Three years ago...
It had been a most wonderful tourney. Her father had offered her the chance to go and she had leapt at the opportunity. She was to accompany her brothers and her Uncle, to watch Arnaud and represent House Redwyne.
Despite her brother not winning, it had been an overall success. The Pavilion itself had brought a good profit already and the night was still young. Her Uncle had allowed her to excuse herself, her tasks as ‘Lady Redwyne’ done and finally being allowed to leave the Feasting Tent.
It was starting to get rambunctious, with a more rowdy crowd and frankly Honora was simply too tired of all the work and impressions she had these last couple of days that she welcomed the reprieve from duty and potentially watchful eyes.
The cool night air still held some of its Summer’s warmth, so that Honora had not needed a thick cloak to shield her from the cold. As she stepped across the pavilion heading into the direction of her tent, her feet stopped for a moment. She wasn’t sure why, but there had been a lure cast out by the nearby woods ever since their arrival.
Though the dark did make them seem taller and slightly more unnerving, the stars and moon gave off their pale but bright light illuminating the grounds and offering her a little more courage.
She couldn’t resist.
She had been curious to see what secrets those old silent trees kept and so with a slight smile, she stepped towards them.
This is a fool’s errand. Her own mind berated her as she cautiously entered the woods, her silks shifting almost silently with her.
What she met was all the sounds a night could make and a lot of darkness.
Of course upon her entering, all life grew even more quiet, destroying the magical feeling and leaving her with naught but silence.
She sighed as she rubbed her eyes, the darkness now truly starting to take her sight completely, she berated herself once more for being as foolish as Nadiya and Odette in believing in the more fantastical side to the tales of old.
The battles had been hard, the day was not won but honor intact and skill shown, Gryffith retired from the feast and celebrated having congratulated the winner. He was never one for big parties, at the Southern ones where they all sat and said polite backhanded compliments never saying what they meant or really meaning what they said. He’d taken his lute and found a spot in the Godswood of the keep alone from any eyes upon him he splayed out on the cloak he’d brought with him. He often sang to the Weirwood in Winterfell, he wondered if the gods ever got bored of prayers and oaths, he wanted to offer them something different. Songs, songs of the people they watched over, music was a way to the soul and perhaps the gods would enjoy to know the souls of those they could not see.
Honora’s ears pricked up as heard the man’s playing, luring her farther in, to be finding a figure laying in the field of grass, eyes shut, singing a slow and haunting tune.
It was a slow and sweet one she had never heard. The voice had startled her, making her heart jump and clutch the closest tree nearby for protection. That was until the true soothing melody filled her ears, making her catch her breath and listen on in silent reverence. "Hear you now the sad lament of brave young Danny Flint. Whose parents died of sickness when she was not but ten."
A lute joined as it showed on the dark haired young warrior, a grey dire wolf shield at his side. Gryff lay there singing cool wind blowing across his body as his sword and shield laid off to the side and he had left off his gear. His shirt loosely hung over his frame, sack cloth pants held on with a simple leather belt as his hands held the lute strumming and playing slowly. He missed the cold and songs of home though the food and friends were good he felt the southerners could be so cold in how they regarded one another.
Her curiosity getting the better of her, she glanced past the thick trunk of her hiding spot and ventured a little further, her eyes trying to see where the alluring voice came from. Her feet carried her further until she reached the edge of a clearing.
There she spotted the source of her nightly singer, a lord of the North.
She recognized the sigil instantly.
One of the Starks of Winterfell.
Having not the heart to interrupt him she stood there, within the shadows of the trees, captivated and lost in the sad ballad. Her right hand found some support against the tree next to her as she was completely zoned in, perhaps it had been her own exhaustion, perhaps the more romantic side of Honora finally came out and claimed possession of her, but she kept silent. Her eyes transfixed upon the man’s face and her ears to the strumming on his lute.
He sang long and low the northern tale of a woman who lost her parents and then her maidenhead to her uncle; she then posed as a boy to take black. Only to later be accosted by her new brothers at the wall then murdered after the sickening deed was done to her. Yet though such a somber song it was mournfully sweet, almost one could listen to it for hours as they cried for the woman so long ago lost..
The song did not leave her unmoved. It struck a strange cord in her, one of melancholy and of dread. Honora never considered herself to be fair enough to be fought over by men of standing. Assuredly she was the daughter of Gorlois Redwyne and with it would come an arranged marriage to a stranger.
Such was the way of things.
A daughter’s future was to be the wife and mother of another man’s children. To strengthen alliances and be a graceful hostess.
