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Queen In The North

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Khaleesi?” Ser Jorah Mormont asked from outside the tent.

            “Yes, Jorah?” Daenerys Targaryen said to answer one question with another.

            “I’ve heard intriguing rumors from Westeros,” he said, still talking through the tent fabric. She was inside the tent with her handmaidens Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui.

            “I’ll be ready shortly,” Daenerys said crisply.

 

She had been married off to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo to advance her family’s political fortunes. Somewhat ironically, this gave her some distance from her cruelly temperamental brother Viserys. Irri and Jhiqui, Dothraki themselves, were Daenerys’ introduction into that strange world. They were both good teachers, Irri focusing on horseback riding and Jhiqui on the Dothraki language.

 

Doreah had given her advice on how to please Drogo. Daenerys was too young and inexperienced to know about such things. Doreah was also too young, but unfortunately, she was too experienced. Well, this was a better life than the brothel for her, Daenerys thought. Now her only customers were Viserys and Illyrio Mopatis, the fat merchant who had arranged the marriage.

 

Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui had been amongst the wedding gifts. They were fast becoming more than servants to her, but right now they were working – they were almost done dressing her. That was a challenge now that she was several months pregnant with Drogo’s son. Drogo had hunted a hrakkar, a white lion, and made Daenerys a cloak out of its pelt. That garment did not fit any more.

 

She made especially sure to be fully dressed around Jorah. He was looking at her as more than a queen, the one thing that aggravated her about the loyal servant. “Ser Jorah, you may enter,” Daenerys called out.

“As you wish, Khaleesi,” he replied as he ducked under the tent flap. “The Usurper is dead!” he said triumphantly.

“Excellent, but how have you heard?”

“Sailors from trade ships plying the Narrow Sea have brought some very intriguing news, and that’s hardly all of it,” Jorah answered.

“Go on, then,” Daenerys ordered.

“The usurper’s son Joffrey sits the Iron Throne. The usurper’s eldest brother Stannis had crowned himself, insisting that the usurper’s supposed children were truly fathered by the queen’s brother.”

“So his queen was the only woman in Westeros he wasn’t bedding?” Daenerys sarcastically responded. She knew the harsh truth of Robert Baratheon – not only did he steal the throne away from her family, he spent his time in power eating, drinking and whoring. A relationship between brother and sister was not so surprising to a Targaryen

Jorah particularly enjoyed the jape, but quickly got back to business. “Stannis says the Iron Throne is his by right.”

“He would be the Usurper’s heir. If he is honest about doing his duty, he shall recognize that the throne is truly mine by right. If not, a Dothraki horde will make him recognize,” Daenerys said with authority, a voice of command that came naturally to her.

 “Exactly,” Jorah affirmed. Their youngest brother Renly had crowned himself for unknown reasons. Lord Eddard Stark told the same tale of Joffrey’s parentage, and Joffrey had him executed for it. His son Robb leads the North in rebellion against the pretender. And so we have a fourth king.” We aren’t even women and men grown and look at us, Daenerys mused.

“How old is the new Lord Stark?” Daenerys wondered.
            “Mayhaps five-and-ten, Your Grace,” Jorah answered. He is not yet a man grown yet he seems to be acting like one, Daenerys mused. Considering myself at four-and-ten, I would understand.

 

The Usurper had killed Prince Rhaegar and then had Rhaegar’s children killed. Viserys had made himself an enemy of the Dothraki and was killed by them. This left Daenerys as the only known living descendant of Aerys II.

 

            The Dothraki did not normally deal in currency or ships. However, Drogo’s khalasar would need to buy passage across the Narrow Sea to Westeros to bring their forces to bear for House Targaryen. So they went to raid a peaceful shepherding town, and found another khalasar there doing the same. Drogo personally defeated its khal Ogo and khalakka Fogo, two more victories in Drogo’s long unbroken string of them, a string of bells in his hair as per the Dothraki tradition.

 

            Daenerys was not ashamed of war, but she could not tolerate the rape that came after the battle. She used what authority she had in her voice and in her title to interrupt it when she came across it. One of the relieved women was a healer and went to tend the wounds Drogo had received during the battle. This helped lend Drogo’s support to the righteous enterprise.

 

            However, the initial treatment was not working, and Drogo fell ill. Mirri tried to save him with dark magic. Some Dothraki warriors were annoyed they couldn’t have an enemy woman against her will, but dark magic was a universal fear of their culture. Irri and Jhiqui had made that plain enough to Daenerys. She needed to respect the Dothraki culture to earn the respect of the Dothraki people. Failure to learn that lesson had cost Viserys his life.

 

            Daenerys was determined that it wouldn’t lead to her death – or the death of her son. The Dothraki refused to go near the tent where Mirri was casting spells on Drogo. This included the Dothraki midwifes, and Daenerys was going into labor. By staying away from Mirri, Daenerys was able to obtain the help that mother and child needed. Once the umbilical cord was cut, Daenerys wrapped her hands around the baby’s waist and triumphantly held him up into the air. Jhiqui would be pleased with her Dothraki right about now. “Khalakka dothrae!” she bellowed. The prince is riding! Even the guttural Dothraki language was a more pleasant sound than her cries of childbirth pain.

            “Rakh haj!” the crowd answered in a repeated chant. A strong boy! Most of the group were women, but there were a few men, notably her khasari, the personal guards Jhogo, Aggo and Rakharo.

            “Ma me nem ahakee ma Rhaego!” Daenerys exclaimed. He shall be called Rhaego!Gaezo Rhaegar ma mahrazhkem Drogo,” she explained. Brother Rhaegar and husband Drogo

            The chant switched to just the name ‘Rhaego’.

 

            Meanwhile, even Mirri’s extreme spells had left Drogo for dead. An angered Daenerys had Jorah rudely drag Mirri in front of her for questioning. “He lives, that is all I promised,” she stammered.

            “Not for long!” Daenerys snapped.

