The sun just began to rise in the horizon, and despite it being the long summer, the ground was peppered with small dainty snowflakes. It was a peaceful dawn in Winterfell, or at least as peaceful as a day could be in Winterfell, considering the rather rambunctious group of Stark pups, especially the two sisters. Arya ran to the stables as soon as the first rays of light peeked through her window. She would not let her sister get her hands on her today of all days. The stable boy, up early as ever, sent her a questioning glance, but all it took was a sharp glare for him to ready her horse and to open the gates, sending her off into the Wolfswood. The wind braided through her hair as she picked up speed, with Nymeria flying alongside the flank of her mare. She was truly free, and today, she thought, would be her last day knowing that freedom.
Sansa awoke long after the first light. She leaned up from her featherbed and yawned a soft yawn and fixed her auburn hair. When she looked in the looking glass, she smiled back at her rusted reflection despite herself. Today is the day, she thought, Today is the day Arya's suitor arrives at Winterfell, and I will be allowed to court Willas Tyrell, oh how long I've waited for today! She walked to her wardrobe and dressed herself in one of the prettiest gowns she owned, just for the occasion. When she walked back to the looking glass, she braided her hair how she remembered her lady mother did. With a final look at her reflection, she left her chambers, off to wake and ready Arya.
It was known throughout the kingdoms of the promise Ned Stark made to his wife so many years ago, also known as the Curse of the Two Sisters. Catelyn Stark died shortly after birthing the youngest Stark, Rickon. A fever took her far too soon from the complications of childbirth, but one final promise was made between her and her lord husband. Sansa was a lady at eight. She practiced and knew her courtesies far better than any lady her age, and she was already such a beautiful girl. Arya, on the other hand, was their wild wolf girl. Cat feared for Arya, thinking she would never find a husband. Her one last wish was for Sansa not to be allowed to wed until Arya was betrothed as well. Ned Stark always kept his promises.
When Sansa daintily knocked on the door to Arya's chambers, she waited patiently, but no reply came. She must be sleeping in, she thought. She knocked again, three soft knocks, but there was still no reply.
"Arya, please wake up, we have a big morning ahead of us!" Sansa called through the chambers, hoping her sleeping sister would awake. She didn't even hear a stir. More fiercely, Sansa pounded on the door, "Arya, open this door!"
She waited one, two, three seconds before she slammed open the door, revealing an empty bed. Sansa had never been more furious in her life.
"Father," Sansa came storming into the Great Hall, almost making Rickon jump from his seat while breaking his fast. Bran had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing, and Robb stared from his father and back to Sansa. No one had ever seen Sansa angrier.
"Sansa, what is the matter?"Ned asked, leaning back from his chair to look at his daughter.
"It's Arya." She spat. Of course it was about Arya, Robb mused, whenever Sansa lost her ladylike courtesies, it was about Arya.
"What did our sister do this time?" Bran asked, his smile spreading from ear to ear. All it took was a glare, and Bran's smile vanished, and he looked back to his food.
"She's spoiling it, she's spoiling everything." Sansa yelled. Ned told her to breathe, and to take a seat beside him. "She knows today is an important day for m- for her. Everything has to be perfect, I have to do her hair and dress her so she could meet her suitor, and there she goes out, probably riding and putting mud in her hair just in spite of me!"
Ned hushed his daughter and stroked his hand through her auburn hair, as if petting a wolf. "Hush, my sweetling. I am sure your sister meant no harm."
Sure enough, at that moment, the doors of the Great Hall burst open, revealing Arya dressed in breeches, her hair flying in as many directions as there were bastards in the kingdom, and mud on the hem of her breeches with Nymeria by her side. Her grey eyes widened in panic as Sansa stared her down. Arya only wanted a small snack to break her fast, she thought mayhaps she could sneak past everyone and her family was not awake yet, but there was Sansa, ready to pull out Arya's hair herself.
