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Winterfell. 297 AC. 'Ned'

Lord Eddard 'Ned' Stark gave out a sight of content as he, Maester Luwin and his wife Catelyn finished going over the numbers. It had been a relatively good year for the North (and as such for Winterfell) with successful fishing, the Manderly's had been fortunate enough that not only had they not lost a single ship, but had been blessed by fair winds all year, allowing for more trade.

"We could have had more Ned if it weren't for the bastard," Cat said with steel in her voice.

Luwin darted his head around as if searching for an escape while Ned let out another sigh, this one out of frustration. It was true in a fashion. Jon, Lyanna's boy that the Realm thought to be his bastard, though unknown to Ned this belief was coming under more and more scepticism in the North. He had brought Jon with him from Dorne at the end of the Rebellion, and had at first been more than pleased that the boy did not resemble his father…had been, being the keyword here. As the boy grew it became abundantly clear that other than having a very pleasing voice and a somewhat more handsome face than most, the boy seemed to have been blown out of Lyanna's nose, and more importantly out of his brother Brandon's nose.

The wolf-blood was strong in the child most said, and Ned, as much as he would like could not disagree with them either. While he tried to give Jon the same education as his own boy Robb, with letting him sit in on Robb's lessons on numbers, letters and the like, Jon seemed to only be at home on the back of a horse or with a sword and axe in his hands. Unless Jon was out riding (with or without permission) he would most often be found in the practice yard, and it showed.

Bastards grew up quicker people said (often using Jon as proof) as after the boy had started to enter into his manhood he shot up like a weed. Half a head taller than Robb (perhaps a shy inch or two of Ned's own height) the boy was broad of shoulders, and from what Ned had seen when the boy shed his shirt on warmer days there appeared to not be an ounce of fat on the boy, which was understandable considering the time he spent honing his skills in combat, with or without weapons, and Ned was often stung with painful remembrance when he laid eyes on the boy, as it was almost like seeing Brandon in the flesh, the same laughter…the same wildness and look of mirth on his face.

While the boy was still young Ned hadn't given it much thought, simply glad that the boy reminded him so much of the brother and sister he had lost, and then he started growing. His voice deepened, his face started to mature, losing the babyfat and the start of a beard, and most distressingly to his wife (and by default Ned who had to listen to her complaints) the boy started to take an interest in girls and alcohol, and much worse, the girls started to take an interest in him. Regardless of his status as a bastard, the boy had a…vitality to him that drew people in, a youthful vitality that Ned could remember Brandon also possessing, and he suspected Cat remembered it too as she had been constantly hounding him, and keeping an abnormally sharp eye on the boy ever since he had turned two-and-ten.

She was right to be afraid. While Brandon had done his fair share of chasing girls he had only bedded the one to Ned's knowledge, his position as the oldest son of Rickard Stark keeping him somewhat in check. Jon…had no such responsibilities. He was more than aware of his status as a bastard, and knowing how his father's wife detested him, knew that legitimization was a more unrealistic ream than hatching a dragon. He would gain no holdfasts or gain a good marriage, at least not while Catelyn Tully lived, and combined with Ned's refusal to tell him anything about his mother seemed to make it his life's goal to enjoy life to the fullest.

The boy had not even turned three-and-ten the first time he was escorted into Ned's solar by a fuming Rodrik Cassel who was holding the boy by the ears. Barely standing due to the ale he had consumed, there had not been an ounce of shame on the boy's face as Ser Rodrik explained angrily how he had caught Jon in bed with his second oldest daughter. Ned had been disappointed of course, had even yelled at Jon and forced the boy to apologize, though from the look on Jon's face the only thing the boy regretted was being caught.

Remembering the promise, he had made to Lyanna on her deathbed Ned had never thought to foster Jon away with someone else, but seeing how much the boy reminded him of Brandon he had tried to give it a go, if only to give Cat (and himself) some peace of mind. A short discussion with Lord Medger of House Cerwyn and Jon had been shipped off. It would be good for the lad Ned had reasoned to himself, to spend some time outside of Winterfell on a permanent basis, and being only half a day's ride away, Jon could still visit when he felt like it. He had warned Medger about Jon being 'more than a handful' and to not let Jon be alone around women, to which Medger had just laughed and made a few amused remarks about wolf's-blood.

