He sat in the gods wood. It was a pleasure to him when he could enjoy peace and quiet. When he went back to the castle there would be fussing, and chattering, them men would suck up to him. Then there were the ladies, who would ask him any number of question varying from how he had liked his travels, to if they could offer him refreshment in their chambers later that evening. This was what he wanted. A silent still place, where no other person should be, because the daylight was fleeting. He drew his sword and cleaned it carefully. It was good for him after all to take the law into his own hands, he’d be lord of Winterfell eventually. He’d give thieves and murders a reason to fear him. After all, they were now going to the wall, each short a hand, but they would live. They’d also remember their crimes, and the man who’d taken a hand for their actions. He would rule like a king, there would be little mercy for the wicked, and plenty of blood for his sword. Which was the entire purpose of having the sword, was it not? To protect, defend, and kill if necessary.
The wind started to pick up, he wondered if they might expect rain. But the sky in the gods wood was full of red leaves, it would be difficult to tell if it were truly clear. So he closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. He’d been told a good many times the Starks had such a long rich family history that he might be able to hear from the gods. It would be an honor to him, because surely they appreciated his hard work and devotion. Their rules were a code of conduct, protecting the weak, ruling justly and honorably, seeing the land was tended to properly so it would flourish each harvest. The old gods had been good to them, and they kept the old ways. The new gods had to many rules, and in his honest opinion, we worth less to him then a rusty dull blade.
“Brandon.” She called to him.
He hadn’t been quick to respond, after all he’d like to hear something, and he was reasonably certain they liked that he’d tried. So, he held up his hand hoping to silence her and let just a little more time pass before he opened his eyes. She was sitting on the ground next to him, and now she’d decided to mimic him. She sat as straight as she could, with her eyes closed. A smile on her face, and the wind seemed to fall into an odd rhythm.
“What are you…”
“Don’t you shhh me.” He scoffed and went back to cleaning the sword. “I’ll talk if I like, your never silent when you need to be.”
When she opened her eyes she turned to him and shrugged. “But you were being rude, they were talking with me.”
He scoffed. “What reason would they have to talk to you?”
“They don’t like the questions you ask. They say a wolf who bears his fangs to all is not a wolf to be feared. The wolf to fear is the silent one, who prowls for justice, and expects nothing in return. That would do them good.”
“You’re a liar sister, it sounds much like something Father would say…”
“They like talking to father. Mother taught him to do it the right way, your doing it all wrong. The heart tree sees you, but without some compassion you’ll never hear what they say…”
He gave her an angry glance and stood up. “How do you know I was talking to them? How do you know I even try? It was funny when we were little but do you really think I’ll believe such nonsense?”
She shrugged. “They told me you had. That you try, but all you tell them are of your triumphs and your vain glory. They can see what you do. If your not asking for guidance, why would they waste their time on you? Father asks for guidance, and they love his devotion to them. You can try again. Let me see your sword, I’ll finish cleaning it for you.”
Now he seemed to be thoroughly angry. She’d insulted his pride, called him a fool, and now she was asking him for his sword. “I see what your doing, you want to take it from me.”
“I do not, it’s still dirty. They don’t like the blood you’ve spilled with it. You should have let the men keep their hands. They’ll be poor use to the Night’s Watch now.”
He tossed his sword to the ground and threw his hands in the air. “Who have you been talking to!? Always in my business, acting like your older and wiser than I am.”
“I’m only trying to help you, your losing your way. Your trying to make what you want what they want. The old gods don’t care for glory, they care for the right way.”
“Your one to talk about the right way sister. A lady trained in arms. I’ll clean my own sword and to hell with you and the old gods if I’ve done something ‘the wrong way’.” He sat back down and sighed. “Your more trouble than your worth.”
“So are you. See if I ever try and do anything nice for you again.” They sat in an awkward silence for a few minuets. She knew better than to get through to him that way. She’d been foolish in thinking he’d come around because they had something to talk about together. So, she pretended to brush some of the dirt off her skit, then looked back over at him.
“Your always well missed.”
A smug look grew on his face. “Am I?”
“The words should sound surprised, but you didn’t say them as if you were surprised. I really am worried about you. If half the stories are true, what would anyone think of their lord of Winterfell? Father isn’t stupid, he’s getting wind of things too. The only way he can think to handle it is to marry you off sooner…”
“Why would you care if he marries me off sooner. You’ll have a new friend to torment. Maybe she’ll train you to be a better lady and listen. A wife won’t stop me, I’ll still do what’s best for us.”
“It can’t possibly be what’s best for us. If he decides your honoring the agreement between our houses now he’ll wait a few months if that, then he’ll send notice to Robert Baratheon he can come and marry me. What about how I feel about it?”
“Like it or not, your stuck with Robert Baratheon. Unless he drinks his way to an early grave, then you’ll likely have to settle for a brother. But not to worry, he’s on level with our wealth, you’ll be taken care of. I’ll marry Catelyn Tully and we’ll both be miserable leagues from each other.”
“I don’t want to marry him.” She replied firmly.
“I don’t want to marry her, I could find someone much prettier, and brighter most anywhere else. If fact I’ve be…” He stopped and growled. “You’re a tricky one….”
“It is true then…It’s fine, Robert Baratheon is the same way if the rumors are true. What if I told father I didn’t….”
“Who do you think you could find to replace someone of his status? Lyanna, consider yourself fortunate and do what father says. Eddard probably had a nice long talk with him before he spoke on his interest. Then he saw you at Harrenhal and knew he’d like you to have his children. But you have no way out. Just like me, she’ll have children for me and do everything a wife would need to do. But we’re still never going to be happy. Just like you and ANYONE you marry. Maybe if you please him he’ll give Eddard a lordship. Consider it your last hurrah as a Stark, because your going to marry him, and your not going to be a wild wolf anymore. You’ll have to be a sweet little doe, and give him whatever he wants because he’s your husband.”
