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Wolves are Predators not prey, Even Dragons should be wary.

Chapter Text

Benjen

Night had fallen over Winterfell and the howling of wolves could be heard out in the wolfs wood. The wind was loud and cold but that was the North, always cold even with winter over. Tonight, though it was especially cold for death and war was upon the horizon. Old Nan would say that it was colder due to the Old Gods mourning the loss of 4 Starks being killed in the South. The cold penetrated even the Godswood of Winterfell but the wind and the howls of wolves did not, leaving only silence for the only Stark in Winterfell. Being the new Lord of Winterfell and the last male stark of Rickard’s line was a duty that Benjen never thought would happen to him, being the youngest of the pack and yet it did. Losing them all should have brought him grief but rage and the wolf’s blood was all that dominated Benjen’s very being. 4 starks killed in the South and one abducted in the span of a moon’s turn! How could this have happened? The obvious answer was the Targaryens but that felt empty for some reason as if there was something that went much deeper than that. That was the puzzling part. Hence the need to sit by the heart tree in the Godswood with Ice to think and calm the rage. The old Gods had a certain power in that, bringing people to silence in front of their domain. Ice was all that was left of his father, Rickard, he was wise not to have brought it to King’s Landing or it would have been lost to the bloody Southerners. They were a problem as well he realised, he would be allying with some of them in the war but they had broken up the pack, leaving few at Winterfell, in the North and making Father look South in his ambition. That was another problem, Rickard looking south in the first place, he should never have done, pained as it was to blame him; he should never have looked there for gain, it has only brought bloodshed in these past 300 years. It rang true the saying that Starks melt when they go South, remembering Rickon Stark who died in Dorne for a Targaryen wanting glory. Only Cregan faired well in the South during the Dance and he was wise enough to stay only for the day and dispense justice. He would need to be Cregan come again. Benjen thought coldly. He would need that strength and wit to win, especially when considered a boy even by his own bannermen in this war. Father should have remembered that Starks belong in the North, not to die in the south from Fire and blood. The North Remembers and Rickard Stark should not have forgotten.

That thought brought the anger that had been coursing to his veins to a halt at least for now. Regardless of that harrowing truth Benjen would be going South anyway, Ice at the hip, no matter how heavy the Valyrian Steel Great Sword was, he would use it. It was his symbol of authority as Warden of the North and he would kill Aerys with it. And Rhaegar for what he did to Lyanna. The thought of Rhaegar taking Lyanna made the Wolf’s blood run wild again. “Is this what sent you to King’s Landing and your death brother, will it kill me or it will it keep me alive in this war?!” Benjen bellowed in the Godswood. Benjen did not expect an answer from the Old Gods, they rarely spoke, only staring at the young Lord of Winterfell. Luckily the thought of Ned gave the answer and brought him back to silence. He was the calmest out of them but despite being named the quiet wolf, the wolf’s blood rang just a strong as in Brandon and Lyanna, he just knew when to use it. He remembered him knocking Brandon down in one shot for laying with Ashara Dayne at the Tourney of Harrenhal despite knowing Ned had been courting her for the entire tourney. Nobody else had seen what had happened and Brandon claimed he drank too much and passed out on a stone but Benjen was there saw the wolf’s blood in that moment, Ned just knew how to control it and use it when it was deserved. Benjen would need that control to plan this war. Calling the banners had been done before Ned had been killed in the Vale and half of the North would be marching to war alongside the Vale, the Stormlands and the Riverlands if the Trout decides to support. It would be bloodshed and the North alone would test his mettle before he even went to battle alongside the other rebels. Benjen needed a plan for the war and a good one before the bannermen arrived and he needed to be calm to think.

Benjen’s thoughts in the Godswood were disrupted by a thud. One of the castle ravens had fell into the Godswood, breaking its wing and snapping its neck. It mustn’t have been strong enough for the cold winds of the North. Winter had only recently ended but North still did not stop being a cold place because of it. It needed hard people and hard animals to thrive. This Raven clearly wasn’t. Benjen walked up to the dead bird, noticing a message attached to its foot. Opening it was a strangely tense moment, with the eyes of the Weirwood tree staring intently at the young Stark with the trees surrounding the lone wolf. For a brief moment, Benjen thought the Weirwood was beckoning him to read it as if Old Gods had deigned this an important for the Stark of Winterfell and that ‘dark wings dark words’ was the only truth to come from a raven. Leaving that thought behind, Benjen opened the message hastily, if anything to prove that it was nothing more than a false sense of unease as a result of listening to old nan. Reading the contents only proved the sense of unease was more than justified, revealing the mess that this war had put them in.

The words written on the parchment would change the course of the North, Benjen was certain of that. The words were enraging and a spit in the face to the North but they were needed because it gave him a plan, and that was all that was needed to prove himself to the bannermen and to the South that when a Stark and the North is wronged, winter will come for all that brought it. It seemed the Old Gods were listening to him in the Godswood, giving him guidance. Maybe they do act.

“I’m getting you back if I can Lyanna. But if I can't, I will avenge you and our siblings and I’ll fix Father’s mistakes. Winter is Coming House Targaryen… Winter is Coming. Benjen procaimed in the Godswood, grey eyes as cold as Ice staring at the Weirwood tree before leaving for the castle. There was work to be done and night would not prevent it from being done. As Benjen walked away, the face of the weirwood smiled for the briefest of moments, knowing the wolves were coming.

Chapter Text

Rodrick Cassel

It was a cold night. Even at Winterfell where there were hot springs providing heat to the entire fortress. But that did not stop the cold, if anything it gave it a challenge to chill the guards to the bone in order to spite the guards of Winterfell. Luckily Rodrik was not on guard duty, being the master at arms, but yet here he was; awake and out in the courtyard in the Cold. He was the blood of the first men though and not a dainty southern Andal flower though, winter was in his bones like all from the neck to the land of always winter. The Lord of Winterfell had ordered it and him alongside his son Martyn, Captain of the guards. The courtyard was silent, a stark contrast to the activeness in the day due to the inevitable arrival of the bannermen and the march to war. To say the least Rodrik was concerned and somewhat pissed off at being woken up by the guards. It wouldn’t do good for the North if the Lord of Winterfell and the Stark of Winterfell to be not of a clear mind. Though If the Lord of Winterfell sought us at the hour of the wolf it could only mean trouble, whatever the reason. It was a peculiar thing to call Benjen Stark Lord of Winterfell even though he had since the news of Eddard’s fate over a week ago. He was still a boy and a grieving one at that. But he had done well, organising everything for the incoming Lords of the North and preparing for the march south to war. He made a good Stark of Winterfell in Rodrick’s eyes but would he be able to be The Stark of Winterfell he had wondered? His question was answered the moment Lord Stark entered the courtyard, with ice strapped to his side and a walk of purpose. Benjen had cut his hair short, something he had never seen on him, usually being longer and unrulier, and the grey eyes were purposeful, as opposed to the look of loss that kept showing every time petitioners left the great keep. He looked like The Stark of Winterfell. The silence was of the courtyard did not end until the Lord of Winterfell stood in front of the Cassels and spoke.

“Rodrick, Martyn, thank you for waiting. Before I give my orders for what will be done tonight, I want you to read this and tell me what you would see done. You and your house have been loyal to House Stark and will I need you in this war to come. This night will be a defining act as Warden of the North and I would hear your thoughts before what needs to be done will be done.” Benjen unveiled a small piece of parchment which had clearly been from a raven and gave it to Martyn, continuing to give the face of the Lord of Winterfell, unmoving and hard, almost like the statues of dead Starks in the crypts.

“Of course, lord Stark. But How in the Seven Hells could this possibly be so severe in light of the war you needed us to get up in the middle of the night?! You would think that the damn dragons were at our gates!” Rodrik questioned angrily. Although the outburst may have been out of place in the South, disagreement and questioning was a test of strength in the North through reaction. Lord Stark may have looked and even sounded like the true Warden of the North, but he would still need to be used to these outbursts, even if Rodrick knew it this was unnecessary now, because it would be worse from the bannermen when they arrived, especially for a green boy who they will see as “playing lord”. Nobody else was there to test him on it yet and his Father was gone so it fell to him Rodrick thought darkly.

In response, Benjen gave a small smirk then reverted to a stony face. It seems he knew that he was being tested, albeit lightly. Whatever amusement ended the moment he uttered a simple command. “Read it.” Martyn Cassel opened and read it, he went as pale as snow and his hand started trembling.

“What the fuck’s in that son?”

“Just read it father” Martyn replied, with venom in his voice as he passed the parchment. This was not going to have a good outcome. Rodrick took the parchment and read.

Lord Hightower,

                            The deaths of the 4 starks and this war have had a considerable impact on our plans for integrating the North with the Kingdoms. I was hoping advising Rickard Stark to go South would result in him being taken hostage or stripped of titles but this works much better. Now that there is only one male Stark left and a boy no less, he will be susceptible to my advice and I will send his decisions to you so you can send them to the crown in the war. I will push him like I did with his Father to keep with the Marriage to the Tullies, implementing the faith in Winterfell through her and when they inevitably lose, we can push the crown to place a loyal lord who follows the seven in the North. If we are luckier, he may get the Tully woman pregnant and we can have a regent to teach the heir the ways of the seven. This can only go well for us. I will send all news of the North’s plans in the war so the Crown and the faith can win with the North crippled militarily.

Maester Walys

The colour drained from Rodrik’s face for a split second and then it turned red, his hand gripping his sword almost ready to run to the maester’s tower and kill him. He would have if the Lord of Winterfell did not speak.

“I asked for your advice, not action Rodrik, though the response is telling you want to kill that fucking piece of shit Southerner.  And before you ask, I got it in the Godswood, a raven from the castle rookery snapped died before it could leave Winterfell so I know it is real. He even desecrated it with the seal of House Stark.”

“Aye it is my Lord, I want the man’s head on a spike, he advised your father to go to his death and he intends to betray us to the Targaryens! He deserves to die!” Rodrik Bellowed.

Martyn nodded in agreement, “He deserves to be sacrificed to the heart tree the way he speaks of the North and converting is all to that pious seven!”

The group of guards behind the Cassels had realised that treason against the North and the old gods was at play, started to shout until the Lord of Winterfell raised his hand and everyone went silent. The Stark of Winterfell indeed, thought Rodrik.

“I’m glad my guards and loyal friends are as pissed off as I am right now and the advice of the Cassels is similar to what I had in mind though I’ll wait to execute him until the bannermen arrive in less than two weeks. I want to show that the way of House Stark is the old way for 20,000 soldiers and sons and daughters of the first men. For now, though I want Martyn and your guards to apprehend him throw him in the dungeons until the lords of the North arrive. I want him chained in the courtyard as they start to arrive next week. I want his quarters searched for anything else. I want to know all of our enemies for the March South.” Benjen calmly ordered to the guards.

“Aye my lord” Shouted the guards as they begun to march to the Maester’s tower. The southern Maester was going to be terrified. A shame not to be there to see it but the lord had motioned for him to stay.  

“How did I do Rodrik?” Benjen asked, it reminded him that he was still young, having almost forgotten it in that moment.

“You did well Lord Stark, it is a good start for this war and will send a powerful message to the bannermen that you will not tolerate traitors and those who challenge the North, and that’s none of that southern flattery shite either”

The Lord Laughed at that, it had been the first time he had seen him laugh since the news. “Good, I’m going to need it for what’s to come. The news was a blessing despite the implications. I know what will be right going forward. Though I need to ask one more question of you this night?”

“Aye my lord?” Rodrik asked, unsure what more words could needed on the matter after all that was ordered.

“I’ll need someone new to do as the former Maester Walys did, preferably not a Maester but who is smart and of the North to run the rookeries and provide medical expertise for Winterfell. There’ll be no more Maesters from the south in Winterfell so who would you recommend?”

The comment on no more Southern Maesters was said as final as an execution in Rodrik’s eyes, the young Lord was clearly certain on that and from this it was definitely the wise decision. Thinking carefully on the matter Rodrik simply replied with “Luwin, smart lad in Wintertown, I’ve seen him patch up the smallfolk when the Maester was too busy or refused. Seen him write too so operating the ravens should be easy for the man”

“Thank you, Rodrik, I will offer him the position come the morning, I suggests you head to your quarters and rest, the next few weeks will be long with the bannermen arriving. They’ll be unruly to be blunt”

Rodrick nodded at that. Unruly would be an understatement but looking at the Lord of Winterfell’s composure, they will follow him and be as loyal to his father, if not more.

Chapter Text

Artos

For Artos, riding to Winterfell would be a first in his 15 years having lived in the mountains with the Wull and Flint Clans all his life, same for his brothers and cousins, barring Father, Uncle Beron and Grandfather, all marching towards the centre of the North, 3000 soldiers strong and 2000 left to guard the homeland, the might of the clans, and it had been a long march. They would be the last to reach the keep alongside the Umbers, having met their 4000 troops along the road, though we were only a few hours from the great keep of the North. The Umbers were screaming for blood if listening to Great Jon Umber and his Uncles were anything to go by, mind they weren’t the only ones. Hugo Wull had grabbed his giant war axe the moment the ravens came, throwing it through the wooden keep. Grandfather Wulfric had wept, that was a rare sight for the man was as a hard as stone, only every weeping for the loss of his wife. It was a hard time for the North and it would be harder still for the wars to come but at least seeing Winterfell would bring some joy, no matter how grim the situation was.

Thoughts on the matter were interrupted with a shout at the front, “Winterfell is in sight lads, we’ll make it in less than an hour!” Bellowed the Great Jon. And he was right, Winterfell was in sight, the fortress was impressive as Father and Uncle had said. It was massive, even in the distance, and it was surrounded by thousands, the Stark at Winterfell had clearly rallied half of the banners’ troops, sparing no time to summon the troops. War was definitely coming and the North would be bringing it.

“It seems war is the Lord of Winterfell’s intentions son” Spoke Father, solemn in statement. His Father Beric was usually a more jovial man. but it seems even the prelude to war had pushed that back to grim.

“Aye Da it seems so, though at least me and my brothers and cousins will finally get to see the work of Brandon the Builder. Its impressive from this distance. Even more with all the banners of the North surrounding it”

Father smiled briefly, “Aye it would have been better for you all to see it in better times, but better now then never. And you’re right all the banners make it more impressive. Not a single house has failed to attend.”

He was Right, all the houses of the North had arrived, marching through into the soldier’s camps you could see the banners of Karstark, Cerwyn, Glover, Tallhart, Bolton, and a small contingent of Manderly and Reed among the rest. It was surprising seeing Manderly and Reed banners, being closer to Moat Cailin but they must have sent a small token force with their lords to show face at Winterfell with the rest of the banners and the rest gathered at the Moat. It was an amazing sight to see the might of the North Ready for War. And on each side of the gates of Winterfell stood the banners of House Stark, the house that had led the North for 8000 years.

“And above them all the grey Direwolf of House Stark, The symbol of Winter. Let’s hope The Stark of Winterfell knows what he’s doing. He’ll need us more if he doesn’t son. We can’t have another Stark melting in the South.” Noted Father. That was a worrying thought, the Stark being inadequate would bring the North Woe. Him being 14, a a year younger then me made it more than possible. But Starks were tough, having had led the North to Victory younger and in Worse times. Hopefully we have another Cregan Stark, wished Artos.

“Aye Father, we’ll be there regardless anyway. And besides, he’s a Stark, tough old fuckers, even the young ones” Artos Japed. Father laughed at that and so did the Great Jon Whoresbane Umber.

“Aye the boy’s right, a Stark of 14’s got more Bollocks than any greybeard south of the neck” Japed Great Jon

“Aye and wait until they see a real Northman as well, they’ll shit themselves and run before they even start to Fight!” Bellowed Hugo Wull, hitting his chest with his fists.

“He might be more of a Northman than you Wull if what I’ve heard about the Maester’s from the soldiers’ mutterings is right. Might have more mettle than a green boy and youngest son should have. The stark’s no boy if it’s true” Grandfather Wulfric muttered. That brought the group to silence. There had been news on the road from the Smallfolk being sent west to work at the Stony Shore of the Maester that betrayed House Stark and that a surprise was in store for the bannermen when they arrived. They didn’t mention his crime either, only stating that it was treason.

Wulfric carried on “I think it’s time to enter the gates and see the Stark of Winterfell ourselves.” And with that the heads of Umber, Wull and Flint followed Grandfather into the courtyard. In the centre of it stood the Maester of Winterfell in Chains in nothing but his smallclothes with the words traitor carved into his chest, covered in rotten food and waste. The Southerner had been put on display and had been branded. He shivered from the cold, he was lucky he was in the relative warmth of Winterfell or the Frostbite would have killed him. He still looked Frozen though. The look on his face was that of resignation. There was no fight in him, if there ever had been in the first place it was gone.

“It seems the mutterings were true” noted Father, “That would make the Boltons worry if a 14-year-old did that”

“Didn’t Theon The Hungry Wolf do that to one of the Durrandons after converting to the Seven and siding with the Andals?” Artos asked

“Aye it is son, and it seems we have a Stark of old here, unless he didn’t do it himself, then we have a Stark that has forgotten the old way” Grandfather pointed out.

At that comment, A laugh came from across the courtyard, and a man with mutton chops and a smirk moved towards the group. “You don’t need to worry milords. Aye Saw the Stark of Winterfell do it himself, his way is the first men, just like ours. He didn’t even flinch. And you can ask Lord Cerwyn if you don’t believe the master of arms” the man spoke and proudly at his Lord’s accomplishment. Artos noticed that he had started to stare at Wulfric, Father, Uncle and me. He seemed to recognise us but unsure of how,

The Great Jon nodded at that “Good, that’s something but what did he do, besides being a southern ponce that is?”

“All in good time, Lord Benjen stated that he would inform all the Lords at once and his plans for the war. He’ll be coming to greet you, he was just fetching bread and salt for guest rights. He wanted it done personally” The master at arms stated.

There was a murmuring of approval there, The Stark Lord knew to take Guest Rights seriously. The wait for the new Warden of the North was a short one, with the boy arriving with the Stark followed by two guards and an old man and woman at each side. The Umber, Wull and Flint Lords formed up at his approach with, standing side by side whilst Grandfather urged us to stand behind for now with a look. The Lord looked at the group and smiled, though gave a slightly puzzled look at us from behind, giving bread and salt to the Umbers then Wull. The old woman stared intently at Grandfather, though it turned warm quickly enough. Seems the old man still had a bit of charm despite the grey hair.

“Ah glad to see you have made it in to Winterfell. I offer you house and hearth. Guest rights are more than assured. Thank you for answering the call Lords of Umber, Lord Wull and Lord Flint, now that you’re here we can convene tonight and plan for the future”

The Umbers and Flint responded in thanks, unusually quiet for once. They seemed to be eyeing the Lord up. Lord Wull, on the other hand, boomed “Plan?! You don’t need to tell me any of that! Just point me in the direction of those Targaryen Fuckers and I’ll bathe in their blood, Vengeance for The Rickard is all the plan I need!”

The Lord nodded with a small smirk, saying “Aye that’s about it my lord but some of the other Lords might need a bit more to go on than that, but now I know who to send to clear it up for them”

Hugo Wull laughed at that, shouting “With pleasure!”

The Young Lord turned his attention to us as he passed Bread and Salt, giving a curious stare with the old woman still smiling at Grandfather. Lord Benjen spoke, speaking directly to Grandfather “and more Karstarks? I apologise but I assumed I’d met you all 3 nights past when they arrived. You all have our look and you look a lot like my Grandfather’s statue Lord…” Lord Benjen was about to continue when the Old woman interrupted, looking slightly annoyed at the young Lord.

“Wulfric, Benjen, Wulfric.” She tutted, The Old Cunt’s your Great Uncle, your Grandfather’s brother.” The Lord paled a bit though kept his composure. The Umber Lords and Wull smirked. They knew Grandfather wanted to discuss it more privately, expecting the Warden of the North to not know of us but it seemed that plan had been thrown out of the water by at that Old Woman who continued to shout. “Your Damn Father should have told you that there were more Starks out there than the Karstarks. And you Wulfric should have visited more often! Might have been able to put some sense into Rickard after Lyarra died! At least Lord Benjen here has the sense to stop his foolishness”

Artos Saw Father and Uncle Beron go Red, not in anger but complete shock at the abrasiveness of the woman. She was blunt even for a North woman, though looking at Grandfather was another matter. He expected the solemn face to remain that, or move to anger from being berated by the old woman but instead he laughed uncontrollably, whoever the woman was she had made a man who rarely laughed howl.

“It seems our intentions of having a more private conversation on the matter have been utterly destroyed by Old Nan. How the hell are you still alive Woman?! You were nearing old when I left Winterfell!”

Old Nan smiled at that, “Aye and I intend to live as long as the Starks at Winterfell need me. And with you around that’ll be until the Others come!” The smile in her eyes faded slightly at the last part but her smile held.

Wulfric turned to Lord Stark and knelt, Father followed and so did I. “The Starks of the mountains have come to aid the pack. We will fight with you from now until the end lord Stark. When the snows fall and the white winds blow”

“The Lone Wolf dies but the pack survives” Benjen Stark solemnly replied. The words were simple but powerful. “Nan, escort the guests to their rooms and Lord Wulfric I want to speak to you in my solar. Luwin, I want you to prepare the hall for tonight. Winter is coming and we need to prepare.”

It was reassuring to see Benjen say the words to Grandfather. He knows we’re pack. He knows we won’t usurp him. Thought Artos as he walked into the Great Keep of the North. The Pack would survive and thrive, Artos knew that much. Especially if Grandfather had anything to say about it.

Chapter Text

Benjen

Sitting in Father’s Solar, my solar, with the spitting image of Edwyle Stark was not how Benjen expected to the day he was to address all the bannermen to go. But Family is Family and I could do with more of it. A larger pack can only help the North. Wulfric was definitely a Stark there was no question to it. The man might have grey hair and few scars across his face but that didn’t hide the Stark look. The grey eyes and the long face gave it away. That was undeniable. He even had the imposing build of his father, and Ned’s solemn face. The man would probably be a terror on the battlefield. Good, that’ll be needed for the fight to come. Thought Benjen. The two had been sitting in silence for a moment, staring at each other. He’s probably assessing me as well. That’ll be good, to have another Stark to tell me if I’m being a fool though it’s time to end the silence. I need answers.

“So, Lord Wulfric Stark, it’s obvious you and your brood are my kin but how have I not been told about you? Or has my Father not been wise enough to tell me and mine about having more blood with our name?” Saying Stark to another was an odd experience thought Benjen. Though it was not unpleasant feeling, especially in these times. Hopefully none of them will die come the war.

“Aye Lord Stark, in some part it was your Father’s. He wasn’t the keenest on telling you all. I think in part he thought it better to keep any other Starks away though I was never sure why, he was almost as close as brothers to my sons and a third son to me. It made sense though when I heard the news, he had betrothed his heir Brandon to the Tully woman and sending Eddard to the Vale. It seems he didn’t want anyone to convince him not to do it, bringing Starks into Andal marriages rarely fare well.”

Wulfric sighed, “Though some of the fault it was mine, more for the fact that I’d married a woman from the Wull Clan and was happy to be in the mountains. My sons had married Flints so there wasn’t much need for us to come to Winterfell, there were four heirs to Rickard so we felt you didn’t need more Starks around but now…”

“Things are different” Benjen finished. It was unnerving to hear that Father had not kept in contact with kin purely to further his goals in the South. That was not good.

“Aye Lord Stark that they are. I’m glad we’re speaking the Old Tongue my Lord, I worried that you’d only know the common.”

“Our way is the way of the first men Lord Wulfric. I fear that would have happened had Maester Walys got his way but my Mother’s last argument to Father was that all Starks speak the Tongue First. It is our tongue, not the common. He held to that last wish, I think Old Nan forced that issue as well after Lyarra died. I only ever used the common in Winterfell when being tutored by Walys or at Harrenhal. And I only intend to use it with what Southern allies we have”

Wulfric smiled, “Good, Lyarra always had good sense. She’d have haunted him if he didn’t. Or Old Nan would have taught you if he didn’t.”

Benjen laughed at that “Aye she would have. From what I’ve been told she was as wild as Winter that one. Loved the North with all her heart, Old Nan once said. She also said Mother hated that Maester, never trusted him.” Benjen scowled at the thought of the Walys. He’ll die in front of all the North

Wulfric’s smile returned to solemn, “Speaking of the Maester, what did he do?”

“I was going to wait until the night and address all the bannermen but since you’re a fellow Stark you should know first. Read the parchment on the desk.”

Wulfric grabbed the parchment. It didn’t take long for the man to lose his temper and slam a fist into the desk. “I take it you’re kill the fuck. Carving traitor into his chest was a good start but I want his head off”

“He’ll die in front of all the soldiers Lord Wulfric. I’ll cut it off before we march South. The man who passes the sentence swings the sword.” Wulfric calmed hearing that. “His head will be taken down to Kings landing on a spike. Good message to the South. I’ll be presenting that to the bannermen along with all the other evidence we found in his chambers. He’s been corresponding with the Hightower Lords for years. It seemed the Citadel was bribed by them to send him to Winterfell.”

“You’ll be gaining the bannermen’s support quickly when you give them all of this. And executing him will definitely further it. They’ll know you’re the Lord of Winterfell.”

Before replying to that, Wulfric continued “But you’ll still have to prove your mettle to them if you want to have them listen to your commands. The Great Jon’s vying for it, might know you’re the Lord and can seemingly handle the North and Winterfell but he’ll see you as a green boy that’s unblooded. Killing Walys won’t be enough to change his view on you commanding the army, same for some of the others, especially the Boltons.”

Benjen gritted his teeth at that. He was more than aware of the Boltons. The stories of the Red Kings still terrified him deep down. It wasn’t too long in history since they had rebelled against the Starks, they had always been an issue. Another good thing about having more Starks around. Boltons will be less likely to make a move. It can be easy to kill a lone wolf if you’re smart, but a pack will eat you alive if you try to move. “You’re right on that aye, that can’t be avoided completely avoided until I fight in a battle and win but from what I know about the Umbers is they’re fiercely loyal but brash. I’ll have a way to prove I’m the wolf that will command the armies tonight.”

Wulfric raised his eyebrows at that. “I look forward to that. You sound confident. Let’s hope whatever you have up your sleeve won’t backfire on you.”

“It won’t” Benjen simply stated. It would work. That was one thing he was certain of.

“Good my Lord, now, what did you think of the Ladies that the bannermen brought?”

Benjen went red at that. It was a bit obvious that the bannermen were hoping to get a Stark marriage. Though to be honest he was glad of it. He needed a wife and more stark heirs. “The bannermen haven’t been subtle about it, I’ve been introduced to most of their sisters or daughters of an age with me. Not that I’m complaining though. It works to my plans.”

“And what will that be?” Wulfric questioned

“I intend to marry one of the lasses tonight in front of all the Lords in front of the heart tree. Old Nan and Luwin can teach her how to be the Lady of Winterfell and I get to cement my commitment to the bannermen of the North as opposed to southern gains and have an heir if I’m lucky while I fight. We need more Starks.”

“That we do, and you get a proper woman to fuck” Wulfric bluntly said.

Benjen grinned. “That I do, win, win.”

“Aye though the Tullies will be pissed off, will have said you reneged on your deal and could support the Targaryens.”

Benjen laughed at that to the shock of Wulfric, “They could if they were spiteful and stupid enough but they’ll need us, the Vale and the Stormlands to keep the Riverlands under their control. Half the bannermen of the Trident have already sided with dragon cunts against his neutrality. He’ll have to fight with us to keep his lands because the dragons won’t support a neutral Lord Paramount when other lords were more eager to serve. He gives us nothing and the terms he offered father can be achieved with a new port and some more keeps in the North to farm more land. And besides, that letter leaves him suspect and I won’t tolerate a Southern influence over the North. She’ll not understand our ways. She’ll push for southern marriages for my heirs, more influence of the faith pushing for conversion and she’ll treat bastards like nothing. We test our people on their worth not birth. And we don’t force people to convert faiths.

Wulfric nodded approvingly “It seems you’ve made up your mind my Lord. The North will appreciate that. The North Remembers and it will never forget choosing the North above all else.” The North Remembers, Good words to mark it. They’ll never forget Starks or of the North after tonight. And the South will learn that Starks only melt down south in their game. With War they’ll know a Stark should always be feared.

 “Have you picked which lady of the bannermen you’ll bed?” Wulfric queried

“If there was a sister of Roose Bolton I would have married her to assure his loyalty. I’ll just have to keep him under control. You’ll know as of tonight.”

“Good, well know you have mine and my family’s loyalty my lord. But I will tell you if you’re being an idiot.” Wulfric stated. He could always respect that statement. Honest advice would be necessary.

“Always appreciated. I want you and your sons and grandsons sitting all near the winter throne and head table. I want the North to see the Starks in strength.” Benjen stated. He wanted to see all them. Wulfric said they were a large bunch. A shame that I’ll have to get to know them through the war instead of peace, but better that than to never know.

“Of course, my Lord, I’ll tell my family at once” Wulfric went to leave but Benjen stopped him.

“Our Family Wulfric, and its Benjen” Wulfric smiled at that.

“Aye Benjen that we are”

“One last question Wulfric” He said with complete seriousness

“And what is that?”

“How old is old nan?”

Wulfric howled at that. “She was getting old when I left Winterfell. Only the North remembers her age!”

Benjen laughed properly for the first time since before Brandon went down South.

Chapter Text

Luwin

Being in the Great Keep of Winterfell with all the Lords of the North was a sight Luwin never expected to see in his life. Not unless he could become a maester but the new Warden of the North wanted someone who cared about his people, not one with an agenda against them. It was an admirable quality mused Luwin. I hope that’ll help with the bannermen. Help was something that Lord Benjen would need looking at them all. Loud was an understatement and chaotic could barely describe it. Northern Lords would always be tougher and more loyal than any Southern one but they were boisterous and you would have to prove that you were worthy of that loyalty. Can a boy of 14 prove that though? Lord Benjen looked calm though at the table talking to his newfound relatives while observing the lords with Rodrik and Martyn standing behind guarding him. Jory would have as well but Benjen had sent him to White Harbour.

 Learning of more Starks was a blessing, tonight probably would go a lot harder if he was a lone wolf, his leadership would be more contested, especially if he died with no immediate heir. The Boltons would have loved that, even the Karstarks as loyal as they are but they still would have had a strong claim. It was interesting to see more Starks at the table, eight of them not including Benjen. Wulfric, the elder, Beric and Beron the two sons then Artos and his brothers Edwyle and Brandon, and cousins Osiric and Lynessa Stark. They were a large brood and he would be working with Beron and the younger Starks. Only Wulfric, Beric and Artos would be fighting South, with Beron being appointed the commander of troops in the North. Only 20,000 would be fighting, the rest would defend the North. And according to Lord Benjen it assured that there will always be a Stark at Winterfell. It was a wise move and assured the Starks would be in complete control both in the North and while fighting south. That was the only thing that had worried the young Lord of Winterfell in the whole ordeal, there must always be a Stark at Winterfell. Luwin had advised on having a Karstark in Winterfell and the Lord was inclined to agree but they had both worried that it would set precedent of them being his heirs. Only Old Nan hadn’t worried, simply stating that there will be a Stark of Winterfell.

How she knew that I will never know. At least she was right.

Luwin’s thoughts were interrupted by the Lord of Winterfell raising his hand for silence. In this loud hall with Lords arguing amongst each other and drinking, it would have been hard for anyone to know that silence was called for, let alone from a boy of 14 but the hall went deathly silent. That was not expected at all from Luwin, but then again, what he did to the Maester may have given the Lord some more power. The Lords had been muttering about what the Maester had done since moving into the hall. Luwin knew and soon the Lords would too. Luwin had shuddered hearing that the young Lord had carved the words himself into his chest. Not that it was unjust but that a 14-year-old had done it with the conviction of a man who’d already killed. It seems grief kills the boy.  The Lords and ladies of the North stared at the young Warden in their silence.

Benjen spoke calmly. “Thank you, my Lords, for coming. I hope the food and drink has been good but it is time for action. We will be marching to war in 2 days’ time and I want everything in order for the war to come. We will avenge our dead and the South will never forget the wrath of the first men.” The opening got many cheers from the Lords and Ladies and plenty of boasts about how many of the Targaryen banners they were going to kill, the Umbers being some of the loudest. Always the Umbers making the loudest noise, though how they deal with raiders backs their words of being tough bastards in a fight. The cheers were a good start, thought Luwin, but all it takes is one bannermen to disagree and it’ll get a lot more chaotic. I hope his plan works.

Benjen continued on, “But first my Lords we must deal Justice to a traitor of the North.” That turned the cheers to grumblings. They knew it was going to be about the Maester. “In the Courtyard stands in chains the former Maester of Winterfell and he has been caught committing treason. Luwin, pass the evidence to all the Lords. The evidence will be as compelling as my words.”

All eyes had turned to Luwin as he had passed all the correspondences to the Lords. It didn’t take long for the silence and mutterings to turn into an eruption of shouts and declarations of violence. Only Roose Bolton remained silent but his face had gone dark. It seems the evidence had brought an emotion to the notoriously cold Lord of the Dreadfort. Rickard Karstark’s voice pierced the room. “I’ll turn that damned Hightower in the Reach into a pile of Rubble!”

The Glovers responded in kind, “That Maester dared to attack our faith like that!”

Great Jon Umber shouted, “I never thought I’d say it but you should give the fucker to the Boltons!”

Everyone Lord and Lady shouted in hatred for Walys and his crimes. The call for blood was unanimous, even Lord Manderly, a follower of the seven and the only house to follow it in the North shouted, “You were right to do what you did to him. When will you kill the southern fuck?” Luwin smiled at that, the man may have followed the seven but he was a Northerner through and through that was evident. He wouldn’t force conversions or betray the Starks though he had paled at that Maester’s actions, it could reflect badly on him despite innocence. My Lord has bannermen that are loyal definitely that is for sure.

Benjen smiled at Lord Manderly, clearly noticing the slight worry in his face. “Agreed my Lord, and don’t be worried Lord Manderly, you’re a northerner and the blood of the first men is in you as much as everyone here, there will be no attack on you and yours for following the faith.  Anyone who does will die the same as Walys, I won’t tolerate one of my most loyal bannermen being attacked for the crimes of ignorant Southerners. Most of us follow the Old Gods but we don’t convert people. Or act like zealots.” The last statement was a powerful one, the Lord knew to ease the worries of House Manderly and set a tone that he won’t tolerate unwarranted conflict between the bannermen.

Manderly had relaxed at the sentiment, giving thanks to Lord Benjen, with other Lords nodding in support.

Benjen continued on, “And to answer your question Lord Manderly, the fuck will die as we leave Winterfell. I will cut his head off with ice in front of the soldiers, and put it on a spike to carry South. His body will be offered to the Heart Tree. The man who passes the sentence swings the sword and I intend to show that to those I intend to lead”

That was met with nods of approval from all the Lords. Luwin heard Jeor, Jorah and Maege Mormont muttering “Our way is the old way” as they nodded and drank. So far, he’s doing well but it will come soon on the military matters Luwin thought with a grimace coming to his face.

And it did, although most of the plans of the march and how the war would be conducted went fair enough and telling them that they were to meet the Knights of the Vale, Tully forces and the might of the Stormlands at Riverrun in a month was supported easily. And a staunch commitment to putting Aerys’ and Rhaegar’s heads on spikes which had overwhelming support with cheers. However, it all ended when the Great Jon had stood in rage when he heard that Benjen would be commanding the armies, not appointing one of the Lords as a General. Luwin had heard the Lords commenting before the talk that the boy was too young to command being a green boy, and that he should only command small units nothing more and someone more experienced should be in charged. They’ll want me as a figurehead in the war and they’ll make me dependent on them after it. I can’t allow that. Benjen had stated when talking with Luwin and the Cassels. The lad was right about that. He needed to lead and not be forced into a regency. Even with older Starks to lead in his stead it would delegitimise his as the Warden of the North. His plans are excellent as well, he has the makings of a great strategist and tactician but they Lords still seem him as a green boy.

Great Jon boomed, “You may be the Lord of Winterfell and you’re proving fine at the domestic but boy this is war and you’re green. I’ve been making corpses of men since I was 12, I have 14 years more experience in killing than you. Your brothers have both fought but you haven’t in battle yet. You’re Green and You’ll give the command to me! I don’t listen to boys playing at war!” The Great Jon had turned the hall silent. Some nodded, others were ready to demand being in command instead. It could go wrong very quickly here for Benjen, worried Luwin. Looking at the Stark table, Beric and Beron had gone red with rage at the insult to Lord Stark, they may have only just met but they were staunchly loyal to Benjen that was evident. Wulfric remained stony, eyeing Benjen. Beric was about to stand when Lord Benjen put his hand on the man’s shoulders and laughed. It shocked Luwin, and all the Lords present, the Great Jon went red with rage. What’s the boy thinking, laughing at one of his most powerful bannermen?!

Great Jon Umber bellowed at the young Lord, “You think what I was said funny boy?!” There was more than a hint of menace in the man’s voice.

Benjen spoke, with a smile on his face, “Aye I do my Lord, you might be good at making corpses of men, and I may not have met battle but I can beat you on your arse without a sword!”

Luwin was stunned, was the young Lord must have gone insane, he couldn’t possibly be saying this to the Umber. He was a foot and a half taller than half the Lords and Ladies in the room. Unless… He’s not trying to goad him to fight, is he? And why are Rodrik and Martyn smiling? Benjen had been training non-stop with all of the Cassel family even through the bannermen’s arrival and fighting with any and all Lords and soldiers. I’ve had to clean a fair few of his bruises already. He was a strong fighter but still a skinny lad. Then it hit him; has he been planning for one of the Lords to challenge him to a fight?!

The Great Jon laughed, “Bahahaha, are you challenging me boy? A green boy like you has no fucking chance against me!”

Benjen shouted “Aye I am my Lord, I knock you on your arse without and I have the command of my armies and you’ll give me something else I want, you knock me on my arse and the command is yours and I’ll let you wield Ice until I’m a man grown by your eyes” The grin was still on Benjen’s face throughout but all the other lords were silent. Betting Ice like that was a dangerous thing. Lord Benjen you better know what you’re doing… The two Cassels were still smiling. Only Luwin and Lord Bolton had noticed that though.

Great Jon roared, jumping over the table to the centre of the Great Hall. “Aye deal, I’ll show you that you’re nothing but a green boy, you’ll be pissing in your breeches when I knock you down! Ice will look good on my back!”

Luwin watched as Benjen Stark unstrapped Ice and put it on the table, walking to the centre opposite the giant Umber. The Umber was 2 feet taller than Benjen but he was still smiling. The Boy has bollocks on him or he’s gone mad thought Luwin.

Benjen shouted, “You talk too much! Are you going to keep going on like as Southern Cunt flower who can’t act or are you going to show me that you’re a Northerner then!”

The Great Jon turned red at been called a Southerner and ran at the boy, faster than any man should that big, throwing a giant fist straight for the Lord’s face. Benjen quickly ducked to the side and jabbed the Umber in the kidney full force. The Umber yelled in pain, giving a growl. That shocked the Lords and Ladies, the Stark had managed to hurt the man in one punch. Everyone expected him to get knocked out immediately. Luwin thought that as well. The Umber turned to grab the Lord but Benjen moved around the man, swiftly stepping on the back of the man’s knee at force. Great Jon howled at that but still stood. Benjen grinned. The boy’s enjoying this Luwin realised.

“Come on Umber, can’t even hit a Green Boy once? I’ve hit you twice and made you scream like a Southern flower!” That was met with some laughs from the bannermen and some of the Starks at the table.

The Great Jon started to throw punches at the Lord, but Benjen dodged each one. It seems Rodrik’s taught the lad to fight quick and smart. A good way to even the odds, it looks like he’s waiting for something though before striking again, but what?

The answer came quick enough when the Great Jon opened his body slightly in a punch, Benjen grinned and to Luwin’s astonishment he moved forward and crouched to avoid the strike as Great Jon Umber went to strike and punched the Lord straight in the Solar plexus, Great Jon Umber lost his breath for a moment and bent over, eyes wide in shock that the boy went forward, that was just enough of a drop for Benjen to punch the man full force in the Jaw. Luwin noted it wasn’t hard enough to break the jaw but it made a cracking sound and blood spat out of Great Jon’s mouth. The Lords that were cheering and enjoying the fight were stunned into silence. The Great Jon had the wind knocked right out of him and was bleeding. Neither of the two were finished though, with the Umber going to grab Benjen and crush the lad but Benjen stepped to the side again and tripped the leg he hit earlier, sending the Great Jon Umber onto his arse with a giant thud. The Hall was silent, Luwin eyed the room seeing stunned faces among the Lords and Ladies, then seeing Wulfric, who had been stone-faced all-night smile and mouth to Benjen the word wolf to Benjen. Wolf indeed, and a smart one at that. The silence ended when Great Jon Umber stood up slowly and then he laughed.

“Haven’t had a fight like that in a while boy, you’re a fast fucker aren’t ya?!”

“And a smarter one than you Jon!” Shouted Whoresbane, Jon laughed harder to Luwin’s amazement.

It seems the pup of Rickard’s brood is a wolf!” Shouted William Dustin

The Hall started to cheer again until Benjen spoke jovially, “That was fun Lord Umber, we’ll have to fight some more on the road, will be fun to see you with a sword and not fighting full of ale!”

Great Jon smirked, “With pleasure My Lord, you’ve got Wolf’s blood, you’ll command us all fine!” Benjen smirked at that.

“Aye my Lord I will, but that wasn’t all I won, did I?”

“And what do you want my lord?” The Great Jon asked.

“Well, I was thinking your sister as a wife if she’ll have me” staring at the Lord and the woman at the Umber table. Luwin looked at the woman, she was a fair woman with a pretty face and skinny surprisingly for an Umber. And carrying a small axe at her side. A true Northern woman “I’ll marry her tonight in the Godswood and we can celebrate good brother” Benjen grinned.

The Great Jon stood silent for a moment then grinned, “Aye brother that sounds good to me, Ally will eat you alive if you treat her wrong though!”

“I will eat you alive if you do, but I’ll gladly accept!” shouted Ally Umber

Benjen laughed, “More than expected my lord”

The hall erupted in cheers, with the Lords and Ladies shouting STARK into the night as they left for the Godswood.

Luwin’s sense of worry left as he followed the crowd leaving the hall, Benjen had done well and secured the bannermen. And he’d secured a wife and a chance at getting an heir. He’s leaving nothing to chance in this war, giving us another Stark at Winterfell and having one of the most loyal bannermen as a good brother. And now he knows that the army will support him fully. I know we’ll win, he has my loyalty that was unquestioned.

Chapter Text

Artos

The Month since the Bannermen met in the Great Keep had been a hectic one. They had been marching south into the Riverlands with an army of just over 20,000. The number had rose to 22,000 by the time they arrived at Moat Cailin with the Manderlys gathering up more cavalry to bring South and the Reeds bringing some soldiers that would be capable outside of the Neck. They had been all been marching hard, now in the Riverlands and close to the Riverrun. Its been a hard march but that morale has been high. Benjen’s more than assured that. Thought Artos. He’d given the Lords high spirits marrying Ally Umber after his fight with the Great Jon, showing his full commitment to the North. The wedding was a short affair but the celebration was a big one throughout the night. The Lords and Ladies were still shocked at the fight but it still hadn’t stopped them from enjoying the night. I’m still stunned he managed that. Benjen had admitted to us at the head table before going to the bedding that he probably wouldn’t have won if the Great Jon had been sober. Wulfric had nodded approvingly at that, I think Grandfather’s glad the lad’s not cocky in victory, saying “Aye he probably would have but as long as you stayed standing, he would have supported you, you just needed to show you wouldn’t bend or break easily. You’ve got a loyal bannerman and good brother there, he’ll fight with you until the end.” Before Benjen could reply to Grandfather, Lord Cerwyn had called for the bedding. Whatever had happened after that had resulted in the lad having a sly smile on his face since up until the execution. It seemed he was quite happy with his new wife and more than happy to meet his bride nightly. Lucky Bastard, thought Artos, grinning at the memory as he rode with the troops.

The execution had also had brought the morale up, showing that he could kill when necessary. True to his word Benjen had executed Walys in front of all the soldiers outside the walls of Winterfell, smile gone with a face as stony and solemn as Wulfric. Artos had slightly shuddered at that face. It wasn’t the most natural thing to see on someone only a year younger than himself. It was a face for winter. Benjen had seemed quite a joyful person but it seemed that the grief and anger had given him a hard face when he needed it. His composure gave him a sense of power and command though as he approached the block in the silence. The snivelling, dishevelled Maester on the other hand had none of that; He was crying and begging in the common tongue. I doubt he ever bothered to learn the Tongue when he came North. His father muttered Craven as he brought the man to the block. Walys did not deny his guilt when asked for any last words but begged for mercy from The Lord of Winterfell. The lord said that a beheading was a mercy. If I wasn’t merciful, I would have given you to the Boltons Walys. You deserve that. At that Benjen had unsheathed the heavy great sword Ice and swung cleanly at the Maester’s neck ending the cries and begging. All that could be heard was the blood splattering onto the ground and a powerful smell of shit emerged from the Maester’s death. A shame that sword is too heavy to be used in battle for such a young Lord but it was impressive that he can carry it and swing it for an execution. The Lord had placed the head on a spike to be brought South. The soldiers got to see the execution but only the Lords saw what was done to the corpse after. Lord Benjen brought it to the heart tree and removed the entrails from the body as an offering to the heart tree. He had said he would do that to Rhaegar alive as a true Northern Sacrifice.

The events at Winterfell had made it clear that Benjen was the man that could lead the North and it had eased everyone’s worries about fighting with a Green Boy. Each of the bannermen had taken turns carrying the spike with Walys’ head on it. The March into the Riverlands had been relatively peaceful and news had trickled through that Robert Baratheon had won three battles at Summerhall in one day and had only taken minimal losses at the Battle of Ashford, and was last heard to be marching his troops to Riverrun. It was a good start for the war in Artos’ opinion but Father had said that winning battles didn’t mean the war. It made the Northern army itch for a fight. They hadn’t been a proper battle yet and were itching to fight. There had been some minor skirmishes however during the march with Scouts sighting Targaryen banners marching in the direction of different riverlords’ keeps. It seems they were trying to rally the other half of the river lords. Benjen had ordered attacks on them all to prevent them from rallying any more troops. He had also ordered that different people should be in the skirmishes each time to get the men tested for battle. There had been no causalities on the Northern side and those royalists that weren’t killed in the fights told us that Jon Connington was hand of the King and trying to consolidate the Riverlands to the Royalists’ cause. Benjen had sent riders to Riverlords to treat and rally some of them without the Tullies’ help. So far that brought the Blackwood House into the fold and the Mallisters, something of the more annoyed bannermen at Lord Tully for not declaring against the crown, stating they would meet them at Riverrun.

Artos had fought in three of these skirmishes and Benjen had fought in them all with different bannermen and soldiers. They had both fought together in the first skirmish and killed soldiers for the first time.  Artos’ first kill was a bloody one, the man was making a move to attack one of the men, Artos managed to intercept and impaled the man. The blood went everywhere and seeing the man’s eyes face as he spluttered blood from his mouth was a hard sight to see watching a man die in front of you. I doubt that face will ever leave me. He managed to hold back the need to vomit thankfully. He had been fighting alongside some levies, Benjen, Roose Bolton and Lord Tallhart. He wasn’t going to buckle. I’m a Stark, we no how to control ourselves, he had chanted that in his head to stop the urge. Benjen had giving him a knowing look at the time and when they returned to camp, he said he felt the same in the skirmish. He’d had his first kill outside of an execution in the skirmish. He said he was glad to feel like that though, better not to revel in death or you’ll lose your control. They were wise words, Artos thought. Noticing the deep thought on the words, Benjen had laughed and said that was what his brother Eddard had said to him when he had asked him of his fights with the mountain clans in the Vale. Artos replied saying that “Grandfather said the same when he took us to our first execution in the mountains.” The war was going to get a lot bloodier than those skirmishes, thought Artos, as he rode alongside the troops to Riverrun. They were within sight of the castle, not as grand as Winterfell but a lot more ornate and surrounded by water.

Lord Glover shouted, “The castles well defended but it’s a bit too nice looking for me!”

Crow food Umber responded in kind, “Aye way too pretty for me!”

That got a chuckle out of the Mormont family and a large number of the troops he was riding with. Artos laughed as well, “It seems the Trout has some of his banners here, hope they aren’t all dainty like that castle!”

Father rode alongside, “Aye it seems they’re readying for a fight, hopefully not with us. Looks like all the vale knights are here too, we’ll just have the Storm lords to wait for now”

“Do you think the Tully family will support us Father?” Artos asked

“Aye son they’ll have to, the place isn’t being besieged so at the least that means we know they’re in talks with the Vale, we’ll be joining them soon.”

