A/N: Nothing you recognize belongs to me!
So, thank you all for your patience. I'm working on updating my fics, but real life is seriously bitch slapping me at the moment, so it may take me a while. My fiancee and I have had a really rough year and it's sort of all coming to a head right now.
Chapter Three: Amelia
It was just dawn when Amelia Pond rose and made her way to the stables. She loved the mornings at Snowlight—the castle was already bustling well before the sun rose. Bakers and cooks and servants began preparing to start the day during the last hours of darkness. They were the legs on which the settlement ran and without them life in the castle would grind to a halt. Amy's position too required early mornings. She was the stablemaster, in charge of the Doctor's stables and mews. She led the hunt when they ventured out into the surrounding forests and supervised ser Alistair's pupils in their riding lessons. Knights were meant to be mounted and while they could fight on the ground they were most affective on horseback. Sometimes she envied her husband. Rory was apprenticed to Harry Sullivan, the Doctor's maester, and as such his day began a good deal later than her own—but most days she enjoyed the quiet time she spent with the horses and her thoughts.
It was especially quiet that morning. Snowlight was full to bursting with visitors from Winterskeep and Winterfell and a few from the southern lands as well (though they were a tiny minority)—but it was the morning after the wedding and the guests were still in their beds. She hadn't been in the godswood to see the handfasting, but she and Rory had been in the great hall when the Doctor returned with his bride. She was young, younger than Amy, and beautiful, if quiet. She left late with the Doctor, but there were whispers in the corners of the hall—talk of wolves and bad luck, of old tales and mutterings of omens. Amy paid them no mind. When she was a child she believed the old tales, the stories of the Others and the first men and the Children of the Forest—but she was a woman grown and fairy tales had no place in her life. She held to what she could see, what she could touch. Her eyes would not betray her like her mind could. In the long dark night every sound was a monster and every shadow an enemy. She was old enough to remember winter, even if it was mild. They'd been in summer for nine years now and the maesters said that the longer the summer was, the longer the winter was that followed it. If that was true they were in for a long, hard winter.
Amy's first stop was the kitchen. Aunt Sharon was a baker and she always had a spare roll or tart fresh out of the oven. She also had the lion's share of the castle gossip and she wasn't shy about sharing. Aunt Sharon always had something to say—even when no one wanted to listen. She was a bit of a busybody and more curious than any cat, but she had taken Amy in when her parents died (no one told her how—gone, they said to seven-year-old Amelia Pond—your parents are gone; but how she wanted to scream and no one would say) and given her a home. Aunt Sharon had helped her convince the old stablemaster to take Amy on as a hand, at first, and then eventually a groom. She was twenty years old when he retired and recommended to the Doctor that she be promoted. That was three years ago, just before she married Rory. She hadn't worn a veil—only noblewomen kept that custom anymore—and apparently not all of them. Lady Rose hadn't worn one the day before and of course Aunt Sharon had something to say about that.
"It's an ill omen, I tell you," she said to Louisa, another baker. "She was born under the wolf-sign on a moonless night. There are whispers from the guests—they call her 'the Bad Wolf.' Why d'you think her father died just after she was born? They say a pack of wolves took him and his horse and tore them both to pieces!"
"Good morning Aunt Sharon," Amy said as she slid onto a stool across from the two other women. "Telling tales again?"
"Mind your mouth girl," Aunt Sharon replied, "I've got a wooden spoon with your name etched on it somewhere around here," but she said it was a smile and slid Amy a sweet roll. It was still warm and the icing hadn't quite set. Amy managed to get a polite 'thank you' out before she polished it off and licked the stickiness from her fingers.
"She can't control when she was born and she was just a babe when her father died," Loiusa objected. "It's just idle talk, Sharon, from men who were far into their cups."
"Time will tell," Aunt Sharon replied. "Don't you have duties, Amelia?"
"Just on my way out," Amy replied. She kissed her aunt on the cheek. "Be well Aunt Sharon, and you too Louisa."
Her feet carried Amy down the familiar path whilst her mind remained occupied, reminiscing and planning. The winterstown just outside the gates of Snowlight was empty now, but when the snows came and the cold winds blew farmers would come from their freeholdings for the safety it offered. She smiled thinly. The southrons thought they knew winter—they'd never seen thirty-foot drifts or dealt with rains of ice a foot thick. She was lost in thought so deeply that she didn't notice she had company until she was inside the stables. She paused. Someone was speaking—a woman. Her voice was low but the horses were quiet and Amy could hear her plainly. She was speaking but received no reply. Amy frowned. She wasn't fond of people entering her domain without her permission. Two years back one of Alistair's pupils had attempted to injure one of the horses in order to win a bet. She caught him, of course, and he was sent home in disgrace. Amy had no time for someone who injured animals and neither did the Doctor.
She moved towards the voice. "Hello?" she called out. "Who's there?"
A blonde head appeared just outside of a stall three doors down. "Oh, sorry," the woman said. "Am I not allowed to be here? I just thought I'd stop in and see how Kaynine was settling in."
Amy blinked. It was the Lady Rose, as in the Doctor's new wife. She knew what the woman looked like, of course, but without the finery Amy hardly recognized her. "Um, no, my lady, I was just surprised." She frowned. "Aren't you up a bit early? I mean, it is the day after your wedding." Her eyes widened. "Begging your pardon."
