Myrcella did not know much about the North. Her Septa taught her about the different regions of Westeros, of course, and she could list names, family words, house symbols; her mother insisted upon that, said a princess should know her subjects. But all Myrcella knew about Winterfell was that it was the seat of the Warden of the North, Eddard Stark, her father's oldest and dearest friend. Their sigil was a direwolf and there were words were “Winter is coming.” When he was with Jon Arryn, Robert told stories sometimes about Eddard Stark – he called him “Ned” - but Myrcella never got to hear them, the tales always reserved for Joffrey and sometimes Tommen.
Even though it was still summer, Myrcella felt a chill in the air as she climbed out of the litter after her mother. All of Winterfell was lined up to greet them, bent at the knee, and Myrcella felt the usual twist of discomfort at the gesture; Joffrey liked it, when people took the knee, but it always made Myrcella feel embarrassed, exposed.
After Father and Lord Stark disappeared into the crypts, her mother's face pinching in irritation, Lady Stark set about introducing her children. As she silently recited the names to herself after each was named - Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon - Myrcella glanced around, taking in the unfamiliar sights. It was so different from King's Landing; there was no hustle and bustle, no scent of the sea or stench of Flea Bottom; all Myrcella could smell was fresh air, baking bread, and something she couldn't identify, something unique to Winterfell.
As Lady Stark lead her mother inside, Myrcella remained with Sansa and Arya, allowing them to show her the grounds as the boys discussed whatever boys discussed. Sansa was asking about her dress when Myrcella saw the direwolf pups barreling towards them; she heard Joffrey give a startled shout and Tommen gasp, heard names being shouted, but the grey one ran to Myrcella, jumping up, its paws catching the fabric of her dress. She crouched down and the pup began to enthusiastically lick her face, tumbling her backwards onto her bottom as it playfully mauled her, and she couldn't help but giggle, petting its fur even as everyone scrambled to help her to her feet.
“Grey Wind!” Robb snapped, scooping up the pup in his arms. As Myrcella dusted off her dress, shaking off the concerned questions, the pup continued to struggle to reach her. Smiling, Myrcella scratched between his ears, assuring Robb Stark, “It is all right. He did not hurt me.”
“He's never acted like this,” the eldest Stark offered apologetically. “I am so sorry, my lady.”
“You should chain those beasts!” Joffrey growled.
Myrcella glanced towards her brother before returning her gaze to Grey Wind, who nuzzled her hand. As she lifted her eyes, she saw Robb smiling at her, his eyes bright blue, auburn curls cut tightly to his head, and she felt herself blush as she followed Sansa inside.
Robb Stark was very handsome.
The boys were sparring in the yard with wooden practice swords when Myrcella and Sansa came outside. Bran and Tommen were crossing swords, the older boys giving instructions, and Myrcella was surprised when she saw Ayra was with them. When Bran disarmed Tommen, Arya immediately grasped Tommen's sword to challenge her little brother, and Myrcella was instantly jealous.
Sword fighting seemed so much more interesting than sewing or dancing.
“She is so embarrassing!” Sansa declared as Arya easily got Bran to yield. “It's like having another brother.”
“You never want to play?”
Sansa looked at her as if she was crazy. “I am a lady. Swords are for boys.”
Myrcella nodded absently as Robb and Theon Greyjoy began to cross swords, both laughing; their movements were more aggressive, faster than the younger boys, and Myrcella felt a fission of excitement fly up her spine as if she was watching a tourney rather than playtime.
Just as Robb knocked the sword from Theon's hands, Lady Stark called for everyone to clean and dress for dinner. As Myrcella turned to obey, Robb reached down and plucked one of the winter roses which was starting to grow, tucking the bloom into Myrcella's golden curls.
“For the Queen of Love and Beauty,” he quipped before disappearing with the boys.
She tried to keep the rose in her hair for dinner, but Cersei heard nothing of it. Yanking the flower from her hair, Cersei spat, “You look like a wilding.”
At dinner she sat beside Tommen, unable to keep her eyes from flicking towards Robb, who was flirting shamelessly with Jeyne Poole.
In that moment, Myrcella would have gladly traded her crown for a few extra years, for anything which would get Robb Stark to smile at her the way he was smiling at Jeyne.
They had been in Winterfell for a fortnight when the news was announced.
Robert was drunk – he was always drunk, her father – and, as everyone ate, he lumbered to his feet, raising his cup of wine. Myrcella saw Cersei flinch, and she wondered what was about to happen, what her father was going to say that would make her mother look so unhappy.
“To the Houses Stark and Baratheon!” Robert bellowed, a touch of a slur to his words. “Two great houses, two great families who are going to be joined together in marriage!”
A murmur went through the dining hall, and Myrcella found Sansa, her eyes wide and hopeful as she looked upon Joffrey. Myrcella wanted to get to her feet, scream her protests; Joffrey was cruel and disgusting, and Sansa did not deserve to be wed to her brother who would make her do terrible things, who had made Myrcella do terrible things. She could not imagine a worse fate than being Joffrey's queen, and she did not want that for her new friend.
“So raise your glasses and celebrate the betrothal of Princess Myrcella and Robb Stark!”
For a moment Myrcella lost all control of her senses, unable to hear or see anything. And then the world came back to her, Tommen patting her on the back and congratulating her. Her eyes found Robb across the room, shock as plain on his face as it was on hers, even as he was also accepting congratulations. After a moment Robb saw her, his blue eyes locking with her green ones, and a quiet understanding passed between them.
She was going to be Robb Stark's wife, and there was nothing she could do to change that.
Her parents fought over it, but Robert insisted she remain in the North. Lord Stark was returning to King's Landing to serve as Hand, taking Sansa, Arya, and Bran with him; there would be plenty of room for her, Robert reasoned, and Lady Catelyn would enjoy the company. The plan, as Myrcella understood it, was for Lady Catelyn and Rickon to remain at Winterfell with them until she flowered and the wedding could occur; then Catelyn and Rickon would go to King's Landing as well, leaving Myrcella as the Lady of Winterfell.