“How do you think the Tullies will take Benjen’s marriage?” Artos wondered, he hoped they wouldn’t take it as an excuse not to fight with them. From the way Benjen spoke about the terms he had found for Brandon’s wedding to Catelyn, he thought Lord Tully bargained unfairly and like a Fishwife.

At that question Grandfather had ridden to our position in the march, he had been riding close to Lord Benjen for this part of the march, every Lord had alternated so the Warden of the North could get to know his people better. “You’ll find out soon enough Artos, The Benjen’s asked for you, the Mormonts and the Great Jon to accompany him alongside Lord Bolton to Negotiate. Son, you’ve been given command of the men for now to get them in order. Artos had paled a bit at that. He didn’t expect to be at the negotiating table. He’d been of the mountains all his life, he hadn’t expected to meet a Lord Paramount that wasn’t kin.

Grandfather continued on “I’ll be there as well, Benjen wants us to there as a show of force. He wants the trout to feel under pressure”

Artos relaxed a bit at that, “I suppose that explains why the Great Jon is at the table then, he’s not exactly the negotiating type”

That got a few laughs from the Lords, Grandfather even smirked at that, he continued on. “Best we all hurry, the scouts say that the Storm Lords are almost here as well, won’t be long until we’re all in a proper battle”

 

The castle of Riverrun was a busy one, there wasn’t a single person inactive. It seems the Tully is preparing regardless of his position in the war. Thought Artos. The Lords were being escorted by one of the servants to Hoster Tully’s chamber. The solar was already loud, Lord Arryn must already be at the table. The Tully was shouting about what he would get out of the Rebellion and what would benefit the Tullies. Not the Riverlands but the Tullies. The Trout’s a selfish bastard that’s for sure. His words made Artos grimace. It seemed Benjen was of the same opinion. “Well my Lords it seems the Trout’s going to be a pain. Let’s see where they’re at in getting their support.” The Lords nodded, entering the solar to see a small group of Riverlords and Vale lords. On the Vale side of the table, there was an old man with grey hair, must have been Jon Arryn, he was almost as old as Grandfather. Seems he has held up well like him though. There was a man by his side wearing Arryn Colours which must have been his heir and a man with runestones embedded on his armour. On the side of the Riverlords stood two red headed men, the loud one was blatantly Hoster Tully, the other wore a black armour with a Trout on it. The Blackfish. Artos realised. Even in the mountains the Blackfish was known for fighting in the war of the ninepenny Kings. He was a good fighter if the stories were true. He had been silent amongst the shouting. Behind the two were some of the riverlords. He only recognised the Blackwood Sigel and the Mallister one. All the Riverlords were bickering amongst themselves. They’re a divided bunch these ones. Thought Artos. He had been told that some were already with the Targaryens, Darry and Whent to name a few.

The shouting stopped when Jon Arryn turned to the group of Northern Lords and looked straight at Benjen and him. He gave a slightly tearful smile. He must have seen the Stark look in us. Benjen had said that Ned Stark respected the man greatly, seemed it went both ways. “Lord Stark, I’m glad you are here… I’m sorry about your family, none of them deserved this”

Artos noticed Benjen soften slightly at that but it ended as quickly as it came and all that was left was the face of the Warden of the North, “Thank you my Lord, but it wasn’t you who harmed my family, we’ll speak of them later when we get this fishwife of a trout to fight with us.” That was met with a snort of held back laughter from the Blackfish of all people. It seems his brother agrees with lord Benjen. That could help us a lot. Hoster Tully glared at Lord Stark and began to shout. “A Fishwife Boy!? I’m the lord Paramount of the Riverlands and you need me more than I need you. Which one of these is your regent and I’ll talk to him, he can agree to my terms”

Artos physically felt the bannermen accompanying Benjen go cold with fury. He swore he heard the Mormonts growl at that. Lord Stark though remained impassive, almost as emotionless as Bolton. “You’ll be dealing with me Lord Tully, I have no regent. Any terms we all come to will be agreed to by me. And I call you Fishwife because the terms you gave my father were extortionate and unfair to the North, I won’t tolerate that today” Artos noted a slight smirk from the young Lord when he said Fishwife. It seemed the Arryns and a few of the riverlords were inclined to agree because they had nodded slightly to it.  

Tully’s glare only intensified at that, “My terms were more than fair to you Northerners” He said that a bit derisively, the Lords aren’t going to like that. I don’t like this man. “And if anything, I’ll be wanting them met with more. You’ll be bringing house Tully to war, and you need our swords. I’ll be wanting you to uphold your Father’s agreement, you’ll marry my daughter Catelyn, boy and Lord Arryn is to marry Lysa for a start. Then favourable trade agreements from both of your kingdoms. I’ll also want cheaper goods from your Kingdoms, and some gold to cover any damages to Riverrun, only then will I agree to commit my forces to this fight of yours against the King.”

The man’s a weasel that’s for sure, he wants to bleed us all dry. None of the Lords looked pleased at the offer on the table. Even the old Lord looked displeased. He’d get a young wife out of it but from what I’ve been told High as Honour are his words, he won’t see it as right to take a woman that he was more than twice her age.

Lord Arryn objected immediately, “You want me to wed a woman who I’m old enough to be her Grandfather?! I won’t do that, nor will I move Denys and his son’s place as the heir to the Vale!” The Vale Lords had nodded in approval, these negotiations are not going well.

Lord Tully continued on, “You will both marry my daughters, they will be your Lady Paramounts if I am to fight in this war!”

The Northern Lords were especially displeased at that, Great Jon looked apocalyptic and the Mormonts were giving the Trout a hard stare. Grandfather had his hand to his sword. Artos didn’t realise that he also had his hand on his sword. The Trout is good at riling us up that if for sure.  Lord Stark remained cold despite the anger of the lords, staring at the man. He doesn’t like the man, if it were the bannermen he would have been a lot more amiable and almost joking. This man he hates. Replying to the Trout, Lord Stark countered. “Well my Lord that won’t be possible because I’m already married to Lord Umber’s sister. We wed underneath the heart tree at Winterfell. That agreement only applied to the heir to Winterfell, not its Lord, making it null and void.”

Lord Tully went red at that. “You dare break the agreement your father made with me boy! I will not stand it, you can put that woman aside and give her moon tea to prevent any bastard from coming into this world to challenge Catelyn’s heirs! You only married in front of false Gods, it will be ignored!”

That got a rise out of the Northern Lords present and Lord Blackwood unsurprisingly, Great Jon Umber slammed the table in the solar. “You dare threaten to put my sister aside for your fish daughter and I’ll drop you off your own castle walls southern cunt!”

Maege Mormont also shouted at the Tully “You dare insult our Gods, the last time an Andal threatened our Gods we put his head on a spike! I’ll gladly do it to you and feed your body to the bears!”

Lord Stark spoke again, this time louder and with a snarl, the bannermen quietened, even the Vale and riverlords who had been grumbling.

 “I will not be putting my wife aside Tully and neither Lord Arryn and I will be agreeing to your terms. It’s extortion at the highest level and you need us a hell of a lot more than we need you. You will agree to our terms if you want to remain Lord Paramount of the Riverlands.”

Lord Tully laughed at that “And how do you figure that boy? Do you think you can threaten us? We’ll just side with the rightful king and his son and you’ll lose all of the Riverlands!” Artos smiled there, he knew Lord Benjen was going to rip him apart at this point.

Benjen smiled at Lord Tully and calmly replied, “you’ve already lost half of the Riverlands as it is Tully. The Darry and Whent Lords have already joined up with the hand of the King, some of your most powerful bannermen I may add. House Frey hasn’t even bothered to show up and they have some of the largest levies in your Kingdom. And as it stands the bannermen you have here are more than eager to fight from the letters I’ve sent and received on the roads. If you married your daughters to your bannermen they might be inclined to support you and you would have had an actual force to bargain with. Your lords here won’t bow to a Madman and his kidnapping son and neither will you. You think you have power of me because I’m a boy but you don’t. I have the entire might of the North in support of me and as you can see fellow Starks who support me. If the nods that I’ve gotten from your brother throughout this negotiation tell me anything you don’t even have his support in staying neutral or siding with the Targaryens. And I am serious about you on your illustrious title. You don’t side with us and the Targaryens will strip you of your title for treating with us in the first place in favour of the more loyal houses or they will question why you remained neutral. With us you have a chance at keeping your tenuous control on these lands. I only need you so my troops don’t have to waste their time fighting a fishwife liege lord.”

That shut the Tully up and got the riverlords nodding in approval. Artos couldn’t help himself and laughed at the Tully, feeling brave he decided to speak “It seems this so-called boy Lord has all the cards here, are you going to fight with us or do you want to fight all of us? We’re as ruthless as our Warden and don’t take kindly to our gods being threatened.”

The Tully paled slightly and then Benjen and Grandfather began to laugh, followed by the Northern Lords, Jon Arryn and the Blackfish and Lord Blackwood.

The Blackfish finally spoke, “I’ll tell the men that we’ll be fighting with House Stark and the rebellion. I’ve been itching for a fight and fighting with this lot should be fun. Unless you want to fight against Lord Stark brother. I’ll have to wager on him winning against you I’m afraid.” Artos smirked at that, noticing the riverlords smirking as well.

The Trout gave a glare to his brother “Go inform the men that we’ll be fighting with the rebels then” He turned towards Stark and Arryn “I will still want something out of this rebellion my lords”

Before Benjen and Lord Arryn could reply, one of the lords barged in, “My lords, the Storm lords have arrived, Robert Baratheon has sent his troops ahead to keep the Royalists on him. He’s trapped at the stony sept and the Royalist army is searching for him with the hand of the king leading it”

The Lords went silent until Hoster Tully spoke, “That’s half a day’s ride from Riverrun.”

Lord Arryn spoke firmly “Then we better march now before they find my foster. I won’t let him die”

Lord Benjen agreed, “Aye Ned called him a friend, I won’t let another fall to those dragon cunts.”

I’m going to battle, this is it. Artos thought grimly. The war was finally here.

Chapter Text

Lord Connington

Robert Baratheon was a fool. It was a bold move to split off from his own army to prevent them from being attacked from behind. It might have saved all of his army but it doomed him. He was trapped somewhere in the small town and Connington would find him. If I can kill Robert this rebellion will be over before it truly starts. The Storm Lord may have won at Summerhall but it didn’t mean he could win against the crown. And with their Lord Paramount dead the Storm Lords will have to bend the knee and join my forces, then we’ll only have to face and a boy if he dares to march south of the neck. There had been no word of the North since Grafton had arrived informing them of losing Gull town but managing to burn Eddard Stark’s ship and leaving Winterfell to a boy of 14.

The boy will not fight, he’s too young and Rhaegar’s got his sister. He’ll be too afraid to fight, he’ll fear being burnt alive and hung like his brothers and father, the smell of burnt wolf was still in the Red Keep. It would be easy to quell any resistance for his Prince Rhaegar. It might even give him the power to become Prince Regent and he would be hand permanently. Aerys was a Madman, he was no Silver Prince and him and those savage wolves pushed Rhaegar into this predicament. He just had to find the damned Baratheon and Rhaegar would have won before it begun! So far, the search with an entire army at his call had not found the man despite the size of the town and the Baratheon. How hard can it be to find the man? They had been searching everywhere, even the sewers but the man remained elusive. He was a loud giant at Harrenhal, how can I not find the brute?

The search had gone on for most of the day but there had still been no sight of the brute. Were these townsfolk helping the Baratheon Brute? Were they working against their Prince? He had held some of the townspeople hostage already to assure their loyalty but that wasn’t enough it seemed. Growing irritated, Connington approached one of the soldiers to demand some answers, “How can an entire army not find a single man soldier?!”

The soldier had balked at hearing the command, stuttering in response, “We’re looking Lord Hand, but the man seems to have vanished.”

Unhappy with the answer Connington shouted, “Not good enough soldier, I want all of the Townspeople in the courtyard, that way they can’t help the brute if they are. If any of them were him I want them executed.”

The soldier nodded “Aye milord that will be done”

At that the Bells started to clang in the sept, that annoyed Connington more, “and someone head to the sept, I don’t want to hear that clanging on while we search for the scum”

Connington waited at the courtyard in the small town but the bells kept clanging and very few of the townsfolk were being brought to the courtyard. The town isn’t large, this should be easy. The Bells kept ringing and ringing as some soldiers from his army approached him, growing more and more angry at the simple task that wasn’t being carried out he yelled “Where are the townsfolk, I ordered them here now”

One of the soldiers responded, shouting to be heard over the bells, “we’re trying Lord Hand but they’re barricading their doors and refusing to leave saying its for their own safety. They won’t budge”

“You are soldiers are you not?”

They nodded at that, “Then use your fucking swords against these peasants for your Prince and King!”

The soldiers ran off at that to get the job done. It wasn’t long after when Ser Myles Mooton, the knight he had placed in charge of one of search parties came running to the courtyard screaming, it was getting harder and harder for Connington to hear with the bells still going on. Whatever it is it better be him saying they’ve found Baratheon or I’ll find a way to strip him of his knighthood. “What is it Mooton?! You better have found Baratheon!”

“No Lord Hand! We’re being overrun by an army, Starks, Tullies and Arryns, we’re being pushed back from the South Gate and we’ve lost the walls!”

Connington went silent for a moment then ordered one of the lords, Grafton a loyalist of the Vale, “Rally the soldiers and hold where you can, if we can’t push the rebels out, we retreat out of the North Gate! And kill any rebel leaders you can!” What soldiers were near him rallied and some ran to inform the men. It was going to be a bloodbath for his troops, he hadn’t properly defended the town, and left all his cavalry to the North Gate where he would have expected any Vale troops to come from. He hadn’t expected the Tullies to fight with the Rebels, they would have held them up from marching. With a sense of dread, he knew that this would end poorly, but I’ll kill as many as I can for Rhaegar, especially that wolf Bitch’s brother, put the North and their savages to heel with no more Starks to rally them. He could kill a boy playing at war, that was something he knew.

Robert Baratheon

I’m trapped. Robert Baratheon knew that much being stuck in the town’s brothel, the Peach. Worse places to be trapped though. The Townsfolk had been moving him around to keep him hidden from the Royalist forces after he sent his army to Riverrun to meet allies to prevent them from being attacked from behind on a march and to meet with his allies. Jon, I hope you’re there and ready to fight. Until aid could come, he was stuck in the brothel. At any other time, Robert Baratheon would have enjoyed it, being with every whore in the building. This time though he could barely even attempt to bed one of them. Ned wouldn’t have approved. Not when I’m supposed to be fighting for Lyanna. He thought with a pained sigh.

His brother in all but blood, the brother I chose, was dead. He hadn’t taken it well when Lord Grafton had burnt the ship Ned was to take North. He had feigned loyalty to Jon and then spat in his face by burning it, leaving Ned turn die in fire. Another Stark lost to the flames Robert would have died if he had left with him but he needed to talk strategy with Arryn for gaining his lands’ support because he had not been there for so long. Robert had been grief stricken when news had come. He had almost wept, he would of if his rage wasn’t there. Ours is the fury. Jon was almost lost at the news. The man saw us like sons, Ned’s death was as hard as him as it is on me. The two had sieged Gull Town after that to regain control of the port. He killed as many of the dragon supporting cunts as possible. He wanted to smash Lord Grafton to death with his Warhammer but the man had fled, let Lyn Corbray defend the town instead. He snapped his spine and killed the man in the fight in a fury. The man was an idiot to fight against Lord Arryn.

He’d heard news from the North when he arrived at Storm’s end that they would meet at Riverrun to join the fight against the dragons, written by Benjen Stark himself, the last male Stark left. He had smiled at the news, he may be a boy of 14 but he knew when it was time to fight and Northerners were notoriously tougher fuckers. He had vowed to keep the young Lord safe in the war if he could. He’s Ned’s only brother in blood left. I can’t let the pup die. But I can’t do it hiding in a damned brothel! Robert grimaced at the thought, he didn’t like being confined. He wanted Connington dead so he could go and kill Rhaegar and Aerys. But I’d die if I went out there. Connington had the might of the Crownlands at his command, 12,000 strong, 4000 of which were cavalry. Not all the Crownlands was mustered clearly but what they could in such short notice, about half their forces, was here. It was a grim situation but it was amusing to know that 8000 soldiers couldn’t find a single man.

Robert’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard the bells start clanging and ringing. The townsfolk had told him that they would ring it if an army or raiders and bandits were approaching. Robert grinned and went to put his armour on. No bandits would be stupid enough to raid a town with an army occupying it. And there’s no chance any reinforcements will have come to help, they were too far or would have been occupied trying to prevent the Vale and North from coming to his aid. This army was friendly. He walked to the door of the brothel, leaving a purse of gold for them, despite not actually doing anything and grabbed his Warhammer to join the fight giving a grin to the women of the establishment. I’m not sitting out of this fight, that cunt Connington is going to die.

Charging out of the brothel, Robert Baratheon surged into battle to the surprise of a group of 10 soldiers in the streets. They had been running from something. Before they could react, he had smashed three of them into the building opposite, their bodies dropping to the floor as their skulls smashed into the wall and hammer. That got the rest’s attention, there were 7 left. 1 of the soldiers tried swinging his sword at him but Robert had just moved back and smashed his hammer into his ribs and charged straight into the second one before he could react bringing the hammer right up the man’s bollocks and into his stomach. I’m big and carrying a hammer bigger then men but that doesn’t mean I’m not fast. The second man dropped to the ground, shit and blood hitting the floor of the streets. The 5 soldiers left screamed and tried to charge him at once. He deflected them all and kept hitting them until they were a squashed mess. A good start but I want more of these men dead. I need to kill Connington, but, where is he? I need to join up with the army. Just as Robert wondered where to go, he heard steps approaching him and chants that were as loud as the bells ringing. That sounds familiar. The murmurings got nearer but the soldiers running from it got there first. About 40 of them were running in lines of 4 were running towards him. This is going to be fun, Robert Baratheon thought as he charged at the line of royalist soldiers. Shouting “For Ned!” as he barged into them smashing through their bodies and pushing them back towards the chanting. Getting nearer, Robert realised what the chanting was, It’s the Old Tongue, they’re running shit scared from the Northerners! He’d heard Ned speak some of the tongue when telling him of the North. It must have been terrifying to the soldiers but to Robert it was like music. The Northerners had come to avenge Ned! The soldiers were stuck and now had to fight on two fronts. From what Robert could see on the other side were a group of armoured pike men with shields shouting as they pushed the soldiers into him. He smashed into the soldiers, hoping to meet the Northerners in the middle, he was drenched in blood at this point and the street was becoming covered by corpses, both by his hand and the Northerners. He could finally hear what they were chanting, it was just 3 words, “An Faol Sealg.” The pike men stopped at the sight of him, covered in bloodied armour. One of the men and a woman pushed through the line and greeted him in the common. “I’m guessing you’re Robert Baratheon then?” the man asked, not even raising an eyebrow at the corpses he made.

Responding loudly, “Aye that would be me, I’m guessing you’re Lord Stark’s men?” The woman answered this time, “Aye, Maege and Jeor Mormont of Bear Island, you fight well fae a southerner!”

“Where’s Connington at?!”

“Being pushed back by Lord Stark, Denys Arryn and the Tullies tae the Sept, head tae it at the first left down where we came doon fae” Jeor shouted. The Bells still hadn’t stopped. “We’d come and join but Lord Stark wants us tae bring oor archers tae the North Gate and wipe oot any soldiers on the way”

The pike men moved to the side at that, expecting him to go through. He was both glad and worried to hear that Benjen was making his way to fight Connington. The boy’s got bollocks, fighting with his men, good man but he better not fucking die. Grinning, Robert charged through the gap, making his way to the sept. I’ll keep the lad safe Ned and I’ll get Lyanna back don’t you worry. He ran right through to the sept where the royalist soldiers were being pushed back to the sept. It was a bloodbath and the Royalist army was providing it. They were being slaughtered by the armies of the North and Riverlands. He’d seen two men, one as big as him wielding a great sword cleave a man in two and impale another and a smaller man with grey hair swing a battle axe through a man’s neck, sending the head flying shouting STARK. Robert’s laugh boomed at that. Ned was right, Northerners are real fighters. As he was fighting the soldiers that had seen him with ease, he looked for Benjen, finding him in Stark armour, seeing for a flash the grey eyes of the Starks and brown hair. He was small and skinny but the lad was holding his own, wielding a broad sword and killing two in quick succession and a giant great sword on his back. He’s a good fighter, quick on his feet. Robert thought happily. Robert started to move towards Benjen as he saw him moving to defend Denys from Connington. Denys had taken a stab to the side and leg and was on his knees at the front of the Sept. Benjen was being pushed back but then something happened and the lad was overwhelming the Lord Hand. The lad’s got a bite. Robert’s attention shifted in the battle, seeing red when he saw a man with a yellow tower on his shield slowly move in behind Connington to support him. It was Lord Grafton! Robert bolted forward, running at full force and raising his hammer shouting “For NED!!!!!” Benjen won’t die by that cunt’s hands Ned I promise you that!

 

Benjen

The plan that the Lords of the North, Vale and Riverlands had agreed on for attacking the royalists was a smart one and it was working extremely well, especially since the Storm lords had reported that Connington had not properly defended the town, leaving his Cavalry at the North gate alone. They would have the knights of the vale distract the riders at the North gate, getting them to chase the Vale Knights off, while the foot of the North and Riverlands would push from the South Gate, trapping the foot soldiers in the town. It would have been quicker to swarm the North Gate but this way prevented any of the royalists from escaping. Benjen had also convinced the lords to use pike men to push the soldiers back and safely escort blackwood and Hornwood archers to the North Gate to fire on the Cavalry from behind when the knights brought them back from chase. Brynden Tully had also informed them that the town would ring a bell if an army approached. He had insisted that the knowledge was only privy to Riverrun for being in their lands so Connington would not expect an attack, or if he did, he would expect it to come from the North based on his defences. They had agreed to only bring some of their forces. Benjen only brought 3000 troops and the Tullies brought 4000 whilst the Vale Knights number 5000 to give enough reason for the Cavalry to pursue them and 2000 of their foot.

The plan had worked perfectly and the army had taken the men in the town by surprise, making short work of those near the South Gate. The pike men had gradually pushed through the soldiers in streets, pushing them further and further back. They had gradually forced their way through, either killing the soldiers that tried to fight the pikes or making them run. Some were being pushed to the North gate where the archers would take position and take out the riders. Benjen would not be a part of that group led by the Mormonts and Karstarks. He was part of the group heading to the stony sept. The area was much larger so they wouldn’t have the small streets to successfully use the pikes. From this point on we may have the numbers but we’re less defended. Its going to be a tough slog. Benjen thought.

Though with the men he was with, he felt confident going into the fray. Seeing the Great Jon and Wulfric Stark charge into battle against the loyalists at the sept was a sight. They tore through the soldiers with the Great Jon cutting bodies apart as he fought like they were twigs and Wulfric’s axe literally smashed through shields. I knew that old Stark would be a terror on the field. He couldn’t watch their fight though as he had his own to deal with. Benjen sliced through as many as possible, pushing them further towards the sept. He was doing well, they were well trained but he was quick enough to keep from being hit, giving him the chance to kill some of them. He wasn’t gorged in blood like his good brother and fellow stark, or as masterful and graceful as the Blackfish and Denys Arryn as he was seeing, but he could kill and he was killing as many of them as he could with his troops. I see why Brandon loved to fight, it is exhilarating when you don’t have to think about what you’re doing beyond staying alive.

Benjen’s attention had shifted from the regular soldiers to Denys Arryn who was fighting a red-haired man with a griffin on his armour, that must be Connington, Denys may have been graceful in style from what he’d seen fighting the foot soldiers but he wasn’t a master and the Lord Hand was clearly better than him. Benjen stabbed his way through the men he was fighting, making a path towards Denys, getting faster and faster as he saw the man struggling against the hand of the King. He’ll die if I don’t get there in time. Taking a slice to the side and the knee, Denys Arryn went down to the ground, still alive but in no position to fight. Connington grinned as he made for the killing strike but Benjen was fast and managed to put his sword in front of Connington’s hand. Seems I’m now the inexperienced swordsman fighting someone with years of experience. Benjen thought. Connington smirked at the sight of Benjen in front of him, making for a strike at Benjen’s head but Benjen deflected it with his sword quickly but the man kept coming, clearly going for the kill. Seems he doesn’t like Starks like his liege. Sidestepping, Benjen managed to make his own strikes at the man but he held his own, smiling arrogantly and as Benjen made a strike, the Lord Hand spoke as he defended and pushed back, “It seems the pup of Winterfell thinks he can fight, thinking he can get his wolf bitch sister back. You’ll die and whatever sire of Rhaegar’s from her can rule your savage kingdom!”

If the man was trying to bait Benjen into losing control it had worked. He had snapped and was furious. Connington thought he could make a strike to his chest but Benjen moved to the side and swung his sword right into the man’s armour, then kept striking, faster and more violently at each one. The hand was being pushed back, slowing down at each block. Benjen grinned as he saw the cunt move further back as he kept striking at the man, sowing worry into his face as the bells rang around the town. Wolfblood is in my veins! His eyes were solely on Connington and he was going to kill the man, “YOU DARE INSULT MY SISTER!!!” he roared as he finally struck the man in a gap of his armour, he’d made him bleed and wasn’t going to stop. Connington was barely able to block at this point but Benjen hadn’t noticed another coming to defend his commander, pushing his sword in front of his to defend the hand. He had lordly colours on he did not recognise but it meant another skilled fighter to fight alongside Connington. His blood was raging though so skill aside he was going to fight them alone. Luckily Benjen didn’t have to fight the two when he heard a thundering war cry that was louder than the bells shouting “FOR NED!!!!!!”

Tearing his way through what loyalist troops were left a giant in blood drenched armour with antlers on his helmet smashed through what loyalists that got in his way, turning them to bloodied corpses, heading straight for the new Lord he was to face. That must be Robert Baratheon, Benjen realised, Ours is the Fury indeed.

Benjen swore he saw the man trying to defend the hand freeze at the sight of the bloodied giant. Taking the opportunity, Benjen pushed the terrified man out of the way to push into Connington. He was going to kill the man. Connington had regained some of his speed but Benjen still felt the Wolfblood pumping, giving him the strength to knock the man’s sword out of his hand. Connington went for his axe strapped to his side but Benjen struck him with his sword, making another cut and forced the man to the floor. Ignoring the look of terror on the man’s face Benjen plunged his sword right through the former hand’s mouth, shouting “For Lyanna!” Satisfied but not out of the fight, Benjen turned to help Baratheon but the man didn’t need it, he had thrown his Warhammer right into the Lord’s leg and was beating the man to death with his fists. When he had finished the Lord, or what was left of him, was a broken torso with a head that had been crushed to the ground. What did the man do to deserve his hate?

The Stony sept was silent, not even the bells had stopped ringing. The battle in the town had clearly ended, there were no sounds of battle anywhere by the sounds of it. Robert Baratheon had finally stopped punching the bloodied corpse to see the same sight that Benjen had. I’ There were no royalists left at the sept, only the men of the North, Riverlands and Vale. Great Jon Umber walked forward with a giant grin on his face, slapping Benjen on the back, shouting “We’ve won good brother! We’ve taken the town and you’ve killed the Lord Hand, showed those southern cunts that they’re made of piss!”

Benjen nodded at the man, shocked that he’d managed to kill the bastard, “Aye Jon we have but there’s still work to be done though, tally our dead and injured, start with Denys Arryn, he took battering from the late hand. And we still need word on the cavalry outside!”

Great Jon smiled and went to work. Wulfric simply stated “Well done, you fought well, Wolfblood is definitely in you.” Benjen could only nod at the statement, still slightly stunned at the carnage that him and his men had caused, not a single piece of ground could be seen for the blood and corpses. Benjen snapped out of it, remembering he couldn’t stop until they’d heard word from the archers and vale knights about the Cavalry.

Jon Arryn

He may be an old man but he was still an Arryn and being a strong rider was to be expected. Age hadn’t stopped that. I’m old but that doesn’t mean I can’t ride a horse. The riders’ plan had been a simple one but an important one. They needed to distract the groups of royalist cavalries while the foot marched in from the south so they could take the town and place the archers at the North Gate to take the horsemen out when the Vale knights lured them back. It was a good plan that would wipe out all of the royalist army though a much slower one. Most had advocated a quick storming of the North Gate with their overwhelming might but when the Storm lords and their scouts mentioned their defences, a more tactful approach emerged, taking them by surprise from the South which would prevent any troops from escaping to King’s landing. Though it was only Benjen that had thought about using pike men and having archers brought in to man the walls, requiring the knights to lure the horsemen away instead of a charge as planned. It was risky if the archers weren’t in place at the time though for the riders return, making the knights of the vale more tired if they had to go back to the original plan.

Jon and his knights and split into groups, planning to ride back to the walls with the cavalry in chase. It had been a hard chase but they were making their way back to the town of stony sept with the royalist cavalry behind. They’re fast but not as skilled as my knights, and a lot less rested. His riders had been well rested before the march to rescue Robert so they had some advantage over the royalists which had been on a long ride, chasing Robert’s army. Riding closer and closer, Jon began to worry, the bells were silent. Is it over? Have we won or have I lost another I call son? He hoped that they had won the fight on the inside. He couldn’t cope with losing his heir, foster son or Benjen, all that was left od Ned’s family. If they hadn’t won, it was a bad start for the rebellion. They would have lost most of the leading Lords to Connington, being over before it could begin. What worry for his allies had vanished though on the ride when he saw an upside-down Targaryen banner. They had agreed that would be the signal, hoping it to be less obvious than one of their own. Smiling, Jon motioned for his knights to separate and go alongside each wall. As they did that, they heard large thuds as the arrows shot into the surprised cavalry that were chasing them. Jon saw repeated arrows being sent by the archers into the royalists. It was a massacre, barely any could escape from the volley of arrows.

Sighing in relief Jon thought on the situation. We’ve won, we’ve massacred their army. All he hoped was that his allies had lived through the battle.

Chapter Text

Benjen

The battle of the bells, as all the armies called it, was a massacre for the royalist troops. Their plan had managed to wipe out all of Connington’s army including the Lord Hand. According to the tally only a few riders had managed to escape the volley of arrows. They were either stuck in the Riverlands or on their way to King’s Landing. Either way they would be of no use to the dragons and it would take time before they could amass another army to reach the Riverlands. On their side they had taken minimal losses. Benjen had barely even brought a quarter of his forces and due to them being armoured pike men he’d managed to keep most alive, losing just under 60 in the swarm of the sept and 30 being injured. Its still hard to know I’ve led men to their deaths. The Tully forces had only taken minor losses, losing 150 but Hoster Tully had been injured in the battle, taking a knife to the leg and a sword to the arm. Nothing too harmful but it pushed Brynden to take command of his men. Not that I wasn’t unhappy about that. The Blackfish had a better tact when it came to commanding the men and knew not to do anything stupid. Hoster had charged in too quickly which had cost him the injury and the lives of those who charged with him. The knights of the Vale outside the town had only taken minimal losses in the chase, mainly due to some going for glory as opposed to the plan that all the Lords agreed to. The major casualty of the battle for the Vale was Denys Arryn. He had taken some severe injuries from Connington and would likely to be sitting out the rest of the war. He had taken a battering and was lucky to be alive, recovering in Riverrun. Jon Arryn had thanked him on the ride back for saving him or he would have lost his heir.

Aside from troops, the royalists had lost Connington, the King’s hand, Ser Myles Mooton, some Crown lords and Marq Grafton. The man that killed Ned. He hadn’t known the specifics of who killed his brother in the Vale and intended to ask Lord Arryn but the battle was more pressing. It was soothing to know that Ned had been avenged, and in the way that he was, being brutalised by a man who considered Ned a brother was more than just. Ned burnt to death and Grafton was broken into pieces. It won’t bring you back brother but it gives me peace that you were avenged by a friend. Though I can’t put his head on a spike like I have with Connington. Nothing left of his skull. Robert Baratheon had explained that it was Grafton who had burnt the ship, almost in a rage as he told the tale. It seems he’s still grieving Ned’s death, seems I’m not alone in that regard. All Benjen could do was thank the man for killing Grafton and be glad that he got to fight alongside Ned’s best friend. Robert had grinned at that, saying it was his pleasure to fight with a Stark and stating that “You Northerners are tough, you fight well for a young lad, reckon you’ll be a force of nature by the end of this war!” He’d gotten on well with the man on the way back, they’d talked about Ned and Lyanna. Benjen quickly realised that he was besotted with Lyanna. He’d had to tell the giant that Lyanna was no demure woman that would be his wife, especially after all of this. I haven’t forgotten what Connington said about what Rhaegar was doing to his sister. Glad that cunt’s dead. He shuddered at the thought of what Rhaegar was doing to his sister.

Robert had shocked him when he said he knew that Lyanna was not like one of those ladies. He admitted to not knowing her well, Lyanna hadn’t let him, but he did admit to knowing that Lyanna was the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Benjen knew of course, and Howland Reed, having helped get the armour for her but he hadn’t known anyone else had figured it out. Robert had laughed and said he’d figured out her riding style. What surprised him more was that was what made him glad to be betrothed to her. At first, he was just happy to have Ned as a Good Brother. That made Benjen scowl a bit but he continued saying she was a spitfire like him and was how a lady of the storm lands should be, untameable. That had eased Benjen’s worries on what he thought of the man but he wouldn’t force her to marry him when he found her. She belongs at Winterfell or somewhere in the North, Father never realised that.

Benjen and the Lords had returned to Riverrun, being glad to leave the town, the win may have brought morale to the men and stamped out whatever was left of him being a green boy and a true Northerner, but being drenched in the gore was something he didn’t particularly want to stay in. They had agreed to convene the next day to discuss their next step. They’ll be more disagreement on that, everyone had their own plans for the battle, a war against the crown is just going to be bigger. The Stark of Winterfell had his own plans that his solders would be seeing through regardless but he needed to know the positions of his allies. Before the Lords would meet on the morn, Benjen decided to take a bath to clean the blood from himself and then write to his wife. He’d only been able to write to her from Moat Cailin and planned to the moment he arrived at Riverrun but plans always do go to shit in these times. He was quite pleased with his wife, she was strong and capable from what he’d seen, talking as much as he could with her before leaving. And she’s a stunner surprisingly, glad I didn’t join the watch. None of the things he’d become were what he’d expected or even wanted but she was someone he could be happy with he thought. Sitting down at the desk in the room he was given, he began to write to Ally, asking about the North and her, and telling her of the battle and what was to come.

*

Morning came too quick for Benjen’s liking and so did an unwelcome surprise. He was to be escorted to Riverrun’s solar by Catelyn Tully, his brother’s former betrothed. She was a comely woman, that was for certain, with long red hair, strong Tully blue eyes and curves but there was something demure about the woman. She looked too well composed. She looks slightly like the dolls Lyanna always hated. Too perfect. Her manners were perfect and she was cordial along the walk, giving condolences and engaging trying to strike up a conversation. Benjen wasn’t keen to talk much to her. On the inside he was slightly annoyed, Hoster must be trying to show I’ve missed an opportunity here, or to abandon my wife, he’s an arse hole, not her fault she’s being used. Benjen decided to be nice and talked to the woman as best he could and it seemed to go well until she’d talked about Brandon. It went sour very quickly in Benjen’s head. She started to talk about how gallant and charming he was and how she looked forward to marrying him. He was charming, that was how he managed to bed as many women, even a couple when you were around. He loved his brother but Brandon was no saint or chivalrous man. He was brash and loud, and he let his temper get the best of him sometimes. Though I won’t take that from her when she’s grieving, even though she didn’t know the man truly. That changed though the moment she asked “Do you think you’ll be able to live up to being a true Lord like your brother, Lord Stark?” She said Lord Stark slightly sourly, trying to hide it in courtesies. He stopped and turned to her then, raising an eyebrow at her,

“You dinnae think I’m a good Lord, Lady Tully?”

She replied quite calmly, “A good Lord would have fulfilled the duty left by his father and brother, not doing as he pleased and ignoring the contract that he was obligated to fulfil. A good lord also wouldn’t have belittled his ally when treating with him. You don’t seem to be as natural at it as your brother clearly would have been. Though I’m sure being young breeds more rash decisions.”

She’s bold. I’ll give her that, but arrogant, she thinks she’s better than me and probably my wife. Deciding to keep his calm, Benjen grinned at her, keeping a lighter mood, there was no need to assume a face he would use in battle or negotiation. “Lady Tully, you may not like my decisions but I can guarantee you that my decisions were perfect fae a lord in ma position. When Brandon was tae marry you, he had two brothers that could marry in the North tae secure the loyalties of the bannermen. Loyalty is something earnt, not given and marriages with your bannermen help wae that, aside fae looking like a tough bastard when you’re in the North.”

Lady Tully scowled slightly at the language and use of Northern dialect on the common tongue but Benjen continued.

“When your Gallant betrothed died and Ned died, I was the only Stark of Rickard’s brood and Lord, not heir like the contract stated. Thankfully I have more kin than I thought but the North needed tae see a commitment tae them and I would never deny them that. That was doing duty despite being a spare tae the spare. Secondly, the contract your Father made was extortionate and deserved tae be disregarded, and considering he was more than willing tae stay neutral, proving the man needed us more than we needed him was a good tactic. And on whether I’ll make a good lord like ma brother, maybe a better one despite never wanting it. I havnae ignored ma duties like he did and I didnae use ma charm tae fuck ma way through the Kingdoms.”

Catelyn paled at the last bit, he hadn’t planned on that revelation but he wasn’t pleased about being mocked for decisions which had only benefited him and his people, especially from some Southern who clearly knew nothing of the North.

Catelyn responded angrily, “Brandon wouldn’t have done that, he was noble, a true gentleman, not like some of the brutes you call kin or lords”

Benjen laughed hard, “Then you knew nothing about the man, everything you described was Ned Stark. Brandon was more brash than Great Jon Umber and a lot less controlled. The Wolfblood rang strong in him. If you dinnae believe me, ask the lords and Ladies of the North, they’ll tell you”

Catelyn went to retort back but he cut her off, “I can find ma own way fae here, thank you Lady Tully fae taking me this far”

Benjen carried on, leaving the woman furious. Well that’s another Tully I’ve pissed off, in the long term, that might cause an issue. Hopefully my temper doesn’t go when talking with the lords.

*

 

Talking with the lords didn’t ease his temper. None of his allies from the South seemed to agree on what action to take. Benjen and the North had kept quiet so far, I need to know what they all want. None of the Tullies, Arryns and Baratheon lords could agree on where to move next in battle, let alone what should be done after the war. The argument went on for a while, some arguing they should push for peace, saying that the point was already proven. That was lord Hoster, his brother shot that one down before him or Robert could throttle the man. Robert Baratheon wanted to charge King’s Landing and lay siege to it. It was a good plan and well supported because they had already massacred one army. There was no immediate opposition and it would take time for any other Royalist army to form and get in the way. However, not all supported it, Jon Arryn being the most ardent, arguing that the Lannisters could take them from behind, saying although neutral he is more than likely waiting for an opportunity to strike. There’s also the Reach. They may be sieging Storm’s end but they could easily leave and attack us from behind.

What worried Benjen was the fact that they’d heard nothing of Rhaegar, he’d not been with Connington and of one of the riders that they managed to capture in the massacre, he’d not been at the capital. He’s somewhere, he could be rallying another army. That would make three armies against ours if we laid siege to them and we’d be stretched in supplies. His lords had also kept quiet in the matter, all of the Northern lords were in attendance, Benjen had insisted, he wanted them all to hear because they’d be fighting in this war as much as him. There were only the more prominent bannermen of the other Lord Paramounts. They were getting nowhere so Benjen finally spoke, giving his voice on the matter.

“Lord Arryn’s got the right of it. Fae what I’ve heard here, the chances of sieging King’s landing are slim, we’d have tae be quick and have proper siege equipment and we’d be at risk fae three possible armies attacking us or attacking our supply lines fae the River lands.”

Lord Arryn nodded in thanks and spoke, “They could attack our supply lines or take the River lands from behind us. It would be too risky and we would lose access to our Kingdoms, having to fight to get back to them.”

Brynden nodded grimly at that. “And with-it food and the advantage, we’d be a stranded, starving army sieging pointlessly, and building siege equipment takes time which would make it a slog.”

One of Robert’s bannermen, Massey interjected, “Yes, we’d be at a risk, but we currently have the element of surprise, we massacred them, any survivors will take time to get to King’s Landing. They’ll not be prepared and we can negotiate with Rhaegar with his family hostage when we take the city”

That caused an eruption of shouts from him, his lords and Robert Baratheon with Robert booming at one of his bannermen, “I won’t negotiate with that dragon spawn!”

Lord Karstark boomed, “And we won’t let that Mad King who killed oor Warden live, we cannae take him hostage!”

Lord Glover shouted “That madman shouldnae be left alive!”

Benjen thundered above them all too all the Lords surprise, “The Mad King will be no hostage, he’ll die the moment we set foot in that shithole! We can take the rest of his family hostage but I cannae negotiate wae a kidnapping, raping bastard!”

It didn’t solve the issue of whether to siege or do something else. It brought up another from all the Lords present, a river lord, Bracken asked, “If we aren’t treating with Rhaegar, are we declaring his son King, or his brother Viserys?”

Robert Baratheon answered, “I won’t bend the knee to any dragon spawn!” That worried Benjen, does he want them all dead? They’re mostly women and children. Its only their King and Crown Prince that deserve to die. His Lords were also frowning, realising the implication, only Bolton keeping an emotionless face but that didn’t surprise him. You Boltons would kill them all without hesitation. He thought best to step in on that, he wouldn’t kill children for their shit excuse of fathers. “Robert, those children may be sons and daughters of madmen but they’ve done nothing wrong, Ned wouldnae have supported it and I willnae either. Rhaegar’s children and wife would be better fae negotiating wae the Dornish not Rhaegar”

Robert went to shout but stopped when he mentioned Ned. He must have realised Ned would have said the same. He’s got no cool head about him, Ned must have been his voice of reason.

One of his bannermen, Lord Flint rose and spoke, “The Benjen, you dinnae mean tae declare fae Rhaegar’s son then, or his brother dae ya?” His Lords weren’t wanting to bend to the dragons again. I don’t either, they’ve caused more problems than they’ve ever solved.

Benjen turned to his Lord, answering calmly, “No my Lord, dinnae worry, I will never bend the knee tae any of them, they’ve broken faith wae us and that is permanent. I’d melt that damn throne intae molten metal.”

Lord Flint and the rest of the other Lords nodded in support, including his kin, Wulfric, Beric and Artos. He noticed Wulfric muttering something to his son and grandson in the tongue but they were too far away to hear it, they don’t like the politicking at all, I don’t either, too many egos.

Lord Bracken spoke again, “Then who do we support as King if the Targaryens are out of the question?”

It was Jon Arryn who’d answered that, “Well we fight for Robert, he has a claim through his grandmother, he could sit on the throne.” That got nodding from the southern Lords to Benjen’s worries. In the talks he’d had with the man, both at Harrenhal and after the battle, he was clearly a man of war and women, he’d not enjoy sitting on the throne. I barely know the man and can see that, he’s only interested in fighting and getting Lyanna back, he won’t be able to rule a kingdom. Jon’s known the man for years, he should see that.

His Lords grumbled at that, they respected Robert from what they’d seen and heard of him in battle but he didn’t know them. I better speak, hopefully I can get back to the battles to come, I don’t care who sits on that throne as long as Rhaegar and Aerys join Connington and Walys’ heads on spikes.

“I say we talk aboot who sits on that iron throne after we’ve won the war, we’re all fighting tae overthrow a tyrant, leave it at that and we can decide who gets their bollocks stabbed by a pointy chair after we win”

His Lords laughed at that, hearing Artos shout, “Aye let’s get back tae the fighting, we cannae talk bullshit wae a war tae win first” The lords laughed harder at that.

Good lad, it’s good to have another young Northerner here to show that all of us or tough, not just the men and greybeards of the North. Mage does that for our women too.

It seemed Brynden Tully was in agreement, finally taking it back to the actual combat, “you’re right, no point figuring out who should be King if we haven’t got a chair to put him on. I say we stay in the Riverlands and consolidate our forces. Rally the Riverlords that haven’t arrived and take the castles which had declared for the Royalists.”

Benjen smiled at the man with sense, continuing “Aye I agree wae that, here we have complete control of oor food supplies and you Tullies know the land. I say we use some of the armies to block off entrance fae the Reach and Westerlands so when an army comes, they can only move through the Crownlands or risk being bogged down. Gives us eyes on the two armies we havnae had tae fight yet. We could set traps and harry any of their supply lines that are going tae the siege of Storm’s end with raids intae the Reach. I’ll be sending some tae Oldtown as well. I have business wae the Hightowers.”

Brynden and Benjen’s words got agreement out of most of the Lords, with Robert finally conceding as long as he got to fight in the raids himself until another army came knocking. The Southern Lords finally started to agree on staying put and they could plan what to do. At last, we’re making progress, Mused Benjen as they discussed plans. We’ll all have our vengeance. When Rhaegar comes he’ll know he’s being hunted by wolves.

Chapter Text

Jory Cassel

For a city full of canals and by the sea, how can it still be so hot? Jory pondered as he walked along the canals of Braavos, one of the free cities of the East, and home to the Iron Bank. I’m glad that I don’t have to treat with them. Jory had been in the city for over a month, having left from Winterfell and White Harbour over 3 months ago. He’d had to wait for news on the war and the North but when it came through, he was pleased, hearing of their victory at Stony Sept, known as the Battle of the Bells, a major blow to the Rebellion against the Crown. He’d heard of other victories prior trickle through but the massacre of an entire Royalist army was big, it showed that the North and her allies were a true threat. He’d been nervous like everyone else about having a boy of 14 leading the North but the rumours of the wolves that carried the heads of their enemies into battle squashed and that Benjen Stark had killed the Hand of the King put them away. He’s a Stark alright, the news should help me with my mission.

Jory had been disappointed that he would not be marching with his fellow Northerners and cousin, Martyn, being eager to prove himself as a warrior like his Uncle Rodrik but the Stark of Winterfell trusted him with this and he was eager to prove that he could do it. Cassels had been loyal to the Starks for as long as the Cassels had existed and he would prove why the Cassels had their position as a loyal member of Winterfell’s house. Cassels delivered on their tasks. I just wish that the people I’m supposed to meet were here earlier, I hate the wait. He’d been waiting a month for the mission to actually arrive; being told they were on a contract and would have to wait until their return. They’d finally retuned three days ago and he was eager to begin, meeting them at their bureau next to one of the major canals. He had already found the bureau, it was hard to miss, seeing the face of the Weirwood tree on the door and The North Remembers written in his tongue, our tongue by the looks of it. The company was well known in the North, the group that had left the North when Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the first, refusing to answer to dragons. Northerners over the centuries had either joined in agreement with the company or simply to live a life of combat and seek glory, both by Lords and smallfolk who didn’t want to be celibate at the wall. Those that left didn’t return for the rule of the company, you cannot return to Westeros once you join for to return is to bend to dragons. It was a vow that could not be taken lightly on pain of death. The Company had kept to his ways, the representative he had met when first arriving still spoke the tongue and upon seeing him again today as he entered the bureau; he was offered guest rights. They remember despite all these years; will they take this chance? Jory hoped.

Waiting in the bureau’s solar, a small group of the company emerged, their leaders, moving to sit opposite with the head of the company, Elric Snow. The man had tanned skin but some of it had been burnt from the sun, He might have been here a long time but the northern blood runs strong if he still burns from the sun. He was a descendent of Brandon Snow, brother of Torrhen. The man gave him a hard stare, same as the men and women to his side, this was going to be hard. If Benjen can do it, so can I. Before he could begin, Elric began to speak, “So, what’s a fellow Northerner doing in the East on behalf of the Stark of Winterfell? The last time we heard of a Stark was when Harlon Stark joined and that was near a century ago, we haven’t talked to the Starks since the conquest.” He spat at the word conquest and the other commanders grimaced as well. Well, they hate the dragons at least, that’s something we can work with.

Clearing his throat, Jory answered, “I’m here because Lord Stark wants you and all of the company, families included, to return to Westeros and fight with him against the Targaryens. I’m sure you’ve heard about what happened to Lord’s Stark’s family. He wants you to return home and fight for the North and end the rule of the dragons. I’ve brought what ships we have from White Harbour to ship the company to the Riverlands and your families’ home to the North. He offers lands in the North for all of you. He wants vengeance and for you to join us in getting it.”

The commanders stared at Jory, penetratingly hard. It was almost a relief when their faces changed; he could see an eagerness to fight on some, some were slightly shocked, but on all of them he could see the longing in some of their faces. They want to come home. Jory thought. Only Elric remained passive and hard despite his commanders change in composure. “So, the Stark of Winterfell wants us to fight for him then?”

