Eddard Stark stood in the middle of the room as he saw his wife, Lady Catelyn, fretting. "Ned, we are plotting against the crown by doing this!"
Ned ran a stressed hand through his hair, which was tied back behind his head. He was simply terrified of what the outcome would be of this plan, but he hoped that it would play out. Renly, Stannis, I bloody hope you two were right about this.. He thought.
"Cat, listen to me." Ned said gently. "Two of my closest friends have died within weeks apart. That reprobate of a boy sits the Iron Throne, for how long I do not know. Now I'm putting all my hope into two squabbling brothers to overthrow their own nephew and possibly have yet another rebellion up in arms. This wasn't a bloody easy decision, my lady, but it's what's best for us. It's what's best for our children, for the realm."
"And you're proposing our children to other Lord's children from right below my nose." Ned could tell that Catelyn was as stressed as he was, and almost as distraught, but deep down he knew that she was seeing the sense in this.
"Do you really think that we were as pleased to have Sansa betrothed to Joffrey as she was? That boy is a monster, Cat, a ferocious and ruthless beast in human skin. He takes pleasure in humiliating people. Quentyn Martell, from what I hear, is a nice boy. His father is a gentle old stoat, and the Dornish are good people, loyal."
"I imagine you killed a few Dornishmen on the banks of the Trident." Cat replied, bluntly and sharply.
"I may have, I do not seem to recall." Ned then changed the subject back. "Look, if worse comes to worse, we will have a few battles on our hands. But we will win. Tywin Lannister can bring all the strength of the westerlands but we will defeat him."
"I do not imagine Myrcella and Tommen will like being stolen in the middle of the night." Cat said.
"I'm not stealing them, Cat!" Ned snapped, soon regretting it. "Sorry, my lady. But it's true. I refuse to drag frightened children from their beds. Myrcella being betrothed to Bran is the best thing we can hope for, and the boy Tommen to our Arya even better. They're not like that creature of a brother that they have, they're very sweet."
It took another ten minutes of convincing before Cat finally agreed, and then she left the room. For the meantime, whilst Stannis and Renly played out the plan, Ned and his family were unknowingly staying with the Rykker's of Duskendale for the time being. Lord Renfred had welcomed them with open arms, the slight fool of a man not even knowing that they were part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The Dun Fort, as it was called, was a beautiful castle that overlooked the busy port in which Duskendale's economy thrived. True, the castle wasn't as big as Winterfell, but it was spacious and had every comfort under the sun that anyone could have wished for. Ned and Cat found their way to the dining hall quite quickly, and seated themselves down.
Lord Renfred arrived soon after, along with his wife and their children. Sansa had befriended his eldest daughter, Sybelle, almost upon first encounter. He thought they had become inseparable ever since. Yesterday he seen them up on the battlements, looking out down over the town and gushing over the glorious view. It made him happy to see his daughter smiling again, considering how badly Joffrey had treated her. Arya, however, strangely never even scarcely gave them a look.
Tonight, the first course was due to be a platter of carefully smoked salmon and sardines, along with a few other fish Ned couldn't remember what were called. They were to be served with butter, salt, bread and ale. He couldn't wait, he hadn't had fish properly ever since the feast at Winterfell, which was held to welcome the royal family. The table soon erupted in to discussion, with Catelyn and Lady Rykker talking amongst themselves, whilst Ned and Renfred talked. However, Ned soon began to notice that Sansa and Arya both were looking rather glum. Sansa was at least talking with Sybelle Rykker, but was only answering in short sentences.
"Girls, what's the matter?" Ned whispered to them. He could've sworn he seen their eyes water. Thankfully, to break the tension, the first course came out, and most seemed to be in great spirits. He seen Sansa and Arya both thank the servers and give them a smile. The fish was simply delightful. Renfred started to go off in detail about how the fish were caught especially from the port below, fresh from it, and how the fish in Duskendale seemed to taste miles better from fish anywhere else. After only a few minutes, though, he seen his daughters both start to fiddle with their food, using their daggers and forks to poke it around the thin plate.
Ned gave Catelyn a look, and she understood. "Girls, come on, eat up, both of you have barely ate a thing!" She murmured to her daughters.
Everyone at the table just about had a heart attack when out of nowhere, Sansa leapt up from her seat, pushing the chair back. "I've only just been taken away from Joffrey and now I'm to be married AGAIN?!" She wailed.
Ned was horrified. "Sansa, dear, please, listen to m-"
"-No father, I won't! I don't want to marry Quentyn Martell, I don't want to go to Dorne, I don't want a husband!" Sansa screamed. Cat looked like she was being publicly humiliated. "Sansa, listen to yourself! How dare you behave like this in front of our hosts!"
Lady Rykker looked understanding. "Do not fret, we take no offence."
Arya then started wailing. "I don't want to marry Tommen! He's fat and clumsy and looks like a girl!"
"Arya Stark, that is your prince you are talking about!" Cat seethed. Ned watched dumbfounded as Sansa and Arya fled from the room, with tears running down their faces and their hands hiding their shame. Sybelle Rykker stood up and went after them to try and comfort them.
"My lord, my lady, I am so sorry-"
"-Don't worry, Ned, lady Catelyn, we truly take no offence." Lord Renfred assured. Ned could have kissed the man in that moment.