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Prologue III

And so lying underneath those stormy skies
She'd say, "oh, ohohohoh I know the sun must set to rise"

This could be




It was colder than she'd thought it would be...and greyer too. Where the Capitol had been vibrant and colourful, every shade of blue, pink, red, yellow and green that comes to imagination, the north was bleak, seeming to always be under a cold film.

Sylvia missed home terribly. She missed Myrcella, with her golden hair and shy gentle smile, missed the days when they'd play together, giving life to their dolls or having pretend luncheons where their dolls were the main guests. She missed her mother and father, even though mother preferred to coddle Joffrey and father loved his wine. She missed the warm red brick halls of the Red Keep, the sunshine of the south, the cool silk dresses she had exchanged for an ugly wool dress. She missed Stuffy, much more than she'd thought, the distance between them almost painful. She missed Bryda's warm arms and even missed having to play the harp until her finger tips blistered. She did not miss Joffrey, but knew it was ill not to. Sylvia thought maybe that was why the gods didn't send some fantastic intervention on their journey to send her home, because she didn't care if she ever saw her wretched brother again.

Upon their departure, Sylvia refused to see anyone for six days, barely leaving the wheelhouse and even when she did, she dashed away like a frightened deer when someone attempted to speak to her, slamming and locking the wheelhouse door out of spite for those taking her to new owners. Soon, as all children do, she grew lonely in her isolation, and left the wheelhouse begrudgingly when their rather small party stopped at inns and towns at night. Yet even then, she barely spoke, just quietly nibbled the fine meal the cook had made special for her and mulled over what her what her new foster family would think of her.

On one such a night, halfway through their journey, somewhere in the riverlands, Sylvia sat at the table, her septa to her left, hissing unheard criticism in her ear for her terrible table manners, while Ser Ravenback sat across from her. Six guards remained around the table, while the other six remained outside with two pages, ensuring no one stole the princess' belongings. Sylvia slowly ate a peppered boiled egg, completely uncaring the roast chicken set before her. She wondered if Lord Stark was as open with his whores as her father was. Many a time Sylvia had seen the masked fury in her mother's eyes whenever father carried on with those women at feasts, never caring in his drunken delirium, that his wife and children could see him. Sylvia did not know life any differently; it had always been like that, ever since she could remember, an eternal pattern of too many horns of wine, followed by plump serving wenches laughing stupidly on her father's lap. She had heard of lords having mistresses, but they were far more discreet since she only knew them through rumours. As far as Sylvia's young, childish understanding went, all men had whores in their beds; it was just a matter of how subtle they were with them.

Once she had asked her mother why father did the things he did, and Cersei just glared at her and said to never ask such a stupid question again. Sylvia had been five then, and cried for half an hour and explained the entire event to Stuffy as she lay abed, heartbroken at her mother's harshness.

None of those women father ever kissed or fondled even came close to her mother, strong and fierce and beautiful. She was the embodiment of quiet strength; the kind of strong Sylvia wanted to be. She knew lords and kings were not the same, and father had once spoken very highly of this stranger lord, but father's version of good company was...questionable.

Suddenly, a coin rolled towards her from across the table, a silver stag falling to its side and spinning to a stop. Looking up from her lap, she saw that Ser Fredrik only continued drinking his wine cup as if the coin had appeared out of thin air.

Slowly, she reached for the coin, feeling its cold weight in her fingers. The silver stag's antler necklace around her neck had once had that feel, so cold and surprisingly heavy. Uncle Renly had given it to her on her last name day celebration. "You're a Baratheon," he had said, his always kind and happy eyes making her smile as well. "Never forget that, no matter the sot you marry. You know our words: Ours is the Fury."

Ser Fredrik put down his goblet, and stole a quick glance at her, waiting for her to roll it back and begin the game they had played many times before. But Sylvia, still too hurt that she had been sold and bought by another family, slapped the coin down on the table and strode out of the tavern, all six of her guards marching after her. Ser Fredrik had half a mind to go out there and scold the child for her wretched attitude as they made their way north, but he held his tongue. The princess may favor him in her way, but he was still a servant and she was still his mistress, no matter how long he had been in service to her. The septa traveling with the princess was just as unable to do much. Princesses could be as irritable and bratty as they wanted, and only a noble could discipline them for their behavior. Anyone else would face punishment if they dared.

