The bright sunshine spilled across the grass, trees and the shining stone walls of Riverrun. Nerine sat in the window seat of her bedroom and watched as the shepherd's tended their sheep and some children splashed in safe shallows of the river. She could see Petyr Baelish (or Littlefinger, as her brother called him) sitting by himself at the bank of the river, a book in his hands and a girl plopped right beside him. Judging by the look of annoyance in his face, it was Lysa. Petyr was a nice boy, and he could be fun at times, but she didn't understand the older girl's near obsession with him. Watching people outside her window had always made her happy, but today, of all days, it wasn't working. Her mind was ticking over the surprising amount of ravens that had been coming and going from the rookery the past few weeks.
She had heard the servants' whispers and seen her father's talks with her uncle, spied through the open crack of his study door, but she had not fully understood it. She was not a bright girl, she was stupid, the very stupidest girl that ever lived, as Lysa liked to tell her. Stupid though she may be, she had picked up enough - the prince wouldn't be marrying a princess that he had been promised to, and instead, the old lion's daughter would be marrying the dragon prince.
The sound of her door opening drew her gaze from the window. A maid was standing in the doorway, her head bowed.
"Excuse me, my lady, but Lord Tully would like for you to attend him."
"Of course, Allie." She slid from the window-seat, smoothed out her skirts and with a smile, followed the maid from her chambers to her father's study. Hoster Tully was sitting at his desk, his hands folded while Lysa was practically bouncing in her seat. When they heard the door opened, Catelyn gave her a smile as she entered the room. Dear, kind, sweet Cat, who did her best to keep the peace among the four siblings, and was the closest thing to a mother Nerine knew. Lysa glared, while Edmure waggled his eyebrows at her.
"Father," she greeted, taking the seat he gestured to.
"What's she doing here?" Lysa snapped. Hoster looked annoyed as he glared at his daughter.
"I asked for all my daughters to attend. That includes your sister, Lysa." The girl huffed and crossed her arms, but thankfully stayed silent.
"What's this about, Father?" Catelyn asked hurriedly. Their father smiled, very proud and pleased with himself.
"I have great news for you, girls. I have arranged marriages for you all. Lysa, you'll be marrying Ser Jon Arryn. Nerine, you are to go north to marry Eddark Stark."
There was a moment of silence before -
"I don't want to marry old Jon Arryn!" Lysa wailed. "I want to marry Petyr!"
"Not this again," Hoster groaned, his smile gone at Lysa's first wail.
"Littlefinger is the son of a minor house, he was lucky enough to be fostered here," Edmure grumbled.
"Don't insult Petyr! He's worth a thousand of you!" Lysa snapped, leaping from her chair to launch herself at their brother. Edmure wrestled with her before Cat intervened, pulling Lysa away as quickly as possible.
"Enough!" their father snapped before fixing fond eyes on his eldest daughter. "Catelyn, for you, I have secured the hand of Robert Baretheon."
Robert Baratheon, of House Baratheon. A handsome, charismatic young man, Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. Most of the maids in the castle (and all the girls in the Stormlands) swooned over him. It was an excellent match for Cat.
"I am honoured, father, but I thought that Robert was to marry Lyanna Stark?" Catelyn asked, hesitantly releasing Lysa's hands.
"He would have to wait two years before they could be married, and it was pointed out to him that Storm's End would need an heir, as his brothers are considered too young for the task."
"The Lady of Storm's End," Catelyn said slowly, as though she were savouring the words.
"Well, I'd be the Lady of the Eyrie," Lysa butted in, never one to be outdone by her older sister. She glanced down at Nerine through narrowed eyes. "And then there's you. Married to a second son, the lady of a minor keep, of a minor house of nobodies. The shame of House Tully."
"Lysa!" Cat cried.
"If that's all, father, I would like to return to my room." Nerine turned and left the room swiftly, making her way through the winding passages to her own room. It wouldn't be any long though; soon she would have to leave to go north, to dreary Winterfell and marry the Quiet Wolf. It was still preferable to being near Lysa. Edmure was leaning against her door when she arrived at her room.
"You took the long way again," he said in a teasing manner, following her into her room and shutting the door. "You shouldn't let Lysa get to you so much."
"I try, truly, but it's not as easy as it sounds," she huffed, sitting on the bed.
"At least with you in the North and Lysa in the Vale, you won't have to deal with her." Edmure glanced at her slyly. "And at least your husband is young."
"Yes, thank you for that reminder."
"As it stands it's not as though you have much choice in a pick of husbands," her brother said sagely, flopping onto the bed beside her. "Cersei Lannister is to marry the prince. Her brother has been sworn in as a Kingsguard, which leaves Casterly Rock to the Imp. The Tyrells wouldn't have us, Father wouldn't send anyone to the Iron Islands unless he was desperate, and Prince Oberyn of Dorne beds as many men as he beds women. As for the Starks-" he drew in a breath. "Brandon is a notorious womaniser. Benjen is my age, but he's determined to become a Crow, so that route is out for you."
"But why am I marrying Eddard?"
"Because Brandon Stark is to marry Princess Elia of Dorne."
"What?" She was lost. Edmure always had a better grasp of politics then she had.
"Brandon gets a princess and you get a spare. Your children will inherit a little stone keep, if Lord Rickard sets one aside for yourself and your husband," he said slowly. "But you marry a man who, by all accounts, is honourable, loyal, and truthful to a fault. Between you and the princess, I think that you have the better end of the deal. The Quiet Wolf, opposed to the Wild Wolf? Yes sister dear, you will have a husband who won't stray from your bed."
"Unless I cannot give him sons," she replied after a thoughtful silence.
"Yes." Edmure didn't look pleased, but he didn't look angry either. Her little brother was never angry with her. What she saw in his eyes was worry. "The north is cold, even in summer, Nerine."
"I'll just have to wrap up, then."
The pair lapsed back into silence, and before long, her brother had drifted off to sleep. Nerine watched him for a time, her eyes tracing the features that were shaking off the last vestiges of baby fat. Edmure was her baby brother, and she loved him dearly, but she felt that she was holding him back. He was the heir to Riverrun but was often at her side, defending her from Lysa's cruelty and taunting words. This marriage would be good, she decided as she pulled a blanket over the pair of them. She would be free of Lysa and Edmure would be able to grow into the Lordship she just knew he was meant to have. Yes, it would all work out in the end.
As her eyes drifted shut, she wondered she would manage in the north without her protector.