Author's Note: Thank you for checking out my first story. This is the first chapter and I'm excited to continue on. Please feel free to review at the end if it strikes your fancy. Many thanks to my best friend who inspired me to write this.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or plotlines from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I only seek to write purely out of my own entertainment.
Skies above didn't open up that day. They hung low in the sky over the hills and through the forest that sung songs of the Northern wind. Ravens dared not fly in such solemn weather and instead waited, perched high above the clouds and in the bare branches of tallest trees. Only the short sounds of their occasional chatter could be heard alongside the sounds of the horses' hooves shuffling through the mud at a steady pace.
The winds of winter were upon them. There was a dreariness to the North, she'd known it all her life. But this was the mainland. She was not used to being so landlocked, so far from the easy access to the Bay of Seals. Her cloak was pulled around her shoulders but it hung loosely as she let the breeze pass through. Her long dark hair was blowing wildly in the wind that tinted her cheeks a pale shade of pink.
Hardly anyone in her caravan had looked at her in the last hour. The ones who did only gave her sideways glances of forbearing and pity. These were her father's men, men she had fought alongside on the battlefield, men that now served her eldest brother Broden. The Lord's seat at Kingshouse was once occupied by her father. Now as she was sat upon her mare, she wondered after the man who would most likely be wearing a large black cloak as he joined scouting parties beyond the Wall.
And as punishment for her father's crimes, crimes that were still vague and unclear, she was torn from her homeland and sent to live as a ward in a stranger's home. She wouldn't show fear, she knew better than that. These men who had watched her grow from a babe to the young woman she was now. A daughter of Skagos did not show fear. There were far worse things to fear than living on the mainland. Savage tribes ran wild on the island. It took the discipline her father had instilled in his warriors to keep the land safe. She had fared far worse than this, she reminded herself.
Aedan who rode now on her right, was his father's most trusted man. He was younger than most of her father's council but had proven himself several times over in the battlefield against their enemies and the savages of the Northern tribes. She had always thought him handsome, his hair auburn and his face covered in a short stubble that made her grin slightly. He would never have a large beard like his father. His father, Bard, who had a full red beard that reminded her of a large fiery bear. Because of that she had called him 'Beardy' since she was a young girl. Their families had been close and she and Aedan even closer as they aged through their adolescence. She had always thought she might perhaps marry him one day, should the gods allow it.
But it was her older sister, Elsbeth, who her father had wed to Aedan as a reward for his bravery. She was careful to hide her girlish heartbreak. Both of her sisters were married off now, and she was being sent off to live with the Warden of the North. She wondered if she'd ever marry now, her name tarnished by the misdeeds of her father. She would pay the price for his sins. That was her choice and now her fate.
Aedan's golden-colored eyes were glancing in her direction but she didn't dare look into at him in case he might see the fear in her own. She did not know what to expect for her future at Winterfell. Perhaps the old lord wouldn't be as harsh as she'd heard. He had spared her father from the sword down upon his neck after all. All she knew of Lord Eddard was what she'd heard from her brothers. Not many Skagosi men had good things to say about the Warden of the North – the Stark man whose ancestors had helped strip Skagos of their crown.
Instead of looking to Aedan for comfort he wasn't free to give, she glanced to her left where Enat was riding upright with her hair hidden beneath a dark green cloth. Her hair was very bright like her brother's. In fact she couldn't think of a single person in Aeden's family who didn't have fiery hair. She often envied the girl who was some years older. Fallon wasn't a great beauty, her sisters had always been more beautiful with their Magnar features. But to Fallon none of that mattered, her future never relied on her beauty. Her fate was already predetermined – or at least it had been up until now.
Fallon was the youngest daughter and second youngest child of House Magnar. Only Corran was younger, still a young boy at only thirteen years passed his first name day. She didn't want to think of his face when she left him at the docks of Skagos, waving after her mournfully. Broden, her eldest surviving brother, was back at Kingshouse, their family's seat on the island off the coast of mainland Westeros. Rowan had insisted he would escort his youngest sister, even after Broden had ordered that he stay. Rowen was only a year her senior at eighteen and she'd always loved him the most.
She could see his dark hair up at the front of the caravan. He was a born leader, like Aedan which is how the two of them held such a bond as friend on the battlefield and off. She secretly wished he'd look back at her, even if just once, but she had yet to see his face since they departed the Dreadfort.
To be honest it was the Dreadfort that had instilled a fear deep inside of her as they rode. She had never met a Bolton until then and gods willing she'd never meet another. They were a savage lot, akin to the savages who ran wild on Skagos. At the Dreadfort she could hardly sleep as she tried to tune out the screams of men being tortured in the dungeons. Was all the North full of such cold men? she'd thought. There was a difference between the savages of her homeland and the savagery of proclaimed civilized men here in the North. She only hoped House Stark upheld more upstanding morals. House Magnar may have been old fashioned in their customs, but they weren't barbarians.
