Mina had been seven the first time her father took her to King's Landing for Prince Rhaegar's nameday celebrations. Everything had seemed so terribly grand then but now...now all Mina could think of was the awful stench. Her mother, who sits beside her in the wheelhouse, agrees and isn't bothering to keep her opinions to herself. A part of Mina dislikes her mother for always using them in her schemes, for belittling father even at his funeral. He passed away almost five years previously but still Mina couldn't think of him without tears coming to her eyes.
As mother voices her displeasure at, well, everything, Mina sees Janna roll her eyes. Janna and mother hadn’t been on good terms for a while now, they had always been different really, mother believing Janna was too like father and Mace and Janna saying mother was an old cunning witch. And mother had never been too happy that Janna wed Jon Fossoway - ‘he is a second son,’ mother had argued and Janna just told her she knew naught of love.
Mother had only been a little better when she heard of Mace’s betrothal. Father had arranged it with his old friend, Lord Leyton, and because of that mother hated Alerie on principle. But Mina could find no faults in Alerie, she was clever and quick and deeply protective for those she loves. Alerie also gave Mace four children so Mina could find nothing wrong in that respect, nor should mother (not like she did with Janna, who had been wed three years but still she and Jon hadn’t been able to hold a babe of their own).
Willas was nine and squiring at Oldtown for Ser Baelor - he is Alerie’s brother and Mina remembers many nights she spent with Janna simply speaking of his handsomeness and dreaming of the babes they might have with him - and Mina thought it would do him good, Willas was so very like his mother and her family, especially with his reading and his looks, he had Tyrell brown curls and green-gold eyes but his face and height was sharp, tall, even the longer nose and smile, all like a true Hightower.
Willas was two years older than Garlan but they were close and Mina knew Willas wrote to his brother from Oldtown a lot. As for Garlan, he was was seven but had already shown skill with a sword and Alerie was convinced he would be a knight one day soon. Loras and Margaery were two and one respectively but they might have been twins with their looks and they always seemed to be together.
Sometimes Mina is envious of her niece and nephews’ closeness. Willas and Garlan were two years apart and close as can be, barely a year separated Loras and Margaery and they will surely be close. She never had that with Mace and Janna, her brother being nine years her elder and Janna almost six.
“We’re almost there,” she hears Janna tell her. Mina blinks in surprise at being torn from her thoughts and looks over to see Janna’s nose turned upwards as she looks at the common folk. “They need to clean this city,” she says to no one in particular.
Mina lets her sister plan to build a thousand cities, all cleaner and more comfortable than King’s Landing. Instead of joining her however Mina tries to remember all she knows about her betrothed. He was the king’s younger brother by a scant year and currently heir to the throne, Lord of Storm’s End and the whole of the Stormlands, and not too big a fan of the Tyrells.
Mina hoped he wouldn’t take his anger of Mace’s part in the siege of Storm’s End out on her, she had nothing to do with it after all. She had heard he, as well as everyone in his castle, were close to dying when some smuggler or another managed to sneak them some onions or carrots, whatever they were it stopped Stannis Baratheon from dying, but he almost did. Mina knew their marriage wouldn’t be easy, especially with the siege having happened not so long ago, but she knew her duty and would struggle through it.
They arrive in the throne room soon enough and Mina sees the new king for the first time. She distantly remembers Aerys Targaryen sitting on the throne, he cowered from it as though scared he would be swallowed by it, and Aerys had been frail and meek and looked decades older than he truly was, but Robert Baratheon was as strong as the Warrior must have been and looked handsome as a god too. The king had wild dark hair and wore a welcoming smile as they walk into the throne room.
He sat on the throne like the gods had made it for him to sit upon and he wore the black and yellow of his house so wonderfully that Mina cannot help but wonder what she shall look like wrapped in those colours. Except, another Baratheon would cloak her. She looks around for Lord Stannis but cannot see anyone who she thinks may be him.
King Robert apparently notices her looking. “My brother hasn’t yet arrived from Storm’s End, I’m afraid. He shall be back shortly and you can meet him then.” Then the king comes to greet them, shaking all the men’s hands and speaking with them as though they were the oldest and best of friends, and kisses all the women’s hands and making them all flush red at his charming words. When he gets to Olene, (who is one of Mina’s many distant cousins but one of the few people Mina considers a close friend) Mina actually hears her breath hitch.
Soon enough she is face to face with the king herself. “Sister,” he greets and kisses both her cheeks.
Mina smiles at him. Isn’t it odd that him just smiling at you can make you feel like a maiden from the songs? “Your Grace,” she curtsies politely.
