The long and treacherous ride up to KingsLanding was a quiet one. Neither Lord Stark nor Lord Reed had any desire to talk more than they had to.
The Tower of Joy could not have been less aptly named; Tower of Death and Misery is far more appropriate. Though if not for the circumstances surrounding the holdfast, it would actually be peaceful located in a tranquil mountainside as it was.
Mark Ryswell, Theo Wull, Martyn Cassel, Ethan Glover, William Dustin, Oswell Whent, Gerold Hightower, Arthur Dayne; all these men died in the course of one afternoon. Howland Reed personally slew the last one in that list, driving a poisoned frog spear through The Sword of Morning's throat. This Howland Reed did so as to save his comrade's life from a sword swing.
And Lyanna, the woman whom these seven and countless others died for, she is probably going to join them.
When Eddard rushed up the tower to his sister, he found her in a pool of blood clutching a hand full of Winterfell roses (probably the only reminder of home she had). After begging Eddard to make a promise to her, Lyanna lost consciousness and fell into a coma. Howland did the best he could with the medicinal knowledge passed down to craggomen down the generations, but while it stopped the bleeding and gave her breath it could not wake Lyanna up. 'We will speak of this to no one!' Eddard had told Lord Reed, obviously referring to the promise he overheard.
The Starks had helped Lord Reed considerably before the war broke out. Lyanna drove off three bullies, and Eddard posed as a mystery knight to restore Howland's dignity; the humble and somewhat shy Eddard would never admit to it but Howland knew it was him. If Eddard wanted to Howland to keep a secret for him, this mudman would carry the secret to the grave.
Now the Craggoman sat uncomfortably in his saddle as they rode up through the shattered and war torn Stormlands. Even after riding one for a good chunk of the war, Howland Reed was not used to horses.
It was raining hard, and they were running low on food and other supplies.
Eventually they reached StormsEnd, where only a few days prior Eddard had led a relief force to route the strength of Highgarden. Eddard and his companions did not stay to greet the defenders, as they had to reach Lyanna as soon as possible. Now that they were heading back, Lyanna especially would need to rest.
When they reached the gates of StormsEnd, the signs of combat were still visible. The ground was still scorched, the mantlets which Lord Tyrell's men took cover behind were still left abandoned outside the castle walls, and broken weapons and armor was still lay scattered about. On the field a few of the corpses remain, being picked at by both looter and crow alike, both of which are shooed away by grave diggers and silent sisters. High over the ramparts of StormsEnd flew the proud Stag of House Baratheon.
The gates opened to them, just as they opened when Stannis sallied forth to fight alongside the relief force. Once they were into the castle courtyard Eddard and Howland were on their feet, the former giving instructions to the assistants who came to bring their horses to the stable.
"Fetch the Maester of this castle, tell him it cannot wait."
The did not have to wait more than a moment, as very quickly Maester Cressen came. The newly knighted Ser Davos came with him, as did Stannis Baratheon.
With the help of Eddard and Howland, Maester Cressen carried the comatose Lyanna off Eddard's horse. With slow delicacy, Eddard helped the Maester carry his sister to guest chambers for treatment. After preforming an examination, the Maester gave a diagnosis.
"Lord Eddard, your sister is in very poor health. I can keep her alive by using a straw to drip water and broth between her lips, but I can not promise that she will wake up."
Eddard had already lost his brother and his father, there was no way he going to give up on his sister without a fight.
"If there is even a small chance that Lyanna will wake up, I want you to take it."
Stannis, who previously stood unnoticed, now addressed them.
"We can shelter here as long as need be, that I promise you. If you decide she should be moved to KingsLanding however, I will provide a fast escort to take her there and will even send my Maester along with you."
Eddard considered this for a moment, trying to decide which is better for his sister. On one hand, The Red Keep would no doubt have better medicine than StormsEnd. On the other, such a trip might be too difficult for Lyanna given her current state.
Howland did not know the answer either, but he decided to help his comrade out by giving him more information. "How fares the weather?"
It was The Onion Knight who answered him this time. "The weather is calm, a fast escort could arrive in Kings Landing in little over a full day of riding."
Eddard looked up at Stannis, his eyes grateful for this kindness.
"I will want to send a raven to Robert first, to warn him of our arrival."