Sansa immediately burst off her chair to chase Arya, leaving Ned's arm hanging in the air. Arya yelped and ran away as fast as she could. Just as the two sisters left the Great Hall, a squire under Robb ran to tell of the arrival of the suitor's party. Ned rubbed his forehead, attempting to ease his headache. They were not meant to arrive until much later; they were far too early. Ned sent Rickon off to find the girls and make sure they didn't kill each other before Arya met her suitor. Meanwhile, he left with Bran and Robb to march to the east gate and prepare to greet the caravan.
"Sansa, stop chasing me!" Arya screamed to behind her, where Sansa was easily catching up. Who knew she had it in her? She was even wearing a dress, which she lifted up to her ankles to allow easier running.
"I need to ready you for the suitor! You can't look like that, and you still have to apologize to me!" Sansa roared to Arya, who was not too far away.
"There is no way in the Seven Hells I am seeing that idiot!"
"You can't call him that, you haven't even met him!"
"He must be an idiot if he wants to marry me!" By this time, Arya was starting to slow in pace. She was tired from riding, her legs were sore, and she had not broken her fast. Sansa took full advantage, and grabbed her by the arms, locking her in place.
"Come with me now. We have to make you look presentable." Sansa reprimanded while practically dragging Arya to her solar.
"No, let me go!" Arya tried to squirm out of Sansa's grip. As Sansa opened the door to her solar and entered in, it was as if she was ushering Arya into the depths of the Seventh Hell.
The chilled summer breeze whipped through the air, yet Ned stood tall with Robb and Bran, awaiting the Tyrell's caravan. When the green banners with golden roses came into view, Ned fixed his posture and cleared his throat.
"Where are your sisters?" He leaned to Robb and whispered under his breath as the Tyrell party came closer.
"Rickon should have found them by now." Robb shrugged. Ned looked back at the castle, sure that his daughters and his youngest boy were causing a riot inside. But it could not be helped. The Tyrells have already arrived, and Willas stepped out of the caravan. Ned knew him as the man who wished to court Sansa, but Ned would always keep his last promise to his sweet Catelyn. They greeted each other kindly, and Ned introduced Willas to his children, or at least two of them. But it was not Willas who Ned was interested in seeing. Behind Willas, a tall man dressed in leather armor dismounted his horse and bowed deeply before Ned.
"M'lord," he croaked. His hair was as black as coals, but his eyes as blue as water.
"Rise," Ned said, "it must have been a long journey all the way from the Reach, ser…"
"Ser Gendry, m'lord." Gendry did not dare to look Ned in the eyes.
"Yes that was it; Ser Gendry of Highgarden." Ned said, finally remembering the suitor's name. He then gestured towards two of his sons, "These are my sons Robb and Bran. My apologies, my daughters and my youngest son are… still readying themselves. You were expected to arrive much later."
"No need to apologize, m'lord." Gendry said as he nervously looked over Robb and Bran. Robb bowed his head in respect, and Bran took out his hand to shake Gendry's. Just as the grip of their handshake tightened, a loud and shrill shriek emanated from the Great Keep. No doubt it was from Arya arguing with Sansa, or mayhaps from Sansa trying to get Arya to cooperate. Both men noticeably flinched by hearing the noise, but Bran could see how Robb bit his tongue to keep from laughing and Ned's sharp glare.
"My sister simply cannot contain her excitement to meet you, Ser Gendry." Bran said with a smirk on his face. This time Robb did chuckle, but covered it with a cough when Ned looked his way.
The travelers were invited into the Guest Houses where Ned asked to have a private word with Gendry. Gendry sat and squirmed nervously in his cushioned chair, obviously not used to speaking to such high lords. He must not have been a knight for so long. Ned sat down across from him, and leaned back in his seat fully aware that Gendry was not comfortable with the situation. He ought to get used to it if he wanted to marry Arya.
"So, Ser Gendry," Ned spoke slowly, trying to make him feel comfortable. "Why is it that you seek my youngest daughter's hand in marriage?"
"Well you see, m'lord," Gendry stuttered and tried to find the correct reasoning. "I heard stories in Highgarden of the beautiful daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, the lovely and the wild wolf."