The next morning, Sylvia and septa Maesa sat waiting in the wheelhouse as the men outside ensured the horses were fed and watered. To pass the long tedious hours, the princess and her septa sewed, septa Maesa stitching together another ugly wool dress that her charge would wear in her new home and the princess was embroidering a crooked flower design onto a patch of ivory silk. She didn't know what to use it for yet, but it hardly mattered, especially since it was poor work and only a way to pass the time.

As they worked, septa Maesa attempted to refresh the princess' lessons on the north, she would be married to a Northman someday and it would be wise to know her husband's histories. "And what was the name of the Stark king who bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror?" the septa asked as the wheelhouse began to move.

Sylvia did not answer. The septa looked up to her charge, and saw that she did not even seem to hear her as Sylvia kept stitching with slow but careless precision. The princess' long black hair was pulled half back, a rather unimpressive, almost lazy style for a lady of her status, and it had been a challenge to get her dressed that morning into the plain green northern style dress she now wore. The girl seemed most determined to prompt her to anger, and the septa was loath to admit, it was working. "Sylvia."

At once the girl snapped her head up, glaring at the septa with her bright blue eyes as though the woman had just hissed a foul name at her. "Don't call me that." She spat. "I don't know you; you're not my mother, not Bryda. You've no right to call me by my name."

Sylvia didn't like this woman. She missed Bryda; she missed her stories, her soft words, and the mole on her cheek. But this septa Maesa, she wasn't warm, wasn't gentle, she was young enough to have straight fingers...she wasn't Bryda. Sylvia didn't want to learn new people, new faces, new stories. She had been perfectly happy in the Capitol, Joffrey's bullying aside. The south was all she knew, and she was the princess, why couldn't Robb Stark go south for her? Why did she have to go north for him? Why did she have to marry him at all? Nothing else would ever measure up to her home where the sun always shone, even in the rain, and where beauty was a natural thing everywhere you looked. Sylvia hated her father for doing this to her and hated all his councillors in King's Landing for not stopping him.

"Princess," the septa hissed, annoyance clear in her high voice. "What was the name of the Stark king who—"

"I don't care! Nobody cares about the king of a barren land who knelt to a conqueror three hundred years ago! No one cares what his name was and if Lord Stark wasn't my father's best friend, no one would care about hi—"

"Princess! Do not say such things!" the septa dropped her work to her lap, anger and shock written across her face. "It is extremely disrespectful of your foster family; those people will take you in and ensure you become a proper, cultured lady. They will be your family one day remember." The septa ranted, her resolve finally cracking as Sylvia finally stepped over the line she had been dancing upon.

Sylvia scoffed at her septa. "They will never be my family." She muttered, sadness creeping into her hard tone. She had a family already; she had no need for another. What could the Starks possibly have to offer her that she did not have in the south? In the south, bards and traders and men of every kind of mastery came in on the tide and wind, daily and beyond counting. It was always sunny in the Capitol; even the rain was warm as blood on ones skin. And in the Red Keep, her sister, Stuffy, mother and father lived. She missed them so much. She wanted to cry, but her mother's words had left a mark on her. Tears are the weakness of your heart made bare. So she kept her tears back until the black of night, when she finally let a few slip, clutching a soft silk pillow tightly in her arms.

And the Starks' opinion of her may quickly change when they learned about Stuffy. Sylvia wouldn't outright tell them, but these things had a tendency of following you from one place to another. Everyone thought she was strange, and although they never spoke it louder than whispers, those whispers seemed like shouts. The servants and some of the lesser ladies at court who had little grace when it came to gossip, watched her as if waiting for her to do something strange or make a utter fool of herself. When she first began to talk, and when Stuffy first came to light, Sylvia had been too young to care what people thought. Children so young had no idea that there was anything wrong or rude or ugly or cruel in the world. She had Stuffy, a playmate, a confidant...a friend, and that had been all that mattered. The names Joffrey had called her had once seemed so small, so...momentary, gone moments after the words left his mouth. Her mother and father never made fun of her, not in the painful way Joffrey did at least. Then Jon Arryn told her the truth of it and the ignorance of childhood began to fade away.