“This is ridiculous in every way!” Cersei exclaimed, her voice carrying through the walls into the cell where Myrcella slept. “She is a princess and she deserves a better match than some Northern boy - “
Myrcella winced at the sound of flesh hitting flesh, shivering beneath her furs. She hoped Robb would not strike her one day, hoped her cheeks would never bear angry, red marks the way her mother's did when the fighting started.
The night before they left for King's Landing, her mother came into her cell, shoulders back, looking every inch the queen she was. Myrcella stared at Cersei with idle fascination churning in her chest; her mother was strong, shrewd, and intelligent, but her mother was not particularly maternal, at least, not to her or Tommen. As Cersei fussed with Myrcella's curls, jerking the brush so painfully it tore hair from the root, Myrcella bit her lip and suffered through it, knowing it would be worse if she cried.
“I do not care how long you stay in this wasteland,” Cersei said as her hands tugged and pulled. “You are a Lannister of Casterly Rock, and you will always conduct yourself as such. I won't have you acting like a Northern savage when you come to court.” Hitting a particularly painful snarl, making tears rise up in Myrcella's eyes, she demanded, “What are our words?”
“Hear me roar,” she replied instantly, exhaling gratefully when Cersei dropped the brush and rose.
“You still have years before you'll flower. If the Gods are good, your father will come to his senses and set this betrothal aside. And if he doesn't, Joffrey can.”
Later, when she was tossing in bed, Myrcella wondered why her mother never referred to her as a Baratheon of Storm's End, why she never made Myrcella declare that “ours is the fury.”
She refused to think about what it would mean if Joffrey put aside her betrothal.
Tommen squeezed her too tightly when they were saying their goodbyes, and Myrcella started crying when he whispered how much he loved her. Cersei looked irritated by Tommen's emotions, hurrying him into the litter as if he was something to be ashamed of; Joffrey said nothing to her, only smirked, and Myrcella wished his horse would throw him, that he would know what it was like to be at the mercy of something else. Robert patted her on the head like a dog, told her to be good and listen to Lady Catelyn, but he did not hug or kiss her.
Uncle Tyrion embraced her, promising to stop back at Winterfell on his return from the Wall, and Myrcella loved him so much then, her uncle the Imp. But when Uncle Jaime knelt before her in his gold cloak and white armor, Myrcella felt her tears rise up again. Jaime was the one guarded her the most, the one who would sneak her sweets and call her “my special girl.” There was no way Robert or Cersei would allow Jaime to be her guard in the North; Ser Arys Oakheart was being left for her protection.
“I must beg a favor of you, Princess,” Uncle Jaime said, smiling teasingly. “Do you think you will have time to write your uncle letters? I do so long to receive letters from a pretty girl.”
“Only if you will write me back.”
Jaime grinned, giving her a quick squeeze before rising, his sword gleaming on his hip. “It would be my honor, Princess.”
She watched the train until it disappeared, trying to make herself as hard as Valyrian steel, as hard as her mother. This was the way it was done, she told herself, and there were worse men she could be forced to marry. Robb was kind, nothing like Joffrey, and Myrcella reminded herself of that as her family vanished from sight.
The brush of fur against her ankle woke Myrcella from her trance. Grey Wind pushed against her leg again with his head, and she bent, ruffling his ears as he licked the tears from her cheeks.
At least I have one friend here.
She had been in Winterfell for four name days when the raven came announcing Joffrey's wedding to Margaery Tyrell of Highgarden. Lady Catelyn announced they would all be traveling to King's Landing for the occasion by order of King Robert, and Myrcella had learned to read her good-mother well enough to know that Catelyn did not care whether or not she attended the wedding. Robb and Theon looked to be equally uninterested, but Rickon began to bounce at the idea of seeing his siblings again. Lord Eddard had visited the year before without the children, and Lady Catelyn once made the trip on her way to Riverrun to say her farewells to her father, but Myrcella had not seen Sansa, Arya, or Bran since they left Winterfell years earlier.
As the snow fell and Lady Catelyn began to make plans, Myrcella slipped out to the glass gardens. They were her favorite part of Winterfell, the place winter always failed to touch, and she inhaled the sweet scent of flowers as she wandered. She did not know Margaery Tyrell; the only Tyrell Myrcella had ever met was Ser Loras, the Knight of the Flowers, the one who was good friends with her Uncle Renly. Ser Loras was wonderfully kind, beautiful rather than handsome, and he always let Tommen hold his sword when he came to court. Myrcella did not know Margaery, but, if she was anything like Loras, she deserved a better husband than Joffrey.
Myrcella did not remember when Joffrey first started to hurt her, which she took to mean it had always happened and would have continued to happen if Uncle Jaime had not caught him in the weeks before they left for Winterfell. She could still remember the pain of Joffrey's fingers, forcing and rough, the sharp edge of Joffrey's voice as he ordered her to stop crying; Joffrey had been fumbling for the laces of his breeches when Uncle Jaime lifted him with only one hand, throwing him to the floor before gathering her up in his arms, carrying her away from Joff.
“If he ever touches you again,” Jaime instructed, “you tell me and I will take care of it.”
But then her parents left her in the North and took Joffrey South, and Myrcella never wanted to see her brother again, did not want to see some poor girl forced to marry Joff.
She did not realize she was crying until a heavy hand landed on her shoulder, a handkerchief extended in front of her face. Myrcella took it out of instinct, brushing it against her cheeks, before looking up, expecting Arys; instead Robb was there, staring down at her with his bright blue eyes, a troubled expression on his face.
Myrcella opened her mouth to assure him she was fine, simply overcome with joy at the news of her brother's nuptials, but she could not force the lie past her lips; she could not force anything past her lips. Instead she started to cry in earnest, entire body trembling with the force of her sorrow, and Robb did not hesitate to pull her against his chest, stroking her hair as she sobbed against his waistcoat.