Jon had made it almost a year visiting perhaps a day or two every week, before Medger had ridden hard to Winterfell, absolutely furious after having discovered Jon in the bed of his youngest daughter Lyra. Ned had almost lost his composure when he saw how furious Medger was, as the Lord of Cerwyn was for the most of the time a very calm man. Apparently discovering Jon in bed with his daughter had been the last straw, as Jon had just earlier that very night, managed to end up in a brawl at the local tavern which had ended with the entire stockpile of ale washing out on the floor, three broken arms, one broken jaw and black eyes for every man involved (Jon himself was sporting two very impressive ones). Exactly what had set of the brawl was never discovered as neither Jon nor any of the others involved came clean, so Ned's only choice had been to thank Medger for taking Jon in (and to hand over a small pouch of gold for his daughter's maidenhead).

Ned's fury when Medger had left had been enough to frighten Jon onto something resembling the straight and narrow path…for a few good peaceful weeks at least, that is until Theon had said the wrong thing to Jon.

From what Ned had unearthed, Jon had quite literally run into Theon at the brothel in Winter Town, both boys apparently of the same mind, and when the…'Lady' of Theon's desire, as well as another had apparently flubbed the Greyjoy (and his coin) in favour of welcoming Jon back to Winterfell free of charge, (Ned was unwillingly impressed at that) Theon had apparently whispered the wrong thing in Jon's ears, as in the next moment five of his guards had thrown themselves at Jon to pull him away before he beat Greyjoy to death (instead of the black and blue the Greyjoy had been reduced to). What had been said was unknown to Ned as Jon simply stood in defiant smugness, refusing to say a word other than that Theon had given him grave insult. Theon himself was as of yet unable to say anything on account of a broken jaw and broken wrist.

That had been a bad night as after he had dismissed Jon back to his rooms (with two guards ensuring he stayed there) he'd had to listen to Cat rant for another hour. Eventually he caved just to relieve himself of the headache. A flight of the Raven later and Jon had been shipped to Bear Island, with Ned hoping that the She-Bear Maege could beat some sense into the lad, and considering how fond she was of clobbering people, himself included over the head with her fists or mace he had good hope that perhaps she could turn Jon into a decent lad…how wrong he had been.

He had received plenty of Ravens, both from Jon himself (who was very pleased at where he was) and from Lady Maege. With the men of Bear Island often being gone for weeks on end due to fishing, it was quite common for the womenfolk to pick up the sword or axe whenever the island found itself under attack, and Jon who had no interest what so ever in fishing had chosen to stay on the island instead to 'help out' as he had written in a letter, though Ned feared he had ulterior motives (one of a handful of men all alone on an island with nearly only women came to mind). Still it was good that Jon had chosen to stay, as the wildlings from north of the Wall and 'raiders' 'ironborn,' he thought angrily he seemed to choose to step up their activities. During Jon's time he had been at the forefront of no less than eight wildling incursions (two on land near the wall and six on the island itself) and three 'pirate' raids, that last raid was the cause for no end of headaches for Ned.

Six longships (bearing no sigil) had landed on Bear Island and been slaughtered almost to a man, with the exception of the crew of one ship that had not only managed to escape but to also bring with the Maege's fourth daughter Jorelle. Jon had taken exception to that (and Ned was almost afraid to think of why he had been so furious) and had gathered together four hundred men and women from Bear Island (including Maege's eldest daughter), taken the remaining five longships and set off in hot pursuit. They had caught up with the longship which held Jorelle not too far away from the Iron Islands and killed everyone on board, and if only they had stopped at that Ned would have been satisfied, but of course, following common sense when his blood was up had never been Jon's strength, and Jon's rage had by all accounts been terrible indeed.

The ironborn had apparently taken liberties with Jorelle and both raped her and beaten her, and (according to rumour) the raid had been led by Donnel Drumm, the second son of Dunstan Drumm. Donnel had (most likely on Jon's orders) been nailed to the mast of the ship and the six ships had raised colours bearing the heraldry of House Drumm and approached Old Wyk. To their fortune (misfortune for the Ironborn) they had arrived at a time when most of the strength of the Ironborn were at sea, and they had fallen upon the island while it was in the middle of the night.

What few people who were out and about that night had been ruthlessly (and silently) been cut down and dumped in the sea. Showing a surprising level head, Jon had managed to restrain himself (and the Bear Islanders) from doing to the ironborn what the ironborn had done to them for centuries and left a few men behind while launching a stealthy attack on Lord Drumm's small keep. The attack had been so sudden and so violent that it had been over before it began, Lord Drumm's oldest son Denys had lost his hand. Lord Drumm had been beheaded while still abed, and Jon and his Northerners had taken with them everything of value that wasn't chained down, including the ancestral Valyrian Steel sword Red Rain that had belonged to the Drumm's for centuries. Escaping back from whence they came Jon and his men (and women had torched the remaining ships in the harbour and fled back north.