Jory didn’t like how he said for, “No Commander Snow, the Stark of Winterfell asks you to fight with him, not for him. If you haven’t already heard, and I KNOW you have, its been the talk of Braavos, The North has already massacred one army, with Lord Benjen killing the Hand of the King himself. He’s already fighting the Dragons and wants you to fight alongside him for the North.” He said that with annoyance at the man.

“Aye, that may be true but what does he offer besides a return home, lands and my men and women’s deaths in combat?”

Jory knew what to say to that, “What the Stark of Winterfell offers you the most is the thing that all who chose exile wanted in the first place, to fight the Targaryens and win. They say Brandon Snow was willing to fight real dragons with Weirwood arrows, aren’t you willing to fight some incestuous fire worshippers?!” He had raised his voice at that last bit, he couldn’t fail and was surprised that a member of the company wouldn’t jump at the chance to end Targaryen rule.

Elric started to become more impassioned, “Aye you’re right, my ancestor Brandon Snow left because he was denied the chance to prove that that he was right and could kill dragons. He would have won against Aegon and his Sister wives. The Dornish managed it without Weirwood arrows, we could have done it losing far less men with those arrows, the company knows it.” How could they know that?

“We wanted to fight then and we do now but it isn’t just about ending those mad cunts, its more than that.”

Jory quickly figured out what the man was thinking and the other commanders who were nodding. He doesn’t want to bend to the iron throne. Jory knew that well, no northerners in the North truly supported the throne, we grumble about it all the time, but they had put up with it for fear of real dragons burning their lands and people. The only reason Torrhen knelt. The Targaryens never learnt our ways or knew the true struggle of winter. They enjoyed southern tradition too much, derision to the practical and a love for indulgence in extravagance. Jory knew the man wanted the North to no longer kneel and he knew that if given the chance the Northern Lords would take it but would Benjen Stark? He had warned him that the company might refuse him if independence was not assured. His uncle Rodrik asked if that was a bad thing, but Benjen had responded worriedly, “I want the North to be free as much as anyone, but I’m young, they’ll follow me as a Lord, I can show them I’m capable, but a Boy-King, they wouldn’t, I’m not Brandon, none of this should be mine and to declare would look like I desire power.” The lad had been confident up until that question, he wanted to see an independent North but he didn’t think he deserved to be its King or be seen as power grabbing. He never expected it but he might get it the way he’s fighting from what I’ve heard, if given the chance the Lords will declare it.

Responding carefully, “I know what you want, Lord Stark hasn’t declared it, he doesn’t seek power, he’s the spare of the spare, he never expected it. He would never declare it himself.”

Elric interrupted him before he could speak more with a laugh, “You know what they said that about Brandon the Builder and his son the Breaker? They said that they were willing to fight the long night but didn’t want to be Kings, felt it wasn’t their right but everyone else practically forced the crown onto them after the war against the others ended.”

Jory couldn’t help but smile at that, the tale had been told throughout the North, despite what Boltons may say about Starks having the most swords. Elric didn’t stop there though.

“That’s why we only follow Starks, they don’t seek it in most cases but they do it for us. We know no King but the King in the North whose name is Stark. We’d fight a million dragons and others to follow only the Starks because they fight with us and earn loyalty, not on command or through fear. We will not fight unless the North does not bend to the Iron throne.” The statement was a final one there, he’d lose if he didn’t promise them it. He’d have missed the first part of the war for nothing.

Jory knew that was coming but he would not fail Lord Benjen. You may not seek it but you’ll be given it, you’re just going to have to accept having a crown put on your head. Sighing, Jory gave one final speech. “Benjen Stark will not declare it himself but I know that the Lords will; given the chance and Benjen won’t refuse them if they do, no matter how much he doesn’t want the crown. He cares about everyone in the North, and when his people declare him King, he won’t refuse them. When you declare him King he won’t refuse; will you fight to declare him King in the North?”

Elric grinned, “Aye we’ll fight for that, I’ll inform the men and women that we’re returning home to fight to free the North!”

The commanders cheered at that and the chanting started:

King in the North!

King in the North!

King in the North!

Of all the places in the world, the North’s freedom would be declared in the city of Braavos. I’ve done it and gained the chance to fight for our freedom. I’m sorry Benjen my friend but you’ll have to be a King, another title that you don’t feel you deserve.

Chapter Text

Lyanna

Love could not change a man's nature. Lyanna had said that to Ned about Robert, her betrothed. She had been right about him, he’d already sired one child out of wedlock, and a drunk, he would never keep to their bed, he would have expected her to be a tamed wolf; only to sire his heirs. She would never have been free. She’d never understood why Father had betrothed her to him, she’d been wilful with him all the way against it. That’s why she jumped at the chance to leave with the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. He had found her after her entering as a mystery knight at the tourney of Harrenhal. He’d seen her and kept quiet, he had been impressed with her. He had said that he loved that she was a wolf and not docile like all the other ladies. He’d kept her secret, just like Benjen and Howland who knew she had fought to defend her friend’s honour.

Benjen if only I knew, she thought sadly. The Crown Prince had crowned her Queen of Love and Beauty, supposedly in honour of her heroics, despite the silence when he spurned his wife. She felt proud, despite all of the whispering. They had proceeded to write after the tourney, she had told him of her woes about having to marry Robert and her desire to do as she saw fit. The Prince had told her he knew how duty was a tiresome thing, wishing to leave it all behind. She had thought she’d loved him, jumping at the chance when he had said they could leave it all behind, he would get her when she would accompany her brother to his brother and then abscond to Dorne and get a ship from there. He said there was a tower they could stay in until they found safe passage out of Dorne. They had been accompanied by his Kings guard, she should have realised then that he had no intention of leaving his birth right with them following her. She’d just assumed that they were going to help them. Stupid fantasy. Their time at the Tower of Joy had been amazing… until the news arrived.

Her Father and Brother’s death had finally come to them in Dorne and she had demanded to go home after that. She had felt it was her fault for not telling anyone. They would have prevented it if any of them knew. But her so-called silver prince had refused, saying she was too important, saying he needed her for the dragon to have 3 heads. It had dawned on her that she had been used, and to her horror it was to do the same thing she had wanted to escape in the first place, to be a broodmare. Elia could not have a third child, His Visenya, so decided to take another to fulfil some prophecy, the prince that was promised. She had refused to let him to touch her when he refused to let her go. He complied… for a time. She had been grief-stricken, news of Ned’s demise only made it worse. Sweet, honourable Ned, what I have I done to you all, I’ve left Benjen all alone. That was what hurt the most, the fact that she had taken Benjen’s entire family away from him, he lost as much as she had. The Prince refused to wait anymore after Ned’s death, saying it didn’t matter, “The Prince that was Promised must fulfilled, the song of ice and fire” as if it made any sense to her. All she knew was that he forced himself upon her. She fought back but she couldn’t do anything, no matter how much she tried. His Kings Guard never helped her, they just let their prince do as he pleased for her. As he forced himself onto her repeatedly, Lyanna realised something, Love does not change a man’s nature, but it can hide it, and Rhaegar Targaryen is as mad as his father. She had cried herself to sleep that night, not just for herself but for the sorrow she had inflicted on her family. I cried at his song once, now I cry for the man is a monster. She was a Northern girl who mocked the stories of chivalry as fantasy, and yet she’d thought they were true for a brief moment. That almost broke her.

*

Lyanna had almost given up until Rhaegar had announced he would be going to war after receiving news from one of the Kings Guard that a rebellion had begun. The banners of the Stormlands, Riverlands, Vale and more importantly, the North; had rallied to war. Benjen had went to war. She was terrified for her only brother left. He’s a boy marching to war, he’ll die for his sister. Lyanna feared that another brother would be lost until she heard Rhaegar and his Kings Guard arguing outside her chambers in the tower. He was ordering them to stay and guard her, more likely his Visenya than me, Lyanna thought bitterly as she looked at her bulging belly in her chambers. He was insisting he would be fine and that the Rebellion would be easily put down when he rallied Dorne, the Reach and some Crownland forces. Gerold Hightower, one of the Kings Guard who did nothing to help her was worried though, “You don’t need all of us to protect that wolf bitch, from the information we got you’ll need help against that brute Baratheon. The news told us he was unstoppable at the battle of Summerhall and at the Bells”

Rhaegar seemed confident though, “that may be true but I’m his Prince and kin besides, he’s unlikely to try and kill me himself. They won’t be a match for our full might when we rally. He’s probably doesn’t have the forces that the news claims. The North couldn’t have rallied all of their forces for a boy. And what forces that have will bend if he wants to see his sister again. And if he dies, I can place my Visenya as Lady of the North.” Lyanna went cold overhearing that. They’re going to kill you Benjen, I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you.

But Gerold Hightower continued, and to Lyanna’s surprise; he sounded more worried at the sound of Benjen, “Not from what we were told you grace. News tells of Benjen Stark being the one to kill Connington in single combat. He was one of the ones that massacred an entire army. If rumours are to be believed he fought like a wolf possessed. Does that sound like someone who’ll back down because you have his sister? He’s more likely to try and kill you the moment you mention his sister.”

Benjen killed Connington? One of her abductors’ allies is dead! Lyanna smiled for the first time in months.

Oswell Whent chimed in, also unnerved by the sound of it, “I hear he’s put all the men who wronged his family on spikes and carries them into battle, he’s a savage by the sounds of it.” Good, you think us all savages so we will be.

Rhaegar still sounded unfazed, “Then he’ll have to go, Lyanna is the only one that is necessary out of the Starks. You need to protect her; the dragon must have three heads. I will rally Dorne to our cause”

At that Arthur Dayne had finally spoken and he wasn’t happy at all. He was the only one Lyanna could stomach. He had been the most conflicted in this all ordeal, giving her some degree of respect. He was also the only one that argued against what Rhaegar was doing but his oaths seemed to stop him from helping. He’s got too much faith in his oaths, Ned would understand that but I don’t.

“And how do you expect to rally Dorne your Grace? You’ve already insulted your wife to do this, you annulled your marriage for all of this and it caused a war. Do you really think they’ll fight for you? They’re more likely to try and kill you, especially if Prince Oberyn has his way!”

Rhaegar still remained aloof in all on that matter, does he care about anything besides his prophecy, or is he arrogant enough to think a Prince doesn’t get consequences for his actions?

“It will be fine Ser Arthur, they’ll fight to protect my Aegon and Rhaenys’ position as future rulers. They’re safe in the Red Keep.”

Arthur wasn’t pleased with that answer, “So you’re using them as hostages and leverage. You’ve left them in a castle ruled by a madman who you want to overthrow my prince! Dorne won’t forget or forgive it. They may fight because of the position you put them in but if they see the chance to do it without you, they will!”

Rhaegar raised his voice ever so slightly, “I will end this rebellion and you will protect my Visenya. That is an order”

Lyanna decided to enter the room, she may be a caged wolf, but she would remind them she wasn’t a tame one. She shouted at her so-called “Silver Prince,” “You’ll die! Benjen will kill you! You think he’s a boy but he’s not, he’s a wolf and even dragons should fear a wolf when you harm his pack! He’ll kill you fae everyone your family has killed!” She slapped Rhaegar before him or his guards could react.

Rhaegar remained aloof despite it; even as Hightower slapped her, “show respect to your prince! You’re nothing but a Northern whore!” He yelled. Rhaegar motioned for him to bring her back to her chambers but Lyanna kept screaming, “An Faol Sealg! An Faol Sealg! The Wolf Hunts! And he Hunts fae you! The North Remembers and it brings Winter mad prince!”

Rhaegar walked away as she screamed to the top of her lungs, she grinned wolfishly. Benjen’s coming to kill him, he’ll avenge our family, he’ll avenge me.

Chapter Text

Catelyn

Lyanna Stark’s abduction had changed Westeros in a very short time. War had come to Westeros and Catelyn’s arrangements had been shattered. She had been grief-stricken at the loss of Brandon, he had been so gallant and charming. She had felt so lucky to be betrothed to the man; giving him her favour when Petyr was being a fool, challenging him for her hand. He had even shown mercy to him on her behalf to protect Petyr from his own foolishness. She thought he was a true Gentleman and she would be the lady of a great house of the realm. A lie according to Lord Stark, he might be his brother, but he must have been jealous of him.

His death had hurt her but her father had said that despite this she would still become Lady Stark, ensuring that Eddard Stark, his younger brother would fulfil the contract that his father had made. The dull and quiet one, me and Lysa had joked. But even that had turned to ash with his death in the Vale; she had been left with only the youngest, the one Brandon called the pup of the pack. She knew nothing about Benjen Stark but father said that she would still be Lady Stark of the North. Father had even gone as far to say that she could put the training she had to good use. She could mould him into a true Lord. Catelyn had been trained to be his heir until Edmure was born, fearing he was unlikely to have a son. She had been the Lady of Riverrun after her mother’s death. She had been trained to be nothing less than the lady of a great house. Petyr had said that to her once, just like Father had. In her grief she focused on the fact that she could train her future husband to be a true Lord. Teach him how a lord should be for the future. Not even that has come to pass.

No, for Catelyn and her Father’s contract with the Starks had been broken… broken by a boy younger than her. A northern savage. From what she’d heard from her Father, he’d practically spat in their faces with the agreement, going as far to marry another woman even though he should have been bound to his duty. He had taken everything Father said and saw it as inconsequential. The savage had even shot down father’s offer to Lord Arryn in giving him Lysa as a wife. She had been conflicted with that, her being so young but she would have done her duty to her family through it. That savage had called her father nothing more than a fishwife and her father wound up having to fight with them anyway. In such a short time she had went from the future Lady of Winterfell to nothing. And then upon their return from battle he had the audacity to say those lies about his brother and claim he was more brash than that brute of good brother he had and was unfaithful. Brandon would never do that. He wouldn’t have done that at the risk of shaming her with bastards.

Catelyn had decided she disagreed with Lord Stark and decided to take him up on his challenge to ask the North what they thought of Brandon before the Lords of the North began to leave for whatever missions they had been assigned in the war. And maybe their liege, he’s like to be unfavourable being a boy. She’d heard some grumblings that they were going to rally some of Father’s bannermen. She heard one say that “The Fish cannae even rally his own lords, seems us Northerners are gonnae have tae dae it, what’s the point of him.” She had not been happy with that, but she was a lady and knew how to control her temper and keep herself poised and elegant. Something she needed to teach Lysa, she hadn’t been happy about Petyr having to leave.

Her day of asking the Lords of the North, and some of the ladies who deemed they could fight. Most of them answered shortly but they all gave her the same answer about her former betrothed, that he was nicknamed “The Wild Wolf.” They had all said the same thing and she didn’t understand it. She knew Brandon was lively, that was a part of his charm… but wild? That couldn’t be it. She needed to understand that. Luckily, she remembered that Brandon was good friends with William Dustin of Barrow town so she decided to find him. She had found the brown-haired man, a bit thinner than other Northmen, drinking with his men he had brought to war. They were speaking in the old tongue by the sounds of it. It sounded guttural to Catelyn, almost unnatural. Do they not speak the common?

Lord Dustin had been kind enough to speak privately when she asked of Brandon. Though the conversation was not a kind one the moment she asked him, “What does the wild wolf mean?”

He’d grimaced slightly at that before answering, “So what dae ya know aboot it my lady?”

“Very little my lord. I only ask because of what Lord Stark said about Brandon. He had said that he would never be faithful and that he was more brash than that brute he calls a good brother. He had challenged me to ask about his brother from the Lords and they only said wild wolf. Every time before leaving.”
Lord Dustin sighed, “You know very little about Brandon then. I suppose nobody would have told you how he was really, he didn’t care enough tae be frank with you. And you know very little of us Northerners if you insult the Great Jon and Lord Benjen by extent. He’s loud but no brute.” Catelyn scowled internally at that, about to feign an apology but Dustin continued before she could speak.

“I grew up wae him as you probably know when he fostered wae us at Barrow town and I can tell you now that Benjen has the truth of it. He was a wild one, he had the wolf blood in gallons. Wasn’t just liveliness it brought him though. He would always act before he thought and would hate tae be caged. That’s what he saw you as, someone who would cage him.”

Catelyn’s face fell at that but she remained resolved that they were wrong, “that may have been but the way he acted around me said he would have done his duty regardless. He wouldn’t have fought against Petyr if he didn’t plan on doing as expected. He would have done his duty to me in marriage.”

At that Lord Dustin smirked a bit, “Fae what I heard when he told me of it, Brandon did that because he didnae like the man who called him and the North savages so he gave him what he thought. Nothing more, nothing less. And aye Brandon would have done his duty and bedded you, and you would have given him heirs but he would never keep to your bed because that was his nature. I’m amazed the man hasnae fathered any sons and daughters as it is.”

Catelyn still disagreed, “Brandon would never have fathered any bastards when married! He would have kept to his oaths, he wouldn’t have dared shame me with bastards!”

Lord Dustin seemed to react coldly at the word bastard. Does he not fear them like any Lord should? “Brandon would never keep to your bed, I know this because he’d fucked my wife before we were wed. She had told me herself. I’d repeat her words, but I feel what she said would be too crude fae the likes of you. You clearly did not know Brandon at all, nor the ways of the North by the sounds of it. Benjen was right tae dae what he did. I knew it then when we came tae Winterfell and I know it now, you’re not fit fae being a lady of the north”

Catelyn had flinched slightly at the crudeness and his growing anger. She was not happy with her answer, no matter how true it was becoming, and the attack on her status as a lady of a great house was not expected. “And how may I ask am I not fit to be the great lady of the North?”

Lord Dustin snorted, “Your tone fae a start, you may have been Lady of Winterfell but you would have been held tae the same standards as every other Lady of the North. You’d have tae earn our loyalty, not demand it. Your courtesies hide honestly as far as we’re concerned. I doubt you’ve learnt the tongue. We may speak the common tae southerners but we speak our own in our lands. You would have wondered why we drink wae our servants and soldiers, not just other lords and ladies. You would have been cruel tae any child Brandon brought home that wasnae yours.”

Catelyn went white at that, “He would have brought them to Winterfell and shame me like that? He would have threatened my children with them”

Lord Dustin continued, more impassioned than before, “Aye he would have because that is the way of the North, we look after our blood and dinnae treat children like an abomination fae being born on the wrong side of the sheets. We test people on their mettle, not their title. And only one Stark branch has rebelled in history, the grey starks, and they weren’t a bastard branch, they were legitimate fae the start. The Snows of the North have never betrayed the North and their kin! Lord Stark was right tae not marry you!”

Catelyn spluttered at that, composure failing, “You follow a boy and a spare at that!”

Lord Dustin fumed more at that, “You dinnae just dare tae criticise our ways and people but you criticise our liege lord as well! A man who understood that a Stark’s main concern is the North so decided tae break an agreement which many of us didnae support when there were 2 stark men that would marry in the North! He assured his commitment tae us through marriage and putting us before any personal benefit of his own. You would have wanted tae teach him what a lord meant tae you, not what a leader of the North means tae us. You and your Father dinnae understand how tae truly create loyalty; or we wouldn’t have tae go around and secure your kingdom fae your own bannermen!”

Before she could respond, Lord Dustin turned around and left to re-join his men, leaving her in a stunned silence. These Northerners are an uncourteous lot, Catelyn thought, annoyed by the way she and her Father were thought of. That was before a wave of sadness hit her. And Brandon was nothing like I thought. He was as brutal as the rest of them. They know nothing of the way Lords and Ladies should be. She walked off to do her duty as Lady of Riverrun. She needed to show what these Savages had been denied from their Lord’s stupidity.

Chapter Text

Brynden The Blackfish

One of the greatest weapons a Tully has in his arsenal is the ability to bind houses through marriage. Family was the first of their words. It had been something Brynden had blatantly ignored in his life, at least when his brother pushed them upon him. And for good reason as far as I’m concerned. Brynden would have been happy to have gotten married, if it didn’t involve marrying outside of the Riverlands. Brynden wanted to see the Riverlands end the squabbling amongst the houses and have them firmly support House Tully. It may not have solved the fights between Bracken and Blackwood but the rest of the Riverlands wouldn’t be annoyed that the Tullies were their Lieges. That, and it would have secured their lands from the other Kingdoms in case of a war. The Seven Kingdoms piss and the Riverlands change clothes, I wanted that stopped.

Hoster disagreed of course, assuming they were loyal enough, wanting to bind the other Great Houses to them instead, seeing it as more lucrative for the Tullies. That had been what caused the argument between the two brothers. He had refused to give in to his brother’s demands to marry a Redwyne girl, not a great house but a rich one and connected to the Tyrells through marriage. Brynden was not going to play a game of politics for his brother. Hoster had insisted that the houses they married into would give them influence and come to their aid militarily. Brynden disagreed, citing that the bannermen were more important. We’re no Great House if we can’t call upon our bannermen, the Kingdoms won’t care, I had said to him, and I was right. When war had come it had been proven how divided the Riverlands truly were, between the houses that had sided with the dragons, those that did not answer the call and those who wanted to fight against the dragons but were displeased at Hoster’s inaction, they were not a United Kingdom. Hoster had still refused to see sense, hoping to push the agreement with the Starks and throw his youngest daughter, Lysa, to a man older than Hoster, despite having an heir, stating that he’d most likely prefer a son as his heir than a cousin. Brynden had been furious with the man. There’d be ample men in the Riverlands who would be appropriate for Lysa, wouldn’t have gave her such a terrible duty to uphold. She’s not been well either since that whole business with Baelish leaving after his fight with Brandon Stark. Brynden’s temper lifted quite a bit when Lord Stark firmly shot down Hoster’s demands, stating everything that Brynden had been shouting about for years and throwing Hoster’s plans to ashes. Fighting in battle had also eased his temper a bit too. War is easier than family and politics. He had found a lot of respect for the Northerners and Lord Stark, both in battle and in how he dealt with his bannermen. He’s young but he knows his people come first, never prestige and profit.

That was why Brynden was more than happy to go with some of the Northerners to help rally his brother’s bannermen into the war, despite the fact that Hoster sent him off because he was annoyed that he agreed with them. The Rebellion needed more fighters. They may have a large force but if the other Kingdoms sided with the dragons they would be outnumbered. It would have sent a better message if Hoster went himself to gather his banners but Hoster insisted that he was too injured and that Brynden had been given leave to give his word. Brynden had been surprised at that last part but his brother was on the milk of the poppy, when talking to him and the riverlords, so Brynden doubted he would have said that otherwise.

He had been riding with Lord Stark’s newfound kin and one of his cadet branches, Wulfric and his Grandson Artos, and Rickard Karstark and his brother, Cregan. Brynden got along well with them. Wulfric was a keen fighter for his age yet stoic outside of battle, Rickard Karstark was straight to the point and Artos, the youngest had a sense of humour like his father he’d been told. His Father had been sent on another mission. Brynden had found that Artos reminded him of himself when he was younger. Loyal to his people and eager to prove himself, though he’d seen him after the Battle of the Bells. The Lad’s a fine fighter but doesn’t enjoy it. You shouldn’t enjoy killing another even though the fight is thrilling. He’d respected the lad even more when Hoster had tried to talk to him after their return to Riverrun. Hoster was injured but still trying to play politics. Artos, as an heir to the North and unwed, was a prize Hoster thought he could maybe exploit. The boy had punched him in the gut when he started to ask about his marriage prospects, seeing right through the pandering, saying, “I dinnae barter wae fishwives when they’re undermining ma kin.” His Grandfather had laughed and simply said “Good lad.” Nobody had batted an eyelid at it. Brynden couldn’t help but laugh at the time. Hoster’s my brother but he needs to stop the constant politicking.

It showed why he liked the lot of them. They were blunt and didn’t go for all the horseshit that was politics. They were a good laugh and he’d enjoyed going around with them rallying the Lords that hadn’t answered the call initially or only sent a token force to Riverrun.  Some hadn’t because Hoster hadn’t taken a stance, a lot more eager after hearing the Tullies were fighting against the dragons. Others were more terrified by the Northerners accompanying him, seeing Wulfric Stark and Rickard Karstark, Battle axe and swords in hand, staring hard at their walls as if they were willing to come down. The houses they had gained would be useful for helping to hold the Riverlands and secure other castles in the area, where a lot of the armies were at the time. The minor houses had provided the war more troops but their goal was a much bigger one. They were on their way to the crossing to deal with House Frey.

House Frey had one of the largest armies in the Riverlands, being able to field 5000 levies total. A fair number of that was due to Walder Frey’s repeated bastards and multiple wives. He hadn’t stopped and it was a joke of the Riverlands. A damn shame we need him. He may be a joke but he can field as many men as house Tully, and his levies are much closer than ours. The Freys had said they were raising their levies but never sent word on when they were coming. Probably hoping to not have to fight if they can avoid it and say they were raising their banners to support the victor, Brynden thought grimly. They had come to the large castles of the Crossing in the night with their group of soldiers. They hadn’t made it before dusk but had still rode. “There’s no point setting camp fae a short ride in daylight, we’re tougher than any bandits,” Rickard had said happily. The towers of the castle were an imposing one on the fork, not impossible to take in a siege but a very hard one. They hadn’t brought a large number of troops, only 3000, with the rest of the armies been spread across the Riverlands fortifying it from the West and South, and having the bulk of the army waiting at Riverrun.

The small force had been camped outside of the Crossing for an hour before they were met by one of Walder Frey’s sons, Stevron Frey his heir. A surprise, sending someone as important considering he’d let the group wait for the hour. Must be trying to show that he’s a gracious host, I doubt that’ll work with the crowd I’m with. The Frey greeted us well enough, “Good evening my Lords, my Lord Father has sent me to greet you and escort you to his hall, he’s eager to meet Lord Brynden the legendary Blackfish Tully.”

 

Brynden wasn’t the most adept at the courtesies that came with all the meetings with other Lords. It had always been false to him; but he was trained in it all. The Northerners had their own ways when treating with Lords, being a lot more casual and unwilling to do false niceties, so he knew he’d be the most gracious out the group. This’ll be a first for me. “Well met Lord Stevron, thank you for greeting us. I look forward to meeting your father at such a late hour.” He’d managed to say it as convincingly enough because Stevron had smiled and turned to escort him and some of the Northerners in. It hadn’t been convincing enough for the Starks and Karstarks who he swore were trying not to laugh at him. Is it that obvious I hate this shit?  Rickard’s brother Cregan had been left in charge of the men while the rest entered, just in case the Freys decided to take them hostage. It was highly unlikely, given the fact that they would feel the might of their rebellion if they tried it but it was good to have a commander outside in case to command the troops if it goes wrong. He’s not likely to do anything though, he’s stayed out of it so far. He’ll want to do the same until he knows who wins.

The inside of the Crossing wasn’t as imposing as the outside though it was somewhat bleak. Not so much from the actual castle but the people in it. The Frey family was large and it seemed a lot of them did not like each other. Bickering could be heard throughout the castle and glares were given between the Freys that were standing in the hallways. And I thought the relationship with my brother was a shit one. It was not an inviting place. The Great Hall of the Crossing was not that much better, with there being the rest of the Frey lot, turning their stare to their small party. At the head table facing them was Lord Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, and his lady wife Bethany Rosby. The two had stopped eating with Walder giving a hard glare. The Lord was in his early 70s, he was older than Jon Arryn, but he hadn’t aged well. He was old and that could barely be ignored but there was a glint in his eyes that was hard to ignore. Old but alive, maybe having a fair wife like that keeps you young. She was his 5th or 6th wife, he couldn’t remember and she didn’t look like a happy one; her fairness didn’t help hide that. Brynden tried to hide a pained look when he thought about Hoster offering Lysa to Arryn from seeing the two together. My niece would have been that miserable. My brother’s as bad as Walder. A shame they don’t get along.

Lord Stevron introduced us, “Lord Father I bring you Brynden of House Tully, Wulfric and Artos of House Stark and Rickard of House Karstark!” Brynden saw Lord Frey lick his lips at the names as they were spoken.

The Lord of the Crossing ended his silence; slapping the arse of his wife and motioning her to leave, “So it seems I have the honour of having to host the legendary Blackfish!” He exclaimed, his sarcasm wasn’t exactly hidden. I might get to cut the horseshit courtesies sooner than I thought at least. Walder continued in a similar, derisive tone. The glaring of the other Freys in the hall did not stop.

“It has been a long time since a Tully has been in these halls; not since I was Lord and the first one to come is the second son of all things. What brings a fish into the Crossing?”

Unperturbed by the man’s mocking tone, Brynden began, “Lord Frey I have come to bring you to the war. You sent word to Riverrun that you were rallying your levies but it was taking time. We have come to assist you in bring your men into the fold and join the rebellion.” I can be nice when necessary, I’ll hold for now.

Lord Walder snorted, “I told your brother I was rallying them and I am. Have you come here to slight me for being unable to summon my levies by your time standards? Is that why you have brought soldiers to my home, to threaten me to do it quicker?”

The tone was accusatory and inflammatory but he wasn’t going to give in to the man’s game, not yet. I haven’t with my brother, I won’t with him. “Of course not, the soldiers are here for our protection and to assist you in getting all of your levies to answer the call of your liege lord. And the soldiers we brought aren’t large enough to successfully siege your keep if we did intend to threaten you.” If we wanted to do that, we would have brought the entirety of the Rebellion just to give you a heart attack.

That did not make Lord Walder’s mood any better. “That is very kind of you Lord Tully but it isn’t manpower which is causing the delay. It takes time to rally troops for war when they question the war they are fighting, especially when it is a war against the crown. They may be less inclined to fight against their king and prince. It takes convincing to fight against your rightful King.”

And there it was. The Lord of the Crossing wants something if he is to fight. Gods, he’s exactly like my brother. The only difference between the two was Hoster was Lord Paramount. That’s what gave him the assumed power to make demands. He wasn’t pleased but it did prove his point more. They may be Freys but we should still have better relations with them than this. Why we have such divided lands. The Northerners who had been quiet for now began to start.

“Killing two madmen not enough fae ya men Lord Frey?” Rickard Karstark asked icily.

“Fire worshipping madmen at that” Artos added quite forcefully. Claiming it to be a tough choice won’t do it for this party.

Then Wulfric bluntly summed the situation up. “It isnae your levies that needs convincing is it? I dinnae doubt that all of your levies are ready, camped on the other side of the bridge waiting fae your decision on it all. You’re just waiting it oot or waiting fae a good offer. You’re like Lord Brynden’s brother, likes tae bargain wae his loyalties and haggle like a fishwife.”

Brynden had to hide the smirk at that. He still found it funny that his brother was known as the fishwife amongst the Northern bannermen. It had spread a bit through the riverlords as well. The fact that it was said by riverlords kept proving Brynden’s point on better ties with the Riverlands. Lord Walder still remained seated but he saw a vein twitch slightly; then he spat as he spoke again “I’m nothing like the man. Lord Tully bargains to further his own prestige and his ego. I bargain to earn a bit of respect in the Riverlands and in the realm. I have one of the largest armies in the Riverlands and yet Tully looks down on us poorly. He ignores us, only recognising us for tax and now war. He does not treat with us in peace yet expects us to fulfil oaths when he needs us, regardless of how little he does for us. Even now he sends his brother to do his demanding.”

“That he has but he has given me leave to act with his power in negotiation” Brynden replied. Better get this over with and start bartering with the weasel.

Walder perked slightly, “Negotiate eh? And here I thought you were here to make demands of me”

Brynden grimaced knowing what was to come, “He did my Lord, what can House Tully do for House Frey to join us in the war?

Walder gave an almost toothless grin, “Seeing as you asked Lord Tully, I want you to take two of my brood as squires to you with a guarantee that they’ll be knighted by the legendary Blackfish. I would also like two of my younger sons to be fostered alongside Lord Tully’s son Edmure and for Edmure to foster for a time with one of me, one of his trusted bannermen. The fosterlings can squire for you after the others gain knighthoods.” He stopped briefly to catch his breath slightly. Old indeed. “Most importantly I want betrothals. I heard Lysa Tully is still not betrothed. I would like her to marry my heir’s boy Ryman Frey.” Walder motioned to Ryman at the mention of the marriage. The man was portly for a man in his twenties, lacking in much hair, for such a young man. He was not a looker and clearly no warrior and the prospect of Lysa married to that in the Twins did not sit well with him. He didn’t particularly like the Freys having a claim to the Riverlands if the worst should happen. He smiled. “It is about time a Tully married into House Frey, and what better way to cement my oaths than by sharing blood.”

Brynden mulled over the demands; some of it wasn’t unreasonable but the marriages were too much. Giving too much to one bannerman would not sit well with the others. The thought of Lysa married to Ryman didn’t sit well with him. She would have to do her duty but not to him if he could help it. She wasn’t ready for it. Edmure though, he was young but the future Lord Paramount and there weren’t many male Tullies around. A Frey would be a powerful ally in the Riverlands for him and they clearly could make plenty of heirs. Hoster will kill me if I offer him though in Lysa’s stead. Frey’s not likely to believe it either. Brynden began with the easier parts, “A squire is no hardship Lord Frey but I’ll only take the one. If I’m to train a future knight I’m to do it properly. However, I’ll take 3 to be squires for other knights in the service of house Tully.” Better to give him something extra before I start taking stuff away.

Walder nodded slowly at that, toothless grin still there, “Fine, though those knights will not simply be hedge knights. I want them from knightly houses at least.”

“More than fair My Lord. The fostering is acceptable but as Edmure is the only heir to house Tully he will not be fostering with you.”

The Frey’s face turned to a scowl, “do you think I mean to harm the boy? Or am I too unfit to be his charge?”

Of course, take it as a slight as opposed to you being a greedy shit, “Of course not Lord Frey, as Edmure is Hoster’s heir, he needs to stay at Riverrun and learn how to be a Lord. Having him foster with only one bannerman would create favourites. If he fostered with them all he would not have the time to learn.” That and I wouldn’t leave my shoes with the man, let alone my nephew. Lord Frey still scowled but nodded. He probably just threw that in so fostering his brood seemed less tolerable.

Lord Frey began again, “And the marriages Lord Tully? Will you accept or have you been lying to me about having your brother’s power to make a deal?”

Brynden spoke firmly, “I won’t agree to betrothing Lysa Tully to House Frey.” He continued on before Lord Frey could interject. He was clearly ready to say he would not agree to fight. “However, I do not object to a marriage between House Tully and Frey.”

Frey shook his head, “Who with? You seriously expect me to believe that you have the power to marry Lord Edmure to one of mine? Your brother would never allow it! You’ll give me the betrothal to the Tully girl or my men will remain neutral!”

Brynden replied simply, “You’re right, I’m not offering Edmure… I’m offering myself.” Lord Walder’s face dropped, as did some of the Freys. The Northerners, who had been grumbling in the background must have been surprised because they’d went silent. Is my refusal to marry that well known?

Walder Frey finally spoke after what he said had set in, “You’re offering yourself as a match? The man who refused his brother’s demands more times than can be counted? What benefit does that have for me?”

Brynden calmly and confidently responded, “Quite a lot if you think about it, Lord Frey. As it stands, I’m Edmure’s only male heir to the Riverlands and Lord Hoster is adamant he won’t marry again. You’d be getting a match with a Tully a lot further in the line of succession than Lysa Tully who would be at the bottom.”

Lord Frey’s eyes went deep with thought, then he barked, “And what of Lands? You have no title except a name and a knighthood.”

Brynden smiled, He’s interested at least. “That’s not a problem my Lord. Hoster had always promised lands for when I wed and with the war in the Riverlands, I’m sure I’ll be given a castle out of those taken for fighting against House Tully. House Whent’s keep comes to mind.”

Lord Frey licked his lips a bit at that. He’ll have realised that he meant Harrenhal. I’ve never gave a shit about having a castle but if I can get the Riverlands into shape I will. “You say all of this but how can I trust your word?”

Brynden grinned, “Because we both don’t like my brother’s ego. Me marrying outside of his plans would piss him off to no end… to be frank.” The Northerners began to laugh at that, so did a few of the Freys. “And besides, I’m here right now so I can pick my bride and marry her here and my brother will have to accept it. There’d be no chance of him being able to refuse ignoring you. You’d be family”

Walder Frey gave a slightly crooked smile, “I suppose you are present. Ha, The Legendary Blackfish, married to one of my own! I think I can agree to that!”

Brynden had to ask, “Then will you follow me down to Riverrun to fight with us?”

Walder hesitated slightly, or do you just plan on waiting it out and refusing? “We’ll march for family, hahahaGood son.” The old Lord turned to the side and shouted at his heir, “Stevron! Bring in the women, let the Blackfish decide which one he wants!” He turned to the Northerners, “If any of you want one feel free, I have more than enough of them!”

Brynden didn’t listen to the Northerners response to that. He just silently waited. I always refused Hoster because of his plans. I may have to marry a Frey but if it helps unite the Riverlands, I’ll happily pay the toll over my nieces and nephew. Family, Duty and Honour. About time I did it through marriage.

Chapter Text

Beric Stark

Beric was glad to have been sent down the King’s road. It was strangely peaceful, at least in comparison to the chaos that the Riverlands had become. Having the armies of the North, Riverlands, Vale and Stormlands made it a busy place. The Lord Paramounts had been sending their armies across the area to reclaim castles that had sided with the dragons and to secure the Riverlands from all fronts, primarily the west. From what he’d heard, Tywin was someone to worry about. He’d heard the song like so many others about House Reyne of Castamere. Beric enjoyed a happier song than a one which sends shudders down your spine. He’d also heard that the man had been shunned by the Mad King so nobody knew exactly what the Lions of the Rock intended. Regardless, the potential threat of Tywin Lannister had resulted in a large amount of the army shoring up the Western border to warn if he were coming and holding him back if he intended to march on the Rebellion. That and the manning of castles across the Riverlands and some of the Northern forces helping to rally more Riverlords; it meant that the rebels only had 40,000 free to fight at the moment out of the 100,000 they had in the Riverlands.

That was why Beric had been sent along the King’s road with Howland Reed and the Crannog men of the Neck and a small number of Dustin’s cavalry. It was the most likely place that any sizeable army would march up North so it was essential that the Rebels knew the comings and goings on the King’s road. They were to have the area scouted for an enemy army approaching; setting up a line of riders to inform Riverrun when an army was approaching. But most importantly, they were there to set up traps. Beric was well known in the mountains as an excellent trapper of animals and the Crannog men were renowned in the North for having a “different” approach to warfare. From the tales he had been told, both in and out of the swamps they could hide within plain sight.

Some might have saw more hidden tactics as poor warfare but in truth, Beric was more than eager to set up traps with the Crannog men because of it; he had looked forward to sharing tactics and hadn’t been disappointed when talking with Howland Reed on the road. The man was a genius; being able to turn the simple materials into intricate traps that could be well concealed on the road and in surrounding areas, and to use the environment to their advantage. The Crannog men were also experts on poisons, even the non-lethal concoctions were more than ample to demoralise an army. Beric had in turn shared some of his own tactics for how to turn trapping animals into a way of targeting an enemy army; mentioning his plans on luring animals as an advantage. Together they’d managed create some unique plans and help set up different stations along the road that would cause problems for any army marching Northward. I wish my sons were down here with me, they’d have loved working with the Reeds.

It was interesting to see such a notoriously quiet man come alive. He had been quiet and solemn, almost brooding, since he had met the man on the march down south but he had a humour to him which Beric admired. Life’s no fun without a joke every now and then. However, one night the conversation took a darker turn than Beric was comfortable with when he asked if this was the first time Howland had been down South. Howland went pensive at the question, “Aye I have once, not that long ago as well, I feel like that’s when it all went wrong.” The way he said it sounded regretful and his face had turned mournful. “I should never have gone to that tourney.” The Tourney… the talk of the Northern camp on the march and that of half the rebel army. It was what everyone called the moment the smiles had died.

“You say what happened at the tourney was your fault Howland?” Beric asked

Howland’s face remained deeply mournful, “Because it was Beric. If I’d never attended, the Prince would never have set his sights on Lyanna. If I’d never attended, she wouldn’t have done what she did.” The man spoke like he’d caused it all. Howland went silent as if he didn’t want to carry on but Beric wanted the full tale, if anything just to prove the man’s guilt was undeserved, though somewhat intrigued, having only heard of Lyanna’s crowning at the Tourney.

Beric simply asked, “what happened?”

Howland sighed, “It was my first time in the South. One night out of the blue, my Father had advised me to see some of the world below the neck, to better understand why we guard the North so passionately, he’d joked.” He gave a ghost of a smile there and Beric couldn’t help but chuckle at the comment. “My Father had said that I should see the God’s Eye and speak to the Green men if I could find any and roam the Riverlands to see more than the Neck and the North before becoming a Lord.” The man grabbed his drink at the camp they had set up and took a swig. “I did as he asked and travelled the lands I would one day guard the North from and I’d seen one of the last bastions of our gods and the Weirwood trees in the South, a beautiful place it was, tranquil and a reminder of home.” Howland gave another small smile.” I even got to speak to the Green Men, they kept calling me the Lord of Greywater Watch even though my Father yet lived… I should have listened to what they said.”

Beric turned serious at their mention. The Green Men were well known in the North, descendants of the children, mixed with the blood of the first men. Few had truly seen them but they were rumoured to have Green dreams of what was to come. “What did they say to make you as regretful my friend? They couldn’t have told you that the Prince would steal Lyanna? Did they?”

Howland stared deeply into his cup before answering, “Not as directly as you or I would speak, but the signs they gave were enough. It was eerie, they’d simply wished that I wouldn’t need a laughing tree to come to my aid or a dragon would ensnare her in a tower full of bitter irony.” Howland took another small swig. The words Howland had heard didn’t sound coherent at all to Beric, “That doesn’t make much sense Howland, it sounds like a riddle.”

Howland nodded, “Aye it does. It didn’t make any at the time either but I had merely taken it guidance to take care of myself at the tourney. Upon my arrival I sought to find the Northern camp but I’d been harassed by a small group of squires. They made a show of attacking the “Frog Eater” while I was unarmed but they got beaten off by Lyanna Stark with a blunted tourney sword in defence of her father’s bannerman.”

Beric grinned at that, he’d heard from Benjen that she was a spitfire, though talk of Lyanna always turned the young Lord cold at the end. “so Benjen wasn’t lying when he said his sister was more than eager to fight with a sword.”

Howland gave a small smile, “Aye she was. Stubborn too and a true Northern beauty. She brought me to the Stark tent where I met Benjen and his brothers for the first time. They were kind. I was a minor Lord and looked down by most of the realm but they did not care. They even let me sit with them at the feast where I saw the shy Ned Stark dance with Ashara Dayne and that mad Prince sing a siren’s song.” Howland’s words were cold at the mention of the prince. “Benjen and his siblings wanted me to fight back in the Tourney but as you can see my skills aren’t exactly suited for tourneys and on horseback. Lyanna wouldn’t let it go though and asked me and Benjen a favour.”

Beric was intrigued. “What did she ask of the two of you?”

“She wanted armour, a shield and a good horse. She wouldn’t take no for answer so me and Benjen got the things she requested and the next morning she entered as a mystery knight of the tournament. I thought nothing of it at the request, I was flattered more than anything that a woman like her was willing to fight for a lowly Lord like myself.” Howland’s smile grew a bit when speaking of Lyanna. Beric raised an eyebrow slightly. Seems lord Reed was a bit more than flattered by her. The smile went as quick as it grew though. “I went cold though the moment I saw what she had painted on her shield though. It was a red Weirwood tree on a white shield with a laughing face.” Beric felt a small shiver go down his back and drank himself.

Howland carried on though, “She fought the squire’s knights that had harassed me with her lance effortlessly. She’d told them to teach their squires some honour. It got the applause of the crowd… Except the King who had ordered her found for not revealing herself. I thought he was the dragon that aimed to do her harm and when the prince returned only with the shield, I thought she was safe. I thought it had all come to pass…” Howland hesitated for a moment

“But then the Silver Prince crowned her” Beric finished.

“Aye, Queen of Love and Beauty, a title she deserved, but not from him. He made all the smiles die that day.” Howland spoke sadly.

“Aye not from him.” Beric agreed grimly. That Prince has done more harm than he’ll possibly realise.

"What did you do after?"

“I tried to warn her but she thought nothing of it. She thought the Prince meant her no harm and that he was better than her betrothed. I couldn’t simply say that I had been warned by the Green men and their dreams.”

Beric put a hand on the man’s shoulder, “How could you have helped Howland? You and I are both of the North. We all know Green dreams run in or blood but they have never been predictable. Only Green seers in the tales truly know. We can only interpret or wait for it to come. It has driven many men mad figuring out Green Dreams. I doubt the Green Men truly knew what would happen, no matter how accurate they were. It was never your fault. It was the dragon. From what you said, I feel they were warning you of the dragon.”

Howland sighed, “A wise point Beric… but everything they said rang true. I returned home to my cousin saying that my Father had died shortly after I had left. The Green Men were insistent that I was the Lord of Greywater Watch and they were right.” Beric went to say he was sorry but the small Lord continued. “I think he knew that before he sent me off. He’d written a letter wishing me luck at the end for the wars to come, telling me to be wary of dragons and to guard the Neck from the South but to always look North… for winter is coming. He always said he had Green Dreams.”

Beric felt a large chill go down his spine. He was in the south but he felt as if he were in the mountains at the height of winter. The night was a dark one. A perfect time for such ominous words. “Grim words to hear Howland. I think you’ve been told too much of things to come my friend. A burden none of us should have to bear. But not your fault though. We’ll get her back.”

Howland nodded, slight disbelief at not giving him blame, “Thank you Beric. We will from whatever tower she’s in.”

“No bother Howland, I’d say we best go turn in for the night. There’s work to be done in the morning.” At that, Howland put out the fire and went to join the other sleeping Crannog men. Beric sat in the dark for a moment, pondering what a tower of bitter ironies meant before finding a place to sleep. He hoped for a dreamless sleep but all he saw was a pool of blood and a cold wind blowing at the Wall.

Chapter Text

Benjen

It had been two months since the Battle of the Bells and it had only just come that a host of Royalists had made it to King’s Landing and to march along the King’s Road. The Rebels had scouts across the King’s road with some daringly close to the capital to inform them. Those that were near the capital 2 days ago had informed them that a Dornish host had met up with the Crownlands army and some Reach men were marching to meet with them. They reckoned that the army would number just over 40,000 men. The most important thing though to Benjen was that Rhaegar had led the Dornish host to the capital. The Prince that had stolen his sister had finally arrived to the fight. The fact that he’d finally shown up hadn’t made the wait any more bearable. They would still have to wait under a month before the fight and that was what was annoying Benjen.

The news had kept Benjen busy to say the least. They had had to spread out their troops across the Riverlands or they would have gone through all of the supplies to keep an army fed. That, and they needed to secure the Riverlands. It meant that were more or less prepared from any threats and the loyalists would only be able to meet them at the main body of the Trident. However, they had only just over 40,000 fresh troops so the numbers would be easily matched. Benjen hoped the traps that Howland and Beric had set would help demoralise the troops. He’d even gotten word from Jory that he’d secured the company, apparently, they were itching to fight the dragons according to his letter and that they’d been getting them organised and would be leaving Braavos in a week for the Saltpans. That had been dated a month ago so Benjen planned to send Wyman Manderly to meet them and inform them they would be heading to battle soon. They were 7000 strong according to Jory and there was another 2000 protecting their families on the ships to White Harbour. It would give them an advantage numerically at least. Potentially more if they positioned them in the right place.

Despite all the information he gained and planning, he could barely stay still; knowing who would be coming along the King’s road soon. I know better than to be rash but here I am, itching for the fight. That’s why he’d been sparring in the courtyard nearly constantly since receiving the news. He’d been doing it prior but he’d stepped up after. It’ll pay off when I get to kill the man that’s done all this to my family. Benjen still hadn’t decided whether he would kill the prince in battle or execute him in a Godswood. A large part of him wanted to sacrifice him to a Weirwood for his crimes to House Stark but there was every chance that sparing him in battle could be his own end if he played it wrong. He'd also considered the fact that Baratheon might take the chance from him. From what he’d seen at the Bells and in the courtyard the man fought like he was possessed. And any mention of the Prince turned his eyes angry. Benjen wouldn’t be the only one hoping to slay the Prince of the Kingdoms. The sparring in the courtyard helped take his thoughts away thankfully. You could only concentrate on the fight when and aiming to win.

He’d taken to sparring with all his Lords like he had on the march and it was helpful for clearing his head. They all had a different style which was useful in getting a handle on the different forms of combat and weapons he would be facing. Great Jon Umber was a lot faster when sober and could fight with a Great Sword almost like it was a knife. Benjen had been knocked on his arse a couple of times by the man and his new Good Brother laughed happily at that though. His new Good brother was eager to teach him how to use a Great Sword. His build was too skinny for now but Jon insisted that the practice now would help when he grew into it. “You’ll need to know for when you have sons to teach them” he’d said. Apparently, the Umber build would be unavoidable in them. His Good brother’s comment brought up another thought Benjen didn’t particularly want to think about; his future children. He hadn’t asked his wife in his letters whether she was pregnant, not wanting to be demanding considering they hadn’t had too much time to try for one. Though we were both eager. A large part of him had hoped for one but the dark chance of Benjen not returning from the war had worried him. I don’t want to have a child burdened to learn without a Father. He knew his Stark relatives would teach any child well or if there wasn’t one, rule well themselves but the thought of heirs seemed too final, like his death was coming too soon. Winter is Coming. The sparring helped him forget about that grim thought as well.