“You don’t love her? Not even a little? You fought for her hand.”
“Only because I needed to fight for her hand. She was promised to me. I couldn’t send a letter back saying ‘Fine, I don’t care.’ Can you imagine the ramifications?”
“What if someone fought for my hand?” She challenged.
He smirked. “Honestly? I expect the idiot could expect all of his ribs to be shattered by Robert’s war hammer. But, I’m sure to someone you may be worth a painful, brutal death.”
“Then I suppose I’ll have to pray that some strong man comes to kidnap me.”
“Your not worth kidnapping either. He’d have to deal with you, he wouldn’t get to far before he brought you back. So long as you’re here in Winterfell he has all of father’s men, me, Benjen and father to worry about. Trust me, if I find out who you think you’ve fallen in love with, I’ll make sure to kill them as a mercy for what would happen to him if he acted out of impulse.”
She knew he was being truthful, no one could tell Brandon what to do, no one had enough nerve, except their father and his emotions wouldn’t be wavered no matter what she said. “And what of your lady?”
“What about her?”
“What if your dueling partner decided he wanted to come to Winterfell and whisk her away like the love songs the bards sing, would you do the same?”
He scoffed. “You still don’t understand. I will make it plain as day to you sister. So long as you are in this castle, you are father’s property. To Robert Baratheon, you’re a way into our family and Eddard can lawfully be his brother. Father’s price for you is Storms End’s loyalty to him should he need it’s assistance. The same thing is true for Catelyn Tully, once we are wed and Riverrun is loyal to us if someone were to kidnap her, or fight for her honor, yes, I would indeed fight them. Love doesn’t need to come into the equation. It’s politics, once she is married to me she is mine, just like Winterfell will be mine when father passes, and the sword in my hand is mine.”
“You will show no concern or love for her otherwise?”
“I’ll need to show concern for her. If she wants me to love her she’ll learn fast enough what I want from her. I’d gladly bed her and show her as much affection as I need to openly. If father could have found someone higher to marry, I’d have her instead.”
She frowned. “Father loved mother…”
“After they’d been married. It took them years to have me, then Eddard, and by the time you were born he was finally at ease with their marriage. You can love that drunk, for some reason or another Eddard thinks he a good friend. Might be he’s the only one there, so he had no choice. But your fair, he’ll like looking at you. Eddard likely won’t go too far, he’ll want to make sure your taken care of. You’ll likely give him sons that favor him. Don’t worry about a stupid squire, or knight, your to marry a lord.”
“Do you love anyone?” She asked finally, the conversation hadn’t been at all what she hoped. She was understandably worried.
“There isn’t a lady in the Seven Kingdoms worthy of my affections.” He went back to cleaning his blade and she stood up, and took her cloak from the ground. He smiled at her, knowing very well she was defeated and she’d need to take some time to reformulate a plan, which would also fail. But just after she took a few long strides he called after her.
“By the way, it might be best if you stopped communicating with the prince.”
She froze in place and her heart seemed to beat faster than it ever had before. She looked back at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“I mean what I just said. You best stop communicating with the prince. He has a wife, and your to be married months after me. If need be I’ll have all your ravens checked. You were hiding it well from me, I’ll admit. But all I needed was to intercept one, then I found the others in your chambers, and I burned them all.” She started to cry, she couldn’t see the man she loved, it was hard enough to bear that weight. Now she couldn’t even read the sweet words he’d sent to her through the past year. They’d slipped dozens past everyone, why should it end now? “I won’t make the mistake of being settled with a daughter like you. Your like a darling princess to him, he dotes on his daughter. Bright and strong as her brothers, a little wild, but he can subdue you with some strong words and a nice gift so you’ll forget your angry with him. No, I’ll punish my children a better way…”
“He’s the same way with you!” She replied bitterly.
“He is. But we’re very different. Sons are supposed to think for themselves. Daughters….if I have a daughter she’ll learn her place. Then we wouldn’t have problems like we do with you. I’m to be married in a month, as our fathers had planned. Put this nonsense behind you. If I catch a word of your infatuation for anyone or anything, I’ll put a stop to it myself. Then I’ll tell father, and you can enjoy being married soon after. Then locked up in another castle for the rest of your life.”
He started to laugh. “Cruel? Life is cruel. I’m being honest, if you continue to act on impulse it will need to be dealt with. Go back to your chambers and complain to Eddard, for all the good it will do you. In fact, tell him everything. Tell him your in love with a married man, while your betrothed to his best friend. See how he takes the news, because no matter how much better, wiser, and kinder he is to you he’ll tell you the same damned thing.”
“I hate you…” It was all she could manage in between sobs.
Once she regained her composure she replied firmly. “He’d want me to be happy…”
He shrugged. “Not if it cost him a lordship.”
“THERE IS NO LORDSHIP. He isn’t like YOU. He didn’t do it for his own benefit or gain, he thought Robert would make me happy and if I said I didn’t want to marry him, he wouldn’t be the slightest bit upset. He’d want me to be happy.”
“What does father want?”
She looked down at the ground and sighed. “Father wants me to marry Robert Baratheon.”
He walked over to her and brushed her tears away. “You are smart, you just need to stop acting like a girl. You can never have Prince Rhaegar. You’ll be a good daughter, you’ll wait patiently and when he comes to marry you, you’ll make it well worth the wait. You must do the right thing, and you know why.”
She let out a long sigh, then looked into his eyes and nodded. “Winter is coming.”