“Brother,” he corrects with easy charm, bringing her hand to his warm lips.
“Brother,” she repeats, smiling shyly. He moves on to Mace and Alerie after that, and asks Willas about his reading and Garlan about knighthood. He shall be a brilliant father, Mina thinks, then she cannot help but wonder of her own husband. Soon enough they are shown to their rooms, apparently they will meet the members of the court and council, and Stannis, tomorrow and Mina cannot complain - she is rather tired.
She has a room in the main keep, near the gardens with a balcony that has a view of said gardens and the sea and she is certain she can see Dragonstone in the far distance. Mina’s room also isn’t far from the practise yards and you can see the roads that lead from the city to the castle, where her husband will come up tomorrow. Not much longer to wait, she keeps telling herself.
Mina is preparing for bed when Olene and another good friend and cousin of theirs, Victaria, come in. The three of them had been friends for years now, even if they were so different. Olene was...naive, and far enough from the main branch of their family that she wasn’t ever too caught up in the schemes, and she was very open, from her thoughts to her feelings and was unafraid to show people her true self. Even though Olene wasn’t so quick with politics she was better than many ladies at riding and simply brilliant at numbers.
Victaria wasn’t like that at all, instead she trusted very few people including those of her own blood, and she was very much against the ideas they had been taught since they were young girls - men rule this world - and because of that Vic has always adored Dorne despite being from the Reach and she practised sword fighting secretly at night, or used to anyway.
“Do you like the city?” Olene asks, sitting on Mina’s bed.
“I suppose,” Mina answers, lying back on her bed - it wasn’t so comfortable as her one at Highgarden but it would do. “I won’t be living here though, not after I wed Lord Stannis. We’ll live at Storm’s End, of course.”
Vic nods, then turns to them and says, “Did you know Stannis is only getting Storm’s End and ruling of that kingdom because you’re the one marrying him. He would have gotten Dragonstone but everyone told Robert your mother and brother wouldn’t allow you to live in that rotting castle.”
“Yes, I think Janna told me.” She looks out of one of the windows and sees that it is getting quite dark. “I should sleep...tomorrow is an important day after all.” Not only would she meet her future husband but also the small council and court members and they would begin planning her wedding. By the turn of the moon she would be wed and moving to Storm’s End. That was an odd thought indeed.
Mina just barely ties her curly brown hair into a braid before she gets herself under her covers. Olene and Vic are leaving for the adjoining chamber that had been set up for them, as they were her main ladies as of now, before she was a Baratheon and would get more ladies with likely higher positions.
“We used to share a bed when we were girls, did we not? Let us chatter the night away as we once did,” Mina says, moving so there is room. Vic is hesitant at first - she had turned eighteen barely a moon previously and liked to think herself a woman, especially with her upcoming betrothal to Jon Buwler, a handsome young knight who had spent some five years courting Vic - but soon enough they are all in, gossiping and giggling as girls do.
They wouldn’t be girls for much longer though; Mina would wed Stannis within a moon’s turn and in a year Victaria would be with Ser Jon and surely Olene’s father will have decided what man he shall wed his daughter to. Come a year and the only beds they shall be allowed in are their husbands and perhaps their children’s.
Fortunately, that was a year away yet. They would all be girls for a few weeks still.
Stannis Baratheon both looks like and not at all like his elder brother. They were of the same height and both had dark hair and the same nose and blue eyes, but Mina thought that was where the similarities ended. Where King Robert was strong and muscular looking his brother was thin and pale - it had been half a year and he still hadn’t recovered from the siege - and didn’t have any of the charm and smiles his brother had.
“My lady,” he greets her stiffly, not even looking at her but Mace, glaring at his soon to be goodbrother.
“My lord,” she replies politely, curtseying as she says it.
The rest of the meeting is just as awkward and Mina wonders how awful this marriage will be. She had hoped some good might come of it but she is certain that whenever her betrothed looks at her Stannis sees Mace feasting while he almost starved to death.
Her wedding day is nothing short of brilliant. She is wed in the Great Sept of Baelor beneath the wonderfully carved statues of the Seven. Mina can tell as they say their vows that her husband doesn’t much like the gods - just one more thing we don’t have in common, she supposes - but she doesn’t let him ruin her day.
The feast itself is brilliant and hundreds of lords and ladies from all across Westeros showed up. After all, this wedding was the first big celebration and gathering during the new peace since the king’s own wedding. (And, Mina suspects, some lords heard there would be a feast and that’s why they had decided to come.) Still, she enjoys herself as much as she can. The food is brilliant - a lot of it came from the Reach, that might be why - but Mina likes the dancing far better.
