.

“As he was obsessed with dragons long before one hatched for him, I studied all the histories of House Targaryen I could get my hands on. Thankfully, we have three solid sources for me to draw on—a historical analysis of the rule Jaehaerys the Wise, a tome on the Blackfyre Rebellions that my father contributed to, so of course he had it, and a journal of King Loren the Last written about his experiences during the Conquest.”

“I…” Lyanna was shocked. “I want to read every one of those,” she admitted.

“You will,” he promised. Then he hesitated. “What do you think of what I told you all some two days past?”

“I am—” Lyanna paused. How much did she want to reveal? “I am relieved.

“I think I can see how it would have happened. You said he crowned me at Harrenhal, passing over his wife. The idea of such a thing is mortifying. I have thought about it and I certainly would have apologized to her and,” Lyanna looked away before admitting, “I have always found it easier to love other women.

“I have never lain with another woman. I have never lain with anyone, but I have had great emotional satisfaction in my relationships with other girls and I can see the appeal of…his wife.” She felt her face take flame. “Princess Elia is beautiful and kind, wise and patient. An excellent mother.”

“You think what happened then was not about him at all but about her?” Jaime asked.

There was only one thing she could say to that. “If I wanted to wed a man that did nothing other than train at war and brood, I would marry my brother. House Targaryen has certainly made it clear such joinings are to be preferred.”

Jaime grimaced. “I would be pleased if House Targaryen recanted that position.”

“I agree,” Lyanna admitted with amusement. “No more marrying your own sister and every lord gets two wives.”

“Do you want me to take a second wife?” Jaime asked. “Is that something I should advocate for if Harrenhal truly becomes a Great Council?”

“I know not,” Lyanna admitted. “I find comfort with women but I am certain I will take my lady-maids south with me and the daughters of the West will inevitably join me in Casterly Rock as my ladies. I will hardly be alone.

“I do not believe I would enjoy spending a great deal of time in King’s Landing,” she told him to be clear.

He nodded his acceptance. “You should probably see it before finalizing your position, but it would be my preference to remain in the West as much as possible. I have no interest in standing as Hand of the King. I want to separate myself from the man my father was as much as I can without dishonoring him.”

“I agree,” she nodded. “As for a second wife, I cannot be certain. If we find someone that we both want, mayhaps. You are the last of your line. If anyone outside of House Targaryen should have the right to take a second wife, it should be you.

“Was there anyone in your dream?” she asked softly. “A woman you wanted.”

Jaime winced. “There was…” he sighed. “She is currently two.”

“Tell me,” she urged. This time he had chosen her to be his bride, certainly, but she did not know entirely why. Mayhaps learning of this other woman would shed some light on her future husband’s choice.

“She was Brienne of Tarth, the only remaining child of Lord Selwyn of Tarth—her older brother should still be alive, I hope we can meet him at Harrenhal and arrange things to keep him that way.”

“Tarth in the Stormlands?” she asked.


Lyanna nodded. “I will aid you in this task.

“Lady Brienne?” she prompted.

“She hated being called a lady. She wanted to be a knight. Her father had allowed her to be trained as one, she wore a man’s armor, and joined the War of Five Kings as a member of King Renly’s Kingsguard. I cannot—I mean, he could not begrudge her choice despite being bitter opponents for a time; she was in love with Renly. She was not lovely to look upon but Renly was kind to her. He had refused to allow his bannermen to ridicule her when he was Lord of Storm’s End and accepted her in his Kingsguard when House Tyrell put a crown on his head.”

“How did he meet her?” she asked.

He was captured by King Robb and was hostage to keep his father at bay. King Robb’s sisters were the hostage of the king that Jaime was sworn to. Lady Brienne had fallen into the service of King Robb’s mother when Renly was assassinated. The king’s mother released Jaime on the oath that he would see her daughters freed and returned to her. She sent Lady Brienne to see it done.

“They travelled together alone through contested territory, dodging two armies and roving bands of brigands, to reach King’s Landing.

“She had a spine of the finest steel but no one cared to notice because the pommel and scabbard were plain. She was the fiercest of fighters—kicked his arse multiple times, but she saved his life multiple times too. He, in turn, saved hers even though everyone, including him, thought he was beyond any possibility of honor. She brought out the best in him.”

