The day her mother died was probably the most upsetting thing that had ever happened to her. Only being seven, it was odd that her older brother had come into her room and told her to come with him. She took his hand and followed, glancing up at him in curiosity every few steps.
“I don’t know. Father woke me up, and told me to get you and bring you back to his room.” He replied. Then he hugged her, which was a very rare thing for Brandon to do. He didn’t like showing emotion. It worried her. “Everything is fine. Father has something to tell us.”
She looked up at him hopefully. “About Ned?”
He held his firm and emotionless look. “No…Well…He might come home for a little while.” He knelt down to her height and looked her in the eyes. “Whatever he tells us, be strong. We’re a pack, right?”
She nodded, she tried to smile but it didn’t feel right. There seemed to be too much tension to him, he was nervous and anxious, which was very uncharacteristic for him. “What is he going to tell us? You know Bran, you know…”
He scrunched his face in an annoyed gesture and sighed. “First, you need to stop calling me Bran. Brandon, Brandon is a lordly name.” She went to hug him, another bright smile on her face and he groaned. “Lyanna, come on. At this rate he’ll have Benjen too.”
“It’s fine, if we’re all there it has to be good news.”
“Just take my hand. We’re close, it won’t take long. Then….then we can go in the courtyard, and I’ll let you hold my sword.”
It was all wrong. Brandon didn’t like to let them share his things, he was older, by years. He was growing into a man, and they were children. He didn’t have time for their games. He’d guide them, teach them, watch them, but he kept a distance. They kept to each other, he was their second father, their teacher.
“I want to go into the kitchens after. Ben and I never are allowed sweets before we break our fast.”
“I’ll take you. Come on, let’s not keep Father waiting.” He regained his composure, just as cold as he had been, then she took his hand. She started to hum a song one he remembered from when he was younger when their Mother would sing him to sleep. “Stop…”
“You were sad, I just want to cheer you up. It’s all right, father always makes everything better.” She replied, then she started to sing the song.
“STOP!” He yelled. She did, and she watched him sadly as he turned to face her once again. Only a few steps from their father’s chamber door. Only this time there were tears in his eyes, he tried to regain his composure. But every time he looked at her, he wanted to tell her. But he couldn’t, it had been hard when his father had woken him up far too early and told him to dress and get her. It hadn’t taken long for him to realize what had happened without being told. Her house colors were flying outside the windows. Their father had been sleeping less, and staying later in her chambers. He’d even had the three of them sit with her through the afternoon. He’d never let them miss lessons, and he frowned upon the boys missing training. Her time with them was over, there wasn’t a doubt in his mind as to what would come next.
“Come on.” He told her, as he settled for drying his eyes on his sleeves. “Lords don’t like it if you keep them waiting.”
“But you were crying, why were you crying? What happened that made you sad?” She asked.
Finally he’d had enough, she was still small enough that he could hold onto her and carry her the rest of the way. So he crouched one more time. “Come on, you can sit on my shoulders, I’ll carry you. Just don’t shout things.”
She smiled and did as he said. Once he stood up again. She could finally see out the window, and she giggled. “It’s snowing. After this we should build a fortress! Or a snow lord.”
“Maybe. We’ll see.” He started to walk again. It wasn’t long before she called out to him again.
“If it’s snowing, is Winter still coming, or is it already here?” She asked.
“It’s here, but it comes and goes. We’re just reminding everyone it’s going to come again. Remember what I said? What did I tell you earlier?”
“That we have to be strong, like a pack.” She told him proudly. “I can be strong, I promise.”
She hadn’t stayed strong at all. Once they entered his chamber he called her over to him. Brandon watched as he tried his hardest to keep his lord face. But he was finding the same problem Brandon had. Although her eyes were Stark grey, and her hair was dark, she shared her mother’s features. The way her hair fell, her facial expressions, the way her eyes, ears, and mouth were set. It’s how he knew she’d be fair when she was older, because she looked enough like her mother for him to be certain. So, he’d offered the younger two comfort, he’d let them sit with him in his chair one on each leg and he would rub their back comfortingly. Whisper words to help their hearts heal. But he hadn’t offered him anything, Brandon sat a distance from them in a chair across from them. His pain was his own, his grief silent. Lyanna and Benjen continued sniffling long after one of the household guard came to get the letter he wanted sent to the Vale immediately. As curious as he was when he glanced at the letter, which shared the sad news, he couldn’t believe what had been written on the front.
