“Welcome to our honoured guests”, Sam began, “or as I like to say, our nearest and dearest”.
Sam paused as a few people chuckled before continuing.
“As you know there hasn’t been a coronation of a northern king for many generations so we weren’t sure how to proceed with today’s ceremony. In the south, normally the High Septon presides over the crowning of a king and offers his official blessing. But, as you well know, we don’t adhere to those southern ways here. So what you are about to witness today has been cobbled together and will, hopefully, become the template for future generations of northern kings”.
He gestured to the weirwood tree that towered above them.
“This is the symbol of northern faith…a devotion to the old gods that goes back thousands of years. Some of you may know that the trees are connected through a series of underground caves and streams that crisscross the north. The roots of these trees have been known to stretch beyond the reach of normal trees, reaching out to touch each other through the emptiness of space and time. Some claim that they have experienced visions before these trees…witnesses to events long past. And so, today, we ask that this tree, the cornerstone our faith and a representation of our gods, bear witness to this ceremony today in hopes that it will inspire future generations of northern kings. The north remembers because we must never lose sight of what we were meant to be…a northern kingdom united under and ruled by one of our own”.
Jon and Sansa smiled happily and clutched hands as the assembled guests clapped and shouted their approval. Sam made a gesture for them to quiet down before turning to the master steward and nodding.
Two crowns were carefully lifted out of an elaborately carved chest. The larger of the two was an open circlet of hammered gold surmounted with nine spikes resembling longswords. At the fore was the depiction of a dragon entwined with a direwolf, an homage to Jon’s dual heritage.
The crown was passed to Torrhen whose small hands trembled as he held it. He struggled to maintain an air of solemnity as his father knelt down so that he might place it upon his head but lost his resolve when his father winked at him.
“Papa”, he shouted as he threw his arms around his father’s neck and clung to him as Jon gathered him up in his arms and held him tight.
Lyra scrambled to her feet when she realized that it was her turn to participate in the ceremony. She skipped over to the chest to receive the smaller, more delicate crown made of pale spun gold and encrusted with blue sapphires.
Sansa knelt down to receive her crown from her daughter amidst the sounds of aws coming from the crowd. She choked back a laugh when she noticed at its fore the symbol of a direwolf with a fish between its teeth and hoped that the Blackfish would find the humour in it, too.
Just as Lyra was lifting the crown to place it on her mother’s head, she yanked it back at the last second and jammed it on to her own dark locks while smiling triumphantly at the assembled throng.
“Lyra”, hissed Sansa in admonition.
Jon deftly reached down and plucked the crown from his daughter’s head and gently placed it on Sansa’s head before delivering a kiss upon her brow. Lyra screeched and pouted in disappointment while Torrhen glared at her in disapproval.
Sansa leaned over to Jon as cheers erupted.
“She’s getting her revenge for the dress, I expect”, she sighed as she rested her chin on his shoulder.
“Aye, she’s truly a child of the north. I reckon she has already stored away several grievances that will be addressed when she’s older”, he replied. “The gods help us if she takes up weaponry”.
The gods help us if she has an affinity for dragons, thought Sansa. Then Daenerys’ words bubbled to the surface…I will take what is mine with fire and blood, and she realized that her willful little northern- looking daughter perhaps had more Targaryen traits in her than she had reckoned.
Sam ended the ceremony by requesting that everyone reconvene in the great hall for a feast in celebration. As the guests paused to bow and curtsey before the newly crowned king and queen of the north, Sansa observed two unfamiliar faces that loitered uncomfortably near the rear of the line. They did not resemble the Dornish contingent in both manner and dress and they were clearly not Westerosi.
She grabbed Sam’s arm as he brushed past and pulled him aside. She ducked down to whisper in his ear.
“I don’t want you to alarm you but who are those two men dressed in the rich, eastern garb who are acting rather furtively?” she asked.
“Who?” replied Sam as he searched the crowd. “Oh, do you mean the men talking to Jon?”
She looked over at the scene with surprise to discover Jon speaking with the two men with Ghost plastered to his side. Then, after shaking hands with the two men, Jon walked towards Sam and Sansa with Ghost close at his heels while the two men disappeared into the throng of well-wishers.