“That is lovely,” Lyanna told him. If Lady Brienne was the same woman in fourteen years, with her brother alive—Lyanna assumed he had died young and Lady Brienne had stepped into his boots—they might need to seek permission of the crown to take a wife together.

Time would tell.

She would rather be married and settled into Casterly Rock before she considered taking a second spouse. That did not mean she could not tease.

“What if I wanted a second husband instead of a wife?” she asked.

Jaime laughed.


“What would you do about House Bolton?” Lyanna asked him later, as they laid traps and snares to check for breakfast in the morning.

“I am not aware of any current conflict between House Bolton and House Stark?” he offered.

“They were the Red Kings until they submitted to the Kings of Winter in the face of Andal Invasion. They are a powerful, ancient House that rule most of our eastern coast,” she explained. “They have openly rebelled against House Stark three times. One of those times, they worked with House Greystark of the Wolf’s Den. It led to the extinction of House Greystark, a cadet line of House Stark.”

“And House Bolton no doubt threw the blame on dead men to survive,” Jaime said.

Lyanna inclined her head. History did not remember those details, but Lyanna could see how they would be true.

“They have threatened Winterfell twice, I am certain my brothers know more details than I do but the last time, House Stark besieged House Bolton within the Dreadfort for nearly two years before they surrendered.”

Two years?” Jaime demanded. “And there were members of House Bolton left?”

“Winter,” she reminded him. “It hits us hard here. We have to keep bigger supplies of food and necessaries than you do in the south.”

Jaime nodded. “That is a valid point. Though I cannot understand why your ancestors allowed House Bolton a third chance to rebel.”

“Your father would not have allowed them a second,” Lyanna said in agreement.

“Certainly not. House Bolton probably sees House Stark as weak because they have allowed House Bolton to linger at all. The only way your House will be safe from them is to end them.”

Lyanna could agree with that. “How would you do it? They have not done anything illegal yet.”

Jaime thought about it until they were done and standing together. The real problem in the House Bolton he had known was Ramsay Snow. The boy’s insanity had drawn out the worst in his father. In turn, Roose Bolton had indulged in the depths of depravity to keep from being usurped by his own son. Until Ramsay killed him, of course.

Ramsay Snow should not be alive yet. He had been the product of— ah. “I have heard Roose Bolton continues to practice First Night despite it being banned by the Kings of Winter and outlawed by King Jaehaerys I.”

“I have heard whispers of that as well.”

“While Lord Bolton is distracted with current events in Winterfell and Harrenhal, I would send men I trust to his lands to speak to the commonfolk. Verify if any of the women have been the victim of First Night. Offer them the moontea, if they have—part of the reason First Night was banned was because men were beating and killing their wives for bearing another man’s children and the women need to be protected.”

“And if any of them are the victim of First Night?”

“Rapists go to the Wall,” Jaime said. “Any man that has murdered his wife for being raped should be executed. If Lord Bolton has not participated in First Night, but has knowingly has allowed men under his rule to break the king’s laws, that is treason and dereliction of duty. He will have to be executed.

“Once Lord Bolton is out of the way, foster his son at Winterfell while someone, mayhaps Brandon, sets the Dreadfort to rights. It will likely take years to punish all of the criminals to be found there, if Bolton is as corrupt as I fear. Whoever does it, will need a large force he can trust at his back and the authority to act in Lord Rickard’s place.”

“Why not just try him on the tree?”

Jaime sighed. “The gods providing men with a way to absolutely know the truth and bind the oaths they are given is a boon. Unquestionably so. I certainly had my lords swear their fealty to me in blood upon the heart tree in Casterly Rock. They thought I was mad until Lady Olenna started the rumor that I did it to please House Stark, then it was just brushed off as a Northern Thing.”

Lyanna snorted inelegantly.

“Precisely,” Jaime agreed with her sentiment entirely. “I did question the maesters in my keep on the heart tree, all four of them. Two have since been given to the tree, but I will tell you what I learned the hard way—investigation is entirely important when dealing with crimes. The investigation informs the questions you should ask and that greatly reduces the number of times you have to bleed a man on the tree to learn the full truth.