Over the past four years, Myrcella had come to think of the Starks as her family. Catelyn was kinder and sweeter than her own mother ever was, and Myrcella enjoyed being a big sister to Rickon. Robb and Theon both treated her as a little sister, and, though Myrcella intellectually knew that one day Robb would be her husband, there were no hints of romantic love between them. She knew it was difficult for him; he was a man-grown, eighteen on his last name day, and she was still little more than a child. The servants' whispers about Robb's trips to the brothel in the village had reached Myrcella's ears, and she could not even muster up anger for the situation because she could not imagine doing the things with Robb that he must do with his whores.
But she did believe Robb cared for her, and she was grateful in that moment for that.
“Can I do something to make it better?”
“I don't want to go back,” she whimpered, keeping her face pressed against his broad chest. “I don't want to see him again.”
“Joff,” was all she managed to get out before her sobs began again, her fingers twisting in Robb's shirt, trying to tether herself to him.
There was a tension in Robb's body which had not been there before, but it quickly dissipated as he hugged her closer. “I will be with you while we're in King's Landing. I will not let your brother bother you.”
Myrcella finally lifted her head, gazing up into his somber face. Blinking through her tears, she gritted out, “You do not understand.”
Cupping her face in his palms, his thumbs brushing away the tears, Robb corrected, “No, sweetling, I do.”
As she buried her face back into his chest, Myrcella wondered if mayhaps she had been underestimating just how much Robb Stark knew about her.
By the time they reached King's Landing, Myrcella's thirteenth name day came and went, commemorated only with a lemon cake at an inn during a blizzard. It was bitterly cold, Myrcella shaking as she rode, and, when they finally entered the Red Keep, Robb's heavy cloak rested on her shoulders. As their horses stopped, Myrcella took stock of her former home, of the place she left in the summer to never return, and she realized with a start that King's Landing was no longer her home.
I belong to Winterfell now, she thought as Ser Arys helped her from her mount, and I wish I was there now.
She saw Lord Eddard only a moment before she saw the other Stark children running towards their envoy, Bran and Arya leading the way. Myrcella watched as Robb scooped up Arya as if she was still small, shaking her like a doll, as Bran and Rickon began to wrestle about; Sansa, tall and even more beautiful than Myrcella remembered, embraced Lady Catelyn tightly, and Myrcella waited for a member of her family to come greet her. Surely Tommen would want to see her; they still exchanged letters, Tommen detailing how Ser Loras was teaching him to joust, Myrcella describing the exploits of Grey Wind and Shaggydog.
But only the servants came, gathering their luggage and hurrying it into the castle, and Myrcella tried to train her face to hide her disappointment, to smile politely as the Starks greeted each other vigorously. Her eyes wandered to Theon, who stood silently near his horse, and she wondered if this was how he always felt: a part of the family but never a member, not really.
“Why, that cannot be Princess Myrcella!” a familiar voice boomed, Myrcella whirling around to see Uncle Jaime sauntering towards them, Uncle Tyrion at his side. “She is but a child and this is practically a woman grown!”
Myrcella knew it was not lady-like, would make her mother and septa cringe to see her behave this way, but she could not stop herself from rushing towards her uncles, flinging her arms around Jaime's neck and squeezing tightly. As he had promised when he left Winterfell, Jaime sent her a letter, at least, once a week; Tyrion's letters were always more informative, stories of people they knew, legends he read about, but Jaime sent bits of gossip, biting remarks, and questions about her life. His last letter arrived shortly before they left Winterfell, and it had featured a story about Joffrey injuring himself with his own sword.
“Well, now, do not forget your favorite dwarf down here,” Tyrion teased good-naturedly, and Myrcella instantly bent, startled to realize that she was now quite a bit taller than her uncle.
When Jaime and Tyrion escorted them inside, her father sitting on the Iron Throne, her mother standing at his side, Myrcella was surprised at how different they looked. There was more silver in her father's bushy beard now, his stomach seeming to strain against his clothing; her mother was still beautiful but her age was beginning to show around her eyes, at the corners of her mouth.
They are getting old, she realized with a start even as she dipped into a curtsy.
Later, when her mother escorted her to the maidens' vault to meet Margaery, Myrcella flinched as Cersei stopped and jerked at the gown Catelyn had given her for her name day. “You will need a better dress for the wedding. You cannot look like a Northern savage at your brother's wedding.”
“But Lady Catelyn - “
Cersei grasped her face, pinching her cheeks, silencing her words. “You are my daughter, not Catelyn Stark's. Do not forget: you are a Lannister, a lion, and I will not have you embarrassing Joffrey on his wedding day.”
Myrcella carefully folded her gown, tucking it safely away after running her fingers over the careful embroidery. She loved this dress, Lannister or not.
Myrcella felt naked in the gown she was given on Joffrey's wedding day.
Southron-style dresses varied greatly from Northern-style; Northern dresses were heavy wools, dark colors, designed for warmth and for function. In the South, the materials were more luxurious – silk, satin, Myrish lace – and designed to catch the eye with bright colors. As a child, Myrcella loved the dresses the seamstresses made her, the summer air moving freely through the pink silks she favored, but, as her uncles pointed out earlier in the week, she was not a child anymore.
Her gown for the wedding was Lannister crimson, long-sleeved with lace on the tight bodice. The neckline was deeper than any gown Myrcella had ever worn, her breasts swelling upward once she was cinched into it; her shoulders were bare, her alabaster skin on display, and, when her hair was gathered into a golden net, Myrcella knew this must have been what her mother looked like when she first came to court. Despite her efforts, she could not wrestle the neckline higher to preserve her modesty, and Myrcella felt herself flush as red as her gown when she saw her reflection in the mirror.
