Lord Eddard Stark sat upon a rock beside the deep black pool in the godswood, the pale roots of the heart tree twisting around him like an old man's gnarled arms. The greatsword Ice lay across Lord Eddard's lap, and he was cleaning the blade with an oilcloth.
"Winterfell" Bran whispered.
His father looked up. "Who's there?" he asked, turning...
...and Bran, frightened, pulled away.
..But then somehow he was back at Winterfell again, in the godswood looking down upon his father. Lord Eddard seemed much younger this time. His hair was brown, with no hint of grey in it, his head bowed. "...let them grow up as brothers, with only love between them," he prayed, "and let my lady wife find it in her heart to forgive..."
"Father." Bran's voice was a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the leaved. "Father, it's me. It's Bran. Brandon."
Eddard Stark lifted his head and looked long at the weirwood, frowning, but he did not speak. He cannot see me, Bran realized, despairing. He wanted to reach out and touch him, but all that he could do was watch and listen. I am in the tree. I am inside the heart tree, looking out of its red eyes, but the wierwood cannot talk, so I can't.
Eddard Stark resumed his prayer. Bran felt his eyes fill up with tears. But were they his own tears, or the weirdwood's? If I cry, will the tree begin to weep?
The rest of his words were drowned out by a sudden clatter of wood on wood. Eddard Stark dissolved, like mist in a morning sun. Now two children danced across the godswood, hooting at one another as they dueled with broken branches. The girl was the older and taller of the two. Arya! Bran thought eagerly, as he watched her leap up onto a rock and cut at the boy. But that couldn't be right. If the girl was Arya, the boy was Bran himself, and he had never worn his hair so long. And Arya never beat me playing swords, the way the girl s beating him. She slashed at the boy across his thigh, so hard that his leg went out from under him and he fell into the pool and began to splash and shout. "You be quiet, stupid," the girl said, tossing her branch aside. "It's just water. Do you want Old Nan to hear and run and tell Father?" She knelt and pulled her brother from the pool, but before she got him out again, the two of them were gone.
After that, the glimpses came faster and faster, till Bran was feeling lost and dizzy. He saw no more of his father, nor the girl who looked like Arya, but a woman heavy with child emerged naked and dripping from the black pool, knelt before the tree, and begged the old gods for a son who would avenge her. Then there came a brown-haired girl, slender as a spear who stood on the tips of her toes to kiss the lips of a young knight as tall as Hodor. A dark-eyed youth, pale and fierce, sliced three brances off the weirwood and shaped them into arrows. The Tree itself was shrinking, growing smaller with each vision, whilst the lesser trees dwindled into saplings and vanished, only to be replaced by other trees that would dwindle and vanish in their turn. And now the lords Bran glimpssed were tall and hard, stern men in fur and chain mail. Some wore faces he remembered from statues in the crypts, but they were gone before he could put a name to them.
Then, as he watched, a bearded man forced a captive down onto his knees before the heart tree. A white-haired woman stepped toward them through a drift of dark red leaved, a bronze sickle in her hand.
"No," said Bran, "no, don't," but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle around his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man's feet drummed against the earth...but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood.
I was just wondering, who do you think the people in the scenes are, what is happening and when it is? It was one of my favourite parts of the book, so I'm really curious to see what people think!
[tl;dr - Ned cleaning Ice, Ned praying that for 'them to grow up as brothers' and for his wife to forgive him, a young boy and girl (who looks like Arya) dueling, a pregnant woman coming out of the pool and asking for a son to avenge her, a skinny, brown-haired girl kissing a tall knight, a dark, pale, fierce youth cutting branches from the weirwood to make arrows, a group of stern lords in fur and chain mail (Bran recognized some of their faces from the crypts), a bearded man forcing a captive to his knees and a white-haired woman slashing his throat open.]