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A New North

Chapter Text

261 AC :

Winterfell:

As he made his way towards his father’s solar Eddard “Ned” Stark thought about how his young life had been so far. He was barely six moons away from his seventh name day. Ned Stark was born a prodigy.

He had started talking when he was barely a year old and started walking two moons later. He could remember everything since he was barely three moons old and could remember every conversation since he was seven moons old. He remembers every word that he had ever read. He could remember every move made in the yard just by seeing the tilts.

When he reached his father’s solar he knocked twice and then entered after hearing his father say “Come in.”

In the solar were his parents Lord Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Lady Lyarra Stark nee Karstark. At Five and Twenty and six feet five inches tall and Three and Twenty and six feet tall, the Lord and Lady of Winterfell made an imposing sight. Also present was Maester Walys. For the past four years Ned had spent a lot of time with the Maester, learning. Be it reading, writing, languages, numbers, history or geography, Walys always marvelled at the young lord’s ability to understand and remember new information.

“Father, Mother, Maester Walys .” Ned said in greeting.

“Ah, yes Ned come in. Sit down child. Maester Walys was just filling us in. You want to continue your education at the Citadel. Is that right?” His father asked.

“Yes father. I have finished all that I could study here in Winterfell. I want to forge my links at the Citadel. I am ready to go to Oldtown, Father.” Ned replied to his father.

“Leave us.” Lord Rickard commanded to the Maester. Once he left he continued “Ned, I know that you are a very bright child. But why do you want to go to Oldtown? If you have finished with your education why not start your training in martial combats. You are my heir. Do you really wish to join the Maesters conclave and leave your place as the heir to the North?”

“I am sorry father you misunderstood me. I am going to the Citadel only forge my links. I will not be leaving my place as your heir. As for martial combat, Ser Rodrik would go with me to the Citadel not only as my escort but also as my trainer. If everything goes as per my plan, I will forge my links in ravenry, medicine and healing, math and economics, warcraft, animal husbandry and farming, cartography, geography, smithing and finally in magic. It will take no more than three years for me to complete it.” Ned replied.

His father scoffed. “You may be bright, but even you cannot do all this in three years.”

“If you do not believe me father, then give me a moon and I will show you my project that I am working on right now. I can guarantee you, you will not repent your judgement.” Ned said.

“What project are you talking of my sweet.” Lyarra Stark asked for the first time since the conversation started.

“Father and you always ask me why I am trying to teach Mikken the blacksmith and some other servants how to read letters. Well it was a part of my plan. Right now it takes anywhere between a week to a moon to copy a book. When my project is completed I can make several copies of a book in a single day. All it would require is a skilled Blacksmith and some people who can read and write” explained Ned to his mother.

“Surely you are jesting my son. It simply cannot be done” said a baffled Lord Stark.

“It can be done father. Give me a month and I will show it to you” was the curt reply.

“But son why do you need to study all those subjects?” asked Lady Stark.

“I want to study these subjects because I want knowledge mother. Knowledge is power, mother. Right now all this power rests with the Maesters. I will go to the citadel and study these subjects and discreetly try to make as many copies of the books of the Citadel as possible with the help of my machine. There are over Forty Thousand books in the Citadel. I will try to make at least one copy of each of the books so that we can make more copies of them later. With these books we can train our smallfolk in their required areas like farming and husbandry to the farmers or warcraft to the soldiers” replied Ned.
“Is it necessary son. To teach the smallfolk of such things will take time, time which they can better use in productivity” Asked Lord Stark.

“It may take time to teach the current generation but I am talking about the future generations father. Small children who right now spend time just playing around and not doing anything productive are to be trained first. Then once they take over their parent’s job or create a new job for themselves will we start giving these educations to the older generations. For too long has the North remained stagnant. We have always looked for just survivability and nothing else. I intend to change it father” replied Ned.

“Okay son. Let us not get ahead of ourselves. After this meeting I will call Mikken and tell him to work with you for the next moon. Make your device and if it works we will send you to Oldtown but if you fail we will not have this talk again. You will remain in the North and start your martial training. Is that clear?” Said Lord Stark.

“Yes father” replied Ned.

One moon later:

“Well son it looks like you are going to Oldtown. How in the name of the Old Gods and New did you make this work?” asked Lord Stark.

“I will not bore you with the details father but let us just say that it was quiet easy. We just have to rearrange the gears which are used in portcullis but on a smaller scale” said Ned.

His father just kept watching the machine with awe.

“If may I ask father please do not mention this to Maester Walys. I want to keep this device a secret for as long as possible” asked Ned. He did not want to keep the device a secret just in the North but he did not trust Maester Walys enough. He was sure that if he learnt of this device he would tell the maesters about it and his mission in Oldtown would become very difficult. He did not trust the Maesters especially Maester Walys for not using the device for personal gains.

His father just nodded and asked “What else would you require for your journey and stay at Oldtown, son?”

“I will be taking these men and women to the south with me. And also if possible would you be able to buy me a small mansion in Oldtown. It will be better if I stay there and not at the Citadel or some tavern.” His father just nodded.

One year later:

The Mansion, Oldtown:

It had been several moons since Ned had arrived at Oldtown. His stay here had been very productive for him till now. His training with Ser Rodrik was going very well. He was able to master every move shown by Ser Rodrik instantly and able to perform them masterfully after one or two tries. He had almost reached half of his education on Westerosi style of fighting and in eight to ten moons more he will be able to master it completely.

His education at the Citadel was going excellently as well. He had a whole lot of new information and all that information was also being copied by his people without any problems. It was because of these new informations that he was currently waiting for his Lord Father here at his mansion.

When he first came to the Citadel he had found out that there were reports on surveys made by each Kingdoms be it on population or land. He had the survey on population of the North but there were no records of land surveys. Thinking that the lords of North had simply forgotten to update/send the records to the citadel he had written to his father about this matter and asked him to send the said records. It was then that he had gotten the shock of his life. He had always wondered why the north did not produce at least as much gold as the Westerlands. The North had at least thrice the amount of mountains than the Westerlands. He always thought that the lords had done a survey but had found nothing.

But his father’s letter had changed his perspective. It seemed that the idea of a land survey had never come to the previous Lords of the North.

After receiving his father’s letter he had immediately written back to him and asked him to hire someone from Essos to undertake this task. It had taken six moons to complete this task but the results were astounding.

From gold to copper to iron all kinds of minerals and some very precious gems, some of them found only in their mines everything that they could possibly need they had it there. They even had three new types of minerals. Two were something the surveyors were calling Aluminium and Platinum.

As soon as he got his father’s letters he had asked his father to send him samples of all the minerals new and old to him. It had arrived a moon later. So that was what he had been doing for the past five moons. Experimenting and finding out new techniques for metal working and finding out the properties of the new materials. Aluminium while being very light was strong and rust free where as Platinum was very malleable and strong. So no here he was waiting for his father to arrive so that he could tell his father about the metals and also tell him about the plan he had for the North.

Soon his father arrived and after greeting him and he asked him about his siblings Brandon and Lyanna and about his mother. It was then that he got to know that his mother was with child again. After celebrating it with his father for a while he left him alone so that his father could rest from his travels.

The next morning the father son duo met in Ned’s solar. Ser Rodrik was also there sitting with them.

“So tell me son, what did you want to talk to me about?” asked Rickard.

“Father have you read this report?”

“Aye son. I have and I am completely surprised that no other lord had thought about this.“

“Father hear me out. I have plan through which the whole of the North can profit from”

“Okay tell me about this plan of yours.”

“We have approximately Eight Hundred and Fifty Seven thousand people living in the North as per the last survey which was done twenty years ago. The population has not changed much in these years. The gold silver and copper mines are all concentrated in single mountain range which comes under the Cerwyns or I thought so. These mountains are not inhabited by anyone and comes under no one’s jurisdiction as they are full of wild animals. I plan to take these lands back and to start the construction of two keeps as soon as possible.The two keeps will be made at the only entrance to these mountain ranges. One to the North and the other to the south. Once the construction is complete we start mining Gold, silver and copper. Winterfell’s coffers currently have approximately Eight Hundred thousand gold dragons in them. We use these funds to build these keeps. We will employ around ninety thousand people at each of these castles to work day and night to complete the castles in two years.”

“But son the funds that we have right now are for when we will need to buy food during winter and to employ so many people would mean a decrease in crop production. We will be starving during winter with these plans of yours.”

“I am getting to the point of food father. There is a special kind of cow North of the wall. They are called as yaks. They are very resilient to cold and hunger and with the right pastures we can breed them for meat and milk. They also as strong as Oxes so they can be used for transport also. I plan to capture them and bring back as many of them as possible and give them to the Cerwyns as they have the best lands for pasture. As winter has just ended we can take time to breed them and use their milk and such. If we can capture a hundred female and a dozen male yaks we can have several thousand of them during the next winter for meat.”

“Will they truly survive the Northern winter? And why is it the first time we are hearing about these yaks?”

“Father they have survived winters North of the wall for thousands of years. They will fare much better living south of the wall. The Cerwyns would be for the North what the Redwyns are for the Reach but only they will be trading in meat and leather. They will be the butchers and tanners of the North. I hope that they will make enough money and become very rich. We are hearing of this for the first time father because the fucking Maesters wanted us to starve during winter and so that we would have to buy food from the Reach. This is the reason why I wanted to come South to further my studies. The Maesters on the orders of first the Andals and then under the Gardeners and Tyrells have starved North for thousands of years.”

“Surely they won’t be so cruel?” his father asked.

“Father they are as cruel as any of the Southern Lords. They need protection and funding so they do the dirty work of their masters in order to have it. The Order of the Maesters may be an order which does not participate in the affairs of the Realm but they do manipulate the affairs of the realm.”

His father just sat there taking it all in.

“Also father I plan to introduce a new type of crop to the North. We have thousands of acres of swamp and marches in the neck. I plan to introduce rice. It is a type of crop which would do well in the Neck and areas surrounding the Long Lake, Fever river and White river. I plan to clear at least a thousand acres of land in the Neck and start farming there and all along the southern end of the Long lake and both banks of the rivers. Rice once harvested needs only to be kept dry and free from rats and such. They do not rot for several years as compared to wheat.”

“Truly son. From where can we get this crop.”

“You will have to import it from Yi-Ti as it is grown there. But first in these two years we have to clear the swamps and dig small canals along the lake and rivers. After two years once the castles are complete and we can start mining the resources we import rice seeds and start its production. For that we would need to bring in one to two thousand Yi-Tish people so that they could settle here and train our people on how to produce it. We will also increase the production of potatoes and onions and peas.”

“Okay, we will do as you say but till now you have solved the food shortage and made House Stark very rich. But what about the rest of the Northern Houses?”

“Okay so we have the Mountain Clans first. They have a lot of iron, aluminium and titanium in those mountains in which they reside. Their main occupation from now on would be steel works. They will make weapons for the North.”

“But how come they will become rich from this weapon crafting.”

“Because father they will not be crafting any steel but rather Northern steel.”

“Northern Steel? And pray tell what in the name of the Old gods and the New is this ‘Northern Steel’?”

“Ser Rodrik if you may.”

Ser Rodrik took out two steel longswords. Both of them were almost identical, just a small difference in colour of the two blades. “Father what you are holding is a sword made of Northern steel which I made and the one held by Ser Rodrik is the regular steel sword made by these Southrons. Swing your swords at each other.” Ned said as he stepped back.

Rickard looked at Ned sceptically before swinging the sword at Ser Rodrik. Both swords met and after a couple of clashes the sword held by Ser Rodrik shattered from the middle.

“What was that? How did that sword break so easily? Even with Valyrian Steel swords it takes more than a couple of swings before castle forged steel breaks” exclaimed Rickard.

“Well father, you remember how we found three new ores in the North. Two of them are Aluminium and Titanium.”

“Yes but the third one is useless. It’s too brittle.”

“That is because it is not a ore father but rather a fuel. Like wood it can burn and after burning completely it leaves ash and not charcoal. It is called Coal father, and it produces more heat than wood. Using coal I melted iron and into it I added some amount of aluminium and titanium to make it lighter but maintain its strength and the end result is this. I named it Northern Steel. It may be slightly heavier than Valyrian Steel but is lighter than the normal castle forged steel.”

“It may also be stronger than Valyrian Steel son.”

“We, that is Ser Rodrik and me do think so father but we have no way to prove it because Valyrian steel swords are very rare and if broken very hard to reforge.”

“Okay, so using Northern Steel you plan to make the Mountain clans as rich as Qohor. But there is a problem son. They mountain clans don’t live together. They live peacefully but not together.”

“Not yet father. But I plan to make a city for the mountain clans. The city which will be built for them would be made high in the mountain ranges. They will be ruled by the city’s council and any disputes will be solved by Winterfell. There will be no lord but the City Council will be made up of leaders of all clans irrespective of their sizes and they will get equal votes on the council. The mountains will come under the jurisdiction of the Council. They will be the one to decide how and who will be mining the ores and who will be the ones to do the crafting and such.”

“So who will pay for this city?”

“We will father. After we start the mining we will be the ones paying for their city. They will have to either pay an increased amount of taxes or will have to provide some amount of weapons and armour for Winter Wolves, Sea Wolves and Weirwood Warriors for free.”

