The Northern Wolf, a Southern Doe
The Princess and the Heir
Robb Stark’s first sight of his betrothed was of Princess Helaine Baratheon riding into Winterfell astride a golden palomino destrier, clad in a black riding dress lined with white rabbit fur, a riot of curls falling around a lovely face flushed pink from the cold, laughing and joyful as she led her procession into the courtyard. Lined up amongst his siblings, with Theon and Jon lurking amongst the household members, Robb was struck speechless for a moment, watching the lively young girl slide off her mount, booted feet landing lightly on the cobblestone.
The rumours hadn’t done her justice. She was young, the softness of youth still lining her high cheekbones, but there was something about her presence, the way she held herself, that made her seem older, despite the lankiness of her young body; her skin is tanned golden from a life in the sun, full lips and large eyes greener than anything he had laid his eyes on before. Long black hair fastened into a secure riding braid with Baratheon-yellow ribbons, but the wind had freed some uncontrollable coils to frame her glowing face.
“Lord Stark.” The Princess greeted pleasantly, dipping into a graceful curtsy.
“Princess Helaine,” His father rumbled, dipping at the waist to kiss her glove-clad knuckles. “Welcome to Winterfell. And may I introduce my wife, the Lady Catelyn Stark.”
“Lady Stark, my Lord Father’s words of your beauty do not do you justice.” At those words, his mother’s polite, if strained, smile softened as she returned the greeting.
“This is my son and Heir, Robb.”
Fathomless emerald eyes turned to him, meeting his own Tully-blue gaze, and she smiled. “A pleasure, Lord Robb.”
“The pleasure is mine, Princess Helaine.” Echoing his father’s actions, Robb took the Princess’ hand in his own, sweeping to brush it with a kiss. “Welcome to the North.”
“It truly has a charm of its own.” Princess Helaine said, voice clear and smooth, huskier than Robb is used to, but lovely nonetheless.
Robb stepped back, cheeks warm as the Princess’ attention was pulled back to his father as he introduced the rest of his true-born siblings to her, and he knew Sansa was already smitten by the idea of a real princess as a goodsister, though his other siblings were a little more withdrawn; Bran’s attention being held by the armour-clad knights, Arya chafing at anything Southern, and Rickon being a mere babe.
“My uncle, Lord Renly Baratheon of Storm’s End, and Ser Loras Tyrell; my guardians for the journey. Ser Arys Oakheart, of the Kingsguard, and Ser Rolland Storm, and his squires Edric Storm and Gendry Waters, my sworn swords.” Robb was drawn from his thoughts as the Princess introduced her household. “My ladies-in-waiting, Jeyne Westerling and Allyria Dayne, and my handmaidens Bella Rivers, Mya Stone, and Falia Flowers.”
“It’s been some time, Lord Eddard.” Renly Baratheon, tall and with the same black curls as his niece, clasped wrists with the Warden of the North, and Robb’s father smiled quietly at the King’s youngest brother.
“You’ve grown.” His father said, and Lord Renly laughed.
“I’d hope so!”
“Princess Helaine,” Mother stepped forward, drawing the Princess’ attention to herself. “I would show you to your chambers.”
“Of course, Lady Stark.”
Winterfell was truly stunning, a massive complex of gray stone and great towers; compared to the Red Keep, it may seem bland, but to Helaine Baratheon, it already felt like home. She could feel the ancient magic in the walls, flowing alongside the hot spring water piped through the granite, and listened to it hum under her fingers.
There’s a great strength in the stone, solid, it felt safe; not even the ever-present snow could make it feel cold, the enchantments woven into the masonry too powerful.
Old magic hung in the air like a blanket, protective and warm, thick like molasses – she could feel it in the wind tousling her hair, and the stone beneath her feet. It was the most magic she had felt in one place since her life as Harry Potter, even the dragon-magic of Dragonstone, blistering, powerful and unwelcoming, couldn’t compare.
Helaine loved it.
Her rooms were lovely and well-put together, obviously prepared for a princess in mind, though minimalist, and while the furs were nothing like the silks and satins of her childhood room, it was charming in its own way. Not as open or airy as King’s Landing, it brought memories of four-poster beds of crimson and gold and the laughter of children to the forefront of her mind.
(It reminded her of Hogwarts - of the first home she ever knew.)