“I had suspected Maester Creylen of killing my mother for years. She was healthy and strong before taking to the birthing bed. She had no difficulties delivering twins previously and no stillborn or lost children between the two pregnancies nor before. Her death made no sense to me and I am certain my father would have seen it too, if he could have looked beyond Tyrion but his grief did not allow him the room to do so.

“Thankfully, I was right and was able to force Maester Creylen to admit it quickly. But if I had not managed to achieve his confession of a punishable crime within the first three questions, the West would already be calling me the Mad Lion.

“Mad or cruel,” Jaime allowed. “Instead, there are whispers that I am just and that I honor the traditions of the past. Just whispers, mind, because very few know exactly what happened to Maesters Creylen and Mordayn.”

“Why have you not told anyone?” Lyanna asked. “Maesters killing the lords and ladies they are meant to serve seems rather important.”

“It is, but we have to handle it correctly if we do not want a war with the Citadel,” Jaime admitted. “Princess Elia pulled Prince Rhaegar’s rank on me and ordered the silence of everyone that already knew. He is to bring it up to the lords that attend the Tourney of Harrenhal.”

“Which would be all of them,” Lyanna said.


Lyanna nodded consideringly. “I will need to send my father a raven when we reach Barrowton.”

“You do not wish to wait and discuss the issue of House Bolton with him directly?”

“I am certain I will have to. Likely both of us will be called upon to discuss the issue with him. But he should start considering his options and he will want to see what Benjen knows, if anything, about the First Night accusation.”

Jaime could understand that though, but, “I cannot imagine Benjen Stark knowing one of his father’s bannermen was a rapist and not doing something about it.”

“He may not understand what he knows,” Lyanna offered. “Ben is years from marriage in age and further from it in maturity. He has barely noticed the beauty of maids outside of a speculative exercise.”

“Very well.” He offered her his arm, like they were at a fete rather than covered in forest debris and sweaty from a day in the saddle. “Shall we, my lady?”

Lyanna laughed. “We shall.”

“If I may ask, why did you choose me?” Jaime asked her softly. “Was it simply to avoid marrying Baratheon?”

“That was my main motivation at first,” Lya admitted. “Ned returned from the Vale with three of Robert’s bastards and their mothers in tow. Father’s raven had left him feeling he would not be allowed to return—which was accurate—and he had been supporting both women for the sake of their children. He offered to bring them with him and, as they do have brains in their heads, they agreed.

“I want a husband that will honor and cherish my children as my father did with my mother. Not a man that could lay with a woman and neither think nor care about the consequences.

“I want to matter to my husband.” Lyanna inclined her head. “I also wanted some choice. When I thought I would marry North, I knew I could pick from the sons of my father’s bannermen. Then Eddard decided it would be great for him and Robert to become brothers by law and my choices were taken from me.

“I was entirely relieved the day father received your raven.”

“Do you still feel relieved after…” he trailed off but Lyanna knew what he meant. Was she still relieved after he told her family about his dream?

“To be honest with you, you could be the man from that dream and as long as you honored my children, I would accept you and do my duty to you.

“But you are not that man from that dream,” she continued. “The first thing you did after having that dream was begin the work to fix things. You avoided your sister’s traps and while I would never say the death of a person’s parent is a good thing, you father’s passing has certainly empowered you to change all of Westeros.”

Jaime snorted. “As if I could.”

Lyanna used their joined arms to stop them so she could look her husband in the face. “You already have.”

Jaime blinked at her in shock and she shook her head at his blindness.

“You returned dragons to House Targaryen,” she reminded him. “The Mad King no longer has any legal right to the Iron Throne because he does not have one of them. I understand that Prince Rhaegar is waiting until the Lords choose him at Harrenhal, but they will. The law is clear. And we have received word that knights and lords are leaving King’s Landing in droves—fleeing King’s Landing. They are abandoning King Aerys to seek King Rhaegar and the City Watch is not enforcing Aerys’ will upon the city. Once Rhaegar claims his rights and accepts to oaths of the Lords of the Realm, I have no doubt that a host will march on King’s Landing to depose the king’s father.”

“More, you have uncovered two conspiracies that were actively destabilizing the Realm and executed the traitors responsible for great crimes. There will be war, but after that we have a chance at true peace.

