AN: This was written for this prompt at the kink meme: "AU: After meeting Ned's Lyanna-lookalike daughter at Winterfell, Robert decides to put Cersei aside and take Arya to wife. Older!Arya, please." In this fic, Arya is the oldest of the Stark children at 14 years old, followed by Jon (14), Robb (11), Sansa (9), and the boys, whose ages remain the same.
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry "Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!"
– Thomas Parke D'Invilliers
If That Will Move Her
Part One of Three
Robert Baratheon arrived in Winterfell intent on reclaiming his old friend and binding their Houses together through a marriage between their eldest children. He left with one task completed and the other cast away entirely.
When Robert saw Lady Arya Stark in the receiving line, all of the air was punched out of him. Lyanna's name caught in his throat, all but choking him. It was her, his betrothed, his beloved, come back to him. But as a torment or a blessing from the gods? That he could not say. But there she stood, with those stormy gray eyes and that dark hair pinned up on the verge of rebellion. Arya looked to be just a year or so younger than Lyanna was the last time he saw her before…
Cersei was watching. They all were.
Finally finding his voice, Robert greeted Lady Arya properly and she responded in kind. The voice was different. Or mayhaps he misremembered. But once he started japing with her, her laugh – gods be good! – it was the same.
The king had thought to pay his respects at Lyanna's resting place before even settling in. But a statue held no allure for him now. His Lyanna was not in there within the cold stone they fashioned for her. She was flesh and blood once more.
Robert was not certain when he decided he would take Lady Arya to wife, just as he was meant to take Lyanna. But the sight of Joffrey escorting her into the feast confirmed his decision. She was not intended for that boy, who she frowned up at as he whispered something to her through a practiced smile. She was intended for the king.
Ned would be in a fury when he learned of Robert's intentions. He might even strike him, king or no. But Robert could not bring himself to care. His old friend would live through it and come round. Eventually. His daughter would be queen. His grandchildren would be princes and princesses. For the good of his House and the love he bore both Robert and Lady Arya, he would not make too much trouble.
Facing Ned would be the simpler tilt. Arya herself would prove a difficulty. And Cersei. But Robert wouldn't trouble himself about her until later.
First, the she-wolf.
Wooing her discreetly proved simpler than he thought. Arya had a taste for riding, hunting, and listening to war stories. Robert could ask for no better opportunities than those.
So it was that nearly every evening, he regaled Lady Arya and her siblings with tales of how he won three battles in a day, fought while wounded during the Battle of the Bells, and every other feat that made him great. As often as possible, the men hunted through the wolfswood with Arya and her wolf coming along – something Cersei would never do, even when Robert invited her.
As the weeks passed, Robert found that Arya wasn't so very much like Lady Lyanna, for all the physical similarities. Arya spoke much more often and more boldly, and she smiled for him more often too. Those differences made him like her all the better.
When the time drew nearer to their departure, the fates seemed to work in his favor. Robert didn't even have to convince Ned that his oldest daughter should come along. Lady Catelyn did the work for him, insisting Arya should learn the ways of the southron court and, if the gods were good, become more of a lady.
All was falling into place, neat as you please.
"She is a maid of 14 and unpromised," Renly said. "They say she is the very image of the Lady Lyanna."
"Aye," Robert said as he watched Arya laughing at some song Moon Boy sang. They had just returned to King's Landing and everyone was in high spirits during the welcome feast in the Great Hall. Lady Arya's smiles had been so few as they traveled further away from her home. She mourned for her younger brother who had fallen and was like to die or wake broken. She also missed her baseborn brother, Jon, terribly. It did Robert good to see her smiling again. "She does have Lyanna's look."
Renly laughed. "Brother, how can you tell? You aren't looking."
Robert turned to see his little brother holding out a rose gold locklet with the painted miniature of a beautiful girl with large eyes and curling brown hair.
"Do they tell it true? Is she Lady Lyanna come again?"
"Take a look over there, boy." Robert nodded toward Arya. "That is Lyanna come again."
Renly followed his gaze, looking confused. "Lord Eddard's oldest girl? Yes, she is very pretty. But Lady Margaery Tyrell." He held up that locklet again. "She is a great beauty. Lovely as the dawn, they say."
"Aye, she's a pretty girl," the king agreed. "And from strong family. Yes, yes, I give you leave to wed her."