Barbarians were the men who wiped through their villages in the night, stealing Skagosi women and ripping out the hearts of their men. Savages were they, the ruffians of the clans who dated back to the purge of Skane, the northernmost isle of Skagos where the bloodiest of battles had been fought to free the people of their fear. She knew these kinds of savages. But what worried her, was not the men who were openly brutal but the refined Nobles of the North who were savages of a whole different kind.
Far in the distance she could see the sun hanging low in the sky as it fell into evening. The sun was of course hidden by a large patch of clouds that sunk down towards a structure in the distance. She looked to Enat who nodded slowly, indicating exactly what she had been thinking. The large structure that would now be her home was drawing nearer.
Winterfell was abuzz with anticipation.
It had been several months since they were informed that they would be housing not only one Skagg for the duration of who knew when, but a whole slew of them. Many couldn't decide if they were disgusted or excited at the thought. It wasn't often that people of the mainland interacted with those from the isle of Skagos. It was close enough to be considered part of The North, but Northerners knew the savages that roamed the steep cliffs and low valleys were not of the same lot as their people.
For Theon, the idea was rather fitting. After his tenth name day he had become a ward of Eddard Stark, sent to Winterfell as a hostage for his father's war crimes and rebellion. Nine years later he found that the Stark family treated him well and often more like a son than even that of Ned's own bastard, Jon Snow.
This new hostage, however would be something knew for the people of Winterfell to gawk at. No longer would he be the outsider.
No one knew if Drystan Magnar had sent his youngest son or youngest daughter. There was no official law stating it had to be a male. Traditionally it was the youngest child, no matter the sex. Theon was the youngest of his siblings, his sister Asha the only surviving child of their father. He often wondered what he'd done to make his father so ashamed that he'd choose a daughter over his heir.
Theon stood out front with the family. The event wasn't a formal one, only a courtesy of Northern tradition that they receive Lord Stark's new ward into Winterfell. Lady Stark had prepared a humble feast for the Skaggs who would stay just the night until morning broke. Then they'd be ushered back out the way they came and sent off on their way, back to the savage land where they'd come from.
One of the guards turned from his position on the gate tower and looked down to Lord Stark, waving his hand. They had arrived, he thought. He knew the signal and watched as several other guards reached towards the crank and pulled open the gate. It took nearly six men to raise the gate high above the under the arch.
The riders came in, one by one until all eight of them stood before the Warden of the North with solemn looks upon their faces. Such hard expressions were to be expected. He'd never seen a Skagg, but he'd heard tales of their unpleasantness.
Theon looked to Robb who stood next to his mother, Sansa who stood next to Robb. One day long ago he found himself wishing he could stand at Robb's side, the brother he'd known nearly half of his life.
"Lord Stark," Theon heard and looked up to see the young man that had dismounted his horse first. He had dark hair, but eyes the color of of spring as he stepped forward, bowing curtly to Ned who waved him to his feet. "I am Rowan Magnar, second son and fourth-born to the noble house of Magnar."
Theon furrowed his brow as he boy continued talking, noticing how well spoken he seemed to be and not at all as rough around the edges as he would have hoped. Was this going to be his new housemate? He would do well, Theon thought. He was handsome enough to attract only positive attention from the ladies, but the scowl upon his face was enough to show his disdain for the Lord that would be his master.
"Young Lord Magnar, welcome to Winterfell," Ned replied and Theon's eyes scoured the rest of the figures on horseback. He took note of the other five men present, most were older than the young Magnar, but there were a few young faces among them. They were accompanied by two women, both looked quite young from this distance. He was always intrigued by the sight of a pretty woman. Both seemed fair enough. The first had her hair covered by cloth, concealing most of what he loved about a woman, her hair. The second shared similar eyes as the man standing before Ned Stark, but as her hair blew in the wind he thought of a raven's long black feathers. She sat up straight on her mare, looking away in disinterest as she stared off at the sun falling over the trees.
Rowan walked over to the girl with the dark hair and stood next to her as she dismounted. Theon nearly laughed at the cad's unchivalrous behavior as he just stood and watched as she dismounted the beast on her own. She didn't take much time, she was rather quick on the contrary. She wore a simple gown, something plain made out of wool. She placed her hands in front of her, looking up at the other girl on the horse once before glancing back at the family.
"And may I present my sister, Lady Fallon Magnar," the boy said though Theon didn't see a strong resemblance as they stepped closer.