Jeor and Maege Mormont also had a similar style to the Umbers, especially Maege with her mace. The same went for Wulfric and Hugo and Theo Wull, just with their battle axes. They fought more tactically though than Umber who was a show of pure force, especially Wulfric and Jeor. Sharing blood with Wulfric did not ease up the man’s relentless assaults with that battle axe. The Glovers, Jorah Mormont and Medger Cerwyn had a more traditional approach with the sword which was what Benjen had been using and it gave him a good chance to fight off against people with a similar style to see what weaknesses it provided him. Benjen had even sparred with Lord Bolton which was jarring. The man never changed his face, it was always reserved and very calculated. Not an emotion or a tell on the man. I doubt the man was fighting at his best either. It proved that although Benjen may have fought well in the Battle of the Bells and he’d won his share of the spars in the courtyard, he still had a lot to learn.

The sparring had also brought the attention of some of the Lords from the other Kingdoms. Him and his Lords had gotten the chance to spar with the Lords of the Vale, Riverlands and Stormlands with Robert Baratheon (Who’d taken to fighting with Benjen nearly every day), the newly wed Brynden Tully (To the Riverlords present’s shock) and Lord Yohn Royce who’d more than impressed in the courtyard.  It had also brought Denys Arryn down. The man was still injured and from the argument he had heard between Jon Arryn and Denys, he wasn’t going to be fighting in the next battle against the loyalists. Benjen more than understood Lord Arryn’s reasoning having him as his only adult heir and the other being a babe. He doubts he’ll live long enough to train a child to be a Lord Paramount. Denys may have been effectively banned from fighting against the Prince but the man was eager to get back up to form despite the damaged ribs and the clear limp where he’d be stabbed. The lad had been nicknamed the Darling of the Vale with his blonde/brown hair and blue eyes. He’d garnered quite the attention of some of the Ladies in Riverrun, including a young Lysa Tully who’d started to regularly watch the sparring. Benjen had struck up a friendship with Denys when he’d come to spar.

“You fight well for a young lad Benjen, makes me glad you were at the Bells.” Denys had said after the bout. It wasn’t the most engaging one considering Denys’ injuries but the man clearly had some skill in his form, it was just easily exploited with the limp that was taking his speed from him. The man was sweating heavily.

“Aye thanks Denys, you’ve got an interesting form. I look forward tae seeing it properly when you’re back intae working condition.”

The man smirked, “Do you intend to be in the South long after all of this? We heard from Ned that you Starks long for home too much. He said the heat’s too unbearable. We know Ned did despite enjoying the Vale. And the way I felt after that, it’s going to be a while until I’m at form.”

Benjen nodded, “Aye Ned told you right, I dinnae intend tae stay in the South long. As soon as this war ends, I’m going home with my bannermen.” He sighed, “I’ve still got a lot tae learn about being the Warden of the North.”

Denys gave a sympathetic smile, “That I understand well. I wasn’t meant to be an heir or future Warden either. I’m a distant cousin that married into another cousin of the mainline so being an heir is far from what I ever wanted. But Elbert died alongside Brandon when they went South so duty calls.”

Benjen gave a smile, “Aye true, duty calls. What did you plan on before it all?”

“Honestly, nothing too grand. I’d been made Keeper of the Gates of the Moon despite coming from a poor branch. I fully intended to prove that I was worth it.” His face was determined at that but turned to a grin. “I was also more than happy to just fight in a few tourneys and teach my son. I was more than content to do that.” Denys smiled quite happily when he mentioned his son. “And what were your plans before it all.”

Benjen’s answer was less detailed, sighing, “I honestly didn’t know. I was the third son and fourth child. There wasnae exactly much on offer. Father might have used me tae be a match in the North. I could have had some holdfast. Nothing had been decided.” Father never talked about those things, you were just told.  “I hadnae been told what he intended of me. I had considered joining the Night’s Watch personally though.”

Denys gave a surprised look, “You meant to join the watch? Freeze at the wall for the rest of your life?”

Benjen nodded, “Aye, there’s great honour fighting fae the watch and Starks have manned the thing since we built it. I’d been told there would be great adventure by a recruiter at Harrenhal.” Benjen gave a small chuckle, “Though looking back on it I’m quite glad I didnae dae it. My wife proved that taking a vow of celibacy wasnae exactly desirable.”

Denys laughed and it seemed Robert Baratheon had heard as well as he entered the courtyard, giving a booming laugh, “Ha, seems the youngest wolf’s figured what life’s all about! I heard you managed to get your wife through a fist fight according to your bannermen! What have I missed?” The man’s loud all the time, reminds me of Brandon and Lyanna.

“Aye something like that Robert, and nothing much, just two spares commenting on what we planned before it all went tae shit,” Benjen smirked

Robert smiled, “And the Watch is all you could think of? If I weren’t the firstborn, I’d have been off to the free cities myself and set up a group of Sell Swords to rival the Golden Company. Be the best damned Sell sword of the East!” His eyes lit at the thought of it. “Hells, I’d still do it now; would happily give the burden to Stannis.” Then a giant grin came across the man’s face, “Maybe me and Lyanna could travel across the East with me when I marry her.”

Benjen had to hide a scowl at that. If she wants to, she can but I’ll let her choose. He had to begrudgingly admit that the man hadn’t whored his way around so far, keeping to the courtyard to train.  He gave the man a smile though at the mention of Lyanna, “You know Robert, Lyanna probably would love tae travel around Essos. She’s never been a still one. That’s the wandering wolf’s blood fae ya that”

The giant seemed to grin harder at that but Denys cut in, “You’d really give up your birth right like that?”

Robert just laughed, “Of course, despite what Jon or Ned have said about duty…” His face frowned slightly though the moment he mentioned Ned. “I knew being a Lord wasn’t for me. I’m a fighter and sitting listening to disputes of the Lords and Common folk isn’t me.” He smirked, “It isn’t what life is for me anyway. Jon reckons otherwise though, reckons I could be more.” He laughed again, “But I’m a man of simple tastes! live for the fight, the drink and the women!” The man exclaimed the three like it was a mantra. Hard words to disagree with. I’ll stick to the one bed though, not all of them.

Denys laughed at that, “I remember you saying that to Ned every time you took him out drinking.”

Robert smiled wistfully, “Aye, tried to get him to have fun, too damn honourable though and shyer than a lamb around the ladies. He went as red as a sunburn when he got a letter from Ashara Dayne.” What was he getting a letter from her for? “Didn’t have that wolf blood like Brandon when it came to the women, or like you Benjen!” He laughed a bit despite the slightly mournful look on his face.

Benjen gave a grin, “You may have been his best friend Robert but you're wrong on the blood; the man had the Wolf blood in him, just like the rest of us Starks. He knocked Brandon out in one at the end of the Tourney for a dishonourable deed.” Ned wouldn’t want me to mention why but he deserves to be remembered as a wolf, through and through.

The two Lords looked stunned, Robert gobsmacked, “He did? The quiet wolf who only fought the mountain clans and bandits, too shy to speak to a Lady and do dishonour… knocked his brother out cold?” Denys asked, surprise not hidden on his face.

Benjen continued to grin, “Aye he did, Brandon had a black eye all the way tae Winterfell. He didn’t say a word to anyone about it tae anyone. I only saw because it was near the tent. My brother never saw it coming. I didnae think Ned would have mentioned it.”

Robert started to grin again, then laughed, “Ned fucking Stark! You never cease to amaze!”

The conversation was interrupted by one of Riverrun’s servants with a piece of parchment in hand. “I’m sorry milord but a letter has arrived for you from Winterfell.”

Benjen opened the letter and read, seeing that the seal was marked with both Stark and Umber so he knew it was his wife, Ally. Benjen read intently, the pocketed it and picked up his sword, with a determined look on his face, with a small smile on his lips. “Robert, I want a spar, at your best with that Warhammer of yours.”

Robert raised his eyebrows, “Eager to fight? Bad news?”

Benjen shook his head, “No, my wife’s pregnant, I’m gonnae be a father. And I plan on living tae see him or her so I need more practice”

The two Lords began to congratulate him as they went to get Robert’s hammer from the master of arms. Another duty, but a nicer one than justice and vengeance. I’ll need to live to see my child and Rhaegar needs to die for taking everyone else.

Chapter Text

Wyman Manderly

The Saltpans wasn’t an exactly large town. It had a small keep held by House Cox and there weren’t too many buildings in the town. It had a good-sized port though and the feel of a breeze from the water was enough to remind Wyman of home. Wyman enjoyed his food and riding horses but being by the mouth of the river and entrance to the sea had always given him a sense of peace despite the hustle and bustle that came from a port city. The Port at the saltpans wasn’t usually busy from what he’d been told upon arrival, primarily sending goods down to Maiden Pool to go the rest of the way. Today though, the port was alive with ships, most of them his. They didn’t fly the Manderly banner to prevent any Targaryen scouts from identifying them as the enemy’s but he recognised his merchants’ ships and warships (the few the North has) easily enough; there were some others that must have been hired to account for the amount of people coming. The Company was arriving in Westeros for the first time in 300 years, an army of 7000 Northerners had returned to fight the dragons after choosing exile over bending the knee. There would be more entering White Harbour at the same time roughly. Probably the more momentous occasion of the two, getting to go home to the North immediately, Wyman thought.

Wyman had been glad to be the one to greet the returning Northerners, in large part because it showed his liege trusted him fully. The business of Walys and his correspondence had worried him despite Benjen’s assurances not to worry. The Manderlys had not been from the North, originally being Reach men who had been exiled for growing wealthy. The Starks had taken them in over a thousand years ago and they’d never looked back. They created the largest city in the North and were proud to serve House Stark. They’d married into Northern houses, over the centuries, giving them the blood of the first men like everyone else and on the most part it showed they were of the North. They were considered slightly southern for practicing the faith and being quite invested in knighthood and chivalry but it was never hostile, more a jape. The Manderlys were Northerners and proud to be that. Walys and the Hightowers’ actions made Wyman fear that his faith in the Seven would lead to accusations that he would have been implicit in their crimes. Thankfully, nothing had been said throughout the war but Wyman had intended to prove himself regardless. He fought as hard as possible, despite his size, more than eager to prove that he had not engaged in any treachery. Being the Lord to meet with the Company and Jory Cassel and organise them for the battle against the royalists gave Wyman some comfort, knowing that his liege trusted.

Watching the Company dock and reach land had been an amusing sight. It was entertaining to hear grumblings of the Tongue from men with a mix of dark, red and white skin. You could tell which ones had been in Essos the longest but it was evident that the Northern blood still caused them to burn in heat, no matter if they’d been born in Essos. The blood of the first men has never done well in warm climates. There was a sense of anticipation on all of their faces whether it was for the battles to come or the knowledge that they would soon by going home to the North. As he watched the sight of the Northerners docking, he saw two men approaching, a young lad, dark hair and blue eyes, and a nervous look, with the Sigel of 10 white wolves on his tunic and an older man with darkened skin, grey eyes and a large bow strapped to his back and a sword. This must be Jory and Commander Snow. The Stark look’s not left his line then. He’d been impressed that the young Cassel had got the Company to join the fight. It was a large task for a man of a small house. Though my liege grew up with them, he probably didn’t know who else to trust at the time.

“Good to meet you Commander Snow and Welcome back Jory, Lord Stark sends his thanks to the both of you! He’d have met personally but he needs to be with the banners now waiting for the Royalists” Wyman said the words jovially, offering his hand.

Jory gave a smile and Commander Snow nodded, gripping his hand with a firm shake before, “Well met Lord Manderly, we’ve got a couple of relatives of yours in the company who I’m sure you’d like to meet, they still wear their Sigel proudly.” Wyman couldn’t help but smile at that. “I’m hoping we haven’t missed too much of the fighting my Lord? My men are looking forward to fighting the dragons. 300 years too late.”

Wyman nodded in agreement, “Aye you’ve not missed too much. I’ve received word that the royalists are two weeks march from the Trident. The Rebels intend to meet them at a ford in the Trident near House Darry. The royalists are being led by the prince so you’ll be getting your fill Commander.”

The man’s composure remained the same but for a brief moment he saw a flash in his eyes. His eyes looked almost wolfish. “Good, my men will be glad to hear that. Are we to meet with our kin before the battle?” The Commander asked. “Or is the distance too long from our position?” Good question to ask when you’re unfamiliar with the territory.

Manderly began, “We are near but because of where the loyalists are coming from it would be too risky. Given where you’ve landed; we’re on the right side of the river but if we to join up with the army there is a large risk of being caught by the loyalists. You’d be outnumbered and likely get smashed.” Commander Snow and Jory both grimaced at that.

Commander snow responded quickly and with a smile starting to grow, “So we’re to wait until the Royalists have crossed the Trident then?”

“Aye we are Commander, Lord Benjen wants us to cut them off and attack from behind. He doesn’t want a chance of them escaping back to King’s Landing.” Jory grinned at that alongside the Commander. He’s sent orders for us to keep back enough so we won’t be spotted. He’s asked me to guide you all there due to your unfamiliarity with the land.”

Commander Snow nodded happily, “A good plan my Lord, I hope it tips the battle in our favour. I best go tell the men.” And with that the Commander Snow gave a nod to Jory and walked off to help with unloading supplies, leaving the young Jory to stare at the Wyman. He was clearly nervous and slightly pale. It had left slightly in the conversation but with the Commander gone it was back in full force.

“Nervous for your first battle my boy?” He asked.

The lad shook his head fervently, “No its not that my lord, I need to ask for your help.” Wyman gave a curious look as the Cassel hesitated; the lad was nervous but there was a seriousness in his eyes. Are the company up to something? “I made an agreement to get Commander Elric and the company to fight, something the Lords can give.”

Wyman raised his eyebrow, “What could the Lords give that Benjen couldn’t? He’d said that they’d be given lands in the North? Or are they demanding some of our own titles?” This could be a problem.

Jory was quick to respond, “No, nothing like that, they’ll be happy with what lands Benjen intends to offer. They’ll listen to whatever their King commands.” Wyman tried his best to hide a stunned look.

“They plan on declaring Lord Benjen King?” He asked it in a hushed tone, it may have been mostly Northerners but he didn’t want any of the River folk to hear.

“We know no King but the King in the North whose name is Stark.” Jory replied simply, with a hint of a smile on his face despite the clear nerves. “Benjen doesn’t want to be a King. He'd said so himself before he sent me off. He said to us that he doubted he’d be capable, too young and a spare’s spare.” He’s more than proved that to be false, Manderly thought as he listened. “He won’t do it himself regardless of how well he’s done but I promised the company that the Lords of the North would even if Benjen wouldn’t.”

“He’d be unable to refuse us; the young Stark’s decisions have put the North first every time.” Wyman stated confidently.

Jory took that the statement well, speaking less nervously, “Aye he would if they do. But will the lords declare Benjen King?”

It was a simple question really with an easy answer. Yes. Everyone in the North grumbled about the South, still looked at the conquest poorly. The dragons had not earned any loyalty from House Stark recently and Benjen had shown himself a true Stark of Winterfell despite his age. Wyman respected Benjen to lead the North and would gladly declare him a King. They’d grumbled when talk came on who to replace the dragons. None of them liked the alternatives and Benjen had held off deciding on it, wouldn’t talk of it until they’d beaten the dragons. I’m sure the rest of the Lords were wondering why that had to kneel to Southerners when that topic came up. He’d heard the Great Jon mumbling about them not knowing our ways. The answer was easy. It was just a matter of how they’d time it so it couldn’t be ignored and put down by their allies in the South. Wyman would have to think on that.

Wyman replied smoothly, “Aye Jory they will.” The young Cassel smiled. “They know as well as I do that bending the knee to dragons has been nothing but a mummer’s farce.” He smiled widely at the lad, “Our liege will be our King, I’ll make sure of it.” We know no King but the King in the North whose name is Stark. The mummer’s farce is almost over.

Chapter Text

Lewyn Martell

It was a tough time to be a King’s Guard and a Dornish man. Lewyn thought grimly as he finished preparing the 10,000 Dornish spears that had marched to fight against the rebellion for the fight to come today. It had been easier before the Tourney, when all he had to do was hide his paramour, before the Silver Prince began his mockery of Dorne and Elia. Elia, his niece and her children were the only real reason him and his fellow Dornish soldiers were fighting. From his talks with the few Lords that came and the soldiers that Doran was willing to said, they were not happy to be fighting with Rhaegar Targaryen. He’d heard more than enough from them that they were only here to defend Elia. He’d even heard from one of the Lords who were at Sunspear that Prince Doran was reluctant to send troops until Rhaegar had mentioned that Elia and her children were still in the Red Keep; with Rhaegar being the only hope of removing Aerys from power. The apple doesn’t far from the tree. He’d effectively said that they were hostages. It was sadly true. The King had been the one to give him command of the Dornish, quick to mention that his victory was of the uttermost importance their safety. His threats were about as subtle as his cackles on that throne as he burnt people, and his smile as decrepit as the rest of his body. Would he burn Elia and her children and claim that her heirs weren’t truly dragons? Lewyn had wondered at the time. He still did. The fact that he was the only Martell in the army spoke volumes as well. Oberyn had outrighted refused to fight alongside Rhaegar, shouting and raving according to the Lords, and Doran wouldn’t even if he could. Lewyn just hoped they were working to get them out. It made the camp a tense one.

Dorne’s tensions with the dragons had not been the only problem that had befallen Lewyn lately. Ever since the army had been fully formed and they began marching they had trouble with the different forces that made up the Royalists. Their forces largely consisted of Reach men, numbering 17,000, the 10,000 Dornish, 8,000 Crown Lords and 5,000 Riverlords. The Crown and River lords had lost some morale, with them both suffering losses in the reported massacre that was the Bells. The River Lords hoped to get their keeps back which they had left when marching South to gain aid. They’d been disheartened at the fact that most had been taken easily. It had meant that the army did not have any keeps to gain supplies from. Even Castle Darry had been taken where they’d hoped to camp; it was where the Rebel army waited to Ser Jon Darry’s horror. Harrenhal had also been garrisoned, limiting them to the King’s road and unable to go west.

That wasn’t even the major issue. The Dornish and Reach men hated each other. They had since a Tyrell had been poisoned when he had been appointed governor over Dorne when they’d been invaded. Those tensions had increased over the march into the Riverlands. The army had fallen victim to numerous problems; they’d been hit with traps hidden on the roads, wooden spikes hidden in the grass and the occasional pit which a couple of horses had landed in. They’d had to slow their march considerable to check the roads and anywhere they camped. The traps mostly didn’t kill but they had maimed, crippled and gelded some. The army had also discovered that the water wells had been poisoned, not realising until the evening when some of the troops began fighting each other, waking up with no memory. They’d apparently been hallucinating. It was made worse when a soldier of the Reach’s throat had been slit in the middle of the night. He’d been having a row with one of the Dornish but the lad swore he didn’t do it. Similar incidents had happened throughout the trip. They had been watched. In the end, The Prince finally weighed in and stated that the Dornish and Reach needed to be on opposite sides of the camp and ultimately the battlefield they stood on today, separated by the Crown and River Lords. Hopefully we can direct the hatred to the rebels. Lewyn thought as he inspected his Dornish spears.

Despite that though, the army wasn’t in chaos, just on edge from having a considerably harder trip and worried at what the Rebels were capable of. The two armies stood on opposite sides of a ford in the Trident. Lewyn could see the banners of House Baratheon, Arryn, Tully and Stark, littered with their bannermen’s flags. Scouts had shown them to have roughly the same numbers as them. An even fight. That didn’t make them look any less imposing. There’d been an approach from the rebels for a parley so Rhaegar could surrender for his crimes and avoid unnecessary deaths. Rhaegar refused a parley. Lewyn doubted the parley would have went well if it had happened. The dragons have burnt too many people for that and thousands will die because of it. Hearing a horn, he saw the Prince in his black armour adorned with rubies motion for the army. He didn’t even utter a word. He never did speak much. Only when he particularly wanted something. Lewyn thought. He heard the chanting of the army.

“Rhaegar!”

“Rhaegar!”

“Rhaegar!”

Lewyn scowled. The man had earnt their loyalty despite him starting the war in the first place. They still think he is that gallant Prince. The Dornish were silent until he heard a shout,

“For Elia!”

The Dornish all joined at that.

“For Elia!”

“For Elia!”

“For Elia!”

“For Elia”

Lewyn chanted as well as they marched to fight the rebels. It was the only thing that could reconcile being Dornish and A king’s guard. We fight for you and your children Elia, nothing more, nothing less. 10,000 Dornish spears marched towards a soon to be bloodied ford in the Trident

*

Artos

The Trident’s a whole different beast to the Bells. That was Artos’ first thought as he charged into the ford with the Northern Cavalry directly at the approaching dragon’s forces led by one of his King’s guard. It wasn’t as simple as surrounding an unprepared army. They were going to be fighting roughly the same numbers and against King’s Guard Knights. It was going to be a bloody one and a hard fight. Victory would not be as assured but Artos hoped for it. Thousands of hooves sounded like thunder and the inevitable clash would make it worse. A clash that will decide the war, Artos realised as they got closer and closer to their intended targets, the Reach side. He was a part of Benjen’s Vanguard alongside Great Jon Umber, Rickard Karstark, Galbert Glover, William Dustin and Jorah Mormont. Benjen was leading the cavalry into the charge at the right flank against the Reach forces and deal with the cavalry so their foot could move into the battle better. Artos could feel his blood pumping as they hurdled forward. Terrifying yet thrilling at the same time.

Artos’ thoughts ended the moment they clashed with the Reach men. It was a hard smash that had thrown riders off on both sides, falling into the river. Blood was already starting to flow in the river as lances and swords clashed into each other. It was almost as if the ground was shaking as they began their battle. Artos hadn’t fallen off his horse in the initial strike, managing to impale a man with his sword, and with the rest of the Lords they began to push forward. It was impossible to think in the battle, the only goal being to kill as many of the opposition as you could. He could see out of the corner of his eye that the other Lords were pushing through the Reach men with complete determination. He saw Rickard and Galbert tear through a group, using a long sword and an axe. Jorah and William parried the foes elegantly before swiftly cutting through them, William at complete ease on the horse. The Great Jon swung his sword into their skulls like a hammer into metal. They were a fearsome lot to fight with. Barring Benjen, he was the youngest out the lot of them but he more than intended to kill as many as the older Lords. Benjen must have felt the same as he slashed through two men with his sword and Ice still on his back. Artos slashed his way through the swarm of Reach knights, pushing his horse further and further forward into the fray. He wasn’t an elegant fighter so every block and parry with his enemy was an aggressive one. The clangs of sword on sword and sword on any armour when looking for a weak point was loud and almost clumsy. His armour had taken a few hits but none had made their mark yet. Northern armour was simple but practical. Artos though had managed to cut another two, aiming for the neck which had gotten results. The blood splattered out of them and lost control of their horses. The clash had only lasted a few minutes but it had felt like longer by the time they’d pushed through the knights into the more open battlefield

The Northern cavalry was relatively intact and they gained space to push into the Reach’s second wave of cavalry that had moved up behind them, hoping to push through into their infantry and a low the North’s foot to move in. They were lucky they didn’t have to deal with many spears like the Knights of the Vale on the left flank in some respects. Artos followed Benjen into their charge through the cavalry, another clash but Artos was more prepared for it, cutting through them as quickly and as brutally as possible. Both sides were trying to hold their ground and push through, neither side giving way. He could hear the screams as each soldier on both sides took damage and fell from their horses. One rider got a strike in on Artos he’d grunted and cursed when getting a hard strike on his side. He angrily swung his sword at that knight who had done it, though the man was too quick and went for another swing at him. Artos managed to dodge it, his horse responding more violently when he put his torso down on its back to avoid the strike. The horse sped forward slightly, moving away from the Reach men he was fighting. He’d thankfully gained some cover from one of the cavalrymen who was behind the vanguard as he tried to regain some control of the horse while blocking any attacks. It was a brutal slog fighting on horseback, having to concentrate on the horse as well as the combatants, especially for someone usually on foot. Artos had managed to get the horse back under control, able to do more than block and dodge, striking into the cavalry, taking a rider’s head off with his sword.

Artos aimed to strike at the next rider’s head but the knight blocked with a shield and went to strike. The Knight was extremely well armoured. A Lord, Artos realised. The lord swung back and Artos managed to block and aim to strike but the man blocked quickly with his shield, his horse still under good control. This time, Artos got a good look at the shield and he quickly realised that the Sigel on his shield was a tower with a light on top. A Hightower! It got Artos’ blood pumping, giving a snarl under his helmet and swinging violently into the man. The man blocked it again with his shield but he managed to dent the metal and shake him on his mount slightly. Mountain and Wolfblood gives strength. Artos remembered his father and Grandfather once said as he went for another heavy strike at the shield, making another large dent into the tower.

The Hightower was skilled though and was able to keep his composure despite the heavy strikes and swung again. Artos noted the man was faster than him. He may have been stronger and every strike he hit shook the man but he was faster with his word and horse, pushing Artos back. Artos was struggling to keep up with the blocks and keep himself from falling off his horse, or worse losing control of it fully. It almost felt like a one on one despite the cavalry surrounding, and the sound of the battle booming. A one he was losing. Artos had managed to keep getting heavy strikes in past the man’s defences, making larger dents and getting the man to stumble but Hightower got multiple strikes in quick succession. Artos had taken some cuts to his arm and another battering at his side. He was amazed that he hadn’t despite the repeated blows. He’d went for another heavy swing into the Reach lord but the man had pushed through his guard before he could strike and hit him square in the chest. Artos had the wind taken right out of him.

Artos gripped hard onto his horse but it wasn’t enough and he’d fallen off. He’d landed well but his sword had dropped out of his hand. He expected to get cut down but a rider nearby engaged the man, the cavalry was much more spread out now. It was brief fight though because the Hightower cut him down with ease. Artos scrambled for his sword in that brief moment and grabbed it, just blocking as the man went to cut him down. It was a bad position and the only option that came to Artos was to not strike the man but the horse. He went for the legs of the horse. It took Hightower by surprise as the horse screeched in pain. Hightower took a fall but managed to get up quickly… but his helmet went off and he could see William Dustin coming towards him. Artos grinned, there was an opening. He struck the man hard, keeping him distracted from the cavalry, he didn’t expect to get a fast-enough blow in but he kept him distracted. Even managed to cut the man’s arm, right as Dustin rode and impaled the man’s skull. Artos gave a cheer and a nod to Dustin. It gave him time to realise that they’d spread the Reach cavalry out and let the Northern foot march. Artos fell back to join his father and grandfather and foot, noticing Benjen moving towards horsemen led by a man in black and red. Good luck Lord Benjen. Artos thought as he joined up with the infantry.

Wyman

Wyman, Jory and the Company had made it to the battle in time and their pursuit had been undetected, standing on a small hill behind the battle at a ford in the Trident. They could hear the sounds of 80,000 swords clashing as they approached. He heard Commander Elric shout orders, “Get in position! We’ve got a dragon to kill!” He could see the grin on Elric’s face and a cheer from the men as they moved in, banners of Northern houses and the faces of Weirwood. They were a collection of archers, foot and a small amount of cavalry for the commanders but in total they were 7000 strong, about to take the enemy from behind. The surprise would give them a massive advantage. From what Wyman could see on his horse, the battle was in full swing, no clear winner yet, but there was a collection of reserves that hadn’t joined the fray yet. Wyman had been given command of the archers by Elric to remove them.

“Right lads! Aim at their reserves! Knock your arrows!”

The archers knocked, aiming right for the Royalists. They did it almost in unison. Wyman took a deep breath then gave a booming shout. “And Loose!” The volley of arrows went in complete unison and flew through the air like a knife in butter. The arrows hit their target, bodies dropped on the field behind the ford of the trident. It had taken them by surprise, Wyman shouted quickly again,

“Knock!” The Company’s archers had done it again, even more eager after the first success.

“Loose!” Another volley went straight into the turning soldiers, making their mark, some were starting to lift their shields. It didn’t help most of them. Wyman repeated twice more before it became evident that the soldiers were expecting it. He could faintly see some running towards the battle, hoping to get help. Wyman doubted it would matter. They would be fighting on two fronts. The royalists made defensive positions.

Wyman heard a boom from Commander Snow, “Right! It’s time to show the dragons what true warriors are fucking made from!”

The company roared, “Northern Steel!” Swords bashed on their shields as they chanted it. It was met with another command from Snow, “Charge!”

And with that, Wyman rode down alongside thousands of footmen, swords in the air. A battle to declare a King. “For the North!” Wyman shouted as he rode down into the battle.  

Benjen

It was fucking carnage. That was the only way Benjen could describe it as he hacked and slashed his way through the battlefield on his horse. It was brutal. It wasn’t clear who exactly was winning, neither seeming to lose ground. Though from Benjen’s position on the right flank he could see the Riverland forces pushing towards one of the King’s guard led by the Blackfish, surrounded by Freys. They must be trying to protect their new good brother, Benjen mused in a brief lull in the battle on his flank. It seemed from Benjen’s perspective that Tully had his eyes on the King’s guard hoping for the chance to kill one of them. Benjen’s attention kept to the battle as he continued his push from the right flank.

Benjen had just finished cutting through the Reach’s cavalry, splitting his cavalry in two, one to protect his Northern foot, while his group was pushing for cavalry in the centre, where the Prince was. He was hunting for Rhaegar. It wasn’t hard to find him, adorned in jet black armour with rubies plated into it. It was regal armour and it clearly commanded a sense of authority among the royalists in the army, aiming to protect him. Benjen didn’t care about whatever authority it gave the Prince. I just want to rip through it and kill him, Benjen thought as he angrily pushed through the lines of royalists with his horse. The amount of people in Benjen’s way though was large and it was taking time to get through despite the support of his vanguard. He’d also worryingly seen the hulking sight of Robert Baratheon in his stag armour, with antlers even on the helmet. He was tearing through the lines of foot and cavalry like they were nothing with that Warhammer, also trying to push towards the Prince. He’s like a demon, Benjen thought as he continued his push towards the Prince. Benjen knew he would have to be quicker if he wanted to get there quicker so he kicked his horse to go faster and plunged his blade into another royalist. I want to kill the bastard.

The approach to the Prince was not going as well as Benjen had hoped with the number of soldiers in front of him though, each one tiring Benjen and his cavalry out more. That was the problem, if they tired, they could get overwhelmed, just like anyone else in the army and that could take away their chances of victory. Benjen kept pushing though, keeping his eyes firmly on the Prince. I will not let that damned bastard live. He impaled a man as he rode his horse harder through the masses of men. I will not let Robert take my justice. Benjen trampled over a footman in his way. Benjen had killed many but it still did not feel like he was any closer to his enemy, growing more and more worried that Baratheon would get there first. Then something changed, he saw Royalists turning around. And he heard a clashing of steel behind the Royalist lines and chants in the tongue. “The North, The North, Winter Comes for Dragons!” Benjen grinned under his helmet. The Company’s here. They’d made it in time and it gave the Rebels a much larger chance having the royalists fight on two fronts. Some of their men had to go back and join in their defence against the company. Benjen renewed his efforts and sped further forward with the Vanguard, feeling the Wolf Blood flowing through his veins. “To the Dragon Cunt!!!!!” He shouted as his men renewed their ride towards the Prince, seeing a shift in their favour. He expected to see Robert out of the corner of his eye, pushing in the centre after seeing the change but to his shock the man was tearing towards the Dornish instead. Benjen would have thought about it if he wasn’t getting dangerously close to the Prince. Benjen gave an order to the Vanguard. “Keep any and all soldiers away from me and the Prince! He’s mine to kill!” He shouted it with a growl. It was brash and stupid but Benjen intended to do it himself. The man who passes the Sentence will Swing the Sword rang through his head as his men inched closer to the command.

They made one final push and then he was there, a few feet from the prince. Him and his men had pushed through and gotten him there. The armour looked more ornate and intricate than at a distance. It reeked of Southern Extravagance, especially in comparison to his simpler armour, standard armour. He couldn’t see the man’s face but he didn’t seem to care as he turned his horse to face him, he was unflinching. Is he that confident in his abilities? Benjen thought. In truth Benjen didn’t care what the prince thought, booming at the Prince as he charged, “WHERE’S MY SISTER RHAEGAR?!!!!” He doubted he would ever get an answer from the man. He refused the parley. The Prince blocked his strike as he charged. Rhaegar blocked it with ease, almost casually. The Prince spoke before striking back, “A battle of Ice and Fire, a fitting way before the Prince that was Promised comes,” he said almost too softly too be heard. Benjen didn’t understand it as he blocked the Dragon’s counter with his shield… it just enraged him. He pushed his shield into the sword and went for a strike. The Prince blocked it effortlessly. It just made Benjen angrier as he hacked at the man, as aggressively as possible. Every strike was blocked as the man made increasingly better hits on his shield, pushing his horse backwards.

Benjen kept striking hard, not doing much until the Prince got a hit with his jewel encrusted sword. It had hurt, but his breastplate had taken the brunt of it. It knocked some sense into Benjen though. He’s better than me on the horse, and I’m too young and skinny to fight like Brandon. He decided to do something he’d caught Artos do, he went for the horse. Putting his shield up to block another slice from the Prince and crouching close to his horse, Benjen slashed at the horse. He didn’t kill it but he cut it and spooked the horse. It didn’t knock him off but Benjen took his distraction and struck at Rhaegar’s torso, knocking one of the rubies, winding him. Benjen grinned as he realised, he’d managed to hurt the bastard. It’s a start. He pushed forward on his horse and made more strikes at his shield, denting it as much as possible, putting the Prince on the back foot. Before the Prince could regain his footing, Benjen struck at the horse again, this time cutting its throat. The horse panicked and Rhaegar lost control, falling off the horse. I’ve unhorsed the Cunt.

The Prince managed to get up, holding on to his sword, shield gone and another Ruby falling into the ford. Benjen got off his horse. He’d seen Artos knock a man off his horse from the ground and didn’t fancy the prince doing the same to him. He also felt more comfortable fighting on foot as well. I’ll take any advantage I can get. What annoyed Benjen was that the Prince still seemed unfazed. He seemed too calm in his stature. Benjen wanted to charge at the man. Every gallon of his blood was urging him too. He stared calm and lifted his shield and sword. The two circled each other in the blood drenched ford, surrounded by the chaos of the battle. Rhaegar made the first move, making a graceful movement as he went for Benjen’s head. He ducked and moved to the side, making for a hit on his torso. He managed to get a hit on his shield at least. The battle repeated like that for some time until the Prince blocked again and quickly struck, striking Benjen on his shield arm. It cut through the leather on his armour, and bled. Shit, Benjen thought angrily. The Prince was quicker than him, more skilled and had more experience too. He was outmatched and made the stupid decision to fight alone. It would have deterred anyone else but Benjen was pissed and decided to take a risk, remembering his father’s words, “Don’t get into any fights, but if you do, win.” He threw his shield at the Dragon Prince before the Prince could make another move. It must have shocked Rhaegar because he didn’t make to dodge and it landed right in the centre of his torso. Another ruby fell off, some armour with it, leaving a small opening. He keeled over onto his side, dropping his shield.

Benjen didn’t hesitate at the momentary victory and charged straight at him, putting his full weight into a shoulder barge. “For Lyanna!” The Prince didn’t have time to dodge or make a slash with his sword and he got knocked down into the ruby red ford. Benjen fell with him though in the barge. Both dropped their swords into the ford and their helms fell with them. Benjen went to punch the Prince in the face. It was the most satisfying thing he done since marching South, breaking the man’s nose. He went repeatedly at the man, making him bleed as much as possible until Rhaegar managed to block and punch Benjen in the ribs, pushing him back and allowing the Prince to stand. It was a good jab and it put Benjen on the defensive, blocking the Prince’s blows until Benjen kneed him in the side at the opening and punched him in the jaw again. Benjen quickly realised that the Prince was nowhere near as good a fighter with his fists than he was with a sword and that Benjen had the advantage. The Prince must have realised that as quickly unsheathed a dagger and stabbed him in the side, pushing away and grabbed for a sword in the ford. It hadn’t gone all the way through his armour but it still pierced flesh. Benjen went to kick him as he grunted in pain but the Prince managed to dodge and duck down to get his sword. The stab had given him time to retake an advantage. Benjen’s sword wasn’t anywhere near so before the Prince could make a move, he unsheathed Ice. The Valyrian Steel sword was heavy and Benjen had only been able to use it for executions but it was his only option. I’m only going to get one real shot here, Benjen thought, gritting his teeth in preparation. The Prince, with his bloodied and battered face went for a swing. It was slower than before. Benjen didn’t bother to block, deciding to move out the way instead. He did it three more times as the silver prince swung. On the fourth, Benjen used all his energy and stabbed the Prince in the chest. The Valyrian Steel went right through his armour. Rhaegar screamed hard, blood spitting out of his mouth. Benjen looked at the man and growled, “The North Remembers and I sentence you to die.” He watched as the life in the Prince’s eyes faded, with his last words being “Visenya,” as the blood spattered out of his mouth. Benjen removed Ice from the man who’d caused this mess, letting the body drop into gore drenched ford. He swung Ice at the dragon’s head. The Trident went silent for a moment, then he heard the sound he’d been waiting for from the Royalists. “Surrender! The Prince is dead!” Then he heard the Northerners start to chant, “Dragon Slayer!”

“Dragon Slayer!”

“Dragon Slayer!”

 Benjen smiled. He’d won.

Lewyn

Lewyn and the Dornish had been fighting well at the Ford. Their spears had been used quite well against the Knights of the Vale, preventing them from pushing forward. The Spears of Dorne were fighting hard but the battle overall had taken a turn. They were being attacked from behind from a group of Northerners. He had no idea how they’d gotten around the army but they had. It meant they were fighting on two fronts and had no way of escaping. Lewyn knew it meant that they would have to kill the leaders of the Rebellion to get a victory, nothing more, nothing less. He’d ordered his men to keep pushing into the cavalry and get as many Lords as possible. He could still hear Elia’s name being chanted as they kept striking at the knights. It gave him strength. Lewyn had managed to do damage in the Vale’s van, injuring a Corbray, with another running to get him and their sword out of the battlefield. “Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken!” Lewyn shouted. He had been fighting like a Dornish man as opposed to a King’s Guard. It made it infinitely easier. He only had to fight for Elia and her children in his mind. Their push was going well enough that it had spread out the leadership of the Vale Knights. It made it easier to get through their lines. Lewyn grinned as he saw a flying falcon in the air and a man on horseback covered in Arryn colours. Lord Jon Arryn. Lewyn grinned, knowing that he’d forced the man out of the rear to command the men better. The armour looked intimidating and the man had lords to his side but Lewyn knew what to do. He shouted at one of his men behind his lines. “Give me your spear!”

The Dornish man obliged and Lewyn grabbed it and took aim. Every man of Dorne, especially a Salty and Sandy one, knew how to wield a spear. He’d taught his nephews Oberyn and Doran how to wield one. He knew where a spear could go through chinks in armour and how to throw one with precise aim. He may be good with a sword, but a spear he could use like a true extension. Lewyn took a deep breath and threw it right at Lord Arryn’s neck. Nobody seen it coming, especially Lord Arryn as it went right through his neck. The Spear went straight through him. It panicked the Lords of the Vale as they saw their liege fall dead out off his horse. They went to rally their men to prevent a route. He gave a shout, “Arryn’s Dead! Push Harder” The Dornish roared, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken!”

Lewyn’s satisfaction ended though when he heard and ungodly cry. “JON!!!!!” He looked to his side and saw a group of Storm Lords who had been charging towards the Prince, charge at the Dornish. The person that gave a cry carried a giant Warhammer, with antlers on helm. It was Robert Baratheon. The Storm Lord thundered through the men in his way like they were ragdolls. He didn’t stop. He didn’t get hit once and the hammer just crushed his foes like they were nothing. Blood practically exploded out of their bodies as Baratheon charged on his horse. Lewyn went cold for a moment, That’s not a man, that’s a demon. He rose his sword and ordered his men to guard their left. It was too late though as the demon charged right through them. At this point he was getting attacked on three fronts, angry Vale knights at the front, Northerners charging from the back and a demon at his side. He went to fight the demon. Unbowed, Unbent Unbroken. He repeated in his head again and again. It wasn’t a long fight. Before Lewyn could even swing the hammer charged straight into his torso. He could physically feel the armour crush into his chest. The pain was excruciating and it had knocked him over. Hs white cloak fell into the bloodied water, turning it as red as Rhaegar’s rubies. He tried to get up, chanting the Martell words in his head again and again but the hammer smashed into him again. This time the armour split open and he could see the blood across his body. He wasn’t going to be getting up and he could see the Dornish army getting smashed, with Robert turning his attention to them as they went to try and defend the battered King’s guard. It didn’t work. Then Lewyn heard shout’s, “Rhaegar’s Dead!!!! The Wolf killed him!!!!” He sighed, and coughed painfully as he’d realised, they’d lost. “I’m sorry Elia” he muttered before it went black.

Chapter Text

Benjen

It surprised Benjen at how overjoyed people could be at their victory considering how many lives had been lost in the Victory at the Trident, as he walked through the camp. The cheering and laughter could be heard throughout the camp. It was to be no quiet night, even though Benjen and his lords would have to postpone it to meet with the Lords of the Kingdoms. Maybe that was to be expected though, being the first night the army could properly celebrate. It had been two days of tallying the dead, taking stock of supplies and assessing what hostages they taken on the royalist side. There was still blood in the ford, despite the constant flowing of the river. Benjen had taken 11,000 Northerners to the Trident and he’d lost 4000.That weighed heavy despite the win, leading those men to their deaths. Knowing they had fought successfully to kill a kidnapping Prince who indirectly caused their liege’s deaths didn’t help Benjen. It just made it worse that it took that many lives to kill one monster. Overall the rebel host had lost something close to 12,000 men and the Royalists had most of their army crippled, with very few survivors held hostage and even less that had escaped thanks to the Company. None of them Dornish, having fought to the bitter end, none willing to be taken hostage. You wouldn’t think so many lives had been lost when the celebrations in the camp outside of Castle Darry.

Maybe those who haven’t had losses drown out those in grief? Benjen wondered as he walked around the camp. He could hear soldiers and Lords that most likely hadn’t had personal losses talk of the feats they had done or seen in the battle, talk of how two of the King’s guard had been slain. Only Selmy lived, being a hostage under the care of Baratheon’s maester. Benjen had heard of how Brynden Tully had slayed Ser Jon Darry in single combat and of Robert Baratheon smashing through the Dornish Host, avenging Jon Arryn through killing Lewyn Martell. The hammer had crushed his armour into his body. The Martell was a shattered corpse when he’d seen it. It had been a surprise to Benjen that the old Arryn was dead. He knew the man led from the rear so he knew the Dornish must have pushed hard to force him into the front. Arryn’s death did explain Robert’s change in direction in the battle, Benjen swore that he would have made it to the Prince first. Robert had been grief stricken. Arryn’s death and Baratheon’s own injuries hadn’t stopped him from joining the celebrations but the sadness in the man’s eyes could be seen from a mile away. Benjen was glad it was grief though and not rage, I don’t want to be dealing with the Demon of the Trident in the talks soon. Robert had seemed to like that title whenever someone called him it.

Benjen couldn’t get used to his. Dragon Slayer. He could hear it being muttered by some of the lords as he walked along. It didn’t feel right to him. He couldn’t deny that he’d killed Rhaegar, not even if he wanted to. Benjen been happy to do it himself, same for when he put his head on a spike in front of his Northern Lords. He’d gotten some justice for Lyanna. The name though didn’t fit though. Benjen had been lucky to kill him, and the man wasn’t one of the fire-breathing monstrosities his ancestors had possessed. Maybe its like being Warden of the North, I just don’t feel like I deserve the title. Benjen’s thoughts were interrupted when he saw Wulfric’s white hair. The man was sitting by himself with a drink. Must want a moment alone from all the celebration. He’d been hoping to talk to him since after the battle. The man had given sound advice throughout the war. Though I expect I’ll get words for fighting Rhaegar alone.

“I guess you didn’t want to join in the celebrations Wulfric?” Benjen asked as he went to sit opposite the man.

The old Stark looked up at him, stony face ever-present and shook his head, “No Benjen, I’m too old for all of that, I’m happy to let my sons and grandchildren do that for me now.” He then gave a small smile, “And besides, I don’t want to be too drunk for the meeting soon. I reckon it’s going to be something akin to a storm.”

Benjen smiled at that, “Agreed, I’ve kept away from it all for myself. Still not used to dealing with all the Southern Lords. I have to keep my wits for it.”

Wulfric raised his eyebrow slightly, “The Dragon Slayer’s still uncomfortable at the thought of politicking after killing the Prince of the Realm? You’d think you’d be fearless after pulling that stunt.”

The mirth was there in Wulfric’s words but there was a slight sense of judging. Benjen knew why so just laughed, “I’m surprised you haven’t clipped met yet for acting as stupidly.”

Wulfric smirked, “I’m still tempted to Benjen if I’m honest. I’ve said I would tell you when you were being an idiot and that was probably one of the stupidest things I’ve heard. You’re just a jammy bastard to have won.”

Benjen nodded, “you’re right, I was stupid and lucky. I just got caught up in it when I got to him.”

Wulfric’s face turned stony again, “At least you know that. You’ll remember next time to think it through.” He sighed slightly, “I understand why you did it though. The Wolf blood runs strong, especially against those who have wronged us. It’s power over us is more terrifying than any meeting with these Southern Lords.”

Benjen’s smile left at mention of the meeting. It was what he wanted to discuss but the thought of it still made him uncomfortable. “Aye, that is true. How do you expect this meeting to go then?”

Wulfric gave a pensive look for a moment then continued, “I think it’ll go well Benjen. The war’s all but won and all the Royalists have now, are two smashed armies and a mad king to rally behind. It’s pretty much over.”

“Aye that is all well and good. The North is in a stronger position too with the company alongside us as well.” Benjen agreed.

It eased Benjen’s worries that Wulfric expected the meeting to go well. He went on though, “Its what happens after though that I’m worried about. This will be the meeting that determines who rules the realm.”

“And you’re worried you could make the wrong decision in all of this.” Wulfric said it as a fact. It was true though.

“Aye, what happens in that room could start another war or put the North in a horrible position. The options we have aren’t great. Its looking like our options for a King are a babe, a second son of a madman or Baratheon because of his claim, a man who sounds like he would abandon his Lordship at the first opportunity!” Benjen took a large swig of the drink he’d been carrying all night. He hadn’t touched it until now.

Wulfric looked at him for a long moment then spoke calmly, “All bad outcomes. But there could be others that you haven’t thought of. I’d say just keep calm and quiet until absolutely necessary. Gives you time to weigh the best options.”

The old Stark took a small drink, “Whatever is said in there, you’ll have all the Northern Lords and the Company’s Commanders behind you. We’ll make our opinions known.”

Benjen laughed at the last remark. “That I have no doubt of Wulfric.”

They sat and drank for a while in comfortable silence before Wulfric began again.

“Have you spoken to the company properly yet?” Wulfric asked

“Aye I have to an extent, some of their commanders, mainly Commander Elric and mainly to tell them to attend the meeting. I didn’t get much except that he was glad to be fighting against the dragons with his kin. Said it had been too long for a descendent of Brandon Snow to fight alongside one of Torrhen’s brood.”

Wulfric gave a small smile as Benjen went on, “His men seem to be itching for another fight. I intend to give them one.”

“Are you planning on sending them to Old Town then?” Wulfric asked

“Aye, that’s the plan, was hoping you would lead them down alongside House Cerwyn and Tallhart while I take the rest of the host heads for King’s Landing.” Benjen said, “And take the head of the Hightower Artos and William killed as well.”

Wulfric nodded with, “Aye I’ll lead the men, I’m sure the Company will enjoy that. I know I will.”

Benjen smiled at that. “Good. And Thank You. I feel more at ease with what’s to come.”

“That’s good Benjen. Everything will be fine. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

“The Pack survives” Benjen repeated. He hoped that would be true after this night. He drank the rest of his drink before getting up with Wulfric to find the Lords. I can’t doom my people tonight.