Ned almost laughed. "Is that so?"
"Of course, m'lord. When Lord Willas Tyrell told me of the Stark family, he spoke fondly of Lady Sansa's younger sister, and suggested the match." It wasn't even entirely a lie.
Ned tried harder not to laugh. Before Gendry could sputter another excuse as to why he wished to wed Arya, Ned hushed him. "Please, Gendry. It is well known that my daughter is a woman grown, and at the age of marriage. If you can gain her consent to the betrothal, you have my blessing."
When Ned lead him out and told Bran to lead Gendry to Arya's solar, Bran did not fail to notice Gendry's smug smile on his face. Surely Gendry thought gaining Ned's approval would have been the hardest part of his proposal, but oh was he wrong. Bran smirked and looked to Gendry as they crossed the courtyard.
"If I were you, I'd prepare myself, Ser." Bran said. "And don't look as if you've won something just yet. The hardest part is soon to come."
Gendry quickly wiped his smug smile from his face, unaware that it was too obvious. But surely, the worst part was over? Lord Stark practically gave Gendry his blessings, all Gendry had to do was earn Arya's. And a lady must not be too difficult to convince, especially when it was a southern knight asking for her hand. Surely, Lady Arya would fall into his arms as soon as she laid eyes on him. Just to be sure, Gendry fixed his hair and smoothed it down and tried to wipe his face as Bran stopped in front of a door. Both could hear arguing from inside, none too discreet. Gendry cast a nervous look to Bran, who only smiled knowingly as he stepped aside and opened the door. In revealed women clawing at each other's faces while a boy tried his best to pull them apart. As soon as the door opened, the older girl with the auburn hair and the young boy pulled apart and stared wide eyed at Bran and Gendry.
Gendry had come a long way to get where he was now. Two moons ago was the day that got him there in the first place, vying for the hand of a lady he had only heard of. He used to live in Highgarden, working as the personal blacksmith for the weapons of Highgarden. Gods knew his mother hardly earned enough coin working at the nearby alehouse. Every day when he would go to his small home he would find her exhausted with her feet aching and growing older and weaker with each passing year. Therefore, when the Tyrells offered the proposal, he jumped at the opportunity without second thought.
It was a sunny morning in Highgarden, the flowers blooming, and the harvest bountiful. When a squire came to the forge requesting to follow him to the gardens, the last he expected was the lady of Highgarden herself sitting with her grandmother. His mouth fell open and he instantly took the knee.
"Please, rise." Margaery smiled and ushered for him to sit next to her. She was prettier up close. She had a small nose and a heart shaped face, he remembered, but something about her he found unsettling. He sat in his chair uncomfortably. She smiled sweetly and offered some pie to him. "You are very strong and brave, blacksmith. What is your name?"
"Gendry, m'lady. My name is Gendry Flowers." He almost choked and a small blush rose to his cheeks.
"Yes, well, Gendry, you certainly are rather large. I suppose you would work fine." Olenna Tyrell spoke. If Gendry found Margaery creepy, he definitely found Olenna scary. "Have you ever heard of Arya Stark?"
Gendry chewed thoughtfully. He has only heard the name once or twice by lords passing through his forge. He barely knew anything of the lady, only that she was the daughter of Eddard Stark and the late Catelyn Tully. "I have heard her name once, m'lady."
"Good, because you will be marrying her." Olenna nodded. This time, Gendry did choke on his pie. Margaery frowned sympathetically.
"What my grandmother means to say is that we would be very grateful if you could offer your hand to the daughter of Lord Stark. My brother wishes to wed her older sister, but unfortunately that cannot happen until the younger is betrothed as well."
"I am a blacksmith, simply a bastard, m'lady. I cannot marry a highborn." He sputtered. The idea was insane.
"Ser Gendry Flowers," Lady Olenna huffed, "don't you like the name? It has a certain ring to it, I think."