"Robert, no, I did not mean-" Renly stumbled. "I am not ready to wed as yet."
"Then why the devil are you waving that miniature about?"
"It's just…" Renly looked about them. They sat alone on the dais as everyone else danced or laughed at Moon Boy. "The queen has not given you children since Tommen, and that was more than seven years past."
Robert stared at him. Renly continued.
"Who is to say she will ever whelp again? It might be time to set her aside and take a new queen. A younger queen who could give you more children and could bind you to another powerful House. It could be done if we could make the High Septon understand the necessity of this. Cersei could join the Silent Sisters, thus freeing you to wed again for the good of the realm."
By then Robert was outright laughing. He caught his wife's eye from across the hall as she stared at him quizzically. That only made him laugh the harder.
"Cersei?" Robert said. "A Silent Sister?" He laughed harder at the absurdity of it. "She is cold enough, I suppose."
Renly chuckled too. "Think on it, brother."
The king didn't need to think. Before the night was out, he had decided to bestow a few gifts on the High Septon to help him understand the necessity of this great matter.
It was evenfall on the first day of the Hand's Tourney. Robert casually walked in pace beside Arya and her sister toward the pavilions raised along the riverside for the feast. The younger girl, who favored Lady Catelyn, always appeared silent and nervous in the king's presence, but Arya immediately began asking him questions about the knights and the melee on the morrow and then about him.
"Father told me stories about you, of when you were young," Arya said. "He said you were the strongest man in Westeros. Is it true your warhammer was so heavy it took two men to bring it to you? And you could truly wield it on your own in one hand and carry a shield in the other? Do you keep it here? Can you still lift it?"
Seven hells, she thinks me an old man, Robert thought. "Still lift it? Ha! I can still crush a man with it."
"Lia- I meant, as you say, Your Grace."
A madness overtook him at the amusement in her eyes.
"You will see on the morrow during the melee, my lady," he said.
"You will compete?" Arya asked, surprised as they reached the tables.
Cersei forbade him. Ned and Barristan Selmy tried to dissuade him with some nonsense about the other competitors allowing him to win. But compete he did. Fifteen years might have passed since the Trident, but still, hammer in hand, no man could stand against him.
His back failed him on the morn and wasn't right again for the next few days, but it was well worth seeing Lady Arya cheering with the other highborn lords and ladies.
"What does your dear friend, Lord Stark, think of your pursuit of his daughter?"
Robert glanced over to see a very unfamiliar sight: Cersei stepping into his solar.
"What the devil are you talking about, woman?" The king poured himself some water from a silver flagon and took a swig. He tried not to grimace at the plainness of the taste.
"Are you drinking water?" Cersei demanded, her green eyes catching fire.
"Aye, I am," he said. "Pour yourself a cup. Mayhaps you'll start talking sense again."
She stared at him. "Don't think I don't know what you are doing. This water, those training sessions with Ser Barristan, the sparse meals. You want to impress that Stark child, your new Lyanna. Make no mistake, I know what you are doing."
"Good, you've told me," he said. "Now get out."
Cersei was right of course. Damn her…
Lady Arya was so active and spirited with all of her riding about and exploring the Red Keep and sparring with that Braavosi. She even wrestled with that massive wolf of hers. He just wanted to be able to keep up with her when they married without gasping for air or sweating through his silks.
Barristan was older than Robert, but in fitter shape than most younger men. The king had asked his advice and had no liking for his counsel. After attempting to follow the great knight's advice for a time, he soon began making exception after exception until he had done away with the idea.
But then that little sword Arya carried was nicked and wanted fixing. Robert had it sent to Tobho Mott, and then escorted her to the Street of Steel to retrieve it. Mott was all graciousness and compliments, offering to produce all manner of stag and wolf styled armor…for a price befitting the quality of the work. They merely wanted the sword. Mott called for a boy named Garren or Gendry, or some such name.
A tall, muscled lad with hair as black as pitch appeared. Seeing Lady Arya, he took the knee.
"M'lady," he said and raised the sword for her to take.
A blush crept up her cheeks as she took Needle back and regarded the boy.
He knew the look that clouded Arya's gray eyes. He knew it well. Curiosity, admiration, lust. Women once looked upon him thus. When had they stopped?