Jon, Let Eddard read this himself, do not tell him, let him read it.
He would know too. Jon would call for him, and he’d give him that letter. Eddard would know something was wrong, he wasn’t so sure which one of them had it worse. Brandon, because he was here and felt helpless. Or his brother, who was far away and felt helpless until he came home. At least then they could all mourn together.
He looked at his father expectantly. “Yes Father?”
“You’ll need to help me now. The first thing I need you to do is help your sister learn what you’ve been doing for these past few years. She’s to be the Lady of Winterfell. I want her to be capable of handling the things your mother did for us. I want you to show her how to greet our guests, I want her to help you get inventory of our stores, and our kitchens. I want her to know who our servants are, by name. I want you to teach her how to manage the accounts.”
“….She’s still a little girl…”
“And now she’s Lady of Winterfell. Everything has changed. Maesters serve us, the lords. If I am needed somewhere you are to be Lord in my stead. It won’t fall to your mother anymore. If you are doing like I am when I am in Winterfell, who do you expect to manage everything else? You need to keep up with the news from all over the North, you have to settle all the problems the small folk have, you need to keep the men trained well. You need to have strong ties with your lords. Who else could do it?”
“Eddard.” he’d regretted it as soon as he’d said it. Rickard seemed to know that as well, a small smile formed on his face.
“It would be hard for him to help you while he’s in the Vale. Besides, he isn’t going to be a lady, there is no reason for him to do it.”
“I’ll do as you wish Father, but….”
“I don’t want to hear excuses Brandon. You will be trained to be the Lord you were born to be. My sweet Lady will be trained to be a good and proper Lady. There is much I need to do. I can count on you to see she’s learning the proper path, can I not?”
Then he touched her hair again, she sniffled and rubbed her eyes. “You’ll be the Lady your Mother always wanted you to become. A strong Northern Lady, just like her.”
The days that followed were the hardest. She hadn’t known what to expect, and she wasn’t old enough to care about having any responsibility. The first thing he’d given her full responsibility over was their brother. Now she had to wake him up, help him get dressed if he needed it, make sure he dined with them and attended his lessons. When Brandon was there, it was easy. But when their Father needed him for preparations, and it became closer and closer to their funeral ceremony it became harder and harder. Sometimes her brother decided he didn’t want to go, and he’d fuss and complain. When she told her brother about it he’d only laughed.
“You’ve done the same thing to me for years. I hope every child you have makes you regret the things you’ve done to me.” he teased.
Brandon had been doing as he was told. He put his best efforts into teaching her what she was to do. After their supper he’d brought her to the kitchens and had her practice curtsying and welcoming them to the castle. She enjoyed the cakes they’d given to her for her efforts. The second big change that had come from this had been her wardrobe. She liked to wear boys clothes, especially if Brandon or Eddard had outgrown them. Their parents had let her get by with them, after all she would just as easily play with a doll, in a mud puddle. Her dresses were mostly reserved for feasts and company. Now she was being lectured on when she should wear each one, and was scolded if she didn’t mend it properly.
The only change she found she liked was her brother’s short return. They heard he was arriving as soon as possible with two knights from the Vale. Jon Arryn had sent their father a letter explaining why he couldn’t be in attendance himself, but he sent his condolences. The knights he had told him were to help him however possible. She waited impatiently for him to arrive, and when he finally did all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and cry. But her father’s eyes were on her, and so were Brandon’s. Instead she’d curtseyed and welcomed them to Winterfell. Brandon had been good enough to her to show the men to their rooms and leave her to Eddard.
“I wish you would stay.”