Life in the Capitol was familiar, she knew what to expect. In Winterfell, it would be like stepping into the frigid icy sea after a steaming hot bath.

"Like it or not, you'll marry Lord Stark's heir, you will be his wife and he will be your family. You will lady his castle and bear northern children." The septa continued her voice cold and commanding.

I don't want to be his wife, Sylvia thought, I would rather be an old maid my entire life than marry a stranger and have his children and live in his cold and murky castle, locked away forever and ever. What if he is like Joffrey? The thought frightened her.

What if...Robb Stark called her stupid, halfwit, foolish? What if he pulled her hair like Joffrey did or hit her like father hit mother? It may well hurt much more than Joffrey's taunts, because her mother or Bryda would not be able to comfort her or protect her from it. It was a common assumption that husbands were meant to be kind and gentle to their wives and having a husband who was anything but kind and gentle would hurt. He would be able to get away with it too because he would be her husband, and husbands were allowed to do as they wished with their wives, even if they were princesses.

Sylvia stared out the window as they entered the castle walls. After over a month's traveling, Sylvia Baratheon finally entered the walls of Winterfell castle, six of her guards leading the wheelhouse forward and the other six bringing up the rear. She bit her thumb nail as her stomach did flips inside her; she had never been so nervous in her entire life. What if they didn't like her?

Lord Eddard Stark stood in line with his family, his wife to his left as was the custom, and his children to his right. Behind them stood their household, all dressed in their finest clothes to receive the princess. When the unfamiliar guards entered the courtyard, followed by a wheelhouse that looked too big for an eleven year old girl, the boy at his side, Robb, tensed.

Each of Eddard's children had a different outlook to the coming of the princess. Sansa, his eight year old daughter, was unbelievably joyful. She had never met a princess before, and that caused for a bit of fascination and interest. The title which Sylvia Baratheon bore was a shining jewel to little Sansa's eyes, and she was very eager to meet the little lady. Arya, his second daughter, didn't much care that a princess was coming to be her mother's ward. She cared little for beauty and ladyship, his little wildling child loved running, getting dirty and roughhousing with her brothers. Bran, his six year old son, was only interested in the guards that would accompany Sylvia, already so fascinated with swords and archery and knighthood. Rickon, the toddler, was still at his wife's breast and didn't much know or care what was happening, only concerned with when his next feeding would be, and finding his feet. Jon, his bastard, was much like Arya, although he knew the gravity of the arrival better than her, so he was a bit more curious. Then there was Robb, his eldest son and heir, the one who would eventually marry the princess.

Lord Stark looked down at his son, smiling in affection when he saw Robb once again, shift from foot to foot, breathe in deep and sigh heavily for the tenth time. Robb was twelve years old, a child more than anything, but he was becoming a man, and men had duties they had to perform. It was a bit funny to call a marriage a duty, but really, when it was an arrangement, that is what it is. Still, as time goes by, an arrangement—a duty, can become a marriage, a privilege.

Robb was unsure what to make of it, never having met the girl and now ordered to marry her when they came of age. Why did he have to marry her? Why did she have to come all the way here to his home? Winterfell had always been his home, a place where his childhood played out and where he could be as he was without worry. Now this girl was going to live there, and he felt he would have to watch his steps, all because this girl was going to be his wife. It felt as though his home would not be his anymore, he would have to share it with a stranger. Mayhaps it wouldn't be so bad if she were not his betrothed; but she was, and he grew stiff as a board when thinking of how his simple world had changed in only a short time.

Finally, the wheelhouse came to a stop, and the guards dismounted their horses, and marched to the wheelhouse, one of the page boys opening the door with careful precision. Robb bit his lip, Sansa smiled gleefully, Jon watched in quiet curiosity, and Theon smirked, as he often did. The younger ones just watched, waiting for the pomp to be over with.