She seemed uncomfortable as she tried her hand at curtsey and failed at a graceful execution. Instead she wobbled once, her cheeks flushed a pretty shade of pink and then stepped back at her brother's side. She was fair enough, he decided. She had no great beauty about her that would lead any of the Stark boys to stray. Theon found that her mouth was too small and her small frame too short for his liking. Perhaps if she smiled, he thought, but soon enough he discovered Fallon Magnar was not a lady who gave her smiles freely.
"Lady Fallon," Ned replied, taking her hand in his and pressing her small hand to his lips. "We welcome you to our home."
"I am grateful to your hospitality," she replied, her voice carrying over the crowd.
Theon was surprised at her confidence. Surely Drystan Magnar wouldn't send his daughter, who was very much a woman, to be locked away as a hostage. Surely, he'd thought.
But it wasn't the first time he'd been wrong, though he didn't care to admit it. It wasn't until later, at the feast, that he discovered out that Fallon would be taking her younger brother's place by choice as ward to Winterfell. It was a strange thing to witness, a Skagg sitting among the Stark family, his family. He certainly would have never predicted it. He could hear the whispers from men and women alike as all eyes were on the filthy travelers who were intruding on their meal. Only Ned Stark seemed at ease in front of Fallon and Rowan, while the others seemed to shift in their seats anxiously.
He was seated at the table closest to the door, with Snow for company. It wasn't a secret that Theon and Jon didn't get along. While Jon was a family member by blood, Theon knew he was an outsider, especially to the Lady Catelyn. Jon may have been Lord Stark's son, but he was also a bastard. No amount of Stark blood could wipe away that horrible title. Even he and Fallon had a better status as hostages than Jon Snow the bastard.
And to Theon, he wouldn't have it any other way.
There was chill in the air as morning rose at Winterfell. The sun had yet to rise but slowly peaked out above the horizon, teasing the watchers of the night into delaying their journey still moments longer. The travelers from Skagos had wasted no time in preparing for their journey home. He had perhaps though they might push off their travels for a day or two due to the predicted storms that approached but Rowan insisted that they leave at first light. Storms were no an obstacle worth avoiding, the young man had replied.
Robb was standing in the large courtyard outside. He had always been an early riser and this morning had been no different. His father had left before dawn to set out towards the town for a meeting with the villagers. He never broke commitments even if it meant passing on certain responsibilities to Robb. He was the heir to Winterfell after all. Robb didn't mind it, in fact he enjoyed watching the Skagosi men saddling their horses expertly.
Despite their hard demeanors, he felt the Skagosi were stronger men than any Northerner he'd ever met. They seemed fearless, something he had always wished to be. He had thought all Skagosi were ruffians. But they held themselves to a quiet refinement, even with their darker expressions and indifference to the nobility of such a high house like the Starks.
They each carried rather large swords on their belts and he wondered what types of fighters they were. From what little he gleaned from conversing with Rowan Magnar and his friend Aedan, they were a serious bunch. They seem to still hold contempt with the Starks as a whole due to their father's banishment to The Wall.
The son of Drystan was standing nearest to him, his horse only ten paces in front. It was then that Robb noticed quite a change in demeanor, in the entirety of the group as they approached Rowan. Of course, once they stepped closer Robb realized it wasn't Rowan they were approaching, it was Fallon. Her cloak was slipped over her shoulders but it didn't hide her nightgown that peaked out from beneath the thin fur-lined garment. She was holding Rowan's hands in her own as she looked up at him with pleading eyes.
Robb had heard many tales of Skagosi women, none of them told of how he would feel when he looked upon this one, tears falling down her cheeks. She tried to hide them from her brother but he only wiped them away with his fingers and pushed the corners of her lips upward into a forced smiled. She hugged each of the remaining five riders and stopped at one who placed his lips on her forehead.
It was an intimate gesture, one Robb had only seen between a man and a wife, or perhaps two lovers. The man lingered several moments before handing her back to Rowan who engulfed her in a hug that lifted her from the ground. Her arms were wrapped around his neck until she was placed firmly upon the ground and he kissed her mouth in a brotherly manner before mounting his steed. She placed her hand delicately on the horses snout, stroking the black hair before placing her hand at her side.
"Deirfiur mo chroi," he said looking down at her and this time the corners of her lips turned up into a faint smile, one that was more sad than a smile might infer. Robb didn't recognize the words, but he knew the coarseness of the sound was a familiar one. He had only heard the Old Tongue a few times in his life, but the sound was distinguishable.
"Dearthair mo anam," she replied in a whisper and Robb could hear her voice crack as she spoke her words in reply.
