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Rickon: we turned and shook as we had a look in the room where the dead man lay

Rickon doesn’t remember the crypts ever not being dark.

Admittedly, there are a lot of things he doesn’t remember. The crypts, for once, were always barely lightened. He thinks he remembers hiding in them for a while, a long time ago, but it’s a blur. His wolf probably remembers it better than Rickon himself does, but he’s not in any hurry to drag those memories up.

But today, there are torches and candles everywhere, from the entrance to the lowest level, and he’s silent as he steps beside his sisters while walking down the stairs leading downwards, toward –

Toward where the funeral is being held.

Shaggy growls softly at his side along with Nymeria, who’s in between Arya and Sansa.

Ghost and Summer are crouched farther ahead, near the slab of stone behind which Jon’s standing. His skin looks almost as ashen pale as his wolf’s as he looks down at the small wooden box he’s holding in his hands.

A whole lot of northern lords Rickon has no use for and whose names he can’t remember are standing behind the three of them and Bran, who had been sitting in front row since before they arrived.

There’s a new statue, still covered with a piece of gray cloth covered in the Stark banner.

There’s no corpse – Rickon knows that, at least. There are a lot of things he doesn’t know or remember, but that, that he does. There had been enough talking about it in the previous months, and stories of how his brother met his untimely end reached Skaagos same as they reached all of Westeros.

Bran’s face looks as if it was sculpted in stone right now. He looks so much older, Rickon thinks, and doesn’t voice the thought. All of them look so much older than he remembers them, for what he remembers them.

For that matter, Rickon doesn’t really remember Robb proper. Or better, he does, but it’s not consistent memories. What he’s sure of, though, is that in all of them he looked so much younger than all of the others are right now. Sansa smiles sweetly the way she used to and the way Robb used to, but there’s something weary about her and the way she holds herself upright and about how she doesn’t sing as much as she used to. The only thing Rickon remembers her doing is singing. But she doesn’t do that, now. Arya – Arya honestly scares him sometimes, and not because she’s good with a sword or with a bow, Osha also is good with bows and her friends on Skaagos were even better. It’s because sometimes she looks outside the window and her eyes are just – empty. Not in the way they become when she slips inside Nymeria. They just – go blank.

Rickon doesn’t really want to ask her how it happened, and so he doesn’t. He barely even remembers his sister being any other way.

He never tells her that and he never will, same as he’s never going to tell Bran the same thing –

Except that Bran is worse. At least Arya does usually reply if you call her name loud enough.

Whenever Bran’s eyes are empty in that way, he comes back eventually, but not when he’s called.

Right now, Rickon can’t help thinking that he has a man’s hands now, long fingers wrapped around the armrests of seat he still can’t leave and probably never will, and he remembers how small and soft they were when they were wrapped around his own in the crypts.

Sansa is maybe the only one who hasn’t changed too much outwardly. She’s still as beautiful and ladylike as he remembers her being, even if she doesn’t smile half as much and never sings anymore. She used to sing all the time, it’s the one thing he can recall for sure, but – not now. Other than that, though, she’s not that different.

On the other hand, Jon, who’s dressed in a dark grey that Rickon only remembers their father wearing, is almost the worst of them all.

And it’s just – strange, because in a lot of those few memories he has, Robb and Jon were together and while they were different when it came to bulk, hair and eye color and even the shape of their face, they had the same carefree smiles (Jon used to be somewhat more sullen, but he did smile) and they were just – they looked old to him, but maybe, he thinks now, he was dead wrong.

Now, if he thinks about Robb he sees bright copper hair, a sweet smile, eyes that were the same as his own (and Bran’s, and Sansa’s), and strong but still somewhat soft fingers ruffling his hair.

Jon – Jon has a few streaks of white in his hair that age him a good few years, has grown a short beard that adds more years to the age he looks like, has a few lines etched in his forehead and his cheeks that Rickon is sure he’s never seen on anyone younger than five and thirty and he’s standing behind that slab of rock as if he has an equally heavy one on his shoulders.