At first, a woman in a plain yellow dress and a head scarf stepped out of the wheelhouse and walked down the steps, frowning in the sudden light. Eddard guessed that was the child's septa. And then, Sylvia slowly stepped through the door of the wheelhouse, taking the septa's outstretched hand and walking down the steps with as much grace as a lady of her age possessed. She was a small little thing, shorter than Sansa, whose head already came up under Robb's chin. She had the same raven black hair as her father, and later he would find she had the same eyes, but as far as he saw, that was where the similarities stopped. The princess was skinny, delicate features, soft doe eyes framed by long black lashes, and timid, he noted when she didn't look up until she began walking towards them. Sylvia walked, slowly as if they were going to eat her. The Lord of Winterfell smiled gently.

Robb frowned. She was...she wasn't what he'd...he didn't know what he'd expected, but whatever it was, she was not it. She was a girl: same lithe build as any other girl their age, simple dark hair, a pretty face. She did not seem an enigma that he had thought she'd be, but rather just another girl he could have passed any day and not noticed. He did not know what else to make of her.

Catelyn stole a quick look at her eldest child, smiling at his befuddled look. When she was very young, a girl still, she had made that same face when she saw Brandon Stark the first time, the stranger who she would spend her life with.

Sylvia approached the Starks, scarcely daring to breathe as her numb feet moved. She knew it was impolite to refuse to meet your host's eyes, but Sylvia couldn't do it. She was too afraid, so she kept her head averted to their knees. No one's knees ever scared you. Not only was she shy of her hosts, she didn't want to look up and see her betrothed. A thought struck her suddenly. What if he was ugly? What if father had sold her to an ugly creature with one eye and no nose, and crooked nubs for fingers, and half an ear? What if he sold her to an imp like Uncle Tyrion? She bit her lip and bravely looked up, thinking of her mother and hoping she had mimicked her confidence well.

Lord Stark was a tall man, with kind eyes and his red haired wife was gentle looking. Sylvia kept her eyes trained on them and them only, feeling too nervous yet to look elsewhere. If Robb Stark looked like Uncle Tyrion, she didn't want to look at him; she'd probably break down weeping and run back to the wheelhouse and shame herself and her family for the rest of her life.

"Welcome to Winterfell, my princess." Ned said kindly when the small girl reached the line, her septa and sworn shield standing only a few paces behind her. He bowed slightly.

"Princess," Catelyn greeted, smiling a kind smile at the girl.

Sylvia looked down, her face never faltering from its cold, blank look. Bending her knees and keeping her back straight, Sylvia quickly curtseyed, so quickly in fact, it looked more like a hop than a curtsey. Theon snickered. Jory gave him a quick thwack on the back.

Now was the time for Sylvia to acknowledge her courtesies—thank the Starks for receiving her, pledging to be good and respectful ward, telling them that the nobles in the Capitol send their best—but Sylvia said nothing, her voice lost in the silent crowd of strangers waiting for her to speak. For a long, awkward moment, it was silent as the Starks waited for her to respond, some wondering if she was deaf and mute, and others (who had heard the rumours that the princess may be mad) wondered eagerly if the little royal would do anything strange. Septa Maesa raised her hand to poke the princess on the back, hoping it would strike some sense into the frozen child, but Ser Ravenback knocked the septa's hand aside roughly, shooting her a stern look. His glare at her was clear and loud, 'Let the girl alone'.

Sylvia flushed. Her mother would be ashamed of her daughter's timorous display. Sylvia curled her fingers. Mother had always been strong and regal, a queen through and through. When father embarrassed himself and mother as well, she always kept her head high, her shoulders back, her stare unwavering when others would avert their eyes. Sylvia's predicament was far less distressing. She sighed. "I...T-thank you for receiving me, Lord and Lady Stark."

The proper manners done with, the lord and lady grinned and the crowd seemed to relax.

"Princess, this is my son, Robb." Ned introduced. Sylvia wondered if he was trying to be subtle about it, wondering if he wanted to make it seem as though he was just introducing his child instead of the boy she'd marry one day, just to calm her nerves. Slowly, Sylvia lifted her eyes from her hands and looked at the boy standing beside Lord Stark. She began at his feet, at the brown leather boots he wore; then at his legs, clothed with black breeches that seemed a little too big for him; then at his chest, he wore a brown leather doublet over a dark blue tunic and on his shoulders was a cloak collared with warm rabbit fur. Then she looked at his face...and relaxed a little. At least he wasn't hideous.

