Keeping one's word is its own reward.
Disclaimer: I do not own Robb Stark or any of the other characters created by George R. R. Martin. Neither do I have any claim over his work in A Song of Ice and Fire. I do not earn any profit from this.
Author's Note: Hello guys! First of all, read no further if you've only watched the series and don't want spoilers. This fic actually doesn't have that many spoilers (in fact it's quite AU), but it reveals a crucial detail/event so be forewarned.
Just to be clear, this is not a Jeyne Westerling bashing fic. It's just my take on what might have happened if Robb had married a Frey girl despite the incident at the Crag. The Frey girl in this fic is an OC. I don't give her a name, so if you want to imagine she's Roslin, that's fine—though her personality is quite different from Roslin's. Also, I ignored much of the Frey family tree in this fic, okay? Just go with it, haha.
The inspiration for this was a Rolling Stones' song. I'd like to think that everyone's heard the following lines at some point: "You can't always get what you want/But if you try, you get what you need." So that's basically the whole point of this fic.
Feedback is very much appreciated!
It was a perfect day for a betrothal. For months people had spoken of the coming winter, yet that day made it seem as though summer had just arrived. If I had said this aloud, my sisters might have said that I felt that way because I was giddy. I was not. The weather seemed to declare that I ought to be, though. The sky was vibrant and clear, the winds warm, the sun bright. I sat by the large window of the room I shared with three of my sisters. The window faced south, and from it I could observe the mass of men and structures just outside the walls of our father's keep—the army of the King in the North.
I pushed down the roiling mass of feelings that threatened to break my calm façade. It had held all through the day, this mask of serenity, from the moment we had been assembled before King Robb until he had taken my hand and declared me his choice. It was one of the few things I prided myself on: being in control of myself. In a chaotic keep, in uncertain times, there was so little a person—moreover a woman—could have power over. I'd resolved long ago that if I could be little else, I would at least be mistress over my own self.
Of course, I'd be mistress of the North before long, and again I had to take a breath to steady myself at the implications of that title.
Feminine murmurs from the hallway prevented me from brooding. I turned as four of my sisters entered the room. My gratitude at their interruption was only slightly soured by the sight of Kyra, perhaps the only one of my siblings with whom I had less than a loving relationship. She was looking extremely pleased—something that usually boded ill for me. Alys, Fara, and Margaret were the closest to me of my siblings since they were the ones who shared a room with me. They were watching Kyra with expressions that ranged from outright hostility to distinct discomfort.
"We thought we'd bring you your meal," Kyra said sweetly, her wide blue eyes filled with guile, "since you skipped luncheon."
"And since Kyra didn't bring anything," Margaret said acidly, hefting a tray filled with dishes, "she naturally had to come along."
Kyra ignored her. She walked over to me, glancing out the window. "I didn't realize you were such a romantic, coming up here to moon over him."
"Yes, of course that's the reason she's up here," Fara cut in, setting a pitcher and goblet down on the table next to the tray. "Her eyes are so sharp that she can see King Robb from all the way over here."
Behind us Margaret was gesturing at me, her hands moving in a shoving motion as she tilted her head meaningfully towards our unwelcome sister. My lips barely twitched with laughter but Kyra caught it. She narrowed her eyes at me, dropping all pretense of sweetness.
"I suppose you think you're special now just because the King chose you," she said in a venomous voice that was at odds with her fragile prettiness. "You must think you're very lucky."
I had been waiting for this confrontation all day. It was part of the reason I'd retreated to my room after the King and his company had left. The murderous look on Kyra's face the moment the King had reached for my hand had warned me that a scene was coming. I didn't want it to play out anywhere else.
"I am very lucky," I said calmly. "The King is a great man."
"Indeed. Don't you wonder why he chose you?"
"In other words, Kyra wants you to tell her why he didn't choose her," Margaret snapped. She glared at Kyra. "Not everyone thinks you're the best of us, Twit. Now go away."
Kyra's eyes blazed and I sighed inwardly.
When we were children we had all believed that Kyra had been Father's favorite. Even as a child she had taken after her mother's beauty, and she possessed the same capricious precociousness that seemed to enchant even our blustery old sire.
