Stannis was walking the path on the Wall contemplating this plan he had gone over with Melisandre. She had a plan to kill Selyse while making it look like and accident. Lord Petyr Baelish was coming to the Wall with whom he claimed was Sansa Stark. Stannis knew that if he needed to win the North he needed a Stark by his side. Jon Snow had refused to leave the Night’s Watch to become the Lord of Winterfell, so Stannis had to compromise somehow.
Melisandre had done her part. Selyse had died on the way to Castle Black. All he had now was Shireen. He hoped that Sansa Stark was coming and not some imposter. He had to rely on Jon Snow recognizing her. The gates of Castle Black opened and Baelish and a girl with dark hair entered the courtyard. Jon Snow recognized her immediately. Sansa must have dyed her hair to conceal herself from the Lannisters. Baelish then urged her forward. He could tell she was nervous. Jon Snow stepped forward calmly, though Stannis could tell he was about to break.
“Lady Sansa, welcome to Castle Black.” Sansa curtsied.
“Lord Commander Snow.” Jon then turned to Stannis.
“May I introduce Stannis of House Baratheon First of his Name?” Stannis stepped forward and took Sansa’s hand.
“It is a pleasure to meet you my lady.” He kissed her hand and she returned it with a smile.
Sansa was escorted to her chambers by Snow himself. No doubt both of them wanted a separate reunion away from others. Stannis though, took this moment to speak with Baelish.
“I assure you she’s still a virgin. Tyrion never consummated the marriage, by the law of the land she is no man’s wife.” Stannis turned toward him for a brief moment. What would you know about laws? “Inspect her if you must.”
“No need, I’ll take her word for it. But it’s her name I need most of all.”
“Then I have delivered what I promised.”
“And are you prepared for the consequences? Once the Lannisters hear I’ve wed Sansa Stark, they won’t take too kindly to it.”
“The Lannister name doesn’t mean much anymore, Your Grace. Tywin is dead, he kept his house in power through sheer will. Without him, Jaime has one hand and no allies. Tommen is a soft boy, not a king to be feared, not like you who has built a reputation as one of the best commanders in Westeros.” Stannis shrugged at that but knew there was one person to be wary of.
“The Queen will be enraged.”
“Queen Margaery adores Sansa. Cersei is the Queen Mother, a title whose importance wanes with each passing day.”
“And yet she still has friends. Men in important places whom she can ask for favors. Including you.”
“I assure you, Your Grace, I was loyal to the Lannisters while Tywin was alive, now that he’s dead, you are the one I would follow. Cersei will only lead her House to ruin.” Stannis hummed in response, he never trusted Baelish, but Melisandre told him he wouldn’t live for long, so he took her word for it.
“Will the Vale stand with me?”
“Young Lord Robin heeds my advice and the last time the Lords of the Vale and the Lords of the North united behind a Baratheon ruler they brought down the greatest dynasty this world has ever known.” Stannis again hummed in response. Baelish would have to be taken care of soon. Hopefully Lady Sansa could help him in that regard.
Sansa was happy. She found her way back to the North, her homeland, and reunited with Jon. Currently she was sitting with him in his chambers eating soup.
“Do you remember those kidney pies Old Nan used to make?”
“With the peas and onions?” Jon paused for a moment. “We never should have left Winterfell.”
“Don’t you wish we could go back to the day we left? I want to scream at myself, ‘Don’t go you idiot!’”
“How could we know?”
“I spent a lot of time thinking about what an ass I was to you. I wish I could change everything.”
“We were children.” Jon dismissed.
“I was awful just admit it.” Jon laughed at that.
“You were occasionally awful. I’m sure I can’t have been great fun always sulking in the corner while the rest of you played.”
“Can you forgive me?” Jon shook his head.
“There’s nothing to forgive—” Sansa wouldn’t have it though.
“Forgive me.” She said firmly.
“Alright, alright I forgive you.” He and Sansa shared a laugh before Jon turned serious. “Sansa, do you know why you’re here?” Sansa paused at the question for a moment before calmly stating to him Littlefinger’s plans.
“I’m to marry Stannis Baratheon. His wife is dead and he is in need of a bride. And in order to win the North back he needs me.”