He didn't have to understand the language to know that this was their goodbye. Perhaps there was more to it, some deeper meaning to the Old Tongue words they'd uttered, but regardless, goodbye it would be.
It was only once they were through the gates and out of sight that she turned away from the whispers of Winterfell's soldiers who watched her closely, inspecting her reaction and undoubtedly belittling her with their smirks. He could have sworn he heard one of them mutter 'Skagg," under their breath. He'd heard the term all his life, but was forbidden from using it. It was a nasty term for people of Skagos, his mother had explained. Never again had he used it even though he never understood.
Now hearing it from the rough voice of one of the guards, he finally heard what his mother meant when she said 'nasty.'
She walked slowly in his direction, not looking at him once as she came closer and closer until their paths intersected. He stopped her then, his hand lightly around her elbow. It was a gentle touch, but one might have thought Robb had struck her the way she flinched. She stood there, unmoving, unyielding to his look of concern. Her eyes were focused on the walls behind him and nothing else.
"You are safe here," he whispered to her and watched her eyes stagger for only a moment before they sought out the ground. "No one will hurt you."
Her eyes traveled up from the ground and connected with his. It was the first time he'd seen her look at him and therefore the first time he'd seen that her eyes were the same as her brother's. No, he thought, not quite the same. Her eyes were a vibrant shade of green, one that was fierce yet more subtle than the daggers she was glaring at him now.
She looked at him for a long moment, their eyes locked and something pulsing through his fingertips as they wrapped around her elbow. But no words passed between them as she then jerked her arm from his grasp.
And then she was gone.
Robb had never had a negative interaction with a woman that he wasn't related to by blood. In fact, most women were very kind to the heir of Winterfell. He was accustomed to kindness having been raised by a kind woman like his mother all his life. He wasn't expecting this woman who was loving and gentle towards her family, to be so harsh in his direction.
It caused him to think of the plans that were to come to fruition in the upcoming few weeks. Soon there would be another young woman walking the halls of Winterfell. Only this one wouldn't be his family's hostage. This new woman would be his wife.
He had heard many things about Kathryn of Ashford, supposedly she was the perfect bride for a highborn house. Robb didn't exactly have a choice in the matter. His parents had an arranged marriage and they were relatively happy.
How bad could it be?
"Surely you're joking?!" she said, looking outside the carriage window off towards the large fortress over the hill. Her mother looked at her with a sour expression at Kathryn's outburst.
"Compose yourself Kathryn," Davina hissed, chiding her daughter who had been groaning for most of their journey about how uncomfortable this new climate was to her.
Davina assuredly agreed.
All of her daughters were wrapped tightly in fur-lined cloaks that had been gifts from Lord Stark and his wife after the betrothal.
To say that she had been furious that Kipling had pledged her eldest daughter's hand to Eddard Stark's son would have been an understatement. She had three other suitable daughters, Dawn for example would have made a perfect bride to the Northern Lord's son. Of course Dawn would have been just as miserable surrounded by savages of the North and she didn't blame her.
This place was a wasteland.
However, Kipling was Lord of Ashford, therefore he held great power in the Reach and even near to King's Landing. It had been their very own king, His Grace Robert Baratheon, who had arranged the marriage. He wanted two of his most loyal houses to combine and secure highborn heirs to help rule his kingdom long after he was gone.
Davina didn't see why House Ashford had to be part of it. Surely a Tyrell or a Lannister would be a much better match for a House as regarded to the King as House Stark. Alas, here they were, stopped upon a small hill as they looked upon Winterfell in the distance. She looked back at Kathryn who now had tears in her eyes.
"What have I done to deserve this torture?" she asked through her tears and Davina had half a mind to smack those tears right off of her pretty little face. But as the carriage crawled to a stop, she heard Kipling's laughter approaching and instead handed her daughter a handkerchief to preserve her soft features from being ruined by staining them instead with tears.
"Let us reserve our judgment my dear Kathryn until we've at least stepped through the front gates," she said as Kathryn wiped her eyes.
"I don't need to step through the gates to know that this place must be one of the Seven Hells septa warned me about.
"A lady doesn't whine," she said harshly. "This is your duty and you will perform such with a smile on those rosy cheeks of your or Seven help me."
Kathryn flipped her hair, the color of honey on a summer day and wiped a final tear from her eye before sitting up straight. Davina knew her daughter would do as she was told. She had been trained from birth to be the perfect Southern Lady.
She only hoped the North wouldn't bring out the worst in her.
Seven help the poor bastard who Kathryn Ashford would have wrapped around her finger from now...until eternity.
Author's Note: Hi there! First chapter down. If you have questions, feel free to ask me up in the review box. Otherwise, if you liked it, please let me know with a little review on your way out. Thanks!