That’s not counting the woman dressed in black at the end of the first row. Rickon has never met her before today, but he has learned she was Robb’s wife. She’s completely covered in black clothing, she’s keeping her hands firmly clasped on her stomach and whenever she looks up at the slab then she looks back down at once. She looks like she’s about to break down crying any moment.

The worst, though, is probably Theon.

Rickon’s memories of the man are likewise not too clear – on one side he remembers him always at Robb’s side and on the other he does remember why they had to hide out in those crypts for that long, but back then he also was young and lean and dressed finely and moved around as if he owned the space he was standing in.

Now –

Now he’s standing next to the girl standing next to Sansa (Rickon doesn’t really remember Jeyne Poole, but they’ve told him that was her name), staring ahead at that slab as if he has to because it’s some kind of punishment he has to bear. His hair is a strange reversal of Jon’s – Jon’s is mostly dark with white streaks, Theon’s is a pale grey but it’s growing back dark at the roots, he’s lost all muscle, is wearing gloves but it’s obvious he’s missing a few fingers, he’s wearing nondescript gray clothes meant to not look be noticeable and Rickon’s sure that the few times they talked, and those were painful conversations, he had silver fake teeth in place of half of his own.

And he doesn’t just look old.

He looks ancient, in comparison to the others and in comparison to what Rickon remembers.

It’s strange, because he can’t reconcile that face with the one he remembers, nor his current attitude with the one he used to have (from what little he can recall).

Something tells him the Theon he knew wouldn’t have been found holding someone’s hand in public, but he has his fingers threaded with Jeyne Poole’s now, and she also looks different from before (older, and thinner, and missing a small piece of her nose), and –

In his memories, Robb’s nothing like any of them. He’s still young and doesn’t have any lines on his face and smiles like he means it, and maybe, maybe it’s a good thing that there isn’t a corpse to bury even if it somehow feels wrong. Every funeral he saw on Skaagos, they had a body they’d bury with all the honors he or she deserved. Now there isn’t one.

There’s just that sad little box in Jon’s hands and a covered statue behind him, and it’s plain obvious that Jon doesn’t want to be the one delivering a speech, same as it’s obvious that he feels uncomfortable in their father’s gray and that he doesn’t feel like he has a right to be in the place he’s currently occupying.

(Rickon doesn’t want to think that Jon’s only occupying that place until he becomes old enough to step into it. It’s too daunting and too much and – not just now.)

One of the guards comes up to Jon and tells him, everyone is accounted for, my lord.

Jon grimaces and nods and clears his throat.

Rickon would have never in his life imagined he’d attend his brother’s funeral this soon and barely even remembering him.

But maybe, he thinks, looking at the faces surrounding him, maybe he’s better off than the others who actually do, and he vows to himself to never voice that thought out loud. He has a feeling it’s the last thing any of them wants to hear.

Arya: so he made his last trip to the shores where his father's laid

The moment Jon clears his throat, Arya snaps to attention whilst before she had been completely ignoring her surroundings. She doesn’t really want to be here and she doesn’t really want to do this, and good gods but burying what little remains of her brother’s bones wasn’t how she had pictured coming back home for good, but –

But she has to do it, she supposes.

At least she doesn’t have to be the one to talk about it, and she can’t even begin to imagine how Jon is feeling right now.

She also can’t begin to imagine what would her mother have said about a scenario where Jon is Rickon’s regent and he has to bury her firstborn when it was obvious that she was never too happy about how much Robb and Jon were close – she was less obvious about it when it came to the two of them, but never mind.

At least, she thinks bitterly, Robb is getting a burial at all. She’s not going to think about what she knows of how her own mother died the second time – when it comes to the first, she will have to deal with it soon enough.

“My lords,” Jon says, and if his voice shakes for a moment on the first word, then he stands up straight and doesn’t let that affect him.

His hands are still grabbing the box hard enough that his knuckles are turning white.