While Lady Maege had been proud of Jon and her children, (and thankful for the return of her daughter) she had scolded them severely for their rash actions, and explained the details in a very long letter to ned that was delivered by a trusted courier.

Once he learnt of the attack he had felt something give in his stomach as he was filled with a strange mix of pride at Jon's dedication to justice, worry at his recklessness, and lastly anger at the headache he was about to receive. Denys Drumm (the new Lord of Old Wyk) had understandably complained to the King, demanding both reparations from the North, the return of his family sword and lastly Jon's head (tales of just who had led the attack spread quickly). Fortunately, Ned had managed to smooth things over, though he would never forgive Jon for forcing him to ride south to King's Landing to speak with Robert and Jon Arryn.

Robert and Jon at the very least understood, though he had to admit he was a bit confused at the sly grins the King and the Hand shared whenever Jon was brought into a conversation. The Queen had been all for punishing Jon as harshly as possible, going so far as to demand that Jon's sword would be confiscated by the crown for the trouble Jon's actions had brought. At least Ned, Jon Arryn and Robert had been in agreement there, the boy would keep the blade, Robert had even surprised Ned by saying that the 'ironborn cunts could shut the hell up, as according to their own traditions the boy had paid the blasted Iron Price.' It had taken a good week of quarrelling back and forth as Lord Drumm and a few fellow ironborn had continued to make one outrageous demand after another, it wasn't until Robert had threatened another invasion of the Iron Islands, this one with a more permanent result, that the ironborn had left, with Ned's sympathies for their losses, and a 'treaty' that wasn't worth the ink or paper it was written on that the ironborn would stay away from the North and vice versa, quite frankly Ned estimated that it would take at the most two moons before they would see an increase in 'pirating'.

Finally returning home in a fury, he had summoned the Lords of the North to a meeting where they would discuss the future. As always happened when the Lords of the North gathered, there was drinking, boasting, outright fistfights even as too many Lords with more pride than sense (and a love of their own voice) all wanted to make their voices heard. It had been hard work…very hard work to finally manage to get some semblance of coherence in the proceedings but they managed eventually.

As Jon had been introduced to the Lords, he had been able to convince them of the necessity of hard work and sacrifice as he told of the raids by both ironborn and wildlings, and recounted to roaring applause and wide grins of how he and the men and women from Bear Island had reciprocated against the ironborn at Old Wyk, Jon gleefully showing off his greatsword Red Rain (that was aptly named as the steel was as dark red as blood). Construction of a new keep and port town on Sea Dragon Point would commence, and serve as a base for a new Northern fleet. With the Wolfswood so close it was the ideal place to make a new 'watch point' for the North. Lord Manderly had agreed to provide shipwrights, every House in the North had agreed to provide on tenth of the men they had at their disposal to settle (and help build) the new western stronghold of the North. In addition work would start to rebuild Moat Cailin and provide it with a permanent garrison.

Jon who had been quite honoured at allowing to stay after telling his story, had not been so pleased after, when Ned informed him that Jon's own spoils from the raid on Old Wyk would be used for this new plan, as it was due to him the measures would be taken. Had Ned not been so tired after a long night in a smoky room, bursting with noise he'd have been worried when Jon accepted so easily, but sadly Ned had been too tired to see the eager look in his near six-and-ten year old's nephew's eyes as he asked to be excused for the night. Giving his assent Ned had retired to his own bed where Cat was already waiting for him, glad that Jon was finally shaping up to the expectations of a Stark, regardless if he carried the name or not…he should have known better.

So, looking back, Ned could see why Cately had been displeased with Jon. Even if the boy was not a bastard he had brought more than enough headaches along over the years. He had at least aquitted himself somewhat over the last year or so, as he had worked hard (if not eagerly) at Sea Dragon Point. The harbour was already done, most of the housing, the keep itself was all but done, lacking only furnishing, and the curtain wall and gate around the town was coming along nicely. Under the sharp eyes of Wyman Manderly's shipwrights a full twenty warships had been finished, large doubled decked galleys. The bottom deck for the oarsmen, while the top deck held room enough for a pair of catapults and a dozen scorpions, the front of each ship held a pointy bronze ram, that would gouge large holes in a ships side, including below the waterline. Lastly the fledgling new port town held a constant garrison of a thousand armed men, who (along with the ships) had already seen much action, fending off no less than over two dozen raiding attacks, from the size of a single longship to a large warband of perhaps a score of ships.