“Winter Wolves, Sea Wolves and Weirwood Warriors? Now what in the name of the Old gods and the New are they?”

“We will come to that later father.”

“Okay so the Mountain city would be the new Qohor.”

“No father Qohor only deals with steel and swords. I plan to make the city of Mountain clans a place where all types of metal items are made. Aluminium is present in huge amounts in the North. It is more common than copper. For a single coin of copper smallfolk can buy a plate or other utensils and as it is stronger than clay it won’t break for several years. Also I plan to give the mountain clans the gem mines found in there. They are not as plenty as in the southern gem caves we found but between the two of them I can guarantee that they will be very rich. The Northern Lords will buy weapons from them for their men-at-arms, the smallfolk will buy their utensils and Lords and Ladies from all over Westeros would like to buy their jewellery.”

“You don’t plan on selling Northern Steel to the South do you?”

“No Father. I do not. We should have all the elements of surprise that we can have.”

“Well you won’t hear me complain” his father grumbled under his breath.

Ned just chuckled.

“We will start construction of a new keep and port towns at the bifurcation of White knife and Broken Knife. Oldcastle and Wolfs Den would be renewed. A new castle and city will be made at Sea Wolf Point. Deepwood Motte, Bear Island, White Harbour and Karhold will get new shipwrights which will make ships for the whole of the North. Dreadfort will also be made into a city through which a lot of trade would pass.”

“The Boltons will not be happy with that alone.”

“I know father. They are currently the biggest producers of wheat, corn, barley and rye. What I want them to do is that they buy some sugar from the Neck and add them all together in casks and leave them alone for the next two to three years and slowly increase this amount till the casks are left alone for nearly ten eleven years. This will ferment the wheat corn barley and rye and after a few more steps and we would have something which would have a lot more alcohol than the wine that we drink right now. It was suggested to me by an acolyte to me who was doing research on this matter. He is a low level acolyte and may permanently move to the North if I ask him. He researched this process completely on his own but the maesters here do not pay much mind to him.”

“How do you know how much alcohol the drink contained? Did you have a drink?”

Ned reddened as heat rushed up his face.”No father it was Ser Rodrik who took a drink and he told me about it. He also told me that it heated him up so much so that he was sweating as if he was in Dorne. May be we could look into it and it may help the elder people during winter.” Ned mumbled. He may be a prodigy and very smart but he was still only eight years old.

“Good see to it that you don’t drink any alcoholic drink before you turn six and ten” Rickard snipped before continuing “Okay son. I will talk to Lord Bolton about this and after two years the acolyte can join us in the North.”

“Thank you father. If you could ask Lord Bolton to also increase his production of the crops to as high as possible then it would be better.”

“I will talk to him.”

“Then next come the Umbers. They currently only have some sheep which they use for wool. With the amount of pasture land that they have they should easily have at least twenty times the sheep they have and increase their amount of wool produced accordingly. But yet they don’t.”

“Yeah those damned wildlings steal and kill their sheep.”

“I know father. That is why we will be making four new keeps here in the foot of the mountains. The only pass through these mountains are through these passes where the keep will be. The wildlings will be either forced to take the keeps which will be impossible or keep their raiding North of these mountains and out of Umber lands and the whole North.”

“But son these ranges fall under the jurisdiction of the Night’s Watch. It falls under the New Gift.”

“I know father. You have to convince the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to relinquish the New Gift back to the Starks. It is the Lord Commander you will have to convince as only he can give it back to us. It said so in the contract under which the Night’s Watch got the New Gift. The lands south of the mountains are fertile so we could expand agriculture further. We will grow potatoes, onions and peas here.”

“Okay son, I will try my best to ensure that the New Gift is returned to us.”

“There will be one thousand Weirwood Warriors stationed at each one of these keep during peace time and six hundred of them during the time of war.”

“This is the second time you have mentioned them. What are these Weirwood Warriors?“

“I will come to it father.”

“The Karstarks and Hornwoods will make money by selling trees. Karstarks to Braavos and the Hornwoods to the Northern shipwrights. The Hornwoods will also start growing grapes and then start producing wine. The Hornwood wine will be better than those produced by the Dornish and the Arbor because the lands and climate the Hornwoods have is more suited for growing grapes. This will produce better yield and better quality wine than the Arbor. They will also build a new port city at the start of the middle branch of the Broken Branch. From here they will export the wine.”

By now Rickard knew that Ned was speaking the truth and just went with the flow.

“The Karstarks along with the Skaagosi will also become the fishers of the North on the eastern coast and the Mormonts and Cassels of Sea Wolf Point will be the same on the western coast.”

“The Skasgosi are the ones that are most angry with Winterfell and often accuse us of forgetting them. But not after this. The Skaagosi have the most amount of gem mines in all of the North and some mines of ores and copper but no Gold or Silver. They will mine these gemes and ores and sell them to the rest of the Westeros and Essos. They will have a powerful naval presence and they will fish for food. They also have these stones. He placed two big shiny stones on the table. One was black and the other grey. These stones are the ones that we will use to make the new keeps and castles. It is so because these stones while they look like granites are a hundred times more stronger than them.”

“This is also the stone and that will be used to reconstruction of Moat Cailin.”

“You want to reconstruct Moat Cailin?” Asked his father in awe.”Our family has for generations wanted to reconstruct Moat Cailin. But due to lack of funds we were unable to do so in the past.”

“Yes, but now that problem has been solved. Moat Cailin will be reconstructed and its reconstruction will begin in three years time. By that time we would have enough funds for the building and reconstruction work to start. We will also be reconstructing Winterfell.”

“But why do we need to reconstruct Winterfell?”

“For many reasons. The Skagstone walls will be stronger than the current walls. Many Towers currently need repair. It will be easier to just tear them down and remake them. The grounds of Winterfell are currently uneven. We will even them so that we can use all the land available to us and we will further expand Winterfell for what I have in mind. Currently Winterfell covers a total ground of twenty four acres. I plan to enlarge it to sixty acres in total including the two acres taken by the Godswood.”

“So much area? What for?”

“There will be many more instituitions introduced to the North. Some of them will have their headquarters in Winterfell. We will also increase the size of the outer walls to one hundred and fifty feet. The inner walls will be two hundred feet tall. All towers will be of five hundred feet and will be joined together by a series of bridges three hundred feet above the ground. The five towers will all have a diameter of six hundred feet. The towers would represent X if seen from the air.”

“It would look magnificient! But if the towers will be so tall then I better learn to climb so many stairs” his father japed.

“Do not worry father there will be six to eight elevators as that at Castle Black, for each tower. So you do not need to worry about that.”

Rickard just gave a smile at that thought.

“As for Moat Cailin we will increase the number of walls from three to four. The fourth wall would protect the town and port that I plan to make at Moat Cailin. A canal would be dug connecting the Bite to Moat Cailin. The canal will be wide enough to let three war galleys or four merchant ships to pass through side by side. The rest of the walls of Moat Cailin would be made taller. The newest wall (the fourth wall) will be one hundred and fifty feet tall and the rest of them will be fifty feet taller than the previous wall making the innermost wall three hundred feet tall. Instead of twenty towers there will be only twelve towers. Four towers on the northern side and southern side will each be four hundred feet tall and the four towers in the middle will be four hundred and fifty feet tall. All the towers will be connected to each other in the same way as that of Winterfell, bridges three hundred feet above the ground.”

“Okay all this looks good. But how will we the the manpower to work at so many places at the same time?”

“We buy slaves. Obviously we will free them as soon as they board a Northern ship. But we will have to buy slaves from Essos to bolster our smallfolk.”

“I can live with that.”

“Now as for the Ryswells and Dustins we help them by buying horses from Yi-Ti. We will buy hundreds studs and mares. We will give the studs to the Ryswells to breed them with their mares and the opposite for the Dustins. The resultant horses from these cross breeds would require less food as per the trait of the current Northern horses but would be far more stronger. They can sell these horses for coin.”

“I have to say it is a very good plan Ned.”

“Thank you Father. Now to the last thing. We have the resources but it will be all for naught if we can’t protect these resources of ours. For that purpose I intend to create three military institutions. The Winter Wolves and the Weirwood Warriors both of which will be land based military and the Sea Wolves to protect our shores from ironborn scum on the Western shore and the Essosi pirates on our Eastern shore.”

“The Winter Wolves would number around three hundred and fifty thousand soldiers including eighty thousand cavalry and the rest infantry divided into swordsman, archers, spearmen, axemen and pikemen. The Wierwood Warriors will be the elite fighting force numbered around twenty thousand. They will be trained in all weapons and they will be predominantly a cavalry force. Their task would be to protect Winterfell and the keep north of Last Hearth.”

“The Sea Wolves would man our shores on various Galleys, War Galleys, Dromonds and also protect various merchant vessels from pirates and raiders. Their numbers would be anywhere between hundred thousand to hundred and fifty thousand.”

“That’s a lot of soldiers” commented Lord Stark.

“The North’s population would increase by at least ten times in the next twenty years. So this amount of soldiers will be necessary to ensure their protection. During war times these soldiers would ensure that the production of the North doesn’t decrease. All three instituitions would be solely sworn to Winterfell. Other lords may train their own Man-at-Arms and Household guards to ensure the protection of their keeps and castles. But these men will be trained to patrol and protect the cities, towns and villages.”

“For this father you will need to buy some Unsullied, immediately. Thousand which have completed their training and are cut and another ten thousand which are yet to complete their training and are uncut. They will be required immediately after the two Keeps are finished protecting our mines. The trained Unsullied will then train our Winter Wolves and Weirwood Warriors. They will of course be freed after they are bought” these words left a terrible taste in Ned’s mouth.

“And how will do that son. That many Unsullied won’t come cheap and the coffers of Winterfell will already be strained.”

“You will need to take a loan from the Iron bank.”

“Okay son. As soon as the construction work starts I will go to Essos and buy the Unsullied from Astapor.”

“Thank you father for showing such confidence in me.” Ned smiled and said, touched at how much confidence his father was showing in him.

Four days later Lord Rickard Stark left for the North with a plan that would change the North for ever.

Chapter Text

Nine years later:

271 AC :

Winterfell:

It had been nine years since that fateful meeting with his father and Ned had achieved everything that he had claimed to his father. The North was a power house which the south could never even compete with. The mines were producing enough gold to match the gold in the Royal Treasury every year. The Northern Golden Fang and the Southern Golden Fang or more commonly called as the Golden Fangs were protected by the Unsullied now a part of the Winter Wolves. The raids by the wildlings, ironborn and pirates had completely stopped. The Mountain city called as the Avalon was producing enough Northern Steel and other products to meet the requirement of the North. The reconstruction of Moat Cailin and Winterfell had completed two moons prior six moons before schedule. All the newly constructed keeps, castles and cities were doing well.

Winterfell now was a sight to behold. The five towers were looked so magnificent from a distance that even Harrenhal paled in comparison to it. The bridges were made up of clear glass and was strong and thick enough that a hundred people could stand on it. Winterfell was made up of grey stones found in Skagos or commonly called as Skagstones. The Great Hall of Winterfell was also expanded and now more than a thousand people could be seated there. The Maester’s tower had also been enhanced. Winterfell’s library could now boast of more books than that present in the Citadel. Winterfell could now also boast of several glass gardens which covered a total area of seven acres.

Moat Cailin was made up of black Skagstones but its bridges were made of stone instead of glass. It was now even more intimidating than before.

And the best part was that the South had no clue about all of the changes made in the North curtsy of the new Northern Master of Whispers. Or better said as Mistress of Whispers. Lyda was a Lysene pleasure slave who used to work in the best brothel of Lys. The only thing more beautiful than her was her cunning mind. She used to spy for her master by sleeping with rich and influential people and absorb all the information given to her, in order to impress her. Later she used to retell all this information to her master. She was freed by Lord Rickard when he was travelling back to the North after his stop at Astapor to buy the Unsullied. She had approached Lord Rickard and asked for his assistance. She wanted to be free from her master and Lord Rickard had complied. She was ‘bought’ from her master for four hundred gold dragons, a very steep price but was worth every single dragon because she had a special talent. If any raven heard her whistle the bird would come to her. He had then used her special talent to create whistles which made the same noise as that of her whistle. Using this talent of hers she had either turned or killed the few spies of Southern lords which were in the North.

Even Maester Walys hadn’t survived her purging. He had been thrown from the top of the Broken tower after it was found that he was a spy for House Tyrell. He was after all a Flower. Though the new maester, Maester Luwin, was also from the South, Riverlands to be exact, his loyalties were first to Winterfell, then to the Maesters. He is a kind man and nothing like what Walys had been like.

The Braavossi had been so happy after hearing the news that the Starks were buying slaves and freeing them that the Sealord of Braavos had himself come to Winterfell and had struck a deal with the Starks. Now all the wood imported by Braavos came from the North only. The Braavossi had offered the North to build the Northern Shipwrights to the Bravossi standards which the Starks had happily accepted. The North would also get specialised interest rates if they took out another loan from the Iron Bank in the future. The current loan had been repayed by the Sealord. He had also left his first sword Syrio Forel to train the Stark children. So moved was Lord Rickard by this gesture of friendship by Braavos that he had given them permission to buy Northern Steel from Avalon at a special rate. They would pay a fourth of the amount of gold for Northern Steel than any other non-Northern buyer. Braavos had ordered for full plate armours and swords for twenty six hundred men. Braavos would be the only nation/city outside of the North which would have Northern Steel. The Braavossi also were the only people to get Northern horses. Their only demand was that Braavos does not sell the Northern Steel and Horses and use it for their own use only.

