…and now Thane.
Ned walked the streets of Forsevar alone underneath a sky of stars he did not recognize. He passed by the houses of people he did not know. He spent time sitting on the low wall of the fountain he found only by its noise.
“What have I done to earn the trust of these people.”
How can I live up to this honor I have been given? They expect a leader, a voice of confidence and authority. I’ve barely been able to make a decision for the four of us traveling together.
Ned looked at his sword. The sigil hanging on the wall had glowed when the Jarl had spoken, as had the sword. Gavin was able to change the very nature of wood and metal with words. Robert had become a bear. The very foundations of his world had been shaken time and time again. And then there was the dream. The vision. Did he have any option but to accept that there were powers at work much more powerful than he or any other human could hope to be?
The road took a turn. Ned looked up just in time to avoid this new corner.
Magic aside, there were more real problems that Ned had to confront. Most pressing on his mind was this tension between himself and Robert. How had his lifelong friend become so alien to him? What had driven this rift between the men who once trusted each other so implicitly it was as if they could read the other’s thoughts. Ned longed for the times when the toughest decision to be made was if Valley Town should bring in its harvest early to avoid the coming winter. Now that each day it seemed they held the life of someone in their hands, Ned and Robert found it harder and harder to agree. Why couldn’t Robert see that there must be honor in their lives?! Why did he only reach for the lawlessness of their enemies??
An upturned cobblestone in the road.
Maybe something was there in Robert’s life causing him to feel this anger, this uncontrollable rage. A thorn in his side. A stone in his boot. But what was it?
A door slammed off to his right. Ned reached for his sword and readied himself. A dog ran by, barking as its owner shouted after it. Relaxing, Ned resumed his walk.
Was there anything that showed his failure as a leader more than his relationship with Piper? Here was a girl aching to become more. She had a thirst for action that made Ned reminisce on his time as leader of the militia in Valley Town. If only he’d had scouts like her! But time and again he chastised her, speaking to her only when he saw weakness or fault.
He’d reached the northern wall. Ah, but wasn’t that it. Couldn’t it all come back to Tirion. Ned reached for the sword strapped to his waist. He remembered the sigil that Piper wore on her tabard. Always some part of that old bastard clinging to his life. For all the good Tirion had done, for the motivation he’d given Ned, there was something to be said about a backhanded compliment. Ned turned and began to walk south. What was honor if it had such poison in its roots.
He continued mulling over his thoughts until he reached the southern gate of the city.
There it was. The distraction, the barrier. All this time he had been clinging to a life he had created in the south. From the days living in fear of the wolf that had killed his father to the battles raging in the streets of southern cities, Ned’s life was forged around those shortcomings and faults of his previous life.
He had just entered a new realm, a new kingdom, a new world. Why not begin anew? Tirion had coined his nickname, Ned, saying he wasn’t worthy of such a noble name as Eddard. Those days were gone. Finished was his life as a commander speaking only in times of failure. As a new Thane in this province, he would show the people of Forsevar a paragon of honor. He would not stop at these city gates or the borders of this province. His virtue would spread as a banner of courage and hope for these people and then the people of the South.
Eddard turned the corner with a stronger, quicker stride. He would begin with the people closest to him. Piper. Gavin. And Robert. Eddard looked at his shield with the symbol of a creature he had once feared. The wolf no longer held meaning for him. He already knew what his new emblem would be.
Eddard made his way to Gavin’s new quarters, the Speaker’s quarters. He was going to need a painter in the morning, and he’d need Lionel to hold still for long enough to paint his likeness.