"Perhaps a bastard cannot marry a lady, but a knight can." Margaery spoke softly and smoothly, sure to ease Gendry into the plan. "We can give you a proper home and land and your mother will live comfortably for the rest of her years, Gendry. If only you will agree, all will be yours. Arya Stark is a willful lady of the North, young and beautiful. She will make a fine bride."
He leaned back in his seat. If he agreed, he would be married to a beautiful highborn lady, he would be granted lands, and his mother would be living comfortably. He never knew that perhaps the offer was so insane because no one else wanted to marry the girl.
"My apologies, ser. We were not expecting you so soon." The girl with the auburn hair said smoothly. She definitely was pretty, with porcelain skin and copper hair that shined red in the sunlight. Her beauty was unmatched, but surely she was too delicate and posh for his liking. He sighed and bowed, accepting his seemingly boring fate of marriage with her.
"My lady, it is a pleasure to meet you." He addressed her kindly. He almost went to kiss her hand when he looked back up, but instead the auburn haired girl was nudging the younger closer to him.
"Greet him!" Sansa whispered between her teeth to Arya's ear. Arya grit her teeth together and glared at Sansa, but Sansa sent an equally challenging look, as if silently threatening to pull her hair into a braid.
"Pleased to meet you, ser." Arya said, none too sweetly. She looked at him with eyes of distaste, Gendry could not help but cringe. He was wrong all along; it was the younger woman who was Arya, the woman he was to marry. But she did not look like a lady at all, wearing breeches and a tunic too large for her, and her brown hair sticking up wildly. Yet, he found that he liked her better. He found this to be far more interesting than if he were to be with the auburn haired perfect lady.
With that, Bran walked into the room and laced his arms around Sansa's and Rickon's. "Yes, well we'll leave you two to it. Enjoy yourselves, and Arya, please do not hurt the poor knight."
Behind them, Bran shut the door quickly leaving Arya and Gendry in the room alone with Arya glaring daggers at him. He sat on a stool near her, sure that if he were to stand she would kick him right then and there. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked him over, unimpressed. He was far too large and ungraceful to be a knight. He wore dirty leather armor and did not even keep a sword with him. She would have made a far better knight, she knew. How dare some stupid knight come and think he can whisk me off my feet away from Winterfell, she thought.
"Lady Arya, I am glad to finally make your acquaintance. I have travelled far to meet you, and your beauty is worth the travels." He said, unsure of how to strike a conversation and woo the wolf. Surely, he would first call her beautiful. All ladies wanted to be called beautiful, right? Yet instead of smiling sweetly, she scoffed.
"Oh please, do not lie to yourself, Ser." She hissed. His lies were laughable. She was far too ugly at that moment with her dirty hair and boyish clothes that any man would not want her. She had planned it that way, to dress ugly and look disheveled just for this occasion so her suitor would not take interest in her. Sheraised her head and scowled. "You don't look like a knight."
"And you don't look like a lady." Gendry retorted before he could stop himself. He cursed himself in his head, now he has truly ruined any chances at wooing her and earning her consent to the marriage.
"That's because I'm not. My sister is a lady, and my mother was too."
"But your father is a lord and you live in a castle, m'lady." He said with a smirk. He found it amusing that with every word he said, she became angrier. He momentarily forgot his true intents.
"Do not call me m'lady!" She stomped her foot stubbornly for extra emphasis.
"As m'lady commands," He bowed his head, all too amused by her reactions. She was fed up with him, and with stupid Sansa. She kicked the stool from under him and made a run for it, slamming the door to her chambers behind her. She ran through the courtyard as fast as she could. She saw Sansa with Willas, and she laughed at something he said. As soon as Arya passed her sister, it took all of Sansa's self control not to yell at Arya in front of Willas. Sansa let Arya pass without a word, scared that if she were to react, Willas would think her as wild as her sister. As soon as Arya was out of sight, surely smiling smugly as if she had won, she did not know that Gendry was racing behind her to catch his lady. Sansa smirked and turned to Gendry. Two could play this game, sweet sister.
