"Father, don't make me marry him! Please" – Sansa wrung her hands and looked up at him imploringly.
Eddard Stark could not be more surprised by his elder daughter's behaviour than he was right now. Well, maybe, unless she walked into the Great Hall to break her fast, hitched up her skirts and squatted for a pee in front of the dais ...
Eddard looked into her big blues eyes, light reflecting on the moisture there, noted the downward turned tips of her mouth and the quivering lower lip. He felt his heart break. His little girl was hurting and he was the cause. But ... but he had been sure that she would be delighted! "You know nothing, Eddard Stark!" women had always told him. And now his ignorance evidently extended to girls. No, Sansa was not a girl anymore, she was in the no-longer-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman stage. Lyanna had been absolutely awful and adorable at that age ...
He hugged her, rubbing her back for reassurance that she was safe and loved.
"Now tell me everything again. Slowly."
Her sob interrupted ramblings made him understand that Jofrey scared her witless. Sansa considered all his niceties to be a mummery – she judged the boy to be as arrogant as Theon yet much more cruel – and with the means to be so. And with no checks on him – Robert drunk and not caring about anything but pleasures of the flesh, Cersei for whom her golden boy could do no wrong. Even if he bullied his siblings – something which Eddard had noticed himself.
The problem is that Eddard had already accepted the betrothal. He did not see so much evil in the boy – but if Sansa did then how was he to make his little bird unhappy? And how to avoid grievously offending the King? Recent history taught that unfulfilled Baratheon-Stark betrothal agreements ended badly. Very badly. Happily First Men customs had a solution.
"Sansa, I have already promised your hand" – a sob shook her body – "but there is a way out. You may not like it."
"No, that is the Andal way. And I am not sure that Robert would acquiesce. But there is a First Man way. Listen ..."
"I'll do anything!"
"Let me explain first. It is a harsh choice ..."
It is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission, the Lord of the North thought watching the rising sun paint the east of the sky red on the morning of the next day. Forgiveness of the King or his Lady Wife. Eddard looked at the other five lords – all with some kinship with the Starks and thus Family. Karstark, Flint, Locke, Glover, Manderly.
Their Witness will be more than sufficient for the North. He glanced at Ser Barristan - he had lured the man to the ceremony to be witness for the Andals and Seven-shippers.
He turned his back at the Heart Tree to face his daughter and asked in a loud voice:
"Who comes before the Gods?"
"It is I, Sansa Stark."
She was pale but held her head high, her eyes meeting his gaze.
"What is your quest?"
"I seek to become a man."
"Take the vow then."
"I swear to never bed a man. I forswear ever becoming a mother. I swear ..."
After she ... no, now he ... had spoken the vows Eddard took out a bronze knife and cut his newest son's hair, leaving a close cropped, uneven mess resembling a drunken gardener's efforts at hedge trimming. This newest son shimmied out of a loose dress worn over men's garb, fixed a belt with sword to his waist and turned to the Elders for the last part of the ceremony.
"I am Sansan Stark."
Eddard Stark, the Quiet Wolf, The Warden of the North, the Stark in Winterfell, the Kingsguard Slayer, the Sword Flashing Over the Necks of the Wicked, the Wolf's Howl in Winter, shuddered at the thought of explaining to Catelyn how she was now a daughter short and with no wedding with the Prince in sight. He gulped.
Maybe he'd go and explain the changed circumstances to Robert first?
Read all about this custom at
en DOT wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Balkan_sworn_virgins
The pertinent part of the "Motivations" section:
Becoming a sworn virgin was the only way for women whose families had committed them as children to an arranged marriage to refuse to fulfil it, without dishonouring the groom's family and risking a blood feud.
In short - Sansa(n) is now legally male. And both expected and obligated to act as one - wear trousers, bear arms, go to war, etc.