She would not be sought out as a Queen of Love and Beauty.
She had fairer sisters and had no notable reputation to distinguish herself from the other countless noble women. Yet, what was she but spoiled when compared to the maid of the tale. The tale itself ended in utter tragedy, sung by a voice filled with such sweet sorrow, it made her eyes well up with tears as well as feel her breaths catch in her throat only to be released shudderingly, in a final desperate act not to disturb the scene before her. To keep her dream, just for a little while longer…
When Gryffith finally stopped playing he breathed slowly, opening his eyes now well adjusted to the dark of the Godswood, a trick Ashe had taught him. He froze a moment as his eyes rested on his watcher. He blushed furiously, half to run yet... He knew that hair, could see the tears... She enjoyed it? He knew if he thought for too long he’d lose the moment so then taking a breath began to play again. This one another, this one still soft and slow. One known across Westeros, The Maids that Bloom in Spring. A love song of even winters as long as they may be must end and their like that of maidens fair. A truly love struck song meant for celebrating weddings and feasts. Yet he sang it alone and just for her without a thought to anyone else, he’d chosen it in the hope she’d stay... He’d never once been able to properly face a beautiful woman alone and flirt, Ashe had all the skill with that, though no follow through according to his friends.
When their eyes met there was a spark of something that flew between them. And at the instant blush Honora realized she had been discovered only to see him change his tune and now played a merrier song of renown. She must have been tired, for a little while later she realized it was probably meant for her. Her cheeks flushed, chasing the tiredness away with its bright red blush. Her eyelids fluttered as she stepped back into the tree, stabilizing her as she looked down, feeling both honored and mortified for not having a graceful response.
She clenched her fist and told herself to stop fretting, lured back into the song and this time, being more bold. She stepped out of the tree's shadow and moved over to a nearby boulder and took a seat there, all the while gazing at her musician with great enjoyment.
Gryffith sang and played for a while for his lone audience, his eyes closed tight to keep him from staring as his voice went high and low, terrified in part he would open them and she would be gone. Eyes opening she was instead leaning on a rocky boulder next to where he lay. His eyes eventually coming to rest on her delicate features, the worn and bruised sword of the North smiled sweetly, it was rare to see a Stark look so happy.
He didn’t know how to speak to her, to say how he was feeling, to do anything more than stare and be awkward sod. So he did the one thing that came natural to him, the one thing he’d been able to do well other than swing a sword, sing and play.
However a faster more upbeat song came next, Two Hearts That Beat as One. A love song only ever heard at weddings and as passionate as they came.
At the end of it Honora raised herself up a bit, having felt ensorcelled by his promising songs of love and of loving hearts. Her soft voice cut in, for fear of losing the opportunity to tell him, before he would start playing another. "You play and sing beautifully. Forgive me for disturbing what was undoubtedly something you kept for your own self."
She uttered, her voice slightly hoarse from earlier.
Her silks glistened in the pale moonlight, as did the small silver jewelry she was wearing. Her mother's earrings twinkled beneath her long dark locks. Her bright eyes regarded him as she bit her lower lip in slight hesitation."I am sorry... I shan't intrude upon your good person any longer...I already made quite a nuisance of myself already."
It was propriety that made her say it. In truth, she never wanted to leave, but to remain here by his side forever.
If that was her fate, to be caught by some spell a Northern man laid upon her, she would gladly embrace it.
The young man's lips went dry, his voice half caught in his throat he had to speak now... Or she might leave, so he calmed himself and focused, be honest and say what you mean, if she really is for you she’ll understand. Gryffith shook his head; he spoke slow and carefully though as plain as any Northerner would. "I don't sing for others much... Not a skill many Northmen care much for outside of parties and it's much less liked than sword play is... I sing to myself or the weirwoods often when I am away from home... I hope the Weirwoods across Westeros can hear me, I hope they can hear the song and know that though many are far from the sight of the old gods, people are still good and honorable."
He spoke smiling again as he looked her over. "And thanks for the wonderful people that we might stumble across."
She couldn't help but smile embarrassed at that. "I doubt I can be counted as 'wonderful people'."
She uttered as she pushed some over her hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture. "Just a Southern Maid who strayed from her usual path."
She turned towards him with a question. "You truly believe your old God's house in those trees?"
She asked, never having understood much of the old Northern religion. "They seem to be frightfully haunting. Caught staring at the world from one spot only to watch on as both feast and war go by."
She spoke softly, as she dared not risk them being discovered and to keep her own fears somewhat under control.