Arya locked the door to the kitchens behind her and barred herself in, sure that no one could intrude. When she was positive no one would be able to disturb her, she broke into a fit of laughter. How foolish he was! She laughed, remembering how irritating she found Gendry. I lost him so fast, there is no way he still wants my hand. He will return to his stupid home in Highgarden and look for another unfortunate lady to call his bride. She giggled again at the thought of winning this battle so quickly. She thought she finally won a victory over her sister, and over that stupid knight. She fell atop a soft pile of wool, and took an apple from the countertop and took a small bite from it as well, basking in the glory of finally being victorious.
She heard a terribly disturbing creaking noise coming from beneath her, and she turned her head to find the stupid knight peeking his head out from the trapdoor, slowly coming out. She tossed her apple at his face, but he quickly dodged it, smirking.
"M'lady, please, I only want a word!" He begged, but his words were too covered by laughter. She screamed of frustration and stomped on the trapdoor, forbidding him to enter the kitchens and take her. She sat on it as well for extra measure. She groaned and sat comfortably, taking in the seconds of peace before she felt a pushing from under her. She looked down to find that the trapdoor was again being pushed open. She gasped and quickly stood from her spot and threw a sack of flour down at the trapdoor.
"Go back to Highgarden," she yelled, pushing another down atop the door. She stomped on it again for extra measure as he was pushed back down beneath the kitchens, unable to come up. She put her hands on her hips, silently daring him to try again. Sure enough, the door rose slowly by the sheer strength of Gendry pushing it back up beneath the two heavy sacks of flour and her own weight. He's strong, she admitted bitterly.
She raced to the second floor of the kitchen, trying to get as far away from him as she could manage before he escaped the trapdoor. When he finally arose and pushed the two sacks of flour off the door, he chased after his lady. She tried to push two water barrels toward him, but he dodged those as well.
"How did you even find your way through the trapdoor?" Arya screamed at him as she ran away and tried to throw more obstacles to his path.
"Your sister was very eager to tell me the quickest way to you." He replied with a smile. She boiled over, infuriated at both the stupid knight and her sister. She opened the door leading to the rooftops and slammed it shut, leaning her own weight against it. "You cannot run away from me forever. Why do you even run, m'lady?"
"I run because I will never let you marry me, you stupid bull!" She yelled back through the door. She heard silence as a reply. She thought she had won once again, but when the silence was prolonged, she quickly jumped away from the door, sure of what was to come. Sure enough, he rammed his own strength into the door, knocking it over. She screamed out of frustration and shock which she would never admit, and ran away, well aware that they were both on the rooftops of the kitchen by now.
She ran quickly and easily, used to having to adjust her footing from her water dance training. Gendry struggled to keep up with her, but she was soon distracted. Sansa and Willas made their way towards the kitchens, only to find Gendry chasing after Arya on the rooftops.
"Arya!" Sansa reprimanded. She sounded just as infuriating from far away. She called her name again, and on the second time Arya spared a look at her sister only to find her face utterly betrayed and heartbroken. She suddenly felt a tinge of guilt bite at her. Her sister had waited nine long years for this day, the day a suitor would come for Arya's hand. Sansa was right to be bitter towards her.
However, before Arya could apologize or say anything of the matter, she was knocked down by sheer force. She landed hard on the roof, her stomach landing flat on the panels, and they were both lucky they didn't fall off. Sansa gasped and jumped, but Willas chuckled under his breath. The sight certainly was amusing, with small Arya squirming under the large man, only knighted not too long ago solely for this purpose alone.
"Get off me!" Arya screamed from under him. She tried to push him off her, or even move, but his body was far too constricting. She was trapped between him and the roof. She huffed when she realized her defeat. "You are by far the worst knight I have ever heard of!"
Gendry blew her hair out of his face and restrained her arms. She was as wild as winter. No one told him of her spirit, and he was hardly prepared for it. But she was far too amusing for him to simply give up. Mayhaps the deal he made with the Tyrells was only favored to him. "And you are the worst lady I have ever heard of. We are perfect for each other."