He smiled. “It’s fine at the Vale. Besides, I brought you a present. If I didn’t leave I couldn’t bring you more presents.”
She giggled and took the package from him. Once she unwrapped it she smiled.
“Don’t shoot it at Brandon. The arrows don’t really have sharp pits so they can’t hurt anyone. I even brought one for Ben, so when father sees them scattered all over the courtyard he won’t know they could be yours.”
“Thank you.” She hugged him tightly and he frowned.
“Nothing….Well……” She sighed. “I don’t like being a lady. Brandon says after the funeral he’s going to show me how to dance. Then after that he wants me to name all of father’s bannermen and know their house words, and their children’s names! It’s too much. We haven’t even come halfway to what he wants me to know. I’m bored with it!”
“The hard part is learning. You’re not going to have to name everyone off one by one after you know. All he wants to do is have you know who’s who. So when a Dustin, or Glover comes to Winterfell you know them by name. You’ll know by how Brandon and Father act how important they are. You’re not going to dance with lords every night, and you only have to great new people one day out of hundreds. There’s still plenty of time for things you want to do.”
“I promise, if you have any doubt ask Father.”
They talked until late in the afternoon, about everything that had been going on. She told him how their mother had been sick, and they spent time with her. She liked reading letters that he’d sent from the Vale out loud to her, but she told him their mother would of liked to hear what he was doing more than who he was around and what he was learning. She even told Eddard she’d open each letter and tell Lyanna that his penmanship was improving. He shared his adventures in the Vale. He told her about how he was training with the sword and lance now. But the other ward, who was slowly becoming his good friend used the war hammer. It had been a mistake he’d ever tried to pick a warhammer up, he explained to her. Never having brute strength made it hard to manage picking the thing up higher than his waist, let alone to his shoulders or higher. So he was forced to give up on that training, although every once in a while he did admit he’d use a wooden sword and pretend it were a warhammer with his friend Robert.
She wanted to hear more about everything, but she needed to get ready for dinner. So she excused herself in what she hoped was a polite, ladylike manner. After she bathed and changed into a dresses Brandon had told her was appropriate for guests she waited impatiently for him. But she hated waiting, and if she was bored she was more prone to do something her father would consider bad behavior. Then she heard a knock on her door and bounded over to open it. But instead of Brandon, Eddard was on the other side.
“Father thought you were with Brandon. He hadn’t come either, he must have gotten carried away talking about something. If you want, I’ll walk with you to the hall. We can walk into the hall just like a Lord and Lady. He’ll love it.”
She smiled and ran out the door, she’d almost made it halfway down the hall before he called for her to come back. Reluctantly she sauntered back and said with confusion. “What? Did I do something wrong?”
“I thought he was teaching you how to be a Lady?” He asked.
“He IS.” She replied in angst. “What did I do wrong?”
“If I’m escorting you somewhere you don’t race off ahead of me.” He teased. “But, didn’t he tell you anything on etiquette?”
“Maybe we’re not that far yet…”
He tried his hardest not to laugh. “Okay. Well, first if you’re supposed to be escorted somewhere you should walk beside the person. At their pace.”
They walked in silence down the hall, down the stairs, and up to the door. He hadn’t looked over at her once the entire time. It was good he hadn’t, while she walked along next to him she twirled her hair, and fussed over every little strand she could reach. Then she fussed with her skirt, smoothing it and fluffing it. When he finally looked back over at her, she was tapping the toes of her shoe against the floor.
“You know what would really impress father?” he asked.
“I think he’d really think you made progress, if you put your arm around mine and I lead you in there to your seat.”
“Oh, well…he had told Brandon it would be better like that, but Brandon says he doesn’t want to do it that way. He thinks if he does it, I’ll put all of my weight on him and make him fall over.”
“Well, would you?”
“Not in front of anyone important like father.” she teased.
He held his arm out and she linked hers with his. He gave her a minute to adjust since she’d been slouching the entire walk. Once he saw she was adjusted he opened the door and they walked through. Brandon had told her she shouldn’t look around at everyone. If they were to talk to her, they’d be brought to her later. But her eyes did wander, she was just too curious. Their table was short people, and she was almost certain her spot was now next to her father. She was however surprised when he offered her hand to their father, who smiled before kissing her hand.
