Daughter of Eddard Stark, daughter of Winterfell. The last known living heir – at least so far as most individuals were concerned or aware of. With the disappearance of Sansa Stark following the tragic death of His Grace the King, Joffrey Baratheon, Arya Stark was the only feasible choice left. Ramsay Bolton – legitimized bastard fiend of Roose Bolton – needed a wife. Needed a claimant to their sacked Northern keep.
Petyr Baelish was a purveyor of many things; finding women to suit the needs of men was, it could be well-argued, one of his specialties. When a bird had quietly informed him of the Bolton’s lack of requisite birthright, a plan had formulated at once. Petyr would provide to Ramsay a surrogate Stark, to substantiate his claim to the Northern capital, all the while knowing he himself had a stronger, legitimate claim tucked away in his Eyrie keep – in the form of Alayne Stone. The man left for King’s Landing at once.
* * * * *
“But she said her name was Jeyne, my lord,” spoke the whore, glancing over to the young, dark-haired girl standing timidly at the other side of the room. “How can Arya Stark be married if she is dead?”
Petyr, not looking up from a missive his fingers were set to quickly scrawling, replied: “Tell me Tethar, if you read a royal marriage edict announcing that Bran Stark was back in Winterfell, sieged the Dreadfort and ordered an end of hostilities against the Lannisters while marrying, say, Myrcella – would that make more sense to you?”
There was a pause, the man flicked grey-green eyes towards the slender brunette, dressed naught in more than the pale blue of iridescent silks. Tethar remained silent.
“Because the Lannisters will do anything in their power to end hostilities in the North, including marriage alliances with any Stark yet assumed living; including Arya Stark, though she was rumored to be dead. They’re always rumored dead before it’s revealed they were only missing.”
Petyr looked back to his parchment, signing his name before grabbing a small canister and layering a soft coat of dust over the wet ink.
“The Boltons sieged Winterfell and killed everyone occupying it, Stark and Greyjoy men alike. The truth is no one knows who is among the survivors of that sacking.” Petyr rose from his desk, lifting the missive and gingerly tapping the dust from the page, before blowing over it lightly, a tiny cloud of specks taking flight from the pulp and glittering in the light. “But the point, my dear, is that all persons of value who are assumed dead are yet alive for marriage purposes until their corpse has been paraded before the court. These things are about power, and perception, not realities. Who is alive to deny the claim that my Arya Stark is not the Arya Stark?”
Here the man looked with a smile towards his Arya: Jeyne Poole, a poor girl who had been entrusted to the Lord Petyr Baelish following the massacre of the Stark household after Eddard Starks’s execution for treason. Petyr had not found a purpose for her, yet. Now, however? The girl was a perfect replacement, a perfect substitute for Arya Stark – of proper age and of similar physical characteristics. The girl was prettier than he’d remembered Arya being, but that was hardly something Ramsay would find reason to raise complaint over. The man wanted a Stark girl, it mattered not if she was fat, tall, maimed or pristine – it mattered not even if she was an actual Stark, only that she could convincingly parade as one. Petyr folded his missive and stamped a waxed seal over it, before he rounded his desk, handing it over to Tethar.
“Thank you my dear; you’ve been helpful.” The whore had assisted Petyr in many deals over the past few years, and had earned from him a place of tenuous trust. Though she worked in his brothels still under the guise of a whore, she was valued to him as much more than that. Tapered fingers curled over the missive, and with a smile she left to deliver it, leaving Petyr and his little Arya alone.
“Now, sweetling, let me take a look at you.” Petyr stepped towards Jeyne, adjusting her carefully by loose grip at her shoulders until she was straight and faced him. She could see his mouth working subtly as his eyes scanned over her. “Yes. You’ll do. You’ll do nicely. You do look a great deal the part. Tell me, girl: what is your name?” Petyr smiled kindly. The man clearly already knew her name. Her real name. That he had allowed her to be privy to the conversation she’d just heard insinuated it was not her real name he desired from her in reply.
The board set, Petyr gave Jeyne the rare opportunity to decide where her first move landed.