Robb Stark was there somewhere between the innocence of childhood and the hardness of manhood, a softness still in his cheeks and chin and jaw, but it was already fading and becoming angular. He was taller than her, she probably only came up to his chest. His curly dark auburn hair was actually quite nice looking, and he had pretty blue eyes that stood out from his pale skin and dark hair. Still, she knew from Joffrey that a sweet face can house a gnarled soul.

Ned and Catelyn shared a small smile as the two children regarded each other with shy curiosity. They looked at each other a moment, before looking away, frowning and unsure. It wasn't the happiest reaction they could have hoped for, but it was to be expected. Children were not meant to deal with marriages; they were forced from the safety of childhood into the responsibility of adulthood so quickly. It was confusing and probably frightening, having the person you would be with for the rest of your life suddenly decided for you, and placed in front of you with everyone telling you "love them for they will give you children and you will be stuck with them until one of you dies."

"Come, princess," Catelyn addressed soothingly, hoping gentleness would calm the girl's nerves. "I'll show you your chambers, and perhaps fetch you something to eat. You must be hungry after your long journey." Lady Catelyn turned and motioned for Sylvia to follow.

Saying nothing, not even looking back to her companions, Sylvia followed Lady Catelyn. Sylvia's hand curled, wishing there was the warmth of someone else's hand in hers, holding her to the ground, to reality. It felt as though she was walking in a dream. She wished Stuffy was with her.

"Didn't like what ya saw, Stark?" Theon teased as he, Jon and Robb practised in the yard with their wooden swords later in the day just before the feast. Robb had not seen Sylvia again since she arrived early in the morning, and he was not sure he wanted to. What would he say to her?

Robb rolled his eyes. "No. Wait, yes, I mean, she's just not, she is, I—" Robb broke off, groaning in annoyance. "I don't know. She's pretty but..." he poked the blunt tip of the sword into the dirt at his feet. He didn't know what to say. Sylvia, he decided, was pretty, but he was a boy yet and it was all sudden for him. He didn't even know her and it felt like everyone was suddenly expecting him to like her after a moment of looking at each other. It was one thing to think a girl was pretty, but another thing entirely to decide she would make a good wife.

Theon laughed. "Well one of the maids—Wynifred, or was it Wynona?—" at sixteen years old, Theon Greyjoy was already popular with the maids about the castle. "Said the princess pushed all of them out of her room after all her things were brought up. Called them a bunch of ninnies when they tried to come back in to unpack."

She's probably tired, Robb thought but he didn't say it. If she was just a little twat he didn't want to go through the trouble of defending her.

"She's a princess, and it's her room now anyway. She's allowed tell them to get out." Jon mumbled, crossing his arms as best he could with the thick padding covering his chest.

"In any case, send her to me if you don't want her Robb. She's not a woman now, but in a few years, she'll be quite the fox." Robb glared at his father's ward, raised his practice sword, and swiped him hard on the arm.

Sylvia looked at herself in the mirror as the maid behind her braided and pulled her hair. Stupid girl didn't know how to braid; Sylvia winced as she once again painfully twisted her hair into some ridiculous northern style. She wanted to tear the braids out, brush out her hair and go with her hair down. Looking plain was better than looking like some northern thing. She wished one of her maids from King's Landing had come with her, but septa Bryda had said a proper lady embraces the customs of her husband's land with grace and courage, so she had to go without as much as she resented it.

She already wore the dark blue dress Sansa had given her as a gift, an embroidered vine pattern along the arms and the nonexistent curve of her hips. Although the work was fine, she had seen finer in King's Landing. Sansa and her little sister Arya had come and gone not long ago, bringing the dress and a simple jewelled comb for her hair. To be polite, Sylvia pulled the ugly flower embroidery from her sewing basket, and gave it to silly Sansa. Sylvia smiled inside; Sansa would take the ugly thing just because she had given it to her.

Sansa chirped polite lines, while Arya blurted out whatever she wished. Sansa reminded her somewhat of Myrcella, always eager to please, always smiling, sweet and innocent. She liked it; maybe Sansa's presence might soothe the pain of being without her sister.