            “After his horde destroyed my village, killed or enslaved those I knew, and his warriors ravaged me and many others, do you really think I owed him anything?” she answered defiantly.

            “It is no matter. You will be burnt along with him when he leaves this world,” Daenerys decreed. “Life for life, as you also promised.”

 

Daenerys holding Rhaego and a few others approached the spot where Drogo was sitting in agony. The sight of his wife and son brought a momentary smile to his pained face. “Make sure the boy grows strong enough to rule for himself,” Drogo said. The handmaidens eventually came to carry the baby back to the tent, and the other guests also soon departed. The two were soon left alone as the life faded from Drogo. For weeks she would be too raw to take a man inside her, as the midwives had emphasized, but Doreah had taught her many other ways, and so the khal left this world with pleasure from his khaleesi’s mouth, hands and breasts.

 

A bloodrider was guard, friend and brother to his khal, something beyond the Kingsguard of Westerosi tradition. It was the last duty of a dead khal’s bloodriders to escort his widow to join that group. That was one Dothraki tradition Daenerys did not want to submit to. “I can do more with my life than live it out with a group of old widows,” she said confidently. At this Drogo’s bloodriders Cohollo, Qotho and Haggo attacked. However, Jorah and her khasari fought them off. She wanted the khasari as her bloodriders, but they hesitated to follow a woman, even this woman.

 

Drogo’s body was to be burnt along with his possessions. Daenerys stood by the assemblage with three of hers – dragon eggs. They were her wedding gifts from Illyrio. She was blood of the dragon, she could weather these simple flames, not only survive them, but emerge from the ashes with the first living dragons in well over a century. She felt the flames burn her clothes away. She heard the eggs crack. She saw the three dragons emerge. One was black and red, one green and bronze, the other white and gold, all matching the colors of the eggs they had hatched from. Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, named after her husband and brothers. She rose from the ashes with Rhaegal and Viserion perched on her shoulders and Drogon held in front of her.

 

The sight of living dragons changed everything. “Blood of my blood,” Jhogo, Aggo and Rakharo finally offered. The Dothraki followed strength, and these three were hardly the only ones who saw that in even recently-hatched dragons.

However, much of the khalasar had already found that in a much more conventional source. Tens of thousands of riders had already departed with Drogo’s general Jhaqo, who had made himself a khal. Mago rode as one of his bloodriders. Those two names were painfully familiar. I have no need of those rapers, Daenerys thought to herself, for I am “The Unburnt, Mother Of Dragons,” as the crowd called out. Even without Jhaqo and the other breakaway khals, the assemblage was still tens of thousands strong. “Mother of Khal Rhaego,” they continued.

Irri brought her the boy, as surely blood of the dragon as she was, so it made sense for him to become acquainted with that as soon as possible.

 

The slavers had offended her as much as the rapers. She had shielded as many captives as possible by taking them into her personal custody. Now she spoke to all of them. “This khalasar’s slaves are hereby freed,” she said, simply but powerfully.

Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui stepped forward. Irri and Jhiqui had themselves been captured in some of Drogo’s long-ago battles. Many captives of the recent battle rushed to join them, staying with her, giving Daenerys yet another title as they surged forth. “Breaker of chains!”

 

“That was quite wise, Khaleesi,” Jorah said to her softly. “If you wish to rule Westeros, you must act as they do, and they have absolutely no tolerance for slavery. I would know. I learned that the hard way. Selling criminals into slavery instead of submitting them to standard punishments is not a good way to support an expensive wife.” That must have been why he went into exile. The particular revelation pained Daenerys far more than Jorah’s overly interested gaze.

 

“A queen must have a king. It is known,” Irri reminded her.

 

Stannis married years after the War of the Usurper, but years before the present conflict. Renly had wed the daughter of one of his major allies. Even if they had been single, Daenerys would not have them. Marrying one older man for politics rather than love had been more than enough.

 

Drogo had worked out, but another could be much worse. If she was so miserable, she wouldn’t care so much about who sat the Iron Throne. Furthermore, maybe she had resigned herself to her fate, thinking Drogo was better than he actually was. She remembered the nights when Drogo took her from behind and the pillow muffled her cries. Drogo was the only love she had known, so what did she have to compare him to?

 

She would never associate with the pretender Joffrey, let alone in so intimate a manner. Robb could prove to be much more reasonable. As she confided in her handmaidens, “If I was to marry again, he would be not so bad.”

Chapter Text

            King In The North! King In The North! The chant led by his bannerman Lord Jon Umber echoed in Robb Stark’s head. As Westeros fell apart, a Stark was the only king his fellow northmen felt they could follow.

 

The northern army had recently begun raiding the Westerlands – they had won a major victory at Oxcross and a minor one at Ashemark before storming a small fortress on the coast known as The Crag. Like Ashemark, it was an easy victory, and the castle was captured, but Robb had sustained an arrow wound in this battle.

 

Robb needed someone to tend to his wound. Maester Luwin was amongst the Stark staff that had stayed at Winterfell – not serving him in the field, not massacred along with his father in King’s Landing. The man was too old to travel anyways.

 

Robb didn’t move from the place where he was injured, not wanting to aggravate the wound. He called out “Maester!” With an arrow sticking out of his leg, it was obvious why he needed one.

“We don’t have one,” a smooth voice answered. It belonged to a young woman with brown hair and eyes. Looking at her thin body and smooth face, Robb thought She’s pretty, I suppose. As his father’s heir, he had focused on political and military affairs rather than wenching. It made sense that they don’t have a maester – The Crag was the seat of House Westerling, old and proud but also small and poor. Now what are we going to do about that? Robb thought. “In the absence of a maester, I’ve learned how to treat wounds like that,” the girl continued.

“So be it,” Robb said flatly.

 

Another Jon Umber, the lord’s son, was one of the soldiers who carried Robb to a room where he could be treated. “First, I need to get the arrowhead out, so don’t just yank on the shaft, else it might become separated from the flint,” Jeyne announced. “Did you see any arrows with barbed tips being used?” she asked.