She rubbed her arms for a moment as the night's chill now settled in properly and her silks were hardly a proper shield against them.
He nodded a moment. "The old gods aren't the trees. They are nature, the mountains, rivers, streams, and hills. The Weirwoods are just how they see us and know us. It's why we pray quietly to them alone. It's about us beseeching our gods... Not some priest to tell us how but us directly speaking our wants and needs from our hearts."
He explained as he reached under himself he pulled the heavy fur bear Ashe had hunted and given to him for a cloak. "Here, take it you must be freezing in something so light."
He sat up and reached out an arm offering the heavy cloak to wrap herself in it, though the weight that showed it was more practical than fashionable but still good. "Though you do look gorgeous in it, we don't have such fine things in the north too often."
Whether he meant women like herself or clothes was up to her mind.
Thankfully she took it before glancing back at him asking. "But, what about you? Won't you be cold...."
She stopped herself from stating foolish things further. Of course he wouldn't be cold, he was a Northerner, he probably thought of the night's chill the same way as she thought of the warm sea winds. Her cheeks burned again at his compliment. As she wrapped herself in the warm furs, its insolation instantly stopped the slight shivering she had been doing. She was caught utterly speechless. Which was rare. Normally Honora could easily converse, but there was something in his eyes, in his voice that threw her off. He turned her into some innocent 14 year old, blushing at the sight of real men. Finding her voice finally she returned the compliment.
The Southlands don't have wolven lullabies so mournful it makes maidens weep. We'd cast our gold, our pearls for but one of their songs of love or sorrow. She smiled back at him, her lips slightly parting."You have offered me your voice, your playing and even your warm fur...yet I have nothing to give you in return."
She lamented."Perhaps... I could ask for a kiss? Or maybe just your company a while longer... I know you more than likely prefer some great knight or a tourney winner... But I feel happy sitting here with you, no words needed. Like I took the day in the melee, even as I lay here sore and bruised from losing the day."
He added as he looked into her eyes with a warm deep smile he did not move to take or push, only asking for something she could give easily to him. Though he was nervous he still understood he had to try and make his intentions clear... This was the daughter of major nobility in the South. He knew there was etiquette but he always wanted to make true intentions known to her, that he would not sully her name.
Honora flushed again.
She attempted to speak, but no words came. She swallowed before asking nervously."A kiss as payment for the songs you sang, I will grant, but with one question...would you even remember my name afterwards?"
She wondered aloud. She straightened a bit as she looked away. "I have brothers, I know men need to...to be with other women, flings for a night to be discarded come morning."
She looked back at him. "I do not desire to be one of those..."
Gryffith blushed something fierce as she told him that but he took a breath, he’d caught her name several times during the tourney, seen her too, he doubted he could forget even more so now. "I won't forget... I knew your name before you came over. Honora, of House Redwyne yes?"
He spoke without a pause or thought. "I had never wished I could joust before I saw you sitting out there, I wanted to offer you a flower. But I have no plate for jousting and few reasons to learn."
Surprising her again no doubt.
Honora's breath got caught in her throat at his voice saying her name.
It all felt very surreal. Her wishes all come true, no lady was that fortunate, but for now Honora couldn't care about reality. Her eyes fixed upon his as she drew closer to him, moving over and kneeling at his side. She smiled more widely at his mentioning of the joust and the implications of it. "I do not need a crown of flowers. I have my songs. My wolven lullabies."
She said softly as she rested a hand upon his chest for support. "You won't eat me...will you, Griffith Stark?"
She asked so softly it danced in the realm of whispers. Her soft rosy lips moved over to his as her eyelids fluttered to a near close. Her breath sweet and laced with Arbor Red, now could touch his face as she drew ever closer, her body close to his.
He spoke before he knew he was answering, the nervousness gone only the joy of her touch and companionship driving him onwards. The beat of his heart ringing in each ear. "Wolves can be tamed, you know."
He added soft gently, moving his hand to embrace her, sliding her into his lap. Slowly shutting his eyes leaning in a whisper. "I could never harm a hair on your head."
He slowly leaned in the sweet scent enticing him further into her embrace as he held her alone in the night.
The kiss that followed washed her restraints away completely. As their lips locked the wave that rushed up and enveloped her was so powerful and dizzying that it left her longing for more.
Her breath tried to recover, but failed abysmally as she lost herself into it now only left with a fleeting remnant of a rush, and left needing it. Her fingers grasping his vest as her lips released his and her eyes hooked onto his as the familiar red blush graced her cheeks as her mind dared to dream further. "A tamed wolf...should never be. They are their own masters...though perhaps their loyalty could be earned."