“You saved my family,” she finished softly, reaching up to cup his face. “You saved me. You saved Brandon. You saved father. Even Benjen and Ned will have better lives because of you.

“Personally, I credit you with the rejection the Fish will heap upon House Stark as well.”

Jaime’s frown this time was teasing. “I am to be given credit a for rejection?”

“Not one of us had thought to have the Fish visit the North before the wedding until you asked to come. Then we realized our mistake. More, father realized he had not given Brandon a choice about his match. That is not our way.”

“I like the idea of our children having choices,” Jaime admitted. “But they must do their duty to our House as well.”

Lyanna raised an eyebrow. “I am doing my duty to my House while exercising my right to choose, am I not? It is merely a question of cultivating multiple options for our children. Something House Lannister can certainly achieve.”

“Certainly,” Jaime agreed. “How many children, do you think?”

“No less than two, but I will push out no more than seven on our quest to claim your ideal daughter.”

Jaime beamed. “That is entirely reasonable.”

“And when we have seven sons?” Lyanna asked. “Or when none of our daughters are the right daughter?”

“I suppose around son three, we will need to begin work on recovering Castamere and Tarbeck Hall. Even if I promote our later sons to mere landed knights, they will need seats. And there is no reason to leave the mines of Castamere defunct.”

Lyanna nodded. “I will need information on both keeps so I can help make plans.”

“You will have all that I have. I am certain we can get more, if we need it.” Jaime told her. “Even if we only have two children, it would be wise to reclaim Castamere for the gold and silver mines. Casterly Rock’s mines are, contrary to popular belief, not bottomless and Winter is Coming.”

“The worst winter man has ever known,” she said.

“Certainly,” Jaime agreed but he seemed troubled as he resumed their stroll through the woods. “I would never ask for more than you would willingly give. You must know that. Under any circumstances. Our marriage bed, the birthing bed. You can say no.”

“I do know,” Lyanna agreed. “That is why I chose you.”

“And I thank you for it,” Jaime smiled. “Can you tell me about the northern marriage rites?”

“Is there something in particular you wish to know? Brandon told us he explained them to you.”

“He explained the words and general procedure. I like the fact that there is no vows of obedience or discipline when obedience fails in your oaths,” Jaime offered.

“Compared to the Faith of the Seven there are not much to our oaths at all,” Lyanna pointed out.

“That is hardly a bad thing. The idea of standing together through an hour-long sermon to get married sounds horrific to me.”

Lyanna had to agree. She was horrified. “That happens?”

“My grandfather Tytos’s wedding included a three-hour sermon,” Jaime raised both eyebrows. “Lord Tytos is said to have fallen asleep in the middle of it despite grandmother squeezing his hands to keep his awake.”

“Gods of Stone,” Lyanna breathed. Then she laughed. “That is ridiculous!”

“It is. And then you examine the weirwood rites where we identify who we are, why we are there and that we want this to happen. And done! I cloak you and carry you off to dinner. Simple.”

“Very simple,” she agreed. “But beautiful.”

“I agree,” Jaime assured her. “Are weirwood marriages typically witnessed?”

“They do not have to be,” Lyanna allowed, “because all marriages beneath the tree are witnessed by the Gods. Ours can be and should be considering the rank of our two Houses. The Winterfell godswood is certainly big enough to allow all of my father’s bannermen to attend.”

“And you want them to attend?” Jaime asked.

“I do.”

“Prince Rhaegar and Princess Elia intend to attend.”

“She told me,” Lya confirmed. “It would be a great honor for House Stark. We have never married into House Targaryen. Having members attend the marriage of a member of our House is the next best thing.”

“Until Brandon’s son Brandon marries Princess Rhaenys or this mysterious other daughter that is not alive yet.”

Lya could not resist the urge to laugh. “Brandon will not name his son Brandon!”

“Are you sure?” Jaime teased. “Is it not House Stark tradition to have a Brandon in every generation? Does your Brandon count as the Brandon Stark for as long as he lives?”

“Yes! He does!” Lyanna shook her head. Then she grinned. “So does that mean there are no Brandon Lannisters in our future?”

“Gods, I hope not,” Jaime muttered and she poked him in retaliation. He caught her finger with a laugh. “I would like one son named to honor my brother other than that, I have no preference. As long as it is not Joffrey name them as you like.”