Receiving reports of these attacks Ned was pleased that Lord Wyman's second son Wendel was the temporary Castellan of the place, a fact that had been strictly pointed out to everyone, as Jon had wanted more than once to engage any and every raiding party that came regardless of their size. At least the boy had learnt how to cool his temper somewhat and apply his mind more tactically as more and more raids were suffered, though the raids appeared to have halted as it had been near two moons since the last reported raid. While the loss of life that resulted from each raid, they were a boon as well, as the North had received over a hundred longships, as a result, and more than enough steel. Jeor Mormont was happy as the Night's Watch had been bolstered by a good two hundred men, the Northern Lords were pleased as the good steel and armour they confiscated was divided amongst them, and Ned was pleased as the Longships were sailed down the coast and up the Fever River, where the lightweight ships were carried across land to the White Knife and then sailed to Braavos and sold at auction, leaving more than one Northern Lord toasting the ironborn for basically financing their entrenching of their west coast.

Of course, as always there were downsides, and Ned was a bit distraught at how many of them could be tied solely at Jon's feet. Jon's popularity was growing across the North, his actions against the ironborn, his skill with a sword, the brutal ferocity which with he attacked (even his…promiscuity) was quickly making the 'Bloody Wolf' as northerners started to call him into a legend in the North. And the more people spoke (or whispered) about Jon, and shot both Jon and Ned knowing grins, the more Cat raged and feared that Jon would usurp Robb. And no matter how many times Ned or Robb told her otherwise she refused to let go of her fears, and to Ned's silent fury just treated the boy worse.

At least Robb and Jon liked eachother, treating each other as brothers as much as they could, Robb didn't lord his heritage over Jon, and Jon refrained from making Robb feel inadequate whenever martial prowess was discussed. Though Ned knew that Robb was somewhat jealous, not only with Jon's talent, but also his free spirit, doing for the most part what he wanted. Robb could do the same of course, but was far more conscious of not only his duty as heir, but was also less…willing to subject himself to punishment, which was a boon to Ned, as both Arya, Bran and RIckon adored their often absentee bigger brother, whose first action whenever he came back from one of his trips regaled them with (surely exaggerated) tales of adventure.

Sansa had also liked these tales, that is until the one day Jon had been less than sober and shared some of the more…risqué details of his travels. Sansa who was at that point old enough to understand how children were made had been horrified and refused to ever hear another tale, but was still somewhat fond of her older 'brother' as many of her fellow lady friends oft compared Jon to a wandering Knight, keeping the North and Winterfell safe from harm and dealing out justice in the name of the King. When Ned had discovered these stories and rumours it had been far too late to deal with them (to Cat's dismay) as Jon's 'heroism' and 'gallantry' was firmly fixed in their minds.

Glancing out the window for a moment Ned tried to come up with a response that would hopefully please Cat, but try as he might he failed to find a single answer that would not only please her but save Jon's hide.

"We should thank him Cat, had it not been for him, Jorelle Mormont would probably be either dead or an irnoborn's saltwife. Not to mention that we would not be as strong as we are now. For centuries we've been without a fleet, and our western coast is stronger and more prepared than it has ever been before".

Cat snarled angrily in return. "There wouldn't be a need for it if it hadn't been for the boy running off like he does, like he always does," she stressed the last two words. "Not to mention he has a bastard of his own now, the father can be no one else."

Ned knew of course what she was talking about, the wee baby girl sleeping at this time of night in a room next to Jon's. The girl's mother, a serving wench that Jon had tempted into his bed at some point had died birthing the girl, and the maid's sad father had brought the wee girl to Winterfell to ask for some small amount of coin in support so that the girl could be raised. Ned had done one better and offered his 'granddaughter' to be raised in Winterfell. 'The girl is of my blood, she will stay here,' he had told the man (who already had six other mouths to feed). The man had been at the same time, sad to see his granddaughter go, but also pleased that she would be taken care of.

Thinking back on the first time he laid eyes on Jon's daughter (Lyarra, the babes mother had named her) he felt his lips tremble slightly in a smile. It was clear that the girl was Lyanna's granddaughter, her head already at three moons holding a rather generous amount of curly raven locks, and the grey eyes and slightly long face demonstrated her Stark traits quite well (and like Lyanna the babe a very healthy set of lungs on her). Ned might be a wee disappointed that Jon had been careless enough to father a bastard (and so close to home too), but at the same time he was somewhat pleased. If anything could calm Jon down somewhat, the prospect of fatherhood and being responsible for a little girl should do it, and while Ned was seldom one to participate in schadenfreude he was almost looking forward to Jon discovering that he was now a father.