The Northern lords copying the Starks had started to buy slaves and free them to bolster their number of smallfolk. The yaks, rice and sugarcane plantations and the cross breed horses were all doing well. The winter that came four years prior was now at an end. There was no shortage of food or warm clothes anywhere in the north. They still had to buy some amount of food but that was due to the short amount of time they had to introduce the crops and yaks. But they had done remarkably well and during the next winter they won’t even need to buy any food at all.

The population of the North had already grown to almost five million people and was increasing everyday. A huge library and school had been built at every major town and city of the North so that the smallfolk especially the children could be taught how to read and write. Specific classes were organized for various professions like if you were a farmer you would be taught agriculture and livestock management or if you were a soldier you would be taught warcraft and historical battles (history). Scholars were the ones who taught these subjects.

Scholars were people who had prior knowledge and understanding of these subjects. They had been trained by the maesters in the northern castles and now the Scholars used to train their own apprentices. It had been difficult to find and lure people to these schools at first but when they graduated and started their trade the difference between a skilled person and an unskilled person became obvious. Today, all children between the ages of five to one and ten used to go to the general school and then went to specific schools to further their knowledge in their chosen trade.

Ned had also started a register to ensure that they knew how many people were living in the north, what their trades were and also the population density of the Northern regions. Every new born child had to be registered at these centers be it trueborn or baseborn. Reports were sent to every Lord about the number of births, deaths and migration of people by chosen representatives in every village, town and city. The Lords then sent this data to Winterfell every three moons. . It helped keep better knowledge of the people and helped in food distribution during Winter.

The different business started by the lords were doing well and Winterfell’s coffers were bursting. The coffers of Winterfell now contained more than three million gold dragons and would easily be doubled in the next two to three years.

After all the construction and reconstruction was completed they had started a new project. As soon as winter had ended the reconstruction of roads began. These roads would be made of bricks and clay to maintain even surface. The first road to be reconstructed would be the King’s road all the way from Moat Cailin to Castle Black via Winterfell. After that the next would be the roads connecting Winterfell to all the other major castles and cities of the North. The major castles will then connect to their major towns and so on till every village and hamlet would be connected. This huge task would take approximately ten years to complete but the Kings road and the roads connecting Winterfell would be completed in the next three years. These new roads would ensure that no part of the North is unreachable during winters.

But all had not been well in the North. There had been a lot of reports that Lords Bolton and Ryswell were sending their men north of the wall to capture wildlings and enslave them for more profit. When his father had confronted Lord Bolton and Ryswell about this they rose up in rebellion, greedy with the riches North had to offer to them. Lord Dustin whose daughter was betrothed to Lord Roose Bolton had also risen up with them in rebellion, two years prior to the start of winter. It was the first time The Winter Wolves and Weirwood Warriors had faced real combat. They had trounced and beaten the rebels at every battle and skirmish. Houses Bolton and Dustin had been put to sword and the wildlings that had been enslaved had been freed. The thousand or so wildings had chosen to settle on the lands south of the wall, where food and work was plenty. Lord Ryswell had also been executed and instead of him Mark Ryswell became the new lord. It had been Mark who had initially told them about the transgression and atrocities committed by his father. For this loyalty he had been made the lord of the Rills.

Seeing the plight of the Wildlings or the Freefolk as they liked to be called, Ned had first convinced the Northern lords that should they bend the knee and abide by the laws of the Realm the wildlings should be allowed to settle in these lands. After a lot of grumbling and muttering it had been decided to send an envoy to North of the wall and ask the Freefolk to come south of the Wall. They would be settled in the lands of the Boltons and Ryswells and one of the wildling chieftains would be given the Lordship of Dreadfort.

Ned himself had led the excursion north of the wall much to the ire of his parents. A hundred men from Winterfell had joined him. The meetings were tough at first. Centuries of mistrust and raiding had been tough to overcome. But they had been able to overcome it, eventually. After a lot of talks some of the clans had been persuaded to come south of the wall with them. The freefolk had to relinquish their practice of stealing. The Thenns had refused outright, so cannibalism was not a problem. The freefolk women could still fight the men they were to marry but it was more organised and there had to be at least ten people there to witness the fight. If the man lost, it was the choice of the woman if she wanted to go through with the marriage or not. More than forty thousand freefolk had come to live in the Stark lands, at the time.

The meeting with the giant clans was relatively easy and as they were peaceful people they easily integrated with him. Eleven of the thirteen clans of giants had agreed to come south with them. Almost four hundred giants and more than a thousand mammoths called the Northern most kingdom their home.

The freefolk and the giants had, as decided, been given the Dreadfort renamed Snowfort or the Fort of Freefolls and had the same arrangement as the mountain clans. There was a council of representatives of each clan of the freefolk and giants. The freefolk had taken up the work of brewing whiskey. They were surprisingly very good at it. The giants on the other hand had taken up construction work though they were still a part of Snowfort banners. The induction of giants and freefolk in the northern masses had far reaching consequences. The Old tongue had once again been taken up by the people of the north. The freefolk had sent people fluent in the Old Tongue to all the castles of the North so that the Lords and Ladies of the North could converse with some of the freefolk people and the giants who still spoke only the Old Tongue. A lot of cultures and rituals which were practiced earlier but had been lost over time had been restarted. The greenmen of the Neck had exchanged knowledge with the freefolk people on how to tend to the Weirwoods better. New weirwood trees had been planted all over the North so that the smallfolk could better pray to the Old Gods. All executions were now done in front of the Weirwood trees.

Weirwood saplings had also been planted sole for the use of its wood. There were plantations in the North where the trees were grown so that they could harvest its branches to make bows and wepon handles with the permission from the Greenmen and the freefolk scholars. It had been observed that the Weirwood’s wood was ideal for making bows and guards of swords as they were very agile but strong. A weirwood longbow could send an arrow double the distance than a longbow made of any other wood. The freefolk had also told him that the older the tree was, the better the bow would be. He had taken two branches from the Weirwood tree beyond the wall, where the Night’s Watch swore their vows, with the permission from the freefolk. That tree was the oldest Weirwood tree in Westeros, older than the one in Winterfell.

The introduction of wargs in the north had been met with scepticism and mistrust until the crannogmen had come forth and declared that they had wargs in their ranks too. The freefolk wargs and the crannogmen would then train together and now they were the best spies the Starks had in their service. It had been decided that wargs would never be used for any malicious activity in the north and the ones caught doing so would be executed under the laws.

It had been tough going for some time. There had been a lot of disputes between the freefolk chieftains and the lords of the North and between various clans of the freefolk itself but his father with his iron fist and swift justice had been able to smooth everything over and now the freefolk were an integral part of the Northern kingdom.

The giants and mammoths had helped them in their construction work. A giant could do a work of a hundred men alone. The mammoths could carry load of more than fifty yaks. The giants and mammoths were the one who had made the construction of the Fever canal joining Moat Cailin and White Harbour possible. They had completed the work in one year and now as the winter had ended they would start the construction of a new canal connecting the Sea Wolf Point to the White Knife near Winterfell. This would mean easier access to the Eastern and Western fleets. This canal would take almost four to five years to complete but once completed it would bring in huge profits for the North and Winterfell itself.

With the onset of winter even more freefolk and one more clan of the giants had come down south of the wall to ask for shelter and food. They had bent the knee and had joined their comrades at Snowfort. The North today housed around seventy five thousand freefolk, five hundred and fifty giants and more than one thousand two hundred mammoths. Mag Dar Wun was the first giant to be born south of the wall in recorded history.

The biggest surprise came for the Stark family when seventeen direwolves came south with Ned. Each member of the Stark family now had a direwolf companion. His father had named his direwolf Fury, he, Lyanna and Benjen had named their pups Winter, Ellinor and Theon respectively. Brandon was in the Vale and had not been able to name his direwolf. Each of the wolves were an ever present shadow of their companions and had their personalities very similar to their companion.

The talks with the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch had gone well. He had relinquished the New Gift back to the Starks in exchange for more men, supplies and Northern Steel.

All was going well for House Stark. Ned was now seven and ten a man grown, Brandon was three and ten and was doing well in the Eyrie. He was fast friends with Robert Baratheon the Lord of Stormlands and had a good relationship with Lord Jon Arryn. His letters were always filled with stories of all the fun he was having there. Lyanna was one and ten years old and was a spitfire. The wolf’s blood was strong in both Brandon and Lyanna. She preferred to learn the sword rather than learn to sew. Father had tried to stop her but her rebel nature and a word from mother had his father accepting her rebelliousness. The last of the wolf pups as his mother fondly liked to call them was Benjen. The youngest was still eight name days old. He was a quiet child. Always did as the elders told him to do. He could be found either by a hearth reading a book or out in the yard practicing his archery or swordplay.

“Lord Stark has asked you to join him in his solar, my Lord” a servant broke him from his thoughts. Nodding his head he the courtyard and made his way to the Lord’s tower. Winter was out hunting with the rest of his siblings, accompanying Lyanna who had gone for a ride. On entering the lift he asked the servant called a liftman to take him to the Lord’s Solar.

He knocked on the door and entered after being acknowledged. Inside he found his father, mother, Maester Luwin and Lyda all waiting for him.

“You wanted to speak to me, my son. Yes father but if you are busy we can always talk later.”

“No, it is alright son. Speak what you had in mind. We, that is your mother and I, also had something to discuss with you” Lord Stark replied.

“Alright father. I have been thinking why have we not got any reactions from the South about our new found wealth. We have been paying increased taxes for many years now.There have been no letters from the King or his Hand asking us about the increased taxes that we are sending.”

“What do you think is the reason?” asked Maester Luwin.

“I think either the King, the Hand and the Master of Coin are all very incompetent which knowing about Lord Tywin is not true or there is foul play which is more likely.”

“You think someone is stealing the taxes that we are sending to the crown?” his mother asked.

“Yes mother.”

“Lyda do you know anything about this?” his father asked her.

“Yes my lord. I know that Steffon Lannister,the squire of Lord Tywin and Lyon Lannister are collaborating and pocketing the difference in taxes ever since we started to pay the increased taxes. Lyon is the Head collector of taxes of Lannisport.” Lyda said.

“By the old gods! They have stolen millions of dragons from the crown.” His mother exclaimed.

“Why haven’t you said anything about it earlier?” asked Ned.

“I thought about it only a few moons prior and started to dig up on it. I found out about the two people three days earlier and came to report it to you today. That is the reason why I had come here today, my Lord. ”

“It is a golden opportunity to besmirch the Lannister name father. We should send a raven to the King regarding this and ruin the Lannister name. The whole realm will laugh at the Lannisters. The richest house of the realm is no better than common thieves.” Ned said.

“Do you really want to antagonize Lord Tywin, my Lord?” asked Maester Luwin.

“Maester Luwin, Lord Tywin relies on his wealth and his armies to intimidate the rest of the realm. We are at least if not more rich than the Westerlands and our armies are well prepared. The Winter Wolves number at approximately two hundred thousand and the Weirwood Warriors number at fifteen thousand. These numbers of Weirwood Warriors are those who have completed their entire training. The rest of the Weirwood Warriors will complete their training in the next six to eight moons. Our navy, thanks to the Braavossi are at full capacity. We have more than three hundred Galleys, four hundred Dromonds and equal number of War Galleys. Our vessels are far superior than the best of the South has to offer. We have more number of ships than the rest of Westeros combined. Lord Tywin does not scare me, Maester Luwin.”

“We will do as you say, son.” On seeing that his wife was about to protest Lord Stark continued. “Our son is correct, my lady. We do not need to fear the Lannisters. Especially not now that the relations between Casterly Rock and the Red Keep are beginning to strain.”

On receiving a reluctant nod from his wife Lord Stark ordered” Maester Luwin please compose a raven to the King on this matter after this meeting and after getting my approval send it.”On receiving a nod of acknowledgement from Maester Luwin he continued“ Now to the matter for which this meeting was convened. Son, you are sin and ten nearly a man grown. I think it is time for you to find a bride. Before you say anything, I had ordered Lyda to search the whole realm for a suitable bride for you and we think that we may have found her.”

Ned found that he could not speak. Suddenly his throat had gone dry. “Marriage?” he finally managed to squeak out.

“Yes son, marriage. You know when a man and a woman kneel in front of a Heart tree and say their vows” his mother said with laughter in her voice.

“I know what a marriage is mother but surely I am too young.”

“Well the girl who we have in mind is two years your junior so you will not be marrying her before she comes of age. You still have two years for that but you both would be betrothed. We had to search a lot to find you the perfect girl to marry. She had to be beautiful, intelligent, strong willed for the Northern Lords to accept her if she is from the South and also her house should have some political power. We finally found her after a year of searching” his father explained.

“Who is she father? To whom am I being betrothed to?”

“Lady Ashara of House Dayne. She would become the next Lady of Winterfell.” His father told him.