“No,” Robb answered simply, relieved that the problem wasn’t even worse.

 

Her fingers found where the arrowhead was lodged in Robb’s flesh. Robb gritted his teeth. Well, this is war, Robb thought. And I refuse to cry in front of my soldiers. She inserted smooth metal tools into the wound, so the arrowhead would not cause even more damage as it was pulled out. Jeyne gladly presented Robb with the bloody metal triangle. Robb was wholly unsurprised to see her bring boiling wine to clean out the wound. She wrapped cloth around the part of Robb’s leg that bore the cut.

 

“Wow, you’re good,” Robb complimented. If she had been born a commoner, she may have found work as some sort of healer, mayhaps a midwife. If she was a man born high or low she could have gone to Oldtown to study to become a maester.

 

Robb put some weight on the leg. It felt sore and weak, and he wasn’t sure how much of that would fade with time.

 

An older woman showed up in the doorway. “Jeyne dear, it seems you have done well with the patient,” she said.

“Yes, my lady mother, the Mother Above is merciful,” Jeyne answered.

“She had nothing to do with it, your daughter did,” Robb chimed in.

“You northmen,” Sybell Spicer Westerling responded. “Well, I’ve mixed a potion that should help with the swelling. Drink some yourself to prove that it’s not poison,” she said to explain the vial she was carrying. “My son Raynald is the Westerling in The Crag, he did submit the castle, and I will respect that.”

 

His father, Sybell’s husband Gawen, was the house lord, but he had been captured at the Whispering Wood. That was the North’s first clear victory in the current war, before Robb was crowned, before his army marched into the Westerlands. However, Robb had almost forgotten about Gawen Westerling in the joy of capturing enemy commander Jaime Lannister.

 

Robb found the potion’s taste mild, and Jeyne agreed as she drank her portion. “The wound needs to be washed again. You may as well take a full bath, you probably need one anyway,” Jeyne suggested.

“Months in the field will do that to a soldier even without injuries,” Robb agreed. Jeyne called one of the Westerling servants to prepare the hot water. Meanwhile, she removed the bandage to find it mostly soaked with blood and the bleeding mostly stopped.

 

After Robb bathed and dressed, he received a wound that no medic of any sort could treat. The younger Jon Umber came running with a scroll. “Your Grace, dark wings bring dark words,” Umber said simply and solemnly. “I believe you’ll wish to be left alone with this.” Robb read that Theon Greyjoy had captured Winterfell and then had the Stark brothers Brandon and Rickon killed. Theon was acting for his own House, but this made him seem like a traitor after living at Winterfell for years and fighting alongside Robb in the earlier stages of the current war. His brothers dead, his home in ruins, by someone who had been like a brother at Winterfell. the tough young man began to cry.

 

Then he felt someone come in and put a hand on his shoulder. It was Jeyne. She seemed more beautiful now, Robb thought. “I also heard the news. My siblings all still live, but I can’t bear the thought of losing Elenya, or Raynald or Rollam,” she said sympathetically.

 

He stood up to put his hand on her shoulder, only to knock the strap of her gown off. Robb was surprised when she didn’t rush to pull it back up. “Why don’t you fix the other one?” she suggested smoothly. For some reason, Robb did, and the yellow fabric accented in white fell to the floor. She stepped out of the bottom of the dress to draw him closer for a kiss. The potion had left a sweet aftertaste that lingered in Robb’s mouth even now; he smelled the same on Jeyne’s breath.

They broke the sweet embrace only so he could lose his tunic and breeches. There was something not so small in his smallclothes and what looked like a nice firm pair of teats under hers. Neither person wished for their bodies to be constrained by the simple grey fabric any longer. Robb gazed in silent awe. His eyes and the eye at the tip of his manhood both focused between her legs, capped with a tuft of hair as brown as the luxurious strands atop her head. “You act like you haven’t seen a naked woman before,” Jeyne teased.

“Actually I haven’t,” Robb admitted. “Certainly not one I’m about to bed or one as pretty as you,” he added more confidently.

“I figured someone as handsome as you would have wenched his way through half the North by now,” Jeyne purred. “Bed me!” she said enthusiastically. “Make a woman out of me as I make a man out of you!” His body had already responded well enough, so he didn’t need much prompting when Jeyne threw one of her legs up into his outstretched arms.

He slid her between the sheets of a bed he had expected to have to himself, and promptly followed. He climbed on top of her and pushed down into her, for he knew that much, whether through innate instinct or what he had gathered from listening to the rowdier boys around him. No wonder they had found this so fascinating! he thought as his body surged in and out of hers.

Within a couple minutes, he felt his seed pump into her and his tall body collapse onto the pillow sideways to gaze into her eyes. “You’re a maiden’s fantasy, but now it’s no fantasy and I’m no maiden,” Jeyne said. She was right; her maiden’s gift had been given to him and the sheets.

Apparently the new king had found his queen. It seemed like the honorable way to treat her. He had promised himself to a daughter of Lord Walder Frey, but that man almost deserved to be snubbed for extracting concessions out of doing his fealty to House Tully. However, Robb was exhausted from the day’s exertion in both business and pleasure. He quickly fell asleep in the same bed on which he had deflowered Jeyne.

 

As Robb awoke, he looked over to see the fair young woman still with him, still asleep. Robb heard a series of heavy steps in the hallways outside the bedchamber. Lord Umber’s son was not a small man, so that was probably the source of the noise. “Good morning, Your Grace! I gather that your leg is still working?”

“Yes,” Robb answered.

“Apparently the thing between your legs is also still working,” he japed.

“Don’t jape like we’re at a wedding!” Robb shouted back. “I wish I could marry you,” he whispered to Jeyne.

“I understand that you can’t,” Jeyne replied solemnly.

“But I can find another good match for you,” Robb said cheerfully. Even though she’s soiled, thanks to you.