 

*

The meeting with all the lords was a slightly quieter affair in the beginning. Although the mood was generally a joyous one, it was much easier to tell who had lost people in the battle. Amongst his own he could see a more melancholic attitude. Hugo Wull and Rickard Karstark had both lost their brothers, Theo and Cregan. Rodrik Ryswell had also lost his brother Mark in the battle. He’d met with all of them when they had lived at some point but the worst had been hearing from Jory that they had lost Martyn Cassel in the battle. That one had hurt Benjen quite a lot. The man had been a good friend in Winterfell. He’d known him all his life. The Northerners weren’t the only ones to have lost people. Lord Corbray had lost his father, a few Storm Lords had perished and a few Freys. And Denys Arryn, the new Lord Paramount of the Vale looked lost in his seat at the table. Robert wasn’t the only one who had suffered from Jon Arryn’s death. Denys had been kept from the battle but had been ordered to lead the men away if it all went wrong. He probably never expected to become Warden of the East as quickly. Another Lord like me, a spare thrust into a duty he never expected or wanted. Benjen thought as he listened to the conversation. So far it had mostly been a celebration that Rhaegar was dead and they’d all but won the war. There’d been some talk of the feats that they’d done in battle until the new Lord Arryn spoke, trying to hide the slight shake in his voice.

“What now then? Are we to take King’s Landing now that two Royal armies have been all but decimated? Are do we treat with the other Kingdoms before marching for the capital?”

Lord Estermont was one of the first to answer the question, “We could negotiate with the other Kingdoms before marching. We do have some hostages from the Reach, that could get them to bend and end their siege of the Stormlands”

Some of the Storm Lords gave their voices in agreement in that. Benjen hadn’t heard much about the siege but he knew that Storm’s end would probably running out of food soon. It had been months since the siege had begun.

Lord Royce was quick to disagree, “We do have hostages but not enough important ones to prompt them to abandon their siege and join us. We have none from Dorne, killed to the last man.”

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, seems the Dornish words hold true, Benjen thought as he listened to the discussion.

“He’s right, what hostages we have aren’t substantial. We only have some Reach Lords and some River Lords. Nothing really negotiable. Even Ser Selmy has little bargaining power despite being a Knight of the King’s guard.” Brynden added

It was Hoster Tully who first argued in favour of taking King’s Landing, “It is probably the wisest decision to take King’s Landing. We’ll be able to treat in a stronger position with the Royalist Kingdoms when we have the capital.”

Most of the lords agreed except some of the Storm Lords. They probably had loved ones trapped in Storm’s End.

Then one of the River lords asked the question Benjen dreaded, “And once we’ve taken King’s landing then what? Who are we to declare King?”

Robert jumped in to answer to Benjen’s surprise, “No Dragons Denys. We do what Jon intended. I’ll take the throne as King.”

Benjen was stunned, the man who had whored and drank his way around before the war, the man who would happily shirk his duties to become a sell sword; had decided to declare himself a King. He knew it was an option that could come up in this meeting but he never thought it would be Robert himself to do it. And to his horror he could see most lords nodding their heads and giving their agreement. All except the Northern Lords.

Lord Manderly was the first to disagree, “On what grounds can you claim it though?”

Lord Penrose was the first to come Robert’s defence, “By right of conquest of course Lord Manderly.” Benjen didn’t fail to notice the slight sense of derision in his voice. He probably thinks us to be savages. Benjen realised angrily as Penrose went on. “It was Robert we fought for in this war for Rhaegar’s actions against his betrothed. And it was when Aerys called for Robert’s head when the war truly began.”

How quick they forget that he asked for Ned’s death as well. Benjen thought bitterly.

Lord Corbray also voiced his support for Robert, “He’s right, Jon Arryn raised our Vale Lords in his defence. Lord Arryn saw Robert as the next King. It is Robert’s by right of winning this war.”

Their words had not swayed the North. Lord Hugo Wull practically snarled at them as he rose from his seat angrily, “That is complete and utter shite! Have you forgotten that it was oor Liege and his son who were killed by that bastard?! Have you forgotten that it was The Benjen’s sister who was taken by the dead Prince?! This was never Robert’s Rebellion fae the North!!”

Lord Karstark joined in as well, “And your right of conquest is shite as well. It was Lord Stark who killed the Hand of the King and It was Lord Stark who took that arse Rhaegar’s head. If ya want tae claim conquest, you should bend the knee tae Lord Benjen!”

He could hear some of the clans shouting “The Benjen!” as they drank and watched the shouting match. Benjen’s lords were not happy with this development.

Benjen finally spoke, hoping to calm his lords down, “Do you really think declaring yourself King and claiming right of conquest will get the other Lords to bend?”

Hoster Tully got involved again, “It isn’t just about conquest, Robert has the closest claim through his Grandmother. Jon Arryn had discussed it at length over the war that Robert could claim it on both grounds. It would be impossible to argue against.”

Benjen stopped listening to the man go on when he heard the words, “Jon Arryn had discussed it at length over the war.” Arryn hadn’t dropped the idea since that meeting after the Battle of the Bells, Benjen realised. He’d been politicking it without talking to the North about it this whole time. The thought made Benjen fume internally. Looking to Lord Manderly he saw that he’d picked up on that as well, his usually jovial face gone. He wasn’t the only Lord of the North to realise it as well as Benjen looked at his bannermen. Benjen and his Lords had been excluded from this debate. They were going to have to accept Robert. It seems I had nothing to worry about, us northerners were never going to get to decide equally in the future of the realm.

Benjen’s realisations were interrupted when he tuned back to Hoster’s arguments.

“And more importantly with the former Royal family hostage when we take the city, they’ll have no other options.”

It went to shit even faster at mention of keeping the Royal family members alive. Robert had gone apocalyptic at the notion of it.

“I will not let any of Aerys’ and Rhaegar’s Dragon Spawn live! There will be no hostages! They’ve taken too much to draw breath any longer!” Robert roared those words like a battle cry and Benjen could see the Demon of the Trident emerge again as he flung out of his seat, injuries almost forgotten until the flinch of pain forced Robert to sit back down. Some Lords seemed to approve, others looked uncomfortable. Benjen was disgusted.

Benjen shot out of his chair, fully enraged, “It was only Aerys and Rhaegar that committed those atrocities Robert, that mad fucker deserves tae die fae his crimes and Rhaegar is a head on a spike! It’ll be done wae them gone! You’re really happy tae take the lives of the bairns?! They’ve done nothing wrong Robert!!!”

“Their family killed mine Benjen! They should pay for it!” Robert boomed.

Benjen had only one card left to play, ignoring the fact that he’d lost as much as Robert. “Ned would never support this Robert!!! He would argue as loudly as I am now against this. You’ll make a terrible King if you go through wae this!!!”

That seemed to get through Robert’s head, he gave a low growl, “Careful, Benjen. You’re crossing a line here.”

Benjen shook his head, “I’m not and you damn well know it!!” Benjen took a breath before speaking to all of the Lords present. “I’ll have no part in this madness at all. Never!”

The room was silent for a moment before Lord Estermont, Robert’s grandfather, gave a solution. “Robert you could send the boys to the wall and the girl to the silent sisters or keep as a hostage to Dorne. It would keep all the Lords in this room happy.”

Robert started to nod at that. And the Southern Lords nodded along. Almost like sheep, they really don’t care that much to see his outburst as an issue, Benjen thought darkly.

Lord Manderly answered Estermont though and forcefully to the Storm Lord’s surprise, “No my lord, House Manderly isnae happy and from the faces around me, the rest of the North isnae either. We’ve had enough.”

Benjen turned to Lord Manderly, as did everyone else in the room, all eyes staring at the large Northman.

“Lord Estermont, this talk has shown us a truth that us Northerners have known fae a long time. You don’t care about us. Lord Tully’s words on Arryn proved that. He politicked you all and never consulted any of the North, clearly hoping that we would buckle to the wants of your Kingdoms. You all expect it now as if we should sit and bend to your new King and be happy about it!! As if the so-called savages cannae think fae ourselves!!!” It was rare for Manderly to raise his voice, he was one of the quieter ones out of the Lords. That in itself spoke volumes for Benjen. If he was angry, then all of the North was. And lord Manderly did not intend to stop.

“This isnae even the first time we’ve been a victim tae the Iron Throne’s actions and the whims of the South. We’ve been constantly damaged by the short sightedness and supposed superiority of rule fae the South! Take Queen Alysanne, she took lands fae the Umbers and Karstarks tae create the new gift tae the watch! Instead of committing the South tae do their duty tae the Watch; she stole lands and gave the watch unmanageable lands! Those lands have long gone intae disuse! And only one King in the South has ever given aid in the harshest of winters! Hells, more Kings have summoned us tae war in winter than help their vassals through it!”

The man took a small pause, Benjen could see the Northern lords staring intently, a large number banging their mugs on the table in support. His words were singing true. Benjen had a bad feeling as to what he was doing. He can’t possibly be thinking of doing it? Benjen dreaded it if he was.

The Lord of White Harbour continued, “The North has fought in a Dance of Dragons, Blackfyre Rebellions and a failed conquest of Dorne. In the Dance, it was the old man of the North who cleaned up the mess you made, after you forced him to fight during winter. And what did he get fae all of you? He got mocked fae not bringing his army home who stayed so their families didn’t have tae feed them. He got mocked fae bringing order to the realm after a civil war tore it apart. And he was denied a Targaryen bride fae House Stark despite his services.”

The Lord took a deep breath, “The Pact of Ice and Fire was ignored and forgotten, just like the rest of the North. But now it has been twisted and perverted by the Iron Throne and those who dare sit on it.” He spat the last words with a fury.

Lord Manderly moved into the centre of the hall and stood before Benjen.

“That was the final straw fae House Manderly. We no longer answer to the Iron Throne or anyone who sits on it. We dinnae want it or anything South of the Neck! You’ve been allies in battle but I won’t bend tae you. The North Remembers. House Manderly was given shelter fae the south by the Starks. We are Stark Men! And we only bend tae House Stark. The ones who fight fae the North!”

The Lord took his sword out and knelt as he forced it to the stone walls, “House Manderly stands behind Benjen the breaker of Rhaegar, The King in the North!!!”

Benjen went cold. The room had all turned to Benjen and the kneeling Lord Manderly. He’d been declared a King. The first Stark King since Torrhen. A part of him wished that this would be the only one of his bannermen to do this but he knew better than that. He knew his Lords and Ladies. He knew his people.

It was his good brother the Great Jon who made his way to Manderly’s side next, a giant grin on his face. He boomed at all the Southern Lords, “Manderly’s right! You dinnae know of our ways! We only bowed tae Dragons, and they’re dead! You dinnae know the Wall or the Wolfs wood! And your Gods are wrong! Its about time we ruled ourselves again like the days of auld. And there sits the only King I intend tae bend ma knee tae! The King in the North!!”

The Sword went into the stone floor of Castle Darry. The clang was loud and his good brother’s face was lit with joy despite the seriousness of the moment. There’s no chance I can escape this. Benjen knew that as a certainty as he saw his kin join Wyman and Jon. Wulfric, Beric and Artos spoke almost in unison,

“The Starks of the Mountains stand behind King Benjen Stark!”

He could see the company’s commanders, Elric at the front, come forward with a roar, “We Know no King but the King in the North whose name is Stark!!!”

It was Karstark that came last giving a powerful shout, “I’ll have peace on those terms! You can keep your Iron Chair Robert, we’ll have oor King in The North!!!”

All he could hear was the chants after that,

“The King in the North!!!”

“The King of Winter!!!”

“The Benjen!!!”

It was all that could be hard in the room. They’d drowned out the Southern Lords completely as if they weren’t there. There wasn’t a single Lord not shouting. Even Bolton was chanting, albeit in an emotionless way. He’d been declared a King by his people. Of all the dread he felt for being given a duty he never wanted, the one thing he wanted to do amazingly was laugh. I had thought of joining the Watch. I guess this is no different. It’s a duty for life, and clearly a one I can’t abandon until. And now my watch begins. Benjen had stood at this point and smiled. He may not have wanted this duty but he would do it. His people wanted their freedom and he would give it to them. Benjen had wanted it to, I just never wanted to be the King. The chanting finally died down enough for the Southern lords to speak.

“You mean to declare yourselves independent?!! You can’t! It’ll set a precedent for the royalists to declare the same instead of bending to Robert!” Lord Tully spluttered out.

Benjen answered, if he was to be a king he would have to, “We have lord Tully, my bannermen have declared me King in the North so I won’t refuse it and none of you can stop it, short of breaking guest rights and killing us all. I dinnae like your odds either if you tried that either.” Some of the Southern Lords shifted uncomfortably at that. Hopefully that means that they respect guest rights to not start killing us.

Benjen continued, “As fae precedent, it might fae Dorne but fae what I was taught in my lessons is that the Tyrells gained their power in the Reach fae the throne, not by rights. They’d risk a civil war in their own lands tae dae it.” Benjen turned tae Robert, attempting to give the face of Winter that Wulfric and his Father possessed, “And if you keep Elia and her bairns alive, you’ll be able tae keep Dorne in line.”

Robert grunted at that but other Lords seemed to nod in agreement.

One of the Storm lords intervened, “What of Lyanna though? You would have power if you stayed in the Kingdoms with her as Queen, more than just King in the North.” That annoyed Benjen. He thinks I want power.

Another lord chimed in, “he’s right, or the betrothal would have to end. It won’t sit well if Robert is married to a lady that comes from a Kingdom outside of the throne’s power. You would weaken our position if you expect that betrothal to hold!”

Benjen would have been perfectly happy for that betrothal to end. Free his people and save Lyanna from a betrothal he doubted she would want after all of this. Something she never wanted in the first place. Sadly, Robert perked at that, shouting as always

“No, the betrothal will hold!!! Either way I will marry Lyanna. It would make sense anyway if the North is no longer under the iron throne. They would be kin through the marriage, securing the border.”

That hit Benjen hard. The fact that Robert had said something intelligent on something outside of military matters and that he was putting Benjen into a corner. He had hoped he would let Lyanna choose when he got her back. Though Robert seemed to be fine with the idea of the North being free.

Denys Arryn, who had been quiet for a while since it had all gone to shit finally returned to the conversation, “Tully’s right about this potentially setting a dangerous precedent but the North is right. At the very least in this war. I doubt anything short of a war will stop this, and I know the tales of Moat Cailin. And I’ve seen the Northmen fight. It would be a bloody one and we’ve barely finished this one. If you don’t mean us harm, I don’t see a problem with it. I consider you an ally and if that doesn’t change then I don’t see why you can’t. The marriage between Robert and Lyanna would more than seal that friendship.”

The words seemed to resonate with the Lords in the hall at their tables, both Northern and Southern. They didn’t want to fight much longer. All Denys’ words made sense, Benjen knew that, even though it would doom Lyanna.

“Lord Arryn, we’re happy tae be your allies, we’ve considered you that in this war, the North will always remember fighting side by side wae you, but we just cannae be ruled by you. It caused too much trouble fae us in too many ways. You can have Robert fae a King, he just not ours.” Benjen sighed, forgive me Lyanna, I am so sorry. I really hope you understand “And if you want an assurance then the betrothal will stand. As long as you recognise that we are free fae now and forever.”

Robert smiled happily, “As long as I get my Lyanna the North can rule herself. As long as Lyanna is my Queen!”

Denys clapped his hands, “Then to King Robert of the Six Kingdoms and King Benjen of the North!”

The Northerners were pleased to hear and began to toast to their freedom. He guessed they’d be happy that Lyanna was given a crown as well as securing their own freedom. The southerners looked pleased but Benjen didn’t know if it were truthful. They probably didn’t want a northern queen. Benjen wasn’t pleased though. He’d had to sacrifice Lyanna for his people effectively as the cheers and drinking began again, as if their arguments had been forgotten, Benjen sat and drank, hoping Lyanna would forgive him.

Chapter Text

 Jamie Lannister

The war was over. That was something everyone with a sane mind knew. Word of the Trident had come and the Prince was dead, his army crippled and most of the crown’s levies gone. The war was over and Jamie was on the losing side, a side he’d not been given the chance to fight for truly. Everyone in the small council’s table knew that. Except for one. It was a shame that Jamie was serving a man who didn’t have a degree of sanity in him to realise that the war was done, and nobody was fool enough to say it to him. Jamie doubted the man ever had any at all when he looked at him, sitting at the head of the small council. The long unkempt hair, nails that made a scratching noise on the tables of the small council as he grew more and more annoyed at the war. It was the face that was the worst though, the way he smiled as he burnt people alive, or how quickly he had turned when something didn’t go his way, raving to burn them all and blame everyone but himself.  

Jamie doubted the man had ever had any real sanity, despite what was said of him before the King’s kidnapping at Duskendale. Looking at the King since joining the King’s Guard made Jamie realise that the saying about Targaryens was true. The Gods flipped a coin to see whether they’d have greatness or madness. In this case though I think the Gods flipped a coin with madness on both sides, Jamie thought mockingly as he stood behind the Mad King he was bound to serve; something he’d had to do for every heinous act that had been committed as his oaths required of him. He’d stood by the King’s side as Rickard Stark had burnt to death while Brandon hung, strangling himself on the rope as he went to get his sword. The sight did get to him, or was it the smell? The smell of burnt flesh hadn’t left him, nor the hall of the Red Keep for a week. It was sickening. Aerys though, he gave an ugly cackle every time he got a smell of it, seemingly happy at having a reminder of the trial as he called it.

In truth, Jamie didn’t care much for the Starks, it wasn’t as if they were his family. It was their deaths itself that had gotten to him. He understood why they had come south, Jamie would have been of the same mind if it had been Cersei. Though Cersei probably would have been willing to be with her silver Prince, Jamie thought, somewhat enviously. The Starks’ actions were still foolish though, dealing with a mad man with the King’s right. That was just the first act in a long list of grievances that had made Jamie question his oaths in a position he had once dreamed so fondly of. The treatment of Rhaella was what had probably hurt Jamie the most. The screams she made every time Aerys demanded his rights with her, usually after he received bad news regarding the war. He’d had to stand guard outside the room every time and listen to the screams and cries of pain. He’d asked ser Darry whether they should intervene once when news of Aerys’ traitorous cousin Robert’s victory at Summerhall came. The man had just told him they were to protect the King first and foremost. That they were the oaths they made. Jamie had pondered those words, especially last night when word had come of Rhaegar’s death. Rhaella had cried hard as the King took her, adding more bruises and cuts to the already battered woman. Jamie was the last King’s Guard in the Red keep now, guarding the King and his “Rights” alone. It had taken everything in his power not to barge in and put a stop to it. That was the oath he had made when he had been knighted. To protect those in need. It didn’t sit well with him.

Jamie looked at the Small Council table, if Jamie didn’t know better, they all looked quite calm despite it all. They know as well as I do that this war is over and that we’re likely to die. They probably just didn’t want to die by fire was why they looked as calm. The small group had managed to convince the King to send Viserys and Rhaella to Dragonstone so they would be safe as the rebels marched for the capital. It had been hard going for the Lords present, tip toeing around the fact that they thought the capital would be taken. Lord Varys, master of whispers had finally convinced him, saying that it would be the safest place for his heir. Rhaegar’s children had been disinherited. It was the first thing the King had said upon Rhaegar’s death. “I won’t have my useless firstborn and his Dornish whore’s spawn as my heir. No true blood of the Dragon!”  Jamie was both relieved and saddened at the news that they would be leaving. Relieved that the Queen would no longer have to suffer the King’s “Visits,” yet saddened knowing that Aerys would be more frequent until she left and that Elia’s children would not be joining them. They had done nothing wrong, even though Cersei saw Elia as the Dornish whore that took her Prince from her.

After that matter was settled, the council had moved onto the fate of King’s Landing. There were only 4 sitting there, excluding the King. Lord Chelsted, Lord Varys, Pycelle and Rossart, a pyromancer made advisor. The rest had either or burnt or been lost to the war. Lord Chelsted, Hand of the King, was the one who bravely started the topic to Jamie’s surprise, “And what of the city? How are we to defend the city now that we have lost two armies?”

The King’s face turned to a scowl and Jamie could hear the nails scratch on the table as he listened to the question put forward to the table. He looked annoyed but stayed silent. It seemed he wanted to let his advisors speak on the matter. Probably so he can route out any more potential traitors, Jamie thought as he watched the small council members look at the hand. It was Pycelle who was the first to answer the question,

“That’s simple Lord Hand, I’ve received a raven from lord Tywin, he marches along the gold road as we speak to come to the King’s aid. He’ll be able to drive the rebels back and fortify the capital.”

Jamie had to hold back a snort of laughter at the snivelling old man. Jamie knew his father and he doubted the man would help. Not when he had sat out the war this long. His father wouldn’t join this lost cause… and he knew that his father never forgot a slight. Jamie only had to look at his brother Tyrion to know that. The Mad King gave a ghost of a smile though, like he believed it to be true.

Lord Varys seemed to have the same thought as Jamie, softly speaking, “I would counsel against that your grace, Lord Tywin may have sent those words but my little birds doubt that opening the city gates would be to our benefit. Why come now after so little word from him since the rebellion began?”

The Eunuch was right but Pycelle persisted anyway, completely serious, “Little word, Lord Varys? We’ve received frequent ravens; the man’s been rallying his banners so the Crown can bring the full might of the Westerlands to the war! He brings 12,000 alone to King’s Landing and assures us the rest will be used against the rebels.”

Before the master of whispers could retort, the King clawed at the table to get their attention, “Pycelle, do you believe Lord Tywin, my old friend will come to support his rightful King?”

His words almost dripped with poison. It was no secret that the relationship between Tywin and Aerys had declined over the years. Pycelle looked the King despite the deranged look, though clearly uncomfortable from it, “Yes your grace, Tywin served you loyally as Hand of the King for twenty years. He has never been disloyal to you. You said it yourself, he’s a servant to your whims, not his own.”

That got a grin out of the King, Pycelle had said what he wanted to hear, “Yes, you’re right, he has always been my servant, somewhat overreaching with his propositions with his daughter, but a servant nonetheless, the gates to King’s Landing will open upon his arrival. He can help with my plans.”

Everyone at the table nodded, Lord Varys kept quiet as well. He probably doesn’t want to lose his head like his cock. Pycelle, seeming more confident at the King’s approval, decided to go on, “And what are your plans your grace, if I may ask so we can help you prepare?”

The King’s grin grew wider as the attention was firmly on him. It was unnerving how terrifying a smile could be. “You may Arch Maester Pycelle, I’ve already been planning for a possible siege of King’s Landing, ever since that tourney my traitorous leach of son Rhaegar had planned. I intend to answer them with fire and blood.”

The King hesitated so he could allow his smile to grow wider, his yellowed teeth showing.

“Rossart and his pyromancers have been brewing wildfire ever since. They have planted it under the city. When the rebels arrive, I’ll set it off, then Tywin can leave the Red Keep and deal with what’s left of them. I’ll show them what a true dragon can create.”

Jamie went white at that. That would kill a million people. Tyrion had once told him what wildfire once when he’d found a book on it. He’d said the substance was as powerful as dragon fire. It could burn someone alive in an instant. A million lives would be snuffed out in an instance. The other lords were white as well, all except the King and Rossart, they both seemed quite pleased at the prospect of fire and blood. They all nodded though, keeping to their courtesies and praises. Cravens, the lot of them. Jamie wasn’t much better though. He hadn’t spoken out either.

To Jamie’s surprise again, Chelsted objected. Jamie had always thought him a Craven in all things. Apparently, this was his line in the sand. “But your grace, there’s a million people in this city, they’ll be killed.”

The King’s smile remained, his voice eerily calm “And that’s a problem Chelsted? What’s a million peasants to the King? What are they to the blood of the dragon? They can all burn for their King, it will remove the traitors to the realm. Burn them all.”

Chelsted raised his voice as he stood reaching for his chest, “Then I can no longer be your Hand, I will not be a part of this!” The Lord took the badge of the hand from his chest and put it on the table. He didn’t slam it on the table. His voice may have been raised but his strength wasn’t truly there. He was too terrified to be strong, that was clear to Jamie.

The King looked happy, if anything happier, his eyes glinted, “Congratulations Rossart, I would name you Hand of the King now that a traitor has resigned from his post.” He motioned for the guards in the room. They moved to Chelsted and grabbed him.

“Your first act Rossart is to bring some of that Wildfire to the Red Keep, we’ll need it for Chelsted and his pyre so he can feel dragon fire.”

The former hand of the King began to scream as he was dragged off. The King simply laughed, giving that demented cackle he had. Jamie ignored both of them. All Jamie could think about was the smell of burnt flesh again, imagining what the smell of million burnt bodies would be liked. He would cry if he had a chance to be alone and not guard his King.

*

King’s Landing was being sacked. His father had started the moment the gates were opened. Word of the slaughter that was going outside of the Red Keep had been brought to the King. They didn’t need to send word really. You could hear it in certain places of the castle. The messenger had been killed immediately and the King had been raving and ranting on the monstrosity of the iron throne. The King had accidently cut himself on the throne as he thundered:

“Burn them all!”

“Burn them all!”

It was the only chant Jamie could hear as he entered the great hall of the Targaryens as Aerys loomed on his throne. The room was empty barring him and the King. His small counsel had all but vanished. Cravens. The most horrifying thing about it all for Jamie was that the ravings of a mad man had been obeyed. Jamie couldn’t obey the one that was given the first time he had been in the hall that day.

“I want you to bring me your Father’s head. Be a good King’s Guard!”

That had been enough for Jamie. Killing a million people was enough for Jamie. Listening to Aerys defile his wife had been enough for Jamie.

Sadly though, others weren’t going to refuse their King. Jamie was alone in that matter. Rossart had been ordered to set off the caches of wildfire across the city. The most recent hand had failed though, much like his predecessors. Jamie still had his blood on his white armour and sword. There was no point cleaning it off. Jamie wasn’t done and the King didn’t seem to notice as he walked up the steps to the throne. The King was still shouting.

“Burn them all!”

“Burn them all!”

That’s all that he heard as he plunged his sword through the King. He kept going even as he removed his sword and watched him drop to the floor.

“Burn them all!”

“Burn them all!”

Jamie knew the man was dying but that mad look in the King’s eyes told another tale. The King didn’t believe he could die. That went on for a long moment until the King finally stopped his raving. Jamie, a Knight of the King’s Guard had killed the King. He’d saved the city from fire. Maybe not from his father, but at least from fire. I’ve broken my oaths, Jamie thought grimly as he sat on the iron throne. He didn’t know what to do. The only words that came to mind were the words of his house, Hear me Roar. Those were the words that came to his mind. Hear me Roar. I’ll be proud of my actions, as damning as they are.

He echoed those words in his head when the Lannister soldiers entered. He could hear the whispers and see the stares at the King’s dead body. It gave him strength as they all gave their looks. They may be too terrified of his father to say anything but they were all thinking the same thing. They see an oath breaker, what are sheep to a lion though? Jamie thought that as they looked at him, waiting for orders. He’d already done the job that Father would want. He sent them off to secure the keep and the maiden vault where Elia and the children were kept. Easy enough job for them, to secure a woman and children; it had left him alone again. Only for less than an hour though. This time he was met by a force of rebels, led by a Northern boy with a Direwolf etched into his dark armour. He didn’t need the Direwolf to know who it was, the grey eyes and dark hair was enough for Jamie. He looked like his father and brother. So, this is Benjen Stark, the one that the survivors said killed Rhaegar. He didn’t look like much, just a typical Stark, albeit bloodied. Had he joined in his father’s sack? He looked at Aerys’ corpse hard before turning to Jamie.  

He thinks I am an oath breaker, a King slayer. It didn’t matter to Jamie; the wolf’s opinion was nothing compared to a lion. Hear me Roar. Jamie smirked from his position. “So, Lord Stark, have you finally come to take the Iron Throne for Robert, I’ve kept it warm for him?”

He could hear some grumbling from the Northerners surrounding the boy, they had scowled the moment he had called the boy Lord. It was strange, but then again Northerners were always a strange lot.

The boy answered with a deep gravelly voice, “Aye, and stopping the mess Lord Tywin’s been making in the city. Some of the men we caught had said the bulk of forces were sent here. Where’d you send them Ser Jamie?”

So, the wolf was fighting the lion. Father wouldn’t like this. He kept smirking, “I sent them to secure the Red Keep and to secure the Royal Family. Doing my duty to keep them safe.” See if it gets a rise out of him, see if he says I know nothing of duty when I killed my King.

 The boy turned rapidly towards his men and Jamie watched the boy explode with orders to the group,

“Glover, Secure the West side of the castle and the holdfast! Karstark, go get Tully and Arryn! Umber you and your men are wae me!”

The Lords didn’t question his orders and they rushed with their levies, leaving the room almost as fast as they entered it, with Jamie sitting annoyed in the chair. Do they not think the royal family was safe with the Lannister soldiers?  That’s when it hit him, they weren’t. Father wouldn’t allow that. They’ll have been ordered to kill them. And Jamie had told them where they were.

Another broken oath. Jamie thought as got up and started to run out of the hall.

Chapter Text

Benjen

Benjen should have expected that coming to King’s Landing wouldn’t be easy. He’d thought that maybe it would, given the happy atmosphere amongst the camps. And for good reason too, Rhaegar was dead, the royalist armies were smashed and for the Northerners, the North was independent. It all seemed to be going well. Then the scouts had come saying that the Lannisters had entered the city and had started to sack it. The Lannisters had picked their side and had decided that tearing the city apart was the best way to show support for the Rebellion. The rebels hadn’t had any reports of the Westerlands' forces moving from the Rock so they must have been waiting on the gold road since before the Trident. That had been Bolton’s guess, waiting to find out who the victor was. Benjen found it unnerving when he’d said that but pushed the thought back as he’d ordered his men to mobilise as the rest of the rebel kingdoms were. They were to march into a blood bath, that had become obvious to the Lords, the moment the scouts mentioned the smoke coming. Any hopes of a peaceful taking of the city were gone.

It was a horrific site when the rebels had gotten to the city a few hours later. The sack was in full swing as they entered the city gates. Benjen could see that with the bloodied corpses on the streets. The Lannisters were cutting through people as they looted their homes. He could hear the screams as well, of men being killed and worse done to the women. Benjen wasn’t slow to respond though, shouting the order to his Northerners in the tongue,

“Any Lannister soldier you catch killing or raping, I want them dead. Same goes for their Lords, if any surrender; take them as hostages!”

His soldiers didn’t need to respond, he’d spread the message along the hastened march after getting the news with the other rebels. They were doing the same from different gates to the city. Robert had ordered it on his lords as well thankfully. Either he’d seen sense that it would look bad for a new King to allow the sack his city or he just wanted another fight. Truthfully Benjen hadn’t cared, as long as he wasn’t allowing the sack to continue.

Benjen rode through the streets with some of his lords at the front as he saw the Northerners engage the Lannister soldiers. So far, they weren’t taking any prisoners. He’d seen one Lannister get impaled when he was dragging a woman out of her house. He didn’t doubt that he’d be the only one. Their march had taken the Lannister army by surprise, none expecting anyone to have come to the city’s aid. As the army made their way through the city, some Lannisters must have ran ahead to inform some people about the development. It had made a number of Lannister soldiers surrender but not enough, as Benjen’s army spread through the city, killing more soldiers than they’d caught. Benjen had seen some brutal sites in the war, with the Trident being fresh in his head, but seeing what was being done to the city was atrocious. Whether it be the bodies in the streets, the actions of the soldiers or some of the burnt buildings, it was monstrous. He didn’t regret killing any that refused to surrender if he was honest with himself.

They’d gotten about halfway through the city when they’d finally captured some of the Lords and the soldiers were starting to surrender. They’d not been pleased to have been caught but they seemed to value their lives in the situation. They were outnumbered and trapped. All of them had said the same thing,

“We were securing the city for King Robert.”

Benjen would have executed them all if they weren’t valuable as hostages. It didn’t matter why they were doing it as far as he was concerned. They’d also told Benjen that the bulk of the force and Lord Tywin was at the Red Keep to get a hold of the royal family. Benjen didn’t like the sound of that, telling Manderly and his forces to deal with the rest of the Lannisters in this part of the city while Benjen would lead the rest to the Red Keep. Benjen doubted that Tywin would do any less to the Royal Family than what had been done in the city first. Benjen rode hard up the streets.

 

*

The Red Keep was a lot less chaotic as Benjen rode through it with his armies. It was almost like an actual battle had taken as his troops went through the corpses of the gold cloaks and the occasional Lannister. They had only been met with bodies, the Lannisters and any other member of the castle guard or servants must have been further inward. It made a quiet ride into the keep, despite the chaos that could still be heard in the city. Benjen had never been in the Red Keep before, he never been this far south, but the trail of bodies made a good trail towards the great hall where the Iron Throne sat. The throne where a mad man had burnt his father and hung his brother. At this point Benjen doubted he would be the one to kill Aerys, if the bodies of his guards were anything to go by, he’d be dead by now. Not that I ever wanted him alive though, I just wanted him to die in front of my people, Benjen thought as he approached the hall.

Entering the hall, Benjen only found two people, one was a dead King, lying at the steps towards the throne in a pile of his own blood. He didn’t look much different to the man he’d seen at the tourney in truth. Even in death the madness still latched onto his decrepit face. Not even death could take that from him it seemed. And sitting on the Iron Throne was a blonde-haired man in white armour, with blood spattered over it, and a smirk plastered onto his face. It was the youngest member of the King’s Guard in history, Ser Jamie of House Lannister. The knight of the King’s Guard had killed the King.

Benjen pushed his horse forward slowly to the steps, his bannermen following suit, they were staring at the corpse. He had been as well, only just turning to look at the Lannister properly. Not a word had been said until the Lannister sitting on the throne began to speak with that arrogant smirk on his face,

“So, Lord Stark, have you finally come to take the Iron Throne for Robert, I’ve kept it warm for him?”

The jape wasn’t well received by his men. They started the moment Benjen was called Lord. Benjen just focused on the Lannister, seemingly amused by his jape as his men grumbled. I wonder if he did it under his father’s orders. The thought was quickly discarded, A hard order to get through though regardless of being let into the city. Despite his thoughts, Benjen responded quickly to the Lannister, there was work to be done,

“Aye, and stopping the mess Lord Tywin’s been making in the city. Some of the men we caught had said the bulk of forces were sent here. Where’d you send them Ser Jamie?”

Benjen noticed the man was still smirking. Only his eyes had shifted slightly at Benjen’s comment on dealing with his father. The Lannister kept with the bravado though,

“I sent them to secure the Red Keep and to secure the Royal Family. Doing my duty to keep them safe.”

At that point, Benjen started barking orders. The Lannisters were on their way to kill the Royal Family. He expected it but hoped they were securing the keep first. He’d hoped the only King’s Guard might have secured them before killing the King.

“Glover, Secure the West side of the castle and the holdfast! Karstark, go get Tully and Arryn! Umber you and your men are wae me!”

His men were quick to respond and he turned his horse round to find the Lannister soldiers, leaving the Lannister behind. Benjen didn’t want Robert’s wish to come true.

*

 

 

Benjen thought for a brief moment that they would make it to the royal chambers as him, Great Jon and the mix of Stark and Umber soldiers thundered through, taking the lives of any Lannister they caught in the keeps. They were on their feet at this point, corridors too narrow for the horses. Their soldiers were gradually spreading throughout the keep to find any survivors and route out any of the Lannister soldiers. Benjen’s thought that they could make it in time died the moment he heard the piercing scream of a woman. It was louder and more pained than any of the other screams Benjen had heard that day. Benjen and the Great Jon ran faster at the noise, leaving their soldiers behind, running towards the chambers. It was guarded by Lannisters when they arrived, barely moving despite the screams. The two were about to tear into them when they saw Ser Jamie emerge out of the wall, a secret passage Benjen guessed, sword in hand and cut through them like butter. Benjen and Umber joined to in to deal with the rest though the young King’s guard didn’t need much help. The young King’s guard was talented.

Benjen didn’t have the time to figure out why the Lannister had come to fight with them. He honestly didn’t care; his only goal was stopping what was going on behind the doors as they barged through it. The sight was horrific, a portly man stabbing a little girl in the stomach repeatedly while a hulking brute bigger than the Great Jon had grabbed onto the screaming Elia Martell. The woman had been stripped naked and had been battered. Benjen went red at the sight. The three men charged at the two who had only just turned to the doorway, Jon and Jamie both charging at the hulking brute while Benjen charged into the portly man. Benjen had gained the easy job. The man wasn’t very skilled and it only took a few parries before Benjen got through the man’s guard. He was relentless in his assault on the man, sword hammering at every chink in his armour he could find until he broke through and stabbed through and gutted the man. The fat child killer was dead.

Benjen turned to join the fight with the hulking brute that faced his good brother and Ser Jamie. The two hadn’t been killed but they had taken more than a few hits as the brute raged at them. He was fast and strong. It was unnerving. What was worse as he joined the two was that the brute was hardly breaking a sweat as he swatted the three of them away like they were nothing. He could see the Great Jon getting angrier and angrier at each failed strike on the man. The only one of the three who had gotten anything close to contact was Ser Jamie but even that wasn’t significant. It was becoming clear to the three of them that the man wasn’t even using his full strength, and the slightly puzzled look at Ser Jamie. Me and Jon would probably be dead if it wasn’t for Ser Jamie’s presence, Benjen realised as he tried to strike the brute. The fight stopped when in one quick move, the brute kicked Umber in full force, sending him right back to the door and with his empty hand, swatted Benjen away. He’d managed to force the two away like they were nothing. The two were dazed from it, as Benjen made to get up, he saw the brute give a full force swing at Ser Jamie’s sword, slicing through the hilt, then bolted out of the royal chambers through the balcony. Benjen felt like hell as he got up on his feet, helped by the Great Jon who’d managed to get up first.

The screaming of Elia Martell had stopped, she was only sobbing now on the bed, blood oozing out of her legs and her stomach. It was gut wrenching to see, and there was Ser Jamie holding the Dornish Princess, smirk gone, replaced with an almost tearful expression as he put pressure on one of her wounds. Umber, who looked like he’d fought a bear, took one look out of the room and ran out the room, shouting for his Uncle.

“Whoresbane!!! Get in Hear Now!!!!”

His good brother had left him alone with the Lannister and Princess in a room covered in horror. Benjen tried to find something clean to cover the Princess in as she sobbed and wailed. It was a hard thing to do when all you could see was the blood of a little girl across the room, covered in stab wounds. It was the wall that got him, he could see blood covered on it, and dropped at the bottom was a dead babe with a smashed skull. The Prince was dead as well. It took a lot for Benjen not to vomit there and then at a sight that permanently etched into his eyes. He finally found a draping that was clean of the blood and quickly put it around the woman. He could hear ser Jamie speaking, it was almost a sob as well,

“I’m sorry”

Benjen didn’t really know what to say to that. It proved something though, despite the arrogant smirk, he was being sincere when he had said he had sent soldiers to secure the royal family. It wasn’t this. It definitely wasn’t this that the King’s Guard had ordered. Benjen gave the Lannister a hard stare.

“It wasn’t Ser Jamie. It wasn’t.”

It didn’t stop the grief from leaving the man’s face That was all Benjen could say in the room as the two tried to treat what injuries they could until Jon return with Whoresbane. The room was silent barring the sobs which had gotten quieter and quieter as she drifted off from whatever Whoresbane had managed to get a hold of. The Great Jon picked her up and walked out of the room to find a better place for Whoresbane to treat her. The King’s Guard quickly following the two Umbers. Benjen was ready to follow to, but stopped to look at the ruin that was the royal chambers. Benjen was honestly speechless, and felt truly cold for the first time. When justice is done, I’m never coming South again. Benjen vowed that, as he stared at more people who had joined the death toll.

Chapter Text

Artos

The Hightower was impressive. Neither Artos nor the rest of the Northerners could deny that when they first saw it in the distance, turning quite a large, loud and happy army silent for a brief moment. The army had first seen it just as night fell, seeing the giant beacon of fire at its peak. It made it impossible to truly miss, and almost felt like a challenge to Artos, like it was something indomitable. Seeing it in the day added to the sense of the Hightower being larger then life. Artos could see the clean white stone of the tower, built above a smooth black stone. Neither pieces of the building looked like they had been built out of individual stone. It looks carved, Artos thought as he rode towards Oldtown. Artos was impressed with the tower, but it didn’t mean it would save the Hightowers from their crimes; Artos knew that with complete certainty as they approached the city walls.

“It’s an impressive sight son, isn’t it?” His Father asked him. He asked it quite casually, as if they weren’t about to take the city. But then again that was Father, always relaxed even in the most serious of situations.

“Aye it is, I was just thinking it all looked carved instead of built” Artos replied, still staring at the massive tower in the middle of the city.

Beric nodded at that, “Aye, it does, was the height of it that got me, bigger than the wall some people reckon.”

Artos was dumbfounded at that, he’d never seen the wall, having been only in the mountains but the thought of it being bigger than one of the largest structures in the world was staggering.

“That can’t be true!” Artos exclaimed

Beric gave a small smirk, “Aye that’s what Whoresbane said before we split off down the Reach. Though its far less useful. Too many Hightowers for my liking.”

Artos laughed at that, “Very true, they’ll be far less when we’re done with them.”

Beric grinned, “Of course, and I have a good feeling this should be simple enough, we haven’t had to deal with any Reach men on the way, I doubt we will here.”

Artos nodded in agreement at that. Marching into the Reach had been a peaceful affair, they’d scouted any nearby keeps and they’d not been met with any considerable troops. By the looks of it, the vast majority of the Reach must have been at Storm’s End. The rest had died at the Trident. It meant the march was simple a simple one for the Northern Army. It meant they could celebrate their independence and Benjen’s rise as King in the North. Just thinking of it made Artos smile. Though Artos did worry slightly for Benjen, his kin had told his family he was worried about leading the North.

The two’s conversation was cut short when a messenger told them Wulfric wanted them at the front to meet with someone from the city to treat. Grandfather had been put in charge of the army, comprising of Lord Tallhart, Cerwyn and the company. All the Lord and Commander Elric were to be present. As Artos and his Father rode to the front, they could see the other heads of the army had arrived, with Wulfric at the front. Opposite him stood a small collection of guards, all looking nervous, barring the head, wearing Hightower colours, he looked about Artos’ age. He was staring at the two spikes with heads on held by the guards. One of Walys, the other was Garth Hightower, one of the soldiers who had surrendered had informed them of that. As the two joined the group, he could hear the one staring finally speak.

“So, what brings the war with Oldtown and Hightower my Lords? You think sacking Oldtown will damage the Reach’s power, or the Targaryens? You think you even can?” The man in Hightower colours sounded overly cocky, Artos could hear the discomfort behind it though. He knows he’s not likely to win this battle, Artos thought.

Then he heard Grandfather start to speak to the man in the common tongue, deep and calmly, “As tae the first question my Lord, the war is over, Rhaegar Targaryen is dead, his beheaded corpse buried at the Trident alongside his army. And the rest of the Rebel army will have taken King’s Landing by now. I’m not here fae a war that’s been won. I’m here on the King in North’s business.”

Artos couldn’t help but smile at the words, King in the North. It was good to hear the words. He watched as the young Lord’s face fell at the news, the lord responded though, trying to summon that cockiness again,

“I doubt that my lord, have my fellow Reach men and Prince battered you that much you think you have a King in the North, I won’t believe your words until I see proof.”

Wulfric remained stony faced when looking at the man, “Fair enough my Lord”

Wulfric unstrapped an extremely jewelled sword on his back and took a blood red ruby out and showed them the items. Benjen had given them as a way of proving Rhaegar’s death. Benjen had the armour and what rubies he could find. It wasn’t an easy thing to fake the sword, too many jewels to do that.

“This is Rhaegar’s sword and one of the rubies fae his armour. My King did that.”

That made the young Lord’s guards gulp. The Lord gave a bewildered stare. Grandfather ignored them and continued to speak.

“Now that you know nobody’s coming tae help, I’ll tell you what my King had commanded. He demands that the gates tae the city be opened and fae the Northern army, immediate access to the citadel and the Hightower, and all male Hightowers tae be handed over tae the army. They will be brought North fae their crimes.”

Grandfather then turned towards the guards, “Once these demands have been met, we will leave. The city will not be sacked under any circumstances. It is your Liege Lords that have wronged us and them alone.”

Wulfric remained as stony as ever. He wasn’t going to give them anything, he just looked at them as they absorbed the demands. The guards started muttering.

The Lord went white, “And what crimes have me and mine committed in the North to warrant that? I haven’t set a foot in the North nor my brothers or fathers. You’re simply lying to sack my city.”

So, this is another one of the Hightower brood. This will be harder considering he’s met us at this parley. He’ll not take kindly when he finds out one of the heads is one of his brothers’ heads on a spike. Artos thought grimly. He noticed thought that his grandfather looked unfazed at the news, motioning to Lord Cerwyn who was holding a large book. Cerwyn gave it to the guards first and informed them of the contents.

“In that book contains evidence of Lord Hightower’s crimes against the North, House Stark and the Old Gods of the Forest. He has sent a Maester tae infiltrate and attack oor faith, mislead oor former liege lord and undermine his rule. I’m sure you recognise his signet stamped on the missives. They’re all we are here fae.” Cerwyn had an icy tone when spoke.

He watched the city guard read through the book. Artos knew none of them would worship the old gods. It wouldn’t get the reaction the bannermen had. What he did know was that it showed them they were genuinely after the Hightowers.

Wulfric spoke with an edge to his town while the guards looked, with the Hightower lord peered at the book as well, face blanching.

“If I wanted tae sack your city, I wouldn’t have waited or let you bring defences tae your walls. I’d have taken this city before you could call what meagre forces tae your aid. I have 9,000 soldiers behind me. You’d be dead if I’d given that order. And half your heads would be on spikes like the traitorous Maester Walys is here… and Lord Garth Hightower here.”

The young lord looked furious at mention of his brother, “You threaten my family, you kill my brother! And you expect me to open the city for you? To take me, my brother and Lord Father?! I think you’re mad!”

Grandfather didn’t even look at the young Lord, “No, Lord Hightower. I expect your city guard tae dae all of that. They can march at the front wae me and mine as a show of good faith, fae them and fae their people. Fully armed as well. Only you will be a prisoner. Much like the rest of your family will be.”

Artos wanted to smirk, his father already was. It was a tactic Wulfric had done with bandits that had attacked the clans in the past when they were willing to listen. Offered anyone not a leader their lives and safe passage to the wall. In some cases, their freedom for lesser crimes. It always surprised him that it worked. Grandfather just said that groups like that were never truly loyal to their leader.

The Young Lord laughed, “You think they’ll betray me?! We pay them!”

Wulfric was quick, “So will whoever the Liege Lord appoints, if you only pay them, they dinnae have any real loyalty tae you. They keep their lives and get paid this way.”

Those words seem to strike true with the guards. One of them finally addressing the group of Northerners, “And you won’t sack the city?”

Wulfric was quick to respond with complete unflinching conviction, “No.”

The guards started looking at each other and nodded. The Hightower, seeing the guards nodding amongst themselves, un sheathed his sword and went at Wulfric fast. Wulfric was quicker though and his axe went clean through the man’s hand. The scream was almost deafening.

“Go fetch a maester lord Tallhart, tell him an idiot broke a parley.”

Grandfather put his axe away calmly.

“So, will you kindly escort us tae the Hightower and Citadel?”

 

*

Entering Oldtown went quite smoothly after the parley. The Northern army kept their word. As did the City Guard. From what he could see on the walls and the streets, they were a small group. They barely had enough to hold the walls long if they were under siege. Cities and Castles were very different when it came to sieges. Castles were built with them in mind, cities never really were, barring the wall. As soon as the City Guard had let them in and the Northern army had split into two. A quarter of the troops led by Lord Tallhart would be heading to the citadel; to take any and all records pertaining or about the North, both to see if the Maesters were involved and to see what information they actually had on the North. The main body of the army was marching straight to the Hightower.

Now that Artos was near it, he could see that the actual Hightower. Looking closer he could see that the tower was less impossible than he’d previously thought. He could finally see the lines marking the different stone slabs as they rode across the bridge to it. At least that was what he could see of the actual tower. Below the Tower, and the army though. That was different. The black stone was smooth, glistening in the sunlight. It might have been beautiful if it wasn’t making him feel sick. When he first looked at it upon getting closer, he felt uneasy, and the closer he got, the more he felt more uncomfortable. Now, riding over the bridge and into the tower, he felt like he wanted to vomit. Even Father and Grandfather looked uneasy. Looking at the rest of the army, they felt the same. He couldn’t really pull away from it.

The urge to vomit finally receded as they entered the tower, but the sense of unease didn’t.

Father was the first to speak, “I didn’t believe Whoresbane when he warned me about it.”

Whoresbane had considered being a Maester once and had visited Oldtown before. It was where he got the nickname from.

“I felt rough Father when I was looking at it, it felt like it was attacking me.”

Elric, who was also at the head of the march spoke in a slightly pained way. The commander of the company had a controlled and powerful voice usually. It was not good to hear.

“Aye, whatever that stone is I want to get as far away from it as possible. I haven’t seen my men go that sickly white ever.”

Father nodded timidly, “Aye, same goes for Cerwyn and his men. I’ve fought with them on the field and none of them looked as uncomfortable as that.”