“She is a very beautiful lady, my lord. She is intelligent. She was the one to propose a plan through which House Dayne was able to keep ninety percent of their previous income after the Northern wine was introduced. House Dayne is doing the best of all houses of Dorne including the Martells” Lyda explained.

“And how did she manage that?”Ned asked.

“She simply stopped the trade of wine. Once she found that the Dornish Red is no match against the Northern wine she stopped producing it. She then tried to find a new source of income. For a couple of years they were barely surviving but then the made a breakthrough. The mountains of Dorne are very rich in iron and the Daynes have a majority of mountains on their lands.They have become to the Dornish what the Mountain Clans are for us. She is strong willed and the Daynes have been known to produce excellent swordsman and serve the Kingsguard from time to time. Lady Ashara is fostering in Sunspear under the tutelage of Princess Deria Martell, so she would know how a household of a Great House is run.” Lyda explained.

Ned was thinking about what Lyda had said. “Father I think this proposal has merit. If the proposal goes through and the contract is signed we could give them coal for their forges. Their steel would become better than any other steels produced in the South. They could become very rich from it. We are producing more coal than we need, as it is.”

“And why would we do that son?”

“We will trade coal and sand. They get our coal and we get sand. We can even send some men to train their blacksmiths better” Ned said.

“Sand? Why do we need sand?” his mother asked. But his father was silent thinking about things.

“And which of the houses do you plan to give the secret to son?” his father asked.

“None father. Winterfell right now has no major trade. Whatever trade we get is because we are the richest of the houses of North but we do not produce anything. We will take up the production to create more job opportunities for our smallfolk. The Northern lords would not complain as we are the last ones to take up a specific trade. We buy coal from the Mountain clans and give it ti the Dornish for their sand which they have in plenty.”

“And what would be this city producing?” his mother asked.

“Glass, mother.” Ned said.

“But the secret to producing glass is known only to Myr and they would never part with it.” Maester Luwin said.

“No maester you are wrong. The glass used for making the new glass gardens in Winterfell were produced only a few miles from here in the kilns that are producing bricks for the roads of the North. Glass is nothing but overheated sand. That is why we will buy sand from Dorne. The sand used in making the bridges and glass gardens were brought from Braavos but without a constant supply of sand it was not worth it. But now we can look into this plan.” Ned explained.

“It is a good plan son but won’t it be better if we plan a new city and give it to Benjen for him to rule?” his father asked.

“No father, I have other plans for Benjen. Benjen will be given the old seat of Dustins. After their rebellion and extermination of House Dustin their lands and castles remain unclaimed. We will give Barrowtown to either Benjen or Brandon. ”

“Alright then. I will give the order for the reconstruction of Barrow Hall for Benjen or Brandon.”

“Thank you father.”

“We also wanted to discuss something about the future son. We, that is your mother and I have decided that just before you marry you will go to Kings Landing and swear your oaths as the new warden of the North. We will retire an leave the day to day running of the North to you.”

“But why?” asked a stunned Ned.

“Because you will be a better Lord of Winterfell.”

“But...”

“No Ned, we have decided it and our decision is final. We may even retire to the new city that we are planning to make.”

“If you say so father.” Ned accepted his father’s and mother’s wishes.

Ashara:

Sunspear:

Four moons later:

From the North to Dorne everyone was talking about the same thing: The humiliation of House Lannister. Steffon and Lyon Lannister were stealing from the crown like petty criminals. For this treason both of them had been beheaded in public. The Lords from the North to Dorne were all laughing at the Lannisters. Tywin Lannister could do nothing but stew in silence as people laughed at the Lannister name.

At the same time as the Lannisters were being humiliated her Lord Father and her foster mother Princess Deria Nymeros Martell had received a raven from Lord Rickard Stark about a betrothal between her and his eldest son Lord Eddard.

The North was shrouded in mystery. How was the North paying such a huge tax no one knew. There was no information coming out of the North. None in the South knew about the recent good fortune of the Starks. So for this reason Princess Deria had first wanted to go to the North with her father to find out about the northernmost kingdom of the realm. But it had been shot down by the Starks. They had stated that with the ill health of both her father and that of her foster mother travelling such distances was not wise. How they even knew about the ill health of Princess Deria was anybody’s guess. No one except for her, Doran, Oberyn, Ellia and the maester knew about this. This titbit of information had raised more questions than answering them.

So now here she was waiting for her foster mother and Lord father to arrive in her room after the Lord meeting with Lord Stark.

Lord Stark had arrived in Sunspear earlier this morning with a fleet of seven war galleys, each bigger than any other ship one had ever seen, and his personal ship, Winter’s Fury, or so she had been told. The North having a fleet in itself was surprising but to travel with such a large amount of ships meant that the Northern fleet was very strong.

Winter’s Fury, the personal ship for the Lord of Winterfell was a beauty. The huge ship was made of black wood and could boast of four hundred oars. She had been told by the servants who had boarded the ship that the interior was made completely of light cream coloured wood.

It was then that her father and foster mother arrived.

“Father, Princess Deria” she said and curtseyed.

“How many times have I told you to call me mother, Ashara” Princess Deria admonished lightly.

“How was the meeting with Lord Stark, mother.”

“It went well. We have reached an agreement on all the important matters. You will be married to Lord Eddard two years from now once you reach six and ten. They have agreed to the dowry we are giving them and we have agreed on the bride price. Future trade would be discussed once you both are married” Princess Deria said.

“And what did you find about the North?”

“Next to nothing” her father grumbled.”The only thing that we could find out was that just before you will marry Lord Rickard would abdicate his position and Lord Eddard would become the new Lord of Winterfell. You will become the Lady of Winterfell when you marry. You both can communicate with each other through ravens but you will not meet him until we reach Winterfell” Ashara nodded her head in acceptance.

“That means whatever is going on in the North, Eddard was in the centre of it. That is the only reason why Lord Rickard would abdicate his position and retire” Ashara said.

“Yes, but Eddard would only be nine or ten namedays old if we go with the time when the North started sending the extra taxes. He would be too young to make any changes” Deria said.

“That does not make any sense” her father exclaimed in annoyance.

“Nothing with the North makes any sense, father. We will have to wait till we reach the North to see the changes and decide what were the reasons behind these changes” she said.

“True, but none of our spies or any spy of the south told us about it!” Princess Deria said.

“That is because the North has a very good and very clever spymaster whose spy ring is better than any other spy rings in Westeros” Ashara said.

“What makes you say that, daughter?” her father asked

“That is because the Starks knew about my ailing health. Your ailing health is known to all Lord Lenard but nobody except my children and the maester knew about my ailing health. This means that the Northerners know about our every move and by the same explanation we can assume every move of all the Southern houses” Princess Deria replied instead. Ashara’s heart fluttered a bit when Princess Deria included her in her children. After her mother’s death in childbed when she was small there had always been a empty space in her heart. Princess Deria had filled that place when she started her fostering here in Sunspear. She had always treated Ashara as one of her own children.

“Well that could be true and as nobody would have suspected the Starks, they could easily have placed any number of spies everywhere. We need to find them and dispatch them quickly” her father said.

“It would be futile father. We don’t know their numbers, where they are and what mode of communication they are using. And with our spies in the North dead or turned we will never be able to find them.”

“What Ashara speaks is true. We cannot destroy their spy network. It would be futile” Princess Deria said.

“When would the contract be signed mother?”

“Tomorrow, Ashara. And the day after Lord Stark would leave for his journey back North.”

“Very well then, I would better send a letter with him for Lord Eddard.”

“Yes, you do that. We will leave you alone for you to write your letter” Princess Deria said.

Two years later:

272 AC:

“Welcome back, mother. How was your trip to King’s Landing?” Ashara asked as she came into her mother’s solar.

“It was good, Ashara. Lord Eddard swore his vows as the new Warden of the North. The whole realm was there to see the new Stark lord” her mother replied. Generally, these events were not as large as this but due to the interest the Lords and Ladies of the south had in the Starks, it became a very big event.

“Did you see my betrothed, mother?”

“Yes, yes I saw him. He is nicely built and I am sure he has a big cock and would rock your world in bed. Now concentrate woman and quit blushing like a maid”

“But I am a maid mother”

“Not due to lack of trying” her mother grumbled good naturedly. “Now listen carefully to what I have to say.”

“Yes, mother.”

“I found out that Eddard had gone to the Citadel, when he was just seven years old and forged a lot of links before returning to the North after just two and a half years. As at that time the War of Ninepenny kings was ending nobody heard anything about it.”

“So our initial conclusion that Lord Eddard was behind the changes was indeed correct. But how is it possible? How come a child of just ten name days was able to change a millennia old nation?”

“We will soon find out. We will depart for the North in three days. Most of the Dornish Lords will accompany us. If the winds are kind we will reach Winterfell in a moon and half.”

“Well then I better start packing.”

Chapter Text

Ashara :

 

Near White Harbour:

 

272 AC:

 

They were right now nearing White Harbour and would travel further up the White Knife up till Long Town, whatever that was. She was currently standing on the deck of Winter’s Lady, her soon to be personal ship. The amount of ships that the Starks had at their disposal was as astounding as it was worrying. Two days before their departure, forty Northern ships docked at the port of Sunspear. At first, the various Lords of Dorne were worried they may be under attack but when the ships docked peacefully their worry rescinded. When Ser Wyllis Manderly, who was leading the ships, found out he just laughed and said ‘If you thought this was an attack then you would piss your pants off if you face the actual might of the Wolves’ and laughed again. If this was not the whole fleet of the North or at least the majority of them then what were the actual number of warships the North owned. Her mother had been both terrified of the North and was thankful that they were entering an alliance of marriage with them. She was terrified because the Reach that had the most naval presence in entire Westeros had approximately eighty warships. Even the Royal fleet had only sixty ships.

The Winter’s Lady was a beautiful ship. It had a total of three hundred and fifty oars just fifty less than the flagship of the North. Made of the same wood as Winter’s Fury, and apparently the rest of the Northern fleet, the interior of the ship was made up of light cream colour. The bedsheets and curtains were all made of silk and violet coloured. She was told that the interior was done particularly for her tastes and anything that she didn’t like would be replaced. The ship had various portraits of various famous Lords and Ladies of both house Stark and Dayne. There were also paintings depicting famous and infamous moments in the history of both the houses. The assortment of delicacies and wine had left her mouth watering. Her personal cook on this ship had asked her in detail how she liked her meals and it was made exactly like she preferred. All the Daynes and the Martells were staying on this ship. The ship even had it’s own small library. Everybody was enjoying their time on the ship.

The wealth of the North was enormous that was for sure. But the weather was terrible for someone who was born and raised in Dorne. It was too bloody cold for her. How she would manage to live her life in this cold she didn’t know. Ser Wylis had said that it was the season of summer snow, that is why it was cold right now. Summer Snow? It shouldn’t snow during summer should it? If it was this cold during summer she hated to think how cold it actually would be during winters. She was clad in woollen clothes from top to bottom.

“My Lady, we will reach White Harbour within the hour. My Lord Father requests that we stay the night at White Harbour and then continue our journey further up north.” Ser Wyllis said breaking her chain of thoughts.

“Of course Ser Wylis. We would be delighted to have the hospitality of White Harbour” she replied curtly.

“We will be docking at the port in soon, my lady. I will tell the others in the wedding party about this.” Ser Wylis said.

“Of course Ser”

She went to her room to change her dress into something befitting the next Lady of Winterfell. Soon after she was ready, her mother and Oberyn entered her room.

“Its too bloody cold here” Oberyn complained/ whined. “Its good that I won’t be living the rest of my life here or I would surely die of cold within a moon”

“You never know Oberyn, if I find a suitable bride and her father is agreeable you could settle in the North with your own holdfast” Deria said seriously.

Oberyn gasped. “You wouldn’t, mother” he said horrified of the thought.

“And why wouldn’t I do that?”

“Because... because it’s so cold up here”

“And you have woollen clothes do you not?”

“But.. but...”

She couldn’t take it any longer and laughed at Oberyn’s misery, her mother soon joining her.

“You both are too cruel you know that!” he said and huffed.

Ashara just laughed more. She picked up a brush to sort her hair. “Here let me” Deria said as she took the brush from her hands and started brushing her hair. “I want you on your best behaviour, Ashara. The Northerners are proud men. They will judge you on your strength. It would take a long time for you to make them accept you as the new Lady Stark and even more time to respect you. You have to strong, you understand.”

“Yes mother, I know and I am prepared for it.”

“You could just elope with me you know, there is still time” Oberyn japed.

She just scoffed at him.

“And you Oberyn, you will behave properly. I do not want a war with the North because you couldn’t keep your cock out of some Northern Lord’s daughter or wife. And keep your tongue under control too. Remember this North not Dorne” her mother threatened.

“Yes mother” Oberyn replied seriously.

“My lady” a servant said knocking on the door.

“Come in” she called out.

“My lady, we have reached White Harbour and will soon enter the port” he said.

“I will come to the deck soon. Please alert the others” she said.

“Of course, my lady, your graces”

From the deck of The Winter’s Lady she could see the port of White Harbour. There were a lot of ships there but all of them were trading vessels by the look of it. She then noticed that the lead ship and all the escort ships broke their formation and turned left towards Wolf’s Den. There she saw another port there. At least forty or more ships were docked there. They were all warships of different kinds. She also saw what appeared to be a reconstructed Wolf’s Den flying the banner of a blue and grey direwolf on a field of white.