“I hope so,” she said, probably with similar thoughts running through her head.

“You deserve at least that much, though not a queen, you certainly should be treated like one,” Robb declared.

 

With his brothers dead and his sisters Sansa and Arya imprisoned in Kings Landing, Robb didn’t really have any heirs. Maybe he had just planted one in Jeyne last night. He couldn’t marry her due to the political situation, but kings could legitimize bastards. It was particularly understandable if the bastard’s father needed an heir. Robb had a living brother of sorts, his father’s bastard Jon Snow, raised at Winterfell alongside Robb and his full siblings. However, Jon had joined the Night’s Watch military order, the oath of which forbade members from holding lands or titles. So legitimizing Jon wouldn’t provide Robb with a successor, but through Jon, Robb understood a bastard’s fate as a well as a trueborn child could, so Robb would refuse to inflict that on his own children.

 

Mayhaps one of Frey’s daughters would charm him the way Jeyne just had. It was possible that another match would present itself, to a House stronger than Frey, let alone Westerling. He was raised amongst the ice, but these dreams had filled him with fire.

Chapter Text

The Iron Throne was still out of Daenerys’ reach, but now it was closer to her grasp. The Lhazareen shepherds’ territory was on the southwest of the Dothraki Sea, leaving only the Free Cities and the Narrow Sea between her and Westeros. She felt it would be unlikely to win further Dothraki to her cause and didn’t want to wear down her forces. So Daenerys led the horde west, which would avoid contact with other Dothraki. Hostile khalasari were always a concern for the Dothraki, but especially the Dothraki following her – other remnants of Drogo’s forces would bear a grudge, and Dothraki society as a whole would be displeased with how she didn’t join the other khal widows in Vaes Dothrak. That group, the dosh khaleen, ruled that place, the only city of the Dothraki. However, she was destined to rule a whole continent herself.

 

            They needed ships, so it seemed obvious to travel to a coastal city. Following the coast of Essos would lead to Volantis, the southernmost of the Free Cities. However, Daenerys did not wish to land that far south in Westeros, the region of Dorne. Lys and Tyrosh were somewhat the same in that regard.

 

Braavos was too far a trek across Essos and would land her too far north in Westeros, the Vale of Arryn. It was rich and powerful; the poor nearby Lorath couldn’t even offer that. Furthermore, that path was obstructed by Norvos and Qohor, two cities that were landlocked and thus would do her no good. Also, Qohor was notorious for defeating even a large Dothraki horde.

 

Pentos and Myr were in the right location, and Pentos was the home of Illyrio Mopatis, who has put these plans into motion. After a decade of Viserys’ begging, someone had answered. “But remember, Your Grace,” Jorah counseled. “Illyrio is loyal to Illyrio.”

“That impulse seems straightforward enough,” Daenerys answered. “He wants money and he shall have it. And food, gods that man eats a lot.”

“How do you intend to cross the Rhoyne, my queen?” he continued, referring to the river that ran nearly the entire north-south distance of Essos on the way to Westeros.

“We take the pass in the plains south of the Forest of Qohor and north of the Selhoru,” she said, naming a massive grove and one of the Rhoyne’s southern tributaries. That river had massive marshes surrounding it, more territory to avoid. “We cross the river at the ruins of Ar Noy and again at the ruins of Ny Sar. That brings us to the Golden Fields and The Flatlands, an easy path to Westeros,” she finished.

 

She was right in that last part - the trek did not bring much trouble. Then again, Daenerys thought, it was wise to not trouble twenty thousand Dothraki. Many of those they passed paid tribute, to the conventional sight of a mighty khalasar or to the unknown sight of dragons. The Dothraki had no use for money, but Daenerys would need wealth amongst other things to secure her birthright. Viserys had instilled in her the importance of birthright, and his claim to the Iron Throne was now hers.

 

One of Daenerys’ wedding gifts had been a beautiful filly with a silver coat. Much of the time, Irri had to ride it on Daenerys’ behalf. Dothraki demanded to see their leader ahorse, but the newborn Rhaego was considered a reasonable excuse to take to the cart. Daenerys found it rather difficult to hold the reins and hold Rhaego to the breast at the same time. Amongst the Dothraki, there was no shame in the breast, especially when it was being used for its intended purpose, so how Daenerys traveled was a strictly practical decision. She had also found herself less and less able to ride while she was pregnant with him. She missed the saddle, since in true Dothraki fashion she had become especially close to her mount. Viserys had always told her she was a princess, but she hadn’t felt like one until she had learned to ride the silver.

 

In calling for the khalasar to cross the river twice, Daenerys knew she had presented a challenge. However, a single crossing would have been too far to the south, making the route longer and exposing them to the haunted and diseased ruins of Chroyane as well as the pirates of Dagger Lake. Horses could drink river water, so the Rhoyne did not instill fear in the Dothraki the way the Narrow Sea would. However, those crossings were a necessary prelude for the final crossing to Westeros.

 

The khalasar reached the vicinity of the first ruin. One pirate ship had struck north from Dagger Lake, but Aggo planted an arrow in its mainsail and it quickly retreated. Daenerys thought he acted awfully quickly, but she recognized that he needed to take advantage of his bow’s increased range. Dragonbone shot further than wood. A bow was a traditional gift to a Dothraki wife to be used by her husband, and Daenerys had passed hers along to Aggo after Drogo’s death. The khaleesi had received a particularly good bow, and Aggo was an archer worthy of it. Similarly, Jhogo had received a whip and Rakharo had been given another one of the curved Dothraki swords known as arakhs.

 

The ruins had apparently provided enough material to bridge or dam the waters sufficiently to cross them. Daenerys and the silver were fourth across after the bloodriders. Despite repair efforts, a few riders were swept away as the structure started to crumble towards the end of the crossing.

 

The khalasar had encountered a band of slave traders on the march, men who found themselves dead, their material wealth confiscated and their slaves freed. Daenerys was blood of the dragon, and she burned even hotter with righteousness as some chose to follow her and some didn’t.