After seeing Arya's keen interest in the young blacksmith, Robert decided not to bestow any more of their patronage upon Tobho Mott's establishment. He also decided to resume his efforts with Barristan, determined to become the man he once was. Only three months had passed since then and already there was a difference. His movements became less labored. He didn't run out of breath so quickly. He was even beginning to lose the craving for wine.
But Cersei did not see these as improvements. "Of course, you do realize taking the daughter of one of your great lords as a mistress can only lead to war. Westeros has already suffered from a royal's fixation with a plain-faced northern girl. There is no need for it to happen again. Wed her to Joff, my sweet, and keep to your whores."
"Oh, shut up, woman! I don't mean to make her my mistress."
A silence stretched and grew tense between them as he took another drink of that bloody water.
"You do not mean to make her your mistress," Cersei repeated softly.
"No, now get out, damn you before I have Blount-"
"You intend for her to be something more," she said.
Robert said nothing, inwardly cursing himself.
"Make no mistake, Robert, that too will lead to war." As she left, Robert decided to suggest Ned increase the number of guards around his daughters.
When Arya's name day came, Robert presented her with a magnificent black mare. Giving him a grin, the girl swung herself into the saddle.
"Lady Arya," a septa said through a strained smile. "Remember your courtesies."
"Oh!" she cried. "Thank you, Your Grace. She is beautiful."
Arya promptly named the mare Wenda after the White Fawn of the Kingswood Brotherhood.
She sat a horse very prettily and she rode with such ease, the animal appeared to be a part of her. Just like Lyanna. She was part horse herself.
Even as the king laughed and watched her ride about in front of the stables, he could feel Cersei's gaze searing into him.
Robert planned to ask after the younger Stark girl's name day so he might present her with a gift as well so his interest would not seem so blatant. But as he and Ned spoke during the small feast that night, Arya's younger sister and her name day fled from his mind. The old friends stood together beside a column in the Small Hall as the others laughed and talked along the tables, when Ned mentioned his intention to find Arya a husband.
"You mean to make a match for her?" Robert asked. "So soon?"
"Soon?" Ned regarded him quizzically. "Arya is 15, nearly a woman grown. She should have been promised long before now. We held off because she has no liking for the idea of wedding, but we can put it off no longer. Last we spoke, Catelyn urged me to find a match for her soon. That was part of her reasoning for sending Arya to the capital. She even made a list of highborn men who might be suitable."
Ned rolled his eyes leisurely, but his friend was much more disturbed.
Ned looked uncomfortable. "This is not the time to speak of this, but last we spoke on the matter, Cat asked that I inquire after Prince Joffrey or Lord Renly."
"Gods have mercy." Robert suddenly longed for a skin of wine. "Joffrey's too young to make a match for as yet. And Renly, gods know when he will agree to take a wife."
"I will not press you," Ned said. "Cat also thinks Willas Tyrell or Quentyn Martell might do. Or mayhaps even her brother Edmure."
Damn it all, Ned! Robert realized he had to advance more quickly. But how to rid himself of Cersei without causing a war?
In the end, war was not to be avoided.
The gold cloaks carried Ned into the Red Keep unconscious with a shattered leg. When Robert heard, he went directly to Cersei's solar.
"It was you who put him up to it, wasn't it!" he roared without so much as a greeting.
Cersei regarded him calmly. "I do not pretend to know what you are talking about. But if you were not so busy raving, you would know my brother – and yours too by law – was kidnapped on the Kingsroad by Catelyn Stark."
"No, your brother attacked the Hand of the King in the streets of King's Landing, at your command," Robert shouted back. "Don't you dare deny it. Was this your way of sending a message? Are you so frightened by that girl that you would risk the head of your precious Kingslayer with this scheme of yours?"
Cersei stared at him boldly. "You think me frightened of that savage Arya Stark? Only a fool like you would look twice upon her." She took a drink of wine and stared into the glass for a long moment. "The Starks are attacking our family from all sides. The whore daughter is entrapping you, Lady Catelyn took Tyrion prisoner, and now you tell me Eddard Stark incited a brawl in the streets with Jaime. At least we cannot accuse the Starks of subtly. They mean to have you for that plain-faced girl and to remove the rest of your family entirely."
"Now you're speaking nonsense!"
They went round and round getting nowhere but growing more and more furious.
"You can believe your dear friend's lies all you like," Cersei shouted, as he stormed out. "I will find the truth in this! My brother's are blameless!"
