Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love's delight.
She would none of all my posies-
Bade me gather her blue roses.
Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew.
Half the world unto my quest
Answered me with laugh and jest.
Home I came at wintertide,
But my silly love had died
Seeking with her latest breath
Roses from the arms of Death.
Blue Roses - Rudyard Kipling
"North or south, singers always find a ready welcome, so Bael ate at Lord Stark's own table, and played for the lord in his high seat until half the night was gone. The old songs he played, and new ones he'd made himself, and he played and sang so well that when he was done, the lord offered to let him name his own reward. 'All I ask is a flower,' Bael answered, 'the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o' Winterfell.'
"Now as it happened the winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious. So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded that the most beautiful o' the winter roses be plucked for the singer's payment. And so it was done. But when morning come, the singer had vanished... and so had Lord Brandon's maiden daughter. Her bed they found empty, but for the pale blue rose that Bael had left on the pillow where her head had lain."
A Clash of Kings
He found her in the glass gardens. Beyond the walls of glass, it was snowing, the light, soft flurries of early spring. Within, it was as warm as summer.
She was among her flowers, her precious roses - golden as autumn, red as summer, pink-and-white as virgin spring and the blue roses of winter which she loved best of all.
Why the blue ones, sweetling? he'd once asked her. When she could be coaxed - or, more often, coerced - into a gown, she would always pick yellow. Yellow like the little lemon cakes she pilfered from the kitchens, yellow like the lionflower wreaths Ned would weave for her.
Because they're the hardest to grow, she'd said, wiping a smear of dirt off her nose and leaving it even dirtier. Because they're so delicate.
So it's the challenge that you love?
She'd nodded and added, And because they're the rarest too. They're not that pretty but everyone calls them the best because they're the rarest. The best.
She'd always wanted the best. She'd always wanted to be the best. There was much pride in her, much vanity.
It had been a way to keep her out of mischief and keep her indoors when she was a child, setting her to tend her own patch of flowers in the glass gardens. For winter had come when she was nine years old, a true northern winter that made him bless the wisdom of his forefathers in building Winterfell over hot springs. The world might freeze, but as long as they remained within the stout walls, his children would stay warm.
At first Lyanna had loved it because, like any sensible child, she loved to play in the mud. Later she'd come to love playing with - and occassionally, poisoning - her plants. Still later, she'd come to love her roses.
They're just like my friends, she'd told him gravely when she was eleven. Whenever I feel sad or angry and I can't tell Brandon I come down here and I- I talk to my roses and I feel better. She'd blushed as she said it and then glared, daring him to laugh. He hadn't. She'd always been a child of quaint fancies and quainter whims, endearing and appalling by turn, but he'd never laughed at her. And they don't laugh at me or give me stupid advice or pretend to listen when they're not so they're better than friends. They're just like a... a part of me.
She'd thrown her hair, knotted into an untidy braid, over one shoulder. The gown she wore had served her well only six months before, but now he could see her ankles under the stained hem. She was still growing and growing fast at that, more like a colt than a girl fit for marriage.
She nodded at him when she saw him and, without preamble, said, "Lotta said they'll die away soon." It took him a second to realize that she was talking about her roses. "The blue ones."
"Aye," he told her. "Winter roses won't bloom for you in spring."
"So spring really is coming?" she asked curiously. "It's not a false start? Like the one we had two years ago and Brandon said spring would come, only it didn't and-"
"No, this time it's for real," he assured her. "See the way the snow flurries? Customary of spring, the way it-"
"I wouldn't know," she reminded him. "This will be my first spring, remember?"
"Your second," he corrected her. "Your second. You were born just as spring began - it lasted three years that one."
Springchild, he remembered Alianne saying when Old Nan had put Lyanna into her arms. They say spring's children are the loveliest of all, the sweetest and merriest. That had been fine to hear but then she'd spoiled it, just the way she always did by adding, And the shortest-lived too. Spring seldom lasts long. True, Lyanna had been sickly as a child but at fourteen, a maiden flowered and nearly a woman grown, she was as hardy a girl as any father could have wanted. Perhaps too hardy. She was very like her brothers.
"Well, you can't expect me to remember a spring that ended before I was three," she objected. "I asked Old Nan what spring was like since she's seen so many of them and she said oh, beaaaaaaaaaaautiful, so very lovely, so sweet." She made a face. "I'll still miss my roses, though, no matter how beaaaaaaaaautiful spring is."