“Yet you feel the people of Westeros must follow you,” Jorah pointed out.

“As a monarch not a master,” Daenerys replied tersely. “No one should be under the lash, but all men must serve somebody, however high or low in society, however refined their lifestyle. I of course intend to be a leader worth following.”

“That you are, and this khalasar is proof enough of that,” Jorah replied confidently. “I do not wish to meet the fate of those other slavers,” Jorah admitted much more nervously.

“And I do not wish to condemn you to such a fate. It is normal in Westeros that joining the Night’s Watch takes a man off the chopping block, is it not?” Daenerys pronounced.

“It is known,” Jorah agreed. “I took a wife, and what good do it do me?” he said, referring to how he had eschewed that limitation of the Watch. “Everything I did was to support the luxury lifestyle she was accustomed to, I even took her with me when I went on the run, and she still left me. That was my second. The first one died after several years with no children. Yeah, I’m done taking wives. Taking the black it is. My lord father is lord commander of the black brothers now. Took the black to give me Bear Island and I fuck it up. He’ll be one disappointed man, but they say that on the wall all past crimes are forgiven.”

Daenerys took in the rant and offered “I am sure you’ll serve them as faithfully as you have served and will serve me.”

 

When they finally approached the walls of Pentos, envoys rode out to meet them. “The horselords come, we give them gifts, the horselords go,” an official said of the usual tribute.

“We do not seek trinkets this time, but rather ships,” Daenerys answered with a sharp edge.

“Let them in,” a fat man ordered.

“As you wish, Magister Illyrio,” the official answered.

 

Many trading ships from Illyrio and some others would serve as transports. Some sellsails would screen the fleet, mercenaries at sea as Jorah and so many others were on land. Whip, arakh and longsword wouldn’t do much good aboard a ship, but those men stood ready in case their ships were boarded. Aggo would lead the archers in ensuring enemy sailors never got close in the first place. It was paid by Illyrio’s money, the tribute Daenerys had received, and the promise of more once the wealth of Westeros was under her control.

 

The Targaryen kings and the Usurper after them had a small council of their highest advisors. Daenerys would continue the tradition, and with that in mind, she played another card with Illyrio. “There’s an appointment as Master of Coin in it for you.” It made sense to put the successful merchant in change of the kingdom’s finances. Other small council positions were reserved for Westerosi allies or perhaps compliant current occupants. Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard to become Queensguard, was an old honorable knight who ought to see the justice in her cause. The Grand Maester was a neutral servant, as were all maesters, at least in theory. Stannis had been in charge of the royal navy, and he could return to his spot on the council if he was compliant. However, the master of whisperers was by necessity a devious sort, and he would have to go. A leader’s role was to bring justice, so the master of laws was of paramount importance. She could certainly find a suitable Hand of the Queen.

 

The Narrow Sea was not so narrow that she could see across it. However, the dream of reasserting the Targaryen dynasty was now metaphorically in sight.

Chapter Text

            Stannis Baratheon knew Eddard Stark and his predecessor Jon Arryn had died trying to discover and reveal a dark secret. ‘King’ Joffrey was supposedly King Robert’s first trueborn son and claimed the throne accordingly, but he was truly sired by the queen’s brother. His sister Myrcella and brother Tommen were born of the same vile incest. They bore the name Baratheon, but they definitely weren’t of that house. They weren’t even Lannisters – they deserved to be called ‘Waters’, the name for bastards born in the Crownlands. Stannis knew the Iron Throne was rightfully his as Robert’s oldest brother. Eddard had passed Stannis the information shortly before Joffrey had Lord Stark executed for telling that inconvenient truth. Stannis had the news spread far and wide as part of asserting his right to the crown.

 

Much of the Lannister household was likely aware that Jaime and Cersei were far too close even for twin siblings. Stannis knew many would be skeptical of the scandal, and Joffrey loyalists had responded with rumormongering against Stannis. Those lies were so disgusting and ridiculous that Stannis did not care to dwell on them. However, the average Lannister loyalists at least thought they were supporting their rightful king. Renly Baratheon’s men, not to mention Robb Stark’s, definitely had no such excuse. Stannis regretted having his brother Renly killed, but treason was treason. Besides, he had doubted his younger brother’s ability to rule – Renly’s charm may have helped him gain power, but Stannis’ firm sense of justice would be necessary to hold onto it.

 

Would that those traits were fused in the same man or the brothers had seen fit to work together. Yet Renly insisted on being crowned, Stannis reminded himself. Robert drove us apart by giving him Storm’s End, rich lands that were the ancestral seat of House Baratheon. I got stuck with Dragonstone, the poor traditional seat of House Targaryen, Stannis’ thoughts continued. Mayhaps their eldest brother’s decision plus the influence of Loras Tyrell had helped to tragically inflate Renly’s sense of self-importance.

 

Loras Tyrell was squire turned sworn knight turned Kingsguard Lord Commander for Renly. The two had been lovers all along. Stannis was well aware of his younger brother’s predilections in the bedchamber. Stannis barely bedded his wife, Queen Selyse Florent. Well, Robert had more than made up for his brothers on that account.

 

Stannis had a duty to produce heirs and he had, sweet Shireen. However, even on the rare occasions when he bedded Selyse, no more were forthcoming. Shireen would herself need an heir. The maesters knew she was frail and wondered if she was fertile, lingering effects of the grayscale that disfigured her earlier in life.

 

Well, a king could create heirs with his pen as well as his penis. Needing an heir was a particularly acceptable reason to legitimize a bastard. Robert certainly left many to choose from if the time came. However, most were unknown, and not trained since birth for the responsibilities of the nobility.

 

 Stannis knew Robert’s son Edric Storm, but the boy’s existence was a blight on Stannis’ honor, and Stannis was not a man to suffer such things lightly. Robert and Selsye’s cousin Delena Florent had conceived Edric the night of Stannis and Selyse’s wedding, in the bed intended for the newlyweds. Robert’s excuse was that he was so drunk he hadn’t known what bedchamber he had entered, which Stannis admittedly found rather believable.

