She sits at her desk in her and Sansa’s solar and positively quivers with rage. To think that her father had told Fred that she should marry a Frey! And an old one at that! He likely had an all manner of chins and a horrid mustache and weak, watery eyes…he could never appreciate Fred’s goodness, her bravery, her intelligence. She knows her sister does not value herself the way she should; if Wylla could give Fred anything, it would be to see her through her eyes. Fred is the most important person in Wylla’s life, the one she’s always idolized and longed to be more like. Where Wylla is outspoken and brash and silly, Fred has a grace that she’s always wished for, a certain knowledge of herself that would make queens and princesses jealous. For her father to just give her away to some paltry lord for a few chests of dragons and a flimsy alliance—well, that is enough to set Wylla’s blood boiling. Lord Brandon has always teased her that she must have some of the wolf-blood in her veins and it has never seemed more true than today.
Any response that she would write would be jumbled and illegible, such is the strength of her anger, so she flings down her quill with a frustrated huff.
On top of her anger lays terror. Oh yes, the wild and willful Wylla Manderly is frightened beyond measure. Her true sister may be taken from her any day now by some old and cruel lord, her foster sister is packing eagerly in the next room even as she sits here fretting, and most importantly, she does not want to go south to King’s Landing, to a place as foreign to her as the people that live there (grand names and noble houses, silver princes and beautiful princesses that will never understand her blunt honesty or her longing for freedom), does not want to leave the North and Winterfell and this family that is not hers by blood but by affection.
There is a knock on her door, startling her from her dark thoughts, and Wylla whirls about, startling Bran as he enters the room. He has grown tall, her sweet brother-Bran (for that’s what he is, no matter how many people whisper that there must be something untoward between them for all the time they spend together), and is as comely as the rest of his family (though there is no doubt that Robb is more muscular and inspires more whispers amongst the serving girls), but his eyes are the same as ever, and know her better than any other. He takes one look at her and asks:
She somehow manages a smile that she knows doesn’t reach her eyes, and says quietly, “Nothing, Bran, just writing my last letter to Fred before we leave on the morrow.”
A few seconds later she turns back and Bran is not two inches from her, peering anxiously into her eyes.
“You’ve always been horrible at lying, Wyl, especially to me.”
It his concern that undoes her and quite suddenly she flings her arms around him, burrowing her face into his chest. Bran was never one to be easily flustered, so he takes her crying in stride, gently stroking her hair and waiting out her sobs.
When she’s finally calmed down enough, she mumbles into his tunic, “They can’t make Fred get married Bran, not for duty, she deserves love and a white knight and pretty words, and I can’t do anything, especially here but even more so in the South, I’m not made for court, I don’t want to go to King’s Landing, I don’t want to leave Winterfell, I don’t want to leave you and Rickon and Summer and Shaggydog—”
Bran cuts her off with a gentle finger to her lips, sorrow in his eyes.
“Some things cannot be helped, Wylla. And I am sorry to add to your grief, so, so sorry, but I’m afraid I must be the one to tell you…”
Wylla freezes, looking back at him. “Tell me what?”
The next words will haunt her even into her dreams that night.
“You’re not to go King’s Landing. Lady Greyjoy has asked for a companion for her daughters, and Father could think of no one better than you. You’re going to Pyke.”
It’s possible she knew before Wylla, but there’s nothing for it, for a raven would take too long to give her sister warning, and like grandpapa had said, what was done was done.
Papa had quietly raged about it, while mother sat, indignant, and grandpapa just shrugged it off, proclaiming the Iron Islands a “beneficial friend”. Fred agreed, diligently nodding her head in obedience, secretly glad that if her sister was to leave Winterfell for anywhere, that it be near the sea, at the very least.
The Greyjoys themselves, on the other hand, were a whole other query; Lady Cersei known to be dangerously beautiful and proper. It was one thing for her wild Wylla to charm the Northern Starks, her loyalty shining through her every action, but quite another to charm a charmless Greyjoy.
It’s not a slight on their family, but papa believes it is, demanding that Wylla be sent to court, the House Manderly no less deserving of a royal fostering, and grandpapa just ignores him, nibbling on the crab cakes Fred and the kitchen girls had fished for the day prior.
“Calm yourself, Wyllis,” was all that was said, and Fred bites her lip, holds her tongue. Grandpapa would not appreciate it, and she had always been taught to guard her words, to strategise-though papa would welcome the support, it would perhaps be best to watch this unfold a side more. Grandpapa never does anything by halves, though his opponents would never know it, playing the jolly fat lord who can’t move, innocent of deception and thought, and so Fred waits.
Sits through another rejected suitor, and waits.
They all watch as she smiles apologetically and waves the boy from House Bole away (though not after taking severe advantage of a willingly silent partner in some…activities. Fred sometimes likes to show what’s what in White Harbour, and how a mermaid dances-poise and decor above water, while uncontrollable in the depths of the sea.), and though papa gives her a look and mother chides her her insolence, grandpapa remains impassive, separate, almost.
He is thinking, musing, and Fred cannot tell on what quite yet, and it is driving her to the point of distraction. She hisses as the needle pricks the same finger yet again, and throws the square of silk down in frustration. It is always times like these that she wishes to hear the siren’s herald, her own call to arms, anything to keep her busy.
It is always times like these, when they pass, that she is glad they did not ring.
A ship’s bell clang clang clangs, soft in the distance, and for a moment, Fred feels as though perhaps, just this once, she would answer this call, if asked of her.