Dec 04, 2022 7:34 AM
We make no promises about finishing this before Winds of Winter comes out
Permalink

The godswood at Riverrun has a proper weirwood heart tree at the center of its living web of redwoods and green, but that's about all that's right about it. Nothing is actually directly wrong about it, precisely, it's just... also not right. Tame, tended, like someone's prized garden for lounging instead of a place for the old gods. Not somewhere that has been given to them entirely. The slender white weirwood, with its carved face of sorrow and tears of sticky blood red sap, looks more out of place than welcome. It doesn't match its bright, airy, flower covered surroundings at all. All of the godswoods north of the Neck are still and silent, like all the world is holding its breath waiting for something unknowably old to whisper. Here, there is the irritating cry of birdsong. It's the difference between seeing a well bred dog and a wolf. Obvious. Blatant. A bit insulting, even, if one thinks too much about it and has half a mind to search every shadow for biting implications. Dogs are still dangerous, but dress them up enough, and they make you forget. One should never forget of the danger of any gods, especially the old. Places that belong to them are not for garden parties.

Certainly not this many fucking flowers.

But for one wolf, trapped inextricably in these high red sandstone walls by chains of duty and injustice, it is perhaps the least wrong place available in any reasonable amount of time.

Total: 487
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

When Alis had heard Riverrun sported a godswood, he had hoped to have a little taste of, of home here. But as he steps out into the crisp Spring air and looks around himself the disgust showing on his face deepens. He tries to pretend he's back home, even closes his eyes so that he doesn't have to stare at the flowers. Sheds his coat so that what little cold there's left in the air will get to him more, compound the illusion for a bit. And his feet take him to the tree as if by instinct, guided by he knows not what, without sight to show him the way. Nevertheless, he is a Stark, and he must open his eyes face reality for what it is, even when what it is is a perversion of his hopes and expectations, of the promises the world has made him.

Of the promises that infuriating man has made him.

This is a war. This is not a little scuffle between kids at sword practice; this is conflict, this is armies marching on their enemies and extracting victory from their still-warm guts. He does not have time for Hoster Tully's bullshit.

The Mad King's son "took" his sister - and it does not sit right with Alis, that Brandon and their father immediately jumped to the conclusion that she had been abducted, as if they had not met Lyanna, as if they did not know that she would sooner slice her own throat than be taken by a man she did not want - but he had not been there when they heard the news, and by the time he did it was too late; his father and brother had flown to King's Landing and demanded of the Mad King the return of Lyanna, as if the Mad King would ever deign to listen to them. He does what he wants, despite everything; another blight on the Targaryen family tree. And what he wanted turned out to be literally setting Alis's father on fire while his brother strangled himself attempting to reach a sword to free him. To make matters worse, the King decided to ask for Alisander's own head, just for being a Stark, as well as Zakary's, for being Lyanna's betrothed.

Zakary, too, did not hear of this affair until too late. He does not love Lyanna (Alis knows this well), but he admires her, and in their private conversations he's agreed with Alisander's assessment that if Prince Rhaegar has Lyanna it's because Lyanna wants him to have her. And all very well, it would be a slight on Zakary's honour but Alis is sure Zak would have let her stay with the Prince with good grace, and probably managed to acquire a concession or two for Storm's End in return. But, again, it was Alis's brother Brandon and father Rickard who heard, and who went, and who died.

So now Alisander has to choose between losing his head and defying the Mad King, as does Zakary. The choice is obvious, but nevertheless the fact that the King has been digging his own grave for years now has made such defiance much more practical in that they can, in fact, find allies to rally to their cause and finally get rid of that menace once and for all. Alis went back North to get his men while Zakary rode all over the Eyrie and farther still to secure other alliances, making concessions and paying with coin he does not have. And while Alis's own trek was gruesome, long, and fraught, it did not hold a candle to what Zakary went through. He had to fight his own men, Houses sworn to his that nevertheless defied him in defence of the Mad King. And with yet more battles between then and now, Alisander would have thought all would be settled, he would marry Tully's eldest daughter to cement their alliance and they would march south.

Permalink

But no. No, Hoster Tully decided he needed the deal sweetened. It was not enough that his daugher would become Lady of Winterfell. It was not enough that Zakary Baratheon had saved his life and he owed Zak a debt of blood. No, Tully wanted more out of their alliance, and would dither and waste time, precious time during which King Aerys II and his supporters could get more and more prepared for them.

When Alis finally cut through Tully's bullshit and understood what the man was saying it took almost all of his self-control not to challenge Tully to a duel right then and there and get this over with. Not that it would send him off to a great start for his marriage to Anavett Tully but at that point he was seeing red.

