I just love reading Meera’s (secondhand) account of the Tourney at Harrenhal, it must be one of my favorite ~blasts to the past~ in the whole series. This bit in particular is my favorite:
“None offered a name, but he marked their faces well so he could revenge himself upon them later. They shoved him down every time he tried to rise, and kicked him when he curled up on the ground. But then they heard a roar. ‘That’s my father’s man you’re kicking, howled the she-wolf.”
“A wolf on four legs, or two?”
“Two,” said Meera. “The she-wolf laid into the squires with a tourney sword, scattering them all. The crannogman was bruised and bloodied, so she took him back to her lair to clean his cuts and bind them up with linen. There he met her pack brothers: the wild wolf who led them, the quiet wolf beside him, and the pup who was youngest of the four.
“That evening there was to be a feast in Harrenhal, to mark the opening of the tourney, and the she-wolf insisted that the lad attend. He was of high birth, with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so he let the young pup find him garb suitable to a king’s feast, and went up to the great castle.
I MEAN. How could Lyanna know that’s her father’s man? She’s 14 years old, probably minding her own business, and she comes across three squires viciously beating another man, and she jumps to his defense, claiming that’s her father’s man. And maybe she did know that he was, maybe she heard how these squires were “cursing him for a frogeater” and she understood that was a crannogman, and maybe she didn’t. Yet there she was, a witness to this injustice, and she scares all three squires away with all the wrath a teenaged girl can muster.
Then everything afterward is just a string of kind and noble acts; she tends to Howland Reed’s wounds herself, she introduces him to her brothers, she insists that he sit with them in the feast. Then she asks him to point out the squires who beat him, Benjen tells him he can get him a horse and a suit of armor, and Ned offers him a place to sleep in his tent.
I am staunchly a “Lyanna was the Knight of the Laughing Tree” believer, and I cannot see it any other way. Howland is hesitant, thoughtful, mulls over the subject of jousting for himself. Benjen is young, clearly willing to offer assistance but not prepared to exact revenge on his own. Lyanna, however– Lyanna bore witness to his pain and humiliation, and it’s Lyanna who risks all (once again) to restore her new friend’s honor.
All of this makes Howland’s presence at the Tower of Joy so poignant. Howland Reed could have gone home, but instead he rides to save the girl who would have done– had already done –the same for him.
(i have my own headcanon that Howland swore fealty to Lyanna after the tourney; he laid his frog spear at her feet, knelt for her, and swore his faithfulness to her by earth and water, by bronze and iron, by ice and fire).
(Lyanna laughs, commands him to rise, and says that one day, she hopes to see him again.)
(He does see her again, two years later, in a round tower that smelled of blood and roses.)