Brighda Snow's infancy was a happy one. She had the love of a father, a gentle giant with black hair and gray eyes, who looked at her lovingly, who held her in his big safe, safe arms and told her, with a small smile on his lips:
"Come, child, say Father" and she would repeat, to his greatest amusement:
It was him she took her first steps to, him she spoke her first words to, and it was his voice she liked the best. His embrace, all muscled arms covered in a warm, woolen cottehardie (usually embroidered, which was of the utmost interest to her very young mind, her small fingers caressing the coloured threads almost reverently) smelled of home.
She had a brother, too, around her age, but she only saw him when Father brought him with him to her room. She loved to see her brother: they played games together. The small red headed boy seemed to enjoy her presence as well, and as time passed, he started making a fuss when it was time to leave.
"Shh, Robb" Father would tell him in the same voice he used with her. "Do not cry, you will see your sister again tomorrow."
When Father and Robbie were not there, a woman called "Nanny" took care of her. Robbie had a "Mommy" who did the same. To her young mind, Nanny and Mommy were the same things.
When Brighda was two and a half years old, Nanny left and never came back. She cried and cried to get Nanny back, but the woman never answered. It was another woman who came.
The woman's skin was paler than Nanny's ever was, and she had eyes the colour of the sky and hair of fire. She looked severe and wore shiny things in her ears and on her arms.
"Stop crying" she said. "Your Nanny is not coming back. You have no more need for her milk."
Brighda did not understand all that the woman said, only that there would be no Nanny anymore. She kept crying.
"Be quiet!" the woman snapped. "You will wake Robb!"
"Robb?"Brighda sniffled back.
"Cat?" Father's voice called."What are you doing here?"
"Your bastard kept crying. She was going to wake Robb"
"Go back to bed, Cat, I'll take care of it."
The woman left and father lifted her in his comforting arms, placing a soft kiss on the crown of her little head.
The following years, she learned that the red-headed woman was Robb's Mommy and Father's wife. She learned that she was a bastard and that was why she saw her brother only when Father brought him to her.
In her fourth year, Father came to her with a babe in his arms and said:
"Brigdha, meet Sansa, your little sister."
Just like Robb and his Mommy, Sansa had red hair and blue eyes. She laughed a lot and was a quiet baby.
On her fifth name day, she and Robb started to attend Maester Luwin's lessons together, learning their letters, their numbers and small poems and songs. She remembered lady Catelyn had yelled at Father not to make her share Robb's lessons, but Father had not relented. She now spent whole days with Robb. When they did not attend lessons, they played outside under Old Nan's supervision.
Old Nan had taken Nanny's place in Brighda's life. She was wonderful: she told the best stories and knew lots of different games.
Brigdha was smart, Maester Luwin said so. At six, she could read and write, slowly yes, but she knew everything she needed to and lacked only practice. Robb still struggled with some parts of reading and writing, but he was just as good as she was with numbers. Brighda was very quiet, too, mostly for fear of bringing lady Catelyn's disapproving gaze her way, but also because she was a dreamer at heart. Robb was much more loud: he jumped in mud puddles, ran after chickens, played with father's hunting hounds… But Robb was a boy, and boys were allowed, even encouraged to do such things. Girls were not.
Her sixth year was also the time she was introduced to her second sister, Arya.
At seven, Brighda fell very sick. Robb was not allowed to see her and father was away dealing with wildling raids. Only Old Nan and Maester Luwin entered her room. One morning, though, when her fever abated, she saw a Holy Wheel above her bed. Only mothers could make them. She vaguely remembered a spirit coming into her room, holding her hand and kissing her forehead, praying to the Gods that she would survive. Perhaps, she thought, it was her mother's ghost.
When Robb turned eight, he spent much less time with her. She stopped attending lessons with him and he started learning sword-fighting from Maester Rodrick.
When she turned eight, a woman was introduced to her: it was Mrs Ann, the young northern widow of a southern merchant. Her husband's son had refused to care for her upon his father's death and Mrs Ann had returned North to find employment. She became Brighda's new teacher.
"You are a child no longer, but a young lady. I will teach you to become a good wife" Mrs Ann would say.
"Even though you are a bastard, you are still a noble. You will marry one of your father's lesser vassals someday."
"Blood matters more than words, in the North"
"You must be humble, young lady, and never oppose your husband in public"
"Be firm with the servants. Your husband will have his soldiers, you will have the domestics."
"When you wake, pray the Old Gods, it will bring you good fortune"
Brighda learned to be a Northern Lady with Mrs Ann: she learned to spin wool, to weave soft linens, to embroider and sew clothes. She learned Northern dances – and a few southern ones. She was not bored with her lessons, but she did not particularly enjoy them either. If anything, her new tasks allowed her to indulge in day dreaming. What she loved, however, was music. She'd been taught to play the harp and to sing.
Brighda had adopted the habit of bringing her harp to the nursery and to sing Bran, - her new brother, eight years her junior – lullubies. Lady Catelyn was not pleased.
Father had taken to teach her to shoot a bow, an activity that some ladies practiced, and to wield a sword, something she was meant to hide.
"You will never walk to war" Father explained "but war might come to you. I want you to be able to defend yourself at least long enough to flee."
