Brandon likes to mistake himself for our father. I think our strange relationship started when I began playing with them. Father sat the boys down and had a stern talk with them before I was allowed to follow them around. He only told me when I was older he’d told them I was a lady, and they were not to use force or let harm come to me. That message alone in father’s unwavering lordly tone of course struck fear deep in their souls.
Ned was always chivalrous anyway. He’d take me to places and back to my chambers. He never brought me close to the training grounds, or near the blacksmith, or the barracks. But, that was where Brandon always was, so of course I wanted to go there. Then once I’d begged and pleaded and won Ned over, Brandon scolded me. ‘Ladies don’t go to places like the Blacksmith.’
Then I yelled back at him in frustration. ‘What do you know of ladies, you shouldn’t consider yourself to be one.’
Needless to say my words earned me a stern talking to from father. But he has tried his best to explain to me how to be a lady. Especially after mother died, it became harder to please him. Unlike the south where they worship the new gods, we in the north have the old gods. We have no need for a septa. My mother would have taught me everything herself. Even at a young age I was sewing at her side. Father gave me dolls, and I did like to play with them sometimes. When mother had Benjen, I played with them the most, but less and less after she passed on. I had liked to think, being young as I was, she’d let me hold my brother if I could hold the doll right. Father let me hold him once. But it was with his help, and at three I sat in his lap while he held his son with me. It did please mother, it must have been a sweet sight since were both so little and helpless, and father so strong.
She did have a chance to teach me to fold my clothes, keep my chambers neat and clean, mend clothes myself and sing. That was the surest way to get father’s attention, she had always told me. It was true, if he were busy and brooding over letters, complaints, and taxes if I sung by his open door it put him in a much better mood. Even though it’s unspoken ladies in the north have as much influence as their lords. Father always liked a reasonable number of distractions, being a lord is hard work after all. If I sung a sweet song in the afternoon I could plead for him to bring me to watch my brothers train. Ned is closest to my age of the two and four years separate us, two more between he and Brandon. They were tough boys, father didn’t often watch them train but he did like to go when I could persuade him through sweetness and humility. Brandon was quite abashed when father saw what he liked about training. I had been an observant little lady in mother’s stead while she was ill. I just didn’t like how every time they trained Brandon was so eager, and Ned was so disappointed. I blame myself for him being sent away sometimes. Father knew Ned was shy, so he assumed he didn’t like to train because he wasn’t as good as Brandon. But he was good with the wooden swords they had, father just hadn’t been expecting the first thing he saw to be Brandon knocking him the ground so he could hit him a few more times. Brandon was two years older, he held a sword two years longer, he wasn’t going to let Ned get the better of him.
Ladies also need to be good listeners, Ned was a good protector. He stood up for me if Brandon were rude and obnoxious to me. He’d leave on his own and then when it was just the two of us he’d confide in me. He must be bad with a sword, father didn’t like to see them training, they must not be good enough yet. Until the day he’d been caught Brandon had been doing what he liked, he’d tell the master of arms off because he was to be lord of Winterfell they were going to train his way, the north is rough and unforgiving. I knew it was the honest truth, because who else would know Brandon better than me? We were so much alike, but I could never bring myself to do what he had for amusement. So I had listen to my instincts to get father to come and see what he was like, what practice was like, and what Brandon had been like. Brandon deeply regretted being caught as a bully, and I’m almost certain father had given him a lashing. But he’d never held my actions against me, he knew it’d been the right thing to do, he might have regretted acting that way toward his brother. Or even that he felt more responsible than I that father had sent him away. But after he was gone he needed to be my protector. After all, Benjen was younger than I, so we had to trust each other a little and set the thought of it aside, for father. But it hadn’t changed him too much. He would tell me of his adventures outside of Winterfell. He always spoke with enthusiasm and confidence. But he’d left pieces missing from his stories, and the parts he refused to tell me I’d picked up as rumors circulating around the castle. I had only wanted to help him, and have him come to terms with his bad decisions.
My last, and possibly most important point is this, above all else ladies are a lords greatest companion. With Ned gone, and Brandon a menace, there was only one more brother I could become close to, and especially with Brandon around he needed someone he could trust. I liked Benjen, we were closest in age and we played together often. I wanted to help him train, and beat Brandon however many times he could but all we did was kept a secret because if Brandon knew, he’d put a stop to it. Benjen was my greatest friend, and he did need someone to keep him company. Father wasn’t much for showing us affection, or giving us attention when we were young. But he and mother loved us all the same. He hadn’t known that, he had to have been four when father became as cold as ice. Brandon was convinced he was lord of everything, but Benjen would follow him sometimes with little hesitation. Finally when Benjen was old enough for father to pay attention to him, with Brandon traveling and dining with our banner men, and Ned in the Vale, there was only one son he could be close to. While we dinned with him he’d mention to Benjen he thought one of his sons should join the Night’s Watch. When he brought it up to Brandon, hoping to hear words of comfort he’d only laughed at him. It wasn’t fair, but father continued talk on it anyway, it would be an honor to him and to our house. I only spoke my mind was one night after he’d excused himself early for bed. I knew my brothers, and he was hurt and frustrated so he’d practice and then we’d talk until he felt relaxed enough to try and sleep. But, I’d told my father quite casually I could always go to the Night’s Watch if he wanted one of us to go. Father found it funny, but it hadn’t been a joke at all. If he went to please Father I would have liked to be there too, the more I mentioned it, the more frustrated father was. Then I found myself betrothed to Robert Baratheon, the only comfort in that was he was Ned’s friend if he were anything like my brother we might have a good marriage.
I am a lady, I may be willful at times, I know how to handle arms myself. I’ve listened to detailed history of wars, and I like to hear Brandon talk of tactical strategy while sewing. Father may disapprove of the harder things I’ve let myself learn, but as he tells Brandon all the time when we argue, I only like to be included. I’ll still sit by his side, and in front of the realm I can seem as good and sweet a lady as my mother. Being a lady isn’t far from being a lord after all. Only instead of swords we hold needles, mending clothing not lands. We keep the law between children, like a lord would his small folk. Winter is coming, we need to be strong as we can because winter will not show us sympathy because we’re ladies.