- Rough Draft
- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Alternate Universe
Benjen Stark came back to himself with a slow blink. The last thing he remembered was leaving Castle Black in the early morning to begin his next ranging, but it was obviously mid-afternoon now. There was also the fact that he had intended to head towards the east, but clearly, something else had gone on. Instead of the jagged plains, he recognized that he was far to the north and standing outside of a grove of Weirwood trees. He knew these trees too well not to recognize them. Not only was it rare for the white trees of his gods to grow near one another but these nine trees were where all members of the Night’s Watch came to make their vows. It was a sacred place with only a few others like it in the world.
As he stood in the glade between the trees he could feel the many eyes carved into the bone white bark watching him, each face placed by the Children of the Forrest eons ago. He had long grown used to the strange sensation of this place. The ancient secrets weighed heavily on those who stood in their midst, but there was something different this time. A rustling wind began to pick up, the blood-red leaves hissing in tandem, a rhythm and sense of intent mesmerized him while he waited for something just beyond the reach of his senses. In time the sound of the leaves began to sound almost like voices, indistinct and hushed. He felt as though he were hearing a conversation in a different room. A meeting he knew he should join but unable to find the way.
Benjen grew more alarmed then hypnotized when all of the solemn faces began to bleed fresh sap from their eyes. Never had he seen such a thing happen, and a deep sense that something was about to happen overwhelmed him, a change that would alter the world teetering on the brink of fruition. Turning his head he was confronted by an image of a grey Direwolf just past the tree line. The creature was large but partially transparent, a ghost or spirit perhaps. The Direwolf eventually began to slink closer and the rustling of the leaves picked up urgently. There was a clearer sense of the whispers now. They were barely a murmur but he could just make out the word Winterfell and he felt a sudden need to go and speak with his brother.
Despite what should have been an alarming display of aggression, Benjen found himself remaining stunningly calm. It was only a moment until the Direwolf touched him gently with its nose and then abruptly disappeared. The moment it was gone he felt a pulling on his core and he heard in the distance the sound of howling. His hearing abruptly sharpened at the call and his vision blurred and cleared within seconds, returning to a degree that he could now see the individual leaves on the very tops of the branched swaying in a non-existent wind above him.
The weight of the moment, the knowledge of what that call must have been, stunned him for a moment before he turned to locate his horse. He had to get back to Castle Black and speak to Maester Aemon immediately. Benjen may often lament that the Night’s Watch had fallen into despair, but there were still good and wise men in it. Some of the less respectable ones even managed to turn themselves around and become good brothers. Not all of them though and so he would be careful of who he spoke with and aware of just who might be listening. No need to stir trouble before they were sure of what they were dealing with.
It took hours to reach the castle and the guards at the gate below were confused to see him so quickly returned but he ignored their questions in favor of seeking out the old Maester that served the Night’s Watch. If anyone could help him determine what had happened it would be him. Once he had located the old man in the rookery he gently pulled him aside explaining that he had an urgent matter to discuss.
They retired to the library where after being seated Benjen tried to describe what had happed. Benjen was not a man of elegant words and it took him some time but finally, he got the entire tale out and to the point of his return.
“You say you found yourself at the Oath trees with no recollection of how you came to be there. Was there anything strange this morning before your departure?” Aemon asked as he listened carefully.
“No, Maester, everything was as it normally is. I remember leaving for my ranging, then nothing till I was at the trees. I cannot explain what happened there anymore then I have, but I am still haunted by the need to speak with my brother, some instinct tells me he will know more of it. I came to you in the hopes that you will be able to help me explain my need to leave to the Lord Commander. If you can help me to convince him that this is what I suspect, then he will not disagree with both of us, no matter how insane it seems.” hoping he did not sound as desperate and possibly deranged as he felt, Benjen pace in the area around where Aemon sat and hoped he was doing the right thing. That he had not gone mad out in the frozen waste beyond the wall. So many lately had seemed to disappear or had been discovered a deserter that it was a legitimate concern.
Aemon paused to consider his next actions carefully before calling for one of his more trustworthy aids and requesting he retrieve several books. “It does indeed sound as though you have Heard the calling of Sentinels, as legend would describe. But you are right, we will need more than just wild speculation to convince Commander Jeor of that. We have plenty of books here to look at and see if we can find something more concrete to support our suspicions.”
Benjen took up research willingly, doing what he could to help the stewards with sorting through useful texts and reading the more interesting or relevant sections to Aemon. Eventually, they came across a few that they felt would support their claims strongly enough that the Lord Commander would not be able to push aside as wild speculation and superstition. Once they had those in hand they sought out the man himself.