Myrcella knew she was not a little girl anymore. Her breasts were larger than Lady Catelyn's now, seemingly having grown over night, and she was constantly having to have new gowns made to camouflage her curves; her waist was small, gently flaring at her hips, and golden hair now grew in the cradle of her thighs. Lady Catelyn said she would flower any day, and the thought made Myrcella's stomach churn, certain she was not ready to be Robb's wife.
She did not want all of court to see her as a woman-grown, and Myrcella understood that was exactly what her mother wanted to announce with this gown.
When one of the servants told her Robb was waiting to escort her to the Sept, Myrcella took a deep, steadying breath before turning on her heel and stepping into the hallway. Her family would sit in the front pew and, as her betrothed, Robb was required to take his place at her side. Instantly Myrcella saw he had cut his hair, the thick, auburn curls she loved shorn, and his beard was gone, subtracting several years from Robb's appearance; he wore a new surcoat in Stark colors, and, not for the hundredth time, Myrcella blushed at how handsome he was.
Robb's blue eyes bulged at the sight of her, and Myrcella instantly dropped her eyes, not wanting to see his reaction. After a moment, Robb lifted her chin with his forefinger, and she felt her chest tighten at the expression of awe on his face.
“You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, my princess,” he swore, and this time when a flush overtook her cheeks, it was from pride and flattery.
“Thank you, my lord,” she murmured.
Robb scowled playfully. “Since when do you not call me Robb?”
A smile playing at her lips, she retorted, “Since when do you call me princess?”
He grinned widely, offering his elbow, which she took easily. “I shall call you whatever you like as long as you keep smiling. You are so lovely when you smile.”
In the Sept, as Joffrey fastened the Baratheon cloak around Margaery Tyrell, Myrcella shivered as Robb took her hand. As thunderous applause met the declaration of Prince Joffrey officially being wed to Princess Margaery, Robb leaned close, his lips brushing against the shell of her ear, and confessed, “I cannot wait to do the same to you.”
It was the first time Robb had given her any indication he wanted to marry her, and it made Myrcella feel invincible.
Her father insisted on them staying until after his name day celebration, and Myrcella quickly fell back into the rhythms of the Red Keep, spending her days with Margaery, Sansa, and Margaery's cousins while spending her evenings dining with Tommen and the Starks. Unlike at Winterfell, Myrcella rarely saw Lady Catelyn, who spent her time visiting with her sister Lysa who was down from the Vale for the wedding, or Robb, who was frequently with Lord Eddard discussing Winterfell and bannermen. After having spent the past five years with Lady Catelyn, only boys for company, she found it was odd listening to girls giggle again.
“So,” Margaery began, a smirk playing at her lips, “Robb Stark is very handsome.”
Myrcella felt her cheeks heating almost immediately. “Yes, he is.”
“You must tell us: is he good at kissing?” Margaery began to laugh at her good-sister's obvious embarrassment. “Oh, do not be shy! We are all family now.”
Fiddling with her stitches, she sputtered, “I – I do not know.”
Margaery's eyebrows rose in surprise. “You do not know? But you have been betrothed for years!”
“We...That is, we do not...We just have not.”
Face folding into an inscrutable expression, Margaery glanced at her cousins before requesting, “Girls, leave Princess Myrcella and I, please.” Once they had obeyed, Margaery instantly dropped her embroidery, sliding across her cousin's abandoned seat so she was beside Myrcella. “Do you and Robb not get along? I thought you two were close.”
“We are friends,” she allowed.
“You do not want to kiss him?”
Biting her lip, trying to find the right words, she finally settled on, “I would not mind it. Robb is very kind, and I...I think it would be nice to kiss him.”
“Then why do you not kiss him?”
“Kiss him?” Shaking her head, Myrcella got to her feet, beginning to pace the floor. “I could never be so brazen.”
“Men like it when women are brazen. And I have seen the way Robb's eyes follow you; if given the chance, I think he would very much like to kiss you.”
Suddenly bursting to discuss Robb with someone who was not his mother, Myrcella blurted out, “I did not think he even thought of me as anything beyond a sister until Joffrey's wedding. Since then he has been so...He makes me feel things, and it is so strange. I have seen him every day for five years and now it is as if I am seeing someone new entirely.”
Margaery smiled. “Perhaps now he sees you as a woman rather than a child.”
Lowering her voice despite their solitude, she revealed, “I know he has lain with women before; I understand it is different for men. But I have never so much as kissed anyone before, and honor is very important to the Starks; until I am flowered and we are wed - “
“There are things a man and woman can do which need not involve your maidenhead.”
Myrcella stopped pacing. “There are?”
“Have you ever heard of the lord's kiss?”
Margaery Tyrell provided Myrcella more education about marriage that afternoon than any septa.
Joffrey cornered her on her last day in King's Landing.
The moment he stepped in front of her, Myrcella cursed for not paying more attention to his schedule for the day, for not having Grey Wind with her; in her two months in the Crownlands, her only interactions with her elder brother was in groups of people, exactly how she intended it. But now, as she returned from the library to borrow a few tomes for the trip, Joffrey was there, his ugly smirk in place.
He was seven-and-ten now but not even a head taller than she; his golden hair had darkened some, more Tyrion's color than Jaime's, and he was still thin if slightly more muscled. As his green eyes tripped over her body, Myrcella remembered the last time they were alone, the terror he inflicted upon her, and she was surprised to find that there was more anger in her body now than fear.
“You have not paid your respects to the king.”
“You are not the king yet.”
Joffrey's eyes darkened. “It is only a matter of time. You should still treat me as if I am your king.”
“Then I beg your pardon, your grace, if I have offended you in some way.” Holding up the few books in her hands, she said, “I was simply gathering new reading material. There are less books in Winterfell.”
Joffrey sneered. “Winterfell,” he spat. “Is it true you sleep beneath bear skins and the people all smell of shit?”
Bristling, she could not help but snap, “Do not speak of it that way.”