Why do the city folk not feel like that though?” Artos wondered. The City Guard looked normal, and so did any small folk near the bridge to the tower. Maybe they had gotten used to it.

Grandfather didn’t think so, “No son, I don’t think its that. Whoresbane told me about it a long time ago. He had been with a small group at the time, all from the North. They had felt the same but decided to ask around. Residents and travelling merchants alike. None felt it or noticed it. Whoresbane reckoned that whatever that feeling was, it only affects those strong with the blood of the first men.”

That thought was a dark one. How could it only target the blood of the first men? Artos wondered.

Grandfather spoke again, “We won’t be hear long. We get what we came for and leave.”

All of the lords nodded at that, Lord Cerwyn looking relieved at the news, “Good, I’ve barely been here long and I’ve never wanted to leave as quickly before.”

Artos felt relieved that they would be leaving the city as soon as possible. The group pressed on, with the army moving in to secure the Hightower. He heard Cerwyn and Commander Elric shout orders not to go into the black stoned area for now unless absolutely necessary. The soldiers looked happy enough with that order.

Taking the Hightower was a relatively quick affair, barring the amount of time it took to ascend the tower. It was tall, with an abundance of rooms. The guards had surrendered and the servants had happily obeyed their commands. It was eerie. The fact that the guards had let them in was odd. Maybe it was because even at the Hightower, there were few levies and guards even there. There may have not be enough to properly mount a defence. Or they’d seen the sight of the city guards with them and an injured Gunther Hightower. Artos knew it was impossible for them to set a trap at this point. Closing the gates on them could work but it would just turn into a slaughter for them. Maybe they didn’t store their food in the Hightower? But that thought seemed wrong as well. There was too much space for them to not have reserves for a siege. Artos couldn’t fathom why exactly they didn’t put up a fight at the Hightower. It was uncomfortable not knowing the Hightowers thoughts.

It was near the top when Artos and the heads of the Northern army finally met the last Hightowers in the castle, sitting in a very large solar. Even near the top there were about 10 rooms being searched. It was a small group, mostly women with the exception of 2, one appeared to be in his late 30s and the other looked no older than 10. They all looked quite calm. The older one looked extremely calm in the situation. Lord Leyton Hightower, Artos guessed.

Lord Hightower spoke in an extremely relaxed fashion, “I see Winter has come for me and House Hightower. Have me and my family finally been caught out?”

The Lord quickly looked at his injured son who they’d brought along. “You should have just surrendered my son, you knew we were guilty.”

Artos was surprised. The Lord confessed. He wasn’t going to deny it a call them out.  And he had thrown his sons in with him. It was not what Artos had expected.

Grandfather answered Lord Leyton’s question quite proudly, “Aye my lord. You will be answering your crimes. Will you surrender peacefully?”

Lord Hightower smiled, “I will… depending on who is to answer for House Hightower’s crimes. Are the women to suffer for me and my sons’ actions.”

“You and your sons are tae be taken North. Your youngest son, Humphrey, will be sent tae the wall, the rest will have a choice between the wall or execution. You will be executed though. The coffers in the Hightower will also be taken as reparations. None of the women are to be brought North, touched or harmed if that’s what you’re asking.” Wulfric answered it calmly but gruffly.

Lord Hightower kept smiling, “A fair bargain for our crimes. And merciful for my youngest. I’ll happily oblige to that.”

He turned to one of the women, “Malora, you are to be in charge of the Hightower until Lord Tyrell handles the succession. Considering my daughter is married to him, I’m sure the succession should be a simple one.”

The woman, who Artos clearly noticed was strikingly beautiful, just nodded at the Lord. The whole situation seemed wrong to Artos. It did for the everyone else present. It was simple, the Lord and his son handed them over, neither looking terrified or uncomfortable. The women seemed content and there was no real resistance. It was an odd sight as Artos watched the Hightower men get brought down the tower by the soldiers. Only Baelor, the heir, was left. He was at Storm’s end according to the Reach men that had surrendered at the Trident.

Artos was disturbed by the whole affair. He was snapped out of it though when one of the soldiers came into the large solar after the Hightowers were escorted out.

“My Lords, we’ve found the coffers, you’ll need to see this!” The young soldier looked quite happy, it was a change from the unease everyone had been feeling sense getting near the damn tower. The group simply nodded at him and followed.

The young soldier took them to one of the rooms on the floor. Walking in they were met with a giant room, the size of a small keep’s hall, filled with chests. There were hundreds of chests in the room, a few had been opened to check for money. Artos could see the gold dragons. The room was literally filled with wealth. Artos was stunned.

“How much is in here?” Artos said absently.

He didn’t get an answer to that until he heard his father laugh heartily, “I honestly don’t know son, but I’ll tell you this, King Benjen’s got one less thing to worry about his Kingship. The North will be loaded after this. He’ll not have to worry about paying to rebuild Moat Cailin!”

Artos smiled a bit at that. Benjen had said he wanted Moat Cailin brought back to its prime. He just didn’t know if it was feasible.

Lord Cerwyn smiled as well, “Aye, he’ll have plenty to help the North like he wants. And when winter comes, we will be more prepared.”

The Lords all nodded happily at that thought. Though something was nagging at him about it all.

Grandfather must have been feeling the same. “I wonder why they didn’t put up a fight for all this? Or their own lives? Even the youngest seemed quite calm about it. Everything about this place is unnatural.”

Commander Elric, who’d stayed on edge since the bridge, gave a short answer. “You’re right, lets take it all and never come back. I’m sick of being here.”

Artos agreed with that. He wanted to leave the Hightower and never come back. He wondered if that was why Hightower agreed so easily, so we wouldn’t linger. The thought of that made him shudder slightly. The sense of dread creeping up again. He didn’t hear the soldier there was 2 other rooms just like it. The unease was all Artos could think of.

Chapter Text

Benjen

It had been two days since arriving at King’s Landing. None of the lords and Kings had officially met to discuss what had happened in regards to the royal family. He was still furious about it. Benjen had ordered his Northerners to guard the Royal Chambers and not let anyone in them. He’d also ordered them to stay in separate barracks to the rebels and away from the Lannister forces. He’d been informed that Tywin had met with Robert during the sack and made a peace. He wasn’t a hostage so he was a threat in Benjen’s eyes. The one good thing that had come from the whole thing was that Ethan Glover, one of the group Brandon brought south, was alive. That had been a relief to him and that someone had lived, gaunt as he was in the black cells. He’d also found his brother’s bones and father’s ashes. The Mad King had put them in Ethan’s cell as a taunt to him according to the young Glover, glad to be among his family and people again. It was a small consolation, knowing he could put them to rest at least. It was a small relief in all of the shit.

Benjen wasn’t sure what the lords and Robert would feel at this point after what had happened. One of his lords who he had sent to tell the Lords what happened in the chambers had said Robert was in a foul mood because Viserys and Rhaella had escaped. But not from the deaths of children. The Royal chambers were Benjen’s at this point at least. He wasn’t letting anyone but his people into the royal residences, he wouldn’t let them get to the Princess Elia. He wouldn’t let anyone go to where he’d found Elia. Where Rhaenys and Aegon had been killed. It was a damn miracle that Elia survived. I doubt I’ll ever forget that Hother “Whoresbane” Umber was the one to keep her alive. Smarter than he let on. Benjen thought as he walked into the throne room with his bannermen.

The only one not of the North who had been allowed to stay was Ser Jamie Lannister, who’d refused to leave Elia’s side since finding her. He had declared he would stay there even while this meeting of Kings and Lords happened. The Lannister had made a lot more sense when he wasn’t speaking behind the cockiness that he possessed in the throne room. He actually answered questions. Benjen wasn’t sure whether it was Elia’s presence, coming in and out of consciousness, or the fact that what information he had was of the uttermost importance.

The first piece of information he had given, were the names of the soldiers who had been in Elia’s chambers. The dead one was Ser Amory Lorch and the brute was Gregor Clegane, called the mountain that rides. Neither of the Lords he’d sent. Apparently, Clegane had been knighted by Rhaegar himself according to Ser Jamie who had practically spat mentioning it. The second thing he had told them was neither of them were smart enough to do it themselves. They were under Tywin’s orders. Jamie had clearly been reluctant to say that; understandable considering the man was his father. That wasn’t even the worst thing. The fact that the city could have burst into flames from wildfire was the worst thing Benjen could hear. One million lives could have gone up in smoke.

Benjen had sent Lord Karstark to tell the other rebels about that revelation. Everyone knew what they were sitting under now, hopefully they had a solution for it at this meeting. Hopefully they’ll want justice for the princess and princess, Benjen worried as he walked through the halls of the Red Keep.  Entering the throne room, he turned his face as stony as he could. It was something that he had learnt over the war. When necessary, a face of winter was the only one to deal with the Southerners and their games. Benjen was accompanied by the Great Jon and Lord Bolton. He was tempted to bring Manderly or Glover for a subtler approach but in truth, Benjen wasn’t in the mood for it. Benjen had brought Bolton for his Sigel. Behind them was a group of guards, carrying two stretchers with the children of Rhaegar, cloths over their bodies. They were to wait outside until called. Only two guards were to enter with him. The throne room wasn’t empty when Benjen arrived, with Denys Arryn, Lord Royce, Hoster and Brynden and King Robert with Barristan Selmy and Lord Estermont.

They weren’t the ones that Benjen had seen first though. It was Tywin Lannister and his lords. The Red and Gold armour gave it away with the blonde hair. It almost looked regal, from armour to the man’s bearing. He had an almost unimpressed expression. Looking at the man had made Benjen feel the same anger he’d had since arriving at the city. He kept his face composed though.

Denys was the first to greet him, “King Benjen, it’s good to see you. A shame its not under better circumstances.”

The words sounded sincere to him. Some of the other Lords looked the same. Others were keeping them hidden, Tywin especially. Though Tywin seemed to look harder at Benjen when he was called a king. Benjen had a feeling he knew already. Robert, thankfully, was calm for now, but he could see the impatience there.

“Aye Lord Denys, it could be under a lot of better circumstances, considering we’re under caches of wildfire.”

Better to start with the easier topic, even though it was the deadliest.

Brynden gave a small nod, “Yes, that’s probably a good place to start with all of this. I’m not particularly keen sleeping under something that could easily burn us into nothing.”

Hoster seemed uncomfortable at the thought of the wildfire, moving from where he stood as if it were right under him “I’d hoped it wasn’t true when word came to us. Sadly, what members of the small council left had confirmed it as true. Where is it all exactly?”

Benjen answered calmly, “According tae Ser Jamie, there are caches under the Red Keep, Dragon pit, the sept of Baelor and under each gate tae the city. Hundreds of jars right below us. The city isnae safe”

“But how do we get rid of it?” Brynden asked.

“We just need to remove it from the city. Get the pyromancers to help move it safely. Maybe they know how to dispose of it.” Denys said. He sounded hopeful that they could get rid of it.

Lord Tywin snuffed the hope out of it, bringing all attention to the Lannister, “They won’t know how to dispose of the substance Lord Arryn. The only way to destroy Wildfire is to use it. And to leave it will only be a risk.”

The almost uninterested look stayed on the Lannister’s face as he spoke.

Robert, growing more impatient asked the question, “So, we can’t safely dispose of it. And it can’t stay buried. Then what can we do with it?”

“I guess we’ll just have to remove it slowly. Remove the jars under the gates first the set it off a far distance from anyone. Gradually burn it until its gone.” Hoster stated.

“A slow process but a one that’ll have to be done. We’ll have to delegate some of the army towards it.” Brynden noted.

The lords present seemed to agree with the idea. For a brief moment, there was an uncomfortable silence. Robert broke that loudly.

“So where is the King slayer who helped saved the city? I’d have expected him to be here to receive his honours!”

Benjen watched Ser Barristan’s face turn at the mention of King slayer. I suppose that would be expected considering he was a King’s Guard, Benjen thought. He doubted Selmy disagreed with why the King was killed by his own guard. He was more likely wondering if he’d done the same. In some way, he had already broken his oath, abandoning Aerys for Robert.

Tywin seemed to want the same answer as Robert, turning his towards Benjen, face unmoved. “Yes, where is my son? And where are the soldiers and lords you took captive in the city Lord Stark?”

Benjen kept a voice calm, he wasn’t going to be intimidated by a lion, “Ser Jamie has been in the Royal Chambers guarding Princess Elia alongside ma people. Since you sacked the city Lord Tywin, and you ordered Ser Lorch and Clegane tae brutally kill her children. He felt it was wise to stand guard while we dealt wae the matter, in case you planned on sending Clegane tae smash her skull against the wall like Prince Aegon or repeatedly stab her tae death like Lorch did Princess Rhaenys.”

Benjen had to give Tywin credit, the man’s face remained the same. The other Lords and Robert had a mixed response between shock, disgust and particularly outrage by the Westerlands Lords. They already knew the children were killed. They just didn’t know Aegon and Rhaenys had been killed like that.

Benjen took a small breath before any could respond, “And as fae your bannermen, the ones I took for pillaging, raping and murdering are under Bolton’s custody. I felt the city folk would feel safe, knowing they were under the banners of the flayed man.”

Bolton spoke softly, almost a whisper, “yes, I was just informing them yesterday about my family knife and its history.”

Roose removed it from its small scabbard, giving it a small twirl while he spoke.

“According tae legend, it dates back tae the Red Kings themselves, before flaying was banned in the North. And that had made me think whether the south had actually banned it. I was asking them yesterday whether the Targaryens and Lords of the South had actually banned it.”

He gave a ghost of a smile, “It was surprising, hearing they wernae as sure as us Northerners about the matter.”

The outrage on the Westerlands Lords was growing with a small hint of fear. Some of his fellow rebels looked stunned at the words Bolton had said. Denys and Brynden had a small smirk though, knowing that Bolton wouldn’t be allowed to do that under Benjen’s orders. Before any Westerlands Lord could speak, Tywin responded though, cutting them off.

“I believe you are mistaken Lord Stark.”

Benjen could practically feel Jon Umber’s glare at the man.

“My soldiers were securing the city for his grace, King Robert. And as to the deaths of the Prince and Princess; the actions of Clegane and Lorch were not under my orders Lord Stark. The two acted on their own accord.”

The tension in the room was almost visible. Not that Benjen didn’t want this. He wanted to know once and for all who in the South could be trusted. Benjen kept his own grim face.

“Not according tae your son Lord Tywin. He insisted that those two men were not smart enough tae have done that on their own initiative.”

He stared hard at Tywin, even as he addressed the other Lords. He wasn’t going to back down against the man. The Lord barely seemed to acknowledge that his son had said that.

One of Tywin’s Lords answered smugly, “And how would Lord Tywin’s son know that with such certainty? He’s been a hostage of the Mad King as his King’s guard. For all we know, Ser Jamie has been a hostage of yours, forced to agree with you.”

Benjen hated that smug tone. It made Ice’s presence on his back more noticeable. “Harwin, Go fetch Ser Jamie, he can confirm it himself, and show that us savages havnae harmed him. And double the guards around Princess Elia.”

The young Guard ran out of the throne room. The tension in the room was growing.

Lord Estermont interjected quietly, “I’m guessing your hostility over this isn’t for nothing. What do you want then Stark?”

The Great Jon Umber didn’t even look at Estermont, keeping his stare on Tywin as well, “King Stark Estermont, its King Stark. I think what the King in the North demands is justice.”

His good brother practically growled it.

Benjen looked Tywin in the eye, “Aye I do. I’ve already killed Lorch. I want Clegane handed over and executed by King Robert. And I want to have Tywin punished for it too.”

Tywin spoke calmly, “And why should me and my bannermen be punished? House Lannister secured the city for his grace. It would set a bad precedent to punish Lord Paramounts for securing the realm for the new King, based on the word of one man who was nowhere near my bannermen when I gave these supposed orders.

Denys was the first to raise his voice, “I saw what your soldiers did when securing the realm Lord Lannister! That was not securing the realm!”

“Securing the realm for the New King Lord Tywin? Is that what you call sitting out on a war against a mad man and then sacking his city when you knew he’d lost the war?” Lord Royce asked, with an extremely agitated voice.

“No, it’s what an opportunist does Lord Royce. He would have killed us all if Rhaegar had won.” Brynden said snidely.

Robert yelled before the situation could degenerate any faster. “Enough!!!! I am the King here! I will decide what happens!!!”

The room went silent, all eyes on Robert. Tywin still look unimpressed and disinterested. The new King looked furious, he could see the demon emerging again.

“I won’t punish Tywin or Clegane for securing the realm from Rhaegar’s damn Spawn! I won’t let them start another war.”

Benjen motioned to the other guard remaining. The guard brought the rest in with the stretchers. Bolton took the cloth at the two stretchers. Benjen had been in two minds whether to get their bodies cleaned and prepared to be brought to Dorne. They deserved that at least and he wouldn’t deny the children, or Elia that… but Benjen wanted the Southern Lords to see first. He’d shown what Lords of the North were with him what Clegane had done.

He heard some of the lords’ gasp. Ser Barristan and Denys had both went a deathly pale. Hoster looked disturbed. Brynden looked furious. They all looked horrified. Even some of Tywin’s Lords. Benjen guessed it was more the sight than the actual act which caused it. Robert was looking hard at the corpses, colour slightly drained from his face. It was hard to look at the sight of a girl who’d been stabbed to death and a babe who’d had his head smashed in without feeling something akin to disgust and hate. At least that’s what Benjen hoped would be the case.

The room was silent, all except for the footsteps of Ser Jamie entering the room. He had seen the bodies already but Benjen could see his face fall again at the sight.

“I see you’ve seen Clegane’s handiwork then my lords… Your grace” Jamie said callously, looking at both Robert and his father.

Lord Hoster was the first to speak out of the horrified lords, “They are Rhaegar’s children for sure? Not imposters who look like them?”

Ser Barristan’s voice was barely a whisper, “It can only be them My Lord. That’s Rhaenys, clear as day. I can see the wisps of Aegon’s hair as well.”

Ser Jamie also answered, “They are, they were the only ones in their rooms until Clegane came.”

Benjen swore that both men were trying not to sob.

“Do you want tae punish Clegane and Tywin? Or dae ya want tae send them tae Dragonstone and have the same done tae Viserys and his mother? Clegane raped Elia as well you know? You fought against one of those already to avenge Ned’s little sister. Dinnae let him live.” Benjen asked Robert, who was staring at the bodies.

“Get out King Stark.” Robert said slowly. “If you’re the King in the North you have no business in the affairs of the six for deciding who deserves punishment. I’ll decide this myself.”

“Then make sure you get it right Robert.” Benjen stated simply. It was past the point of shouting at the man to get sense in him.

Robert spoke again, giving a voice he had heard on the Trident, “You will however, go and relieve Storm’s End to help end this war as you agreed. You’ll also handover all Lannister soldiers as well. The King Slayer as well, hostage or not. I want him to tell me everything that happened. But take that Dragon whore with you as well and go find me Lyanna! Everyone leaves now!”

He didn’t look up once. He’s pissed at me and everyone in the room I know that. But he’s thinking about it. Hopefully he’ll make the right decision. Benjen just nodded and walked away with the Lords walking out slowly as well. None of them knew what to make of Robert’s outburst. It didn’t matter at this point. They couldn’t do anything now. And Benjen had officially lost any sway over King Robert. It had confirmed his Kingship. Tywin couldn’t refute it at this point. But Clegane and Tywin were still free. That angered him

Benjen took one last look at the stretchers before the guards took them away. They were to be prepared to go to Dorne for a proper burial. He would be taking them and Elia to Sun Spear after lifting Storm’s End. They deserved better than to be buried in a city of monsters. Most people did. As Benjen walked towards the Royal chambers, a bald portly man was standing waiting with his Northern soldiers. The man had a small smile on his face, moving the fat on his head upwards. Benjen could smell the perfume on him. He looked odd to Benjen.

One of his guards spoke first in the tongue “King Benjen, the man here claims to be Lord Varys, the master of whispers. He says he has business with you.”

Benjen nodded and gave his thanks to the guard, then spoke in the common to Varys, “And what dae you want Lord Varys?”

“Well, King Benjen, I’ve come to help you of course and the realm.”

“And how can you do that?” Benjen asked eyeing the man suspiciously.

The Lord’s smile grew, “Very easily my king. My little birds have given me some whispers, about your sister and where she resides. If she’s to be Robert Baratheon’s bride and Queen it is of the utmost importance she returns well for the realm.”

 Benjen looked at the man. He didn’t trust him at all. But he only had a guess as to where Lyanna was; somewhere in Dorne were Rhaegar had come from with the Dornish forces. Dorne was too big to not get help. Benjen spoke one word to the man, growling as he said it.

“Where?”

Chapter Text

Stannis

Watching the Lords of the Reach gorge themselves on food had for the past eight months had taken a toll on the men and women of Storm’s End. Stannis was more than aware of that. The lords of the Reach had feasted like Kings and everyone could see it from the battlements of Storm’s End. Early on in the siege, the men would have been more eager to man their posts for the day and night; to prove that they were not deterred. That attitude had changed when the rations had run dry, as the men and women slowly grew hungrier and hungrier. Stannis knew that would come. The men had become sullen as they had to eat the horses. Then it was the dogs and the cats that brought their despair at the situation. Stannis had listened to Renly’s cries at that. The hunger won out though. The men and women had become reluctant in doing their duty due to the loss of food. By the time Storm’s End resorted to eating the dogs, a small group of 4 led by Gawen Wylde attempted to break ranks and surrender to the Reach men. Donal Noye, the castle smith, had lost an arm preventing it.  Stannis had been of a mind to fire them at the Tyrell army. Cressen had advised him against it though, in case all of the food ran out. Stannis decided to tell the men that was the case when news of the deserters’ imprisonment spread. There hadn’t been a desertion attempt since.

Thankfully, they had never had to resort to that. A smuggler, Davos, had gotten past the Redwyne Fleet, bringing onions and Salt Fish to the starving garrison. Stannis had to respect the skill in that, being able to evade one of the largest fleets in Westeros. The supplies had prevented the men and women from starving to death. The smuggler had brought news that the war was going in their favour. It gave the men some small hope, overjoyed that someone had come. The much-needed food didn’t prevent the rationing though. It didn’t stop the men sent to guard the walls from grumbling at the sight of the Tyrells and their feasts. Though Davos’ efforts were to be rewarded. And the man had agreed to his terms on punishment for his past crimes as a smuggler, under one condition. “As long as you do it yourself milord.” Stannis hadn’t expected it from the smuggler but Stannis was willing to oblige. It was a fair request, wanting to receive justice from those that would sentence you. Stannis had agreed to do it once the siege had ended.

The men were particularly this morning. The lack of food hurt and brought fatigue, Stannis could feel that. He could see it every time he saw his starved form. He was gaunt. It did not stop him from being the first to man the walls and the last to leave them when the duties of the castle were minimal. Those duties had become less and less with the isolation. Stannis’ main duty was to hold the keep. And that was what Stannis had done. He’d held the keep for a better part of the year while his brother fought a war against the crown. Stannis was doing his duty.

Stannis had to choose between his duty to his brother and that of the crown. In truth, it had not been a hard choice, between his brother and a mad King. Justice needed to be done for the Mad King’s acts. And his son’s. Not like Robert is truly doing it for justice. Stannis thought, gritting his teeth as he walked along the battlements. Stannis knew his brother. Robert would be fighting for glory and for vengeance. For the brother he chose. Those words had echoed when across the halls of Storm’s end over Eddard Stark’s death. Stannis wasn’t sure what to make of that. He wasn’t close to his brother. Not at all really. Robert was a drinker, a whorer and a Lord that shirked his duty at any given time. Robert had left the moment their parents had been put to rest. Stannis had managed Storm’s End with the Castellan. The brother he chose. Even with all the differences between Robert and him, those words still echoed. They echoed every time someone asked how he felt the war was going. They echoed every time a Tyrell brought a new delicacy to feast upon. They echoed every time Renly asked when Robert was coming back. Stannis wondered if it was just the lack of food that had done it to him, to make him think on it.

The start of the day had been the same as any other on the battlements. A group of starved Storm lords and soldiers guarding the walls and the sight of the Tyrells all breaking their fast. Stannis had just carried on with his duties for the morning, ignoring the growls as the smell of pork moved over the walls. The Tyrells had moved as close as possible to the castle out of firing range. The Reach didn’t want an actual fight. Stannis could see that. The usual sight of an idle Reach army changed thought at about midday with movement of soldiers back and forth to the Lords. They were moving frantically. From what Stannis could observe they didn’t look happy. Has Robert finally returned? Or have they finally been forced to fight for the dragons properly?  Stannis asked himself. He’d ordered the men to prepare in case the Reach was moving for attack. He waited for over an hour, watching Reach Lords moving further away from the front. Stannis waited. He waited until he could see a small contingent of riders being let through, with some other horses being brought with them. The rebel army is here. Stannis observed, seeing the mix of Stark and Arryn colours. The riders stopped at the gates. Stannis walked towards the top of the gate, where it would be easiest to hear them.

Stannis spoke first, “I am Stannis of the Baratheon. What brings Stark and Arryn men to Storm’s End?”

One of riders answered loudly, “On behalf of King Robert of the Six Kingdoms, we’ve come tae relieve the siege of Storm’s End! The King in the North and Lord Denys Arryn will not make terms wae House Tyrell unless Prince Stannis is present!”

Stannis nodded at the riders. The war had been won. And Robert was a King. The thought made him grit his teeth together. And the North is independent. Stannis didn’t have time to process that fact.

Stannis gave a look at the riders, “I’ll be down shortly my lords to meet with the army.”

Stannis began giving orders across the castle. It was the first time he had seen the men as alive since the smuggler brought the much-needed food. He gave command of the castle to the Castellan and took a small contingent of guards down to the gates. He had also ordered Davos and Cressen to stay with Renly. If the worst had happened, he wanted the smuggler to take them out of the castle. Stannis doubted that would be the case but if so, he didn’t think the rest would hold the castle longer. Walking out of the gates with a small contingent, Stannis met with the group of riders. At the front there were two of the commanders going by their armour, adorned with their house sigils. Stannis could see them looking at him and the guards’ gaunt appearance. They nodded towards the men and brought the unmanned horses to the group. Stannis mounted it quickly, hiding the pain the exertion gave him. He could hear the groans of his guards.

As the group rode, he could see the armies of the Reach gradually dipping their banners. The ride was a silent one as they rode. Stannis wasn’t comfortable with idle chat. One of the commanders, a man of the vale Stannis assumed from his non-northern accent, began to speak as they left the Reach encampment,

“King Benjen Stark and Lord Denys Arryn will be waiting My Prince at the clearing. The negotiations will begin immediately unless you wish to eat beforehand.”

“No, my Lord, I’ll not eat until terms have been made. I won’t eat until the siege is ended. The terms will be made immediately.” Stannis replied simply.

The commanders both nodded at him and they continued the ride in silence. As the group got closer, he could see what Stannis presumed to be the Northern and Vale army. He didn’t see any Stormlands banners. If Robert were here, we’d all know it though. Stannis thought to himself. Stannis could see why the Reach army was dipping its banners, the armies of the North and Vale had completely surrounded them. It would have been a massacre for the Reach, regardless of how many soldiers they had. Arriving at the clearing, Stannis could see a group of Lords on two sides, with the fat man that was Mace Tyrell at the front of the Reach Lords and two young men at the front of the rebel side. The youngest of the two, tall and slender, dressed in Stark colours looked younger than Stannis. That must be Benjen Stark. Eddard Stark’s brother. The last son of Rickard Stark, and King in the North, a title that hadn’t been used since the conquest. Stannis could see the Lords present looking at Stannis’ state. The Reach Lords looked nervous. Good.

As he got off his horse, the Vale commander with him spoke to the group, “Prince Stannis of the House Baratheon! He wishes to deal with terms now.”

The Vale Lord at the front of his party in Arryn colours, Lord Arryn, was the first to speak out of the group, “Prince Stannis, Now, that you’re here we can begin with bringing House Tyrell and the Reach back into the realm.”

Stannis nodded at the Arryn, “Did Robert give any orders to carry out?”

All King Robert had said on the matter was that as long as House Tyrell were to bend the knee, they would retain their status as Lord Paramount of the Reach and Warden of the South.”

Stannis ground his teeth. He doesn’t plan to punish them or take their titles. They starve us for almost a year and they go home unscathed.

The fat flower seemed elated at the news, “Lord Arryn, if those are his grace’s orders, I will bend my knee to you Lord Arryn.”

Tyrell went to bend his knee to Lord Arryn but was stopped by the Stark.

“Aye that is what King Robert said. However, Lord Tyrell, because King Robert was busy cleaning up the mess that the dragons and the Lannister have made of the capital, he didnae give any real specifics on how tae ensure your loyalty.”

Stannis watched the fat flower look up at that, nerves coming back again.

The Stark King continued, with a smile, “But tae successfully achieve that, we needed a Baratheon present fae those terms. Seeing as I’m not a subject of the Iron Throne, I cannae make the terms.

“And I’ve been given limited orders by his grace, so anything binding can only be done with Prince Stannis’ consent. The man you should be bending your knee to my Lord.” Lord Arryn added.

Stannis was rarely surprised in life at this point. He was a second son. Anything he had done or found had already been achieved by Robert, and always better. Proudwing had shown that for Stannis. The fact that Robert had clearly intended to leave the terms as a simple bending of the knee didn’t surprise Stannis. Robert believed he could charm anything. The words of Stark and Arryn did though. They’re giving me a say in this. More than that, control of it. He knew Robert wouldn’t have done that. Why them?

Stannis could ponder it later though. He had a duty to the realm. He turned to the rebels.

“Thank you, Lord Arryn, King Stark. A wise move for the Kingdom. We’ll start with Storm’s End. The stores of Storm’s End are fully depleted. I expect the Reach to hand over half of their food supplies as a way to replenish the stores, as well as cavalry horses and hunting dogs which were lost in the siege. The Reach will also be expected to continue to fill the stores of the Storm’s End for 2 years.”

Stannis could see some of the Reach Lords grumbling, the Fat Flower looked flustered. He didn’t say anything though thankfully. Stannis didn’t want to hear the Tyrell speak.

Stannis took a small breath, “And as an assurance of loyalty Lord Tyrell, two of your eldest children are to be wards of the crown until they’re of age. Then your youngest two will replace them until of age.”

Stannis had remembered the celebration the Reach had made in front of them. It was loud enough to know it was the birth of his fourth child, a daughter.

The Fat Flower’s face turned as red as a tomato, “You mean to take my family hostage?! You would leave me with two babes in High Garden?! The Northerners have already taken my good brother Baelor and the rest of the men in their family for their so-called crimes! My eldest two are heirs to High Garden and Hightower! That would leave one keep without a Lord and mine without a properly trained heir! And then you take my youngest as well after that!”

Stannis gritted his teeth, he doubted the fat oath would have a properly trained heir if he was in charge of it. “Lord Tyrell, this isn’t a negotiation. It is an assurance that your interests remain aligned with the Crown.”

“Aye, it isnae a negotiation, what Prince Stannis offers you is what happens here. If you dinnae comply, it is refusal tae support King Robert. It would give our armies leave tae attack.” The King in the North announced.

Stannis watched as the Tyrell looked to his bannermen for support. The Lords didn’t appear to be as willing to support their lord paramount. Most likely from a tactical point of view. Stannis could see the might of the North and the Vale. The Reach men had no time to prepare or escape to. They were trapped by an army, the walls of Storm’s End and the cliffs. They had to bend.

“Fine, what other demands does the Prince want to make of me?” The Tyrell asked almost petulantly.

Stannis was growing annoyed at the man “I have no more commands Lord Tyrell. Anything else would go against the King’s orders. Wards of the Crown and reparations to the Stormlands is enough.”

“Well, if that’s all-in order, I suggest we end this siege. Lord Tyrell, will you bend the knee to Prince Stannis?” Lord Arryn asked Tyrell.

The Lord Paramount of the Reach began to slowly bend the knee to Stannis Baratheon, with the Reach Lords following. He also watched the Vale Lords bend the knee. Stannis didn’t think that was necessary but it seemed to force any Reach Lord to recognise his newfound station. The ones that didn’t were the Northern Lords, with King Benjen giving a curt nod.

“Rise Lord Arryn, Lord Paramount of the Vale and Warden of the East. Rise Lord Tyrell, Lord Paramount of the Reach and Warden of the South. Its time this siege is ended.” Stannis commanded, attempting not to ground his teeth at Tyrell’s titles.

*

The lifting of the siege had taken a week, with the Northerners and the Vale governing the handover of the Reach’s supplies, replenishing Storm’s End supplies with Stannis’ oversight. The people of Storm’s End had been overjoyed at the siege lifting, enjoying the supplies which had been left to a ridiculous degree. It had been hard for Stannis to eat much, having eaten so little in so long. He’d watched men and women be sick, trying to eat as much as they could. It had been a time of celebration for them. For Stannis though, his duties continued. According to Stark and Arryn, Robert had given Stannis orders to build a new royal fleet for him so they could take Dragonstone, where the last Targaryens remained. Stannis didn’t expect any less of Robert. Besieged for almost a year and his first words are an order sent by other Lords. Stannis would do his duty though. Lord Arryn had offered some troops to help with the work until the Storm lords returned. From what Stannis could gather from Stark and Arryn, they had been reluctant to mention Robert’s order.

Because of it though, Stannis had been busy, preparing supplies, assessing what would be needed and getting rid of the Reach men. The Northern Army and Vale army was to escort them to King’s Landing, with the Vale taking them the rest of the way to collect Tyrell’s children. The Northerners were to march North, meeting with rest of their forces to go home. He’d heard the Northerners grumbling about being in the South long enough. Stannis had been asked by the King in the North for a ship docked at Storm’s End. Stark and a few men were to sail for Sun Spear with Princess Elia Martell, the subdued Princess of Dorne. The stories of what had transpired at King’s Landing had come with siege’s end. Stannis had asked what was to be done about Clegane and the Lannisters. The King in the North had given a dark response.

“Robert hasnae decided whether a murderer of children should be executed or rewarded fae services tae the realm.”

That hadn’t surprised Stannis. Robert never could make a decision that didn’t involve battle or abandoning his duties. Though putting Clegane’s head on a spike should have been a simple one. Stannis had thought after the news.

By the week’s end, Stannis had been left with a relatively empty view. The fleet had left and the armies had too. Storm’s End was free. It was quiet and peaceful. A rare thing in a land dominated by Storms. The lifting of the siege had left Stannis one duty left, before beginning the fleet. He had to deal with the smuggler. Stannis had noted that Davos had not left Storm’s End. The man had many opportunities to do so but hadn’t. Stannis respected that. The smuggler had been ordered to head to the courtyard, so Stannis could do justice for his crimes, and reward his deeds. Walking to the courtyard with Maester Cressen, Stannis could see that Davos was waiting, as was the master of arms to give Stannis his sword, a small block also in place. Upon seeing Stannis, Davos gave a bow.

“Milord” The smuggler said simply, flea bottom accent heavy.

“Davos, I made an agreement with you when you brought aid to Storm’s End. I am not a man who forgets that. You are to be rewarded with a Knighthood, a house name and choices lands on Cape Wrath for you and your family in perpetuity.”

“Thank you, Milord” Davos responded, keeping a straight face. He remembers the agreement then if he isn’t smiling like most would, Stannis observed.

“We also agreed that your smuggling crimes needed to be brought to justice. A suitable punishment for the crime will be to lose your fingers on one hand. What hand is your dominant one?”

“My right one Lord Stannis” Davos answered, unflinching.

Stannis nodded at the smuggler, “Kneel and put out your left hand on the block.”

The smuggler did as was asked and the master of arms passed the sword. Maester Cressen put a piece of leather into Davos’ mouth to not bite his tongue. Stannis took a small breath and swung at the smuggler’s fingers. The swing was a clean one, taking the fingers off to the first joint. Davos gave a grunt in pain, clearly holding back the scream. Maester Cressen immediately tended to the wound, cauterising and bandaging it. Davos had gone white but had held his nerve. Stannis waited for a few minutes while the smuggler gained treatment and a drink to soothe the pain. When Davos’ breathing seemed to return to normal, Stannis put his sword on the man’s shoulders.

“Davos, do you swear before the eyes of men to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to protect all women and children, to obey your captains, your liege lord, and your king, to fight bravely when needed and do such other tasks as are laid upon you, however hard or humble or dangerous they may be?”

Stannis had been knighted in his younger years. He had been given a much more formal ceremony but it didn’t feel right for Stannis to say those words. He hadn’t set foot in a sept since he watched his parents’ ship sink. Even this speech I can’t mention the gods.

“Aye Lord Stannis I do” Davos said as calm as could be given the circumstances. The man didn’t seem to notice his choice in words.

“Then rise Ser Davos, what house name have you chosen?”

Ser Davos rose, looking Stannis in the eye, “Seaworth Lord Stannis”

Stannis noticed the words were said with conviction.

“An apt name Ser Davos of House Seaworth. I have need of a shipman. There’s work to be done for the realm.”

Our Duty Demands It.

Chapter Text

Oberyn

The court at Sun Spear was a tense one. It mirrored the entirety of Dorne. A kingdom that had been stabbed and was aching to return the favour. The vipers of Dorne were more than ready to strike. Oberyn, the most of all. When Rhaegar came, he’d ranted and raved at the Silver Prince that had set aside his sister and left Elia and her children with a madman. The fact that he knew they weren’t safe but used it as a bargaining tool made it evident that he was not much better than Aerys. He was unrepentant. Oberyn had outright refused to fight with the man. Very few Dornish would, the 10,000 Dornish that Rhaegar demanded would only have fought for Elia.

Going to his death with Rhaegar wasn’t Oberyn’s plan though. He’d practically begged Doran to let him hide amongst the Dornish army heading to the capital so he could sneak in and get them out. He would have been able to do it. He knew that. Doran had other plans. The Master of Whispers assured him that he had made an escape route for them, that it was in the realm’s best interest that Rhaegar’s heirs be safe, regardless of whatever happened to Aerys and Rhaegar. Doran believed it. Oberyn believed it when Doran explained it. It made sense after all, that a member of the Small Council, if not all of them would have thought to save the heirs in preparation for the worst. I’ll never forgive myself for not going.

News of the sack tore that sensible notion into pieces. The Lannisters had sacked the city and Tywin Lannister had sent his dogs to kill Elia and her children. The lord had succeeded with her children. Varys’ missives explained that. The thought of Aegon and Rhaenys had made Oberyn drink himself into a stupor. What he wrote of Elia had broken him though. Clegane had done an unspeakable thing to Elia Martell. And I wasn’t there to gut the man before he could try. Oberyn would have his revenge. He would have it so Elia could watch. Oberyn would relish that moment. But first, he would see his sister returned to Dorne.

That was why the Court had been assembled today, Benjen Stark was here with Elia Martell. Word had come from Storm’s End that the newly proclaimed King in the North, a boy of 15, was sailing for Dorne with Elia Martell. It had come as a shock to everyone. Elia was expected to be a hostage until the new King on the Iron Throne gave terms to ensure Dorne’s support for the new rule. Oberyn didn’t care to be honest. He wanted blood regardless. For now, though, he could see what they’d truly done to Elia. Word had come that their ship had docked, and the group were on their way, with the messenger stating that Elia was with them. Oberyn would have met them at the docks but Doran wanted the meeting to be more formal. He worries I’ll kill them all. I’d be lying if it didn’t cross my mind. Given that they were a small group would have made it even easier. That was another surprise. Eight guards, four lords and the King in the North. The Northman’s a brave fool, I’ll give him that, to walk in a nest of vipers with very little help.

Oberyn was on edge waiting. Doran remained calm in his chair. Though from Oberyn’s position, he could see the nervousness in the eyes. He may be the Prince of Dorne, but he was Elia’s brother first. There weren’t many other Dornish Lords present. The majority in their keeps, told to prepare for the worst should war come to Dorne in the near future. What Doran didn’t hope for, Oberyn knew that much. Doran’s a much more cautious snake. There may not have been too many in the Dornish court, but they were all staring intently as the door to the court opened with the group. Oberyn expected the King in the North to have led the group, but it was Elia that was the first to enter the courtroom, with the group behind her. Oberyn could barely see them, his eyes were on Elia.

She looked pale. That was the first thing he noticed as he slowly walked towards her and she him. It seemed to hover over her Dornish skin like a ghost. Her eyes had dark bags. She looked tired, haunted. Elia had always had a frailness to her since birth, but this was inflicted. It didn’t belong to her. It had been forced upon her. I’ll kill them all for it. For now, he could settle for having her home. Oberyn hugged her hard. He could feel her arms go around him. She was home. Neither of them uttered a word. The words he wanted to say would either come in the meeting or be spoken in private. Neither of them looked at anything else. It didn’t matter at that point. Neither of them cried. The court may have understood if they had but the two both knew their words. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. When the two finally broke away, he could see those words in her eyes. She’d had cruelty done, but she wasn’t gone. Not yet, not ever if I get my way. He could he Doran speak softly,

“Welcome home Princess Elia of House Martell. Come and sit with me and your brother.”

His hand beckoned to the pair. Oberyn knew his brother couldn’t walk far with his gout. He would have his moment with Elia in privacy. Oberyn gently grabbed his sister’s hand and guided her seat on Doran’s right. Oberyn finally sat in his chair to Doran’s left, some measure of peace in him now that Elia was home. The worry that she wouldn’t be here had left him. He could focus his poison on these Northerners.

 All the Lords and guards, even the King were in simple Northern armour. It was plain and dark, excluding their sigils. Even the sigils weren’t the most colourful.  None of them looked like they had been comfortable in the heat. Oberyn could see the sweat on them. They’re far from the cold lands of the North. Of the five lords, three of them looked big, with broad shoulders and long beards. One in particular was extremely tall, with a giant breaking from chains as a sigil. The other two were smaller, the one with a lizard lion on his cloak, looked like a man grown but of small stature. The one on the middle though, didn’t look fully grown yet, despite the fully-grown beard. The King in the North’s barely a man. He was tall and skinny, as opposed to the broad shoulders of the lords. The lad wasn’t as built up. At least not yet. He clearly had the makings of it. His face was still young, the lines of age hadn’t come. His face and body looked young, but the way his face contorted itself wasn’t. The lad’s face was a serious one. Very serious, with grey eyes that seemed completely focused, and no hint of a smile. This was the man that killed Rhaegar Targaryen if the rumours were right.

Oberyn wanted to laugh at that. The Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, bested by a boy. All of the court was staring at the Northerners, some looking to where House Martell sat, clearly to see who would speak first. It was Elia of all people to start the conversation, her voice as soft as he remembered it, just with a slight edge of pain,

“Prince Doran, Prince Oberyn, I’d like you to meet Benjen Stark, the King in the North, and his companions Great Jon Umber of Last Hearth, Howland Reed of Greywater Watch, William Dustin of Barrow town and Ethan Glover of Deepwood Motte. They’ve been my personal escorts and guard since leaving King’s Landing. They’ve been of great service to Dorne.”

Oberyn didn’t fail to notice the darkness that fell on his sister at mention of King’s Landing. He also noticed that she was vouching for the Northerners.

The King in the North nodded at Elia, “Thank you Princess, we’re happy tae have done it. I’m sorry that it wasnae under better circumstances”

“Very true King Stark, circumstances that have cost immeasurable suffering to Dorne.” Prince Doran stated.

Oberyn was surprised. It was almost blunt for him. He was still mincing his words though.

Oberyn decided to be blunt, “Suffering is an understatement brother. You know as well as I do what’s been done in your rebellion. 10,000 Dornish are dead, our uncle is dead and unspeakable things have been done in the capital. Suffering does not cover the pain that has been inflicted!”

Doran gave Oberyn a hard look, then turned back to the Northerners, “What my brother says is true, albeit too harshly towards you. What my brother means, is what will be done to help to alleviate that pain which the rebellion has caused”

The King in the North looked to Elia then the two brothers, “A fair point My Princes. Dorne has suffered immensely fae this war, much like my own people in that. I can give you very little sadly, I am no longer a part of the realm and cannae give you what you want. That, unfortunately, is fae king Robert tae decide. I hope he’ll make the right one.”

Oberyn wasn’t happy with that answer. Doran replied before he could speak though, “Interesting, you see I was under the impression from our sources that the King had said you would be the one to negotiate with us, as a way to prevent us from declaring our independence like you”

“You mean from Aerys’ pet Eunuch Varys?” Elia asked her brother. Oberyn could hear the venom in her voice. What has the Eunuch done? Oberyn wondered. Maybe another person I need to kill.

The King in the North didn’t seem fazed at Doran’s statement. He didn’t seem surprised either at Elia’s comment.

“Aye, you’re right my Prince. King Robert did ask that I convince you on that, then he would send his own tae make terms. It doesn’t mean I will. You have every reason tae declare like my bannermen did wae me. I won’t stop that if that’s your best course. You can negotiate all of that wae Robert. I honestly dinnae give a shit, I won’t help him until he gets his act taegether.”

“So, you don’t plan on helping Robert Baratheon? A man you fought with, who fought a war that was started between Starks and Targaryens and had nothing really to do with him. You could say that for all of your allies who fought a war over Rhaegar taking a mistress from House Stark!” Oberyn said angrily.

It got a rise out of one of the Northerners, “Are you blaming House Stark fae the crimes of a madman and a kidnapper?! I marched South wae Brandon tae get his sister back fae Rhaegar! I had tae watch him hang as his father burnt alive in front of the court while the Mad King cackled! I had tae stay in a cell wae his corpse and his father’s ashes fae the entirety of the war! None of this was House Stark’s fault and I’ll kill any man who implies otherwise!”

“A bold statement from a man who claims to have been in a cell for a war!” Oberyn boldly pointed out.

Before the Northerner could answer, Elia cut him off, glaring at Oberyn, “Prince Oberyn, I’d calm yourself before you say anything else stupid. This war wasn’t started by House Stark brother. It was Rhaegar. He wanted her for his prophecy and he would have her at any cost. She’s a victim.”

Oberyn was shocked at his sister. She of all people had reason to have hatred for Lyanna Stark. To say she was a victim of this war was unexpected. She defends the Starks again, what have they done to earn it?

Doran was the one who brought the meeting back from an argument, “If you aren’t here to treat with us on Robert’s behalf, then what are you exactly here for?”

The King in the North seemed grateful for Doran’s question, giving a curt nod to him, “Ensuring the safe return of the Princess Elia to her family. I’ve also brought back the bodies of the Princess and Prince. They deserve tae be buried somewhere they’ll be given respect.”

The King in the North motioned to one of the Northern Lords, who pulled out a head from a satchel. It still had skin and flesh on it, showing a fat face. Some of the Dornish in the court were displeased at the sight.

The Northerners also looked at in disgust,

“I also bring Amory Lorch’s head. I had one of my bannermen preserve the face so you could see fae yourself the man that killed Rhaenys Targaryen.”

Oberyn could hear the regret in the King’s voice as Oberyn looked at the fat head of the man that killed his niece.

Doran looked to Elia, “Is it truly him?”

Elia simply nodded, staring at the head as well. Oberyn could see that she was holding back tears.

Oberyn looked to one of the guards. “Go put it on a spike. I want it paraded around Sun Spear.”

The guard looked at Doran who nodded. Oberyn grinned at that.  

The largest of the Northerners spoke quietly with a low growl, “We’d have brought you Clegane’s head as well but Robert’s being a fuck. Deciding whether he’s got the balls tae deal wae Tywin, the bastard that ordered it.”

Oberyn could hear the anger from the Northerner. It seems Tywin has angered more than Dorne. But do they have the same right to be angry?

Doran looked the King in the North in the eye, looking at him intensely, “That’s not all you’re here for though?”

The King in the North shook his head, “No, as much as I’d like tae go home, I have one last task. I need tae find my sister. She’s located near the Red mountains in a place called the Tower of Joy. My group will go ourselves but I’d like guides if possible.”

“You want help from us to get your sister back. Robert’s new Queen?” Oberyn asked.

The Northerners scowled at him.

“He asks too little Oberyn. Considering three of the King’s Guard aren’t accounted for, last seen before the war began. I would offer him an army.” Elia said with complete certainty.

Doran didn’t break his stare at the King, “A fair request My King. I will have it arranged. And my sister is right, you should have some help. My brother here, along with the best of my men will accompany you. Though first, I intend to offer you the hospitality of Dorne whilst preparations are made.”

Oberyn gave a hard look to his brother. Doran ignored it.

The King in the North nodded, “Thank you my Prince, that is much appreciated. Though I hope tae find my sister quickly.”

Doran nodded, “Of course, but first I would like to talk with the men who were at King’s Landing. If the tone of my sister gives any information, it is that our sources are not as faithful as I’d hoped. We’ll sup when you are all rested. My guards will escort you to House Martell’s residences.”

The King in the North offered his thanks again, then left the court with the guards, followed by the rest of the court. Only Oberyn, Elia and Doran were left in the court. He wanted to talk with his sister but Doran still had the look of a man at work. Oberyn decided to focus on Doran’s most recent command.