 

Stannis felt the circumstances were a bad omen for his marriage. In that way the brothers were somewhat alike – Robert’s marriage also seemed doomed from the start. When Robert had Cersei for the first time, he accidentally addressed her as Lyanna. Robert had been betrothed to her, Eddard’s sister. Her beauty had also drawn the eye of Prince Rhaegar, who abducted the lass, one of the sparks setting off Robert’s Rebellion. So it was personal when Robert slew Rhaegar in single combat. Lyanna died during the war, mayhaps from birthing Rhaegar’s child. Robert couldn’t manage to forget his friend’s sister. No wonder Cersei would rather bear her brother’s children instead of his brother’s, Stannis thought.

 

Renly had referred to his protectors as the Rainbow Guard, typical of his overly stylish manner. Stannis had not created a counterpart; the White Guard was his by right along with the rest of the Iron Throne’s power. Its Lord Commander was Ser Barristan Selmy, an honorable man who ought to see the justice in Stannis’ cause. Jaime Lannister would have to go, trade a white cloak for a black one mayhaps. Ser Jaime had been a Kingslayer once; who’s to say he would not do so again? Fortunately, a current traitor had taken care of the past traitor, as Robb captured Jaime in one of the Stark battles against the Lannisters.

 

Red was the only color for Stannis now. He had recently been approached by Melisandre, a priestess of the fiery god R’hllor. Selyse and most of the rest of Dragonstone took up Melisandre’s faith. Rainbows and other sevens, sigils of the Andal gods, were blasphemy now. As the Andals destroyed the sacred forests of the First Men, so did the followers of R’hllor destroy the sigils of The Seven. The First Men had picked up the Old Gods and the Andals had brought the New Gods, Melisandre proselytized for a yet newer god. The central tenet of her faith was the struggle between light and the forces of darkness. The red priestess said Stannis now played a fundamental role in that eternal war. She proclaimed him Azor Ahai reborn, a legendary hero destined to win the final battle, and Stannis gladly took up that duty.

 

To speak of red, Robar Royce had worn the red cloak for Renly. Him and Emmon Cuy the yellow had been slain by a grieving Loras looking for someone to blame. Brienne Tarth the blue had nearly met a similar fate, but she escaped. This story came from Guyard Morrigen the green, Parmen Crane the purple and Bryce Caron the orange, three of the many men from Renly’s forces that now supported Stannis. The Tyrells had played a key part in crowning Renly, including making Loras’ sister Margaery a sham wife for the so-called king. Now House Tyrell threw their lot in with Joffrey against Stannis. So in a way, Loras knew who had been responsible for his lover’s death.

 

Melisandre knew powerful magic. One spell had involved bedding Stannis to produce the creature that had assassinated Renly. Even after Renly’s death, Storm’s End still hadn’t surrendered, thanks to the castle’s stubborn commander. In order to cut the siege short, Melisandre and Stannis had recast the spell used to kill Renly.

 

During Robert’s Rebellion, Stannis had held Storm’s End against a Tyrell siege, and Davos the smuggler relieved the starving garrison with a shipment of onions. The man was knighted as Davos Seaworth and was to this day one of Stannis’ staunchest allies. Now, Davos snuck Melisandre into Storm’s End to take the castle. Ironically, Davos was no follower of R’hllor, but he had still done his king’s bidding.

 

Stannis could trust Davos as the elite royal assistant titled Hand of the King; however, Davos was not an educated man, and Stannis found it politically prudent to give the title to his wife’s uncle Alester. Besides, ship captains as skilled as Davos were needed in the royal fleet. Even facing the combined might of Houses Lannister and Tyrell, Renly’s forces gave Stannis enough strength to strike at King’s Landing, and strike he would.

 

The messengers that carried Stannis’ news across the Narrow Sea brought back their own word. Daenerys Targaryen had hatched three dragons. Many Targaryens had tried and failed in a multitude of ways to bring back the dragons in the hundred and fifty years since the creatures had died out. With them, thousands of Dothraki warriors and the usual assortment of mercenaries, Daenerys was poised to claim the throne as Aerys II’s daughter. However, she had no rights as the second cousin of Robert I. The Iron Throne belonged to the Baratheons now.

Chapter Text

            “Your Grace, the march south brings us closer to Casterly Rock, and there is no way in the seven hells we can lay siege to it,” Ryman Frey pointed out. Robb knew that ‘The Rock’, the main castle of the Westerlands, was north of the region’s main city Lannisport. As such, the Northern army couldn’t really sack Lannisport and retreat either.

 

            “There’s a raven for him,” Ryman’s son Walder interrupted. One of many Walder Frey descendants named after the man, this one was called Black Walder due to his disagreeable personality. Robb thought the large amount of Brandons in Stark history was confusing enough, his dead brother the latest of many. Ryman’s son Walder and Jon’s son Jon had scaled the walls while Robb stormed the main gate. You stormed Jeyne’s main gate too, Robb heard Jon jape in his head.

“It’s a letter from his mommy,” Black Walder taunted. It bore the seal of Robb’s lady mother Catelyn Stark, there was no doubt about it, yet it was a letter to Robb as her king rather than Robb as her son. She had gone to the east to treat with King Renly Baratheon. With Queen Cersei’s children not being fathered by the late King Robert, Renly’s older brother Stannis was the rightful king. However, if such laws were a concern, Robb himself wouldn’t have been crowned.

 

Renly commanded a larger army than Stannis. Stannis would insist on all seven kingdoms, Renly mayhaps not. All Robb and his bannermen wanted was independence for the North, not the crown for all of Westeros. Robb wasn’t sure if he had been crowned King of the Riverlands or the Riverlands had been annexed to the Kingdom of the North; such legalities were a matter for the maesters. The point was that he controlled that territory, and would be willing to give up dominion over it as part of the peace. Renly was like to be interested, Robb hoped.