“I figured as much. But Baelish? Do you trust him?” Sansa paused at that. She never trusted Littlefinger. All he wanted was her, because she was her mother’s replacement for him. He loved her mother, he didn’t love her. He loved the idea of her. But he did save her life, she owed him that. And she taught him how to play the game. But he would pay for his crimes against her family.
“Only a fool would trust Littlefinger. Our father was one of those people. He killed my aunt Lysa. He was the one who planned Joffrey’s death and he conspired with Cersei and Joffrey to betray our father. I’m not happy with being near him. Do you know what his original plan was for bringing me here? He was going to sell me to the Boltons.”
“What?!” she could tell Jon was not happy.
“Yes, under the impression that I stop being a bystander and fight for our family. How am I supposed to fight the people who murdered our family if I have no people to help me?”
“So, if he marries you to Stannis—”
“He’ll make me feel obligated to repay his ‘debt’ after he kills Stannis.”
“You really think he’s capable of that?”
“He’ll have the Knights of the Vale destroy his army at Winterfell.”
Jon looked to be deep in thought for a moment before turning back to Sansa.
“We need to stop him. And not later when Stannis is marching against the Boltons, he needs to die here and now.” Jon said as the door opened.
“Perhaps I can help.” A voice called out. It was Melisandre who had entered Jon’s chambers. Both Jon and Sansa were shocked that she was here and most likely listening in on their conversations. “I saw it in the flames. A white wolf and a red wolf pouncing on a mockingbird. The mockingbird was in flames and the ice froze over his ashes.”
Jon and Sansa didn’t know what to think of this, but they were all in agreement. The only person they needed to tell of this plan was the king himself.
The plan was set in motion. Stannis didn’t like to have to do things like this, but after his future wife told him about Baelish’s crimes he couldn’t refuse this. In order for Sansa to trust him, to fully trust him, he had to make the people responsible for her family’s demise pay for their crimes. The first would have to be Baelish. It was in the courtyard at Castle Black, Stannis had plans to bring Davos before him. There was a pyre built for execution though it was not intended for Davos. Everyone was assembled in the courtyard. And finally, Davos was brought, chained to the area. He was not told of their plans so as to maintain a secrecy from Baelish. Sansa, Melisandre and Jon Snow were standing by his side
“What is the meaning of this Your Grace? I have done nothing wrong!”
“This is not what I wanted to do Ser Davos, but it’s what Honor demands.”
“And what does Honor demand?”
“That I serve justice to all who would seek injustice. That I would defend those who try and harm my family.”
“Well, then get on with it.”
“You stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges… Lord Baelish?”
Stannis turned to his right to Baelish’s direction. He looked surprised as all eyes were now on him.
“The king has asked you a question Lord Baelish.” Melisandre said. Baelish looked everywhere. He looked like he was looking for an exit. But Stannis doubled the guards and made sure that the Vale knights who escorted him were occupied elsewhere.
“Your Grace forgive me. I’m a bit confused.”
“Which charges confuse you pray tell?”
“How about we start with the simplest one. You murdered my aunt Lysa Arryn. You pushed her through the Moon Door and watched her fall, do you deny it?” Sansa said defiantly to him.
Baelish looked to Sansa shocked for a brief moment before regaining his composure.
“I did it to protect you.”
“You did it to take power in the Vale. Earlier you and my aunt Lysa conspired to murder Jon Arryn. You gave Lysa Tears of Lys to poison him do you deny it?”
“Whatever your aunt might have told you, she was a troubled woman. She imagined enemies everywhere.”
“You had my aunt send a letter to my mother Catelyn Stark telling her it was the Lannisters who murdered Jon Arryn when really it was you. The conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters, it was you who started it wasn’t it?” Baelish tried to act confused but Stannis wasn’t buying it.
“I know of no such letter.”
“You conspired with Cersei Lannister and Joffrey Waters to betray my father. Thanks to your treachery he was later imprisoned and executed on false charges of treason, do you deny it?!” Sansa shouted the last part. Baelish stood tall.
“I deny it! None of you were there to see what happened. None of you knows the truth!”
“I did warn you not to trust me.” Melisandre said. Baelish turned to her shocked that she had known that. That was all the evidence Stannis needed.