“Ser Wylis, what house is that. I cannot recognize the banner” She asked Ser Wylis.

“That is the banner of the Sea Wolves. They are the Northern Navy. All of them are sworn to Winterfell and House Stark. House Manderly’s war ships also dock there, in a separate section. That is a military dock. No civilians are allowed to enter it.”

“You mean to say that the ships which came to take us are not Manderly ships?”

“Of course not, my lady. All ships that came to escort you were Stark ships and all men here are sworn to House Stark. We have our own separate fleet. Though not as large as the Stark fleet, our ships were also made by the same shipwrights as the Starks” Ser Wylis replied. Well this was news to her. She assumed that these were Manderly ships as Ser Wylis was there to escort them. But apparently not. Just how large was the Northern fleet and the Stark fleet.

Soon the ship docked at White Harbour and Lord Wyman Manderly himself was there to welcome her in the North. She was received with all pomp and show. White Harbour was huge. There were at least a two hundred thousand to two hundred and fifty thousand people living here. It was a beautiful city, a perfect blend of Northern culture and Southern gods.

A feast was thrown in her honour which is where she found herself now, sitting between Lord Manderly and her mother. The feast was a boisterous affair. There were at minstrels, murmers, dancers and jugglers performing. There was a lot of food and drinks.

After the feast ended Lord Manderly asked her, Princess Deria and her father to join him in his solar. A servant showed them the way to Lord Manderly’s solar. She knocked on the door.

“Come in” was called out from inside. “Princess Deria, Lord Dayne, Lady Ashara I am sorry to call you all here but it is important. Would you like a drink?” Lord Manderly said.

“Yes please” she answered for all of them.

He took out four quaint glasses and a bottle of some brown coloured liquid. When he opened the bottle strong smell of alcohol was coming out of it. He poured the liquid three fingers thick in all the glasses. Then he added two ice cubes in each of them and passed the glasses to all of them.

“Please be careful. It is very strong.”

She took a tentative sip and the liquid burnt through her throat. She almost spit it out but kept it in but the same could not be said about her mother or father. Warmth flowed through out her body. Whatever it is, it is very good and strong drink.

“What in the name of the Old Gods and New is that” her mother coughed out.

“It is a Northern drink, your grace. It is called Whiskey. It is very good to warm you up during a cold night. Thought you could use it” Lord Manderly stated, humour in his voice.

“Yes, it warmed me up” she said.

“But be careful, my lady it is strong. Ten times stronger than wine.”

Her mother and father took another sip, this time smaller and managed to keep it in.

“Well, my lord what was it that you wanted to talk to us about? I doubt it was about the drink” Her mother said.

“We have had reports from sailors from Long Town that the White Knife is frozen in some stretches. We have stopped all the activity on the river until the ice has been salted. So we could travel to Winterfell by road which would take us ten days or we could go to Moat Cailin and then to Winterfell. It would save us a day or two.”

“So, travelling to Moat Cailin and then to Winterfell would be better, won’t it my lord. Also how come it would take less time for us to travel to Moat Cailin?” she asked.

“We will travel by ship my lady. A canal was dug up to connect Moat Cailin to White Harbour. The canal would take us to Moat Cailin in half a day and even if stay at Moat Cailin the night we will reach Winterfell in seven to eight days. I recommend we leave for Moat tomorrow at dawn so that we can reach Moat by mid-day. We will catch up with Lord Brandon Stark and the rest of the lords of the Neck. We can all then travel for Winterfell together” he replied.

 

“Very well then my lord. We will do as you say. We leave for Moat Cailin at dawn tomorrow” She replied.

“Very well my lady. I will send a raven to Winterfell telling them of our change in plans. Have a good night, my lady, my lord, your grace” Manderly replied. “My Lady, there was also another matter. Fifteen Weirwood Warriors have arrived for your protection for your journey North. They will also be travelling with us and will be your personnel bodyguards. I do not know the reason why Lord Stark sent them but he has written a letter to you which was with the captain of the Warriors. Here is the letter, My Lady.”

“Thank you, my lord. Is there anything else?”

“No, my lady.”

“Then I bid you a good night, my lord.”

“Have a good night, my lady.”

 

The Next Day:

Near Moat Cailin:

As they were nearing Moat Cailin, Ashara’s mind was wandering. She had got to know the North a bit more yesterday. With the conversation she had with Lord Manderly and then with her betrothed’s letter she was able to piece together a lot of information. The Weirwood Warriors were the elite of the Northern soldiers. That much was written in the letter but the North keeps a regular army and will not rely on levies during war time was what she was able to deduce. The number of soldiers was not available but if the navy was any indication, the number of foot soldiers would also be high. There had also been a lot of economical changes too. That the North was the reason behind Dorne and Redwyne’s losing their wine market would be a calculated guess. But the million dragon question was how were they able to achieve so much in so little time. All of her betrothed’s letters and even Lord Manderly was very quiet about it.

She had been able to get to know her betrothed quiet well over the two years. He was kind and loyal man. She had once in her letter mentioned to him that she loved to ride and he had sent her one of the best mares North had with the Warriors he had sent to protect her. She is a beautiful species. White coloured, strong but good natured. She had ridden her for sometime before they had boarded the ship to Moat Cailin.

She was right now in her cabin on the Winter’s Lady nursing her head. The whiskey that Lord Manderly had given her was too strong but it was worth it. Almost all the Dornish had a flask of whiskey with them to keep them warm during the journey, courtesy of Lord Manderly. It was then that there was a knock on her door.

“Come in” she called out.

Oberyn came in and said “Good you are ready. The captain said that we are nearing Moat Cailin.”

“Give me a moment, I will be there.” She took the latest letter of her betrothed and kept in box where she used to keep all the other letters. She then walked out and came up to the deck. What she saw on the deck took her breath away. When Lord Manderly had said that they would be going to Moat Cailin and a canal had been dug to connect it to the bite she thought that the reconstruction of Moat Cailin would be going on. But alas that was not to be. The reconstruction was completed and in front of her stood a new Moat Cailin. This new Moat Cailin was as beautiful as it was deadly.

Instead of the previous twenty towers there were only twelve towers. These towers were at least as tall as the towers of Harrenhall. All the towers were armed with dozens of ballistas and scorpions and a very large trebuchet capable of breaking any ship in half. The towers were all connected to each other with what could only be called as bridges at least two hundred and fifty feet above the ground. She could see scores of scorpions and hundreds of sentries all along the outer wall and battlements.

The docks were busy with people loading and unloading the ships.

“I feel sorry for those who tried to attack the Moat” Oberyn said from behind her and she tended to agree with him. If the Old Moat Cailin was half as deadly as this one she felt sorry for those egoistical bastards who tried to take it. The New Moat Cailin could break any armies moral when they see it. This castle was unconquerable.

“Aye, it is a beauty” quipped Lord Manderly.

They soon docked at the docks and mounted their horses to go to the keep. The town that had been made on the northern side of the castle was a beehive of activity. She could see that most of them were either traders or blacksmiths and fletchers. Most likely to keep the soldiers posted here well supplied. When they exited the town she could see three more walls each higher than the other. There was no cover between any walls, each of them seventy feet away from each other. This area would be an archer’s paradise. With no cover to take the soldiers, if they were able to the outermost wall would have no place to hide here. It would be a massacre.

As she entered the courtyard, she saw some people standing there waiting to greet her. There were also a lot of man-at-arms and household guards there.

“That is Brandon Stark, younger brother of Lord Eddard Stark” her mother whispered quietly to her as she came out of her carriage.
“Lady Ashara, Princess Deria, Lord Dayne and the rest of our Dornish brothers welcome to Moat Cailin” said Lord Brandon stepping forward.

“Thank you Lord Brandon for this warm welcome” she said.

“Come my lady, we may retire to the Great Hall to have our mid day meal and then you could rest the day and we may continue our journey on the morrow” he said.

“Thank you my lord and not be disrespectful but it would be better if we continue our journey to Winterfell today” she replied respectfully.

“Eager to see your betrothed and get married I see. No problem, my lady. It will be done as you say” he quipped cheekily. She had feeling that he and Oberyn would like each other’s company quiet well.

She and the rest of her family followed Lord Brandon to the Great Hall. The Great Hall of Moat Cailin could seat at least five hundred men in it. On the raised dais were seated what she guessed the rest of the Lords of the Neck. After the meal they met outside to continue their journey. Their party consisted of almost a thousand men and women.

Later that evening:

They had made camp near an inn on the King’s road for the night. Due to the large size of their party, all the nobles were residing in the inn and the soldiers and servants had been provided with tents by Lord Brandon. The inn had been booked by Lord Brandon and the finest of foods and liquor had been provided to them.

“Come in” she called out as she heard a knock on her door. She saw her mother, father, Arthur, Artos, Oberyn and Elia come into her room. Arthur had arrived at Moat Cailin just after they had left to continue their journey and had caught up with them a few leagues out of Moat Cailin.

“Good evening mother, father, Arthur, Artos, Oberyn, Elia. What brings you all here this evening” she asked.
“Well we are all here to understand and share knowledge about what all we have gathered about the North” her mother replied.

“Well you are the one who has been to North before so you tell us the differences between your to trips” her father said to Deria.

“I did not know that you have been to the North before mother” Elia said before her mother could answer.

“My father wanted the best man for me, so we travelled all over the Realm to find the perfect match for me” she replied. “As for the differences I have been to both White Harbour and Moat Cailin before and both of them are very different than what I remember. Well Moat Cailin has been reconstructed but the main thing is that even White Harbour was renewed and expanded. The city is much bigger than what I remember”

“Wolf’s Den has also been reconstructed and has been given to the Northern navy” she quipped.

“I counted around seventy ships at Wolf’s Den including the twenty ships that had come to escort us” her father said.

“How were they able to pay for all this renovation, expantion, construction and reconstruction they have been doing. If they have expanded their trade, then where did they get their capital from?” Oberyn asked.

“Well the North has a lot of mountains. What if they found something of value in those mountains?” Arthur said.

“What would the North have? This is basically a barren land” Artos, the ever foolish and cocky one, said.

“Technically Dorne is also a barren desert but we produce spices and fruits for the rest of the Realm. They may have also found some new food types and animals suited for the cold climate” Elia quipped.
“Well that is true. They have a long coast from where they could fish and the lands may be fertile especially during the summer. If they solved their food problem they could have saved a lot of coin for their other enterprises” she said.

“That’s true” her father said.

After that they talked about the politics of the seven kingdoms. Arthur told them about Lord Tywin resigning as the Hand of the King. The relations between the Rock and the Crown had not been good since the news about Lannisters stealing from the crown had been discovered especially because the King ridiculed Lord Tywin at court every chance he got. Lord Tywin had endured this ridicule of the King. But when the King had shot down Lord Tywin’s proposal for marriage between Prince Rhaegar and his daughter Cersie Lord Tywin had been furious especially when the King had insulted both him and his daughter. This tit-bit of news had eluded them as they had been travelling. They had at lengths discussed the consequences and ramifications of this event at lengths.

After the more ominous talks were over they talked about their lives and what was going on in it. Arthur shared tales of his time as the Kingsguard, Oberyn talked about his latest conquests and Deria berated Oberyn over his latest conquests.

Ashara really loved these moments especially now that she did not know when she would get the next chance to do so again. She really enjoyed these moments together.

 

Eight days later:

Near Winterfell:

The North was not the same deserted place the southerners thought it was. There were hamlets, villages and towns all along the King’s Road. Even the Northern roads were made up of bricks and clay instead of dirt and shit like in rest of the kingdoms. The roads were wide to ensure that there was no hold ups. Eight carts could move side by side. There were signs made at every junction and divergence for travellers so that they don’t get lost anywhere.

The cultural and religious diversity was also mind boggling for her. There were Wierwood trees planted for people who follow the old gods, septs were there for followers of the seven and even small red temples were there for the followers of R’hllor. To see so many people of different cultures and religions living with each other peacefully and in harmony was not something she had expected.

They were just two leagues away from Winterfell and her stomach was twisted all the way from North to Dorne. What if her future husband did not like her or her husband’s family hated her or the Northern Lords did not approve of her.

She was lost n these thoughts when her father and Arthur came upto her.

“So, daughter how are you feeling?” her father asked her.

“Fine, father. Just a bit nervous” she replied.

“You know, when I was going to marry your mother I was nervous as well. I did not know if we would get along or not. It frightened me at the thought of sharing the rest of my life with another person but finally when we married we were both very happy. Marriage is all about communicating with each other and giving each other space when required. I know you like to know about each and everything but you would need to give him space when required” her father said.

“Yes, father I know I come out as strong sometimes but I will try to curb such tendencies in the future”

“Well, sister if your husband gives you problems just remind him that you are the sister of the Sword of the Morning, the slayer of the Laughing Knight” he said puffing his chest out and preening. It brought a smile to her face.

“I won’t tell Ned that. And I won’t come running to you every time I have a problem. I am a lady now” she said with a light chuckle.

“No matter how old you are or even if you are the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms you will always be my baby sister. The one who came running to me every time you got a ‘boo-boo’, so that I could kiss it better”

“Yeah those were good times” she said with a small smile on her face.