Jon Arryn, the gods bless him, stepped in and told Alis to go pray at the godswood while he dealt with Tully. So Alis went, left that crowded room and the stares of those people and that slimy weasel, to get a moment of peace with his gods. A moment of fresh air. A moment, a moment -

- a moment during which he saw the absolute travesty they call a godswood and which sent his whole mind tumbling over these past several months and only served to incense Alis even more. How dare he. After everything, after Brandon and Rickard's deaths, after fighting for his honour and for justice and against the menace to the realm that is that King, after Zakary saved Tully's life- this is not helping. He needs to stop and breathe. He needs to actually forget the reason he's here because the more he thinks about it all and the more he keeps picturing all the myriad creative ways in which he wants to murder Hoster Tully the angrier he gets.

He centers back in himself, finding that he's kneeling by the weirwood with his forehead pressed against the tree and his fists balled around grass and flowers, and relaxes. Breathes. Closes his eyes once more, focuses on his heartbeat, focuses on the wind and the earth and the tree. Tunes out the bloody birds- breathe. Breathe. Calm down. Jon Arryn will solve this, somehow, he's not sure even Zakary has it in him to deal with Hoster Tully right now and Alis is also mad that he hasn't had a single minute to spend alone with Zak since he's arrived, but Jon Arryn is a smart, sensible man who will not let the likes of the petty riverland lord send him into a fury like he did Alis.

It will be fine. Or maybe it won't, but being in such a state will not help it be fine anyway, and he should just be still and pray for the wisdom of the old gods to guide him through this.

Permalink

 


Eventually, there is a rustling of footsteps in grass as someone comes to join him.

"You know, in a strange way, I think he's trying to help us," sighs Jon Arryn, resident bastion of self control. "It's sorted, lad."

Permalink

Alis opens his eyes once more - he may have fallen asleep, he's not sure, godswoods have a tendency to make him lose note of the world around him but they always help him sort his feelings out - then stands up and turns around. "Lord Arryn," he says. "- has it? What did you decide?"

Permalink

"Double wedding. You can likely pick which of the girls you'd rather have as a bride, if you'd fancied the younger one at Harrenhall. And the other gets to help me with the problem Denys's death left me."

Permalink

...what.

What????

"Double wedding," he says slowly, as if to confirm he heard the right words. "With you as the other groom," he adds. Alisander would usually not expose so much of his thought processing and confusion to another - he's already cultivated a reputation as quiet, taciturn, and measured, so he's mostly silent most of the time - but he and Zak have been Jon Arryn's wards for a long while, now, and Lord Arryn is like a father to Alis. In his heart of hearts, Alis cares more for Jon than he did for his sire.

Permalink

"Like I said. In a strange, slippery way, I think he's trying to help."

Because of course, with Denys Arryn dead, now Jon Arryn is without a proper heir. And the obvious way to fix that would be with a wife.

Permalink

Alis is extremely doubtful of this, but this whole people thing is Zak's domain not his so he merely nods.

"I... suppose I must choose, then," which he also hates but honestly if he doesn't get an immediate obvious reason to choose one over the other he'll just go with the one his brother was betrothed to, that'll be easier. He starts walking towards Jon and the great hall.

Permalink

"I'm sorry, lad," sighs Arryn, clapping Alisander on the shoulder and then falling into step beside him. In an undertone, he adds: "The younger seems to have had a run in with a certain draught of tea, if ah. That changes anything."

Permalink

"I do not see why it should. 'Tis not as if I have been completely discreet all my life, either," though for all the rumour mill knows he has in fact been completely discreet all his life.

Permalink

"Felt it fair to warn you. I know none of this has been fair, had to do my best to make up for it a little."

The Great Hall is already in the midst of preparations for the wedding feast. Since it'll be a springtime wedding, the decorations are primarily 'flowers.' Fortunately, they want the audience chamber above, where the injured Hoster Tully sits on his impressive high seat and makes everyone else come to him. So Alis doesn't have to suffer the flowers for very long.

Yet.

Permalink

Alis's newly acquired serenity and inner peace suffices to weather the onslaught of Spring being thrust upon him, so he only gives the flowers a cold passionless glare at he passes them by.

Permalink

A guard escorts them up the stairs and to the door that leads to Hoster Tully. The guard at this door looks terribly awkward.

"Ah, my lord will be just a few minutes, he's—"

Permalink

"Oh, do forgive me, father, I didn't realize our house words were 'convenience, duty, honor,' my mistake!" comes a voice through the door at a less than mild shriek.

Permalink

The next voice isn't as high pitched, but it is definitely still carries. And that would be Lord Tully.

"It's not mere convenience to avoid pestering Lord Stark with your trivialities, I expect better of you—"

The guard winces.

Permalink

"What a lovely matched set we make, then!"

Permalink

Alis... is kind of curious, he can't lie. Besides, someone is yelling at Hoster Tully and this is intensely cathartic and he does not want to interrupt it.

Permalink

The guard does, apparently. He looks at the lords in front of him nervously, then clears his throat and calls, a little shrilly, through the door.