“You told Catelyn Stark that the dagger used to murder Brandon Stark belonged to the Imp. That was a lie. It belonged to my brother, Robert.” Stannis said. Baelish tried to approach Sansa but was held back by some guards.
“Lady Sansa, I’ve known you since you were a girl, I’ve protected you,”
“Protected me? You were going to sell me to the Boltons.”
“And I changed my mind. Surely you know how much I care for you.”
“Yes, and I don’t care. You are the reason why my family is dead, because you couldn’t have my mother. Well, I’m a slow learner, like her. It’s true. But I learn.”
“Give me a chance to defend myself. I deserve that.” Sansa looked to Stannis and he nodded to her. Baelish looked around.
“I demand a trial by combat!” Baelish said. Stannis started grinding his teeth. He knew this might have happened. But he had a different plan.
“You have that right. But the trial will take place now. Does anyone wish to volunteer for Lord Baelish?” The whole courtyard was silent at that moment, no one stepping up. After a few moments Stannis spoke again. “It appears no one is willing to stand for you. Therefore, since you cannot produce a champion I, Stannis of the House Baratheon, First of my Name, Rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, sentence you to die.” He nodded to his men who began putting Baelish up on the pyre.
“Sansa, I beg you! I’ve loved your mother since I was a boy!”
“And yet you betrayed her.” Sansa said coldly.
“I’ve loved you more than anyone.” He said in tears. Sansa didn’t seem moved by it.
“I don’t. Because you were going to betray me. When you brought me back to the North you said there was no justice in the world, not unless we make it. Thank you for your many lessons Lord Baelish. I will never forget them.” Sansa said coolly.
Baelish was the tied to the pyre. Melisandre said a few words about justice and how Stannis would purge any who would seek injustice and set the pyre ablaze. This time however, Jon Snow did not intervene. Stannis looked toward Sansa who had tears in her eyes. However he could see on her face it was more relief than sadness and maybe a bit of vengeance in there too. Baelish’s screams were echoing throughout the courtyard but nobody was moved by it. Eventually his screams died down and Baelish eventually died. Stannis turned to Sansa.
“If you need time—”
“I don’t need anymore time. Just tell me when we’re ready to be wed.”
“Very well. I will send ravens to the lords of the North as well as the lords of the Vale telling them what happened.”
“I will write to my cousin. I’ll tell him what happened. And if we are to marry, we need to set a few rules for the wedding.” Stannis was surprised at how firm she was to him. But perhaps that worked in his favor, he would need a strong queen to stand by his side.
A few weeks passed until the wedding. In that time Stannis sent letters to the lords of the North for support for his claim. He added that Sansa was with him and he planned to wed her. The first to arrive was Lyanna Mormont, Lady of Bear Island, who apologized for the way she worded her letter, though it didn’t seem like a genuine apology. The next to arrive was Smalljon Umber, Lord of Last Hearth who also brought along with him Rickon Stark who bent the knee to Stannis after hearing that Sansa’s son would one day sit the throne. As a Baratheon with Stark blood would sit the throne there was no need for a King in the North. The revelation that Rickon was alive, surprised not only Stannis but Jon and Sansa. Now that he had the last living trueborn son of Eddard Stark he would win back the north with ease. He had about 6,000 men he brought with him from Dragonstone. Lord Umber brought along 800 men with him and Lady Mormont could only bring 62 men with her, but assured Stannis that every man from Bear Island fights with the strength of ten men. Jon Snow advised him to seek out the mountain clans for their support. Only he would have to go himself as a king had not been seen since Torrhen Stark, his coming would do them honor. The price was feasting with them. After winning the clans Jon advised Stannis to retake Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn as that would show that he cared more for the North than the Boltons. Stannis agreed to this and planned to leave after he wed Sansa as he needed legitimacy to win the North.
The day came for the wedding. Stannis was standing in front of a heart tree. Jon and Sansa advised him to do this to win the Northerners. Rickon came escorting Sansa as he was one of the last living survivors of her family.
“Who comes? Who comes before the old gods this night?” Smalljon proclaimed.
“Sansa of House Stark. A woman grown. Trueborn and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who claims her?” Stannis stepped forward.
“Stannis of the House Baratheon. Rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms. Who gives her?”
“Rickon of House Stark, her brother.”