“My lady, My lord, Ser we are nearing Winterfell. Prince Oberyn and Lord Brandon request your presence at the front of the retinue” Alaric, one of her guards came up to her.

She, her father and brother made it to the front of the retinue just as they were cresting a small hill. As she reached the top of the hill she saw Winterfell and Wintercity for the first time and it took her breath away.

Winterfell was huge area wise and its grandeur was other-worldly. The five towers were even taller than those of Harrenhall. Like at Moat Cailin, the towers were interconnected with bridges but instead of stone, the bridges were made up of glass. The walls were huge and the Great Hall was just as large as the one at Harrenhall. The number of glass houses in Winterfell was staggering. The grey castle with a white background gave it a very beautiful look.

“Well, that is a beauty” Arthur said, awe in his voice.

“Well, it sure is” Lord Brandon said, pride evident in his voice.

“It is the most beautiful and intimidating castle I have ever seen” her father said.

“What about Moat Cailin?” Oberyn asked.

“Moat Cailin was more deadly and intimidating and less beautiful. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful but Winterfell is something else” her father replied.

“Well that is true. Lady Ashara how do you like your new home?” Lord Brandon replied.

“It is a castle I would love to call home. Its grandeur and beauty is other-worldly. I just hope the people living in it would also accept me” she said.

“Do not worry, my lady. From what I have seen and heard about you, you would be just fine” he replied.

“Thank you, my lord. Lets finish our journey, my lord” she replied.

“Eager to see my brother, I see” he teased good naturedly. She just blushed slightly.

As she neared Wintercity, she smelled the scent of snow, pine and ash and she loved this place even more. She hated King’s Landing for its smell of piss and shit. She found herself lucky that she did not have to live the rest of her life in a city that smelled of piss and shit.
The people of the city were all out on the streets to get a look of their next lady, waving Stark flags. The sheer population of the city amazed her. She then saw something which she had heard about only in books and stories, Giants. There were four giants standing with the masses looking at them with interest.

“Are my eyes deceiving me or are there really giants there?” Arthur asked.

“They really are giants” Brandon said. “The North is now home to more than five hundred giants or so my brother tells me in his letters. The clan leaders must have come for the wedding and some of them may have got curious and came to look what it was all about.”

As they reached the gates of the castle they rearranged themselves and entered the courtyard. As she dismounted her horse she saw the Lords and Ladies gathered there to greet her. She walked over to the gathered Lords and Ladies and in the middle of the greeters stood a tall man with short beard and beautiful piercing grey eyes. Her future husband was a very handsome man.

He looked directly at her and said “Lady Stark, welcome to Winterfell”.

Chapter Text

Eddard:

For the last week he had been a twisted mess. The transition of power from his father to him had been smooth. All the Lords and Ladies had arrived three days ago and had sworn their fealty to him. He had asked them to come to Winterfell now and not earlier because he did want to them to travel twice so close together, once for swearing fealty and then for his marriage.

The thoughts of marriage made him nervous. What if his future wife did not like him? What if she could not adjust to life here in the North? What if the Northern Lords did not approve of her? What if she hated him and his family? All kinds of thoughts were swimming through his mind.

Work distracted him from his nervousness. He could not imagine how his father did all the work and maintained his sanity for the past fifteen years. The work never seemed to end.

“My lord” Ser Rodrik knocked on the door of his father’s solar. He was still uncomfortable to call it his solar.

“Come in, Ser Rodrik” he said.

“My Lord, scouts have spotted the Dornish retinue a few leagues away from Winterfell. I have sent people to escort them to Winterfell.”

“Ask the rest of my family and the Northern Lords to assemble in the courtyard to greet them.”

“Of course, my lord”

He arrived at the courtyard half an hour later to see the rest of the family and Lords assembled at the courtyard. He waited a few minutes at the centre of the line when the first of the scouts they had sent arrived. He then saw his future wife for the first time and fell in love with her.

Her long raven black hair which came till the small of her back, her mocha coloured skin and her deep violet eyes were so entrancing that he needed a small nudge from his father to remind him where he was.

“Lady Stark, welcome to Winterfell” he said.

“Thank you, my lord for this warm welcome” her smooth voice sounded like a lullaby to him.

“Lord Dayne, Princess Deria the hospitality of Winterfell and North is yours” he said to them.

“Thank you, my lord. May this marriage be a new start to the relationship between the North and Dorne” Princess Deria replied with a slight curtsey.

The party moved forward and all the Stark family and Lords of the North were introduced. Each of the family members were charged with escorting the guests to their respective rooms. Slowly the courtyard cleared and he was left to escort his future wife to her room in which she would be staying until the marriage took place. There had been some awkward silence between them at first but she broke the silence first.

“You have a very beautiful home, my lord” she said as they reached the lifts to the tower where the bridal party was staying.

“Thank you, my lady. I hope your journey here was not too tiring and troublesome?”

“No, my lord. It was pleasant, my lord. I loved to see the castles and the lands which I would be a part of, my lord.”

“Please, my lady, call me Ned. We are soon to be husband and wife after all.”

“Ashara then, Ned.”

“Thank you, Ashara. How do you like the North so far?”

“It is a beautiful place, Ned.”

As they reached Ashara’s room he asked her “If you would not mind, Ashara, I would love for us to meet in the Godswood tomorrow after breaking our fasts. I would like to get to know you better, Ashara.”

“I would like that, Ned.”

“So until tomorrow then. Have a good day, Ashara.”

“You too, Ned.”

He could hear the giggling of her betrothed’s handmaidens once the doors closed. He went back to his solar to prepare for the meeting that he would have the day after with Princess Deria and Lord Dayne. Today everyone would have their meals in their rooms and tomorrow there would be a feast in honour of the arrival of the Dornish. The day after the wedding would take place.

That night as he sat with his family eating his dinner he could not stop thinking of his fiancé and what was she doing right now. It was like he was some love sick puppy. He had been the source of ridicule and japes especially by his father and brother who teased him all during the dinner.

As he went to sleep that night he could not stop thinking and then dreaming of the violet eyed goddess that her fiancé was.

Ashara:

After she had been escorted to her room by her betrothed she thought about the beautiful castle she was soon going to call home. The castle was huge, long towers and high walls which were needed if the giants were a regular guest here. There were lifts to take them to the top of the towers. She just could not believe how beautiful it was. The bridges made of glass and stone was something she had never seen before.

The castle itself was not as cold as it was outside. It felt warm and comfortable here. Soon a maid came and delivered a hot bath for her in the cleansing room which had a tub for bathing; sink to wash hands and a privy to relieve herself. She hated using bed pans (as that at Starfall) as it was demeaning to both her and the servants. Her handmaidens got to work as they cleaned her up. She could feel the wariness of the travel leave her bones as she soaked in the hot water.

She and the rest of her family supped together that night. Conversation flowed easily as they had a lot of topics to discuss.

Finally that night as she lay down on her soft bed covered in soft furs she thought about how her day had been and how the next day would pan out until sleep finally claimed her.

The Next Day:

She was awakened by her maids who lead her to the cleansing room. She did her morning rituals and then decided to have a bath before she broke her fast. As she as taking her bath a servant came in and told her that her mother had asked her to join them at the great hall so that they could break their fast together.

Her handmaidens had taken out a beautiful violet coloured dress for her, today. She got dressed and joined the rest of her family at the bottom of the tower to go to the Great hall.

“Did you have a good night’s sleep, Ashara” her mother asked.

“Yes, Princess Deria, I slept well. And did you sleep well, your grace?” she asked. She used her mother’s formal title as they were in public right now.

“Yes, dear. I slept like a log” she replied.

“So, what are you planning on doing today, your grace?” she asked.

“I was invited to join your soon-to-be mother by law, for tea after breakfast and then Elia invited her and Lady Lyanna to join us at our knitting circle later in the day. You would join us there would you not?” she replied.

“Oh! Sorry Princess, I did not tell you last night but my betrothed has asked me to join him for a walk in the Godswood after breaking our fasts today” she said as they entered the Great Hall.

The whole Stark, Dayne and Martell family was to sit at the elevated dias which had a long table there. As she took her seat she saw that Lord Rickard and Lady Lyarra were seated and having their breakfast.

“Good morning, Lord Stark, Lady Stark. I hope you had a pleasant night” she greeted her soon-to-be father and mother by law. She knew that they were no longer Lord and Lady Stark but it felt weird calling them by their given names.

“Good morning, dear we had a pleasant night, thank you for asking. And please call us father and mother, after all we are to be family soon” she replied with a kind smile.

She searched for Ned but she did not see him. In fact, none of the Stark children were present.

“If you are searching for your betrothed then I must disappoint you. Ned always has his breakfast in his solar. I swear that boy works twice as much as I used to work. He even sleeps there sometimes” Lord Rickard said to her.

“But do not worry, dear. Now that you are here we would see him more often” Lady Lyarra said kindly.

“And where are the rest of your children, my lady?” she asked her kindly.

“Well Brandon likes to sleep in and would be waking up right about now. Lyanna is in the yard practicing her swordplay and archery and Benjen has already eaten and would be in the library or in the yard with Lyanna” she replied.

“Forgive me, my lady. I do not wish to intrude or be rude but you allow your daughter to practice sword and bow? Why, my lady?” Arthur asked Lady Lyarra.

“There is nothing to forgive, Ser Arthur. And to answer your question, yes I allow my daughter to practice sword and bow, Ser. That is because she is a Northern Lady, Ser. And in the North we teach our daughters to fight as good as any man. My daughter is not some delicate flower that needs a man to protect herself. Here, in the North a woman is as good a fighter as any man. In fact, the shield maidens of Bear Island are some of the most fiercest warriors that North has.”

She was relieved that she could continue to practice her archery here in the North. Dorne, while being more flexible in most matters of sex, did not allow women and girls to practice any weapons. Only the Martells and to some extent the Daynes and Yronwoods allowed the women folk to practice weapons.

She also noted the slight hint of intrigue on Elia’s face and decided to ask about it later. It was then that both Lyanna and Brandon entered the Great Hall. Both were flanked by the largest wolves she had ever seen, snarling and growling, baring their fangs as if they would eat all the people present in the Great Hall. Her voice was caught in her throat. Some of the Dornish Lords and most ladied fainted at the sight. She could hear Elia’s shriek and Arthur’s hand going to the pommel of his sword but before anybody could move Lord Rickard’s voice cut in.

“Please, quiet everybody. The direwolves are harmless until and unless they feel threatened. Please stay calm. They will not hurt you.”

Brandon was laughing and Lyanna was giggling behind her hand which showed that they had both planned it in order to frighten them. When they reached the table Lady Lyarra chided them in a steely voice “After breaking your fast you both will go back to your respective rooms and wait for me there. Is that clear?”

“Yes, mother” both replied in unison.

“Good, now apologise to everybody”

“We are sorry, your grace, my lords and ladies. It was not our intention to scare all of you so badly” they both said in unison again.

“Good. Now sit down both of you.”

She had to stifle her laugh when she saw the beaten pup look on their faces. Especially when she saw the same look on the wolves faces. It was as if the wolves could read the mind of their masters. Something told her that this was a regular occurrence in this household.

After she had finished breaking her fast her, her father said “Daughter, take either Arthur with you to act as a chaperon for the walk.”

“Yes, father” she replied and looked towards Arthur who was getting up from his seat.

“Lady Lyarra, may I enquire where my betrothed may be?” she asked.

“He would most probably in his solar. A servant will show you where that is. And please dear, I have asked you to call me mother” she replied kindly.

“Yes, thank you, mother. May you have a good day” she replied and curtsied.

“You too, dear”

After exchanging pleasantries with the rest of the people she and Arthur left the table and followed a servant to the Lord’s Solar.

After she and Arthur had made their way out of the Great Hall, Arthur asked her “So sister, how do you like your new home and family so far?”

“I love this place. The castle is beautiful, the people here are courteous and loyal. As for my new family I feel that they are not much different than our family. They love each other dearly and I think they would like me as well”

“And what about your betrothed? How was he?”

“We did not talk much yesterday but from what I could tell he was courteous but shy. I liked talking to him yesterday and look forward to talk to each other some more”

“And no doubt do a bit more with him, isn’t that correct sweet sister” Arthur teased her.

“Shut up, Arthur” she scolded him a slight blush on her face. He just laughed loudly. They crossed the training yard where she could see Lord Benjen practicing his swordplay with three men, a soldier who had a Weirwood tree and two direwolves facing the tree stamped on his leather jerkin. ‘A Weirwood Warrior’ she thought. The other two were clearly a Braavossi and a Northerner.

She noticed others practicing various weapons in the yard. Even to a person like her, who was not very fluent in swordplay, it was obvious that they were very good and fluent in their motions. She nudged Arthur who was also looking at them for his opinion. He looked at her and understanding her question said “They are all very good. In fact, their prowess could match to some of the better knights and lords of the realm.”

“Are they as good as the Kingsguard?”

“Not the Kingsguard but definitely better than all and any Household guards of the Red Keep including the Targaryen and Lannister men”

“So, better than the regular soldiers of the South.”

“Definitely better.”

“What about that man teaching Lord Benjen. The one with the Weirwood tree on his jerkin?”