“That’s a good Lady, sit with me.”
Once the feast started she felt a little more comfortable. Any other night they didn’t stare at the table. There also weren’t Lords from everywhere scattered around the room. She wondered why he didn’t have one of them at their table instead. When she asked he didn’t give her a satisfactory reply.
“Today and Tomorrow it’s going to be very important that we show them you can handle being a Lady. In the past few days, I’ve had quite a few offers for a new wife.”
She hadn’t liked that answer one bit, and she let him know by crossing her arms and scoffing loudly. “You don’t need a new wife.”
“No, I do not need a new wife. Not when I have four children who are capable of helping me handle things. We’ll have them focus their matchmaking on my children instead.”
“I’m not old enough to be married.” She replied firmly.
“But one day you will be. It won’t be for a long time. But one day you will, so will your brother.”
But she hadn’t been ready for that idea, not at all. The years passed by and she knew everything Brandon did about their bannermen. She could manage their finances without any help, and even their most humble guests told Rickard Stark how charming and lovely she was. So, he’d let the little talk about his daughter hitting swords with her brothers sit in the back of his mind away from immediate attention. She would never have her own, but he couldn’t stay and watch her for every act of bad behavior. After all, it hadn’t had any affect on the letters he received mostly regarding marriage. Most nights when he read his letters while she was in his room with him sewing, or reading but there was no point in asking her. He opinion would only result in something more complicated and ridiculous. The better choice would be to leave all the letters face down, have the wind blow them around and ask the Old Gods to do it for him. He read the next letter and sighed, she looked over at him expectantly but said nothing.
“It says the Prince has married.”
“Oh what a shame, don’t worry Father. I’m sure there are still plenty of unwed Princes out there somewhere for me.” She teased.
“You have your Mother’s humor.” Then he opened another letter. He read through it and stood suddenly then turned to his window, almost lost in thought.
“Father, while it’s still light outside may I ride my horse?”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s fine. Take Benjen with you, but no racing. If I hear horses charging anywhere near this castle you won’t ride him for a month this time.”
“Can we go into the Wolf’s Wood?” She asked excitedly.
He sighed. “If Brandon will go with you then you can ride in the Wolf’s Wood. There are all sorts of dangerous things in there….”
She smiled and turned to leave, but he called out to her again. “Don’t think of bringing another wolf back with you either.”
“It wasn’t my fault he followed me!” She cried indignantly.
“He was not following you he was following the trail of bacon you left for him. Now he sits out there howling until someone brings him food. If it becomes too troublesome you’ll find a nice wolf pelt on your bed.”
“You wouldn’t dare…”
“If it resolves itself there is no problem.”
“I named him Stark.” She replied angrily.
He shrugged, “Well Stark will certainly keep you warm once Winter comes. I make few compromises, you are not going to sway me. Wolves do not come close to the castle grounds. They stay in the Wolf’s Wood.”
After she left he sat down and sighed. He lifted the letter one more time and read it through again.
Lord Rickard Stark,
I would be interested in your daughter’s hand in marriage. I have been Jon Arryn’s ward with your son Eddard for some time now. I think of him as a brother, our houses would serve to benefit from it more than any marriage with a Northern Lord. There is a fondness in the Vale for house Stark and I wish it to perpetuate further south as well. Eddard talks on all of you and I could think of no better family to marry with. I offer you a true and strong alliance with House Baratheon.
I’m sure she is quite lovely, but I don’t even ask permission to see her or a chance to win her over with sweet words. I can tell by the kind of man your son is that she is going to be the kind of Lady I would want to have children with. I promise you she would be well cared for, and I can spare the expense of a Lady of her noble birth. If you were to agree I’d have a token of our promise made for her. If it please you, or even the Lady, I would be willing to marry her in the Northern fashion.