 

However, the actual content of the letter dashed those hopes. Renly died under mysterious circumstances. Most of Renly’s forces now support Stannis. House Tyrell, including Renly’s widow Margaery, is now allied with the Iron Throne. I travel back to Riverrun with a guard falsely accused of involvement in Renly’s death. Riverrun was the seat of House Tully, his mother’s birth family, invaluable allies in this war. Robb passed the letter around and announced that his host would travel back to Riverrun as well.

 

Catelyn’s wasn’t the only raven. “My lord father captured several gold mines,” Jon said of another Northern campaign in the West. Mayhaps that gold shall become dragon coins of King Robb I, not bad, Robb thought.

“You can’t eat gold!” Black Walder pointed out, dismissing a major strength of the Westerlands.

“Well, Lady Mormont captured a bunch of livestock,” Jon pointed out. All armies had to live off the land to an extent, so Robb recognized this was an important victory as well. However, plunder wasn’t Robb’s main strategic objective. He wanted to draw House Lannister’s strength away from King’s Landing and pin them down in their home territory. However, that hadn’t been working. Tywin hadn’t taken the bait, so Robb would strike elsewhere.

 

Robb only intended to rule the North, but there was one other crown he did want – the Driftwood Crown of the Iron Islands. He wanted to personally rip it off of Balon Greyjoy’s head, then remove that head from its neck. Theon’s head would not be far behind. This was the second time Balon had crowned himself. A few years into King Robert’s reign, he thought the new king weak. Robb’s father was chief amongst the generals that tragically proved Balon wrong. Theon had been taken to Winterfell as a warning, and the Greyjoys hadn’t heeded it. Balon had just proved that he hadn’t deserved a second chance; Robb wondered why he had been given one. His first treason was vile enough, the false repentance even more so.

His children and captains sacked the North! A king’s first duty was to defend the people of his realm. Robb thought of how best to accomplish that as the primary subject of imminent war council meetings.

 

Asha had committed no special crimes against House Stark or houses sworn to it. She was at worst too good a soldier on the enemy’s side. Her side could change. Mayhaps the two of them would even see fit for her to wear a crown – Asha Greyjoy Stark, Queen of the North, Rivers and Isles? It seemed fitting to reverse those titles, Robb thought. At the time of Aegon the Conqueror, the ironborn had controlled the Riverlands, the Kingdom of Isles and Rivers. House Tully had gained control over the region by leading the river lords in supporting Aegon The Conqueror.

 

Would Margaery be wed to the Tyrells’ new king? Gods, no woman deserves that vile inbred bastard as a husband, Robb thought. Sansa had seen the truth of Joffrey too late. What might it take to bring the Tyrells over to his side besides taking Margaery’s hand? Robb considered more as-yet-fictional titles, in this case ‘Margaery Tyrell Stark, Queen of the North, Rivers and Reach’.

 

Robb didn’t like thinking of the brides and even the grooms as pawns. To be like his father included wanting such a happy marriage. Would that my love was of a greater house, Robb mused. Yet he still recognized the political realities; had he not, Jeyne would be queen.

 

Robb was offered his pick of Walder Frey’s descendants, so he could certainly have the pretty wife he wanted. However, he seemed to recognize that wasn’t everything. Queen Cersei was beautiful, but her marriage to King Robert must have been loveless if she preferred incest. Jeyne was pretty but not that pretty, and Robb loved her dearly.

 

Robb certainly didn’t need to shore up the loyalty of the north; the devotion of the bannermen was the legacy of many honorable Stark lords before him, a legacy Robb dreamed of building on. Dacey Mormont, heiress to her House, was graceful as well as deadly, but if they were a match, they would have seen it by now. She was doing quite well where she was, as one of Robb’s elite swords. However, she made ‘sword’ metaphorical by preferring a morningstar, as did her mother.

 

Eddard’s brother Brandon and their father Rickard had been killed in the Mad King’s insanity, which must have made the rebellion deeply personal even for so calm a man as Eddard. Catelyn had been betrothed to Eddard’s older brother Brandon and loved him, and the plans for a Stark-Tully alliance were maintained with Eddard. It had been arranged and worked out beautifully; Robb didn’t want to take that chance. He knew he was one of the most available men in Westeros and could bide his time.

 

Now they had a march to Riverrun to carry out, joined by the new Stark loyalists of House Westerling. The host began to ride to the northeast. Ser Brynden Tully, the brother of Robb’s grandfather, was the captain of Robb’s scouts. He had done a masterful job aiding their element of surprise and taking it away from Lannister hosts. His forces had recently ambushed a party from the Golden Tooth, gate to the Westerlands, held by House Lefford. Brynden came back to Robb to report casualties. “Mayhaps Jeyne can walk amongst the wounded,” Robb suggested.

 

“If His Grace has left her still able to walk!” Jon Umber again. True, Robb had bedded Jeyne several times since that battle. He usually both fell asleep and woke up to the sweet wetness between her thighs. Wheelhouses had their place as opposed to riding on horseback. I’ve got plenty of a stallion with me back here, Jeyne had japed. Did Lord Umber’s son teach her such ribaldry, or did she learn it elsewhere? Robb wondered. Well, this one was true enough, Robb thought to himself with a smile. Horsemasters would say that no man was literally so prodigiously endowed, and that women were glad of it, their cunts sore enough already.

 

Brynden’s action had protected the Stark foragers. Robb heard the mooing of Maege’s herd and saw the glint of Lord Umber’s gold. Lord Umber saw his son carrying a captured burning-tree banner from House Marbrand of Ashemark. “Seems you’ve been busy,” said father to son.

“Not compared to the king,” the son replied while casually pointing towards Jeyne.