“As he is not actually sparring, it is hard to tell but judging by his stance and the moves he is showing, he must be good.”

She nodded her head in acceptance and they continued their walk to the Lord’s Tower.

Ned :

Lord’s Solar :

He was finishing up on the financial report sent by Lord Magnar of Kingshouse and the overlord of Skagos. Skagos had made a profit of just over a eighty thousand gold dragons in the past year. Owing to all the development and construction going on there, these were very good numbers. The Skagossi were currently expanding their fishing and trading fleets to match the demands of the markets. They would soon also expand their war fleet to ensure that peace was kept.

There was a knock on his door and Winter raised his head to see who had come. Allaric, one of his guards came in “My lord, Lady Ashara and Ser Arthur are here to see you.”

“Yes, please send them in” he said to the man.

Ashara and Ser Arthur came into the room and took a seat at his desk.

“How are you this morning, Lady Ashara, Ser Arthur?”

“We are good, Lord Stark” Ashara replied.

“Well I am good, but my sister here was disappointed that she did not see you today at the breakfast table, My Lord” Arthur said, teasing Ashara who slapped his shoulder in reply.

“I am sorry if I disappointed you, my lady. But I generally take most of my meals here in my solar. I will strive to do better from now onwards” he replied sincerely.
“It is fine, my lord. I know that work is important” she replied with a slight blush.

“My lady, I have asked you to call me Ned” he said.

“Only if you call me Ashara”

“Okay then, Ashara. And to answer your reply work is important but not at the cost of family, Ashara. I have been so busy with my work that I forgot about my family and I thank you for pointing this out to me” he replied.

“It is alright” she mumbled, burning crimson with embarrassment.

“So should we go to the Godswood?” he asked them.

“Lead the way, my lord” Ser Arthur replied.

He stood up from his chair and lead them to the door. Winter stood up from the fireplace where he had been resting. Ashara yelped and jumped a bit when he suddenly rubbed his snout on her hand. But Arthur did not panic at all which told him it was not their first meeting with a direwolf. He had been expecting a stronger reaction from them.

“It is alright, Ashara. He is just taking your scent. He knows you are harmless and that you are family” he said trying to calm her.

Winter then started to push his head into Ashara’s hand.

“He now wants you to rub him behind his ears.” She did as was told and Winter lolled his tongue out in content.

“He is behaving just like an overgrown pup” Ashara said.

“He is a overgrown pup, isn’t that right Winter.” He said. Winter just kept lolling his tongue under the hands of Ashara.

After a few minutes of playing with him they left his solar and entered the lift. Winter and two Weirwood Warriors were with him.

“This was not your first encounter with a direwolf, was it not?” he asked looking at Arthur and Ashara.

“No, my lord, it was not. Your siblings arrived with them today while we were breaking our fast. Scared all of the Dornish lords and ladies present there.” Ser Arthur said with a light chuckle.

“Let me guess. It was Lyanna and Brandon who did this” he said.

“Yes, Ned it was them. But fret not because your lady mother punished them suitably” Ashara said.

“If I was to hazard a guess, my lord, I would say it was not the first time they both have done something like this” Arthur said.

“You are correct, Ser Arthur. Brandon and Lya are always caught doing some stuff or other which is forbidden by the elders. They love to play pranks on others. ‘The Wolf’s blood is strong in them’ my father likes to say. They used to get into all sorts of trouble together when Brandon was still here with us” he said to them.

“Forgive me Ned, but what does your father mean by Wolf’s blood?” Ashara asked.

“Wolf’s blood is something that runs in the Stark line, Ashara, same as dragon’s blood runs in Targaryens. Wolf’s blood gives us superior strength and energy to us but it also makes us more impulsive and quick to anger the same way Targaryen blood gives unearthly beauty to them. Magic runs in my family Ashara. In fact magic runs strong here in the North, Ashara. I am sure you have seen the giants here? How do you explain that? Or how do you explain the bond that me, my father and each of my siblings share with the wolves? This is a land of skinchangers, giants and direwolves, Ashara. This is the land of the Wall, the greatest structure ever built. A structure made seven hundred feet tall, made up of ice and magic which never melts. Not even in the hottest of summers.”

“But, my lord, the Maesters say that there is nothing like magic.” Ser Arthur said.

“Then Ser explain the bond between me and my direwolf or between the Targaryens and their dragons” he asked the man as they entered the Godswood. On receiving no answer from him he continued “Magic is real Ser Arthur. You and I may call it magic, the Maesters may call it the higher mysteries but in the essence we are all referring to the same phenomenon”

While Ser Arthur was pondering on all that had been said till now, the three of them reached a fallen trunk and sat there, just content to stay quiet for the time being.

“Ned, what made you say that the Wall is magical and not just a tall structure”

“I am not sure, my lady. It is said that when Bran the builder had built the Wall he had asked the children of the forest to imbibe some of their magic into it. And I am inclined to agree to it. Why build a seven hundred feet tall structure? Why not just three hundred or four hundred feet tall? If you say something about grumpkins and snarks, Ashara, then I will say that a three hundred feet tall structure would have been just as capable as a seven hundred feet structure to stop them. No something had scared Bran the builder. Something that he believed was still alive, at least at that time.”

“Mayhaps an Ice Dragon” Arthur said.

“Mayhaps” he replied ominously. “But enough of these ominous talks, Ashara. Let us talk of something else. Tell me more about yourself. We did not get to talk much yesterday. Tell me how do you like the North so far? How was it to grow up in Dorne?”

“Dorne is very different than North in some ways but very similar to it in others. Dorne is very very hot during summers and pleasant during winters. During summers most of the Martell children like to stay in the water gardens using the many pools of cold water to play and cool themselves. The Martells are like a family to me. Elia is my best friend or more likely sister. Princess Deria is for all intents and purposes a mother to me after my own mother passed away when I was young. Doran and Oberyn are like my brothers” she replied.

“You have cold water pools there in Dorne and we have hot water pools here in Winterfell. My siblings really like to go for a swim during regularly” he said.

“How do you like the North so far, Ashara?”

“Speaking plainly, Ned the North fascinates me. While coming here to Winterfell, I saw people of different religions and cultures live together in complete harmony. The diversity of the North also befuddles me. I mean never have I seen people following the Old Gods, the Seven and also the R’hllor live together so peacefully. I did not know that there were followers of R’hllor in Westeros. It makes North more mysterious.”

“You find North mysterious, Ashara? North is not mysterious, Ashara. On the contrary, North is plain and simple. We do not care from where you are or what religion you follow. It is the person that matters. We are all Northerners first then the followers of Old Gods or Seven or R’hllor. In the North there is a saying ‘The harshest of winters makes the truest of Northerners’ which essentially means all those who survive the Northern winter are true Northerners to core. Winter removes all unworthy people and only the strongest and the fittest survive. We do not worry ourselves with petty jealousy. We revel in each other’s success and cry at each other’s loss. We are all one big family. My father says ‘When the snows fall and the white wind blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.’”

“That is an ominous way to say a very good thought, Ned” Ashara said with a slight laugh.

Ned laughed and said “What can I say, Ashara. We Starks are ominous people.”

“Tell me more about you, Ned”

“Well, Ashara there is nothing much to tell you about. My whole life I have strived to make North better. To give it what it deserves. I went to the Citadel for some time to continue my studies there. My father had refused to let me go for some time when I told him I wanted to go to the Citadel but eventually he allowed me leave. Ever since the betterment of the North has been the only thing I have strived for. I look forward to start a new journey together, Ashara. It will be a new chapter in my life, in both our lives as a matter of fact”

“But why did you want to change the North so much, Ned? What reason drove you to work so hard? It cannot be just to better the lives of your people. You would not bring so much change just for the sake of that” she replied.

“You are correct, Ashara. At first it was for getting our due. For so long have the Southerners thought us nothing but unwashed barbarians just because we were not as rich as them and did not spend monies on frivolities and such. I wanted the Southerners to give us the respect that we are due. We are the longest surviving family which have ruled these lands for a millennia. We are the only people that were never conquered until the dragons came. We are the last bastion of the First Men. We deserved respect. But we did not have that respect because we saved our money so that our people could eat during winter. We had to buy crops from the south at ridiculously high rates because we could not grow enough food during summer. So I changed the North, so that we did not have to depend on others to feed ourselves. I changed the North so that my people would not starve to death during winters. I changed the North so that we get what was due to us. Respect.”

Both Ashara and Arthur were quiet for a long time after his speech, slowly processing what had been said. Eventually Arthur broke the silence “You said that was the reason at first, my lord. What reason do you have now, my lord. You have accomplished all you had set for. Why then this shroud of mystery? Why not shed this shroud and let the South see for what the North has accomplished? Why do all this but still keep it hidden?”

“The answer to that question is simple, Ser. War. There is a war coming. It has been coming to the horizon for some time, I do not know when but soon. This war would be the bloodiest in the history of Westeros. I can feel this in my bones”

“What makes you say that, Ned. And who would be fighting this war?” Ashara asked.

“Targaryens are growing weak. They have been ever since the Dance and Summerhall. The madness in them is growing stronger. The family is now reduced to a mad head of the house and two princes who are not of age yet. One of them which is still a babe at his mother’s teats. There is a rebellion coming, Ser Arthur and I am not sure if the Targaryens would still keep their crown after it.”

“Are you threatening the Crown, my lord. Are you saying that you would rise in rebellion against the Crown?” Ser Arthur growled.

“You misunderstand me, Ser. It is I who is not going to rise in rebellion but others. My father, when he was still Lord Paramount used to get letters from Lord Tully, regularly for the betrothal between me and his eldest daughter, Lady Catelyn. And now that I am about to be married he sends me letters for a betrothal between Brandon and his younger daughter, Lady Lysa. Why do you think is he so desperate to tie his family to ours?...” but before he could continue Ashara cut in.

“But that could mean any number of things” she said.

“Aye, that could mean any number of things but if you would have allowed me to complete the picture would have been clearer. Now, Lord Arryn is currently fostering both Lord Baratheon and my brother Brandon. If this betrothal that Lord Tully so badly wants, four of the seven Great houses would be tied together by either an alliance of marriage or have very close ties like fosterage. Now, Lord Arryn on behalf of Lord Baratheon is secretly in talks with Lord Lannister to broker a deal of betrothal between Lord Robert and Lady Cersei. Lord Lannister wants his daughter to become the Queen of Seven kingdoms and if they marry, it would not be very farfetched leap to say that Lord Baratheon would become the King, who very conveniently has some Targaryen blood through his grandmother. Four of the seven Lords Paramount under one banner, the Tyrells ever grasping that they are would probably wait for the results of the war or pretend to fight the war especially under fools like Mace Tyrell and a grasping lady as Ollena Tyrell as their heads. So, essentially the Targaryens stand alone, right now. That is why I have kept the shroud of secrecy, Ser because during war, the most important thing is the element of surprise.”

The two Dornish were shell shocked at what had been revealed to them just now.

“I need to tell the King about this plot at once” Ser Arthur said in panic.

“No, Ser Arthur. Let the events unfold. You have my promise that till a Stark rules Winterfell, the dragons will be the ones to sit on the throne. It was the dragons my ancestor bent the knee to, not someone other. We will ensure that the Targaryens stay in power”

“But why wait, my lord. Why shed blood when it could be resolved peacefully” Arthur tried once again.

“This matter cannot be resolved peacefully, Ser. And let there be war for at the battlefield do we find our true allies. This war will be the mirror that clears who are actually the allies of Targaryens and who are just opportunistic frauds” he replied.

“But the North is just one kingdom, Ned. Surely the North cannot survive against the whole might of four kingdoms” Ashara said with trepidation.

“We can and we will, Ashara. The North has stood for a millennia and it will still stand for a millennia more.”

“But what will you do about the betrothal offer from Lord Tully?” Ashara asked again.

“Truely speaking, Ashara, I do not know. I can keep him stalled for some more time, but I do not know what to do eventually” he replied

“The only thing that you can do is to accept the betrothal and try to get close to the conspirators in order to know what they are planning.” Ser Arthur said.

“Like spying on them” Ashara said.

“Essentially, yes” Arthur said.

“Give me some time to think over it and consult my father on this topic and I will tell you my answer, Ser Arthur” he said to the man.

“Very well, Lord Stark” he replied.

“Needless to say Ser Arthur, Ashara what we have discussed here should never be repeated anywhere else. Not to the King, not to Prince Rhaegar, Princess Deria, Prince Doran or Prince Oberyn not even to your father. Is that clear?” he asked seriously.

“Yes” Ashara replied immediately but after some hesitation Arthur also replied in affirmation.

“If there is a war coming, I would like to keep my blades sharp. What say you Lord Stark? Will you join me for a spar?”

“Of course, ser. Lead the way. Ashara, if you want you could join us and watch us spar” Ned said.

“I would be delighted to” Ashara replied.

Ashara:

As she followed her betrothed and brother to the yard she thought to what had been discussed earlier. The magnitude of what may happen if the things went the rebel’s way was unsettling to say the least. It would change the history of the Seven Kingdoms just as Aegon the conqueror had changed the Seven Kingdoms forever.

“Ashara, are you alright?” came the sudden voice of Ned.

“Yes, I am fine. I am just trying to make sense of what we just discussed” she replied in a low voice.