Lord Robert Baratheon
He folded the letter back up and looked at the melted wax, the stag prancing across the paper. What that letter had been was an extended suggestion from Jon Arryn. They were the not the young Lord’s words. So he was left with nothing about this man. The one person who could likely judge his character well enough was his son, and it would be an insult to ask for his opinion after he had spoken of him fondly. But there was promise, a Northern Lord couldn’t handle Lyanna. At eight she wanted to ride, nine she took to reading, ten she wanted to play music, at eleven she was trying her best to fight like a boy. Twelve was a proper age to announce a betrothal. Sixteen would be a good age for her to be married, but what would she find in between those years that would keep her interest? All the while she kept up with everything else. She would want her own horse, and new books, the strings would break on the lute, or she’d get bored and forget about it then couldn’t seem to tune it right. She’d ask for a sword, a dagger, anything her brothers had. It never ended, if there was a challenge she wanted to rise to it.
For a moment he wondered what his wife might have said If she would be opposed. He knew she would. They had talked on the marriage between Brandon and Catelyn Tully, as a viable option. She hadn’t been pleased at all. She reminded him the Northern Lords loved him so much because he’d married to the North. But the opportunity hadn’t been better, and the girl was now becoming fond of his son. One alliance with the Riverlands had been more than he’d hoped to accomplish. To have one to the Riverlands, and one to the Stormlands would feel like a dream. The only way they could get stronger would be if Eddard were to marry a Lady in Dorne, inherit her lands and start a new branch of the family. But it would never happen. She was right about this path being dangerous. But he couldn’t help but imagine her being unhappy with one of these other Lords. The Clansmen, she’d been so eager and excited to visit if she could. But he knew it wouldn’t hold her interest. He didn’t want her to end up with less, to have her settle for something mediocre. That was what it came down to, a roof over her head, food to eat, and a loving Lord meant nothing to him if that was all his daughter would get. He went through the extra expense to keep her amused, he’d loved her unconditionally. If she could be Lady of Storm’s End. She would be Lady of Storm’s End.
But he needed to know more about this man. He lifted a quill and dipped it in ink, laid out a fresh sheet of parchment and sighed.
You do offer an interesting promise. I assure you, my daughter is quite lovely. She would not disappoint you. I think twelve is a little young to make a promise to anyone, thirteen is hardly better but I would like to think on all the options we have before I’ve made a decision. Yours is a very tempting offer. I would be willing to join our houses, we should come to an understanding.
I do not know what you have heard of Northern Ladies, but The Lady of Winterfell is very independant. She’s very bright, well read. She has a fondness for nature, most animals, especially horses. But she also is stubborn, she has a bit of a temper and will be quite the pest if not entertained. That being said, she is also very friendly, and once she is taken with someone her affections last quite a while. If it is better for you to remain at a distance, until you know how to handle her that is fine by me. She isn’t much for sweet words and false promises. You likely learned all of this from Eddard already. But I would like to reiterate, because she is not like other Ladies. She would just as easy spar with you as she would mend your clothes.
Monetary facts aside, would you still be able to care for my Daughter. She needs many other things to keep her by your side, she isn’t to be carelessly discarded like some lords do to their ladies.
He crumpled the paper and sighed. It took him the rest of the night to write a suitable letter. He hadn’t spoken a word to Lyanna or her brothers about the letter. It was several weeks before he had a reply. This time he was more satisfied. It looked like something that had come from the man himself. He had tried his hardest to dissuade this man, yes he wanted her to marry high as she could. But he wanted a real response, and it was what he’d received.
I have been thinking on her. I thought and thought on what to write and it just never seemed to come out the way I wanted. She’s been described to me many ways, but it isn’t just her appearance that appeals to me. I hear from Eddard’s letters from her of her mischievous deeds. I think she would compliment me well. If it would be better we could talk about it face to face, I can tell you exactly what I heard and what has been said about it. The only things I offer that are different from your Northern Lords are that Eddard is my friend, and we are on equal ground. I did want to try to appeal to your perspective as a Father. She is to be cherished, loved, and adored.