“Who were those men”, she asked as Jon sidled up to her.
He glanced in their direction before turning back to her and Sam.
“Opportunists, charlatans, legitimate businessmen”, he replied with a shrug. “Who knows for sure…their types tend to show up under these circumstances. We have just opened up a whole new market for trade possibilities”.
“And what were they peddling?” she asked.
“Dragon eggs”, he replied. “They insist that they are hot on the trail of a pair believed to have been secreted away to Volantis”.
Sansa crossed her arms.
“Did you promise to finance their little venture?” she said as she narrowed her eyes.
“No, but I expressed just enough interest in case they are clever enough to deliver the goods”, he replied. “So, we’ll wait and see. But for now, Rhaegal is enough dragon for the north”.
Rhaegal certainly was enough for the north. Sansa was just beginning to understand how costly it was to compensate farmers for the loss of their livestock.
The great hall was buzzing with activity when the newly royal family finally arrived amidst much fanfare. It was packed with lords and chieftains alike, all prepared to swear their loyalty to the new king and queen of the north.
As their names were called, each knelt before Jon and Sansa to recite the ancient oath of fealty, calling upon the old gods to strike them down if they swore falsely.
She was familiar with all the players as they paraded before her, offering their mumbled devotions while she smiled and graciously nodded her head. Her eyes began to glaze over and her mind began to wander as she listened to the same words being spoken over and over again.
Her ears perked up when the chieftain from Skagos was called upon and she turned her attention to the fierce looking man who was pushing his way through the crowd. He wore animal skins like many of the free folk and a necklace composed of bones which rattled with each heavy step.
The burly man knelt before Jon and Sansa and uttered a mangled version of the oath, a combination of the old and new tongues, before rising stiffly to his feet. But before turning away, he stared at Sansa for a few seconds with curious eyes before shifting his glance to Torrhen who sat off to the side, his legs dangling from the oversized chair. Then the man backed away and melted into the crowd.
That was…odd, thought Sansa.
She saw the man again lurking nearby as Jon, besieged for most of the evening by lords seeking to petition the newly crowned king, was attempting to fend them off. Sansa pulled Sam aside to seek his assistance.
“As Hand of the King you are going to have to tell them that this is an inappropriate time to make their demands”, she explained.
“And when would be a suitable place and time?” he asked.
“Tomorrow morning after breakfast…make a list of their concerns and assign them a time to meet with Jon in his solar. Make sure you are present to bear witness and make a record of each request. Have you had the opportunity to send a raven to the Citadel for your replacement?” she said.
“I will vet each applicant and provide you and Jon with a shortlist”, he replied as he caught Jon’s eye. Jon was beginning to look a little desperate. Sam nodded at him before turning back to Sansa.
“It’s time to rescue the king”, he said as he turned away with a sigh.
He waded into the crowd surrounding Jon, waving and shouting for the lords to follow him. They gave Jon one final glance before falling into line behind Sam like a string of ducklings following their mother.
Jon watched the lords leave the hall with palpable relief. Then he turned to the Skagosi chieftain who waited patiently by his side.
Sansa watched the two of them engrossed in conversation for a few minutes. The chieftain gestured to her a couple of times but otherwise was intent on speaking with Jon as closely as possible. Finally, Jon patted the man on the shoulder and then shook his hand vigorously before the two parted. She was filled with curiosity as Jon pushed his way towards her.
“What was that all about?” she asked as they linked arms.
He pulled her out of the great hall and into the quiet of an empty corridor.
“Now…I don’t want you to get too excited because as of now we really know very little”, he explained. “He said that there is a boy, perhaps six or seven, who was brought to Skagos a few scant years ago. He has seen the boy and he says he looks remarkably like you and Torrhen”.
Her hear leapt at this revelation…Rickon, her baby brother.
She felt a little giddy and light-headed, grabbing Jon’s shirt for support.
“Is he sure about the resemblance?” she whispered hoarsely.
“It was difficult to communicate with him but he was fairly certain that the boy shares your blood”, he confirmed.
She felt the tears sting her eyes and stream down her face as she sobbed quietly into his chest while he held her close.
“We’ll bring him back, Sansa”, said Jon fiercely.
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