“Lady Sansa do you take this man?” Smalljon asked. Sansa looked to Stannis determined.
“I take this man.” Stannis nodded and took her hand and knelt before the tree. He didn’t ask for any prayers but he did hear a voice call out to him.
“Take care of her.” Stannis looked around perplexed but saw that Sansa was standing up. He then unclasped the Stark cloak and replaced it with the Baratheon black and gold. Thus the marriage was sealed. Well, not all the way. They made their way to their chambers where Sansa was clearly nervous. Stannis was too.
“My lady. I know this rather difficult, but I swear it will only hurt for a moment” Sansa looked back at him.
“Shall I undress, Your Grace?” She said in a small voice.
“Stannis. Call me Stannis when we’re alone. And yes. I shall as well.” Sansa smiled a bit before removing her dress. Stannis started removing his clothes as well. As soon as he was free of his clothes he saw Sansa naked as her nameday. Stannis then looked at her. She was beautiful, it was honestly the first time he was speechless. Stannis then cleared his throat.
They both entered the bed and when they pulled the covers over their bodies they began to kiss. Stannis would make sure that she was comfortable with him. He touched the area between her legs rubbing it until she reached her peak. Then he got on top of her and slowly entered her. Sansa let out a gasp of pain and Stannis stopped his movements, looking at Sansa with concern. She looked back at him and nodded reassuringly. So Stannis continued his movements. It didn’t take long for him to spill his seed inside her and he climbed off of her. Both of them were panting and trying to catch their breath.
“Stannis?” Sansa said. “Thank you.”
“There’s no need to thank me. I just did my duty.”
“It felt more than that.” Sansa said. Stannis looked at her surprised. She seemed happy in this moment. Even Stannis was starting to feel something. Eventually they both fell asleep. Twice they made love during the night before going back to sleep. Come the next morning, they were preparing to march against the Boltons and their allies. Sansa was to stay at Castle Black with a few Northerners, mostly Umber men guarding her and Shireen. Melisandre was to stay as well as she stated she was needed there. Stannis took with him Rickon Stark as well to show proof that he had a Stark siding with him. He had about 7,000 men total. Stannis then approached Jon Snow. Apparently Snow had asked to borrow his ships for the Wildlings at a place called Hardhome where he hoped to shelter them in the Gift. It took quite a while to convince Smalljon to allow this to happen and his only demand was that the Wildlings stay as far away from his lands as possible. If they did not blood would be spilt. They agreed and Smalljon remained in the army. Stannis saw Jon approaching.
“I hope you know what you’re doing with all these Wildlings. I need those ships.”
“You’ll get them back I swear it.” Stannis started to walk away before turning back to Jon.
“Will Sansa be safe here?” Jon looked surprised to hear that. It must have been because Stannis said her name instead of something more formal like ‘the queen.’
“She will be. Northerners are loyal to their own.”
“You did tell me that once. I hope it was not a lie.”
“It wasn’t Your Grace.” Stannis nodded.
“Good.” Stannis then turned to walk away but Jon called after him again.
“Have a safe journey Your Grace. And thank you.” Stannis looked at Jon for a moment and then turned and mounted his horse and left Castle Black to take back the North from the Boltons.
Sansa was adjusting to life at Castle Black. With Jon gone to save the Wildlings and Rickon marching with Stannis, she spent most of her time with Shireen in the library. Now that she was married to her father it made sense for her to spend time with her.
“So, what’s Winterfell like. I mean before everything happened.”
“Well, it’s bigger than the Red Keep that’s for sure. I mostly stayed inside the castle myself. But I know where other places are.”
“Well, there’s the godswood which has been there for ten thousand years. It’s been untouched for that long too. There’s also the Great Hall. I’ve been there many times for feasts with other lords or just when we were feasting. There was one time when there was knight from House Royce, Ser Waymar, he was my first infatuation.”
“Oh, he was handsome?”
“Yes, but he was very arrogant now that I think back. It’s not a trait I quite enjoy anymore.”
“So that means you like more of my father than those men?” Sansa was taken aback by that. In the time she had spent with Stannis she didn’t know what to think of him. He wasn’t like Joffrey who would be cruel to her, or Baelish who simply looked at her with lust in his eyes, Stannis treated her with courtesy and grace, though it seemed he was rather uncomfortable at times. He wouldn’t speak to her when he escorted her around Castle Black and when he did he only responded to any questions she had for him and it was straight to the point.