He gave Cat a slightly warning look (he didn't like the spite she had for Jon, and now also Jon's daughter). "We all knew that this would probably happen sooner or later…he is much like his uncle in that way," Ned said before he could think, and he suddenly felt his stomach sink as Cat's face twisted in a myriad of emotions, shock, anger, indignation and lastly horrified realisation.

"That's it," she hissed suddenly as she pointed a shaking finger at him.

"He's Brandon's boy! Why didn't you tell me?" and then she threw herself into Ned's horrifyingly confused arms. How she had come to that conclusion he had no idea…at least not until he thought back somewhat and things started to make sense. It was true after all, Jon was far too much like Lyanna (and by default Brandon who had been similar spirit). The knowing looks and whispers that followed the boy, even the Greatjon slapping Jon on the back (nearly sending the boy to the ground) while exclaiming 'you're your father's son alright.' When Ned had overheard that comment he had been somewhat confused (and somewhat insulted), but now, if the Lords of the North thought Jon to be Brandon's boy he could understand why the Greatjon said that.

Seizing on the golden opportunity to add another layer of deception for Jon's safety Ned seized the moment with both arms, figuratively speaking of course. "I…I didn't want your memories of Brandon to be tainted by him being unfaithful to you," Ned said solemnly as he stroked Cat's back comfortingly, Maester Luwin still standing in a corner, somewhat shocked at the revelation.

"You silly man," Cat hiccupped as she wiped her tears. "I knew what sort of man Brandon was…everyone knew."

Ned winced. "I am sorry my love, can you forgive me?"

Cat kissed him softly on his lips. "I forgive you…but that doesn't mean I will develop a liking to the boy," she finished harshly.

Ned sighed. "I didn't expect you would, but could you try, for my sake at least to treat the girl somewhat civilly, she is my only grandniece after all."

Cat closed her eyes in pain or shame or something else Ned didn't know. "I…I'll try to be better to her than I was to the…Jon, more than that I cannot promise."

Well, it was better than Ned expected at least. "Thank you, and I believe Jon will thank you as well."

"Speaking of…Jon. Where is the boy?" Cat asked suddenly, causing both Ned and Luwin to furrow their brow somewhat.

Jon had left earlier that day to hunt in the Wolfswood, and usually returned around time for dinner, regardless if he caught something or not, and worse, Rickard Karstark, his sons and daughter would be arriving in Winterfell to sup with them and stay for a few days, and it would be just Ned's luck if Jon was to arrive covered in blood, mud and animal guts when they were entertaining guests.

A sudden pounding on the door to his solar broke Ned out of his thoughts. "Yes," he said loudly.

"Begging your pardon milord, there's…trouble in the courtyard," Donnel, the guard outside said.

"Tell me it wasn't…" Ned started to say just as Donnel continued.

"Jon and the Karstark boys got into a scrap milord."

'THUNK' Ned groaned loudly and massaged the sides of his head in frustration after he let his forehead slam onto his desk. Of course it was Jon, there was always something to do with Jon, and regardless of how much he frustrated Ned and added grey hears on his head, he loved the boy as if he was one of his own. Resigning himself to another long and sleepless night Ned rose from his chair and walked to the courtyard, Donnel, Cat and Lywin following him. Both Rodrik and Jory Cassel joined them shortly before they entered the courtyard, and what a sight it was that met them.

Robb, Theon, Bran and Arya were all in various states of laughter or amusement, Robb and Theon being the worst, as they were all struggling to stay upright, the only thing keeping them on their feet was to his surprise his brother Benjen who was supporting the boys, while trying his best to keep his own lips from tugging upwards in amusement.

Several of his guards, were all exchanging coins, no doubt having betted on something. That something became quite clear as Jon stood in the middle of the courtyard, with the three Karstark boys, Harrion, Torrhen and Eddard all lying on the ground, groaning in pain, though from the state of Jon they had given him quite the fight, at least Ned assumed the bloody nose and rapidly swelling eye on Jon came from the fight. Seated on his horse was Rickard Karstark who was red in the face, not only glaring balefully at Jon, but also with disappointment at his boys who most likely jumped Jon the moment they laid eyes on him. The reason became abundantly clear to Ned as he laid eyes on Rickard's daughter, 'only daughter,' he reminded himself. Alys Karstark, a young woman of six-and-ten stood beside her father with a nervous look on her face, and worse in her arms Ned could see a small bundle that contained a young babe a few moons old at the most, a babe with black curly hair and as the girl shifted her position slightly Ned could spot the grey eyes, 'Stark eyes,' that belonged to the babe.