However, Sylvia hadn't met anyone like Arya, so unladylike, so carefree, and never afraid to say what she wanted. She was so...blunt. She seemed to care little if her sister screeched at her for it or if Sylvia sent her a disapproving look. Sylvia had never been around anyone that didn't tiptoe around her (but for Joffrey, but he was her brother so didn't count), but Arya did as she liked without fear. She scowled when Sansa tried to make her apologize for her rudeness to Sylvia and ran out of the room without saying goodbye. It was strange, Arya was strange, and she didn't know if it was endearing or annoying. Bryda had said that being a lady was to be a moving work of art, graceful, delicate, beautiful, and able to keep men entertained without taking their clothes off. Arya really wasn't the first three, but Sylvia couldn't deny the six year old was entertaining.

The love between the sisters was nothing like the love she had for Myrcella. Those two argued, both strong willed and unbendable, where Myrcella had been so sweet and little, she followed whatever her elder sister said. Sansa seemed rather mortified to be arguing in front of the princess, and in her annoyance, Sylvia pointedly asked the two to leave. She had traveled too far and too long to be made to listen to their stupid arguments.

Finally the stupid girl behind her had finished and carefully slipped the comb into the tangle of braids. It was time to go to the feast, and Sylvia hoped it wouldn't be a long one. She knew Robb would be the one to escort her in, after the lord and lady. She didn't know what to think of that, but hoped it wouldn't feel like walking on rocks.

A week passed by with about as much clamour and movement as the first day Sylvia arrived. Her guards had been absorbed into Lord Stark's guard, much to her relief, and now she only had Ser Fredrik following her around all day. Lords and Ladies from the closer holdfasts arrived within the first few days of her arrival, brining kind greetings and gifts to the princess in welcome. Everyday Sylvia had to meet new people, sing new songs of thanks, she never knew what to expect. One lord, she couldn't remember his name, had actually given her a bear claw necklace, the twine sporting six long, curved bear claws. She liked that one most of all, because in the south, there were no bears.

In the second week, things had calmed a little, the lords and ladies went as quickly as they came, and Sylvia was finally able to sleep early and wake up late. Then her lessons began and she was told by Lady Stark she'd be taught the histories of Westeros, sums, some astronomy and geography from Maester Luwin, while her sour septa Maesa taught her womanly arts. Sylvia accepted without protest or enthusiasm.

The first day, it felt so strange, walking to the main hall in the castle where the maester taught his lessons. She had never been taught by a maester before, only by a septa. Mother said girls didn't need to learn those things; they never came in use when you were married, she had said. Perhaps this is what that shrew meant when she said that the Stark's would turn her into a proper, cultured lady.

"...and you mustn't speak out of turn, and don't slouch, a lady doesn't slouch like a common fishwife." Septa Maesa went on as she walked her charge to the great hall, yammering on about manners to Sylvia who walked quietly behind her, annoyed but nervous. The princess had been quiet this past week, not the lively, sweet girl she had been in King's Landing, but rather a shy, almost cold girl since entering Winterfell's walls.

Ser Ravenback trailed behind them, a little perturbed when Sylvia didn't reply back like he knew she would have. He worried for his charge; he liked her very much, having been with her since she was three when the queen found him at a tourney. Cersei had complimented his strength and endurance, and swore that if he kept her daughter safe from any harm that may come her way, she would pay him more gold than he could ever make as a simple hedge knight. He took it eagerly. But being around a small girl for days and days, watching her grow, and smile, and laugh and scream and whine had grown a strange affection in his heart, a soft vulnerable spot just for Sylvia. He did not hate it, but neither did he show it, it was just a simple fact Ser Fredrik Ravenback found no use in fighting.

"...and please, try not to be rude; your betrothed will be there with you, best not give him reason to mislike you." Finally, Sylvia had enough of sour septa Maesa's talk, the reminder that Robb Stark would be sharing her lessons igniting her annoyance into a spark. Like an indignant little girl, she screwed up her face and worked her mouth silently into an ugly distortion of what septa Maesa's face looked like. Pettily, Sylvia continued her silent mockery until they walked through the open doors of the hall, unthinking that anyone would be there yet. Unfortunately there was.

Robb Stark sat there, already reading a rather large book with Maester Luwin pointing out something for him on one thick, yellow page. The septa's voice carried and the two looked just in time to see a rather funny looking face that Sylvia was making.

