thenorthernmermaid

To Begin:

No one can call her as whimsical, nor wild as her little sister, and no one would ever call her as brave, either. Being their papa’s heir might bring about great responsibility, but no one would expect her to leave her home. Today, Lady Wynafryd’s bravest action might just be to accept this suitor’s hand in marriage, and yet as she looks at his pasty skin, worm-like lips, and silky beard, all she can hear are her sister’s whispers in her mind.

“He is ugly, Fred.” Wylla would say, “Look at how weak his arms are! Can he even swim?”

Fred’s lips twitched a little, a response Rhaegar Frey took to be approval of his charm, and Wylla continued to crow in the back of her mind.

“Look at his belly! He is to be as fat as grandpapa, sister.”

Grandpapa, for true, also looks at her as if he believes her to approve of this match, much to his hidden dismay. He is far cleverer than most would think, and most would think him insipid for his size, but Fred, Fred knows better. Fred, who since her birth has been carefully groomed by him for leadership, ahead of her papa almost, has been grandpapa’s little girl, doted upon as much as she dotes upon him.

Oh, she of course loves her papa dear, but her grandpapa was the one who taught her to swim as a babe in his large tub (back when he could fit in it, of course), the one who still held all of her and Wylla’s childish scratchings as they learned their letters and mermaids, as well as her first terrifying attempts at her stitches with Septa.

“My dear, you are seventeen now-you must be wed soon, else people may begin to talk.” Her papa had quietly said after the Freys were sent home to their towers inland, somewhere Fred knows she could never stand, to be so far from the sea. Over a river, yes, but a river can only take you in two directions, narrow and strictly guiding you up and down its path. The sea is where man is most free.

Wylla had written her many letters when she first had left, arriving at Winterfell to find it landlocked, but Wylla was Wylla, and Wylla knew how to adjust. Fred was a little more set in her ways, having decided from a young age that yes, she was to rule White Harbour one day, to stay by the sea the rest of her life. Though she knows this to be no longer true, growing into her papa’s inheritance, grandpapa’s succession, she sometimes still thinks this.

Fred looks out the window, down to the city below, listening to the rowdy yells of the sailors at the docks, thinks on the boy she had told Wylla about (far more than should be safe for a raven, but Fred knew her sister would appreciate it), the boy, nay, man, these people papa was scared would talk about. Eryn was no true love, but he was a lover, and she a mermaid, and she would not let him drown.

“Let them talk, papa. Let them drown in their talk.”

It is to be but days from now when she finds out that Wylla is headed for King’s Landing, following the Stark girl there. She tugs at her braids, sticky with salt, thinks on her young sister’s bravery, leaving the home she had grown to love yet again, pondering at her own, if she would ever test it.

thenothernmermaid:

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: 

“What’s wrong?”

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.

And 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.