When she and I were both fourteen years old things had changed. Perhaps they had already begun to change long before that crucial incident, but we all failed to notice until that one evening. Our septa had been delivering a report to my father about our progress in our lessons. We had been learning about keeping legers. I was doing well; Kyra was not. It wasn't a matter of intelligence or skill, really, but a matter of attitude. What was of value to me was meaningless to Kyra, and she told our father this when he turned to her for an explanation.
"I don't need to learn all that," she had said breezily, smiling at Father. "Only undesirable women have to bother themselves with managing a household. I'll simply marry well so that servants can do all that for me."
None of us had expected Father's reply. He had always laughed at Kyra's outrageousness. It was a constant source of amusement for him and his delight had encouraged our sister to go on as she did. But that night he'd turned on her with a black scowl.
"And what man would want you, you empty-headed twit?" he'd demanded. "By the Seven, if I'd known that your mother would have given me such a stupid child I'd have kept my cock in my pants!"
I still remember Kyra's face going very white, her blue eyes going round with shock. I remember my brothers' faces as they, too, observed her. Some had been sympathetic, some indifferent. But Olyvar had been amused. I saw the twinkle of mirth in his eyes a moment before he snorted with laughter. It seemed then that he was not alone in his reaction as the sound of muffled laughter and ill-concealed titters had echoed about the dining hall. Since then many of our siblings referred to Kyra as the Twit whenever there was a quarrel, and in Kyra's mind somehow this had become my fault.
"Margaret," I said wearily, "you're not helping, dear."
Kyra had recomposed herself. She gave me a cruel smirk. "I only came to warn you. Don't start building castles in the air just because King Robb chose you. You're just a necessity, not the woman he really wants."
"Which would be you, I suppose?" Fara said with a scornful laugh.
Kyra laughed as well, matching our sister's contempt. "No, actually. There's another girl named Jeyne Westerling. Her family's seat is the Crag. King Robb was forced to take it two years ago because they were allied with the Lannisters. Do you remember that?"
I'd heard of the event. No one said anything and Kyra's smile widened at the fact she'd succeeded in getting our attention.
"Well apparently King Robb was injured by an arrow and Jeyne Westerling tended to him. After that they became rather close. Not long after Winterfell burned they found the king and the lady in each other's arms—in a most unchaste way, if you take my meaning. They say the king wanted to marry her in order to preserve her honor, but his mother prevailed upon him to keep his word to Father."
"Wise of him," Fara murmured. "Father would never have forgiven the insult if the king had broken his word."
"That's not the point. King Robb may have decided to keep his word to Father, but he and the Westerling girl are still lovers. Where do you think he was before he came here to select a bride?"
"He was telling this Jeyne goodbye."
Alys's voice was soft, but firm. She was my only full-blooded sister and was younger than me by only ten months. She'd kept silent the entire time, understanding as well as I did that the fastest way to get rid of Kyra was to let her say her piece.
"You should pay more attention when people tell you things, even gossip," Alys told Kyra coolly. "It's why people always say you're empty-headed. He said goodbye to Jeyne Westerling because he knew that upon getting here he'd be selecting a bride."
Kyra flushed, but she persisted in her course. "Again, not the point." She turned towards me. "How do you think King Robb feels about you? What do you think he feels when he looks at you and remembers that you're not the woman he wanted?"
I bit back a sigh. "I suppose he comforts himself with the knowledge that he has Father's eternal support."
Kyra laughed almost hysterically. I almost pitied her. She had always been so sure that the king would choose her. I'd been certain he'd choose her. She was often considered the loveliest of us, though I'd often felt that Alys could give her a run for her money. Still, I could understand the disappointment and frustration. Yet if she'd meant to hurt me by telling me about King Robb's great love, she was far off her mark. She seemed to realize this as the minutes ticked by and I did not say anything further.
"If you've finished, sister," Alys said to Kyra at length, "you should leave."
Kyra picked up her skirts and left, her pretty nose in the air. I watched her go, musing that perhaps it was best that the king had chosen me. Kyra would never have borne King Robb's devotion to another woman. It was perhaps why she'd chosen to tell me about it—she'd assumed I'd feel as she would have felt.
The truth was that King Robb was entitled to love whomever he wanted. One couldn't control one's emotions. I still felt, although I knew sometimes people doubted it. What was important was what a person did, and that was an arena where feelings could play a very small part.