I hear she is a bit of a challenge. A delightful, challenge but a challenge none the less. You were correct in assuming Jon Arryn suggested it. He has been telling me I shouldn’t wait, he’s had so many problems conceiving an heir, I don’t doubt his advice. All I know is your Lady in Winterfell is unique, and unique is a rare thing to find. I don’t imagine myself happy with a lady who is only interested in small talk and dresses.
I likely would have never written to you in the first place had it not been for Eddard. He rarely smiles, but most of the times he does he’s reading a letter from her. Believe me, I also have no shortage of fathers asking me to marry their daughter. I don’t want to do something simple and easy, it would make me more than happy to extend my friendship and esteem to your family for years to come. Your son is going to be a good man, he’s a great friend and I hope he’s always close for advice. She would be rather perfect. The same blood, the same good humor, humility, love for justice and noble deeds. I certainly don’t mind waiting until you feel she can leave your care. My only concern is that I don’t waste any time.
I had meant that I would marry her in the Northern fashion to earn your favor. It is true, but I hadn’t thought of a quicker warm her up to me. You have your Old Gods, and if she pleases she’s more than welcome to keep them. Admittedly I am accustomed to the Seven, but for the sake of my Northern Lady, and her noble family I wouldn’t think of having our children not hear stories of the Old Gods.
He’d shown the letter to his Maestur, who had immediately taken to the idea. “There is no better match. The time to act is now, there is no safe precaution. But Baratheon shares Targaryen blood just slightly. If you have two children that can produce children of outstanding bloodlines, there is still a chance their children could marry into his household. They would be safe then.”
“If he truly is mad, there is no safe way for them. If I say no the only thing I stand a chance of is losing Jon Arryn and house Baratheon. He hardly knew his parents when they died, then he went to live with Jon. I sent my son shortly after. I do not know what to think of him, but if I lose them both what am I to do with Eddard? I had always had a hope that Jon Arryn would have a daughter he would marry to my son. He speaks so fondly of him, but he’s had no luck. The boys are easy, she’s the one that’s trouble.”
“She is rather opinionated my Lord, if I could speak honestly, I doubt it should matter if she marries a Northern Lord or Lord Baratheon. The result will be the same, she will find a reason to be unhappy with your decision.”
“That is true, why burn a bridge if I have no need to do so. I’ll send my reply then. He’ll need to wait until after I have Brandon married, but he said the wait would be fine, so long as the intent was there.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He’d pulled her aside in her room before the feast with enough courtesy to tell her what was going on. Her thirteenth name day didn’t need to be anything special, she didn’t need to wear her mother’s old jewelry and a finely made blue dress. She’d almost expected something awful happened when he took her hands in his and smiled.
“This is a very important night for you.”
“Why is that?” She asked.
“Well, because tonight I am going to announce your betrothal.”
“You heard me.” He watched her as she seemed to digest the news.
“When did this happen? This is the first I’ve heard…”
“I don’t have to tell you everything. You are to marry Lord Robert Baratheon, is that name familiar to you?”
She shook her head, then the tears started to fall and he pulled his daughter close. “It should make you happy. He is Eddard’s good friend, doesn’t the name seem familiar to you?”
“How could you do this to me?” She replied spitefully. He only sighed and rubbed her back.
“You’re not to marry right away.You’ve only recently started your womanhood. I thought it might please you, you always speak so fondly of Eddard, and now you may spend more time with him.”
“Winterfell is my home, the North is my home. I don’t want…”
“You know as well as I do my health is not what it used to be. Do not make this harder than it needs to be. Everything is finalized, you will mary Lord Robert. We are announcing it tonight. Your betrothed even sent you a gift, a token of his admiration. One of these days you’re going to lose me, just like you lost your mother and when the time comes it will be easier to handle far from Winterfell with a child you love dearly in your arms, and your husband beside you.”
She hadn’t liked that response either. Why did it have to be her? She grew up with so many stories, the ones the Ladies told of dashing Princes and noble Kinghts that saved Ladies and they fell in love and married. Then there were more stories of the further North where men would take the woman they wanted from her Father’s home. They were filled with drama and passion. What was the point of even being married at all if there wasn’t something there?