“My lords, we are gathered here today for a burial I am sure none of us ever wanted to attend. Or at least, not this soon.” He breathes in once, twice, then raises his stare from the box to the rest of the room. “My brother – your king, he should have lived a long life, and he should have rightfully taken Lord Stark’s place. That could not happen because of the treacherous act that ended it along with the life of many others who should be, likewise, alive to this day. This is most probably a sad affair in comparison to what it could have been, and his body should have been allowed to rest along with his ancestors’.”

Arya doesn’t miss that Jon is carefully avoiding saying anything along the lines of our ancestors, my brother or anything that would remind everyone of his status, never mind that now that the entire realm knows who his parents really were, he tends to discuss it even less.

“We were only able to retrieve part of his bones, and from what we know, they were mixed along with his direwolf’s, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of is that Robb Stark wouldn’t have minded being buried with him. There’s all that is left, and we shall lay it down to rest where he belonged.”

He takes another deep breath, then turns slightly and unveils the statue.

It’s… well, remarkably good, as far as the likeness goes. It does look like Robb, sort of, also because all of them bar Rickon gave the sculptor extremely detailed descriptions. It’s only from the waist up, and of course it’s only marble, but the curly hair, the short beard and the large eyes are there, and Arya is glad to see that the man went along with what Sansa suggested and sculpted Robb’s mouth smiling and not drawn in a thin line like most of the others.

At least that. All of them remembered him like that.

(Theon had said nothing but it was obvious he didn’t. Arya never asked. It’s still weird enough to have him around, but she’ll trust Jon and Sansa and Jeyne and Bran of all people when they say he can be trusted.)

“May he rest in peace,” Jon says, and slides the box in the small hole neatly carved beneath the statue.

Someone will come back later to seal it.

Now, Arya thinks, this is the point where people would maybe say a few words about their liege lord or king or brother or friend, but understandably, no one steps forward to do it, and she has a feeling that all of the people inside this room who knew her brother and would maybe want to talk about him don’t want to do the same in front of anyone else who isn’t family.

Sure as the seven hells, she doesn’t want to.

“I believe,” Jon says after a long moment, “that it’s time we head upstairs. We shall remember him as we dine.”

Everyone stands up and moves, throats clearing and feet stepping quickly outside. Of course no one wanted to be here.

Arya puts a hand on her sword and falls into step next to Jon and Rickon – she isn’t the entirety of their Kingsguard for nothing. Rickon, though, runs ahead with Shaggy and Ghost next to him and Arya just lets him – the wolf will make sure nothing happens to him. Jon, instead, looks as if he just wants to go to bed and sleep for the next three months.

“I – it wasn’t really what I had wanted,” Jon sighs. “But anything I thought of, someone could have criticized.”

“You did fine,” Arya tells him curtly. “I don’t think you could have done any better. But I doubt it was what any of us wanted.”

Jon sighs, wrapping himself tighter in his furs. Arya can’t help noticing the burns still covering his hand, which he never talks about, but given that she knows where they’re from, she can understand why.

“I was thinking,” he whispers, “that maybe we should all have a private… moment later. To remember him. Because I really doubt that we will be able to in the next few hours.”

“Should I tell the others?”

“Please. If they agree, they should just stay behind after everyone else leaves.”

“Understood.”

He gives her a small, tired smile that somehow still reminds her of the ones he used to give her when they were kids and a lot less old and wary and with a lot less blood on their hands.

As they dine, she carefully moves around the table and informs Theon and Lady Westerling first, then Bran (who tells her that he already knew but he appreciates her informing him nonetheless) and then she moves to sit in her place next to Sansa.

The food looks absolutely unappealing, she decides as she takes a bite of meat before asking Sansa if she agrees.

But then again, there is absolutely nothing appealing about this day. The only good thing is that at least Robb’s remains aren’t at the mercy of wind, rain and hail while nailed outside Walder Frey’s window.

It’s not really a good consolation, but she’ll take what she can get.