If the King in the North could manage to bind himself to a woman other than the one he loved, I could live with being married to someone who loved another. Though we had grown together and had once been the closest of siblings Kyra still did not understand me. It mattered little to me whom Robb Stark loved. I had my own reasons for wanting the marriage, and none of them had to do with love. As queen I would have power, and power was important for what I wanted to do. The fighting was finally coming to an end and soon the focus would turn to fashioning the Northern Kingdom to the North's liking. I intended to be a part of that.
It was almost like being a child again, when I believed that Father had loved Kyra more than me. I had learned very quickly that there was no point in feeling sorry for myself, or craving my father's love when he had already given all of it to Kyra. I learned to value what I did have: opportunities and abilities that were of help to people, which I put to good use.
In fact, the only insult Kyra had ever come up with that actually managed to wound me was in relation to my desire to help. There had been a fire once that had taken nearly a fourth of the castle. Dozens had been injured and much had been lost, as the fire had started in the supply rooms. I had barely slept in the months that followed as we tried to recuperate. If I wasn't needed to tend to the injured I was busy with the merchants or the artisans. Father had noticed that I'd lost weight and had gruffly reminded me that I needed to eat if I wanted to keep a woman's figure. I had felt a momentary glow of affection at his concern, roughly-worded though it was, until I'd overheard Kyra's muttered remark.
"Of course, she loves it when some new catastrophe happens because it's the only time she can act important."
The accusation still stung, though years had passed. My brothers and sisters had told me to pay Kyra's words no mind, but the self-doubt had lingered.
One of my sisters cleared her throat.
"Will you eat?" Alys asked gently.
I smiled. "Of course. Forgive me, I hope it wasn't too much trouble for you to bring this up to me."
"The only trouble was having that smug bitch tail us around," Margaret growled. In one of her quicksilver changes of mood she burst out laughing. "Oh, the look on her face when Robb Stark stopped in front of you!"
Fara's snickers joined hers. "I swear, I was waiting for her to scream, 'Whaaaat?' "
"Did you know that she actually rehearsed her reaction to his proposal?" Margaret sneered.
That caught my interest. "She what?"
"Zia told me she even considered fainting!"
Alys and Fara could not contain their mirth but I was horrified. "By the Seven, Father would have flogged her for acting so disgracefully! What a ridiculous way to react to a proposal!"
"Oh yes, your way was much better, I'm sure," Margaret teased.
" 'Will you marry me, Lady Frey?' " Fara said in a low, growly voice that I gathered was supposed to be King Robb.
Margaret assumed a blank, far-off expression and she spoke in a monotone. " 'Certainly, Your Grace.' "
I felt myself flush and I turned to Alys. "I didn't say it like that, did I?"
Alys shrugged. "You did sound rather…uninspired."
"Well, how was I supposed to sound?" I demanded a little defensively. "It's a political marriage, for goodness sake."
"Didn't you feel even a little bit flattered when he chose you?" Margaret wheedled.
"Yes, how did you feel when you saw him coming towards you?" Fara said with a grin.
I poured myself some water, hoping they wouldn't press for a reply. This was the other reason I'd retired to my room so quickly. I wanted to avoid answering questions like these. My mind skipped back to earlier in the day, when I'd been standing with my sisters in the great hall.
Something about the arrangement had struck me as terribly wrong. We were lined up like livestock for inspection in the order that Father had deemed us most desirable. I had been in the fourth line from the front, eager for the choice to be done so that I could get back to my duties. The king had stood beside Father, speaking with him in low, urgent tones. His mother, Lady Catelyn Stark, had done most of the inspection, walking to and fro and looking us over. Predictably her eyes had lingered on Kyra. All of us, save Kyra, were small, dark-haired women whose features ranged from mousy to coarse. Kyra's perfectly oval face had found the happy medium, the bones of her face fine while her eyes were large and bright, her mouth full and pillowy-soft. She was also light-haired, her hair curling fetchingly in little ringlets that our own pin-straight hair could never aspire to.