Her first dance is with her husband and awkward as she imagined it would be. Next she dances with King Robert who makes many japes at her husband’s expense and at first Mina thinks he is saying it to comfort her but really she thinks Robert is simply being cruel about Stannis. Mina had heard that the brothers hadn’t ever gotten along very well but after listening to how Robert speaks of Stannis so casually she cannot help but see why Stannis dislikes his brother.
Other dances are far more enjoyable though. Mina dances with Ser Jaime (the queen doesn’t look happy at it though) and Gerion Lannister, Rodrik Greyjoy and many of her cousins and countless men from the Reach, including Ser Baelor - when he asks her for a dance Mina feels like a young girl again and looks over to Janna, who grins - and his dancing is almost as brilliant as his smile.
Oberyn Martell asks her for a dance too and Mina was rather surprised that he was here at all - the rivalry between the Reach and Dorne was legendary and everyone knew Oberyn had less than kind words about the Baratheons.
Eventually she sits back down and her young goodbrother Renly comes and gives her a gift. “It’s for you, Lady Mina, it’s a welcoming gift for you coming into our family,” he says and Mina can see he has rehearsed the words over and over.
Mina thanks him and opens up the wrapped present to find a golden bracelet with stags prancing on it. Carefully, she puts it on her right wrist and embraces Renly. “Thank you, little brother,” she tells him with a smile.
Renly’s eyes light up at that and his smile widens. Then Mina remembers that the only family Renly has are two brothers who are far older than him and busy tearing at each other's throats for Lord Steffon and Lady Cassana died when Renly wasn’t even a year old. “I’m your brother?” He asks with such hope in his eyes that Mina decides she will keep him close, clearly he needs a mother figure, and perhaps he might even befriend Garlan or Loras?
“Why, of course,” she answers, “and you must be my guide when we get to Storm’s End.”
Renly smiles at that, then asks, “Why? Shouldn’t Stannis?”
“I suspect your brother shall be quite busy and besides...I should like to know all of the secrets of the castle and I’m sure you know far more than Stannis,” Mina tells him and smiles at the way he nods and raises his head.
“Oh, yes! Stannis is always either in the library or his solar, I explore the castle all the time though. I can show you it all!” Renly promises, grinning now. Mina supposes that it is a good thing she likes one of the boys from her new family, even if it is the five year old.
The bedding is called for soon enough and Mina simply closes her eyes, like Janna told her to, and thinks of anything but the hands clawing at her new gown that cost a fortune. She thinks of days spent with father by the sea, how he taught her to swim and build sandcastles, and when he taught her to ride and told her stories of princes and princesses and knights. Mina supposed she was a princess now, not that her father could see it. Perhaps they shall meet again in the Seven heavens. Mina hopes so.
She thinks of much the same thing as she undresses and gets into the bed she and her husband shall share. Mina is silent throughout the bedding and keeps her tears to herself even though the pain is more than anything she has felt before. When it is over, her husband gets up and shouts at the drunkards who are still at the door and comes back to the bed but doesn’t get in, just stays sitting at the edge of the bed.
From where Mina is laying down, the blankets up to her chin, trying to quiet her own crying, she almost doesn’t hear him softly ask if she was alright.
“Yes, I’m...alright,” she says, breathing in then out to calm herself. Not only was she in pain and feeling very uncomfortable but she is also nervous - her husband clearly disliked her family, after all.
“You aren’t,” he just says. “I...I am sorry if I caused you discomfort.”
Mina sits up a little. “No more than you had to, my lord.”
Even though there’s only one candle in the room she sees him nod. Stannis gets back into the bed, still keeping distance between them.
Then Mina decides it was now or never, any other time she is with her husband they will more likely than not be clothed and with others. Now they were as open with each other as ever they could be. “I’m sorry Mace did that to you,” she says, quite suddenly, and she half holds her breath waiting for his answer. Mina needn’t elaborate, they both know what she is talking about, it’s the shadow that has hung over their betrothal and already in their marriage.
She does wait a little while for Stannis’ reply, but it does come. “You had no part in it,” he says, “I...I do not blame you, at all. My lady.”
Perhaps one day they will be able to speak freely with each other and use first names but Mina supposes simply liking one another will have to do for now. One day, she thinks - she hopes - we might even love each other. Well, for now Mina would be content with liking. Even if she and Stannis don’t fall in love she would do her duty, as she always did.