Sansa: fare thee well going away, there's nothing left to say

“Jon says we should all… stay after the others leave,” Arya whispers as she drops in her seat.

“Stay here?”

“Yes. We should… have a small celebration ourselves.” Arya shrugs, grabbing a spoon and pushing her food around the plate. It’s obvious that she’s not hungry. None of them is, Sansa imagines.

“To do what we should have done earlier and… say a few words? Remember him properly?” She keeps her voice low lest someone else hears them, but everyone seems engrossed in their food and no one is paying attention to the two of them. Good thing that.

“Yes,” Arya confirms. “I think we should. I mean, that was a bloody sorry service.”

Sansa doesn’t even bother telling her not to swear. Never mind that Arya does have a point – it was indeed a bloody sorry service and nothing like her brother deserved.

Honestly, Robb deserved better all-around, and not just for his funeral. He deserved better period, from life and from death and from everyone else, not a service where praising him would have sounded like a slap in the face to all the people in the room who lost someone at the Red Wedding. And it’s hardly the worst part – a lot of the attendants had sided with the Boltons out of need or had not lifted a finger to help the ones who had conspired to bring a Stark back to Winterfell, but then they had provided help when the White Walkers were an imminent danger and it would have been hardly courteous to exclude them or to remind them that they owed their alliance to someone else.

“Very well,” she agrees, “I see nothing wrong with it. Besides…”

“Besides?”

Besides, Robb once did tell her how he had wished his funeral would be.

She doesn’t know what prompted it – maybe one day they had been visiting the crypts after escaping their mother’s supervision, back before she decided doing that kind of thing wasn’t ladylike enough. Yes, that had been the case. They had been standing in front of Aunt Lyanna’s grave and Robb had stared at it and a few others and then she had told her –

“Besides,” she whispers, not quite eating her food either, “once we were in the crypts and he said that all those statues looked sad and Father always looked like that, too, whenever he visited and came back to Winterfell. And – he said, I don’t want my funeral to be like that.”

“… Well, good to know we aren’t honoring his wishes on top of that.”

“Maybe we still can. After, he said – he said, I hope everyone I know will be there and they will remember all the good times we had and that they will have fun.” He had been smiling as he did. Obviously, he had imagined living a long, fulfilled life at the end of which everyone might have missed him but would have understood that it was his time to go.

Certainly, he hadn’t been imagining this.

“Then he said, they should tell stories about those good times. Maybe eat and drink. I don’t want my funeral to be sad.”

“… How old were the both of you?”

Sansa shrugs, trying to recall as she eats some of her stew so that no one starts wondering why she’s not doing so. “I think he was one and ten. I must have been seven or eight. Little did we know, didn’t we?”

Arya quite literally stabs her stew before eating it.

“Well then, I think we should open the reserves of Dornish the moment everyone else walks out of this room. At least we can get that right.”

At least. Sansa has never relished the prospect of being drunk, but this is the first time in her life she understands fully the allure of consuming half a bottle of good Dornish red. She glances at the corner of the room where her own guard is staying, and she thinks she might ask him to stay but… no, subjecting someone who gave up on that and bettered themselves for it to a whole lot of drunken people who miss their brother like a limb would not be fair, so she won’t.

She keeps on eating as Arya slips out of her seat and goes to Jon, whispering something in his ear, and then moving on to the far end of the table where Theon and Jeyne are sitting. Jon turns towards her and sends her a look that says, we are doing what you said later – they had to share duties for long enough during the Long night that by now they don’t need to speak to each other to talk.

Good.

Sansa doesn’t stop the serving girl when she asks if my lady would want some wine and she fills the glass halfway.

It’s…. somehow it does not look like it’s enough, but she supposes she will have more of that later.

Robb, this is for you, she thinks, recalling how he smiled when he said he wanted people to be happy at his own funeral, and then she takes a long, long drink.

(Maybe if she hides her face behind the cup, no one will see that she’s about to start crying.)

She can’t pretend to be happy now.

But later – later she’s going to try at all costs. They owe him at least that much.

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