Different Paths to Destiny

4 More than Blood

I saw Catelyn the next morning while she was preparing to leave for Storm's End. "Good morning, Catelyn!" I called. I wondered over towards her and rubbed her horses head. "How long do you think you'll be gone for?" I asked.

"Quite a while. I haven't seen Renly in ages and I don't know how hard it will be to convince him to side with us. The ride to the Stormlands is long as well, I won't be back for a good while," Catelyn told me with a sigh. "You will be the lady in charge here while I'm away." We both laughed.

"When do you think Theon will be getting back to the North?"

"A little more than a fortnight I'd assume. Pyke is much closer; I guess it depends on how long he visits with his father."

"You don't think…Theon wouldn't betray us would he?" I asked stuttering a bit.

"Ned and I raised him; I don't believe that he'd turn on us that quickly. Unless you think he might. You two were good friends."

"We were best friends from the moment he arrived in Winterfell. That was one thing that never changed. He's like my brother, I don't want to believe that there's even a chance he might change his mind about our family. But…"

"You think he might go against us? The Iron Islands are only a small fraction of the size of the North and no one would come to their rescue; they alienated everyone during their coup."

"I'm sure Theon would try to tell his father all of that but family has always been important to him. If his father pressed him to go to war against us I don't know if Theon could refuse."

"Blood has always been important to him, not family. There's a fine line between who your family is and where your blood comes from. Is this about him not saying goodbye to you before he left? Are you afraid that was his way of telling you his plans?"

"Theon and I never say goodbyes. Friends should never have to permanently leave each other so we never say things as final as goodbye."

"If only that were true." She looked off into space for a second, lost in her thoughts. I bounced on the balls of my feet unable to shake the feeling something was going to go wrong. "Nervous hands are never good, pack your things you'll ride me to the Stormlands."

"Robb will never let me go, he'll say it's too dangerous," I said more bitterly than I had planned.

"If he didn't think you could take care of yourself he would send you back to Winterfell. I'll convince him it's a good idea."

"Alright, thank you." I started to turn away and she touched my shoulder.

"And Amina, I remember when Theon first came to Winterfell and you two met. If anyone of us here has an idea as to what is going on in that boys head it's you. But I also think that he cares for you too, I can't believe that he'd walk away from that without a second thought, there's more to family than blood."

OoOoO

The journey to Storm's End was even longer than I had expected it to be. When we arrived I felt like I had been on horseback for a year even though it wasn't nearly that long. After brief introduction to Renly and his wife, I retired to my room. Though I couldn't stay still for long and soon found myself wondering around.

"Amina Winterfell," Renly said coming up to me patting me on the shoulder. "That name just rolls off the tongue doesn't it?"

"I guess."

"But soon you'll be Amina Stark, Queen of the North. That's exciting isn't it?"

Renly was a bit too chipper for my tastes and I was regretting leaving my quarters. "You know I think I should go speak with Catelyn…"

"Nonsense! I'm having you both come for dinner, something of a feast, in honor of your arrival. You can speak with her then. I'd love to give you a tour while we have the chance."

I sighed giving in. I followed him all over Storm's End and wished again that I hadn't left my room, or that I had at least worn better shoes. Then we came across Loras who was talking to his sister Margaery, the queen. There was a look shared between Renly and Loras, it took me a second to place and I drew in a sharp breath.

"I just remembered there was something I needed to attend to, I'm sure my lovely queen will finish giving you the grand tour," Renly apologized.

"Of course," Margaery said nodding. We both watched as the two men walked of talking quietly. "I'm sorry about him; he gets excited about showing off his accomplishments."

"I can tell he's proud," I said looking around.

"Youngest child syndrome I'm afraid." We both laughed at her husband before she led me up the stairs and out onto a beautiful balcony overlooking the kingdom.

"Your husband is in love with your brother you know," I said.

"It has come to my attention," she said.

"And you haven't done anything about it?" I asked shocked.

"What should I do? He is the king and I am his queen. There really is not much I can do about mu situation other than try to quell the rumors. Not many people marry for love these days."

I looked away towards the sunset. "That's true enough."

"What about you and Robb? I was surprised to hear you two were still unwed. Are you sure that's wise?"

I continued to stare at the pretty colors the sky cast over the land. Pinks and purples swirled through the sky and I tried to imagine what the sky looked like from anywhere else. "I love him; I'm just not in love with him."

"You grew up with him as your brother that has to feel a little odd."

"I always knew I was going to marry him so that isn't really it. He is one of the kindest people I know. If it were not for Sansa and Arya being taken I don't know if the war would have ever been started."

"Does he love you?"

"He does. It breaks my heart, sometime I think it would be easier if he were indifferent."

There was a long pause as we both watched the sun finish setting. The twilight was even more beautiful and I just wanted to sit here forever.

"Trust me it's not."

"What?" I asked.

"It isn't easier, being married to someone who's indifferent to your presence." Margaery shook her head slightly. "Everyone knows that we haven't even consummated our marriage yet and it's like he wants them to know! He won't even try! I don't care if he doesn't love me; I just don't want to be embarrassed like this!"

"Just give him time, coming from someone being forced to marry a person they aren't in love with I know that time is really the only thing you can give."

"Are you in love with someone else then?" She asked. I nodded. "Then I guess you know what you're talking about. It's my duty, and yours, as queen to bear the next in line to the throne. It's like women are just a tool to make sure that life runs smoothly. Why are we forced into marriages we don't want?"

"I want to be queen," I mumbled. It was my minds immediate response the only thing that kept me from running away from the path I was being forced onto, a survival instinct.

"I do too, more than anything." Just by looking at her you could tell she was in it for the pretty dresses, and riches, not for the possibility of fixing this world or anything else honorable like that. I could see how Margaery and Renly made a good match, at least on the surface. "Where's the man you love? Does Robb know about him? Is he a soldier in Robb's army with whom you're having a secret affair?"