“I will speak of it any way I like it.” Stepping closer, forcing Myrcella to step backwards until her back met the cement wall, he declared, “I will speak of my lands any way I choose. You forget yourself. Too much time playing with the wolves.” She gasped as his hand quickly rose, grasping her chin with bruising force, bringing her face closer. “Tell me: does the young wolf fuck you like a dog? Does he howl when he comes? Does he make you bark?” Myrcella began to struggle as Joffrey's free hand began to raise the skirt of her gown. “I think I shall make you bark.”
Myrcella heard the growl a half-second before Joffrey did; by the time he was turning, Grey Wind had already taken him to the ground, the direwolf standing upon his chest, snarling but not drawing blood. She saw Robb, absolute fury on his face, his voice tight as a bow string as he ordered, “Grey Wind, to Myrcella.”
Immediately the wolf went to Myrcella's side, sitting straight and tall as Joffrey scrambled to his feet, eyes darting frantically. He opened his mouth to make a threat but Grey Wind's growl caused him to jump back, spitting a vile curse before disappearing down the hallway. Myrcella exhaled shakily before reaching down, scratching Grey Wind's head as Robb approached her.
Carefully cupping the side of her face, he asked, “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head.
“He's done this before?”
Myrcella had seen many emotions play across Robb's face before, but she had never seen this level of rage; he looked as if he was prepared to murder her brother. She thought of Lyanna Stark, the woman her father started a war over, and wondered if this was how Robert had looked when he took up arms against the crown.
“You're his sister,” Robb finally said, disgust ripe in his voice, undoubtedly thinking of Sansa and Arya and what he would do to anyone who treated them the way Joffrey treated her.
“Please don't tell your father,” Myrcella requested. “I do not...I would prefer that all of court does not know about this.”
Robb nodded tersely before carefully brushing her hair from her face. “He will never touch you like that again.”
It was the first promise a man made Myrcella ever believed.
They were three days out from King's Landing when Robb kissed her for the first time.
Myrcella did not remember the name of the inn, but snow had started to fall again, the slow, fat flakes which were her favorite. As Lady Catelyn began the wrestling match which was putting Rickon to bed, Myrcella stood outside the door, tipping her head back and catching snowflakes on her tongue the way she had with Tommen. She was not sure how long she was out there when Robb joined her, laughing at her snowflake catching efforts.
“You look like a child, all bundled and eating snow,” he teased, tweaking her red nose.
She smiled unrepentantly, so much happier knowing she would be in Winterfell soon. “I like winter. Summer lasted ten years; who knows when I will see winter again?”
He reached out with gloved hands, rustling her curls, weighed down by the falling flakes. “Uncle Benjen used to tell tales about wildings when he'd visit. He said there was a wilding princess with hair like gold who always had snowflakes dancing in the strands.”
“Are you calling me a wilding?”
The tenderness on his face set her heart racing. “If you are a wilding, I will gladly be one too.”
His mouth was surprisingly warm despite the cold; his kiss was soft, tentative until she kissed him back, stretching up on her toes, bracing herself against his chest with one hand. He made a noise which stirred something inside of her as his embrace tightened, his tongue tracing her bottom lip until she opened her mouth.
Myrcella decided Margaery was right; kissing was fantastic.
Two weeks after returning to Winterfell, Myrcella woke up to bloody sheets and a ruined nightdress. She sent for Lady Catelyn immediately, a vague sense of panic in her body; she knew what moon blood was, but she had not expected so much, and Myrcella was certain she was dying.
After Catelyn ordered a bath drawn, her nightdress and sheets taken away, Myrcella leaned her head against the edge of the tub and said, “So now Robb and I must marry.”
Catelyn swept Myrcella's hair back from her damp forehead, pressing a kiss to the skin. “Three-and-ten is a bit young to be a bride, don't you think?” When Myrcella did not reply, she declared, “I will send a raven on your fourteenth name day saying you've flowered if it is all right with you.”
It was only nine months, but Myrcella was incredibly grateful for them. After all this time, she felt as if she was only just beginning to know Robb, and she did not want to wed a stranger.
But she did want to wed him.
The day Lady Catelyn announced that most of court was headed to Winterfell for her wedding, that she and Robb would wed in the godswood in one month's time, Robb could hardly stop kissing her. Since leaving King's Landing, he had continued to be affectionate, acting more like her betrothed than her foster brother, but news of their wedding only increased his affections. Myrcella felt herself blush every time Robb's eyes fell on her, her stomach flipping at the wicked smiles he gave her; his mouth knew hers well now, the heat of his large hands scorching even though the fabric of her gowns.
Myrcella suspected Lady Catelyn told Ser Arys to watch them closer as the wedding approached; suddenly her sworn shield would not let her out of sight when before she could wander Winterfell as freely as Rickon. It made spending time unchaperoned difficult but not impossible. Ser Arys enjoyed his wine almost as much as Theon, and it was easy enough for the Ironborn hostage to lure him away from time to time with the promise of sour wine from Dorne.
Today they were in the glass gardens, Myrcella tightly wedged between a pillar and Robb's body, her hands twisted in his shirt front while he buried his fingers in her curls. He loved her hair when it was down, so different from the dark women of the North, and Myrcella could admit she liked to tease him by leaving it to tumble over her shoulders, by fiddling with her curls to bear her throat while he watched. As his lips slid down the arch of her throat, mouth wet and open, the tip of his tongue teasing, Myrcella trembled, her blood burning hot as wildfire as she tried to twist her head to take back his mouth, loving the taste of him on her tongue.
Robb laughed against her mouth as he shifted his stance, and Myrcella realized she was now straddling his muscular thigh, her skirts raised enough to reveal her stockings; she idly recognized this was not proper, but then Robb's hands settled on her hips as he gently moved her forward and back, a rhythm which made her body pulse.
“Oh!” she gasped at a sharp twist of pleasure, her legs shaking as a feeling began to build.
Robb laughed again, softer, secretive; his kisses were slower now, and, when he spoke, his voice was huskier than usual. “You like this, sweetling?” Her voice stuck in her throat, he continued, breath hot against her ear, “I only ever want to make you feel good. If you do not like something, just tell me. Do you want to stop?”
