AN: Shameless AU, imagine a world in which dragons never flew, Torrhen Stark never knelt, and his dynasty still rules the North. This is an Arya-centric fic, with possible major character deaths, angst and some eventual romance. Enjoy, and please, please review. It would mean the world to me.
The wind didn't treat her gently, and the Princess loved it for that. It beat across her face in angry blasts, carrying sprays of salty foam. Her chapped skin stung with each new gust, but Arya never looked away.
The sea was nothing like she expected. It made her feel tiny. For miles and miles all she could see was navy waves boiling up against the ship. She was minuscule, but she was free.
Even after living on the Dornish coast for five years, she had never been so far out to sea. Until now her trips had all been on pleasure barges with her betrothed. She had cared for Ned Dayne deeply, but never as more than a friend. He was always kind to her, partly out of love and partly out of fear. Arya's temper and stubbornness was no secret at Starfall. Ned had given her Nymeria, a Dornish sand steel, as a betrothal gift, and together they had explored Dorne from North to South. Outside of court she could dress as she wanted, go where she please, and even practice swordplay in the yard. Ned had joined her to spar a few times, but grew sullen once he realized that he could never beat her.
Arya could not have asked for a better life than the one she led in Dorne, but try as she might she didn't feel at home. She couldn't make herself love Ned as anything more than a friend either. When he has kissed her, she had sat as still as a statue in the Winterfell crypts. She never wanted him, and he knew it. Only weeks before their marriage was to be held, Ned contracted greyscale. Arya was ashamed to feel a sense of relief wash over her when she heard. She didn't want him to die, of course, but she didn't want to be his lady wife either. All Arya had ever wanted was freedom, and now, she had it.
Her heart sang with every gust of wind that propelled them North; to her roots, her family, and her home.
Robb had been sent to White Harbor to meet her. Arya scarcely recognized her brother; when she left, he had been 16, barely a man, lanky and awkward. Now he was even taller, but well muscled and broad of shoulder. He looked like an heir to the North should, all muscle and raw power. His Tully eyes hadn't changed though, they still sparked and danced as always. He scooped her off her feet and whirled her around when she ran off the pier and into his arms.
Her legs were shaky from the sea, but Robb helped steady her as he admired Nymeria. Arya had grown to love her dearly, and rode her as well as the best of men in Westeros could have.
Leaning on her brother, Princess Arya breathed in the fresh Northern air and felt truly alive for the first time in five years. She was home.
She arrived at Winterfell late on a snowy afternoon. The dogs ran from the kennels, barking at her scent. The older ones lapped her face and hands when she vaulted off her horse. The younger ones stayed back, wary of the newcomer who smelled of salt and Dornish spices.
The King in the North stood at the entrance to the great hall, a smile gracing his usually stern face. Arya ran into her fathers arms, enveloping herself in his musky scent as if she was a child once again. She never wanted to leave his embrace.
The next few days flew by in a flurry of embraces and welcomes. Her Queen mother and Sansa had only waited long enough to offer their condolences for her betrothed before eagerly stripped her of her Dornish riding crop and dressing her like a proper Princess. Little Rickon growled at sight of her in a gown, not recognizing her until she chased him down and wrestled him onto the floor. Robb and Bran couldn't contain their laughter at the sight of her. Her stifling corset and intricate braids made Arya antsy, but her mother looked so happy that she couldn't bare to disappoint her. Not for the first few days, at least.
Arya wanted to spend as much time as possible with her father, but a King had duties. To keep him around she had even taken to attending the council meetings with him and Robb. She listened with interest to lengthy discussions of poor harvests in Deepwood Moat, of pirates raiding the stony shore, of Wildling attacks on the gift... It was all fascinating until it came to talks of marriage. Some widowed Lady Hornwood had been turning away every suitor for fear that he would take her castle, until Roose Bolton's bastard took her in the night, forced her to swear marriage oaths under sword point, then sealed the deal. Arya left before she heard the rest of the story, annoyed at the Lady for not taking matters into her own hands like she would have.
She sulked away aimlessly, wishing her father had more time to spend with her. Maester Luwin ran by her holding a raven, but didn't even bother to spare her a look. The scullery maids in the yard stopped their whispering as she walked by, and she felt her face grow hot when she noticed that many of the men stared at her openly. Why do they treat me like I am a stranger? She wondered, I am their princess, this is my home. I belong here more than any of them.
Arya felt a sudden longing to be alone, and found herself striding towards the Godswood. She drew her breath when she saw it, the white weirwoods standing proud and tall amidst small snowdrifts. She looked into their blood red eyes and felt a shiver wrack her spine. It felt as if they were looking at her, calling her name, welcoming her back. Arya, Arya, Arya, she could feel them thinking. Arya, Arya, Arya...
She didn't know how much time had passed before the voices woke her. She peered around the heart tree and saw her parents. Arya wanted to call out, but the look on her father's face stopped her.
"He's dying," her father whispered, clutching a letter, "I always thought Robert would outlive me, hoped he would outlive me, and even as we speak, he lies on his deathbed. Killed by a boar. How can this be? Tell me I'm dreaming, Caitlin, tell me this isn't really happening."
Arya watched her mother struggling to find the right words, eventually giving up and embracing Ned instead, burying her face in her husbands chest. "You can still go to him," Arya heard her murmur, "All men die, Ned. The God's are good to give you this chance to say your goodbyes."
She never saw her father cry before, and she never would. The heart tree cried blood red tears for him, raining leaves like bloodstained hands on her parents.
AN: Ehem. I'm absolutely unoriginal when it comes to naming chapters and stories, but I think that they really do need names. So, haha, I'm naming them after songs that I like. Songs that may or may not be related to the chapters.
Wolf Like Me is by TV on the Radio, Butterflies and Hurricanes is by Muse.