“Your Highness?” Bella, with her thick curls as dark as her own and eyes a Baratheon stormy-blue, slipped into her chambers, changed out of her traveling clothing and into a more Northern-styled fur-lined dress. As her gaze roved over the Princess’ leggings and tunic, the girl’s lips pressed together in disapproval, “The Feast is starting soon, and you’re not even dressed yet?” Her older half-sister admonished, and Helaine smiled sheepishly at the Rivers as she was drawn from her inner thoughts.
“There’s just so much to see.” The thirteen-year-old said simply, and the base-born young woman rolled her eyes to the heavens, probably asking for patience to deal with her improper, Royal sister.
“Honestly.” The Peach-raised girl muttered, sweeping towards the wardrobe she had filled only hours before. “What’s more important than getting to know your future husband?” Helaine shrugged grinning, and Bella huffed, pulling a dress from her collection and laying it out on her new bed.
Helaine recognized it easily; white sateen with a tight bodice and high neck, lined with soft gray wool, and embroidered by Myrcella’s delicate hand with little glass beads in the shape of antlers branching where her collarbone would be. The ball gown skirt, when worn, would reach her ankles, and had a layer of black and yellow lace patterned on it.
She smiled as she ran a hand across the soft fabric, “Myrcella did a good job.” The young Princess murmured, and Bella nodded as she bustled towards her, rapidly tugging her tunic off so Helaine could step into the dress. As her sister’s nimble fingers made quick work of lacing the bodice, Helaine ran a brush through her hair to wrestle the unruly curls into some semblance of order.
“What do you think of Lord Robb?” Bella asked, plucking the brush from her hands so she could attack the coils herself. “He’s very handsome, though a little young for my taste.”
“He was born the same year you were.” Helaine returned, slightly amused as her handmaiden shrugged.
“Aye, but I prefer men who know what to do with their cock.” She stated with a barking laugh, snatching up a collection of pins and ribbons as she did battle. “That boy’s a maiden if I ever seen one. Wouldn’t know what to do if you showed him. Pretty though.”
“His eyes are very kind.” The Princess admitted, “He seems like a good man. I think I’ll be happy here.”
“That’s more than most women get.”
The Princess was odd.
Catelyn wasn’t quite sure what she thought of Princess Helaine Baratheon; she was lovely and perfectly polite, but she was also not what Catelyn would have thought a princess would be. The girl had a household with more bastards than trueborn ladies, three handmaidens she introduced alongside her knights, three of which were bastards themselves, and ladies-in-waiting, as if they were equal. She rode alongside the men, instead of in her wheelhouse with the other Ladies, and didn’t bother restraining her emotions, she laughed and smiled openly and she couldn’t miss the keen intelligence in her Lannister eyes.
In a way, Catelyn saw herself in the Princess, she saw the young girl she was, the eldest child and Heir of Hoster Tully in the absence of a brother, sitting in lessons more suited for male Heirs and future Lords, something that would have lessened her marriage prospects if her Lord Father had shared the information. She had been more open then, fierce in a way that was more akin to Arya than Sansa, she had learned how to fight with her mind and with weapons, she learned trade and politics at her father’s knee - lessons required for a Lord - and she flourished.
But when Edmure had been born, Catelyn had put away her spear, locked away her cyvasse board, and turned to more womanly pursuits. She had hidden that side of her, in favour of being a proper Lady, but seeing Princess Helaine now, Catelyn couldn’t help but wonder at the what ifs.
Casting her eyes towards her daughters – beautiful, sweet Sansa more beautiful than Catelyn had ever been, and wild, uncontained Arya who refused to bend no matter the pressure – Catelyn couldn’t help but smile. Her daughters perfectly echoed the two sides of herself.
(Perhaps she would take over some of Sansa and Arya’s lessons.)
“Presenting Her Royal Highness, Princess Helaine, of House Baratheon.”
It was mere luck that had Catelyn casting her gaze towards her eldest as the young princess swept into the main hall, no longer dressed in travel-worn riding clothes and a ride’s worth of dust, and looking much more like a proper Lady to what had been seen in her before. Among the drab colours of the Northerners present, the yellow interspersed in the Princess’ mostly white dress was eye catching; and catch eyes it did, for Robb’s Tully-blue eyes latched onto the Baratheon Princess and barely wandered for the entire feast.