Robb omitted a snort of laughter, which stopped Sylvia short, freezing at the unexpected laugh. The two children looked at each other for a second, horror written across Sylvia's pretty face at being caught, blushing like mad. Oh gods, now she would hear the taunts, not through the fault of rumours, but her own childish actions. She wanted to run away. Robb, however, was pleasantly surprised. She had been so dethatched this past week, it was nice to see her having something other than a blank expression on her face. Never would he have thought that the princess would be anything short of a perfect lady, always snooty and cloyingly polite, never anything else or in between; and there she was, making faces at her cranky looking septa like any other child their age. Baratheon seemed to be just a name she possessed, and he liked it, she seemed far less confusing and intimidating when she didn't have that name attached to her first.

"Ah, little lady," Maester Luwin greeted, a sly smile playing on his lips. "Please have a seat, Robb and I were just going over the regions of Westeros." Ser Fredrik and septa Maesa went away, the latter going to organize Sylvia's messy room, the former standing guard outside the door. Timidly, still mortified she had been caught, but seeing no way out of the coming lesson, Sylvia walked closer to the benches where Robb sat, and took a seat next to him. He was so tall next to her and for the first time, someone of similar age was taller than her.

The lesson progressed for the next hour without much noise from either student; both were still too scared to move around the one beside them. Sylvia was thankful. From Joffrey, she would have heard rude quips about her embarrassment throughout the lesson, but from Robb Stark she heard nothing but silence.

Every now and then, Sylvia would sneak a glance at Robb, admiring his profile, noticing the crease between his eyebrows when he wrote on the parchment. He seemed agreeable enough, as of yet, but he was still a stranger. She wanted to go home, so badly, but she couldn't help but have a small hope that he liked her, the childish need for acceptance tugging at her. She would never admit it, not even to herself. She wondered if she'd ever hear insults from his mouth, spitting at her like poison from a snake, just like mother had said. She hoped not.

"Alright, now princess, what was the name of the Stark who built the Wall and Winterfell?" Maester Luwin asked, pointing at the locations on the map in front of them. Sylvia tensed. At that moment she regretted not paying attention to her sour septa. She felt so horribly stupid, sitting there silent, no answer to give. But suddenly, an unexpected hand knocked against hers. She looked down, and felt the boy next to her force his warm hand between hers and quickly slip a folded paper between her fingers. As soon as she'd grasped it, he yanked his hand away, as if it had never been there.

For a moment she was stunned, sitting, unknowing what to do. Maester Luwin turned and began speaking, almost as if he knew what was going on, or Robb knew the old man's mannerisms well enough to know when to pass her the note.

"He lived during the Age of Heroes, they say he completed the Wall with the help of giants, his name has been repeated to present time..." the maester prompted, back turned, watching the Stark banner hang proudly from the stone wall, looking so dreary and cold.

Quickly, Sylvia unfolded the paper in her lap, blue eyes scanning over the parchment. "Bran the Builder." She read off, whispering silently to herself as she stared at the small strip of paper. When had he written this?

"Pardon?" Maester Luwin asked, turning back around to face the two children.

"U-uh, um," really, what choice did she have? "Bran the Builder?" she offered timidly, her voice small and unsure.

"Correct! Lovely; now Robb, what else did Bran the Builder develop during his reign as the King of Winter?" The old maester asked, oblivious to the brief transaction between the two.

The old man's voice seemed to fade away as she squeezed her hand around the paper, crumpling it into a ball. Sylvia smiled a shy smile, curious at Robb's actions. She hated this place, missed her family, but Robb's sudden act was kind, and if he was kind, perhaps it wouldn't be as horrid as she had thought it would be.

"Thank you." Sylvia whispered when the old man once again turned his back as he continued his lecture.

"You're welcome." Robb replied.

And so the lesson continued, both Robb and Sylvia feeling a little better about the arrangement thrust upon them.

I sadly approach this as Stannis approaches his wife's bed :(

Please let me know if it was alright, or if it was lacking, cuz if it was bad, I'd like to know how to make it better

Thank you again, so much for all the reviews and favorites and alerts :D