She offered instead.
He nodded and breathlessly answered as the passion of the still hung on his lips. "Perhaps... But they are honorable creatures... More so than man often is... This wolf would not dishonor you. I swear.
" He spoke, brushing her hair gently as he held her in the dark of the night moon shining down on the lone pair holding each other tightly."I want more I admit. But I'd rather not dishonor whom I care so much for."
He added, taking her hand to hold and continue to embrace her without doing harm to her or her purity.
She kissed him sweetly and curtly once more before she put her head upon his shoulder, leaning against him enjoying his strong hand holding her own. "I doubt your father would approve of an alliance with us. We're not your bannermen. Though it has happened before, most lords shy away from such matches."
She started showing off her knowledge in the matter and thinking ahead. "As for my father...with the grief of mother being too near still, I doubt he would let me settle."
She explained things further to him. "I stepped into my mother's role when she passed. My father and uncle depend on me a great deal.""Heh, my father would be off put certainly but he would not refuse me. He wants us to be happy more so than marry for advantage... My aunts married half the North."
He chuckled as he leaned his head on hers. "All children must find their own path. I want it to lead to you no matter what it takes."
He knew his father having had the chance to marry for love and caring so deeply for his bride had given him a unique opinion only Ashe had been pushed towards a match... Mostly due to his older brother's reckless disregard for rules and obeying them, their mother felt a strong woman ought to sort the boy out."I'll try to talk some sense into my father. He should be able to see the importance of a Northern alliance and if not to see his oldest daughter happy for all the work she's done."
She laced her fingers with his, before pulling it close to press a kiss upon its back. "Though half of me wonders if reality is truly this sweet or whether I am still dreaming."
She said as her other hand moved up to his face and allowed her slender fingers to comb through his hair ever so slightly.
He shook his head. "I'm wondering how I ever got so lucky to hold the fairest maiden south of the wall in my arms tonight."
He added nestling her close and shutting his eyes letting them both drink in this quiet moment alone together. Something they might not have again for years to come.
Redwyne camp, shortly after Northern arrival.
Gryffith had stepped away from his father as Mathias took their horses off to get stabled and cared for. Griffith was helping direct the merchants while his father saw to informing others of their arrival and bringing gifts to their hosts. However, as he finished sending the brewers wagons along, he passed near the central tents where the Redwyne's wine was being unloaded. He couldn't help but stare at the now even more womanly Honora Redwyne... He could hardly turn his head though when caught his stare he looked to the wine trying to save face for her sake.
Of course it had been three years since that night... Since that kiss, he’d fought and trained for days and days, but did she still want him? Did she have some other who had come into her life, after all he wasn’t some pretty knight with gold and jewels to ply her with, he was from a Great House certainly... But the Starks were not famed like the others.
Honora had been giving Arystide and Finnegan an earful for their earlier antics. At the suggestion of just setting up a bachelors tent, she had exploded into a proper fit. "So you two can start a damn orgy in there? I think not. Listen. If you want to keep drinking I suggest that you for once keep yourselves out of trouble. If I even catch a whiff of something I will break all your fingers, is that understood?"
The threat came with such venom that even the easy going Arystide knew not to test the waters any further."For the time being I will however grant you a 'boys table'..."
She said easing up on them in the hope they would actually listen to her for once and not disgrace their house. With Arystide pecking her on her forehead and Finnegan patting her on her shoulder she watched them walk off to gods know where. But at the least they would hopefully be out of her hair for a little while. Exhausted she trudged off to find a quiet spot to contemplate, behind the feasting tent would usually do, but before she rounded the corner completely she recognized a familiar frame.
She wasn't sure what to feel. Horror, Love, Shame, Disappointment, Anger? It all seemed insufficient.
Gryffith bit his lip looking at her a moment before bowing slightly as he walked over, he was no Knight with chivalrous vows to uphold. Northmen had no need for special status to be warriors of great skill. He turned his head back and forth making sure no one was looking at the pair and gave her a smile, then mouthed. 'I'm so sorry'
, as he tried his best not to get them noticed. Of course she'd heard the rumors about the second son of The Wolf Lord being in love with a southerner, yet she never got a name. No doubt he'd be teased to death about it but he'd never said a word and even now he tried to make sure she was safe from accusation.
But her face barely betrayed her feelings. She had heard and whilst at first in hope of something to follow after it, silence had been her everlasting companion. More loyal than a dog and if anything stickier than a tarnished reputation.
Still she had felt slighted and she was going to let him know. "Three years."