“I do like your father, yes. He’s very kind to me. He respects me, treats me as his equal. But I do not love him. But my mother once told me that love can take time. And I’m sure your father and I will have plenty of time.”
“I hope so. I’ve seen how he is with you. He seems at peace.”
“Well, I hope to please him, Princess.”
“Shireen, call me Shireen.”
“Shireen.” Sansa said. They both smiled at that. Perhaps this marriage wouldn’t be too bad. Suddenly an Umber man entered.
“Pardon Your Grace, Princess. Lord Commander Snow has returned.”
The war in the North was going well for Stannis. He had feasted with the mountain clans who pledged him support against the Boltons providing 3,000 men bolstering his numbers to 10,000. Then Stannis split some of his forces to take other castles in the North. He sent 2,000 men to take Highpoint, the seat of House Whitehill. Their orders were to put the garrison to the sword, take all the supplies and any hostages and burn Highpoint to the ground. He sent another 2,000 to retake Ironrath from the Whitehills. And finally he had the rest of them march to Deepwood Motte where they liberated the 200 Ironborn from the castle. House Glover then pledged their support as well with Stannis gaining 500 men from the Glovers. Along the way he came across Rodrik Forrester, his sister Talia and a man named Duncan Tuttle. He also discovered Elaena Glenmore was held prisoner by the Whitehill garrison in Ironrath. Stannis had hostages as well including Torrhen and Gwyn Whitehill but their brother Gryff was at Winterfell.
News spread from the other Houses in the North and many came to Stannis’ side. The Tallharts, Cerwyns, Glenmores, Forresters, Hornwoods, Manderlys and Flints sided with Stannis. Even the Ryswells and Dustins declared for him knowing that he was a legitimate threat. Together they combined his force to 20,000 men. However the Boltons had more help as House Karstark had supplied them with 3,000 men led by Harald Karstark, who despised the Starks when Robb executed his father, and House Frey’s 2,000 men led by Sers Aenys and Hosteen Frey reinforcing them as well. The Boltons themselves had 5,000 men. Together they formed about 10,000 men.
Stannis knew the Boltons were outnumbered by about half, but Robert had similar odds against Rhaegar. If one mistake was made they would be routed. And the Boltons had more horses than Stannis. Stannis had about 4,000 horses, while Bolton had about 5,000 due to Houses Karstark and Frey. However there was one advantage that Stannis had, and that was the Wolfswood. With the vast amount of trees there he could make pikes for all of his troops and use them to cripple the Bolton horses. House Manderly had brought some pikemen with them but Stannis ordered his troops to begin making pikes. Rodrik Forrester even leant some of his men to build Ironwood shields for Stannis’ men. Things hit a snag when they were blasted with a snowstorm. Thankfully the Northmen provided furs for the Baratheon soldiers who were freezing. Eventually Stannis was approached by Smalljon Umber and Wylis Manderly.
“Pardon Your Grace. But we’ve captured some Bolton men.” Stannis perked up at that.
“There were twenty of them we caught the leader. Thought you’d like to do the honors.” Stannis didn’t know what he meant by that until the man was brought in.
“Who is this?” Stannis asked.
“Ramsay Snow Bastard son of Roose Bolton.” Smalljon said smugly.
“That’s Lord Bolton to you traitor.”
“The only traitor here is you Snow.” Wylis said.
“I’ve been naturalized by a royal decree from—”
“Tommen Baratheon. A bastard of the Kingslayer’s.” Stannis said. “You are still a bastard and you shall die a bastard. Fetch me a block.” They did so and gathered a crowd around him. Stannis was advised to behead Ramsay as burning while he deserved it, the Northerners would respect him if he swung the sword himself in the old way. “Ramsay Snow. I, Stannis of the House Baratheon, First of my Name, Rightful king of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, do hereby sentence you to die. Would you speak a final word?”
“My father will kill all of you! You’ll all regret the day you turned on House Bolton!”
Cries of “traitor” and “mad dog” followed after what Ramsay said. Stannis unsheathed his sword and brought it down upon Snow’s head.