“Do not worry my lady for that moment is far away from us. And I give you my word that I will do everything within my power to ensure that none of our loved ones are harmed. I did not want to tell you this now, but one thing led to another and the next thing I know I am sharing this secret with you.”

“I am glad you told me about this, Ned. This is a huge burden to carry alone and it should not be taken alone. We are to be married in two days. It is my duty to share these burdens with you and i am glad you thought me worthy enough of this. It is said that if we share our burdens, our own burdens lessen.”

“Then I will strive to share more secrets and burdens with you, Ashara. I will strive to become the husband you want and deserve.”

“And I will strive to become the wife you need and deserve, Ned” I said and gathered all my courage and kissed him on his cheek. He turned crimson with embarrassment. Soon we reached the training yard and he left me in a pavilion and went to the armoury.

Her brother and Ned soon came out of the armoury. Both of them were wearing boiled leather armour. Her brother had two blunted longswords which he preferred. Ned came out with a greatsword and a shield which was a bit surprising as most people only used a greatsword or a longsword and shield.

“Well this should be interesting” came the voice from behind her. She turned and saw her father, Oberyn and Lord Rickard coming in her direction. Lord Rickard’s direwolf went beside Winter and laid down in the sun, apparently at peace. “It will be good to see who the better warrior is between the two of them” Lord Rickard continued .

“Father, Oberyn, Good Father I hope you had a good day so far” she greeted and curtsied.

“Yes, we did daughter” her father replied.

“Well, let us see how long Lord Eddard Stark can stand against the Sword of the Morning, shall we” Oberyn said.

“Well, Prince Oberyn, let us see who wins this encounter” Lord Rickard replied.

“You cannot expect Lord Eddard to win, Lord Rickard. He is after all fighting against Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, the best fighter Westeros has to offer, afterall” Oberyn said a bit annoyed and offended.

“Ser Arthur maybe the best sword in the south but Ned is the best sword in the North and this encounter may well decide who is the better warrior” Lord Rickard replied. Now she was intrigued and so was her father and Oberyn.

The subjects of their conversation were currently circling each other, waiting for the other person to strike. Lord Eddard lost his patience first and attacked Arthur. Ned attacked which Arthur parried then he attacked Ned himself which was shielded by Ned. Each one would attack and then defend against the other’s strike. Even she could see that Ned was as good a warrior as Arthur. Better even as she had never seen someone fight like this

“Oberyn” she said. He understood what she wanted and started describing the encounter to her.

“Well, I admit that Lord Stark is good. I have never seen someone fight like this before. Lord Stark is very agile and has great speed, which given his size is astonishing. He strikes Arthur but when Arthur tries to strike back Lord Eddard has already shifted from his position. Though the shift is small it is creating problems for Arthur as he has to either extend himself to land his strike or he cannot gain enough power in his strikes to create problems for him. Lord Eddard’s defence is solid and so is his offence. I am surprised at how much power he cn generate with so little movement of his upper body. It is like water dancing but not quite” he said to her.

Now that Oberyn mentioned it she could see it. The slight movement of Ned’s body just before Arthur’s strike. He would step half, sometimes quarter or even a full foot either to his left, right, forwards or backwards. It was confusing her and by the look on her brother’s face, Arthur was having a hard time judging Ned’s next move. So focused was he on penetrating Ned’s defence that he over extended himself and lost his balance which Ned capitalised on and Arthur lost his left sword.

There were looks of surprise on Oberyn and her father’s face. Arthur was never disarmed be it on the battle field or in the sparing yard.

“That is why I said that it is not clear who could win this spar”, her soon to be good-father stated. “Let this be a lesson for you, Prince Oberyn. Never under estimate your opponent be it on the battle field or any other sphere of life”

“My Lord, forgive me if I was rude or I affronted you in any manner. It was not my intention, my lord” Oberyn said.

“I know, Prince Oberyn and I was not slighted in the least. I was merely giving you a life lesson. These are the small things which life teaches you. You should be confident, my prince but never over confident. These small lessons mark the difference between a green boy and a veteran.” Lord Rickard replied.

It was good advice that Lord Rickard had given and she hoped Oberyn would take it to heart. She shifted her attention back to the training yard. She could see that her brother was now struggling to keep up with Ned and was taking some hits on his arms and legs. Nothing serious but those strikes would leave bruises, that was for sure. After ten more minutes of fighting, Ned after a brilliant manoeuvre was able to trip Arthur. His knees rested on Arthur’s chest and his sword on his neck. Arthur just nodded and accepted his defeat. They both got up, her fiancé helping her brother up, and left for the armoury to put back the weapons.

“Lord Rickard, if I may I ask you a question?” it was her father who asked. On getting his nod he continued “Where did Lord Eddard learn to fight like this? I have never seen such a style of fighting.”

“After he had been trained by our master-at-arms and a Bravossi water dancer, Ned tried to combine the two styles. He was not exactly successful as the combination is nothing like either of the two styles but a new style of swordplay was created. It is called, as you can imagine, as the Northern style of fighting” he said with a slight chuckle.

Soon Ned and Arthur came and joined them. They talked for a few minutes together before Arthur and Oberyn excused themselves as id her father and good father, his direwolf following him.

“So, Arthur How does it feel to be the second best warrior in the realm” Oberyn ribbed.

“Well, even though I lost to Lord Stark I am still better than you, Oberyn” came her brother’s reply as they continued to banter as they walked off.

She and Ned were alone therein the pavilion as they both watched the now empty training yard. She wanted to talk to Ned but was unsure of someone listening in on their conversation. Sensing her hesitation, Ned called his guard “Allaric, stand away from the pavilion and make sure that no one disturbs us”

“Yes, Lord Stark” he replied. He and the another guard stood twenty feet away from the pavilion. Ned then nodded to his direwolf, Winter, who then stood up from his side and joined the two guards, clearly in a guarding position. Ned had been right. His bond to his direwolf was clearly magical.

“How did you learn to fight like that, Ned?” she asked.

“I finished my Weterosi and Bravossi style early, Ashara and wanted to develop my own style of fighting. So I tried merging them when I was three and ten and this was the result. Now, all the Stark children and the Weirwood Warriors are thought this style” he replied.

“It is astonishing. When I heard that you had managed to forge links at the age of ten, I imagined you to be the bookish type. I did not expect you to be so good with your sword” she replied.

“I am glad that I surprised you, Ashara” he said with a chuckle.

“But it does not add up. You dedicated so much of your time studying then how come you were able to master not one but two styles when you were so young.”

“Alright, Ashara what I am going to tell you now is something that just my father and mother are privy of. No one else knows about this. It is a secret which I am sharing with you because we are going to share our lives together. You cannot repeat any of this to anyone else. Am I clear?” he said in a grave voice.

She just nodded her head. Whatever was going to be revealed, it was the secret that had played a major role in the development of the North. But because her fiancé had asked, she would never repeat any of this to anyone else.

“I can remember everything that I have done since I was six moons old. Every book I have read, every conversation I have had, everything. It gave me a distinct advantage in my studies and with some concentration in my martial arts. That is why I was able to accomplish so much at such a young age” he replied seriously.

“How is that possible? No one has ever heard of anything like this before, Ned. Is such a thing even possible?” she asked shocked.

“The Citadel has yet to discover all the mysteries of the human body and especially how our brains work. Anything is possible. I talked to Maester Luwin once about this, once. I did not tell him that I have such a condition, just in general terms. He told me that it is a possibility that such a thing can happen though it has never been recorded by the Citadel ever. That means that either I am the first person to have such a condition or that no one has ever reported” he replied back.

She took her time to gather her thoughts on this. It was possible that such a condition can happen. They did not know a lot about the human anatomy and next to nothing about the human brain.

“So this is how you were able to do so many things in such a short time. But it still does not explain how you were able to change the North so much. I mean to say that I understand why you brought the changes but not how you did so” she said after a long time.

“Let us just say that the North has tapped into some resources that no one had previously thought of tapping into. The North had been focused on surviving for such a long time that we forgot to thrive. All we focused on was the next winter and how to survive it. My father and I changed that mentality” he replied.

“So the North has a lot of resources at its disposal which the previous Lords of the North did not exploit. The North has a lot of mountains so that means that the Westerlands is not the only kingdom producing precious metals now” she said in understanding.

“That is essentially correct, my lady. We found some precious metals and gems which we used for the betterment of the North. Its living conditions, infrastructure and health care. We undertook a lot of projects simultaneously and every person living in the North did their part in ensuring that all of them were a success” he replied.

“That is incredible, my lord”

“So, Ashara tell me more about yourself. What do you like to do?” Ned asked her.

“Well I like to read, Ned, about history and mathematics. I also like to ride. We would go for rides around the dunes near Sunspear or the Water Gardens”

“What in history and mathematics do you like to read about?”

“I like to read about the Kings and Queens of Old. I like to read about Westeros before it became a single kingdom. I also have a pretty good understanding of numbers. What about you, Ned? What do you like to read about” she replied.

“Well, I have read a lot, my lady. I like to read about all types of sciences and mathematics especially algebra”

“That is interesting, my lord. But why Algebra?”

“We can solve all problems of science and construction with simple and advanced algebra, my lady”

“So you are the architect behind the construction and reconstruction going on n the North.”

“Yes, my lady. I designed all the plans for all the major Northern constructions. From designing the new Winterfell and Moat Cailin to designing better sewage systems for all the major towns and cities of the North, I did all of them.”

“Sewage systems, my lord?”

“What do you think the current population of Wintercity is, my lady?”

“Well I think around a hundred and fifty thousand people live here currently”

“That is incorrect, my lady. Wintercity’s current population is around two hundred and seventy five
thousand people.”

“You must be japing. There is no way that almost two hundred and seventy five thousand people live in this city. There is no smell, no overcrowding and no slums here. Even Sunspear has some smell and slums and only about two hundred thousand people live there”

“That is the difference between a well planned city and sewage system and an unplanned one, my lady. The North is having a population boom currently and in two decades we expect the North’s population to reach almost seven and a half or even eight million people. So we decided to plan the cities and towns accordingly. They will be expanded in a planned way to ensure the sanity in the North is maintained. The North will not become the new King’s Landing”

“That is a good plan, my lord”

“Ashara, we should be going. Otherwise we would be late for mid day luncheon”

Ned stood up first and then helped her up. They both left the pavilion arm in arm. She felt safe and at home with him. Her fiancé was good and kind hearted person and she was falling in love with him.

They reached the Great Hall in silence, just enjoying each other’s presence. The Great Hall was filled with all the lords and ladies of the North as well as Dorne. The whole family was sitting on the raised dais. The luncheon was just about to start. Ned sat at the middle of the table and she joined him to his right. They were all talking and japing together when her mother suddenly addressed Ned.

“Lord Stark, House Dayne and Martell would like to talk to you at your convenience about some things” her mother said.

“We can talk after the luncheon. But if I may be prudent, your grace, may I ask what it is about” he replied.

“We would like to discuss some trade arrangements with you, my lord” she replied

“Even we have some propositions for you, your grace. We, that is my father and I, will meet your entourage in my solar, your grace” he replied.

After luncheon she and the rest of her family met in the ante chamber of the Great Hall.

“Lord Dayne, Oberyn, Doran and Ashara will join me and go to the meeting. The rest of you can carry on with your day” she said.

Arthur and rest of the people left and they all went to the Lord’s solar to meet with the Starks. Ned and Lord Rickard were sitting on the table. There was a sofa where she, Oberyn and Doran sat. Her father and mother joined Lord Rickard and Ned at the table.

“Lord Stark, Lord Rickard, thank you for meeting us on such a short notice” her mother said.

“It is alright, your grace. After all we are to become family soon. As you were the one to call this meeting you should be the one to start the dialogue” Ned replied.

“Lord Stark, as we do not know exactly what the North produces so we have a general layout of the plan. Dorne as know is under a bit of trade recession. We cannot import or export materials which have high trade tax. We need something cheap and abundantly present to start our trading operations” her mother said.

“We do have something on that front, your grace. The North would like to sell you coal. It is a type of fuel which burns hotter than charcoal and produces better quality of steel. It will help your smithies and your steel will be sought after by the whole realm. As for the rest of Dorne, we would like to buy more spices from you” Ned said.

“But the spices we produce, is just sufficient for our own consumption. If we export these items then our own people would have a shortage. We do not have sufficient fresh water to increase its production” Doran said.

“That is why we will also send you ice and snow, your grace. We will supply you with enough fresh water to increase your production of crops. In exchange we will also be buying sand from you, your grace” Ned replied.

“Sand?” her mother asked.

“Yes, Princess Deria, sand. We need sand for our construction works. So we will trade ice and coal in exchange of spices and sand, if you do not have any objections” he replied. On getting her mother’s nod he sat back in his chair.

“We can discuss further trade arrangements as and when required, my lord” she said.

Ned nodded his head and no one raised any objections. “It looks like we have a deal here” he said. He stood up and went to his cabinet and picked out glasses and then a flask of whiskey from his cabinet. He passed a glass to everyone and then said “Let me propose a toast on this auspicious moment. To North and Dorne, may this be a new dawn of relationship between the two great nations and may it last for several centuries....” he said

“ NORTH AND DORNE” they all said and drank the toast....