Finally the silence weighed heavily on him. “I was promised to your mother when she was eight.”
“That is very young…”
“We didn’t marry until she was fifteen. It took her some time to adjust. We hadn’t had the chance to meet each other. Like your Brother and Catelyn Tully…”
“He thought I might be stubborn and say I didn’t want to marry her I suppose. He thought I might have reason to be against it. You can see him, if it happens to be convenient. But he will be watched. You have too many silly ideas in your head, I will not have someone else give you more.”
“Do you think that’s what Mother’s father told her about you?”
“She certainly did have many silly ideas. The first time I held you in my arms, she told me you were going to be trouble. But you were so small, and precious.” He smiled. “It must have been something in the clan blood that makes the wolf blood stronger. You have plenty of it, maybe you’ll settle down once you pass some of it to your children.”
He gave her the small box with the ring inside, and she was told to wear it always. So men would see it and know she was promised to another. She had never had much jewelry, but there was never really a need for it if she were to ride and hit swords with her brothers. But now there were more resistant to her. Usually she could sway Benjen by giving him something from the kitchens, or offering to help him. But still she pleaded and pestered. Finally it became too much.
“Father told us not to do it anymore, all right? He says, it might ruin your betrothal he won’t want you if you’re not a proper lady.”
She did the only thing she could think of, she stormed in on his meeting with some of his bannermen, the master at arms, and of course, Brandon. Like the Lord he was, he left the men to Brandon and ushered her back outside.
“You wouldn’t mind your manners just a little longer?”
“You turned my brothers against me.” She said accusingly.
“Did I? How did I manage that?”
“Ben won’t let me train with him.”
“He shouldn’t let you train with him, it should not have been happening to begin with. In a few short days he won’t care about that wooden sword anymore. You can’t hope to train with him if he’s wielding real steel…”
“I could wield real steel if you’d let me!”
“I told him, like his brothers he could have real steel once he turns twelve. I’m glad he knows better than to let you play with him. He’ll face real enemies that mean him harm, you’ll always be protected…”
“I don’t need to be protected!” She snapped. “I’m strong by myself, I can do anything my brothers can!”
“No you can’t. You do not listen, you do not conced. You complain that there is so much you haven’t seen or experienced, it is because you still act like a child. Brandon might be over confident and tactless at times, but he knows when to accept things he doesn’t like. It is partially my fault as well, allowing you so much leniency.”
She fought back the tears welling in her eyes. “It’s like I’m a prisoner.”
“You have far too many fine things to be considered a prisoner. You are not treated like a prisoner because I won’t allow you a sword, this is exactly the thing I am talking about.”
“It isn’t because of the sword, you don’t trust me with a sword. I understand that, but we both know I can handle it. You know I would be responsible with it, that I wouldn’t misuse it. You won’t allow me any freedom. I can go in the Godswood with someone, I can go in the Wolf’s Wood with someone. If I leave Winterfell it is with escorts and men at arms, do you really think someone will be waiting for me to leave? Our house has always felt little opposition, there isn’t any reason to fear the bannermen close to us and you know it.”
He was silent, and she folded her hands and looked down at the ground. It was exactly the route she needed to take. It was how she always won her battles, when she could easily turn the argument against him.
“We’ll discuss it once I’ve finished this business and I’ve returned from my visit with the clans.”
But they hadn’t. He was gone a few short days, then she received a letter from Ned. He told her their father had asked him to come back. But the unique situation hadn’t been explained to her, or her brothers. Even on their return, her father seemed reluctant to have them all together to talk. Ned had been the one to explain it best, they were invited to a great tourney, to celebrate a wedding. There would be all sorts of people there, Lords, Ladies, the Prince. She’d been so excited at the thought she immediately assumed she would go as well. Lord Rickard hadn’t felt the same way, he didn’t want to send her off because he himself wasn’t certain any of her brothers could sway her to come back. But it had been as she said herself before, if he didn’t let her go, she probably would only leave Winterfell to go to Storm’s End. If her husband wanted she might have the chance to see other castles farther from home. The only proper thing to do was ask his sons how they felt on the matter. Benjen was too young, he was too close to her, he knew Benjen would speak in her interest. So, as he talked to Eddard on his time at the Vale, he’d made mention of it in the small talk between father and son. Eddard seemed to be of the opinion that if she poured out her heart to him in her letters there was no reason why he wouldn’t have the upper hand.