“Send it to his father. We must prepare for the Boltons now.”
The next day, the snows died down and were beginning to melt. Stannis had formed his war council consisting of Smalljon Umber, Rodrik Forrester, Wylis Manderly, Cley Cerwyn, the clan leaders, Lords Hornwood, Glenmore, Flint, Ryswell and Lady Dustin.
“My lords, my lady. The time has come. Roose Bolton betrayed his liege lord and seized power for himself and his house. Today his rule comes to an end. We march to Winterfell, destroy House Bolton and seize Winterfell for House Stark, or die in the attempt. The Ryswell and Dustin troops will form the vanguard. You are to form a shield wall and hold against the Bolton horses. The Glovers, Mormonts, Forresters and Umbers will reinforce you with their pikemen. The archers will fire upon the horses before then led by the Glenmore troops. Once the horses are dealt with, we will advance our troops but our horses will stay back until the Boltons are routed. Once that happens I will lead the cavalry myself and hit the rest of their infantry. Once their army is broken we take Winterfell.” The other lords bowed their heads and left the tent. Stannis stayed there for a moment contemplating his plan. It could work. It just has to go according to plan. But Roose Bolton was not like most men, he was cautious. But he wasn’t the most brilliant commander, his offensive against Tywin Lannister proved that. He lost several thousand men to him, even if it was to hold Tywin back long enough for Robb Stark to break the Kingslayer’s army. But if he wanted to prove he was the Lord of Winterfell, he had to fight. He would not prolong a siege. If he stays in his castle the Northerners will see him as weak. He’ll have to fight. Of course, Stannis was well aware there could be traitors in his midst. It was the reason why he put the Ryswells and Dustins in the vanguard. They both had marriage ties to Roose but had all of a sudden sided with him after he won against the Ironborn. He had noticed that they had looked a bit displeased with their position. Stannis was taking a risk, but hopefully that risk would pay off.
The march to Winterfell went smoothly. The army wasn’t tired or disheartened. They had hope that Stannis would win against the Boltons. Stannis had his horses in the rearguard in order to hide them from the Boltons. The Ryswell and Dustin troops were in the front. Stannis ordered Smalljon and Rodrik to watch them in case they did anything stupid. So far nothing happened. The army was within sights of Winterfell. Stannis then ordered everyone to get into position. The army quickly did so. The vanguard was in front forming a shield wall, the pikemen were forming right behind them. The archers were getting into position as well as the horses. Now it was down to the Boltons.
For a few moments nothing happened. Then horses started to appear. But none of them were bearing the sigil of House Bolton, instead Stannis saw House Frey’s sigil as well as the Karstark. Stannis did not anticipate this. Roose was most likely sending his allies to die in his stead to weaken Stannis’ army and it looked to be about 3,00 horse. Stannis planned ahead. It seems as though he would have to storm the castle. He had siege weapons and battering rams. However Bolton would not make it easy for him. Most likely he would use his own horse to hit them from the sides. He would have to prepare accordingly.
The Frey and Karstark horse were getting closer before suddenly falling to the ground. Smalljon’s great-uncle, Mors Umber dug pits around their perimeter during the heavy snowstorms to kill some of their horses before they could hit them. So far it worked as several horses fell into the pits including Ser Aenys Frey. Stannis ordered the archers to begin firing on their horses and by the time they were finished, Stannis still had his shield wall intact. The few horses that began charging were dealt with swiftly.
Stannis had light casualties on his part mostly thanks to the pits and the archers. But that meant that Bolton was going to prolong a siege. He knew Bolton had at least 7,000 men left with 2,000 of them on horseback and another 5,000 men inside the castle. It would now be trickier. Sansa and Jon Snow told him that their father used to say that 500 men could hold Winterfell against 10,000. And Roose had fourteen times as many men. But even the greatest castles can be taken under the right commander. Fortunately for Stannis he knew someone who knew all of Winterfell’s secrets and that person was Rickon Stark. Rickon told Stannis about how to get in through a secret passage known only to them. Lucky for them, he knew where to look because he used that passage to escape Winterfell after it had burnt to the ground. He had Osha, a wildling woman who served as a sort of guardian to Rickon lead a force of a few hundred men to infiltrate Winterfell and open the gates, while Stannis would make it seem like he’s laying siege.