"Fuck," he said as his frustration and resignation finally boiled over. Locking his gaze at Jon, Ned was somewhat pleased to see his nephew for once in his life swallow nervously as the facts of the situation finally hit him and ned felt a wolfish grin steal over his face. "Jon…come here," he said as he gestured for Jon who shuffled over nervously, and once again Ned was struck at How. Bloody. Similar, the boy was to Ned's deceased brother.

"Yes father," Jon said nervously as he tried to give his father a winning smile, that not as winning as Jon probably thought, considering his bloody nose and mouth.

Ned smacked Jon hard over the back of the head as he tried to convey just how displeased he was at the current situation. "Get to my Solar and stay there," he said. "I'll deal with you…shortly."

For once in his life the boy listened and moved into the keep so swiftly that Ned almost thought he'd galloped past him on a horse. Turning his gaze back to Rickard who seemed a bit more pleased Ned gestured for his sometimes many removed kinsman to dismount and come over. "I assume you want to…deal with this in a somewhat more private setting Rickard?"

Rickard nodded. "Boys, stop bitching and get yourself cleaned up," he barked at his sons who groaned once more in complaint. "I don't want to hear a word of it, you should have known better than to go up against the Bloody Wolf…pardon My Lord," Rickard said suddenly. The nickname was well known, but no one were foolish enough to say it in front of Ned.

"No need to worry Rickard, I am well aware of my…Jon's name here in the North."

Turning his gaze to the babe that was still nestled in Alys Karstark's arms Ned extended his arms. "May I?"

The girl looked nervously at her father who nodded before gently placing the babe in Ned's arms. Like Jon's daughter there was no question that the babe was fathered by Jon. The same hair, same eyes, even the silken curly locks on the babe's head pointed to Jon having had another 'adventure', and considering the age of the babe (a few moons old at the most), Ned silently cursed himself as he realized that Jon must have…'acquainted' himself with Alys Karstark during the week the Northern Lords were all gathered in Winterfell. Naturally such a demonstration had made the Lords bring their sons and daughters along, no doubt hoping to arrange a good marriage, and while Ned suspected that Rickard had wanted Alys to find her way to Robb's bed, he didn't seem too displeased that Alys had gotten a 'present' from Jon either, as 'Snow' or not, due to Jon's reputation he was considered a somewhat good catch in the North.

"His name is Torrhen," she said suddenly. "After my favourite brother," she blushed slightly, while said brother pretended to preen in the background (causing his other two brothers to give him a slap each across the back of his head).

"Torrhen is a good name," Ned said as he gave Alys a slight smile. "It is a name fit for Kings."

"Thank you My Lord," Alys curtsied before taking her son back into her arms.

"Follow me to my Solar," Ned said. "Cat, make sure that supper is ready and get the boys and girls to clean themselves up."

Cat nodded slightly, hurrying off to start haranguing Robb and Theon, who as the eldest ones should know better than to make a spectacle of themselves, while Ned, Rickard, Alys, Luwin, Benjen and Ser Rodrik all made their way to Ned's solar where they found Jon pacing nervously back and forth.

"Take a seat, you to Jon," Ned said, his words to Jon held a rather…sharper tone compared to the tone he'd taken with the others. Waiting for the others to sit down, Ned observed his nephew and tried his best to keep his face calm, even as he was laughing like King Robert on the inside, to finally have Jon, not only over the barre so to speak, but with a pack of hungry hounds surrounding him, Ned felt that perhaps Lyanna's ghost had decided to give him a reprieve for whatever he had done to her to make her punish him by providing him with a baby boy of Jon's type.

"Well Jon…do you have anything to say to yourself?" Ned asked sharply, causing Jon to tear his somewhat dazed faced away from the sight of the babe that was nestled in Alys' arms.

"Umm…" Jon's face was scrunched up in concentration, trying to come up with a decent explanation.

"If you lay with enough girls some will give you presents boy," Ser Rodrik said with vindictive pleasure, the old Knight never having quite forgiven Jon for his former…dalliance with his daughter.