Lyanna made a show of frowning. “That is an awful name. I will need a history of House Lannister to inform my choices.”

“I am not opposed to Stark names other than Brandon,” Jaime assured her. “Naming our son Brandon feels like theft and that is uncomfortable to me.”

“What Stark names do you like?” Lyanna asked.

“Torrhen,” he answered immediately. “I know it is not popular in the North because of the King Who Knelt but I think he made the best choice he could for his people. He did his duty as King and should be honored for it. He held his courage in the face of a fully grown dragon. That is quite a feat.”

Lyanna smiled. Her future husband had studied their history, not just chosen House Stark for their name.

“I like Artos as well—Artos the Implacable!” Jaime grinned. “What a great name that was. Osrick or Edrick would be good names. Rickard, I see nothing wrong with naming a son after your father. He has a strong name and is a good man.

“For daughters, Lysarra and Lynarra would be lovely.”

“I could fall in love with you,” Lyanna realized out loud.

Jaime gave her the gentlest smile she had seen cross his face yet. “That would be a true gift.”


Lyanna had been to easily a dozen weddings in her life. She had been invited to more than she cared to count due to her status as the only daughter of House Stark. Her father had to be careful of which weddings she was allowed to attend because such could be taken as House Stark showing favor to one vassal House over another.

She had always found beauty in the simplicity of the weirwood rites.

Trust southrons to make it complicated.

Her father led her into the godswood, Ice’s pommel gripped in one hand, her hand on his other arm.

Prince Rhaegar stepped forward, looking fierce with his hand on his sword and his hatchling nearly too large to fit across the span of his armored shoulders. “Who comes before the gods?” he demanded. The hatchling underscored his authority with an—honestly, pathetic—jet of flame. Lyanna was glad no one mentioned it outside of a few claps. Based of the besotted grin on the prince’s face, it was the little one’s first flame.

“Lyanna of House Stark, trueborn and noble,” father identified her. “She comes before the gods to wed,” he explained. “Who comes to claim her?”

Jaime stepped forward. He was bold and confident—more so than a boy recently turned six-and-ten had the right to be. “Jaime of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport, and Warden of the West.”

But Lya could understand. It was easy to be confident with your bonded beast behind you and Jaime’s was especially fierce—a fully grown winter lion with fangs as long as her forearm and padded paws larger than her face. The lion was the expected tawny-gold with brown dappled silver shag along her back.

She had stepped out of the woods, cutting them off from the Hunter’s Gate after their trip to Barrowton nearly a week before. Jaime had just sighed, like such a thing could be expected, and asked the lion if Nymeria was a suitable name or if he would have to come up with something else.

Now, Nymeria was in the branches of the heart tree, growling her support of her human. Fortunately, she was large enough that no one had missed her presence, so no one was surprised by her participation.

“Who gives her?” Jaime asked

“Rickard of House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Her father.”

“Lady Lyanna of House Stark,” The Sword of Morning, Ser Arthur Dayne addressed her, Dawn bare in his fist, a clear threat—towards Jaime, if need be. “Do you take this man?”

Lyanna focused on Jaime. He raised a challenging eyebrow and it was all she could do not to laugh. “I take this man,” she agreed.

Jaime and father stepped forward at the same time. She released her father’s arm and took Jaime’s hand. He led her closer to the tree’s face and they knelt when they reached the spot they had agreed on.

She had no idea what she was supposed to pray for. It had never crossed her mind to ask while her mother was alive and now the only thing she could think of was ‘please, gods, do not let me mess this up!‘ Jaime tapped her hand with a finger hidden in the folds of their cloaks after what felt like a suitable period of time, and she tapped his back in agreement.

They rose together.

She turned slightly so he could remove her maiden cloak. From the corner of her eye, she saw him pass it to his Uncle Tygette and take the Lannister wedding cloak from him in turn. He clasped it about her shoulders with a golden lion broach.

When she turned to face him fully, he grinned. “Ready?” he whispered.

She pressed her lips together to contain a giggle and nodded. Her husband—her husband!—swept her off her feet, freeing her giggles, and carried her to the Great Hall.

She, honestly, could have stayed in his arms all night.

They were married!


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