“You want me to accompany the Northerners?!”

Doran looked at him with his disapproving stare, “Yes, I do. If they go into that desert alone, they’re likely to die if they get lost. Or they could die by the remaining King’s Guard. Either way Dorne will be blamed. I won’t risk Dorne over it.”

Oberyn scoffed, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken brother. We’ve killed a dragon in our history. We’ve beaten the might of the Kingdoms before. We can do it again. We can fight and kill Clegane and Tywin!”

Doran shook his head, “Tywin may send his monster but he’d never set foot in Dorne. Its foolish to commit our people to war if we can’t get the justice we want. Letting the Northerners die and bringing war to Dorne won’t do that.”

“Fine! Then why me for this task?!”

It was Elia who answered, “Because you need to understand the North is our only true ally now. Two of those men, alongside Ser Jamie Lannister, were what saved me from that monster of Tywin’s. They ache for blood as much as you. They’ve suffered like us from Dragons and the politics of the throne. And you need to see that Lyanna will have suffered as well.”

Oberyn looked at her, “You really think the Stark girl had suffered?”

Elia looked at him with sadness in her eyes, “I’ve suffered Rhaegar for a long time. Lyanna will have suffered to from his kind of madness. She’s a child. We don’t harm children in Dorne. We help them.”

Oberyn’s face darkened at that. How old was the Stark girl?

Doran looked at the two, “You need to go Oberyn. See whatever Rhaegar has done for yourself. You need to be more precise with your hatred. Precision is what we need here, not the broad strikes of a hammer.”

Oberyn sighed, “Fine, I’ll go escort the Northerners and the boy they call King.”

Doran smiled, “Good, you’ll be supping with them this evening with me and Elia. Try and make some amends to them, at least after you hear what they say. For now, though, the three of us can talk in private.”

Elia gave a small smile, it almost shined through the paleness that surrounded her. “Yes, it may be under dire circumstances but it is nice to be with my family.”

Oberyn smiled at his sister. There would be work to be done to help his sister, but for now he could enjoy the moment. My sister is returned to us. Woe to all who try to harm her again. And death will come for those that have.

Chapter Text

Lyanna

Lyanna had been miserable in the tower. She was pregnant with the child of a man who had tricked her and then used her. Believing him at the beginning had doomed most of her family to death and she was to blame for falling for it. She was alone, trapped by guards and a dragon in her belly. All Lyanna could hope for in the isolation that Benjen was winning. That’s all she wanted to know. She wanted him to get her back. At least to say sorry. I’ve killed his brothers and fathers. The thought made her wallow when alone, not that the guards came up. They rarely showed unless she was making a noise.

But then the news came. The news she’d hoped for. One of the King’s Guard had gone for supplies and learnt that Rhaegar had been killed. Her brother had killed him and put his head on a spike if the rumours were true. She knew they would be. It was the first time she had laughed since news of her Father and Brandon’s death. She laughed in the face of the King’s Guard as they looked nervous at the fact that their Prince had died. The North was marching South and House Stark would kill them for being complicit.

“Benjen’s gonnae kill you! Benjen’s gonnae kill you!” She shouted to them in the common, practically singing.

What feelings she had when Rhaegar had tricked her were dead. Every mock to the guards was worth the pain of her mistakes. The great beauty of it was that Hightower or Whent couldn’t silence her, not wishing to harm Rhaegar’s heir. She was untouchable in a small way. News of Rhaegar’s death gave her hope. She just had to wait for Benjen to come.

“The King in the North is coming!” She laughed when news of Benjen’s crowning came. The North does not bend to dragons and neither will Lyanna Stark again. They stopped receiving news after that. The King’s Guard refused to leave at this point. The birth was to come soon, she had been showing when Rhaegar left.

*

The Happiness ended when the birthing pains came. It had been late as it was, as she remembered from her mother when she lived. And it was painful. Lyanna had never felt such pain. The happiness from news of Benjen left her as she fought to give birth. She was largely alone. The Knights of the King’s Guard knew very little on birthing children and were not much help in the woman’s war. There was only a serving girl that had been brought, Wylla, who had given birth recently to a stillborn babe. She had only been brought as milk for the babe when it came. Lyanna wailed throughout the entire birth, Rhaegar’s damned prize was coming into the world. Lyanna hated every moment of the birth. She was afraid of it. Her mother had died because of the birthing bed. That was what she feared about it. Benjen would be all alone. She didn’t want to do that. Too much had already been lost.

The long birth ended in a scream and a wailing babe. Lyanna was drained from it. The birth was draining. She felt weak. She knew she’d bled at some point. It felt like it had stopped though. She barely noticed Wylla take the babe to be cleaned. She didn’t get a look of it until Wylla returned a few moments later.

“A girl my lady” she said shyly, almost hesitantly as she passed the babe to her.

She didn’t want to hold her. She didn’t want touch a part of Rhaegar again. But it was a part of her though. It wasn’t the child’s fault, even if she was the reason Rhaegar stole her in the first place. His precious Visenya. She hoped she would look like a Stark. Just to spite him, to spite the Hightower, Whent and Dayne with the third head of the dragon that was all wolf. A dragon child she would call Lyarra every time they say Visenya. When Benjen comes he’ll make them say it, Lyanna thought defiantly, gaining the courage to look at her babe. Lyanna looked down at the babe and didn’t see a girl that looked like a Stark. She was her father’s daughter. Fair hair and purple eyes. Even in death Rhaegar got what he wanted. Not Quite Though. The babe might have been crying but it wasn’t a healthy one. She’d seen some new born children in Wintertown. She knew the difference between a babe born strong and a one that was ill. This one was the latter. She had been born late but still looked frail. She was the seed of royalty and looked weak. The babe did not look healthy. The Third Head of the Dragon is not a strong one.

Rhaegar’s King’s Guard knew it as well. She’d heard the conversation from them a few days after.

“We can’t move until the babe is better!” Whent bellowed.

“We could if we left the Northern whore. It wouldn’t take long to get to a nearby village.” Hightower spat

“Are you mad Hightower?! You’re going to leave the babe’s mother?!” Dayne asked angrily.

Dayne, the only one who’d shown any kindness, any guilt. He still didn’t help.

“I don’t see why not, Rhaegar only needed her for this. We have his third head of the dragon. We can kill her and leave.”

Benjen will leave you to the Boltons if that’s what you do. Lyanna thought darkly. He’d killed a prince and was a wolf. He would hunt him down she knew it in her soul.

“You do that Hightower and I’ll gut you where you stand. I didn’t want any of this but I followed my oaths. Killing that babe’s mother will not be a part of this.” Dayne said darkly

“It doesn’t matter anyway. That babe is weak. It is better to wait until she’s better before we do anything rash. Besides, we need more information on what’s happened in the capital.” Whent said, clearly trying to calm the two.

“I can tell you what’s happened Whent. The Targaryens have lost. They lost when news of the Trident came. Nobody in the realm will have fought for Aerys, it was Rhaegar or nothing!” Dayne shouted

She heard the Sword of the Morning storm off. They know they’re doomed. Good. I just need them to stay here. Someone must know I’m here.

*

Nobody left the tower for a month. Not even as the babe grew worse. She refused to feed and had a fever. The babe was ill. If Lyanna didn’t know any better, she had thought the babe was willing itself to die. Nobody could d anything about it. There was no Maester nearby according to the Knights’ mutterings and the risk of being found out were too great apparently. The babe finally passed two days ago. Visenya of the House Targaryen was dead. She’d died weak and frail, nothing like her namesake. Lyanna didn’t know whether to mourn or not. It didn’t feel like her child. It felt like Rhaegar’s and Rhaegar’s alone. It did make her sad though, she was still her mother. The grim fact it all was she’d not even been able to give birth to the so-called child of prophecy and keep it alive. Her family had been doomed by that prophecy. Lyanna had been lied to and tricked to fulfil that prophecy. Thousands will have died because of it. And the babe was dead. Her babe was dead, for how little she had known her. I could have made her a Stark. Lyanna thought sadly.

Of course, she doubted she had the time if the babe had lived. Lyanna was dying and she knew it. She kept waking up with drips of blood down her legs. She was feeling fainter and fainter. Dayne believed the bleeding was internal. It couldn’t be fixed without a Maester. It was probably to late. More blood had come and Lyanna felt weak, confined to her bed, with blood on her sheets. She was on her way out. All she wanted to see Benjen. She prayed for him to come, even though there was no heart tree to pray to. The Old Gods were kind though, when she heard from the window a Northern accent speaking. Benjen!!! She was weak but the one thing Lyanna could always shout. She mustered it and shouted.

“Benjen!!!!”

Benjen

Standing before him, with a lone tower, were the three knights of the King’s Guard that had not been seen in the war, Ser Gerold Hightower, Ser Oswell Whent and Ser Arthur Dayne, all in white cloaks and armour. An impressive sight but he didn’t care. Benjen wanted them dead. They were standing guard opposite him, in front of the Tower where his sister lay. He’d made it.

Ser Gerold Hightower was first to speak, “Benjen Stark, the usurper that killed the Crown Prince. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve been eager to meet the savage that killed his rightful monarch.”

Benjen stared at that Hightower. Are all Hightowers insufferable? “Ser Gerold Hightower, The last free male Hightower and kidnapper of my sister.”

The Hightower gave a confused scowl, “What’s that supposed to mean usurper?”

Benjen heard Great Jon Umber and William Dustin laugh on his left, with Ethan Glover smiling on his right.

“Your Nephew and Grandnephews are in the North’s custody. One’s already dead. Your Nephew is tae be executed and offered tae a heart tree fae crimes against the North. His sons face the same or the black. I’m afraid you’ll only be given the first option fae holding ma sister.” Benjen stated darkly.

Before the Hightower could respond, Benjen heard the scream.

“Benjen!!!!!!!”

He knew the voice, the one he wanted to hear for so long. I won’t be long Lyanna.

“You don’t mean to give us the chance to surrender?” Whent asked. It didn’t sound like he would take it. He seemed to be establishing the situation.

“Have you not abducted my sister and kept her hostage?” Benjen asked

“She’s done as her Prince Commands!” Hightower shouted.

“I do not deny the charges Benjen. Worse has been committed by Rhaegar as well.” The Sword of the Morning said solemnly.

Benjen looked at the Dornish Knight, “Aerys is dead. Rhaegar is dead. House Targaryen’s reign is over. I want my sister back so she can go home tae Winterfell. Step aside and all of you will gain a swift death. If not, you’ll die painfully.”

“Aerys and Rhaegar may be dead, but our oaths dictate us to fight on behalf, whether it be Aegon or Viserys. As you are still a usurper, we have to fight.” Oswell stated.

“Besides savage, there’s four of you. You’ll not live.” The Hightower said confidently.

“You’re wrong there Hightower. For Winter has come.” Benjen answered, looking behind Whent as Howland Reed slit his throat.

It signalled the other Northern guards to fire their arrows and Oberyn’s small group to fire their spears. Benjen watched as the arrows and spears flew into the air, piercing the armour of the two knights standing. The arrows had focused on Hightower, taking the old bull down onto his knees, dropping his sword. Then a single spear landed in his back. Benjen watched coldly as the blood sputtered and his entire body dropped to the floor. The Dayne got less damage. Spears thrown to hit his legs. Oberyn wanted to talk to him apparently. He’d mentioned on their travels across Dorne that he wanted to speak to his fellow Dornishman. A more serious conversation when he was not acting like a prick.

Benjen watched as Oberyn walked from his hiding position, walking over the two dead King’s Guard, placing himself in front of Ser Arthur Dayne.

Oberyn spoke darkly to the knight with his Dornish drawl, “I heard your confession Dayne. I thank you for that honesty. I needed to hear that it wasn’t the girl’s fault. All I want to know Dayne, and so does Elia, is why did you not leave this folly and stand by Elia’s side? Her children are dead because of Rhaegar’s folly and by Lannisters. Why did you not stand beside her? Have you forgotten you are Dornish?”

Dayne, on his knees and coughing up blood, gave a strained answer, “I honoured my Prince’s commands. I believed him about the wars to come and his prophecy. I know my failures.”

What prophecy? What wars to come? Benjen wondered

Oberyn nodded, “And you pay for that folly Dayne. At least you confessed. I’ll tell Elia you knew your failures.”

Benjen watched as Oberyn slit his throat, and the Sword of the Morning dropped quick. It was a slaughter. Benjen knew it would be. If they hadn’t done it like this they probably would have died. He knew their skill. Everyone knew. It wasn’t honourable but holding his sister hostage wasn’t either. Benjen looked at his fellow Northerners, they seemed satisfied with the result.

“Are you ready to see your sister Good Brother now that these kidnappers lie dead?” The Great Jon asked in their tongue.

“Aye, Good Brother. It is. Its time she sees some of her own people for a change.”

*

Walking into Lyanna’s room brought him one of the saddest sights. He didn’t know what to expect but what he got was worse. His sister was lying there in bloodied sheets, with a deathly pale complexion. She’d been crying as well, now they were fluttering between open and shut.

“She looks like Elia did.” He whispered.

The Northerners and Oberyn were all staring at Lyanna as well. Lyanna’s eyes opened and she smiled. It was a weak one, he could tell, but it was a smile. A one I’ve wanted to see for too long.

“I knew it was you when I heard our accent brother. I’m so glad you’re here.” Lyanna said softly, pain evident.

Benjen smiled at her as he walked towards her and sat by the bed, “Where else would I be. The Pack survives when together.”

He grabbed her hand as gently as he could. Tears rolled down her eyes.

“And now our pack is only two. And I’m dying Benjen.” She cried

Benjen’s face dropped, “You’re not going to die Lyanna. I’ve brought a Maester. He can help. We’ll get you well and we can ride together, and fight under the Weirwood tree like we used to”

Lyanna smiled as she cried, “I’ve been like this for a while Benjen. A maester won’t help. I’m going to leave you all alone and this mess is all my fault”

“It’s not Lya. It never was. And you can’t die. You haven’t met my wife yet and my new born son. You haven’t met the Starks that have been in the mountains since Father became Lord of Winterfell. I can’t have you leave our pack” Benjen wanted to sob, he felt like a child again. Like the Green Boy that had found out his father and brothers were dead. He didn’t care that his Lords were here.

Lya gave a teary laugh, “The young pup’s married and a Father? You’ve been busy! Who is she? What’s she like?”

Benjen didn’t want to laugh but she made him. She always could.

“Ally Umber, Great Jon’s sister. You’ll love her. A true Northern woman. She’s a lively one, even in her letters”

Lya gave another teary smile, “An Umber for a wife? You’re a brave man brother.”

Benjen hoped that his Good Brother would give that boom of a laugh at something funny. Instead there was a silence. He sees what’s coming.

And your son? Have you named him yet? Or will you wait until you meet him? Give the Prince of Winter his name in person?”

“I had written down a few names when word came. I said to go for what she felt was best. I can’t wait to meet him” Benjen had tears flowing down his eyes.

“Send my nephew my love Benjen then” Lya said quietly

“You can show it when you meet him” Benjen stated, knowing it wasn’t going to be the case.

“Can you do something for me Benjen?” Lya asked, tears still flowing.

“Anything Lya” Benjen practically vowed

“Can we just talk until the end. I want to know everything about the first King in the North in almost Three Hundred Years before I see Father.” She spoke with firmness there.

Benjen sighed, looking at his sister. “Of course, Lya. I promise.”

They spoke through the night. She told him everything that had led to this. He never asked but she wanted everyone to know. She wanted forgiveness. There was nothing to forgive. Benjen told her everything. He made her laugh as he held her hand, trying not to sob. He talked to her all night until she drifted to sleep. He’d felt her go in the night as he rambled to her while she slept.

Lyanna was gone. Benjen wept as the last child of Rickard Stark.

Chapter Text

Robert

Robert could still see the sight of the bodies when he slept, even when they had long been removed from the capital, taking by Benjen south to Dorne. It wasn’t a nice sight to behold. He’d seen war and it never looked like that. The image in his mind wasn’t the worst though. It was the voice that came with it. He could hear Ned’s voice. It was disapproving that he hadn’t made the obvious decision yet. The easiest decision a King can make when faced with a child murderer and rapist. “Damn it, Ned!” He’d cursed to himself in his chambers as he woke. Benjen had been right the first time he’d uttered the words Dragonspawn after the Trident. Ned wouldn’t support it. Robert knew Benjen was right. Ned wouldn’t have stopped doing what was right, Benjen didn’t and Robert… I’ll do what’s right. I’ve always been a bit slow but I’ll do what’s right.

Robert had called all the Lords that were in the city to the court. It was mainly Stormlords, Riverlords and the Lannister Lords, all busy cleaning up the Lannisters’ mess and safely removing the wildfire from the capital. He’d watched some of it burn at the designated area picked. The green of the flames was breath-taking. Robert imagined it would have been sickening to see used on people. The thought reminded him of Ned’s father who’d been given that fate. The Northerners and Vale Lords had left not long ago to relieve Storm’s End. He’d gotten word that they’d relieved the siege and the Reach would re-join the realm, with Stannis making conditions to assure loyalty. Stannis better know what he’s doing with that. Robert thought as he sat on the Iron Throne, with all of its discomfort. He had noticed dried blood stains from Aerys. Robert waited impatiently for all the Lords to arrive with Ser Jamie and Ser Selmy standing it either side of him. Ser Jamie’s position’s another thing I have to deal with. Hells, the whole King’s Guard I need to think about.

Once the Lords and courtiers assembled, Robert channelled the voice that he used on the battlefield, the one that he knew worked on people.

“Gregor Clegane! Step to the front!”

The hulking mountain of a man walked to the front. He didn’t look nervous. Probably thinks he’s getting a damned reward. Robert hadn’t let anyone leave the city so he knew he would be here, no matter what Tywin tried. Clegane looked up at the Iron Throne, face seemingly composed. Robert stared back at the man, Ned and Benjen’s voice in head.

“When the Lannisters entered King’s Landing, a crime was committed as witnessed by Benjen Stark, The King in the North, Great Jon Umber and Ser Jamie Lannister. Gregor Clegane, you have been charged with the murder of Aegon Targaryen and Rhaenys Targaryen and the rape and attempted murder of the Princess Elia Martell! Do you confess?!”

Robert watched as the Clegane got angry, turning to Tywin quickly. Robert looked at Tywin, face as stoic as ever. He won’t throw himself under the bus. Clegane’s going to be finished at least. He couldn’t get Tywin, there wasn’t enough to physically connect him. He unfortunately needed him if he didn’t want a fight with the Westerlands. Not that I can’t smash them anyway.

“I deny it!”

“So, you’re denying the accounts of those that caught you in the act?” Robert asked, hoping he was speaking how Jon would have in a court setting.

The Clegane looked back to Tywin, giving nothing away. The Clegane yelled, “I demand trial by combat !!!!”

Robert wanted to grin at the man. He didn’t want a long-winded trial. He hoped Clegane would ask for it.

Robert suppressed that urge to grin, “Do you need time to find a champion Clegane?”

“I am my own!” The Mountain shouted to the court.

Robert nodded, “The Crown will decide a champion. You’ll fight him a week from now in the Dragon pit. All the Lords will attend and as many Smallfolk! The court is over!”

Robert watched the lords and ladies leave. Tywin clearly wanted to stay. Robert gave him a look though. The Lord of Lannister changed his stare to Ser Jamie, then left. Robert then looked at the two King’s Guard. He knew they probably wanted to be champions for the lost children and the Princess Elia. Neither of them would be though, no matter what they said. What is it Ned always said about the North? The man who passes the sentence shall swing the sword. The thought made Robert grin, Aye, that sounds like something Ned and Benjen would appreciate. It’s something Lyanna would appreciate, she wouldn’t tolerate being married to a man who let Clegane live.

*

Robert hadn’t been surprised when Selmy tried to convince him to let him fight as champion. They were good arguments. It was Selmy’s duty to do it being the biggest and the fear he’d be killed. Robert still refused though. Robert was confident when it came to him holding his hammer and fighting. He wasn’t cocky with his opponents but he knew he was a fighter. It was his element. Robert could hear the noises as he walked towards the Dragon Pit. He knew the pit would be full. The thing was a ruin but it had enough spaces for everyone. He didn’t want this to be a private affair. He was in his full Stag Armour with his Warhammer, forged by Donal Noye, the blacksmith of Storm’s End. The stag helmet was in his hand. Robert would put it on when everyone knew who was fighting Clegane.

Entering the Dragon Pit, King’s Guard and a select few guards at his side, he watched as the crowd went silent, seeing their king in full battle armour. Robert could see the Lords looking at him. Some looked shocked that Robert was in the centre of the pit, mainly the Westerlands Lords. The Stormlords had a mixed reaction, as did the Riverlords. The only lord he could see that didn’t look shocked was Brynden Tully, in his black armour. Tywin didn’t give anything away. Robert walked to the centre of the dragon pit, opposite the man in hulking armour that was awaiting him. The Mountain lived up to his name. He looked big, as big as Robert, if not bigger. It would be a tough one. Robert smiled.

The Dragon Pit was completely silent. Robert waited for Selmy and Lannister to move to the side of the Great Pit, putting his helmet on. The High Septon then spoke, clearly nervous.

“By the laws of Gods and men Clegane has right to trial by combat. He is his own champion! The Champion of the Crown is King Robert Baratheon, first of his name!”

The crowd gave a roar at it. The Lords still looked nervous. The High Septon went on,

“By the power of the Seven who are one, may the trial begin!”

Clegane took the command with a roar, charging at Robert with his massive Great Sword. Robert, weaved to the side and went for a smash to his chest with the hammer. The Mountain dodged it, roaring with swings in quick succession at the King. Robert blocked and dodged them easily enough. People always forgot that Robert was quick on his feet, despite what people thought. Ned always said it was my secret weapon. Robert blocked another strike from the Clegane, with the Mountain trying to push him down with his strength. Robert felt that push. The mountain had strength to him. A lot of strength. The bastard’s a powerful brute, no denying that. It didn’t really bother Robert in truth, he wanted a challenge. Robert let the man try and push him with his brute strength before Robert let his own out, pushing both arms on his Warhammer out fully, sending the mountain back. Robert grinned, not giving the mountain the chance to make another chance.

Robert swung his hammer right into the mountain’s black armour, making him give a bestial roar. Perfect! The thing Robert loved about a Warhammer was that it smashed armour. It was devastating if you knew how to use a Warhammer truly. That strike was a good start, with Robert beginning his push on the giant of a man. Robert moved fast, swinging his hammer at the man quicker and quicker, pushing him further back in the pit. He watched with satisfaction as the mountain gradually lost control, getting angrier and angrier that he was being pushed back. Then Robert made another strike, again at the right side. He wanted to break ribs this time. Robert felt the crack that came from the strike. He gotten what he wanted as the Mountain roared again. This time though the mountain pushed forward, brute strength evident. The bastard was strong, Robert knew that as the Great Sword hit his armour. It dented his armour and pushed Robert back. Robert laughed. A Real fucking fight!

Robert let the mountain roar and rage, focusing more on blocking as the mountain used his strength to batter him. Robert didn’t let him have any more strikes at this point, blocking each one, albeit having to use his strength more than normal. But not most of it. That was for later. The Mountain’s endless barrage went on. Right until Clegane made a mistake. He’d gotten that angry that he’d opened his guard to put more power on his thrust. Robert smiled behind his helmet at it. Got you bastard! Clegane made the thrust but Robert moved to his side, dodging it as he swung his Warhammer upwards, right between the mountain’s legs. The Warhammer didn’t miss, striking with the Steel of Storm’s End. “A mountain without Stones!” Robert shouted.

The Mountain made a true scream, not the roar of an animal that he’d been making earlier. It was a true scream of pain. The Starks would approve of that. Robert thought happily. The crowd had been silent in the pit. Now they were cheering. The Lannister men had done unspeakable things. To get justice done to one must have been cause to celebrate. The Mountain, with his clearly bloodied legs made an attempt to use his strength again, slashing wildly at the Storm King. Robert dodged every one, striking the mountain with more power than the last. One strike on the right at the ribs again. One at the left, battering the armour. Another between the legs, eliciting another scream. If he wasn’t a Eunuch before he is now. Each strike got more and more violent until Robert struck the mountains legs. Robert smashed the mountains’ left leg like it was a chicken’s, sending the mountain down onto one leg. Robert smashed the second leg, sending it down almost into the ground, bloodying Clegane more. Robert listened to Clegane’s bloodied screams. The mountain was done, but Robert wasn’t finished. The Storm King lifted his hammer and smashed into the mountain’s chest, using all of his strength, crushing it like it was nothing. Robert heard every bone in the mountain’s chest break. The bones will have penetrated organs.

“Selmy! Pass me your sword!” Robert boomed.

The knight ran to his King, giving him the sword as Robert put the hammer on his back. Robert stood over the mountain’s head, giving pained breathing as he lay on the bloodied dragon pit. Blood was leaking out of Clegane’s mouth. The King had turned him to a bloodied pulp. Robert swung at the mountain’s neck, taking it clean off from the Torso. Robert gave the sword back to Selmy, then picked up the bloodied head, showing it to all of the crowd, stunned into silence.

The High Septon looked horrified at the sight of the blood, but he managed to speak, albeit shakily, “King Robert Baratheon has won! The Gods have decreed Gregor Clegane to be guilty!”

The eruption of cheers from the crowd was enormous. Small folk and the rebels he had fought with were cheering, chanting for the new King. Robert had won the day. Robert walked around the massive pit, showing Clegane’s head to the masses, taking his helmet off to show his grin. I can do it Ned. I just needed the push. You’re still my voice of reason even in death brother. I can be an ally King for Benjen. I can be a good man for Lyanna. She’ll have a just King for a husband Benjen, not a whore monger who revels in children’s deaths. I can do it. The thought of the Starks made him smile more. Robert looked forward to seeing Lyanna. He looked forward to seeing his future good brother again. I can prove it Benjen. I can prove I’m worthy of her.

Chapter Text

Benjen

Oberyn promised he would send people to tear the Tower of Joy to pieces once they’d arrived at Starfall. Benjen had just nodded when Oberyn said that to him when they left the tower; with the rest of the group preparing Lyanna’s body. Nobody had really spoken after they left the Tower, it had taken the words out of the Northmen and the Dornish, at what had happened. It was a silent ride to Starfall. A silent ride to put Lyanna’s body on a ship to the North. Looking at her dead was something Benjen never expected to do. It had killed a part of him, knowing that all his siblings and parents were dead. Lyarra, Rickard, Brandon, Ned and now Lyanna. They were all gone. Benjen was all that was left of Rickard and his pack. The knowledge of that was hard to think about, the youngest of the pack, the spare’s spare, was the only one left. It was a dark way to turn Benjen into a man grown, only recently turned Fifteen, having your family turned to bones and memories. That’s all they are now, bones and memories, all for a dragon’s prophecy. Benjen thought to himself as they rode in their silence for days.

“The New Gift is in a shite state Benjen.”

That was the Great Jon’s way to break the silence that they had for days as they rode close to Starfall.

William Dustin turned his head, “Any reason you’re mentioning it now Jon, we’re wee bit far fae it tae have it on your mind?”

His good brother looked at Dustin, “True, but we’ve been riding across an empty, deserted plain fae a while now and it made me think of the New Gift, another shit-hole at the moment”

“Are you mocking our Dornish Lands?” Oberyn asked with his Dornish drawl, riding to Umber’s side.

“Not all of them Oberyn just this wee strip of boredom. Though I dinnae like the fucking heat across Dorne. How you live in it baffles me!” The Great Jon replied.

Oberyn snorted, “Is the Dornish heat too much for the Northman? I thought you a hardy lot, not ones to cry in such pleasant weather?”

Ethan Glover laughed, “We’re a hardy lot wherever we go Martell, I doubt you’d fare as well in oor summer snows.”

“Or oor winters” William added with a smile.

Umber laughed, “Aye, Oberyn here would freeze his cock off in the summer ones, I dinnae doubt you’ll die in winter!”

“If its that cold why would anyone live there?” Oberyn asked, smirk on his food.

The mood was becoming lighter. Benjen could never thank his good brother more for it.

“There’s more to the North than the cold, it is so much more than that and the Great Jon’s many, many boasts.” Howland stated simply.

Great Jon glared at Howland, though with a smirk as the others started to laugh louder. Benjen was starting to smile.

Howland continued with a small smile, “The North has many beautiful things. To walk through the Wolfswood, is to see a world truly untouched by man, surrounded by a nature that the children loved so much, slightly lit by the sun ever so faintly. Oor Lochs are like the eyes of a beautiful woman, oor rivers run on fae miles. The plains outside Winterfell make the castle that much more imposing, overlooking an expanse that could go on forever. And the neck, fae all that it is called a swamp and a dangerous place full of Frog Eaters by the South, has tricks and magics long thought gone from this world. And a complete peace to it as well. The North is a beautiful place Oberyn, it would be wrong fae us tae dae it an injustice, only talking about the cold.”

Howland wasn’t a man who spoke a lot. But his words had made all the Northmen smile, thinking of home.

“And the cold and damp has benefits too mind you Oberyn. Us Northerners have a saying aboot it. Without the cold, a man can't appreciate the fire in his hearth. Without the rain, a man can't appreciate the roof over his head. Let the south have its sun, flowers, and affectations.” Benjen said, smile tugging at his lips

“Us Northerners have home.” The group of Northmen almost chanted in unison, to the surprise of the Dornish.

Oberyn looked at the group on his horse, with a strange smile, “Then I’ll have to visit, see if it truly measures up to Dorne as you so claim.”

Benjen nodded at him with a smile, thinking of home, thinking of his wife and son. “You’re more than welcome Oberyn.”

*

 

Talk seemed to continue from that point. I It took his mind away from Lyanna’s body in the cart. It took his mind from the grief, even thought it wasn’t gone. Benjen had talked about his plans for the North. They’d talked about what was to be done with the New Gift, creating new vassals under Umber and Karstark to rebuild it once the Lord Commander returned the land. Benjen doubted it would be a problem with some of the gift providing them food, and a closer force should the watch need it. Benjen had discussed as many plans as the group could think of. The watch’s abandoned castles, building a true Northern Fleet, shoring up the west and the rebuilding of Moat Cailin. And of course, preparing for winters, to the Dornish men’s amusement. It made the group happier, thinking of how to build the North in her freedom. Oberyn had even discussed a visit, Doran would appreciate relations with other Kingdoms. Benjen would need that. He might have good relations with some of his fellow rebels, making a friendship with Brynden and Denys, even Robert when he wasn’t acting like an arse. But he didn’t have the greatest relations with the rest. There would be a lot to be done.

The long ride in empty space ended, with the appearance of villages and farms and the feel of a sea breeze coming up from the river, bringing them to the castle of Starfall. The castle was a beautiful one. It looked like it was made of marble as they approached, with towers that looked like something out of a song, overlooking the sea. Benjen wondered if it was made from the same material as Dawn for a moment. Even in the North, Dawn was well known, made out of something that fell from the sky. It was Oberyn who went to the front, being a Prince of Dorne to lead them into the castle. They’d gotten in smoothly, with a messenger sent ahead to bring Lord Dayne.

At the gates of the castle, as the group got off their horses, they were met by a Lord who looked similar to Arthur Dayne, with the same sandy hair and purple eyes. This Dayne though looked a bit older, more tired if the eyes were speaking the truth. Oberyn clasped his hand, keeping a solemn face.

“Prince Oberyn, I see you’ve returned you Dawn.” Lord Dayne stated, with a sigh in his voice.

He’s lost a brother. I know that all too well.

Oberyn nodded, taking the sword from his side and handing it to the Lord.

“I have lord Dayne.”

Lord Dayne looked at the sword pensively, “Did he meet his fate well?”

“Arthur confessed his crimes. He died quick by House Martell.”

Lord Dayne didn’t move, only grasping the mighty sword tighter.

“Thank you for returning the sword. I’ll return it to its rightful place until the next Sword of the Morning can truly claim it.”

The Lord looked at Lyanna’s cart, then to him.

“I’ll have my men look after her. She’ll be given respect as she’s due.”

“Thank you Lord Dayne.” Was all Benjen could say.

“Where is the Lady Ashara? I was hoping to see her. Elia asked of her upon her return home.” Oberyn asked, trying to lighten the mood somewhat.

Lord Dayne continued looking at him with those weary eyes, they looked sad, “She’s in the tower at the moment Oberyn. Though I feel she’ll want to see the young Stark here before meeting you. Once, you’re all rested of course.”

That piqued Benjen’s attention as Lord Dayne escorted them into the castle. It was stunning on the inside. Marble floor, sandstone walls, beautiful paintings and grand staircases. It was a marvel to walk in, yet it felt slightly empty, for all the people at work in it. The atmosphere felt sad, almost mournful. Benjen wondered how many men of Starfall had died. Or if knowledge of what had happened at the capital had such a strong effect. Entering his room, Benjen slumped. He was tired. He hadn’t slept properly since finding Lyanna. The bed never looked more inviting as hoped to not dream of her in that bloodied tower.

*

Benjen walked up the Palestone Tower, on the winding staircase. It truly is like a castle out of the Southern Songs. He was to meet the Lady Ashara Dayne, who apparently wanted to meet with him. Lady Ashara rarely left the tower as of late, according to her brother. Though, she insisted meeting Benjen when news came to her that he had arrived at the castle. It was odd. As Benjen arrived at the top of the stairs, he knocked on the great oak door. He waited for a moment before hearing a faint sound, with a serving girl opening the door to him. She left as soon as Benjen entered the room. Much like the rest of the castle it was beautiful. Ornate chairs, colourful paintings, smooth, white walls and even doors to the chambers that looked decorated. Nothing that would ever be seen in the North. It still felt empty to Benjen. Slightly lifeless. He was alone only for a brief time, with the Lady Ashara finally walking into the large room.

She was almost ethereal as she walked. Benjen knew she was a beauty when he saw her at the Tourney, like everyone else. The dark hair flowing on her porcelain skin and purple eyes that seemed to pierce the soul. The curves that showed as she walked in a dark dress. She was something else. Benjen had gawked like his brothers did. Her presence had made Ned Stark blush. She looked like that now, almost no different, all but the eyes. They were sadder than her brother’s, hollower and emptier. She’s dead inside. Benjen realised as she sat down on one of the chairs. Benjen went to sit on the one opposite her.

“I never really took note of you at the Tourney. It was your brothers I had spent my time with. You look like them both.” She said, sadness everpresent.

“Well, I was the pup of the pack.” Benjen said almost lightly, hoping for a less dark tone. I’ve had enough of it.

“And now you’re the leader of it. You’re not like your brothers, are you?” Ashara asked.

“No, I’m not. It would be too hard to be.” Benjen said truthfully. He wasn’t liking this conversation.

“Maybe that’s what saved you in all of this? Not quite having Brandon’s unending charm that made him think he could do anything, no matter how impulsive. And you don’t have Ned’s trust in people being honourable like him.” Ashara spoke wistfully.

“Is there any reason you’re speaking of how I’m not like my brothers?” Benjen asked, trying not to sound uncomfortable. She couldn’t have known them that well in such a short time. She can’t truly know me either.

Ashara looked at him, eyes growing sadder, “Because from everything I’ve seen and heard, you remind me of them both. It hurts less to think you’re different, looking at those grey eyes that have haunted me for almost a year.”

Benjen understood the pain of loss. It felt eerie though from a woman who had slept with Brandon at a tourney and made Ned punch his own brother over dishonouring her. She couldn’t truly know them.

“Why do you want tae speak wae me?” Benjen asked. Bluntness was something he preferred. Something else that made him miss his home.

Ashara gave a faint smile as she got out of her chair “One moment Benjen and I’ll show you.”

She walked into the room she came from originally, leaving Benjen in his seat. Only for a moment though as she returned, carrying a babe in her arms. Ashara gently placed the babe into his arms. It didn’t take any hard look to see that the babe, a boy, was a Stark. The dark wisps of hair, pale skin and grey eyes, so much like his own. The babe was silent in his arms, looking up at Benjen. Benjen smiled at the babe, My Nephew, and he gave a small one back, before giving a yawn and closing his eyes.

“Jon’s been a quiet babe ever since he was born. My brother calls him an old soul.” Ashara said with a faint, sad smile.

Benjen returned the smile, “It’s a good name. Fit fae a son of Stark.”

“Ned offered the name. We didn’t know in our correspondence whether it would be a boy or not but that was what he liked best. For Jon Arryn he said.”

“He’s Ned’s?” Benjen asked. He knew Brandon had slept with her. He didn’t know Ned had too. That might explain the more wolf blooded punch.

Ashara shook her head, dark hair swaying, “No, at least not in blood. He’s Brandon’s. A drunken dalliance. But it was Ned though, that I had written to when I missed my moon blood. I didn’t know whether to tell Brandon, with him soon to be wed. Ned offered to marry me, to look after Jon and me.”

Benjen smiled at the thought of his brother as he held his nephew. Always the one to clean up after Brandon’s actions. “My brother was always too good fae us all.”

Ashara’s faint smile vanished, “That he was. We had talked before my dalliance with Brandon.”

Benjen looked at her, his own smile gone. “You talked to him tae know Brandon.”

He spoke without judgement. Maids and ladies had done the same to Benjen for Brandon. That was a trick of his, making him slightly untouchable, a little away. Too noble to get involved like that, for all his wildness that the world could see. He made it so they would have to do the work.

Ashara looked surprised for a moment that he had said it, but nodded “Which is why I refused Ned. He deserved better than dealing with mine and his brother’s actions. He still sent another missive though. He wanted to be a part of his blood’s life, not just out of. It turned into many missives before the war began until I finally decided to accept his offer.”

“And then the war began.” Benjen said.

“Yes, News fluttered in of every terrible thing. From Brandon and your Father’s deaths. To Ned’s changed future… then his own death. Every bit of news was heart-breaking. I was amazed I had lived to birth Jon after news of their deaths, with a war raging. Though he was born with me knowing his father, in both senses of the word, was dead. “Ashara spoke again with that hollow sadness.

She kept going, “I thought that even without a father, he would grow up loved with me and my family. He’s not been kept away from his cousin or Uncle. A bastard in Dorne is not a cruel fate. But every time I look at him, I feel sad. Every loss, from his fathers to Elia and her children. I see it all in his grey eyes. He makes me mourn and gives me no joy that I had hoped. And I make everyone else mourn”

She’s given up. She doesn’t want him.

“A bastard in the North isnae a cruel fate either Lady Ashara. He’s a northerner like everyone else. He’ll grow up wae my bairn and wife.” Benjen said firmly.

Benjen didn’t see all the pain when he looked at Jon, for the brief time that he’d seen him. He saw the last of his brothers. A part of them lives on in some way.

Ashara looked at him with that empty stare. Dead inside. “Another way you’re like your brother.”

“He’s part of the pack Lady Ashara. We take care of them. Especially a one who may wield Dawn one day.” Benjen said lightly as he held Jon tighter.

Ashara smiled faintly again, “So, you’ll tell him of his mother’s family.”

Benjen nodded, “Aye, he can meet you all when you’re of age, or sooner if your brother wishes tae foster his bairn.”

Ashara nodded, smiling going again, and taking her seat again. “I’m sure my brother may agree to that one day.”

The two sat in a silence before Benjen spoke again. “My I leave tae show my nephew tae my banners?”

Ashara gave a smile, “Yes, of course. I’ll go rest myself. Talk of all this has made me weary.”

Benjen slowly left the room with his nephew, closing the oak door to leave the lady Ashara Dayne in peace. He looked at his nephew with a smile. His nephew opened his eyes, looking at him curiously with a face that looked like Ned’s before smiling at him. Benjen spoke to him in the tongue.

“Welcome to the pack Jon Snow.”

Chapter Text

Brynden

Robert’s victory in the Dragon Pit had amused Brynden to no end. Brynden knew since the moment Clegane demanded Trial by Combat that it would be Robert that would fight him. He’d been surprised the rest of the Lords present didn’t think he would, or that The King wouldn’t risk himself. Gods, it was funny watching the Lannisters look nervous, knowing either way they would lose. It was a risk though, if he’d lost there would have been another new King to crown. It would have been a bad start to the new Baratheon Dynasty. Brynden wasn’t worried though when he watched the Demon of the Trident fight. He knew the Baratheon would take down the Mountain. And Robert’s actions had won him the city. In a single fight, he’d managed to get the city folk cheering his name. Robert hadn’t been able to get rid of Tywin, but he’d put him in his place. For now, at least. Brynden knew that Tywin would not stop any of his advances on the Crown, whatever they were. He knew the issue of his son’s position on the Small Council hadn’t been resolved.

It had also had an effect on Robert. The new King seemed more engaged in the courtly setting. Brynden could see the man absolutely hated it. He’d hated it since entering the city, dealing with everything that had transpired. But now, the King of the Six Kingdoms seemed to be active with it, more willing to work. One example was his establishment of the who would sit the small council, barring Pycelle and Varys, who were to keep their positions. Robert had appointed his Grandfather, lord Estermont as hand, his brother Stannis as Master of Ships upon his return from Dragonstone, Lord Waynwood as Master of Coin after Denys’ refusal and then Hoster as Master of Laws. It all looked promising, he’d made good choices. Brynden didn’t like politics but his brother was more than capable, as long as it didn’t involve the Northmen that is. The realm looked like it would be on its way to righting itself.

Though matters over the Riverlands and his brother’s plans still needed to be addressed.

Nothing ever changes on that, Brynden thought irritably as he sat in front of his brother, taking a drink. Hoster didn’t look annoyed so he hoped it was going to be a tolerable conversation.

“You know in the first conversation we’ve had since my appointment, you’d think it would be good manners to congratulate your brother.” Hoster snidely said.

“What do you want Hoster?” Brynden asked irritably. His brother just made him annoyed.

Hoster continued to sip his drink, “To talk about the Riverlands brother, and your role in it now that I’m to be in King’s Landing for the future.”

“And what role will I be in brother?” Brynden asked, irritation still in his voice.

“A one where you’ll do what you’re told for once. Seeing as you weren’t exactly helpful when I was trying to keep Catelyn’s betrothal contract intact and set one for Lysa with Lord Arryn. And the fact that after all the years of refusing the betrothals that your liege lord organised for you, when you finally marry, it is to a damned Frey. I think its about time that you start doing what the lord Paramount wants for once and follow our words.”

Brynden held back a scoff. He’d had this argument before. His brother using that power as a leverage to make him do what he wanted, not that Brynden ever had.

“I’ve followed our words well brother. I thought of my family when you tried to thrust Lysa onto a man older than both us, and when Frey wanted her hand for his heirs. I thought of duty when I married Maegelle Frey, which brought us the second largest force in the Riverlands truly into the fold. And I thought of Honour when I said from the start that we should be fighting against the dragons for being mad bastards, not waiting to strongarm future allies.”

Hoster sipped his drink with a small scowl, “We would have been secure without you marrying the damned Freys. If you’d married the Redwyne, their fleet would have been ours in the war. A better boon than Walder’s army made of his seed. And you know very little about Lysa’s prospects.”

Hoster didn’t let him ask what he meant by Lysa, “But I could argue about you going against my orders and what’s best for the family for a lifetime. It feels I have already. And at this point I have need of you, no matter how much that annoys me.”

Brynden smirked at his brother, “And what is it you want then brother? I’ve become a busy man now that I’m married. I have Harrenhal to rebuild and make the best defence of the Riverlands.”

Hoster’s eyebrows raised in annoyance. Brynden could see the vein in his neck.

Hoster sighed “I’m making you the Castellan of Riverrun and the one to deal with the Riverlords while I am in King’s Landing. It’s a new reign and I doubt I’ll be able to return to deal with the Riverlands and the Kingdom at the same time, let alone travel home to deal with it.”

“You’re giving me control of the Riverlands then. Your blackfish brother with a Frey wife.” Brynden stated with his smirk.

Hoster’s scowl etched further into his face, vein pulsing more.

“I am. I’ll also have you take care of Edmure’s education until he can come South to the court to join his sister. You’ll send Cat down upon your return home.”

Brynden grimaced at the that. Hoster wanted more marriages with the Great Lords. He still hasn’t seen from half of the Riverlords supporting the dragons that we need to build support at home. And sending his heir to court as soon as possible won’t be good either for relationships with the bannermen. And why only Cat?

“No Hoster. I’ll just head to Harrenhal.”

Hoster’s face reddened slightly, “And yet again you prove me right. Not willing to do your duties. What reason do you have now?”

Brynden looked at his brother, “What you plan to do with your children. To take them out of the Riverlands for alliances outside the Riverlands is a spit in the bannermen’s face. I won’t support that!”

“You still mean to lecture me on the betrothals I want for my children. You don’t see what I can get for our family. I can make Cat the Queen if we all put enough pressure on Robert to abandon the Stark Girl! And if not, I’ll be able to get her betrothed to his brother. And I’ll be able to work something for Edmure with the Tyrells when the hostages come. House Tully could unite the realm brother, our bannermen will have to listen when we have the support of the crown and one of the largest kingdoms!”

Brynden grew annoyed. It’s the same damned argument. “And what’s to stop them from using in the Riverlands in their favour? What’s to stop them from bleeding the Riverlands dry if they want to take it for themselves?! They’d have a claim and army bigger and more unified than ours to back it up! And what would we have brother? Only half our banners at the most and an ever-present reminder that House Tully has only been ruler since the conquest! It’ll backfire on us horribly!”

Brynden brought his brother to a silence in the quarters of the palace. He knew his brother wasn’t finished though. Too stubborn for that. He watched as his brother composed himself, taking a larger drink.

“I wasn’t asking you Brynden. This is an order from a Lord Paramount. If you refuse, I’ll have you and your future heirs disinherited. You’ll be removed from the succession and Harrenhal will be taken. I know you’ve never cared about castles but it’ll take away that alliance with House Frey you seemed to value so much.”

Brynden had never wanted to strike his brother more at that. Spiteful bastard.

“Fine. I’ll do what you ask.” Brynden spat the words out.

Hoster nodded, that smug smile of his starting to form.

“But I have a question first.”

The smile stopped, “Go on.”

Brynden looked hard at his brother. “What happened to Lysa?”

Brynden wanted an answer to that. She’d not been in a good way since after the Baelish boy left for going against Cat’s betrothed. He’d seen her somewhat happy at Riverrun before he marched for the Trident but there had been something off to him. Something melancholic.

The vein on Hoster’s neck started to pulse again, “Why do you ask?”

Brynden continued to keep eye contact with Hoster, “You’ve not mentioned her once in your plans and she’s not been right since the Baelish boy left. I’ll ask her when I return home Hoster regardless of what you say so it’s better you speak now.”

Hoster looked extremely angry. He clearly didn’t want to answer either, hesitating.

It took a long moment before his brother answered, “She laid with the Baelish boy after his fight with Brandon Stark and he got her with child. She didn’t do her duty. I had her drink moon tea once the young Lord was sent back to the Fingers. If she had kept it, our family would have been shamed, seen as dishonourable. Marrying Jon Arryn would have given her a better position than what she can get now.”

Brynden wanted to kill Baelish in that moment. And he wanted to knock his brother into the dirt. You made her kill a child she wanted to keep. He understood Hoster’s reasons but he hated them all the same.

Brynden did his best to keep calm. “Family comes first Hoster for a reason.”

Hoster practically spat at him, “That’s what I was doing, protecting our family from the realm.”

Brynden nodded, “I’m not going to argue it brother. You’ve made your peace with it. All I’ll say now is that I have terms for running the Riverlands while you play the game. Terms to not tell my nephew and niece what you did to their sister.”

“You’re threatening me with it?” Hoster almost yelled.

“No, I’m negotiating like you seem to do.” Brynden took a large gulp from his drink.

Hoster looked at him. “What then?”

Brynden finished his drink, “Edmure stays in the Riverlands so he can rule it. And I get control over who Lysa marries. I’ll clean up yours and Baelish’s mess.”

Hoster’s face was furious. He didn’t care. My brother’s a prick.

“Fine. Send Catelyn South with our best guards when you return.”

Before Brynden could respond, one of Hoster’s guards knocked on the door.

“Enter!” His brother shouted.

The guard entered quickly. “My Lords, you’ve been summoned to the throne room with the Small Council. The King’s brother has returned. And so has the King in the North.”

“Has he brought the Stark Girl?” Hoster asked.

The guard looked at the two, “Only her body.”

Brynden sighed. This isn’t going to go well.

*

Robert

She’d been preserved well. It wouldn’t last though. She’d be bones by the time Benjen took her to the North. Robert wanted to shout at Benjen Stark, standing beside the casket, looking at it with as much grief as himself. He wanted to yell and say that he’d tricked him. That Lyanna was in the North right now. Robert knew he was looking at Lyanna though. Not the Lyanna that was wilful all the way. The brave Northerner that bested knights of the realms. Not the Great Beauty. It was just her body, beaten and taken by a madman. I fought to get her back and this is the result.

“I fought tae get her back and this is what the war ends wae.” Benjen said sadly.

He thinks the same as me.