“No!” she blurted out, embarrassed at her wantonness but loving the sensations stretching through her body. Her hips moved on her own now, trying to increase the pressure, pulling Robb closer to her, and her lips found the underside of his chin, her teeth scratching against his skin.
“Do you trust me?”
Myrcella did not hesitate to nod.
Robb's hand slipped beneath her skirts, his fingers finding her smallclothes; she bit her lip to keep from crying out as he began to press and rub at her flesh, his touch gentle but insistent. There was a tension building in her stomach, her breath was coming in gasps, and Myrcella was certain she was going to break apart before whatever Robb intended to happen would actually happen.
She came apart with a sharp cry, her entire body tingling, and Myrcella could feel wetness in her smallclothes as Robb's fingers continued to softly massage her flesh, working her through the sensations. As her breathing returned to normal, Robb stepped back, fixing her skirts before brushing a kiss against her sweaty forehead.
“Is that what laying together will be like?” she finally asked, her mouth dry.
“No, it will be better.”
If it were any better, Myrcella thought, it might kill her.
Myrcella was disappointed Margaery was not part of the envoy, but Sansa explained how Joffrey insisted his wife remain with him. But she was happy to see the Starks again, to see her uncles and even her parents; she had assumed her father would remain on the Iron Throne with his Hand at Winterfell, but Myrcella quickly learned her grandfather was at King's Landing to keep Joffrey in check, a thought which made her far more amused than it should.
Cersei insisted on dressing her, sending away Catelyn, Sansa, and Arya, and Myrcella bit her lip to keep from protesting; if the queen ever knew how she preferred Catelyn, how she used to wish Catelyn to be her mother, Cersei would rage, wedding day or not. She kept a calm face as her mother jerked upon the laces of her gown too tightly, cinching the breath from her lungs; it was not until she began to gather hair pins that Myrcella found her voice.
“Robb prefers my hair down.”
Her mother's green eyes flared. “Only a common girl weds without her hair in place.”
“But I want - “
“I do not care what you want!” Cersei spat. “And neither will your husband, so you should learn to hold your tongue.”
“Robb does care what I want,” Myrcella argued, shocked at her own defiance, “and I want to please my husband, so my hair will be down!”
As her mother drew her shoulders back, Myrcella realized her mother was no longer bigger than her, no longer intimidating. She was simply a woman, a queen whose beauty was beginning to fade, and Myrcella refused to be cowed by the woman who had never loved her half as much as she loved Joffrey, as the woman who did not seem to love sweet Tommen at all.
“Daughter or not, you do not speak to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms with such insolence!”
“I shall speak to you however I choose!”
“What in seven hells is going on here?” Robert bellowed as he entered her cell, his belly swaying with every step.
“Your daughter has decided to shame us by going to her groom looking like a wilding!”
“I simply want to wear my hair the way Robb likes it,” Myrcella objected, keeping her voice soft as she turned her eyes on her father.
“Hair? You two are screaming over bloody hair? I don't care if you become Lady Stark with a bald head. Now c'mon!”
As Myrcella walked to the godswood on her father's arm, all she could think was she had finally beaten her mother in an argument.
And then Robb came into view, grinning at the sight of her, and Queen Cersei did not matter at all.
The first morning Myrcella woke in Robb's arms was the day after their wedding. Dawn was breaking, Myrcella as naked as the day she was born, Robb's arms wrapped tightly around her with the heavy furs keeping them warm. Myrcella blushed at the feel of Robb's body tangled with hers, the echo of soreness between her thighs; she knew it was silly to be embarrassed, that he was her husband now and it was normal to wake up together.
Carefully twisting in his arms, taking pains not to wake him, Myrcella stared at Robb's sleeping face, the blush still high on her cheeks. He shaved his beard for the wedding and the unruly curls she loved had been cut as well; Myrcella knew Lady Catelyn insisted on him looking as distinguished as possible, especially with court coming to Winterfell. When he kissed her in the godswood at the end of the ceremony, Myrcella thought it felt strange to not have the rough rasp of hair against her cheeks, and she knew Robb missed his beard as well, his hand rubbing at his chin throughout the evening. Without the beard, Robb looked younger than his nineteen years, less like a stern Northman and more like his younger brothers. She traced the line of his jaw, the shape of his mouth, the slope of his nose; he had done this to her before, explored her skin as freely as she would allow, but Myrcella could never bring herself to do the same, too embarrassed to admit she was as curious about him as he was about her.
Checking to make sure Robb was not waking, Myrcella allowed her eyes to drop to his body, as naked as her own. The night before, he had kissed every inch of her, murmuring against her skin how he wanted to know all of her in every way he could; she shivered at the memory of his mouth between her legs, at the taste of her pleasure on his tongue. Robb was as playful in bed as he was in everyday life, and he had tried to encourage her to relax, to make her laugh; Myrcella was able to relax, to enjoy, but she hadn't been able to be as free as Robb.
He has been with other women, she thought as her fingers began to trace the line of his collarbone whisper soft. He has been with women who know how to please men. I want to please him. He is so kind to me, and I love him.
Myrcella ran her fingers across the rough auburn hair on his chest, sparse in some places but thick in the center; an old scar cut across his ribs, disappearing into the hair, and she wondered how he received it. His stomach was ridged with muscle, a line of hair starting at his navel and arrowing down to his cock. Myrcella tentatively traced the thin skin over his hips, gnawing on her lip as she debated taking Robb in her hand; he was already half-hard and Myrcella wondered if he would like her hand on him. Joffrey had always -
Do not think of him! she ordered herself. This is different. Remember what Jaime said.
Tentatively she ran a single finger down his length, watched as his erection seemed to jump towards her touch; she was surprised at how soft his skin was here, silk over steel. When she carefully encircled him, stroking him lightly, Robb moaned, and Myrcella jerked her head up to see Robb staring at her with dark eyes, his lip trapped between his teeth.