"No, Robb doesn't know. Catelyn knows, but Robb does not. But it doesn't really matter, he's gone."

"Did he die in battle?" She asked. There was something about her, a young girlish quality that made me instantly like her despite her want for drama and excitement; she almost came off as a hyper little puppy.

"No, he's not dead. He joined the Night's Watch."

She gaped. "Only criminals join the Night's Watch."

"It wasn't always like that, joining the Night's Watch used to be an honor. That's all he wanted, somewhere he could fit in and be a part of something. In a lot of ways he was my polar opposite. He always wanted to fit in where I always wanted to stand out."

"I wish I had someone out there who was in love with me. Even if I couldn't be with him, knowing he's out there would be enough." She sighed dreamily.

"It's not enough. I want to be with him so badly it hurts. That's what keeps me going more than anything else, if I become queen maybe I could bring him back to me."

"I hope the two of you can be together, I think you deserve a person who loves you and who you love back."

"You do too," I said.

"Unfortunately it's too late for me. I guess I should make the most of what I have."

OoOoO

Catelyn and I had been a guest of the Baratheons for a little more than a week. In that time Margaery and I had become good friends. I realized that in my 18 years I'd never really gotten a chance to be friends with any girls. There were Sansa and Arya of course but Sansa and I were total opposites and Arya was half my age.

The only other girls I had ever really associated with were my handmaidens and a few prostitutes that frequented the soldiers at Winterfell. The whores always had the best gossip and they loved giving out sex tips. Not that I had ever had a chance to use any advice they'd given me while I lived in Winterfell, besides one time and that had not really gone as planned.

Most of the girls were nice enough, obviously lower class but nice, the only girl I didn't get along with was Ros. That was mostly Theon's fault, not that I could blame him he had no idea about me and Jon. Theon sent the red headed whore up to Jon's room, just trying to help out he said, and I proceeded to make a huge fool out of myself that night.

Anyways, I do not really want to recount the horrid details in my journal, I would much rather forget about that.

I stood up and walked to where Margaery's handmaidens had hung several beautiful green dresses a few days ago. Margaery had assured me green was my color, though I suspected that she was just tired of the color and was happy to be rid of a few of them. None of the dresses were quite my style at least at first glance. Besides being green the thing each of the four dresses had in common was their plunging necklines and their soft floaty fabric.

I pushed aside the two I had worn to dinners already; an extremely pale green dress with lace cap sleeves, and a bright green dress with more ruffles than I had ever seen in my life. This left two more dresses and I let out a large sigh. It wasn't that I didn't like dressing up, I was not quite the tomboy Arya was, I just didn't feel like wasting hours of pretty on another boring dinner. Catelyn and Renly would discuss strategy and peace agreements, Margaery and I would pretend to listen while gossiping quietly. This routine had gotten boring over the last week and I was ready to go home.

I finally casted aside a simple hunter green dress with a neckline well below my chest, in favor of an elegant dress that seemed to glow. I slipped it on and looked into the large mirror propped against my wall. I wondered if I would have ever worn anything like this in my old life, the fabric probably would have been red or black but the style seemed just right. Catelyn chose this moment to appear and I lost my train of thought.

"You look beautiful," Catelyn told me.

"Thank you. We should visit the South more often; it has done wonders for my complexion. My skin feels so light and airy without the wind and the chills."

"The weather is beautiful here, after Robb wins the war I'm sure the two of you can visit more often."

"Or we could move to King's Landing like every other king and queen," I suggested. I picked up a brush and began running it through my hair to tame the wavy locks.

"That's true." Catelyn offered a purple and gold pendant that I had been wearing daily and I slid it on. "Whatever happened to that necklace you used to wear? The one with that symbol you created, what did you call it when you were little, a Stargaryen?"

I laughed. "Yeah that was it. I'm not sure; I must have left it back in Riverrun. Though now that you mention it, I don't remember the last time I war it. I hope I didn't lose it, it was a gift."

"You wore it everywhere after you got it; the chain had to be replaced twice."

"It was my very own house sigil, I was proud of it."

"We'll look for it when we get back."

"Do you think it would feel strange, to go to King's Landing I mean?" I asked. Catelyn began twisting my hair into a tight bun at the nape of my neck.

"Why would it feel strange?" Catelyn asked confused.

"I don't know. I was born there; my family lived there for generations."

"I'm sure that you-" Catelyn was cut off by Margaery bursting into the room. She made a noise that was somewhere between a gasp and a squeal. "I'll leave you girls to finish getting ready."

"Mina, that dress looks perfect on you! It never really fit me quite right and now I know why, it was made for you." She picked up a gold vine looking hairpiece and slid it around my head to complete the look. "Perfect. You're taking this entire outfit home with you, no protests."

"Where am I supposed to wear it? Winter is coming; this fabric is much too thin." I grabbed a handful of silky fabric to prove my point.

"You sound just like a Stark!" She pouted.

"Because I am one!"

"Not by blood," she said matter-of-factly.

"Just because I'm not Catelyn's blood does not mean I am not still her daughter, I am a Stark whether or not it is in my lineage. Anyways, my real family died before I was born, the Starks raised me."

"How do you know you're whole family died? Do you know what house you're really from?" She looked at me expectantly, egger for a bit of gossip.

"Yes but it doesn't matter."

"A lesser house then, that's alright I won't think of you any differently. Like you said you are a Stark after all," she gave me a half hug and then blew a kiss as she ran out of the room. "See you at dinner!"

If only she really knew my house, she might fall over and die just from the pure drama of it all. I shook my head and turned back to the mirror to take one final look. Perfect.

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