I wasn't repulsive, thank the Seven, but I knew that I would never appeal to most people the way Kyra did. My nose was too pointy and I didn't have cheekbones to speak of. My eyes were often said to be too large for my face, an unremarkable brown next to Kyra's bright blue. My mouth was a small thing, the upper lip barely there. My face was small and heart-shaped, and the most generous thing anyone had ever said of it was that I faintly resembled a kitten.
I had begun to be bored when the conversation between the king and our father finally came to an end. Our father had looked distinctly unhappy, if resigned. He'd scanned our faces before his eyes had settled on mine and I'd felt a kick of unease in my gut. He'd murmured something to the king and when my gaze had swung to him I found myself staring into the eyes of the Young Wolf.
And the unease had turned into dread.
His gaze had never left mine as he walked towards me. The intensity of the stare and the grim sense of purpose I read in his eyes had nearly sent me into a panic. But by some grace of the gods I'd stood completely still, my face composed. When he'd come to stop in front of me I'd been forced to tilt my head back to hold his stare—we nearly had a foot of difference in height. A gloved hand took my left one and lifted it so that he could brush his lips over it.
"Will you marry me, Lady Frey?" he'd asked gravely.
The words were heavy on my tongue, but I'd pushed them out with as much dignity as I could muster. "Certainly, Your Grace."
I drank deeply of the water before I turned back to my sisters' expectant faces.
"I can't remember how I felt," I answered, hoping they would believe me. "To be honest, it felt rather unreal."
"Not even a flutter of delight? Even when he kissed your hand?" Margaret demanded.
I shook my head helplessly. "Not if you count momentary terror as a flutter."
Fara snorted with disgust. "You are made of stone. There's not a man anywhere as handsome as the king for miles and the only thing you can feel for him is terror or indifference."
I grinned, far too used to this kind of ribbing to take offense. They were right, of course. King Robb was an impressive man, all angles and hard planes. He was young yet, only a year older than my eighteen, but he carried the mantle of authority on his broad shoulders like a king who'd lived far longer. His eyes were a sharp, clear hue that straddled gray and blue and looking into them I'd wondered if he'd ever been young. His mouth was generous but the tightness in his square jaw told me he wasn't one to smile. Undeniably handsome, but also grim, serious. I supposed one had to be if one was going to lead a rebellion and be king.
"Do you know what father said to him?" I asked after a moment. Thinking about the king had made me imagine myself as his queen and the vision did not feel right. Especially since imagining Kyra as his queen seemed to yield a much more appropriate image. I wondered what Jeyne Westerling looked like.
"Walda said the king asked a lot of questions about what each of us could do," said Alys. "She was at the very front and she said that the king was very interested in which of us was cleverest, or which of us knew best how to manage a keep. He said he needed a queen who was capable before anything else. Father didn't seem to want to talk about you, but eventually your name came up." Alys must have noticed that I was hurt, because she reached out to touch my arm and spoke gently. "He probably didn't want to lose you to the king. You do so much here, sister. Walda said the King had to ask, 'Is there anyone else?' at least five times before Father grudgingly pointed you out. If Father weren't trying to keep you he'd have mentioned you at the very start."
The hurt eased, but it was replaced by a dull ache that I failed to give a name to. I had always taken my place in the keep for granted. I had imagined all of my sisters getting married and leaving to join their husbands, but I had never considered the possibility that I might do it. Who would have thought that a man would choose a wife based on sense, not beauty or feeling? Then again, Robb Stark was not just any man—he was a king, and as king he was bound by duty more than any person of lesser rank.
"Oh no, she's started brooding," came Margaret's amused voice, and I realized that I'd been staring at the morsel on my fork with great interest but hadn't actually eaten it.
I grinned, telling myself firmly that there would be time to be miserable later, when I was alone. For now I would savor what time I had left with those I loved. Before long the grin felt natural, and I forgot for a little while that the world I knew would never be the same again.
Author's Note #2: You know, this was supposed to be a one-shot. But after I'd finished (at 26 pages!) I felt like it wasn't fleshed out enough and decided to substantiate some parts. The friend who read it suggested I make it into four parts, so that's what I'm doing. I hope you enjoyed this so far, and please do leave feedback! I always reply to comments. If you aren't logged in my replies will be in the next chapter.
Next Chapter: Interludes between the king and his betrothed, the wedding, and the wedding night.