Robert visited Eddard on the morrow and found both Arya and the younger girl – Sansa? – at his bedside. The redhead wept quietly as she prayed. Lady Arya was silent and tense with icy fury.
She turned as Robert entered the chambers. Both girls rose. The younger one curtsied and made her courtesies. Arya closed the distance between herself and the king in a few strides, and took his hands in hers.
"Please, Your Grace. The Kingslayer and his men, they attacked my father. They murdered Jory and Wyl and Heward. Murdered them right there in the streets bold as you please. But Alyn and Poole, they won't listen to me. They won't listen! We must go after the Kingslayer and bring him back to face justice. But Poole won't hear of it and neither will Alyn. With my father unwell, my orders are the ones they should follow, but they just tell me to pray and not worry as though I were Sansa instead of a woman grown! I sent a raven to Mother so she and Father's bannermen might act, but they will only say the same, I know it. Your Grace, please, for the love you bare my father, please make them do as I say. We might yet stop Jaime Lannister before he escapes to the Westerlands."
Seeing her face flushed and her small teats heaving with rage, Robert thought she had never looked more beautiful. It took the reminder that Ned slept, wounded and broken, just a few feet away, to keep the king from kissing her right then and there. He squeezed her hands instead.
"Fear not, my lady," he said. "I will see to this."
"You will tell them to do as I say and send the Stark household guard after the Kingslayer?"
"No, I would have them stay here to protect you."
Arya violently snatched her hands away. "Protection is not what I need! I want justice!"
"Arya," Sansa whispered, tugging at her sister's sleeve and casting fearful glances at the king.
"Oh, shut up and pray!"
Robert took Arya's face between his hands to make her look at him. "The Hand's guard is staying here. You will need men about you who you can trust. Other men will go after the Kingslayer and return him to the Red Keep."
Her face softened but for a touch of stubbornness. "The North should take its own justice."
"Look here girl, whether it's the North, Dorne, the Westerlands, or any of the other bloody kingdoms, it's all my justice," he said. "I will see to it that you and Ned have it."
He brushed a calloused thumb across her cheek. "For true."
Robert made the announcement that very day at court before the petitions and whining could commence. The words had hardly left his lips when Loras Tyrell came rushing forward.
"You Grace!" the boy shouted boldly. "I beg you the honor of taking up this task. I will take Ser Jaime into custody and return him to face your justice. I swear I shall not fail you."
Out of his armor, the Knight of the Flowers did not look nearly so impressive as he did during tourneys. Picturing the slim boy with those long, lush curls and the roses about his waist attempting to take the Kingslayer into custody made Robert chuckle.
Pycelle rose from the council table. "If it pleases Your Grace, allow me to remind you that Ser Jaime is brother to your own fair queen. To treat him thus, like a common criminal…"
"No, that does not please me, Grand Maester," Robert snapped. "I need no reminders of who my wife was littered with. I will have Jaime Lannister return to King's Landing and answer for the slaughter wrought in my streets."
"Surely a messenger would serve to convey your command that Ser Jaime return," the old man said. "We need not send knights as though we thought him guilty."
Renly laughed. "Because fleeing the city after the attack makes him look a paragon of innocence? A messenger will not do. If Jaime is willing to attack the King's own Hand why would he hesitate to do the same with a messenger? No, my brother has the right of it. We must send men in force. Who better than Ser Loras? I will put twenty of my own household guard under his command for this task."
In the end, the Tyrell boy led a party of fifty to pursue Jaime within the hour. Robert still thought Loras could pass for a very pretty maiden, but after a reminder that the young Knight of the Flowers had unseated Jaime during the tourney celebrating Joffrey's name day, the king relented.
Pycelle followed Robert out of the hall after court.
"Please Your Grace, let me urge you toward caution," the old man said. "I should remind you that the crown is greatly in debt to Ser Jaime's father."
That did make Robert uneasy. They owed Lord Tywin three million dragons and that was only half their debt.
Renly fell in beside his brother. "Should we hinge the pursuit of justice on who has or has not lent the crown money?"
"I merely advise caution," Pycelle insisted.
"You've advised me, now go," Robert said.
Renly continued to walk in step with the king after the Grand Maester hobbled away.
"If we could seek privacy to your solar, I would speak with you," he said.
Robert groaned. "You will be brief."
He longed to return to the Tower of the Hand to see how Ned fared and to assure Arya that she need not worry because everything was well in hand.