Stannis prepared his men for the inevitable siege which would now take place at night. The men were well rested after the battle with the cavalry and were ready for the attack on Winterfell. The first to charge were the Dustins and Ryswells again in the vanguard. The Boltons fired arrows upon arrows on the vanguard, but thankfully only a few were killed. It was due in no small part to the Ironwood shields. Eventually the other Northern and Stormland troops were making their way to Winterfell to reinforce them. the archers on Stannis side were giving the Boltons a bit of a difficult time. Stannis knew he had to end this quickly or his men would be slaughtered. He was waiting for the Boltons to send out their remaining horses to flank them from the side. Stannis remembered from Blackwater that this move cost him the battle. Had he been ready then, he might have been able to hold them off long enough for most of his troops to retreat safely. This battle itself reminded Stannis of the Battle of Blackwater. It was a siege of a castle Stannis needed to win, it was at night, he vastly outnumbered the men in the castle. Hopefully this time he would win. He saw from both sides then; the Bolton cavalry was about to hit them. Stannis however planned ahead and instructed his troops that if this happened to hit them with their pikes. It slowed them down and Stannis could see they were about to break. So he ordered his troops to split up the horse and hit the Boltons from their rearguard. Stannis himself led the charge of the right flank.
“Crush the Bolton force men!” He cried out.
There were cries of “Stannis!” and “Stark!” and “Winterfell!” They were able to break them, but they were being hailed by arrows from the Boltons. Stannis knew if they stayed there he would lose his one advantage over the Boltons.
“All cavalry! Fall back to the woods!” He shouted.
The cavalry fell back to the Wolfswood. Stannis decided however, to join the siege and try to ram the gates of Winterfell. It was going well. there was a massive shield wall around the battering ram.
“Is there any word from inside?” Stannis asked Rodrik Forrester.
“Not yet! Just give them time! They know what they’re doing!” He responded.
“What are our casualties?” Stannis asked.
“The Ryswells got hit hard! Lord Rodrik and his son Rickard were killed in one of the waves of arrows! His other son Roose fell to the Bolton cavalry! Some of the Dustin men fell as well! Mostly light on the Umbers, Manderlys and Glovers! Smalljon’s holding up well!”
“Continue the assault! Try and ram that gate down!” Stannis commanded.
“Yes, Your Grace!” Rodrik said.
Lord Forrester was right. The men were holding steadily. Hopefully they could end this soon. As the gate was being rammed the archers stopped firing and directed their attention to the other side. That is until the gate was opened by the Stark men sent inside to open the gates. It appears as though they had a rough time getting to the gate. But it was open. It was time to take the North back.
“Come with me and take the castle!” Stannis shouted.
The men cheered and began the assault on Winterfell. It was a gruesome fight to be sure. Stannis was hacking men left and right, while the rest of his forces were taking out the archers on the walls and who were coming out to fire on them. They were dealt with swiftly. Stannis then saw a young man with a patch over his eye with a white mountain and star on his breastplate. That must be Gryff Whitehill. Stannis thought.
“BARATHEON!” Gryff shouted. “Come taste my blade usurper!”
Stannis met the boy with steel in hand. In truth the boy was good, but he only had one eye, Stannis could use that to his advantage. He went to Gryff’s left and tried to stab him on the side, but Gryff quickly parried his sword in the nick of time, though not without losing his footing for a second. Stannis continued his attacks.
The battle around him was going well for his forces. Smalljon slew Harald Karstark in single combat, while Roger Ryswell was slain by Hosteen Frey before he was slain by Morgan Liddle of the mountain clans. The Boltons were beginning to lose hope that they would win against Stannis. Some even dropped their swords in surrender. Others were trying to fight their way to Roose Bolton to give him personally to Stannis.
Stannis continued fighting Gryff. It was becoming apparent that Stannis was about to win the duel until Gryff tackled Stannis to the ground, disarming him. But before he could bring down his sword on Stannis Gryff was stabbed in the back by none other than Rodrik Forrester.
“That’s for Asher you fucking cunt!” Rodrik screamed before lopping Gryff’s head off. Rodrik helped Stannis to his feet. Stannis could see around him. The battle was over.