“She deserved better than this! She deserved everything but this!” Robert shouted in the almost empty room.

Benjen nodded, “Aye, she didn’t deserve any of what happened tae her. All fae a madman’s prophecy.”

Robert could hear the venom in Benjen’s voice. Benjen had told him the story as he stared at the casket. It made him angry in every part of his bone. I wish I killed him.

“I wonder if I’d kept him alive at the Trident. Gotten her location sooner. I could have gotten tae her before it impossible tae save her.”

Robert didn’t know what to say to that. Looking at Lyanna made him gladder than ever that he was dead. Looking at Benjen made him relish in the fact that Rhaegar was dead. We’ve lost them all.

“Does it feel good? Knowing that you killed the cunt that did this to her?” Robert asked, with a mix of sadness and rage.

Benjen looked at him with that face of winter he watched the lad use so much now, “He deserved a worse death Robert than dying in combat. I’d have cut his limbs off and thrown him tae the Wolfswood. I’d have had him freeze tae the point of death then let the wolves tear what’s left of him tae bits. Have the North itself punish him.”

“A good punishment for a dragon, dying by ice.” Robert said, a small smile at the thought of it.

Benjen nodded, “I’ll never forget what he did. But I won’t let the bastard haunt me either.”

“When will you leave?”

Robert didn’t want Benjen to go. He was the only true family he had left.

“In a couple of days Robert. The South has too many bad memories. I long fae the North, and my duties as King call.”

Too many bad memories. I see Ned and Jon everywhere. I’ll see Lyanna in this Keep forever. Westeros has taken it all from me.

“You’re right brother. There are too many bad memories here.”

Robert saw Benjen smile briefly, before they both looked back at Lyanna.

The two stood in silence over Lyanna’s body for a long time before a guard arrived, informing him of Stannis’ arrival. He called an immediate council in the throne room.

*

Brynden

Brynden and Hoster weren’t the last to arrive in the throne room. The courtiers were still coming in. He could see Robert sitting on the throne, with his newly forged crown. Stag Antlers of Baratheon.  The King looked bereft. He noted Benjen and the Great Jon were to the right corner with a few other Northerners. All solemn. The rest were on their way home. He could also see the members of the small council left of the throne, Stannis Baratheon included. Brynden had never met the man but he was a lot more severe in appearance than Robert. Still slender as well from the siege but he could see what would become the same build as Robert’s. He was stern.

When all of the courtiers entered, filling the throne room at each, Robert began with a pained voice.

“The King in the North has returned with Lyanna Stark’s remains. She died by the hands of Rhaegar Targaryen and his cursed King’s Guard. No Targaryen will sit this throne again!”

Brynden watched as the Courtiers and small council listened. He wondered which Lords were already plotting to make their daughters or sisters Queen. My brother is.

The King didn’t wait for a response from anyone.

“Stannis! Step forward in front of the throne room!”

Brynden watched as the King’s brother walked in front of the Iron Throne. He kneeled in front of his brother. Brynden raised his eyebrow. The man knows to bend in front of the King even if it is his brother. I don’t think I’d have done it as easily if Hoster was King.

The King looked at his brother, looking up at him on the throne.

“Is Dragonstone ours Stannis?”

“It is your grace. The fortress and the island are yours.” Stannis said with a monotone voice.

Robert looked at him, “And what of Viserys and his mother?”

Brynden watched Stannis look his brother in the eye, unflinching, “Rhaella Targaryen is dead your grace. She died giving birth to a girl according to the servants. The babe and her brother escaped in a heavy storm.”

Brynden noticed that flare of anger he’d seen Robert have over the war. He held it back though. A first.

“You failed to capture the Dragons Stannis.”

Brynden could see the king’s brother tense. “I did your grace.”

Robert stood from the throne and walked down to his brother, taking his crown off slowly. The King stood right in front of his brother who was still kneeling, holding the Crown in both hands.

“The boy will be a problem. I suggest you find him and send the dragon to the wall. He’s a threat to your throne.”

Brynden watched as the King placed the Crown on the head of his kneeling brother. He could see the faces in the court turning to shock.

“What are you doing your grace?” Stannis asked, holding that monotone voice.

Robert continued looking at his brother but his spoke “I fought this war to avenge Ned Stark and his brother and father. I fought this war to avenge Ned Stark when he was killed. I fought this war for Lyanna. But Lyanna Stark is dead! I did not fight for the throne yet it is House Baratheon’s! I have won the war and cleaned up the dragons’ mess but Lyanna is gone! Ned is gone! Jon Arryn is gone! My duty as King is done!”

Robert’s roar took the murmurs from the crowd. Brynden looked to the small council. They were stunned.

Robert was still looking at his brother. “I, King Robert of the House Baratheon, First of his Name, abdicate. Stannis of the House Baratheon, I name you King of the Andals and Rhoynar and the Six Kingdoms! Rise! Long live the King!”

Stannis slowly rose from his feet as Robert strode out of the room, leaving the entire court dumfounded. Not a single person went to stop him. All but the King in the North and the Northerners followed. Brynden doubted that they could bring the man back. Robert Baratheon was stubborn. If he abdicated, he had abdicated. The realm had a new King. Long live the King and his new reign.

Chapter Text

Benjen

The walls of Winterfell were one of the greatest things in the world to him as he rode along the road with his nephew and his wet-nurse, small collection of bannermen and guards. I’m home. He’d felt it when he was greeted by Lord Manderly’s youngest at White Harbour, feeling the fresh Northern winds of home. It was a joyous feeling, even if the moment was darkened by mention of Lyanna. Even then there was comfort knowing that she would be home soon when the cart and contingent of Manderly men arrived at Winterfell. Benjen would have waited but his good brother Jon had advised against it.

“Coming home isn’t a time for mourning. You’re to meet your son for the first time Brother. And me my nephew. I’ll be damned if that isn’t a good time!”

He had thought it selfish for a moment. But his Good Brother had been right. Benjen didn’t want to see his wife and his son for the first time with their good sister and aunt in a casket alongside him. He wanted it to be happy.  It would be good for all of the Lords and Ladies as well, a way to start a celebration of victory. Benjen had ordered they stay at Winterfell whilst their armies returned home. Only the Company’s forces and House Stark’s would be at Winterfell. He wanted the bannermen there to celebrate, discuss the future of the North and see the execution. Better to start now than wait. A King cannot wait.

Getting closer to the gates and seeing the Stark banners was making Benjen a lot happier. He could feel himself urging the horse closer.  He could feel his bannermen doing the same. Urging themselves closer to home. Gods I’ve missed it. Winterfell would be different, with him being the last of his siblings. But there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, it was where he belonged; inside the walls of Winterfell, in the North. As the horses made their way through the gates of the inner walls, standing one hundred feet tall, he was met with the North’s bannermen, all standing and waiting. He could even see the black clothes of the Lord Commander who’d he asked to come to Winterfell. At the front he could see of the group he could see his Stark kin, with Wulfric at the centre of his large brood. And right in the centre was his wife. Ally looked as brilliant as she had before he left for the war; her long hair, dark eyes and slender build, with an axe at the hip. A true Northern woman. He could see her smiling, holding a babe in her arms. My son. He gave her a grin as he got off his horse, with his fellow lords doing the same.

Benjen walked towards his wife and the crowd of Northern Lords and Ladies. Benjen didn’t really notice them, he had his eyes on his wife and son. Getting close to her was euphoric. Why the hells did I ever consider the watch?

Once he was right in front of her, he could see her knowing smirk.

“Welcome home King Benjen. Winterfell is yours.”

It was formal but Benjen could hear some mirth in Ally’s voice. His wife then looked down at his son.

“And may I present your son, Prince Cregan of House Stark”

She gently put his son in his arms. The lad was awake, and clearly interested in the scene around him. He could see the Stark Colouring in him, grey eyes like his own and dark brown hair, not as dark as his cousin Jon. The babe was a bit bigger than Jon too. Benjen smiled at his son, putting his finger out. I can’t believe I have a son. His son grabbed it with a smile and gave him a loud squeal of excitement. It was met by his good brother’s laugh.

“My Nephew’s got the Stark look but the Umber lungs! He’ll be turning that to Battle cries soon enough!”

Benjen started to laugh, “Aye, he’ll make a fine Prince of Winter, and a brilliant King in the North.”

Benjen watched the Lords and Ladies get to one knee, any with weapons pushing them into the ground.

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

Benjen wasn’t sure if he would ever get used to being called that, or the duty that came with it. But he knew he would answer it. An Independent North though, free of the South and free of Dragons. That made him happy as he held his son. I’m home and I’ll fight for you to the bitter end.

*

Looking over his son and nephew as they slept together in the nursery was a happy moment for Benjen. His wife had taken to her nephew well. She was happy to have another child in the castle to raise. Another kinsman for Cregan to get into mischief with. Her words had made him laugh before they had both retired to their chambers. Another thing I had missed. The joys of being home though didn’t stop his duties and that had brought him to his solar; with Wulfric, Beric, Beron and his wife present, alongside Rodrik Cassel and Luwin, surrounding the table with a large map of the North on it. It still feels like father’s, I’ll have to make it feel like mine. The group was sat in the solar peacefully, each with a drink in hand. Benjen looked at Beron, Wulfric’s son who he had given charge of running the North with his wife.

“My wife tells me that everything went smoothly on her side of things at Winterfell, with our stores in good shape and our supplies restored since we all left.”

He looked at his wife who was smiling. Benjen smiled back

“And she even tells me she even tells me that she’s been giving you a hard time in the courtyard when you’ve been training our kin and the green boys. Knocked you on your arse a couple of times as well if my wife’s being honest. I hope that wasn’t the case in any other martial matters.”

Beric laughed at his younger brother. Beron gave a mock glare, “Aside from your wife showing me up in front of my own wife, bairns and nephews, there wasn’t much to worry about. Nothing more than some bandits on the roads and in the woods. Nothing we couldn’t handle.”

Benjen grinned, “Good. I’m glad you both and the North fared well.”

Beron smiled, “Aye, I’ve enjoyed my time at Winterfell. I admit the mountains are a bit more for me. Though the walls remind me of home, being high up.”

Benjen nodded, “Aye, of course Beron. I know what it’s like to long for home. Though I’ll be keeping you here for some time. I’d like to be around my kin for a while in peace. I also wouldn’t mind a bit of help for the future. I’d like you all and the rest of the pack to be a part of my plans.”

Wulfric smiled, “Our pack will be more than glad to be a part of your plans Benjen. I’m guessing you have a few plans already then?”

Benjen looked at his family happily, “Aye. Winter is Coming and I want the North to be more prepared for anything that comes. And I’ll have Starks be a driving force for it.”

Wulfric nodded approvingly.

Benjen started to look at the map, this one he’d circled some locations and annotated. Moat Cailin, the West and East coast and the New Gift were the

Beric looked hard at the map then turned to his father, “I think our King’s been more than thinking about it.”

Wulfric gave a rare laugh.

Ally looked pleased with it. “I see you’ve been talking to my brother then about the New Gift. He complains about it whenever he gets the chance. I bet he’ll be complaining to the Lord Commander now”

Benjen chuckled at it, “He complains about it even if there isn’t a chance Ally.”

His wife chuckled back.

“Quite an ambitious project. You’ve covered a lot here. Do you think we’ll be able to manage it?” Cassel asked.

Benjen nodded, “Aye, I’m confident. It’ll take time but we have the manpower to do it.”

“And with the gold we got from the Hightowers we should have plenty to cover paying them, and get pay for an extra help if we’re stretched thin.” Beric pointed out.

“How much did we get from them?” Benjen asked.

“The records that Lord Wulfric had taken from the Hightower had said that the rooms were filled with six million dragons in gold, silver and coppers. Me and a few of the guard counted over it as well when it came to Winterfell. We came to the same number.” Luwin offered.

Beric and Beron both whistled at the same time. Benjen was shocked.

“And the Hightowers didn’t put up a fight for all of that?!” Benjen asked

He saw both Beric and Wulfric go a bit pale.

“They’re an odd lot Benjen. They made us all uneasy. You can ask every Northerner that went to Old Town an brought them back.” Beric answered with an uneasy voice.

“I’ll be glad to see them dead Benjen.” Wulfric bluntly stated.

Benjen spoke darkly, “They’ll be dealt with after the feast. And the North won’t set foot in the place if we don’t have to again.”

There was a moment of silence before Beron broke the tension, “I see you’ve got some Lords names and of the pack’s names on each of your plans.”

Benjen relaxed, “That I do. That’s what I’d like to discuss with you all. I would like to know what you think on my choices.”

The group nodded and they began to give their input on his plans fully. The North will do well if I’ve got this lot at my side.

*

The celebration feast at Winterfell was a loud one. It had been louder than the feast held when the bannermen arrived at Winterfell for war. This time though, it was a lot less tense. There was no presence of war overlooking the Great Hall of Winterfell. Benjen could feel the joy, despite what had been lost from the war. He could see the bannermen enjoying themselves, with more than enough drink in hand. He’d already heard calls for a drinking contest. It was either from a Mormont or an Umber Benjen wasn’t drinking just yet. There was still some work to be done before he could enjoy the evening with his kin and fellow Northerners.

Benjen stood up, and the hall turned to him in silence. Benjen smiled at them all.

“As much as I’d like to continue with the feast, I thought I’d best speak now before the drink starts flowing faster than our rivers, and some of us start to make fools of ourselves.”

He watched some of the Lords and Ladies laugh. Other started to clank their tankards together in anticipation. Gods it’s going to be a good night.

Benjen continued, “The war is over, and the North is free once again! The war has taken friends and family, and fellow Northerners from us. But in these times of peace, we will rebuild it form them and for all us Northerners to come!”

The Lords and Ladies started to cheer. Benjen went on.

“In the next few weeks, before you return to your lands, I’ll have words with you all on my plans for the North, but tonight, I’d like to give some more things for us to celebrate! A show of the things to come. Lord Umber, Lord Karstark, stand.”

Benjen watched the two Lords rise from their seats.

“Since getting back, I’ve had words with Lord Commander Qorgyle, he’s agreed with terms that the New Gift is to be returned to the North, the lands will be split equally amongst your houses in perpetuity!”

Benjen saw his good brother’s splitting grin, Karstarks’ was almost as wide.

“About fucking time! I’ll have those lands better than their prime King Benjen!” His good brother boomed.

Benjen smiled, “I’d expect nothing less from House Umber and Karstark!”

The Umber and Karstark men and women were clanking their tankards together more happily. The hall was cheering. Benjen waited for a moment before speaking again.

“Lord Manderly, stand!”

The large Lord rose from his seat, with his jovial smile.

“Lord Wyman, how long has it been since the North had a proper fleet to guard herself from the Squids?”

Lord Manderly answered, “Not since Brandon the Shipwright.”

Benjen nodded, “It’s about time that changed. The North will need them and who better than the Lord of White Harbour to lead the construction of them. Lord Manderly, I would name you Admiral of the Northern fleet on the Eastern Coast!”

The Lord of White Harbour’s face turned to shock, “King Benjen, I’d be honoured to do it!”

Benjen smiled at him as he made to sit down again. “The same goes for our Western Coast, our lack of ships has made it easier for the Squids to reave. I don’t plan on that lasting for long.”

The Mormonts, Glovers and Flints of the Fingers were all banging the table in support.

“Lord Mormont I would name you the Admiral of our Western Coast!”

It was Maege who answered Benjen’s decree, “Ha! Those Squids will be pissing their breeches when they see the Mormonts on the waves!”

That got a large laugh from the hall.

“Elric Snow, stand!”

The Commander of the company stood, with that Weirwood Bow still attached to his back.

“You and the Company have long supported the North’s Independence, and you fought with us on the Trident, giving the Dragons nowhere to run, True Northmen to the bone!”

That got a roar from the company men and the other Northerners who’d fought with them.

“Elric Snow, it’s about time the descendent of Brandon Snow took his place in the North again. I name you the Lord of Sea Dragon Point to make a true port town on the Western Coast to help the houses of the west to build the fleet! What name would you give yourself?” Benjen asked his distant kinsman

The Commander didn’t give much away, but he was clearly thinking. It was a moment before he answered.

“Elric Ice Veins King Benjen!”

The Company started to chant

“Ice Veins”

“Ice Veins”

Benjen laughed, “A good name for a Northerner who never forgets his homeland!”

The Hall was getting livelier than it already had been. He knew it would be. It’ll be like that when I talk to each Lord individually about what I want of them, this is only the more general plans.

“Jory Cassel, stand!”

His friend stood, clearly nervous, Cassels were typically a house that served in Winterfell, not a keep of their own.

“Jory, you have served the North well. You brought the Company home and you and House Cassel have shown yourselves loyal Northerners! There is an abandoned keep to the East. It is yours and House Cassel’s!”

Jory’s nerves didn’t end with what Benjen offered, he could see him smiling though. “Thank you King Benjen, House Cassel will do as we always do.”

Benjen smiled at his friend as he hurried to sit back down, hidden amongst the Northerners.

And last but not least.

“Artos Stark, Stand!”

His kinsman stood, he had been drinking with some of the Mountain clans before Benjen had begun to speak.

“You’ve proven yourself a true Stark in the battlefield, much like the rest of our family has. You have slain one of the Hightowers alongside Lord Dustin, an enemy of the North! I would offer you a seat, much like I will for the rest of the family. Tonight, I would like that to start that by offering you Lordship of Moat Cailin, as a reminder to the South what happens if they ever march North!”

Artos had a similar face to Jory. His gratitude was drowned out by the hall, mountain clans especially. The prospect of Moat Cailin being restored to her glory was something every Northerner wanted. Luwin had pointed out in their records that Torrhen had intended to do it before the dragons arrived.

“Now! Who was the one shouting about a drinking contest?” Benjen asked.

Benjen watched as Maege Mormont grabbed a tankard, Great Jon following her lead. Benjen walked straight into the celebration, wife in hand. It’s good to be home.

Chapter Text

Artos

The Godswood of Winterfell was filled with the Northern lords and Ladies, with Benjen standing at the front of the Heart Tree, waiting for the guards to bring the Hightowers. Artos wasn’t too far from Benjen, stood with his father and Grandfather, all three of them eager to see the execution. They all knew better than to revel in death, but there was something about the Hightowers that had been off. Thinking of them in their tower still made Artos uneasy. They’d had to deal with them on the march home. They were content and at ease in it all. Almost sing-song. Not a single ounce of worry, anger or dread on them. They’re an unnatural lot, even the Green Men had said that. That was another thing that had unnerved Artos with the Hightowers. The Green Men had met them at the God’s Eye to see the Hightowers taken North. Artos wasn’t sure how the Green Men had known that the army had them, but they had come, to make sure that the Hightowers met their fate by a Heart Tree. The presence of the Green men had made his father go deep in thought. Grandfather had offered them passage North if they wished to see the execution. The Green Men had refused.

We’ll see it through the trees”

Those words had unnerved him, even though he knew the tales of the Green Men. The group had told them that some would come North in a year’s time, to see the King in the North when they would be needed. Grandfather didn’t ask what they meant by that. It had made an uncomfortable march with strange prisoners all the more confusing

 It’ll be over soon. They’ll die for their crimes against the North. Artos thought contentedly as Leyton Hightower and his remaining sons were brought before Benjen. The youngest, Humphrey, was to be given to the Watch but he was there to see his father, and brothers if they chose to be executed instead of the watch. Either way, House Hightower through the male line was to be done. Titles given to House Tyrell according to Benjen. Artos watched as Leyton Hightower was slowly brought towards the King in the North. The Northerners were all glaring at them. To Artos’ chagrin, Leyton had that same calm, aloof smile. What’s wrong with him?

The guards put the man on his knees, right in front of Benjen Stark and the Heart Tree. His cousin had Ice unsheathed, and was looking at him with clear contempt, it pierced through his face of winter. You threatened the North, us Starks don’t tolerate that. Benjen spoke a single word in the common to Leyton. A command.

“Words.”

Leyton looked at Benjen and the heart tree.

“I didn’t stand a chance here with my plans, the Old Gods of the Forest are so present in this land. You can feel their power here too much, I felt it the moment we made it into the Neck, and it becomes all apparent as I look at this Heart Tree in Winterfell. I can feel them watching me, waiting for you to send me to them, another of my kind offered, just like Walys.”

His father whispered to him, keeping his gaze firmly on the man, “He speaks like he knows our Gods.”

Artos could only nod, that sense of unease there.

Leyton sighed, looking solely at Benjen “It’s a shame, I only hoped to see what is to come a little sooner. I suppose my heirs back home will get to see that. Maybe I will see if my Gods claim me before yours, they may reward me yet.”

Hightower took a small breath then smiled again.

“I’m ready.”

Leyton Hightower still had that smile on his face. Benjen spoke in our tongue, “I Benjen of House Stark, King in the North sentence you to die.”

All eyes were fixed on Benjen and Leyton Hightower.

Benjen lifted ice, then jammed it straight into the man’s guts. Leyton gave a scream of pain. Benjen twisted Ice in the man, then pulled out his entrails, quickly swinging the sword at Hightower’s neck. It fell to the ground and rolled to the ground, landing below the Heart Tree. His body was in the floor of the forest, leaking Leyton’s blood. Benjen placed the entrails around the trunk of the heart tree, near its roots. It was a gruesome sight, a quick but painful death. Not the merciful one of a beheading. All the Northerners expected this though as they watched it silently. The Hightowers had directly affronted the Old Gods and House Stark. A sacrifice to the Gods was the only fitting way to send the man to his death. It was a fate Benjen had hoped to give to Rhaegar if they could catch him at the Trident instead of kill him in battle.

Wulfric looked at the corpse with eyes almost as hateful as Benjen’s.

“Good riddance.”

Artos couldn’t help but agree with the statement.

Benjen turned towards the Leyton’s three sons held by the guards. They had all gone a deathly pale. It had taken their sing-song smiles away. Benjen spoke shortly in the common again.

“Your youngest goes tae the wall. Baelor, Gunthor. Which will it be fae the each of you?”

Gunthor, whose hand had been taken by Grandfather, was the first to answer, almost a whisper

“The wall.”

Benjen nodded at him, turning his gaze fully on Baelor.

Baelor answered firmly, regaining his composure and speaking with that damned voice again, “Death. I’ll join my father instead of freezing in your lands.”

The guards brought the man in front of Benjen, next to his father’s corpse. Benjen repeated the process. Baelor’s scream dominated the Godswood as Benjen removed the man’s entrails, doing it in exactly the same way as he did with Leyton. Ending it with a quick decapitation. More Hightower blood was offered to the Heart Tree. Artos noticed Benjen keep his face frozen like winter throughout. A true King of Winter.

The Northerners all remained silent as Benjen once again offered to the heart tree. For a brief moment, Artos thought he could see the face give a hint of a smile, approving of their deaths.

“The North Remembers.” Artos said almost instinctively.

The rest of the Northerners seemed to agree, them all chanting it in unison, before they gradually left the Godswood, whilst the Guards removed the bodies and escorted the remaining Hightowers to their cells. Artos looked at the remaining sons of Leyton. I’ll rest easier knowing you’re at the wall. But I don’t think Leyton’s words will leave me anytime soon.

“I only hoped to see what is to come a little sooner.”

Artos shuddered ever so slightly as the words echoed in his head. May the Old Gods take you before yours Leyton.

Chapter Text

Brynden

Brynden sat opposite Lysa in her chambers in Riverrun, looking at his niece for a moment before beginning to speak with her. Knowing what had made her seem so off and ill at ease since Baelish’s departure had not made the sight of his niece miserable in her own home any better. It had only angered him. I’ll kill Baelish if I ever see him again. He would put that away now, as he started to clean up the mess that Baelish and his brother had made. Brynden composed himself, smiling at his niece. She gave a hollower one than he had hoped. It didn’t like right on the young woman. Gods give me strength.

“I have news from your father now that Catelyn’s been sent to the Capital.”

Lysa looked slightly pained at his mention but she nodded at him with sad blue eyes.

“He intends for Cat to be queen.” Lysa said almost solemnly.

Brynden nodded and carried on, “His new position as Master of Laws means that he won’t be in Riverrun much, he’s made me the Castellan of the keep and in charge of the duties the Lord Paramount usually has over the Riverlands. I’ll be in the castle with Maegelle and my future children until Edmure’s of age and ready to rule.”

He watched her absorb all of the information. He watched as her eyes started to tear up.

“And Father has found another old Lord for me to marry, hasn’t he? He wants you to send me to him before you have to start your duties. Or am I for the silent sisters?”

Brynden put his hand on her shoulder for bringing to a hug as she started to sob. He held her for a moment before breaking it and shaking his head with a small smile.

“No little Lysa, neither of those are to happen. He’s given me control of who you wed. You’re to stay here with me and our family until I find a suitable match for you.”

Lysa looked confused, with her tears running down her eyes, before starting to sob more into her hands.

“He thinks I’m beyond using then. I’m broken, He’s gave you an impossible task. Not even the old and the faith want me.”

Brynden put his hand under her chin, bringing her up.

“You’re not broken Lysa. I don’t think that. Hoster could very well find an old lord who would be more than pleased with a young beautiful bride. That’s why I made sure that I got the say in who you wed. It was a condition I made to run the Riverlands for him.”

Lysa perked slightly, but she was still crying.

“Did he tell you what happened? Father will have loved that you wanted to do that for me. One less problem for him to put up with!”

Brynden took a small breath. “Your Father did tell me what happened. Both what Baelish did and what he made you drink. I won’t forgive what Baelish did and I won’t forgive my brother for what he made you do. You deserve better which was why I demanded that he give me the right to choose who you marry. I will not tolerate you being used by either of them.”

Brynden could see her realise he was speaking the truth. She spoke with only a whisper, “I wanted to keep it. I wanted to keep mine and Petyr’s child. Especially after he left.”

Brynden looked at her with sympathy. She hesitated for a moment.

“Would you let me marry Petyr?”

Brynden took a moment to think of the best response to that. He could see some hope in her eyes. I don’t want to take that. He sighed, leaning forward in his chair.

“Do you remember what day it was when it happened Lysa?”

Lysa nodded silently at him.

“It was they day that he challenged Brandon Stark to duel for your sister’s hand. When he declared his love for Cat.”

The tears started to come again. Brynden carried on, firmly and bluntly.

“He fought a duel for your sister than decided to use you because he couldn’t get what her wanted. I know from what Hoster told me that you had approached him, but he should have refused if he truly cared about either of you. You may love him but he loves nothing but himself if this has told me I won’t have you near anyone like that Lysa. You deserve better and I intend to do that for you. Petyr is not that solution.”

Lysa’s teary eyes did not go, but he could see a small smile coming back. He knew it wouldn’t take that the lad’s hold on her. That’ll take time which I will give her. He hugged her again.

“Now Lysa, it is time we discuss what is going to be happening from this point on.”

Lysa nodded in the hug.

“My wife has been taught how to run a keep in the Twins, but not Riverrun. I would have you help your Aunt in learning what she needs to help me run the Riverlands. It will also be good practice for you when the time comes. I also have something else that I would ask of you.”

He pulled away, seeing her wet blue eyes turn curious.

“I would like you to come down to the courtyard on the morn. I would like you to teach you some sword and knife work.”

Lysa looked confused, “You want me to learn to fight? You’re not going to turn me into those Mormont women?”

Brynden laughed as her look turned from confusion to horror, “No, of course not! Even they terrify me!”

She started to giggle at him. Good.

“Lysa, I would have you fight for three reasons. Firstly, I would like to know you’re safe when nobody is with you. If you’ve seen what I have in war you would ask for me to teach you. Secondly, I think it should be a tradition that the second born Tully for each generation be a great warrior.”

Lysa started to laugh a little more. He grinned.

“And thirdly, I’m to have my new Frey family as squires. I’ve seen them fight, you’ve never trained but I would give you better odds of winning a bout than them. It’ll take more than just me and sparring with Edmure to make Knights of them.”

Lysa started to laugh with a smile on her face. Brynden kept his grin. I’ll do my best for you Lysa. You’ll be away from Baelish and my brother. You’ll be away from that nest of vipers Cat has been sent to. I’ll do my best for you and my children to come. Family, Duty, Honour.

Catelyn

Catelyn could see all of their eyes upon the new king of a new realm. As the High Septon placed holy oils upon his Grace, King Stannis Baratheon, Catelyn pondered what her father had said about the realm. “This realm is a divided one. The Northerners declaring their freedom from the throne and Robert’s abandonment of the crown has made the realm a tenuous. House Tully will be able to heal the realm. The realm will need us to do our duty.”

Her father was right about that. And I will be the one that achieves it. The realm needed to be brought back together, lest anyone else tried to damage the state of the realm. Catelyn knew it was their duty to do it. Father intended for her to become Stannis’ Queen, as a way to bind one of the victorious Kingdoms to the King as a way of shoring up his support. For this King had not fought in the war alongside the Riverlands or Vale. He wasn’t truly known. Not that either Kingdom would abandon their duties, honour was a part of both Arryn and Tully. But Marriage was the best way for him secure his reign, and who better than a woman from a family that had supported his brother. Catelyn would take upon this task when the betrothal was announced, when thing settled. The King needed a Queen to secure the succession. The Kingdom needs me and I will oblige.

She looked into the crowd, seeing many of Ladies of the realm, looking at the King. She would not be the only one that had thought about Queenship. She knew the stories of Tywin Lannister’s aspirations to have his daughter wed to Rhaegar. It did not matter though. House Tully would be the one to unite the realm. They had always won with marriages. Family, Duty and Honour. These words are fit for the Crown I will wear, to heal the realm.

Cersei

The coronation at the sept was a glorious affair, Lords and Ladies of all the Six Kingdoms present to witness the coronation of King Stannis Baratheon, the first of his name. Stannis looked gaunt, something which was made more apparent by his height. Father said it was due to the siege. I wonder if it made him give such dark looks to the High Septon.  Stannis Baratheon was not his brother, the conquering King that was said to be as handsome as he was valiant. The one that had given up Kingship for his lost Lyanna. The peasants had loved it. Cersei scowled internally at the thought of the wolf Bitch. If he had waited to see me, he would have begged father to allow a betrothal. Cersei’s lips curved into a smile, And Rhaegar might have lived if he hadn’t married that Dornish Whore. He would never have needed to stray from me.

Neither of them mattered in truth. Not now anyway. Stannis was the King of the Six. And when Father got his way, she would be his Queen. Father had been pleased with the development, Robert listened to the wolves too much according to him. Stannis, an inexperienced second son, would be much more malleable to the wealthiest Kingdom in the realm. Cersei would have preferred Robert or Rhaegar over this grim figure, but her charms would make him hers. He would do as she wanted. ’ll convince him to march North, bring the savages to heel, I’ll be Queen of them, just like the rest of the realm. She would have Jamie too, an added bonus. Queenship and her twin by her side. The realm would be hers once the betrothal was made. Cersei smiled at her future wedding in the Sept, it would be a much grander affair, of a Lannister ascending to the throne. Hear me Roar.

Davos

“All hail his Grace, King Stannis of the House Baratheon, First of his name!”

“All hail his Grace!”

Davos uttered the words amongst the Lords and Ladies of the realm. He never expected in his life that he would be a knight of the realm, present in the Sept of Baelor for the coronation of the King. And Stannis was not like any King he had heard of. The man was a stoic one, only seeing a break as he gritted his teeth in front of the Septon. Not a man for gods. I understand that even if I pray every time there is a storm. The King was a committed one too. From what he’d seen since meeting him at Storm’s End, the man was focused on two things, duty and justice. And to an uncompromising level.

“Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends.”

Donal Noye, the blacksmith at Storm’s End who had helped with the construction of the fleet had said that about the new King. Davos hadn’t doubted him. He still felt that truth every time he grabbed his finger bones in their pouch. A sign of good luck, for my family’s future. Davos respected Stannis because of that truth about him. He was true to his word, giving him lands on Cape Wrath for his wife and sons, despite the looks and scorn from Lords and Ladies around him. Davos paid no mind to them as they mocked the onion knight. He quite liked the title, Davos would have it as a Sigil, something those Lords all seemed to have on their clothes. It would go on the sails of his ship in the Royal fleet. A position in the Royal Fleet was another thing Stannis had given him, for his work in organising the crews on his new fleet. And I can’t even read. Stannis had given him too much in Davos’ eyes, but the King saw it as payment for good work, honest advice on the fleet and serving the realm. The King of the Realm wanted honest advice. This was a King that Davos could support. He has my loyalty from this day until my last. May my sons see the same in Stannis as I do.

“All Hail the King!” Davos shouted as the grim-faced Baratheon walked through the Sept, crow weighing on the man’s head.

Jamie

The new king had been crowned. And with it, the King’s Guard had been dissolved. One of his first decrees on the Iron Throne. King Stannis Baratheon had ended the order founded by the conqueror. It had broken Jamie’s heart to see the white cloaks be taken from existence. It was all he had ever wanted to be. Not the Warden of the West and Tywin’s prodigal son. Just a Knight of the realm, one of its greatest Knights. That had been taken from him by the words of a grim King. A King that had seen folly in it.

“The King’s Guard has allowed for individuals to be above the laws of men. This war has shown that. it is a failed institution and will no longer exist.”

In one short decree, Ser Jamie and Ser Barristan had their white cloaks removed and their vows absolved. Neither had been pleased, though Ser Barristan would most likely become a sworn sword of Stannis, being of the Stormlands. His father wouldn’t allow that for Jamie. He’d been all but dragged out of the capital; on his way back to Casterly Rock, to resume his duties as the heir to his father. Father won’t let me leave the Westerlands anytime soon. In one short speech, Jamie had lost everything. He’d lost his cloak, his dreams of knighthood… and he’d lost Cersei. She was to stay in the capital, pursuing Father’s plans to have her made Queen. Everything I ever dreamed of having for myself is further away from me now than ever.

All Jamie had now was his father’s plans for him. And the memories of failing to protect Aegon and Rhaenys. For failing to protect Elia. I’m sorry for what happened to you. For being your pale excuse for a knight.

Elia

“What do we go now that the realm is at peace and you have given our fealty to Stannis?” Oberyn asked as he drank from the mountain’s skull with a small smile.

The skull had been sent by Robert’s brother, the new King. It was a comfort knowing that vile beast was dead, even if it didn’t take away the pain. It had given both joy and rage to the family. Joy that he was dead. Rage that Oberyn didn’t get to do it himself.

“We wait brother. We need to see where the pieces have landed.” Doran answered calmly.

Her brother didn’t like that answer. “You would have us do nothing then while Tywin tries to sink his claws back into the realm. While he bends this unknown King to his will. He will control the realm and our vengeance will be all the harder to gain! How will that be justice? Send me to kill Tywin brother!”

Doran shook his head, “Killing Tywin now will only bring war to Dorne. It is not wise.”

Elia placed her hand on Oberyn, giving him a smile. She knew it wouldn’t hide her grief from Oberyn, but it calmed him anyway.

“Oberyn, Doran is right. We can’t kill him yet. And if you listened to Doran you would know he doesn’t intend to do nothing.”

Doran smiled at her in his chair as Oberyn calmed. “Our sister is right. I don’t intend to do nothing. As I said, I want to see where the pieces have truly landed. We can see how our new King fares. See how the realm holds and what Tywin does. And we can see what Prince Viserys and his new-born sister do. We will build from there brother.”

Elia paled at the last part. She shook her head. “I won’t have any Targaryen on the throne Doran. I won’t support another Rhaegar or Aerys. Nor your Arianne sitting on it. You play the game at home brother, being there is worse.”

Oberyn was quick to agree, “You didn’t see what had become of Lyanna Stark. The tales she told pale in comparison to how she was when we found her. I would much rather follow in our friend King Benjen’s path when the time is right and Tywin dies of our poisons.”

How my brother’s tune has changed about the Northmen.

Doran looked at the two and nodded, “A fair request, though it makes it much more difficult. As to following in our friend in the snow. We’re not the victors in this war like the King in the North. It will take time. And you will have to be patient brother.”

Oberyn drank from the skull heavily before answering.

“Fine Dear brother but I better not be too old when what plans we make come to fruition.”

Elia gave another pained smile at her brother as she put her hand on his shoulder, “Don’t worry brother. I’ll make sure Doran doesn’t stay too cautious.”

Oberyn grinned at her. It warmed her that he didn’t show constant pity. Ashara was thankfully the same when she had returned to Sunspear with him. Another small comfort for the sorrow. Though looking at Ashara sometimes irked her. She couldn’t look at her own child, how much I would give to hold mine.

“Shall we begin then?” Doran asked the two, breaking her thoughts.

Elia and Oberyn replied almost in unison,

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”

Denys

The Eyrie felt empty without everyone. No Ned. No Robert. No Elbert. No Jon. He was the last of them. The last Arryn, with the exception of his wife and son. That made him smile. Jeyne and Jasper were the best thing about returning home as lord of the Vale. Being with them gave him peace after all that had been lost in the war. A welcome sanctuary from the horrors of the capital. He understood why Robert had left. And he felt sorry for his new King, left to pick up the pieces. He would support him though. High as Honour.  I have my own mess to clean though.  Denys had to be a Lord now. Something he never expected. It worried him, not having Jon to guide him. He had Lord Royce thankfully. Jon always trusted him. But the task still made him nervous. How can I do this when I was never born for it?

That gave him an idea. He would write to the king in the North. He’s like me, thrown into something I never really wanted. A friend who understands is more than enough.

He would write to Robert as well. He needed a friend as much as Denys needed advice.

I wish him luck in Essos, to the future Sell Sword King.

Robert

The Realm would be better off without him. Robert knew that well as he stood in the former bureau of the Company in Braavos. Robert didn’t regret his decision to leave for Essos. It was the best thing for everyone. Even if the realm has my dour brother for a King. Robert had been tempted to go to the North and be with the family he’d chosen; but even in the free North the realm would have tried to bring him back. Here though, they had no chance to return him. Especially when I become the Sell sword King of the East. Benjen had written on behalf of the company to tell him that the bureau in Braavos was his and that any contacts the Company had made were to be made aware of Robert’s presence.

Robert looked at the décor of the building, as Northern as a building in Braavos could be. Simple colours, Weirwood faces painted, and symbols of the North in the Old tongue. He would keep it like that, in honour of Ned and Lyanna. Maybe have one of the faces laugh, just like Lyanna’s shield.  Robert smiled to himself.  I’m no King or Lord in truth but I’m a warrior, this is where I belong, building a Company to rival the Golden shits. Robert laughed at the thought. He looked forward to building his company, already five hundred strong who’d chosen to leave with him, seeking glorious war. And more will come, maybe even one of Benjen’s brood, seeking glory and whores across the East. Robert’s grin widened at the thought of having another Stark by his side fighting alongside him, maybe one of Denys’ own as well if he was lucky. Robert left the bureau, looking into the city and its canals. He could hear it all; the merchants, the guards, the bankers and the whores. Robert grinned. It’s time I see what Braavos has to offer. I’ll make you proud Ned. Don’t you worry.

Chapter Text

Benjen

Looking at the statues of his dead family in the Crypts was uncomfortable. It had been heart-breaking seeing the statues for the first time when the funeral had been held upon his return; knowing that this would be how he would see them, as statues in a long line of his dead ancestors. That feeling hadn’t changed every time he visited for a silent moment alone. And it was the same a year on, looking at his lost family. The Stone Mason had done an excellent job in capturing their faces. Benjen could see the sternness of father, that ever so slight smirk that always stayed on Brandon’s face, the solemnness of Ned, and Lyanna’s joy. Benjen had made sure that she was carved with happiness in her face, he didn’t need to see her as she was in that tower. I’ll have that image for all my nightmares to come.

Despite the mason’s efforts, they were pale imitations of his family, guarding over their bodies with their iron swords. Benjen took a long look at his family, offered a drink at each statue and a winter rose for Lyanna.  Benjen sighed sadly then made the walk back to the living. Leaving the crypts brought him back to his home, busy and full of life. It was a rare sight now for Winterfell to be quiet. The activity was necessary though. There was too much work to be done for Winterfell to be silent. Over the past year, it had been filled with masons and carpenters for the first keep and its towers, craftsmen to discuss plans for Wintertown, prospective glassmakers for the keeps of the North and representatives from the Iron Bank. All the fulfil the plans Benjen had been making with his wife and family. Winterfell was alive most days, there was always someone coming to Winterfell.

Hells, I even have the Green Men in Winterfell to give support to the North. Artos had told him in passing that they had met the Green Men on the march home, and that they planned on coming North a year from them. It had proven to be true, a small group of one hundred had come, currently residing in Winterfell until a commune could be found for them. More were apparently coming Northward. “You will have need of us soon my King, and so will the North.”

Benjen wasn’t sure what he meant by that. It felt ominous though, Howland had spoken of their words and it had worried me then. Benjen didn’t pay much mind to the sense of foreboding in their words. It didn’t matter in truth what exactly they were here for. The Green Men were of the first men and the Old Gods and if they wanted to be in the North, Benjen was more than happy to have them. Maybe they fear the seven without the North in the realm to make the crown stop zealotry.

Benjen put the thoughts out of his mind as took in Winterfell. Home. He could see heavy work being done on the first keep, and the sound of training coming from the courtyard. Benjen smiled at the sound of it, knowing his wife would most likely be in the courtyard with Rodrik Cassel. He’d been proven right as he made his way to the courtyard, seeing the Queen in the North, training with the guard and some of the small folk alongside the town. Benjen always enjoyed seeing his wife spar. Ally wasn’t one to pull her punches, something that had proved to be quite literal when she was sparring with one of the guards who had been reluctant to fight with the Queen. Benjen grinned at the memory as he watched her spar, more intense than normal, while Rodrik drilled some of the new recruits. When she starts showing she won’t be able to for a time. There would be another Stark joining the pack, adding to Cregan Stark and Jon Snow, an inseparable pair, one usually following after the other. Benjen smiled as his wife disarmed one of the guards, looking up and giving a grin as she saw him. It didn’t take long for her to join him on the balcony. He gave her a long kiss as she brought herself close to him. Why I ever thought to join the Watch?

“Still not one for holding back affection in front of the guards Benjen.” Ally said wryly.

Benjen raised his eyebrow, “And you’re still not holding back with the guards in training.”

Ally’s smile grew and she started to laugh. He could hear the joy she always had, only ever fading when something had put her in a temper.

“Well, I don’t hold back with you and you always seem to improve” She responded cheekily.

Benjen laughed, “That you do Ally, and I thank you for it every day.”

She smiled and gave him another kiss, then looked out to the balcony.

“Are you holding court for any petitioners today?” Ally asked lightly.

Benjen shook his head, “No, not today. I’d rather I spend the day with family. I was hoping we could spend the day in the Godswood with Cregan and Jon. Have them get used to where they’ll probably spend most of their time playing soon.”

Ally smiled, “Sounds like a good plan, they’ll be having the castle up in arms when they start walking faster.”

Benjen grinned at her, “I was hoping we could have a spar too if you aren’t too tired?”

“Of course, I can tell the guards to keep their swords away as I knock their King on the floor.” She said with a mixture of seriousness and mirth.

He got close to her again, “We’ll see about that, I think the last few times I’ve been more than a match for you”

Ally gave a knowing smirk, “True, but I’ll not be able to fight soon, I won’t be going easy on you like those last few times”

Benjen was about to reply to that before being interrupted by Hallis Mollen, member of the household guard.

“King Benjen, Queen Ally.”

Benjen watched his wife smirk at him before turning to Mollen, smiling at the guard.

“Hallis, you’re not here to report that my wife’s being showing some of the guards again.”

Hallis shook his head. “No, My King. A group of guards have come back from a patrol on the moors. They’ve spotted a small group leave the Wolfswood with a banner for parley.”

Hallis stopped briefly, took a breath, then continued more slowly, “One of the men had gotten close to talk to them, thought they looked odd… He said they look like the Children of the Forest from the tales. They want to speak with you.”

Benjen felt himself tense at that. They can’t be alive. They’re supposed to be long dead.

“Go get the horses prepared, we’ll ride out to meet them. And bring one of the Green Men that have been staying at Winterfell.”

Did they know?

Hallis nodded and made his way down from the balcony, starting to bark orders to the guards. I wonder if father ever had to deal with this.

*

Benjen rode at the front with Ally, Wulfric and Thorin, the head of the Green Men that had come North. The man was dressed simply, in clothing that was clearly made from the forests. The man had a sense of calmness that Benjen had never seen on anyone. Thorin looked pleased though as they rode closer to the small group waiting on the moor. Old Nan always said the Green Men were the children’s heirs. Looking forward, Benjen could see that there were no more than twenty of them, waiting with a white flag. Benjen could see as they got closer that they were small, not more than five feet tall, smaller than the Crannogmen. The group was waiting patiently, they didn’t seem unnerved by the group of guards behind them.

As Benjen and the group dismounted, he could tell that the guards hadn’t been lying when he set his eyes on them properly. The bark like skin, slender figure, green eyes with a yellow tinge. Their clothing, made from leaves and tree branches. It was truly something out of Old Nan’s tales. Benjen wasn’t sure if he was keeping the face of winter he had learnt to make. He was stunned. A part of him had hoped it was simply more Green Men. Benjen took a moment to look at his wife, she looked as shocked as he was. Even Wulfric, his only other kinsman in Winterfell at the moment, looked shocked. He could hear his guards start to mutter under their breaths.

“The children yet live.”

Only the Green Man looked calm, with a smile to his face.

Benjen turned his attention to the Children fully. One Child made their way from the group, walking gracefully, almost like a dance. It was eerily transfixing, impossible to ignore as the child approached. Benjen composed himself, hoping that the face he had used in war and execution would keep him from looking like the Green Boy he felt himself become in a moment.

The child smiled at them all as they stared.

“It is an honour to meet you King Benjen Stark, I am Leaf. It has been a long time since a child of the forest has met a Stark.”

Listening to the child’s words was like listening to a melody. Her voice was light, almost as airy, as if it could be taken away by the winds.

“And probably longer since a Stark thought the children lived.” Benjen said in response, not hiding his surprise at them well.

“My people have not been south of the wall in a long time. Only our descendants lived on.”

Her head turned towards Thorin. He smiled at her. “It is an honour to see my long distant kin returned to the North. Have our dreams been true? Is that why you come?”

The Child’s smile faltered for a moment, turning her gaze back to him, “They have. And in part, we may not have if it weren’t for your King. We know we are safe with the King in the North, with no more prying eyes of the South.”

Benjen felt that ominous foreboding again. Wulfric didn’t seem to like the answer.

“That didn’t answer why you have come for the rest of us.”

“No, it didn’t.” Ally firmly stated.

The child nodded, “Of course, very few of the first men share the gift of sight in our dreams. And even fewer truly know how to interpret them.”

“Why have you come?” Benjen asked tentatively.

“The signs of the Long Night are beginning to show, and the others have started to stir.” Leaf said sadly

Benjen felt the colour drain from his face, and his wife put her hand in his. The others are coming.

“Have you seen them?” Ally asked. Benjen noted the worry in her voice.

Leaf nodded, “We have, far North to the Lands of Always Winter, they are far but will come when the long summer ends and night falls over autumn.”

The melody in her voice brought dread to him. Benjen could practically feel it in his guards. It was hard to laugh at the talk of others when word was coming from the children of the forest, a people that had been brought to legend and story in the realms.

Leaf put out her three fingered hand towards him.

“My people are few, and the last time the Others came, neither of our people could win alone. We have come to renew the pact our ancestors made with your King Stark that helped to end the first long night. Will you accept it?”

Benjen didn’t hesitate to grab her hand with his own tightly. The Child smiled at him.

“The Long Night comes and the others with it. We swear by the Old Gods of the Forest that we will stand beside House Stark and the North to face them. We Swear it by Earth and Water. We Swear it by Bronze and Iron. We Swear it by Ice and Fire.”

Benjen could feel the power in the words. It was a true vow. A vow that she and her people did not intend to break. Benjen looked at her firmly. He unclasped his hand from hers than drew a knife and cut into his hand, then offered it back. The child took her own knife and made a cut in her own. Benjen could see Wulfric nod approvingly

“The Children have sanctuary in the North from this day until the end of all days. You will have Guest Rights in every Keep in the North. Your people will stand as friends of the First Men. I swear it as King in the North. I swear it by the blood of House Stark. May my blood flow through yours, and yours through mine.”

The two clasped hands again. He felt the blood of the two mingle in their hands. The blood of the First Men and the Children intertwining. The two waited for a moment before unclasping their hands. His wife offered her hand, already cut.

“I offer the same as my husband. I offer the full might of the North. I swear it as the Queen in the North. I swear it by the blood of House Umber. My brother will make the same one.”

Benjen watched the two grip hands firmly. He couldn’t help but smile at his wife in the seriousness of it. Benjen watched more children approach, offering their hands to the group, each cutting into their own with their blades. He watched as Wulfric, Thorin and the guards all proceeded to make cuts into their own hands, offering them to the children. Of his people making a pact with the Children.

I’ll need to call the Lords. They need to make their pact. Winter is Coming.