The day things in King's Landing changed started out as normal as any day. Arya had a lesson with her dancing master and Sansa had lessons with Septa Mordane, all while things in the castle around them were set into motion. King Robert had come back early from the hunt, injured but alive, and their father had gone to attend him carrying a secret that neither of them had any idea about. They of course learned about it later that day during court when the queen and her brother were brought in front of the king in chains.
King Robert wasted no time exposing their crimes before he ordered their execution. The lives of Joffery, Tommen, and Myrcella were spared only due to the plea of their grandfather Tywin and were thus, exiled to Casterly Rock as bastards. Arya didn't care much for Joffery being exiled feeling a deep hatred for the boy. She thought he got what he deserved. The court was further shocked by King Robert's statement that he refused to remarry and many of his lords advised against this course, after all he'd need heirs now that the truth about the Baratheon children had been exposed but he ignored their words.
It was only when they were leaving court that Arya glanced at Sansa and saw her face. Arya had thought that she'd be devastated that her betrothal to the Prince was now effectively broken but she saw a hint of relief in her sisters face. She didn't comment on it until they reached their chambers and the door was firmly closed behind them.
"Are you alright Sansa?" She asked as she sat on the edge of the bed and patted it. Her sister joined her easily.
"I'm actually relieved." Sansa revealed, meeting Arya's eyes. "I know marrying the prince would have made me queen one day. I know that's all I used to talk about, everything I wished for as a girl, but I've grown up. I know now that it isn't at all like the songs that people sing."
"You said once that you loved Joffery." Arya said and Sansa shook her head.
"I was a stupid little girl who couldn't see past the title he had. I know better now." She said. "Joffery's a monster. He was cruel to me, and to others, he would have been a terrible king and and even worse husband."
"You're right. He would've been." Arya agreed. "Now Father can make good on his promise and make you a match with someone who is worthy of you."
Sansa blushed and Arya raised an eyebrow at her as she studied her sisters face.
"Or have you already found someone yourself?" She asked with a light smirk. Sansa became even more flushed as she wrung her hands together in her lap.
"I was betrothed Arya." She said. "It would have been improper for me to find another man more desirable than my intended."
"Uh huh." Arya said, her smirk becoming more pronounced. "Well, if you did happen to find your mind wondering to another perhaps father would find it appropriate to pursue a match."
"He would never allow it." Sansa said, the sadness in her voice making Arya stop her teasing as she stared at her sister.
"Why not?" She asked quietly. "Is he an inappropriate choice for a lady? If he is, I could help you. You could run away with him, I'd cover for you, give you a head start."
"Arya!" Her sister protested but she had an edge of laugh in her voice. "He has a name, a house, but father would not find him appropriate because of his reputation. Besides, I don't even know if he thinks of me in that way. He is hard to read. Sometimes I think that maybe he does and then he does something to change my mind. It's so frustrating."
"Can you tell me who he is? Maybe I could help." Arya asked. Sansa chewed on her lip, hesitance obvious on her face. "I won't tell anyone."
"You promise?" Sansa asked.
"You have my word." Arya assured her. Sansa sighed.
"Sandor Clegane." She said quietly. Arya's mouth fell open as she stared at her sister in disbelief. She wasn't sure what she had expected to come out of her mouth but that certainly wasn't it.
"The Hound?" Arya asked. "Why in the seven hells?"
"I know he seems angry and gruff, he is angry and gruff, but underneath all of that there's something." Sansa said, standing from the bed as she began pacing the floor, frustration clear on her face. "He scares people and I know he's killed people before, mostly on Joffery's orders, but he can be gentle as well. At least with me."
"What do you mean, at least with you?" Arya asked. She was hesitant to believe that the Hound was anything but a terrible killer. She hadn't forgotten that he'd killed her friend Mycah and she wasn't likely ever going to but she had to admit that she knew he'd done it on Joffery's orders. She'd even said as much herself.
"Joffery hit me." Sansa said quietly. "I never said anything to anyone but he was there, he was Joffery's sworn shield after all, anyway he wiped the blood from my lip. He was gentle for such a large man. He warned me to give Joffery what he wants and save myself some pain."
"He should have done something about it." Arya protested, her arms crossing in front of her. The story didn't make her feel any better, it only pissed her off more to know he'd let Joffery hurt her sister.
"Joffery was the crown prince. He couldn't have done anything without risking his own life." Sansa protested and Arya could see that her sister wasn't going to change her mind about this. Arya decided that she'd just have to watch him closely and if he ever hurt her sister, she'd kill him.