“I'm sorry,” she blurted out, pulling away, trying to move to the other side of the bed. Robb caught her wrist easily, stilling her movements, a smile on his face.
“Why are you sorry?” he asked, genuine confusion on his handsome face. “You can touch me whenever you want, Cella. You will get no complaints from me.”
“I did not mean to be so bold - “
“I like it when you're bold.” Pulling her into his arms, he kissed her, slow and deep; Myrcella moaned softly into his mouth, feeling her own body begin to respond to his touch. When he pulled back, he pressed kisses to her eyelids, her cheeks, her forehead. “Let us make an agreement, yes?”
“What sort of agreement?”
“When we are together like this, when we are in our room and it is just us, nothing else will matter. You can say or do anything without worrying what is right or what is proper.” Myrcella must have looked dubious for Robb suddenly rolled onto his back, taking her with him. She gasped, bracing herself against his chest with her hands, blushing ferociously as Robb urged her to straddle him. Myrcella could feel him, hot and hard against her arse, and she blushed as she raised her arms to cover her breasts.
“No,” he breathed softly, gently unwinding her arms, clasping her hands. “Do not hide, my love. You are so beautiful.”
Squeezing his hands, shifting slightly, Myrcella was acutely aware of his eyes on her. Last night she was hidden beneath blankets and furs, a few flickering candles providing the only light; now, as the morning light filtered in through the windows, Myrcella thought of her long-ago septa, the one who told her it was sinful to ever glory in her own beauty, though less sinful than behaving wantonly with a man. Though Margaery had told her of different acts which took place in the marriage bed, Myrcella had never imagined actually doing them, hadn't thought Robb would think them proper for his wife.
Pushing himself up into a sitting position, Robb brushed her hair over her shoulders, kissing her bare shoulder. “I do not mean to make you uncomfortable, but I also do not want you to feel ashamed when we are like this. We are husband and wife now.”
“I want to please you.”
“And I want to please you.” His smile became wicked as he dropped onto his back, stretching his arms above his head, unabashed in his nudity. “If you wish to touch me, you can touch me. If you wish to be touched, you can tell me. You are in control here.”
Myrcella felt a flare of desire in the pit of her stomach at the words; she was never in control of anything, and Robb was handing it to her as if it was nothing. She rested her hands against his stomach, liking the way the muscles tightened as she swiveled her hips, the way he inhaled sharply through his nose. Myrcella bent, her lips finding the scar on his ribs, the tip of her tongue tracing it; Robb twisted beneath her at the touch.
“How did this happen?”
“Jon and I were practicing with real swords without permission. We both ended up with scars.” A callused finger traced a light scar on Myrcella's wrist. “How did this?”
“Ser Pounce.” The puzzled look on his face made Myrcella giggle. “Tommen's kitten.”
His laughter was loud and free in the early morning silence, and Myrcella joined him, letting out a shriek as Robb suddenly flipped her onto her back, his lips gravitating towards the curve of her neck. She sighed in pleasure as Robb drug blunt teeth along her skin, her fingers clutching at his hair as he began to suck a dark bloom on the swell of her breast.
Robb lifted his head. “Would I what, sweetling?”
Powering through the acute embarrassment rising in her throat, she managed, “Would you do what you did last night...with your mouth?”
His grin was downright predatory as he descended her body, and then all Myrcella could focus on was the sweet pleasure Robb brought her, desperately trying to keep from crying out too loudly, afraid someone would hear her. She grasped at the bed furs, at Robb's hair, anything to keep her tethered to the earth; as her legs began to shake, the tension in her body prepared to snap, Myrcella dimly thought, I wonder what the septas would think of this before crying out, no longer caring if all of the Seven Kingdoms heard her because everything just felt so good.
Robb gave a breathless chuckle as he pressed kisses up her body, his lips shining with her release. “You are never leaving this bed, my love.”
“As long as you stay with me, I do not care,” she panted, reaching for Robb as he rose on his knees, tilting her hips upward as he slowly began to push inside of her. Myrcella bit her lip at the lingering soreness from the night before, but it quickly dissipated, her body quickly remembering the rhythm of Robb's body inside of hers.
When the knocking began on their chamber door, Myrcella could tell from the light outside it was likely midday; she lifted her lips from Robb's chest, heat rising in her cheeks, as Robb groaned in disappointment, his hands grasping her hips to keep her from climbing off of his body.
“Yes?” Robb called, his voice tight with irritation at being disturbed.
Lady Catelyn's voice cooled both of their bloods. “All of court and our bannermen are in Winterfell. Mayhaps it is time for the two of you to join us.”
Robb opened his mouth to argue but Myrcella replied, “We are dressing now, Lady Stark!”
As Catelyn's footsteps retreated, Robb sat up, his face twisted into a pout Myrcella recognized well from Rickon's face. His hands settling against her back, lips gravitating to her throat, his Northern accent was thicker than it had ever been as he murmured, “You are Lady Stark now. And I say we stay here until the whole bloody lot of them are gone.”
Myrcella found his mouth, kissing him softly. “Soon we are going to be all alone here. Should we not spend time with our families while we are still able?”
Robb sighed. “If we must.”
By the time they entered the dining hall for midday meal, Myrcella in a high-necked gown to hide the marks left behind by Robb's mouth, Robb wearing a loose shirt that did not press against the scratches Myrcella had left upon his back, King Robert was already half drunk. Upon sight of them, he bellowed, “Glad you're giving the poor girl a break, Stark!” and the room erupted into good-natured laughter and cheering.
Myrcella knew she was as crimson as her gown, but, for the first time, she wasn't sure she cared.
The night before all of court was to leave, Cersei came to Myrcella's room before dinner. She sat still as her mother dismissed the maids fixing her hair, resisting the urge to protest, as Cersei began to weave her hair into one of the complicated Southron styles so popular at court.