"My lord! Lord Stark and Lord Arryn wish an audience!"

The ensuing silence puts the pathetic excuse for a godswood to utter shame.

Permalink

"... Send them in," sighs Hoster Tully.

Permalink

The lady who had clearly been responsible for the shrieking has the good grace to look embarrassed when the door opens, and curtseys politely.

"Welcome, my lords," she begins, in a desperate bid to fill the awkward silence. Then her eyes meet Alisander's and her polite smile freezes a little in place. Her mind has now caught up with the introduction given by the guard, and she has realized that the man that she's supposed to marry tomorrow has just heard her shouting at her father.

Permalink

Alisander has the mirror realisation simultaneously; if the Tully he met at the tourney was Lysa this must be Anavett.

"Lord Tully," he greets the head of house. "And you must be Lady Anavett? It is a pleasure to meet you. I hope we are not interrupting anything important...?"

Permalink

"I am," she says, still with her politely frozen smile. This is, of course, the very first time they have ever even seen each other. And his first impression of her is screaming at someone through the door. "A pleasure to meet you as well, my lord."

She wants to fling herself off of Riverrun and into one of the available rivers. Maybe she'll drown and put herself out of her misery, wouldn't that be nice.

Permalink

"Nothing of true importance, Lord Stark," says her father, recovering much faster. "The nerves of war are getting to her, I believe, she's taken issue with sharing a wedding with her sister. I know it's not ideal, but, well. We cannot concern ourselves with such trivialities at a time like this."

Alisander doesn't even need to look at Jon Arryn to know that he is raising his eyebrows. He could probably even picture the expression accurately, too, it's the same one he had when Alis and Zak were bickering and someone was leaving something important out.

Permalink

Nobody's waiting very long for the details, though. Her father's implications that she is a stupid silly girl are enough to unfreeze Anavett's smile, and suddenly it's deadly sharp.

"I think respecting the culture and traditions of my soon-to-be husband isn't trivial at all!" she says, as sweetly as certain types of poison, and probably twice as murderous. "You see, Brandon," and there's a wince in her eyes and a hint of pain in her tone, but it's been months and she needs to get over it, so carries on regardless, "mentioned that northern marriage traditions are a bit different than ours, and take place in the godswood? I don't know the details, but he made it sound like it wouldn't take much," she waves a hand, "arrangement or fuss. You've come so far, it only seems proper to bring some resemblance of the north to you."

Permalink

...huh. He thinks there are some lines to read between, there, but he has no idea what they are. Why would she care about his traditions?

Nevertheless, the thought of not having to marry in a Sept with a whole crowd watching him speak foreign, Southern vows he would need to twist beyond recognition to be able to actually truthfully mean them is extremely appealing. And not having to share the ceremony and stretch it out even longer -

- wait. Is that why she wants this? So as to not share her wedding with her sister? Does Anavett dislike Lysa for some reason? Except, no, put your training to use, Stark, these lines to read between are important. You cannot just ignore them anymore, you're playing the game now whether you want to or not.

The words of House Tully are "Family. Duty. Honour." She mentioned that, she specifically replaced the first word with "convenience" when she was putting her father in his place arguing. She thinks her father is putting convenience above family. So whatever she's hoping to achieve with this is for her family.

It has nothing to do with his traditions, nor does it relate to their own marriage, really. This is about Lysa, and it's something that she expects will be good for Lysa. Then she must think that sharing their wedding would be bad for Lysa because... because...

...because Lysa is a younger sister, who's always been in Anavett's shadow, whose flower has already been lost if Lord Arryn's words are to be believed, whose honour is already marred and who would only be further humiliated by the affair. Because Lysa, in Anavett's eyes, deserves better. Deserves to have the day she becomes an adult be hers, deserves to be the star of her own wedding rather than merely a side character.

(At least he thinks so. He doesn't have Zak's magical intuition, he has to think through all of it explicitly, work it all out. But there's one thing Zak's said, about how at the end it'll all feel like it clicks. When you're right your confusion is gone, you have something that explains everything you see, that lets you be clear about what's happening. He's not confused anymore.)

Alis wants this one.

"Lord Tully," he says after a few seconds of pure inexpressive silence. "If -" No, Stark, you are the Warden of the North, now. Act the part. "It would suit me well to wed your daughter in the godswood according to the customs of my people. She is to be Lady of Winterfell and I believe it appropriate that she do so in proper Northern tradition.

"No further arrangements for the affair need be made; the old gods do not seek homage or worship and prefer a simple connection to nature as the stage for matrimony." Here they only have fake, cultivated nature, stripped of the ugly and the dark and the raw and the mysterious, but it is still nature, and much better than a hall decorated with flowers plucked from the ground and dying without fulfilling their purpose. "She needs only her maiden cloak, and that will be enough."

Total: 487
Posts Per Page: