Chapter 1: Of Marrying Age
Arya Stark watched the arrival of the wheelhouses and prancing horses baring bannerman of House Reed with a steady boredom that threatened to overwhelm her at any moment. She was so tired of watching people arrive as suitors for the children of House Stark. This time it was in a bid to marry Meera Reed off to one of the Stark sons. Beside her, Robb looked unimpressed as the girl exited the wheelhouse that had carried her to Winterfell. She'd been brought to the castle as a possible bride for Robb, but Arya could tell at a glance that it wasn't going to work out.
Three moons past it had been the girl of Lannister, and before her the girl of Tyrell. Robb's trouble was that he was looking for everything in a woman that he'd been told to expect of a wife, but also the fire and spirit that Northern girls like Arya had. Thus far he'd been unsuccessful in finding a bride who was both witty and tough yet feminie and beautiful. Meera looked like she might be tough enough, and probably witty enough if the sly glance she shot her brother Jojen was any indication, but she wasn't quite as beautiful or as feminine as her brother expected.
When Robb's attention turned to other things even as they were bring introduced, Arya caught Bran eyeing Lady Meera with interest and she wondered if perhaps the Reeds wouldn't have to go home disappointed after all. Bran was only six and ten, but that didn't stop his interest in find a prospective bride. Arya rolled her eyes at him. Mother had already hinted at the idea of finding them all spouses, and Arya didn't at all like it.
In spite of her begging to the Old Gods, they had not granted her clemency from the woes of womanhood, and just as every other woman she'd known before her had, Arya had bled, indicating she was now of age to bare children and so of age to be wed. The very idea made her stomach turn. She wasn't like Sansa, who had been prattling about being married since she'd bled at three and ten. She didn't at all like the idea of being dragged across the realm to meet potential husbands. Something she'd vocally informed her mother and father of often in the two years since she'd first bled. Thus far they had been lenient and had been holding off on seeing both her and Sansa married, but Arya suspected it was not to last.
Just last night Mother had hinted that they would soon be travelling to Highgarden where Sansa was to meet with Willas Tyrell. She was excited about it and Arya had felt sick at the mere mention. The idea of being forced out of Winterfell and into bed with a husband she'd never even met was enough to turn her stomach and more than once she'd seriously considered running away to become a wildling. At least wildling women were spear wives. She didn't at all like the idea of being the simpering Lady to some pompous lord.
Mother disapproved, but in a bid to keep her from doing just that, Father had granted her permission to learn to fight with a sword alongside her brothers from the time she'd turned ten. Often she could be found in the training yard long after the others had finished for the day. Still, all the swordplay in the world would not keep her from having to do her duty as a highborn daughter of a lord.
Time passed slowly while the Reeds visited, and though they were disappointed that Robb was not interested in marrying Meera, they were overjoyed when Bran had suggested to Father that he marry her instead. Mother was pleased too, though the marriage of her second youngest child before the three elder to him rankled her and drove her to search for suitors for her children more urgently.
That was why she had sent letters everywhere requesting envoys from all the far-reaching families of the realm in search of a bride for Robb. And why she was currently driving Arya mad.
"Arya, if you had to choose, where would you most like to live?" Mother asked her.
"Winterfell," Arya replied, causing a newly married Meera to giggle though she attempted to hide the giggle with a cough when Sansa glared at her.
"Arya!" Mother snapped, losing patience, "If you refuse to cooperate I'll see you married off to whomever makes the best political alliance and won't bother to consult you on the matter first. Now stop sulking like a child. Sansa has already agreed to wed Willas Tyrell, and the Martell's have sent a raven requesting a match between Robb and Nymeria Martell. I've heard rumours she might be what Robb is looking for, both fierce and beautiful. That leaves you."
"What does it matter what I say?" Arya demanded, "You know I don't want to be married to anyone and that I don't want to leave Winterfell or the North. No matter what choice you make, I'm not going to like it, so why do you bother asking me?"
"Because I want you to be happy in your marriage, demon child!" Lady Catelyn snapped at her, leaping to her feet in frustration, "You might not like it, but eventually a husband will grow on you. At least he will if you marry a good man. And since there are few who will remain good men when they learn what a wild, unladylike little urchin you are, I at least wanted an idea of where best to send you to keep you happy. If not with your husband then at least with the place you are forced to live!"
With that Lady Catelyn stomped out of the room, slamming the door in frustration behind her.
"You need to be careful Arya," Sansa warned, "Else you'll end up with one of those fat old lords instead of a young handsome one."
"Oh shut up," Arya growled, her arms crossed over her chest in annoyance.
"Is there really no one in all the kingdoms you could see yourself married too?" Meera asked her in a soft, less biting tone that Sansa had used.
"I don't want to be married at all, Meera," Arya replied. The girl had an aptitude for hunting that Arya had taken to and they had grown fast friends in the moon since she and Bran had been wed.