Alys blushed slightly at Rodrik's words, while Jon glared sullenly back at Rodrik. Rickard, much like Ned had experience enough to keep his face calm, but from the way his eyes shone he was just as amused as Ned was. Benjen had no such compunctions and was sniggering openly in the background.

"Rickard, do you have anything to say?" Ned asked.

"I don't want to seem…greedy Ned, but I had been in the process of arranging a marriage between Alys and young Daryn of Hornwood, but thanks to my daughter and your, ah, 'son' I do not quite know what to do…she refuses to give up the babe, and I don't have the heart to force her either."

Ned nodded thoughtfully, though he did narrow his eyes slightly at Rickard's overt questioning of Jon's parentage. It was sad that Rickard's plan for a good marriage to the girl had been foiled, but perhaps it was still salvageable, and if anything, could get Jon on the straight and narrow path it would have to be the combination of marriage and fatherhood.

"I may have a suggestion," Ned said. "Though I need to speak with you in private Rickard."

Rickard nodded and took a seat again as the other inhabitants of the Solar disappeared, with the exception of Benjen who Ned allowed to stay, perhaps it would be for the best to let Benjen in on the 'secret' of Jon's father as well.

"I assume you know who the boy's father really is Rickard?"

Rickard laughed. "I would say that 'Brandon's bastard' is the worst kept secret in the North," he said, causing Benjen's eyes to widen for a moment before he slapped a hand to his forehead, no doubt connecting the same clues everyone else had…and coming to the wrong conclusion.

"Here is what I propose, in return for bout YOU and Jon, waiving Jon's claim to Winterfell before any of my own sons, I will write to Robert and have him legitimize Jon. In return Jon will wed Alys."

Both Rickard and Benjen looked somewhat shocked at this. Ned knew of course that Cat would demand that both Sansa and Arya come before Jon, but as much as he loved his daughters, he'd rather have Jon as Lord of Winterfell before Sansa and Arya, especially as both girls would be bombarded by who knows how many men intent on fetching such a prize.

"Where will they live?" Rickard asked. "I could I suppose provide them with a small holdfast but…"

Ned held up a hand to stop him. "I am in need of a Lord to take permanent residence in Moat Cailin, and there are few in the North better suited than Jon to keep an eye on the south".

"And threaten the Frey's," Rickard laughed. "How is the moat coming along?" he asked.

"The old wooden bailey on the central hill has been torn down and a slightly smaller one of stone has been raised in its place. The three surrounding towers have been repaired, while another two have been raised, the gatehouse has been improved upon and a new set of outer walls are coming along with two more towers as well, it should be finished within another year or so the builders tell me," Ned said to the surprise of Benjen who had not been informed about the fortifying of the North that had been going on for the last year.

"Have you thought on what they'll live from?" Benjen asked suddenly. Moat Cailin and its domain held large areas of land, but much of it was unusable swamps, bogs and marshes, the people living in the 'habitable' land were for the most part fishermen or potato farmers.

Ned smiled in return. "Our increasingly regular trips to Braavos to seel off ironborn longhsips led to the Manderly's discovering a new type of food from a Yitish trader. Rice they call it, and apparently the northern parts of the marshland of Moat Cailin is perfect for growing it. I've already arranged for a shipment of rice and men from Yi-Ti who will settle and show our farmers how to grow it are on the way. From what I've heard the development of rice fields will require little work, and it is also easy to make food out of, like potatoes one needs only boil it in water…depending on how much of the marshes can be reworked into rice fields, and with our increase in building small fishing sloops the North may become more or less self-sufficient with food, even during winter as apparently rice can be stored for long periods of time."

Both Rickard and Benjen seemed quite pleased at that notion. "Depending on the harvest, and if we can manage to get the southerners- "Rickard nearly spat the last word out. "-They can make a good amount of coin."

"Exactly," Ned nodded. "So I assume you will accept my offer then?"

Rickard nodded eagerly. "Of course Ned, I'd be happy to have Alys wed your so-nephew," he grinned slightly as he caught himself.

"There is…one last thing," Ned said as he rubbed the back of his neck, "Just a few days ago we took in a child…Jon's child by a serving maid here in Winterfell," Ned figured it was best to just tell the truth as quickly as possible.

Benjen gave a loud cough as he tried to avoid laughing while Rickard blanched a bit before furrowing his eyebrows. "Considering the boy's father…I cannot say I am surprised," Rickard said slowly. "From what I've heard about the boy I'm surprised he doesn't have more."

Both Ned and Benjen chuckled at this, Ned because he knows how Jon is, and Benjen because he had received more than one letter from Ned, so he knew more than enough himself. "As much as it pains me to say it, Jon is his father's son, and he probably do have more out there, we just don't know about them."