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont of the Night’s Watch was a stern but good man and a well-respected commander. He was also a practical man who was not much for the outlandish tales of White Walker, Others, and Sentinels of ages past. It took some time and a great deal of talking to convince him they had not gone mad. The Mormonts may have been of the North, but Jeor was not particularly familiar with the legends of the Sentinels, and he had never given them much consideration.
Aemon took the time to explain the history of the First Men and that sentinels were well documented as real and that they had played a huge part in the shaping of the North. They had aided in the battle of the Long Night, keeping the Other’s at bay and finally, in establishing the wall and helping to man all of its many castles of long ago. The Sentinels had been fierce warriors with enhanced abilities. The capability to use all five senses with an instinct and unparalleled accuracy that made them a formidable opponent and an even more dangerous leader. It was said you could not lie to a Sentinel, that they could hear it in your very heartbeat. The strange phenomenon had only begun to fade a thousand years ago, around the time when the Starks had finally settled their long dispute with the Boltons.
In the end, it wasn’t even their steady certainty or the research they presented that convinced him but a dark and sinister growling from the corner of the office, opposite from where they crowded near a table, which did the trick. An alarmingly large grey Direwolf that could clearly be seen through and was obviously unhappy was much more convincing than a strange story and a few books. The wolf disappeared as soon as it had been noticed, but all three men continued to stare at the space where it had crouched for a while before Mormont shook himself free of his stunned state and moved on to more pertinent manners.
“Well, I’ve either joined you in your madness or we are living in a dangerous time indeed if the Sentinels have been called again. What do we need to do about it?” Jeor scratched at his beard looking disturbed at this change in his world view, but he hardly had time to give in to his doubts at the moment.
“I was given the impression that I should go to Winterfell and speak with my brother. I don’t know what he has to do with this, but if there is a chance he knows what is going on then we should try and figure it out.” Ben took up one of the books they had brought to try and convince the Lord Commander. “I would also like to ask permission to take some of the more relevant texts with me, if Eddard doesn’t have all the answers we need then the books might make a difference in figuring out what is going on. They certainly won’t hurt in any case.”
“A good point. I will grant you the permission you seek. Go to Winterfell and speak with Lord Stark, if he does not know what has occurred then at the very least he will have to be informed. Take what books you and Maester Aemon decide will be of the most use and gather provisions. I would prefer this be seen to as quickly as possible. Whatever has brought this on, I can’t imagine that it can wait.” Jeor told them before dismissing them to their duties.
The Lord Commander seemed disturbed when the left and Benjen hoped that he would be alright. This was a lot for any man to take in, let alone to accept things of legend on your very doorstep. It was a lot for Benjen to process as well and it was happening to him. He supposed he shouldn’t be too surprised that if anyone was to be called, it would be someone in his family. The blood of the First Men flowed strongly in the Starks. Long had they been lords and protectors of the North, it made a certain sense that they would be its Guardians as well. He did wish it had fallen on someone else’s shoulders though. He would not turn from the calling even had he been given a choice, but it was not something he would have ever wished for either.
He went to gather his belongings as well as fresh supplies for his trip to Winterfell. he had most of what he needed already packed for the ranging he was meant to be on at this time, but if he was going to Winterfell instead of out into the wild he would need more civilized attire and a lighter traveling pack. The aim of this journey was speed instead of endurance. When he had everything he thought he might need he returned to the library where Maester Aemon waited. Master Aemon had graciously harassed his aides into gathering the book he deemed most helpful into an organized pack and a listing of what they were so that they could be accounted for.
“Be sure to bring these back to me if you can. If your Lord and brother should require them for longer I would appreciate that he would send me word so we may keep track of where they are.” Aemon chided him as he leaned heavily upon his cane. “These are dark times ahead of us if the Sentinels have been called back into existence. What a strange thing to ponder. I am thankful I am here on the Wall and away from the politics of the world. The south and the Faith of the Seven will not take this news well when they become aware of it.”
Ben paused in his adjustments of the books to stare at the old man in horror. Aemon’s milky eyes stared back and over his shoulders, but he could see the benign amusement there. Ben had not considered the reaction of the other kingdoms or the disapproval of the Faith. King Robert was perhaps less of a concern, but there were also rumors that the King was no longer the man that the North has sworn to. Those people and their strange lives were so far away from the rough survival of the North that he rarely thought on them at all. But he was not so foolish as to discard the implications now that the crafty old Maester had pointed them out. One more thing he would need to speak of with Ned. The list was growing worryingly long at this point.
with the books in hand and words of farewell spoken to his brother’s that he came across Benjen Stark took his leave of Castle Black and headed to the place where he had been born, it had been long since he had seen his brother and his kin, but he desperately wished it were a trip for the happier circumstance. Ahead of him in the distance, he could see the Gray Direwolf once again. It patiently waited for him further down the road to Winterfell, and Benjen silently vowed to himself and the spirit that he would follow where ever it may lead. What other choice was there?