During her ninth year, Father was summoned by the king to another war; the Greyjoys of the Iron Islands had rebelled against the crown. For a year, he was gone, and Brighda missed him terribly. Lady Catelyn avoided her, to her great relief, and she tried to occupy her mind with lessons, but she had no real company. Robb was busy being a boy – even if he did try to include her in some of his activities – Sansa, like her mother, did not want to have anything to do with her, and Arya and Bran were still too young to play with her. Every morning, she looked out of her chamber's window for Father's return, until, at last, he appeared at the head of an army, in company of the king of Westeros, Robert Baratheon.
The soldiers camped out of the keep, but the King and his Lords were housed in the castle. It was an exiting time, even if Brighda took great care not to be seen. The evening of his return from war, Father visited her in her room. As soon as she saw him enter, the girl jumped in his arms. Father laughed and hugged her tightly.
"I missed you, too, my dear child", he said with affection.
Brighda smiled sweetly before exclaiming:
"Father! I learned a lot with my harp while you were gone! Can I play for you, please?"
A strange – perhaps sad – look passed in her Father's eyes, but he consented.
Brighda took her harp, took a deep breath, her cheeks red with eagerness and her dark brows frowned in concentration, before she started playing. As soon as her small, agile fingers caressed the cords, only music existed. The world faded away and she was entranced by the melody. Father had a sad smile on his face when she finished.
"You did not like it, Father?" the child asked, anxious.
"I liked it very much, Brighda. You have become very proficient while I was gone. I will have to find you a true master to teach, soon. Would you like that?"
"A minstrel, Father?" She asked, excited.
"Yes, Brighda. The King brought several with him. Perhaps one will be willing to stay and teach you more."
Once more, the nine years old girl launched herself at her Father's neck. Ned Stark gave her a true smile and held her on his knees, just like when she was very small.
"I take it you like the idea?"
"Tomorrow, I will take you to visit them, then. You will bring your harp with you.
Her Lord Father was silent for a few minutes, content to just hold his child in his arms after their separation.
"Brighda, things will change in Winterfell when the King leaves. Your siblings know of it already."
"What do you mean, Father?"
"Have you seen the Greyjoy boy we brought back with us?"
Brighda had indeed seen him. He was a twelve years old boy who looked angry and sullen all the time. She nodded.
"King Robert wants me to foster Theon, here, in Winterfell. He is going to live with us, from now own. Can you promise to be nice to him? His father's rebellion was not kind on him."
"I'll do my best, Father."
And so it was that Theon Greyjoy became her Father's ward. The next day, as promised, Lord Stark took his natural daughter with him to visit the minstrels accompanying the royal army. One of them agreed to stay in Winterfell to teach her. His name was Horis Flowers – a bastard from the Reach – but he called himself Hory the Harpist. He was offered a room and board within the keep as well as pecuniary compensation for his lessons, which started strait away. Lady Stark was not pleased and demanded that he teach Sansa as well. Father could not refuse, but it turned out that Sansa was not at all gifted with the harp. The small girl complained about having to share lessons with her half-sister and that the harp's cords her her fingers. She lasted only a week before giving up and choosing to learn the flute instead.
Father once more took over her secret sword and bow lessons, some of her favourite moments. She progressed quickly with the bow, but had trouble with the sword. It was during those lessons that the King saw Brighda for the first time. Surprisingly, the boisterous man did not say much to her apart from a "You take after your aunt, little wolf". After a few words with her Father, he left.
Brighda did not think much of the encounter. She'd been too intimidated to be in the presence of a King to say anything and she did not think he would remember his best friend's bastard daughter. But he did.
On her tenth nameday, three months after the King and his victorious army had left Winterfell, Ned Stark had received a letter. Brighda Snow was now Brighda Stark by royal decree.
Brighda would remember Lady Catelyn's yells for the rest of her life.
The young girl grew up in relative peace behind the walls of Winterfell. Under Mrs Ann's tutelage, she became an accomplished, if rather reluctant, young lady and an excellent musician thanks to Master Hory's lessons. She had some skills with a sword, but was a marksman with her bow. Her straight and thin dark brown hair thickened and after being cut a certain way by Mrs Ann, turned out to have a slight wave to it. Her body developed curves and men started to notice her. Two months after her fourteenth nameday, Brighda's moonblood came and she was officially a maiden ready to be wed.
Eddard Stark received several offers from his bannermen for his eldest daughter's hand in marriage. He refused most of them, as they were made for second sons. Brighda, he explained, was not a bastard any more, and as such she ought to marry an heir, even if she would never make as good a marriage as her little sisters.
And then, an offer came from the Karstarks that Lord Stark took into serious consideration.
"Father" Brighda said after he asked for her opinion, "I know I will have to marry someone of your choosing. But can I, at the very least, meet him before you make your decision?"
Lord Stark agreed, but the meeting never happened, for a second offer, much more appealing, if completely unexpected, came. The Tyrells asked for Brighda's hand in place of their heir, Willas.
For now, this is a One Shot. I will probably turn it into a multi chapters fanfic, but I do not know when . Reviews, with ideas, or questions might help with inspiration ;)
Thank you for reading.