"Well you have to be!" Sans snapped at her, "All the pouting in the world won't change that. Even Father has told you so. It's not going to be the end of the world, and you will get over it. So would you please stop acting like a spoiled brat and accept that there is nothing you can do about this but grit your teeth and accept that you have to marry someone. No one said you had to like him or that he has to be handsome or tolerant of your less than ladylike behaviour! You don't have a choice but to marry, so at least let Mother and Father help you find someone who might be at least mildly accepting of the fact that you'll backtalk him and go against his direction and probably wind up threatening to murder him in his sleep."
Arya glared at her.
"You're only so touchy because you don't want to marry a cripple!" Arya growled at her, knowing that was the real reason Sansa was so testy. "You'd prefer his brother Loras, the pretty Knight of the Flowers, but you can't have him. You'll instead be stuck with a man who only has one working leg. And like a good little highborn lady you'll bite your tongue and smile and pretend you like it when he fucks babes into your belly, all because you're too proper to say anything! I think we both know who the real idiot is, and it's not me."
With that said and her sister gaping at her open mouthed, Arya stomped out of the room, copying her mother as she slammed the door behind her. She paused outside the door when she heard the unmistakable sound of Sansa beginning to sob while Meera tried to comfort her.
~ O ~
Gendry Baratheon growled out an oath of frustration when his lordly father found him in the forge, hammer in hand as he swung repeatedly at the sword he was crafting.
"Knew I'd find you here," his father grunted, propping his huge shoulder against the doorway into the forge and eyeing his son and heir with a twinkle of amusement in his blue eyes. Gendry didn't answer him, though his anger did result in him swinging the hammer too hard and almost shattering the sword.
"So what was wrong with that one?" Robert asked him eventually when it became apparent that the younger, handsomer version of the Lord Baratheon wasn't going to speak except for uttering several foul curses. "I thought she had a nice set of tits on her."
"And that was about it," Gendry grunted.
He was sick of meeting simpering little fools his father wanted him to marry. He didn't want to marry. He was only two and twenty, by the Seven! He didn't need a wife. He had no idea what had gotten into his father's head to suddenly push for a wife, but Gendry was tired of it. They were all the same. Oh they might have had different coloured hair or different sized tits, but they were all just the same simpering, annoying little twits. They all batted their eyes at him the same. They all oohed and ahed over his muscular form and his blue eyes. They all wanted to marry him just so they could outdo their friends and one day become Lady Baratheon of Storm's End.
"Too stupid for you?" Robert asked him knowingly. His father never cared if they were stupid. Sometimes he even preferred it since it made them easier to talk into bed.
"Too interested in being Lady Baratheon and not interested enough in what I want," Gendry retorted, his words punctuated by each clang of his hammer against the malleable metal.
"Too docile, you mean?" Robert chuckled, "Not enough of a hellcat in bed for you, then?"
Gendry aimed a glare at his father for that. All his father ever thought about was fucking them. It drove him mad. If it weren't for his Lady Mother and her capable presence, Storm's End would've been run into the ground by his father years ago. Since Lyanna Stark had refused to marry him and instead chosen to become the second wife of King Rhaegar, Robert had become a furious, empty shell of the man he'd once been. All he cared about was hunting, whoring, drinking and war-mongering.
Besides, he hadn't been able to bring himself to even imagine fucking Larissa Lannister. He knew a scheming bitch when he saw one - not to mention a whore - and he had no doubt that had he fucked her and pulled out to ensure she wouldn't get pregnant, she'd have fucked someone else and claimed the bastard to be his just to get her claws on Storm's End.
"I didn't let that whore into my bed," Gendry grunted, "I wish you'd forget this marriage idea. All these girls are the same. They look different, they talk different, they even smell different, but all they want is Storm's End."
"You need a good woman to help you run the place when you're Lord," Robert replied,
"Then find me one that knows how to actually run a castle!" Gendry growled at his father, "Find me one who knows about things other than singing and sewing and ridiculous dancing! If you insist that I must take a wife now, then by the Seven, Father find me one who'll kick and fight and scream at me when I'm an arse! I need a woman not afraid to scream at me when I mess up! One who won't be afraid at the sight of me in my battle armour swinging my hammer! One who will be a hellcat in the bed chamber! I'm tired of these meek, scheming pathetic women you're shoving me at that are so set on being Lady Baratheon they'd let my horse fuck them for the chance!"
Robert had begun to chuckle and Gendry stopped his hammering to glare some more at his father, wondering what was so funny. He was making these demands though he knew there was no woman like that. At least none he'd ever met. They were all meek and malleable to his will. Forging a sword was harder than getting them to cooperate and Gendry found it unacceptable. His hope was that his father would spend so long looking for the woman he spoke of that he would have several years before he would inevitably have to settle for one of the scheming bitches or, more likely, a meek, pathetic twit who would devote herself to raising his children and leave everything else to him.
"I'll see what I can do," Robert said, still chuckling as he stood straight again, "but be warned son, when I get her here, don't you go telling me you don't want a stubborn mule for a wife or I'll give the Lordship to Edric."
"If you find me one like I asked for I'll marry her on the spot," Gendry retorted grumpily.
"I'll hold you to that, son," Robert said before he walked away, leaving Gendry to his forge and his hammer and the sword that shattered beneath the final blow he landed in frustration.