He laughed. "The smallfolk won't miss the winter, child. Five years makes a long winter and with grain and game so scarce they'll-"
She wasn't paying attention, his spoilt little girl. She was still at the stage where grain and game and the smallfolks' troubles were nothing compared to roses and springs and grand tourneys. No matter. She'd grow out of it quick enough, once she had the care of a husband's lands and keep on her own hands.
"Ned'll be home before dusk sets in," he told her. "He sent us a bird from Castle Cerwyn." He nodded towards her blotched and stained gown. Her hands and face were streaked with sweat and mud. "Best freshen up before he comes - he'll want to see a sister, not a little ragamuffin."
She laughed. "Ned home again after two years," she said dreamily. "He never minded how clean I was."
"He might've changed."
She shook her head. "Not my Ned," she said decisively. Then she shot him a sly look. "Though his dear friend, the Lord of Storm's End, might." She giggled when he gave a resigned sigh.
"It was meant to stay a secret," he said. "Who told you about Robert Baratheon and-"
"And my betrothal, which you mean to announce tonight? Brandon, of course."
He might have guessed. Lyanna and Brandon had no secrets from one-another. "A gallant lord, proud and strong," he informed her. "Born to greatness." She was laughing so hard now that tears leaked out of her eyes. That didn't sound quite right. "You find him amusing?"
"No," she said. "No. No. Well... yes." She laughed harder. "No, not him so much as- as the idea. The idea of being betrothed."
"Four and ten is old enough to be betrothed," he said gravely. "More than old enough, I should say." Brandon had been betrothed to Lord Hoster Tully's girl when she was twelve. "I wed your mother when she was three and ten."
A Stark of Whitespring she'd been, a cousin with great lands of her own but no brothers. Her mother had been a Bolton and she'd been fostered under them after her lord father had died in a hunting accident. They'd schemed to wed her to one of their own. Lord Stark had put an end to that when he'd brought the girl to Winterfell, ostensibly for a visit, in reality to be wed to his only son, Rickard. Too young, far too young - she should have been playing with her dolls, not a husband twice her age.
"I know that," she said. "But it's still funny." She looked at him thoughtfully. "Storm's End... what's he like?"
He was ready with an answer that he hoped would please her. "Strong, handsome, gallant, courteous, witty-" He'd never seen young Lord Baratheon but he'd heard much of him from Ned's letters. Too much, if truth be told. They were the dearest of friends.
"-And no doubt as enamoured of himself as I am of me," she said, snorting. She sucked her finger thoughtfully, though it was so dirty that he doubted that it tasted any good. "D'you know, when I was eleven, I wanted to marry someone from Highgarden."
"Highgarden?" he asked, surprised. "Are the Tyrells so very comely?"
She shrugged. "I've never seen a Tyrell," she said. "But I'd heard talk of the roses of Highgarden and I was half-mad for keeping flowers in those days and... and well, I wanted to see them," she said shyly. She'd never been further any further south than White Harbour, poor girl, save that one time they'd gone to Riverrun.
Gods, but she made a ruckus there.
"They're beautiful," he told her. He'd travelled a fair bit in his day but he'd never come across gardens lovelier than those the Tyrells kept. "But I think we have a rose to match all of theirs here. The sweetest and fairest of roses."
She smiled up at him. "Me?" she said lightly.
He tweaked her nose. "What makes you think that?"
"My abominable vanity," she replied. "Whenever someone says the word 'fairest' I start thinking of myself."
"Then you should get along capitally with him," he told her. "With Prince Rhaegar wed to Elia of Dorne, Robert Baratheon is the fairest and finest of matches in all the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Viserys comes after Prince Rhaegar of course, and then the little princess but after them Robert Baratheon stands in line to the Iron Throne."
There was Targaryen blood in the lad - his father's mother had been the youngest of the daughters of Aegon the Unlikely. Her brothers had already taken brides of their own choosing so the fifth Aegon had given Princess Rhaelle's hand to the son of the Laughing Storm.
"The fairest and finest of matches," she repeated, looking amused. "Such a dear old father aren't you, to appeal to my vanity?" She stood up on tiptoe to kiss him. "Thank you," she said. "Is this to be my nameday present? It was last month and I'd prayed for a sword, but I suppose you thought a husband would better serve my turn."
"Lyanna-" he said warningly and she laughed. She laughed too much, if truth be told. Unbidden, Alianne's words came back to him. That sour wife of his had used them to chide a serving girl, but they would have applied just as well to the daughter she'd never seen growing up.
Fine teeth are the ruin of fine eyes. A girl who likes to laugh will find it harder to weep, when the time for tears comes. And the time will come, child, the time comes for all of us.