She stated calmly, keeping her voice low and marking one of the wine barrels."Do you know what makes a good wine?"
She asked. "Sweet water, Warm sun and the promise of spring. "
She spoke in a businesslike manner. "Well, it seems this year will taste absolutely sour."
Gryffith sighed and scratched his head looking sheepish as he took a long breath then finally answered her. "In the North... We make beer. It only takes months but the flavor is more bitter...
" He added, trying to answer for some of the time at least to give her something to try and understand. "I've always wanted to bring more wine to the North... Ciders and such too... My father finally relented when I said I love red wine and I recommended where we should get some. Though we are having trouble getting anyone to agree to let us take something so precious Northward.”
He was trying to make it clear his father had been bickering with him over his intentions it seemed and only recently had started to agree in pursuing this truly.
She sighed. "Maybe it was foolhardy to attempt in the first place. Winter does kill the Winerank. Soon it won't matter where it will be planted. It will have to accept whatever circumstances it faces. Come rock, sand or soil. Father started betrothing us to different houses. The gameboard is being set and we are all but pawns upon it."
She looked at him with a longing stare that held a layer of fear as she spoke in warning. "A storm is forming over our heads, ripping out roots and stems.""...My father plans to ask directly about our concerns while we are southward... And I intend to win the melee to prove I am worthy of what I seek as a Southerner born in the warmth of the sun."
He explained with a ready stare, wanting to reach for her hand as he took a deep breath. "I've been training... A lot just for this reason after all your father would not part with such rare perfection as you so easily."
Honora shook her head at that. "You'd be wrong to think that. Odette is his pearl. I am simply his eldest. I will marry to his wishes unless persuaded otherwise."
She turned back towards him stating. "There are many flowers out in the field today, why be content with the withering flower that is mine own?"
she asked as she put the chalk back in its spot, before resting as she leaned against the wine caskets.“Because... I'd sooner save the withering flower then abandon it. I know what I love and I'll chase it to the ends of the earth... Us wolves don't ever give up... I'll win the melee... And I'll ask before them all for you my heart's desire."
He added, straightening up knowing this was his chance... He had to do it for her. He walked over helping move a wine barrel to sit upright as he passed he whispered. "I love Honora Redwyne, I always will... And if I can't win today... I'll try again and again till I'm an old wolf."
He added letting her know he was still as set as he always had been."Don't make a fool of yourself."
She uttered, looking back at him, barely capable of maintaining her uncaring facade. "Do be careful."
The whisper was soft and genuine. "I'd hate to see you pummeled into the ground, as my brother will compete into the melee as well. And as it would be considered unbecoming of a lady to root against her family, I at the very least shall look forward to this particular year's melee with renewed interest."
She spoke and offered him the slightest of winks."I intend to make a fool of all who get between me and my heart's desire... And don't worry I'll be gentle on him."
He added with a wink back then set off towards the tents, renewed hope that he might be able to do this. That she still wanted him and it could all work out... Oh little wolves know of the hearts of men... And dragons.
A little while later there was a young boy barging into the Starks encampment. With the child having been given clear instructions. "Are you the Howling Wolf?" Was all he asked until he was directed to Griffith to whom he handed a silk ribbon of a particular shade of red. Arbor Red in fact. "Favors given." was all he stated clearly having done his task and intending to return for the payment.
He nodded and took the ribbon before tying it around the arm of mail, to let her know he'd wear it with pride. He tossed the boy a coin from his purse. "Here, tell no one who you delivered this to if they ask, especially any northerner."
He added sternly and coldly as only a Stark could. Melting a bit as he caught a whiff of her scent off of it, he wondered if she still kept that old bear fur cloak. No doubt it saw her through many cold nights he could not.
It would make him proud to know, it traveled with her everywhere, not that she traveled much, but that it served its purpose well. Honora smiled as she sat back in her own tent stroking its thick fur and allowing her mind to drift to other days and potential futures. At the least she had confirmation he still cared for her. Pouring herself another cup of Arbor Red she allowed herself to ease out of her confining clothes and slink back into her soft silks as she had worn that particular night. When they had met and he had claimed her first kiss.
Gryffith meanwhile took up his sword the runt and the howling wolf began their practice though he was by no means small, Mathias and his great sword were truly impressive. Gryffith ducked and rolled away parrying when he could and striking for openings as they moved around each other one after another. Every time he took a hit and wanted to take a break he remembered Honora waiting for him... And he got back up to try again, there were tougher men, there were better fighters, but he had to at least try to beat them all.