“It’s over. We won.” Stannis said.
“A fine victory Your Grace.” Rodrik told him. Smalljon and Ser Wylis were approaching him with Roose Bolton in chains.
“Your Grace. I present to you Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort.” Wylis said while Smalljon shoved him to the ground.
“Lord Stannis.” Roose said.
“That’s King Stannis to you traitor!” Smalljon said before punching him in the face. “You’d be wise to remember that.”
“King? The last king I met I drove my dagger into his heart. You might want to be cautious around me ‘King’ Stannis.”
“I will be. And I will give you the justice you deserve.”
“And what justice is that? Rebelling against your nephew?”
“Tommen shares no blood with me. He’s a bastard born of incest. As was his brother before him. You were serving a false king.”
“I was serving a false king. A king you never bothered to help.”
“Robb Stark may have been foolish in calling himself king when his father supported me. But none can deny his courage. The Lannisters knew this and also knew they couldn’t beat him in the field. I may not have formed an alliance with Robb Stark but I realized I needed to help his family if I can. I at least owed that to Ned Stark. I am now married to Sansa Stark, I have the last living trueborn son of Ned Stark as my loyal subject. And now, House Bolton will die with you.”
“If only you knew how untrue that was. My wife Walda, she’s pregnant. The maesters say she’s carrying a boy. Tell me are you willing to kill and innocent child?” That surprised Stannis but he had a plan for that.
“No, but that boy will be last Bolton to live after you. The boy will be sent to the Wall where he will live out his days knowing his father’s crimes.” Roose didn’t seem to respond at that. “It matters not. Today, you will die for your crimes against the North. Bring me a block.” Some of his men brought him a block and they set Roose on it. Stannis took his sword. He wanted to burn him as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light, but decided like Ramsay, he would do it in the old way. “Roose Bolton. Lord of the Dreadfort. Here in sight of gods and men I sentence you to die. Would you speak a final word?” Roose thought for a moment. Then shook his head. He knew he lost. No more words were needed. Stannis raised his sword on Roose and removed his head from his body. “Send word to the Wall. Tell the queen that her home has been retaken and her family avenged.”
Sansa couldn’t believe the words on the letter. Stannis had won the Battle of Winterfell. And the Boltons were no more. When she showed it to Shireen she was just as excited. Both girls were packing up for their trip to Winterfell. Before they were to leave the next day, Sansa visited Jon in his solar. He looked to be reading some letters from various houses. Jon noticed her.
“Sansa. Do you need anything?”
“No I’m fine. I just wanted to see you before I left tomorrow.”
“Oh, well maybe you could help me. I’m trying to ask for men to send to the Wall, but many houses are refusing. I know why. I’m the bas—”
“You are the son of the true Warden of the North. You are every bit as much Ned Stark’s son as Ramsay Snow is Roose Bolton’s.”
“I wish I had your optimism.”
“True, it would help with the brooding.” Both of them shared a laugh. “I’ll tell you what. Once Stannis wins the throne I’ll have him send as many men as he can to the Wall. You can guard all 19 castles if you want.”
“Well, I certainly can’t refuse an offer from the queen now can I?”
“No you cannot.” They both smiled at each other. “Jon, there’s something I have to tell you.”
“What is it?” Jon asked. Sansa smiled wildly.
“I think I’m with child.” Jon looked at her surprised.
“I can’t be sure. But I’ve missed my moon’s blood. And I’ve been getting sick in the morning. I think that’s a sign right?”
“I think it is.” Jon stood up from his chair. “Come here.” He gestured to himself. Sansa stood up and both Stark siblings embraced. They stayed like that for a moment before breaking apart. “Father would be proud of you.” Sansa smiled as tears began to form in her eyes.
“Thank you. And he’d be proud of you too.”
“Well, I’ll get going then. I just wanted to tell you before I leave. I haven’t even told Shireen yet. But I’ll tell her and Stannis when we get to Winterfell.”
“Alright. I’ll let you be. Goodnight Sansa.” Jon reached up and kissed her on her forehead.
“Good night Jon.” Sansa said.
She left feeling great about herself and her family. She didn’t even notice Jon’s steward Olly going to the room nor did she notice the other men surrounding a wooden post. But that night would change her life forever.