"I'm not going to pretend to understand it." Arya said with a sigh. "But if it makes you happy, if he makes you happy, I'll deal with it. I understand why you think father wouldn't approve."
"He'll never allow me to marry him." Sansa said softly.
"You want to marry him?" Arya asked, genuinely surprised though she didn't know why. Sansa had always fantasized about marriage and babies and, though she claimed that she didn't believe all the songs anymore, Arya knew that not all of it had left her. She was still hoping for a love like the songs.
"Maybe." Sansa said. Arya was about to comment further but a knock at their door distracted both of them moments before their father pushed it open and came in. Sansa rejoined Arya on the edge of the bed as they looked at him.
"What were you girls talking about?" He asked and they glanced at each other with wide eyes.
"Nothing!" They said in unison. Their father's raised eyebrow told them that he didn't believe them for a second but he wasn't going to push it. Arya cleared her throat.
"What's going to happen now?" She asked, glancing at Sansa for only a moment. "Are you still going to send us home?"
"No." He shook his head. "In fact, your mother and brothers are coming to King's Landing for a visit."
"Really?" Sansa asked in excitement, matching smiles crossing their faces.
"Aye. They're going to come to see the new prince crowned." He informed them and Arya's brow furrowed.
"The new prince?" She asked. Their father nodded.
"Seeing as Cersei Lannister's children are not his, he needed an heir." He explained. "I happened to meet his bastard son not long ago. Robert has legitimized him, he'll begin lessons here in the keep soon. The Lords and Ladies have been summoned to swear fealty to him."
"Will we meet him?" Sansa asked.
"At some point." Her father said before he cleared his throat and pulled a chair over to sit in front them. "The new prince will need a wife. Robert refused to marry again so he can not provide more heirs. His son will need to."
Arya heard Sansa's sharp intake of breath even as she stared at her father. With the knowledge of what Sansa had just revealed to her, she didn't want her sister to be forced into another betrothal for the sake of the Kings wishes to have the Stark and Baratheon houses joined, so she did the one thing she thought would prevent it.
"I'll do it." She said quickly. Sansa and her father both looked at her, matching expressions of shock on their face but she pushed on. "I'll marry him."
"Arya..." Her father began. "You're young."
"I've already flowered father. I'm old enough to marry." She insisted. "Let me do this."
"You've spoken openly about how you'll never marry. About how you don't want to be a lady." Her father said. "Why now?"
Arya bit her lip. She wasn't very well going to tell her father that Sansa's heart belonged to someone else, someone he wouldn't approve of, so she latched onto the only part of Sansa's confession that would give her a valid reason for her decision in her father's eyes.
"Sansa was betrothed to Joffery with the assumption that he was the king's son and it turned out he wasn't." Arya said. "She's confided in me that he was cruel to her. He hit her. She just got out of a betrothal with him, she's been through enough and I don't want to force her into another one so soon. It's okay father, I know the king wants our houses joined, so I'll do it. Allow Sansa to be free of this."
"He hurt you?" Her father asked, his eyes going to Sansa. "Why did you not come to me?"
"He was the crown Prince. I didn't think there was anything you could do." Sansa said quietly before glancing at Arya. "Please father, don't make me do it again."
"You're okay with this?" He asked Arya. "You're sure?"
"Yes father." Arya said.
"Okay. I'll inform the King of your agreement." He said, standing from the chair before he looked at Sansa. "And I will also discuss what you've told me with him. Joffery isn't a prince any longer, something will be done about his treatment of you."
He left the room as quickly as he had come and they remained silent for a long moment before Sansa turned to her.
"I'm sorry." She said sincerely. "I know that you never wanted to marry some lord."
"It's okay." She said softly. "Besides, the new Prince hasn't been raised as a lord, perhaps he will not be so full of himself like other lords."
"Still, I'm older. It's my responsibility." She said and Arya shook her head.
"You are my sister and I'll protect you where I can." She said. "Besides if I marry the prince, I'll be a princess, and no one tells a princess what she can and can't do."
She and Sansa laughed together and the statement as they fell back onto the bed. It was only much later when Arya was laying in her bed as she stared at the ceiling that she let herself fret over her decision.
It was true that she'd always said she didn't want to marry but she, like Sansa, had grown up while they were in the capital and she had learned that you couldn't always get what you wanted. She knew the marriage would benefit her family and the north immensely and it would keep Sansa from having to marry someone she didn't love, at least for the moment, and she'd meant what she said. People didn't tell a princess what she could or couldn't do so she'd make sure that she could continue her sword training. Perhaps she could even use her position to make changes to help the people. She could only hope that the new prince was nice.