Rickard nodded thoughtfully. "One bastard from before he was wed or even betrothed can be forgiven, but I will not be pleased if he dishonours my daughter from this point on, they are now betrothed and to be wed soon."

"Oh you have my guaranties that Jon will not dishonour your daughter Rickard," Ned said coldly, "I'll make damn sure that he does not," just how he would accomplish this he didn't know yet, but he'd find a way, he must find a way.

This was apparently good enough for Rickard who first shook Ned's hand and then bowed respectfully, distant kin they may be, and friends beside, Ned was still his Liege Lord and honour dictated that the proper rites be observed at the fulfilment of a deal. "Well, shall we go tell Jon and Alys the good news?"

The reaction he got was a bit mixed. Rickard seemed pleased as pie, while Benjen was sniggering at the idea of Jon being chained in marriage. He loved the boy, but he knew that with all the headaches he had caused Ned (and worried fathers) over the years, there was no other boy in the North more deserving of being wedded off to a wife that according to Rickard would not only chop his balls off if he dishonoured her, but also had three older brothers, a rather fierce great uncle, who himself had two sons and three grandsons, none who would be pleased if Jon decided to continue to imitate his father or King Robert.

Soon enough Alys and Jon who was holding little Torrhen in his arms entered, and both Ned and Benjen were quite smug at seeing Jon finally being brought low. Send him up against wildlings or ironborn or even wild dangerous animals and Jon would just grin, laugh and cut them down, but confront him with his own child and he was suddenly turned into a domesticated little pup.

Waiting for Jon and Alys to take their seats, Rickard took his grandson from Jon's arms just in case. "Congratulations Jon," Ned said with a slight smile. "You'll be wed to Alys at the start of the next moon."

Alys at least got over her shock quickly, her slightly widened eyes turning smug while a pleased smile stretched across her face while Jon stiffened in shock, gazing back and forth between the other occupants in the room. Seeing that Jon was incapable of words at the moment Ned continued.

"I'll write to Robert to have you and your son legitimized, after your wedding you'll be given Moat Cailin as your seat."

Jon's mouth opened and closed on its own account, no words coming forth, and Ned felt warmth fill him as for the first time since Jon was still a little boy tears actually appeared in his eyes, though it was the first time he had seen tears of happiness on Jon, who despite the fact that he lived life to the fullest, had always harboured some resentment to his status as a bastard, and had probably spent his entire life hoping to truly be a Stark. Jon was quick to recover however and Ned felt a flutter of worry rise in him as a dastardly grin stretched across Jon's face.

"Thank you father, you have no idea how much this means to me…but you do realize that you are the one who have to inform Lady Stark of this don't you?

Ned felt ice creep up his spine, he hadn't thought about it too much, knowing his wife would not be happy about it, but just how unhappy she would be he hadn't contemplated. "Oh fuck!"

AN: This idea has been toying with me for a long time so I had to get a draft down. I intend to continue this as well as my other GoT/ASoIaF story. Speaking of that other story I currently have about 2k words written, and it is coming along slowly but surely. I am also in the need of a beta, so if anyone are willing please give me a pm.

Do tell me if you like this, and if you want me to continue it along with my other story. One last thing, I am using for the most part the GOT timeline instead of the books, so Jon is seventeen and Alys is sixteen at the end of this chapter here. The 'main events' of the show/books will start roughly three months after this. I will be using some mix between the books and show, everyone aged up due to the longer time between the rebellion and 'current events', Dany is NOT fireproof (one of the things I disliked most about the show) Jorah the Andal is still Lord Friendzone, Baelish is Baelish…a huge cocksucking douchebag imo. Sansa…I don't have anything to say about the actress, but I find her in both the books and the show to be one of the most naïve girls out there, and along with Cat and Petyr did a splendid job in getting her father killed. Also, mooning so hardcore over the shitstain called Joffrey that even someone with a huge crush should be able to spot was a douchebag and taking his side instead of her own sister…unforgivable.

Cat, in the show she was quite kind actually in how she behaved towards Jon, especially in comparison as to how she treated him in the books (like telling Ned that as soon as he left for Kings Landing, Jon would be out on his own with his thumb up his arse). Still not sure if I want to have 'Faegon' involved in this, as the story will for the most part revolve around Jon and the fight of the North against the Lannisters and their toerags (IE: powerhungry Tyrells)

*SIGH* Rant over.

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