Rose smiled at her. It was different than her smiles from the other day—broader, more honest. "No harm done and no offense taken. I figured it'd be best to do a bit of exploring, as I'm to live here." She stroked the neck of the lithe gray mare that was contentedly munching on sweet grass next to her. "I like to know where Kaynine is."
Amy took a moment to study her new lady. Rose Tyler was not what she expected, and she hated misjudging people. The silks and jewels of the previous day were gone, replaced by a serviceable tunic that reached to her knees. Splits extended up to her hips, and opaque black leggings hugged her legs. She wore soft leather boots much like Amy's own and her hair was braided and coiled around her head. Most surprisingly she wore a sword belted at her hip. It looked to be a rapier. The hilt was wrapped in black leather—plain, but good quality, if the sheath was anything to go by. It looked well-used.
Rose cocked her head to the side. "Do I pass inspection then?" she asked.
Amy blinked. "Was I being that obvious, my lady?"
"Just 'Rose,' please," the other woman replied firmly. "But I didn't catch your name."
"I'm Amelia Pond," Amy replied. "Stablemaster. My husband is Rory Pond—he's apprenticed to Maester Harry."
"I've met him, I think," Rose murmured, and frowned. "A little taller than me, brown hair, prominent nose?"
Amy smiled. "That's my husband. Maester Harry thinks he's good enough to go to the college and take his Maester's vows—if we weren't married. Still, he's a good healer."
"I'm sure." Rose stroked the gray mare's neck for a moment. "She's well situated. Thank you."
Amy nodded. "She's a beautiful horse."
Rose smiled a bit sadly. "She's my oldest friend. But you have duties, doubtless. I won't keep you from them any longer."
Aunt Sharon wasn't the first person Amy heard mention the strange rumors that apparently surrounded Lady Rose, nor was she the last. The stable boys were full of rumors, some of them incredibly crass.
"They say she's a warg," Greg was telling three other lads. He was small and dark and a bit too clever for his own good, but not clever enough to keep from running his mouth. "She turns into a wolf at night and that's why the Doctor won't sleep with her."
Another boy, Alser, laughed. "I don't care if she is a warg, you wouldn't catch me turning down a chance at that."
"Oi!" Amy snapped. "Enough talk. Are you men or crows? We've got fifty extra horses to feed, water, and brush, so get to it!" The other boys at least managed to look abashed, but Alser only looked annoyed. He was seventeen and a bit too sure of himself, in her opinion. "That means you as well, Alser Darkwood. Now move or Ser Alistair will hear about it!" That sent them running. Ser Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart was the sternest man she'd ever met—but also the most fair. He demanded complete obedience and dedication from his recruits but the men he trained went places. He rewarded those who worked hard—but he hated layabouts. Amy knew that she could take on any of the stableboys, even Alser, and most of them knew it as well, but a simple threat worked faster than beating on one of them would and she didn't care how they were motivated, as long as they completed their tasks.
It was many hours later when Amy finally slid onto the bench next to her husband in the great hall. There were cottages available for those who could afford the rent, and she and Rory definitely could, but Amy had never been very good at domestics and asking Rory to cook was simply dangerous, so they took their meals with the majority of the castle. Of course their apparent failure to conquer normal, every-day tasks didn't stop her husband from wanting a little cottage with a square of dirt and a kitchen and walls anymore than it stopped him from wanting children. They had been married for three years, after all, and almost everyone they knew had at least one, usually three or four, children.
Amy was quite happy with her life at the moment, meaning her life as a wife and not a mother, her life as the Doctor's stablemaster. Sometimes she stood on Snowlight's battlements and looked out over the fields and rolling green hills, the forest to the north and the sparkling lakes in the west and felt the hint of something missing—but it wasn't anything a tiny, helpless little person would fix. She wanted adventure. She wanted to travel, to see the Free Cities and the sea of grass, to know more than the hills and shadowed vales that surrounded the castle. She wanted to bathe in the Trident and walk the dusty marketplaces of the south. Rory was no help. Amy loved her husband deeply, but he found her thirst for adventure troubling. He was all too content to remain where they were in the life that he had become accustomed to. On good days she thought of him as steady, stable, and dependable. On bad days she thought of him as rigid and stuck in a rut, as bland and boring. On bad days she wondered why she hadn't left with Mels.
Melody Snow was Amy's best friend (and Rory's too, although he'd never admit it). She was brash and bold and had very little respect for any sort of rule. She was an orphan, like Amy, but she had no Aunt Sharon to take her in. She was no man's daughter. One day she'd just appeared outside the gate. Her feet were bare and bloody from walking and her clothes were torn and dirty. She was six years old. The Doctor had taken her in and found a family that was willing to raise her, but she was too headstrong for her own good. Amy liked that she was daring. Melody had the courage to tell her bossy adopted mum to stuff it and the skill to lay her adopted father out cold when he put his hands on her. No one ordered Melody around—but then no one but Amy and Rory cared to be seen with her. People whispered about her, called her a wildling and a bastard. When she was sixteen years old she stole a horse and vanished in the middle of the night. Amy hadn't seen her since.
Rory munched contentedly beside his wife. She knew that he was watching her and that he was waiting for her to speak. He was chivalrous and kind despite her occasional waspish outbursts and he never asked her about the time she spent on the castle walls, staring at something that only she could see. He was a good husband and a good man, and she loved him.
And that would have to be enough.