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Changing Partners

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“Gods! Sansa, if you don’t stop that awful singing, I swear I’ll break that stupid harp in two!” Arya screamed.

Sansa was not surprised by her sister’s outburst, if anything, she was surprised it had not come sooner. She very much doubted Arya would follow through with her threat, but rather than picking a fight, Sansa placed the musical instrument at her feet and picked up her canvas, needle and thread and began to work on stitching simple designs Old Nan had taught her. She was only beginning to learn but already, both her mother and Old Nan had admired her skills and pieces.

Once she was comfortable with the feel of the needle between her fingers and the motion and weight of each movement and stroke, Sansa pulled out the soft light blue square of material that she had been slowly working on for nearly a fortnight. She pushed and pulled at the cloth with her needle and thread until the fins of a fish came to life at her fingertips. She smiled to herself as her efforts took shape. She had already mostly finished embroidering the Tully’s house sigil onto the handkerchief. It was by far the most detailed work she had ever done and she felt almost bittersweet at the prospect of gifting the cloth to her grandfather upon arrival to Riverrun.

They had passed the trident yesterday, or was it the day before? She wasn’t sure but she did know that they were no longer on the King’s Road. Her mother had told her they would reach Riverrun very soon, but what those words really meant was uncertain to Sansa. ‘Soon’ could mean another hour or another week. And although Sansa would not outwardly complain about the time it took to travel either way, Arya was sure to grumble the whole way there.

They had been traveling the King’s Road for such a long time that even Sansa had become restless seated in a carriage day after day. She showed her irritation far more subtly than her sister whose idle fingers pulled at the pillows and blankets that cushioned the uncomfortable wooden vessel. Sansa had yelled at her sister to stop her destruction after Arya had torn a pillow’s seem apart, but truthfully Sansa had enjoyed repairing the pillow enough that she hadn’t scolded her sister when Arya had ripped at the blanket. It was almost a game between the girls, a fight between chaos and order. A game that Sansa was sure to lose, but the winner did not matter as much to her as just her sister enjoying her company.

Sansa knew that Arya would have much rather rode with Robb or Bran, both of whom took the trip on horseback. Bran was just old enough that Sansa’s mother had allowed him to ride alongside Robb instead of in a carriage. Arya would have been a better rider than Bran, but Catelyn had forbidden Arya from riding anywhere else than with Sansa in the carriage. Catelyn had taken Rickon, who was barely bigger than a babe but still had the lungs to cry like one, into the other carriage. While Arya proved to be rather poor company, Sansa was relieved she did not have to ride horseback or with her lady mother and her screaming brother on the journey.

A loud sigh broke Sansa from her thoughts.

“What is it? Is my sewing annoying you now too?”

“Well, sewing is boring and stupid.” Arya huffed.

“You only say that because you can’t do it. I guess reading is also boring and stupid then, right?” Sansa smirked. She only made the jab because she knew it would get under her sister’s skin. By Arya’s age Sansa and Robb had both discovered a love for books. They could recite poems and verses from a number of books in Maester Luwin’s collections. Arya, on the other hand, had been slow to learn, if she had learned much at all. She had tried but would lose interest almost as soon as she started.

“It is boring and stupid. I could learn if I wanted to but why should I? You’ll never catch me with a book about Florian and Jonqil, or any of the other stupid stories that you like so much.” Arya exclaimed.

“Oh come on, it’s not that bad. Those stories are also filled with duels and battles, with dragons and knights…You’d like those ones.” Sansa said softer.

“It’s a trick. You think a story is about battles and knights and dragons but it never is. They’re always about the pretty little helpless maiden. The stupid girl just sits there and is taken by the bad guy, and the knights always rescue her because she is beautiful. You ever read a story about a fat ugly milkmaid that is rescued by a knight? No, because all the stories are about pretty little princesses that do nothing, and the stupid men that save them.”

“You know an awful lot about these stories for saying you’d never read them.” Sansa flashed her sister a dirty look. “And what is the lady supposed to do, when taken by a dragon?”

“Fight back! Kill the dragon herself if she has to!” Arya was almost yelling at Sansa now.

“Gods, Arya. You’re the one who sounds stupid, fight a dragon?” Sansa’s voice had risen without her consent.

Arya turned to face the open window, arms crossed in front of her chest. Sansa tried to return to her handkerchief, but her mood had changed and she could no longer focus on the project. A moment passed, then Arya spoke again.

“I bet if you were the stupid kidnapped princess, you wouldn’t fight back. You’d just let it happen, wait for your prince, and pray you wouldn’t die.”

For some reason that remark struck a chord in Sansa. She had always pictured herself as the unlucky damsel in distress, taken by some cruel beast to be soon rescued by the handsome and gallant knight who would ask for her hand. She hadn’t ever thought that the princess in the stories could fight her way to freedom.

She thought long and hard about what Arya had said.

Only once Sansa had again tried to return to her sewing and failed, did she speak to Arya.

“You say you hate these stories, but have you heard the tales of the warrior-princess Nymeria?”
Arya turned her head ever so slightly in her sister’s direction. Sansa was sure the word warrior had grabbed her attention.

If they were going to be spending any more days in the cramped carriage, Sansa wasn’t going to spend the entire time bickering. She set her needlework aside and began her story, stretching out the parts Arya was sure to find exciting.