“You are beautiful,” Cersei said after a moment, hands working with more skill than Myrcella believed she possessed. “I am grateful for that. The world is much less kind to girls who are not. Thank the Seven you are his daughter or your father would be pulling you onto his lap.”
Myrcella shifted uncomfortably. “Thank you, Mother.”
“It seems your husband is bent on getting a child on you as quickly as possible. All of Winterfell is laughing at how lusty he is with you. They say they've never seen a Stark whose blood runs so hot.” Reaching for hairpins, Cersei stated, “You can tell him no. No Stark would ever force a woman; it would be too much an afront to their honor.”
“I do not want to tell him no,” she murmured. “I love him.”
“Love,” Cersei echoed, a bitter smile twisting her lips. “How rare for a marriage to start with love.”
“Did you love Father?” she couldn't help but ask.
“I did not know your father. I knew he was strong and handsome and the new king; I knew he started a war because Rhaegar took his beloved Lyanna, and I believed a man with that sort of passion inside of him would be worthy of my love someday.” Jerking Myrcella's hair a bit as she twisted a curl, Cersei continued, “Robert Baratheon is a drunken lecher and a pitiful king besides, and the only woman he ever loved was Lyanna Stark. If he was not the king, my father never would have married me to him.”
“That's very sad.”
“I suppose,” Cersei agreed, her voice utterly bland. “But I am the Queen of Westeros and my son will be the king, so it was not such a terrible match.” Securing Myrcella's hair with the last of the pins, the queen smiled genuinely for the first time since arriving in Winterfell. “I thought Robert was insane for wedding you to Robb Stark, but mayhaps this is a good match for you. The boy clearly dotes on you, and I imagine you will have a quiet life here.”
“That is all I want.”
Cersei gave a little sigh, her green eyes meeting Myrcella's in the gilded mirror. ”Do not love your husband too much, Myrcella. When he disappoints you – and he will, for he is a man – it will devastate you all the more.”
It was the first time Myrcella ever saw the girl Cersei Lannister must have been once, and it made her ache with sadness that no one had ever loved Cersei the way Robb loved her.
The reality of court leaving did not truly strike Myrcella until she saw Lady Catelyn directing Jory on which trunks of her and Rickon's belongings were to go onto a wagon. Myrcella felt her heart squeeze painfully as Rickon's pleas to Lord Eddard reached her ear, the nine-year-old boy begging to be allowed to stay at Winterfell with Myrcella and Robb. She wanted to comfort Rickon, to say he could stay, but Myrcella knew it was neither her place nor appropriate any longer; Rickon wanted to stay and play the way they always had, and he did not understand things were different now. Her time for having snowball fights, building snow castles, and running through the godswood were over; she was a woman-grown now, Robb's wife, and soon to be the Lady of Winterfell.
But it was Catelyn's departure which was forcing tears to her eyes. Since arriving at Winterfell six years earlier, Catelyn had been her mother, the one who guided her and helped her, who plaited her hair and offered bits of advice. She was the Lady of Winterfell, and Myrcella did not feel ready to take that responsibility.
“You look uneasy, Lady Stark,” Jaime said as he sidled up beside her, a gentle smile on his face.
“Everyone is leaving. It will be lonely here.”
“Then I suppose you and the Young Wolf will have to fill the halls with children.” As Myrcella turned her eyes up to look at Jaime, he affectionately touched her cheek. “You will never be lonely, my special girl. Everyone in the North loves you dearly.”
“I wish you could stay instead of Ser Arys.”
“Oh, what use is keeping the Kingslayer in the North? I'm used to terrify the masses.” Jaime smiled sardonically. “Besides, I could not bear to see you so painfully in love with Robb Stark. I would be far too jealous. I had always hoped I would be the only man you ever looked at with such worship in your eyes.”
Myrcella laughed, wrapping her arms around his waist, pressing her face against the cool metal of his armor. “I solemnly swear I will always worship you a bit more than my husband, Uncle, if you promise me you will never love anyone as much as you love me.”
Jaime tilted her head up, his face teasingly serious. “It is a deal.”
“Kingslayer!” Robert roared as he exited the castle flanked by members of the Kingsguard and Lord Eddard. “Don't you have some duties beyond bothering the princess?”
Jaime nodded sharply before pulling away, chucking Myrcella beneath the chin before moving to help Tommen mount his horse. She smiled gamely as Robert patted her on the head like a child, wishing her well; Lord Eddard smiled kindly, brushing a kiss against her cheek, his mouth cool.
“You make my son very happy,” Eddard said, the usual gruffness of his voice replaced with warmth. “And House Stark is fortunate to have you.”
“Thank you, Lord Stark.”
Eddard smiled as Catelyn came beside him, a familiar expression of amusement on her face. “You may call us by our names now, Myrcella.”
Myrcella nodded. “Yes, Lady Catelyn.”
The older woman enfolded Myrcella tightly in her arms, and Myrcella inhaled the scent of Catelyn's hair, trying to commit the smell to memory. She wanted to act like Rickon, to beg Catelyn to stay, but Myrcella bit her tongue ferociously as Catelyn pressed a firm kiss to her cheek.
“Do not look so scared, sweetling,” Catelyn ordered kindly. “I know how frightening Winterfell can be when left on your own, but you are ready. There is more of the North in you than there ever was in me. And what you do not know, you will learn or Robb will teach you.”
Myrcella nodded, trying to appear brave. “I will do my best.”
“I have never doubted it.”
Myrcella impulsively moved forward, hugging Catelyn again. Her mouth beside Catelyn's ear, she murmured, “Thank you for everything.”
As all of court left Winterfell, Myrcella stood with Grey Wind and watched them depart. When Robb came to stand beside her, she rested her head against his shoulder and sighed, “I shall miss your family.”
If Robb noticed the exclusion of her family, he was too kind to mention it. “Then we shall need to make a family of our own.”
Myrcella chuckled, rising on her toes to brush her lips against his. In a long-suffering voice, she declared, “If we must.”