Sansa Stark smoothed out her gown nervously and combed her shiny hair with her fingers, letting it flow down her back. Since she had arrived in the Vale with her hair dyed brown the dye had been slowly fading, revealing the auburn underneath.
Today would be the first day she would meet her possible future husband, Harrold Hardyng. Petyr Baelish had thought up the match and intended to bring up the possibility of betrothal this very night, if all went well.
But the marriage would not be between Sansa Stark and Harrold Hardyng; it would be Alayne Stone, her alias, who would be wedded. She had been forced to take up a fake name when she fled Kings Landing, away from her horrible dwarf husband, Tyrion Lannister. She had to remember that she was Alayne and Petyr was her father.
A serving girl rushed in.
"Ser Harrold is here, m'lady." she said with a curtsy.
Sansa took a deep breath.
"Send him in."
"Right away ma'm."
It was not two minutes of waiting before he arrived.
When he walked through the door, most of Alayne's* fears disappeared. He was a man straight out of her dreams. He was tall and powerfully built for his age. He had a strong jaw and thick wavy blonde hair. His air practically exuded chivalry and courage.
Alayne curtsied gracefully.
"You look lovely, my lady Alayne." he said confidently.
Alayne felt a blush creeping up her cheeks.
"I am very pleased to make your acquaintance." she said, remembering her courtesies. "My father Lord Baelish awaits in his solar, should we venture up there?"
"It would be my pleasure."
She escorted him up to her fathers solar and led him inside. Her father rose to greet them.
"Ah! Harrold! So nice to see you. I trust your journey up was tolerable, I know it is quite the climb."
"It wasn't too bad." he said boastfully. "I've made the climb before, though not often. It's not like I was about to get in the basket and ride with the turnips."
"Good, good. Would you care for a bite to eat? I'm sure the kitchens can produce something to your liking."
"Now you mention it, I could use a small meal, it has been a long time since I last ate."
They had a joyful meal, just the three of them. Harrold was very amiable, if not a little boastful.
Alayne was thoughtful throughout the dinner. It was rumored that despite his youth, Harrold had already fathered a bastard. Alayne was only 14 herself and Harrold was about the same age.
'It won't matter.' she thought to herself 'when we are wed he will never turn eyes upon another girl.'
She brought her attentions back to reality and finished her meal. Harrold excused himself for a minute and her father turned on her.
"What do you think?"
"He is very handsome. He seems kind."
"Yes, he is quite a suitable match. I think he likes you too. It would be hard not too. You look lovely today."
Harrold returned promptly. Almost as soon as he had taken his previous seat at the table her father jumped up.
"Well I'm afraid I have some business to attend to. I'll leave you two alone. Call the steward if you need anything, I don't want to be bothered."
He exited the room turning around quickly to look at Alayne and give what she saw to be a very small wink.
Once she was alone again with Harrold she realized how dark it was getting. It seemed everyday there is less and less day light.
'Winter is coming.'
No, she mustn't think that. That was a Sansa Stark thought, not an Alayne Stone thought.
The room in which they were in was lit only by the braziers on the wall and a small fire crackling in the hearth.
Harrold was looking at her queerly from across the table. He stood up slowly and stood next to her chair. For whatever reason her heart was beating 10 times faster than usual.
"You look very beautiful." he said, looking into her eyes. Alayne was sure her face was beet red.
He knelt by her chair and her face was almost level with his.
"Have you ever kissed anyone?" he asked.
She nodded nervously and said "Well, yes... but no one that... that really counts."
He chuckled. Then he reached out and put his hand on he cheek. If it was possible her heart started beating even faster.
"Are you still a maid?"
She nodded firmly.
He gave a small smile and smashed his lips onto hers.
At first it was overwhelming, but soon enough her lips were moving in sync with his. His fingers tangled in her hair and pulled her face closer to his.
Suddenly his fingers came out of her hair and went to around her waist. He lifted her up by the waist and placed her on the edge of the dining table, continuing to kiss her.
Their breath was becoming more labored, their kisses more passionate and desperate. He pushed her back so she was lying on the table and he got on top of her. His hands were fumbling at the bodice of her dress when she put a hand to his chest and gently pushed him back.
He pulled away, breathing heavily.
Alayne felt amazing. That was what love should feel like.
She stared into his eyes asking a silent question.
"Yes. I think I will marry you after all." he said quietly, kissing her lightly on the lips once more.
She rushed breathless into her fathers solar.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"We are to be married!" she said, practically singing.
"Congratulations! Everything is going to plan. I think you shall be married within a week. Is Harrold in his room?"
"Good, good." he said happily. "Now, I recommend you brush your hair, you look as though you were caught it a windstorm."
She blushed from her neck to the root of her hair.
"Don't be ashamed. That was my scheme all along. I knew he wouldn't be able to keep his hands off you and a little temptation was all we needed to secure this marriage. I trust you enjoyed yourself?"
If it was possible, she blushed even deeper.
Her father smiled hugely at her.
"Off to bed now, we have much to do tomorrow."
"You can't marry him! You're mine! You are mine!" screamed Robert Arryn, a sickly 11 year old prone to illness and shaking fits, go also happened the be the heir to the Vale and Warden of the East.
"My sweetrobin, I won't leave you. This just means Harrold will be loving with us up in here in the Eyrie." Alayne said comfortingly.
"I don't want him to live here! This is my castle! I forbid it!" he shrieked.
"Don't be childish, my sweetrobin. Besides, Ser Harrold is a knight. Maybe he can teach you how to be a knight too."
He stopped shrieking for a moment to consider that prospect.
"I don't need nobodies help to be a knight."
"You mean 'anybody's help'."
"I can be a knight all by myself."
"I'm sure you can, but it couldn't hurt to practice a bit."
Robert humphed and crossed his arms.
"Now, put on your cloak so we can go and say goodbye to Harrold until he comes back in a couple days for our wedding."
That was evidently the wrong thing to say, for it started Robert on one of his fits again.
"You can't marry him! You can't! Momma said you were supposed to marry me!"
"I'm too old for you, sweetrobin. You deserve someone your age, for by the time we could've gotten married I would be old and wrinkled."
"No! You're only three years older than me! You liar!"
He then started shaking violently.
"Maester!" she called and the maester rushed in with some potion and fed him some. Almost immediately his shaking subsided, though he continued to tremor. Alayne took this interruption as a escape to go say goodbye to her betrothed, who was waiting outside, almost ready to leave.
She hastened outside and saw Harrold standing there wrapped up in furs, for it was getting colder each day, and it was already cold up in the Eyrie.
"May your journey be safe." she told him.
"I'll be back soon enough." he said, smiling.
Before he made to head off he grabbed her and kissed her lightly on the lips. Too soon, he pulled away and left. Alayne was left standing in the courtyard smiling, just remembering the feel of his lips on hers.
*Sansa will be referred to as Alayne until such time as she re-adopts her given name