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Pride's Prejudice

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune is in want of a wife… Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

 

WesterosPost:

It has come to our attention, dear readers, that Storm’s End is let at last, with one Gendry Baratheon as the new tenant. He hails from King’s Landing and has 5,000 dragons a year. But, dear hearts, hold on to your bonnets, he is single and will be attending the Midsummer festival, if our sources are to be trusted! As the county’s most eligible bachelor, we are sure his dance card will fill up quickly!

 

“ Do you think he will come, Sansa? Truly?” Jeyne rolled her apron strings between her fingers, a sure sign that she was anxious about the newest gossip.

Sansa, Jeyne, and Arya were gathered around the weekly Westeros Post, containing, amongst mundane news and ads for ribbons and frocks, the most exciting gossip Winterfell had ever been a part of in as long as they could remember. Sansa and Jeyne always checked the post for the latest fashion and finery while Arya was always there for the gossip, though she’d sooner run you through with her “needle” than admit to it.

“ I don’t know Jeyne, “ Sansa shifted on the low wall dividing the inner courtyard of Winterfell from the rolling hills of Westeros,eyeing the missive trying to glean as much insight as she could from so little, “Coming from King’s Landing, I doubt out little gathering is what he’s used to.”

She could just picture the grand ballrooms lit with soft candle light bouncing off gilded walls, the soft shushing of crushed velvet dresses against the floor as they moved synchronous with melodies, and gentlemen dressed in finery she had only read and dreamed about. She had always wanted to attend the midsummer festival, begging details from Robb when she was little. Having come in to her majority after the festival last year, Sansa was anxious to see if the dreamy tableau she created in her mind’s eye from her mother’s stories fit the reality of the festival itself.

Sighing and shaking her auburn tresses back, Sansa smiled at Jeyne, “ I guess we’ll find out tonight, Help me get the laundry in so we can get ready and remind Arya that a muddied hem does not make a good first impression!”

 

The girls tuned and gathered dry sheets and clothes, strung between the time worn warm stone walls of Winterfell and the modest stable housing the Starks’ two hearty horses, Phillipe and Maximus, as well as their donkey, Jeoffry, as they made their way back into the ivy covered house, giggling and discussing the night’s festivities and what to wear, Jeyne expertly dodging puddles while Sansa masterfully maneuvered around the cart their coachman, Jory had pulled out as the transportation for the evening.

Placing the laundry on the table just inside the modest and warm kitchen, Sansa and Jeyne parted ways, promising to find the other the moment they both arrived at the festival.

As she ascended the stairway to the bedroom she shared with Arya, Sansa could hear Rickon crowing like the chickens he disturbed as he stampeded through the modest courtyard while a flicker of movement outside the window hinted at Bran scaling the outer wall. Her mother's voice rose above the cacophony to scold Rickon and to swear she was going to nail Bran’s boots to the ground if he kept climbing while her father's boisterous laugh good naturedly encouraged Rickon to continue on his quest to catch the unsuspecting fowl.

Reaching the bedroom, Sansa sighed in contentment as she fingered the ribbons that were set aside to complement her evening's attire. She couldn't help but think that everything was as it should be.

Chapter Text

The Midsummer festival was held in the great hall of Westeros, usually used for political meetings or social hearings by Sana’s father, the castellan of Winterfell. The normally organized tables were pushed to the walls and overflowing with lemon cakes, strawberries, flutes of champagne, amongst other delicacies and refreshments. The musicians were placed upon the dias where the head table usually sat, allowing their melodies to play out into the room, where it twined with laughter as those dancing twirled and mixed together, only to separate again.

Sansa and Arya had arrived at the same time as Jeyne and the three were now spinning and laughing as they danced with those around them, Arya just barely missing Sansa’s toes as they whirled. Sansa knew that Arya had been taking water dancing lessons but decided that they had no impact her gangly sibling.

As engrossed as the company was, not a soul missed when the newest members of Winterfell entered, the music dying away as people froze mid dance.

The gentleman whom sansa assumed was Gendery, from his piercing blue eyes and smiling demeanor, surveyed those present with warm eyes and piqued interest, while the gentleman looming behind his right shoulder looked above the crowd ignoring the weight of the sea of eyes in front of him.
By their own volition, Sansa’s eyes flicked up to and hooked on the stranger’s slate grey gaze. All the air in the room seemed to compress onto her chest as she took in his tall stature, broad shoulders eventually tapering into a trim waist and muscular legs. Her perusal eventually coming to rest on his face, a flush rising in her cheeks up to the tips of her ears. His eyes hardened into ice as she took in the mangled side of his face, an angry patchwork of red scar tissue, cut through with high cheekbones and crags of regular tissue that never healed right.
The tips of Sansa’s fingers twitched of their own volition as if wanting to reach out to the brooding man and she clasped them in front of her waist until her knuckles turned bone white.

As if noticing her discomfort, he offered up a twisted grin, pulling his scars while the candle light threw the crevices into deeper, unflattering, shadows. Her whole body froze at his grin and then offered up a tentative smile of her own, producing a dimple on her right cheek, and flashing a small sparkle in her eyes.

Realizing she was unfazed by his appearance, the stranger glowered at her, as if daring her to look away, and abruptly turned away to the safety of his party.

Chapter Text

Sitting with Jeyne, sipping on champagne and observing the festivities, Sansa tried to ignore the pins and needles of the storm grey glare she could feel on her back, focusing instead on watching as Arya whooped and hollered as she careened through the throngs of dancers, followed by a breathless yet boisterous Gendry as he tried to mimic her movements.

Water dancing indeed Sansa thought, she could not fathom what instructor could possibly have taught her that raucous type of movement.

"Who was that with mister Baratheon, Jeyne?" Sansa inquired, surveying the kaleidoscope of colors around the room and casually sipping from her flute.

Jeyne always seemed to know the finer details of the gossip that the Westeros post put out, often before it was public. Sansa had a sneaking suspicion that Jeyne was behind some of the gossip, a suspicion she would take to the grave, but it would explain how Jeyne seemed to know the latest gossip before it was public knowledge.

“ I believe that to be one Sandor Clegane, hails from the Westerlands, cold as a wight’s heart, and about as welcoming as a den of vipers. I hear he has a sister, Elinore, who is the antithesis to her brother but she remained in the Westerlands while her brother traveled with our mister Gendry.

Sansa glanced over her shoulder at Clegane, blushing as she found his gaze tied to her again,

“ I’m sure he’s just uncomfortable being in the company of so many strangers, we are all a rather close knit group if not related in some way Jeyne.”

“Be that as it may, a little dancing never hurt anyone, at least not for long.” Jeyne smiled as one of the baker’s sons whisked her away to dance.

Sansa was contemplating the merits of sneaking away to the library when Arya rushed up, pink cheeked and sporting smile a mile wide, tailed by an equally out of breath Gendry.

“Sansa! Gendry has promised to take me riding tomorrow and has agreed to show me the armory at Storm’s End. I’m going to show him Needle and see if he can out step my water dancing.”

Not leaving Sansa time to respond, Arya pulled Gendry back into the thick of the revelry, disappearing almost instantly.

Sighing, Sansa sent up a half-hearted prayer to the gods, old and new, that Gendry came out the other side of the night with his toes in tact and with the knowledge that Arya was beyond trying to be a lady. She hoped that if the two did reconvene in the morning, that Gendry could hold his own on a horse, Arya was a wildling when it came to horses and swords. Deciding that a breath of fresh air would help clear her head and shake the weight of Sandor’s scrutiny, Sansa pushed off the bench and headed towards the lantern lined path of the gardens leading to the Godswood.