So the entire decision seemed to fall on Brandon. Two brothers were on her side, one he could expect to protect her. The other would follow if he needed to, but surely Brandon would admit to him she was too free spirited, stubborn, and sometimes hostile to be allowed to be around so many people who did not necessarily know him. When he asked he was sure he would be on his side, but then Brandon had sighed and looked at him curiously.
“You say it best yourself Father, if there is a challenge, she’ll rise to it.”
“Then you agree with your brother? I must allow her to go, she should be present, and I can trust the three of you to manage her.”
“She doesn’t really need three men to handle her…”
“Two men and a boy…”
“Regardless she doesn’t need all of us all of the time. You’re forgetting your giving her what she wants. You’ve said that yourself too, your willingness to give her something she wants is directly proportional to how well she listens to you. You give her a horse and a place to ride it, and she’ll stay there. But once she’s been there awhile she’ll try and change the parameters…”
He looked over Brandon and frowned. “I’d expected you to be against it. You are more of a Lord than I give you credit for. My children are maturing in front of me and I fail to notice.”
“It settles her betrothal. She’s asked you questions, ones you can’t answer. I hear her with Eddard throughout the day asking about him. He’s humoring her by telling some stories. But you’re sending her off she might as well see him.”
“Else I’ll spend ten days where she locks herself in her room and refuses to speak to me.”
“I don’t think so.” Brandon seemed reluctant to look at him, but he did. He needed to tell him the truth, and it was something he was going to hate more than any lie he could think of. “If you don’t let her go with us, she’ll climb out the window and follow as soon as night falls. She’ll have enough sense to bring a map, but it will be dark and she might take the wrong way. We might even be there, and she’ll end up in White Harbor. Maybe she’ll think she’ll be faster going through the Wolf’s Wood. She’ll end up in Deepwood Motte. Or she’ll use the King’s road and she’ll get to the neck….Either way they’ll find it harder for the North to admire you if your own daughter ran away from you. She’s a strong girl, and good bannermen would recognise her straight away but she may not know them. They’ll chase after her, and she’ll run once she’s lost she won’t know what to make of the map. All she needs is to make the mistake of trusting the wrong person once, and you won’t have a daughter to give to Lord Baratheon.”
“So the pack stays together. With Eddard there, it should even the two of you out. She does have a very high opinion of him. He let her follow him everywhere….” Lord Rickard started to smile. “You’ll be in charge of everything, except her. Let Eddard be in charge of her, you two are better with each other if you have space.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They say Harrenhal is cursed, no one can truly own the castle. Every since Harren the Black was betrayed, bad things have happened there. There wasn’t a boring moment for her there, she enjoyed the jousting. She enjoyed talking to everyone, even if her brothers felt she needed an escort. Then there was the prince, he was like something from the tales she heard as a child. An air of elegance and respect followed him, and how he talked to her, it was unlike how other men had been toward her. Most of them either seemed to think her simple, and the one who heard things from her brothers often seemed to think she’d beat them up. But he hadn’t he treated her with as much respect and admiration she had for him, and it wasn’t long before her heart waivered. It was much harder for her than she imagined to recount events to her Father on their return. Every compliment on Robert Baratheon seemed less heartfelt. But she understood her duty, she was the Lady in Winterfell. So she tried to dream on her betrothed, she tried to imagine a castle by the sea. They would live together there, and she would be Lady Baratheon. She would bring the North to the Stormlands, in her spirit and her actions. She would have a say in her children’s marriages, they wouldn’t be a part of their father’s political agenda. They would have freedom, any one of them could carry a sword.