"Lord Tywin will have a swift and fierce response," Renly said as soon as they entered the solar. "He will see this and Lady Catelyn's capture of the Imp as attacks against his House, against his pride, and will strike, if he hasn't already. We must be ready to strike back at full strength. We can win this coming war before it barely even begins. I will raise the storm lords. Stannis can lead the royal fleet. The Starks too will join us, of course. House Tyrell will also be ready when you call. The lions will be trampled from all sides. Give the word and all shall be done."
Robert laughed. "My little brother thinks he knows something of war, does he?"
Renly's face, so ripe with excitement just seconds ago, soured. "I am older than you when you toppled the dragons."
"Who is to say this will lead to war?" the king asked. "Lord Tywin's a smart man. He knows when he is out numbered."
"One of his sons has been taken prisoner and the other will be soon. How can he not respond?"
"Don't be so eager to rouse the lion into battle." Cersei slipped gracefully into the solar. "Our claws are sharper than antlers and flower petals."
"Do not wolves have claws as well, my queen?" Renly asked.
Cersei slammed the door. "So you are hand in hand with your brother's plans to set me aside and replace me with that little girl? Hear this, House Lannister will not be set aside or be made to suffer these insults."
Renly's face had brightened once more. "I will leave you." He nodded to the king and queen.
"Are you really such a fool?" Cersei demanded the second the door closed behind Renly.
"Hold your tongue, woman," Robert warned.
"You would arrest my brother, a member of your Kingsguard, like a common criminal? Ned Stark already drove him off, now you would have him suffer an even greater indignity. Put a stop to this at once. Send a rider after the Tyrell boy to call this off."
He thought of a few arguments and reasonings, but set them aside. "No. Now get out."
Cersei remained. "What of your children? Are they to see their uncle dragged through the streets in chains? Do you mean to set them aside as well?"
That arrow hit its mark. The children. He had not thought much on them. "I will never set them aside. They are my children." He thought of plump little Tommen, pretty Myrcella… and Joffrey. The image of those bloody kittens, not yet properly born shot through his mind. So did the look of pride on Joffrey's face as the boy presented the corpses to Robert. "My trueborn children."
He suddenly felt ready to vomit.
Cersei's green eyes watched him and her voice softened. "There is still time to stop this. Send word-"
"No! Your brother will answer for-"
"Jaime was not the cause of that quarrel! Ask Lord Baelish. Lord Stark was returning drunk from a brothel. His men attacked my brother and his guards. Four Lannister men are dead and the fifth soon will be."
Robert roared with laughter. "Ned? In a brothel? Was Stannis with him? What about Barristan? Away with you, woman. You've been drinking too much of that Arbor red."
Cersei finally swept from the room in a rage, leaving Robert free to seek out the Tower of the Hand.
During the next few days, Robert spent a great deal of time at Ned's bedside with Arya and Sansa. To raise their spirits, he told them stories of his time growing up with Ned. He picked the funnier ones, trying to bring smiles to their faces. In turn, Arya shared with him her worries, how much she missed her family, particularly the bastard brother, Jon, and of her father's plans to find a husband for her.
"I don't like the idea of being wed to a stranger who tells me what to do and tries to turn me into my mother," she said.
"My lady, you will be happy in your marriage, I swear it," Robert said. "You can take the word of a king as certain truth."
She smiled at him and looked down at her hands. "I know marrying won't be so horrible," she said. "I will bring Jon with me and give him a place in my household and not let anyone treat him badly, ever."
"Mayhaps Father will give your hand to Ser Loras in gratitude for slaying the Kingslayer," Sansa said. "That is what happens in the stories. The knight goes forth to kill the monster and then the king or great lord rewards him with the hand of his daughter. Ser Loras is so gallant and chivalrous like the knights in the songs. He will return with the Kingslayer's head, take you to wife, and guard and protect you all the rest of your days."
Arya scoffed. "I can guard and protect myself. Besides, I cannot marry Ser Loras. He is the third son. What castle will he keep? We would have to live in Highgarden and his family would never allow me to bring Jon much less give him a place."
"Then I shall wed him when I am older," the little one announced. "He was so grand in the tourney. He will be all the grander once he slays the Kingslayer."
"Ser Loras was not sent to kill Jaime Lannister," Robert said, gently. "He will bring him back whole and there will be a trial."
But as it turned out, Sansa had the right of it. Ser Loras did kill Jaime.