Lord Umber understood quickly. “Ah, Your Grace, you’ve finally had a woman, good for you!” he said boisterously. He shook his young king’s hand, and Robb noticed it was the one with two fingers missing. Robb had sicced Grey Wind on Lord Umber for defying him. With that atom of firmness, Robb had earned Lord Umber’s respect and later a crown. The crown itself was forged by the Riverrun smith, a bronze circle with nine iron spikes, a replica of the old northern crown long since lost to time. Maege Mormont’s men feasted the reunited army on fresh beef while the force rested before the final push back to Riverrun.

 

The Golden Tooth blocked a mountain pass into the Westerlands. However, Robb’s direwolf Grey Wind had found a route around it. The direwolf was the sigil of House Stark; it seemed poetic that direwolf pups had come to Robb and the other Stark children. Robb’s host exited the Westerlands the same way it had entered them.

 

The triangular shape of Riverrun became visible soon enough. Catelyn herself was amongst the first to ride out to meet them. “My son, my king, congratulations on the successful campaign. Welcome home.”

 

Robb wanted to see his lady mother alone. He followed her down the halls to see a knight at her personal chambers – tall, but not quite so towering as the Umber men, and armored fully in blue. “Ser?” he asked of the guard.

“It’s just Brienne,” she answered. The name and the relatively high voice seemed to be two of the few feminine things about her. Gods, she makes Jeyne look like Jonquil by comparison, Robb thought. Sansa loved the stories and songs of the legendary maiden Jonquil. Yet Robb trusted his mother’s choice of sword wielder, the relevant issue here.

 

Inside the chambers, Robb said “This is the only home we have left after Theon’s treason,” Robb answered.

“And you the only son I have left,” Catelyn added with tears in her eyes. “Now who is Lady Not A Frey I saw with you?” she inquired. “Have I a new daughter?” she said, referring to the traditional blessing of a son’s wife. She forced out the words.

“Jeyne Westerling. Would that I could make her my queen, but I know I cannot.” Robb saw Catelyn’s demeanor improve instantly, as if someone had relieved her of a heavy weight. “She tended my battle wounds, quite ably I must say, and we fell in love as I suffered a far more grievous wound.” His mother would know what he meant, for she would likely have received the news of Winterfell around the same time.

“I am glad you have found love and not let yourself be destroyed,” Catelyn acknowledged.

 

The Mormont plunder feasted the Riverrun garrison as well as the Northern army this time. A messenger from the kitchens had Brienne interrupt Robb and Catelyn to call them all to table. Robb had the seat of honor in the Great Hall, partially because a king outranked a lord, partially because Hoster Tully was still confined to sickbed anyway. The lady queen’s seat was still empty, Robb hoped not for long. Jeyne supped with the other Westerlings to keep up appearances.

 

Vyman, the old maester at Riverrun, came to the high seat with an important message. It bore Stannis’ seal. Lord Stark, I am not your threat from the east. There is another force yet further to the east that threatens us both. The dragons are reborn, and the dragon queen is poised to bring them and a host across the Narrow Sea. Dragons can’t be tamed, as you should know. I wish for a truce. “We have peace with Stannis and will take the war to King’s Landing while we have the chance,” Robb told his advisers. He had better ideas for the dragon queen.

Chapter Text

“The Mad King’s daughter has a fleet, Your Grace,” the maester told Stannis. “It sails the Narrow Sea as we speak.”
“That is a problem that Stannis Baratheon knows how to deal with,” the king answered. He was the second oldest of the four claimants, after Balon but before Robb and Joffrey. He was the only one with a right to the Iron Throne, so age didn’t matter, and he also felt the mature adult compared favorably to either of the two boys anyway. “Ready our fleet. We must needs defeat theirs before it lands troops,” he announced generally. “Lord Seaworth, I wish to raise my flag in Black Betha,” he added, naming Davos’ vessel. This was an exception from the usual Fury.
Davos saved him four-and-ten years ago, and had been richly rewarded, including the very title and name Lord Seaworth. Davos had continued to serve loyally since then as a sailor and counselor. Now Stannis’ flagship would be the same one that saved him all those years ago. Davos’ third son Matthos was one of his father’s officers. The first son, Dale, captained Wraith, and second, Allard, Lady Marya. The fourth, Maric, was an officer on Fury. Devan, King Stannis’ squire, was next. The sons flanked the father as the fleet left the harbor.
Sons named after Stannis and Stannis’ own father Steffon were too young for war. Seven strong sons, no wonder your faith in the Seven is so strong, men sometimes told Davos. They were back at the family keep with their mother – Davos had been quite pleased when Allard named his ship after the woman. Just a carpenter’s daughter and her teats sag, yet the sweetest woman in the world, especially when she smiles, Davos thought.

Within but a couple days, the fleets came in sight of each other. Rowers waited for the order to ramming speed. The Fury carried dozens of scorpions, and Stannis saw the crew loading bolts. He saw the enemy decks full of archers. A reasonable strategy to combine land and naval power. A Targaryen ship raised a flag – not one of surrender, but one of truce. It was not what Stannis wanted to see, but the man of honor in him had to honor it. Well, at least they didn’t open fire yet either.

Stannis hoped that, R’hllor will it, Daenerys was Aegon with teats instead of Aerys. There were great Targaryens, whom Stannis at least respected even when he opposed them, but there were as many mad ones. Jaehaerys II had once said Madness and greatness were two sides of the same coin and every time a new Targaryen was born, the gods would toss the coin in the air and the world would hold its breath to see how it would land. However, Stannis had not seen Daenerys’ coin fall, and Melisandre had taught him that there was only one god to watch.

Black Betha answered with a signal inviting the meeting to take place aboard the Seaworth ship. A boat set forth from her flagship. As its passengers were let aboard Black Betha, Stannis got a closer look at them. Her guards and servant were all Dothraki savages. The girl herself was rather pretty - even Stannis could see that, especially by contrast – his Shireen was a sweet girl, but looks were not amongst her virtues. Well, he’d have no trouble marrying off a princess and future queen.
R’hllor knows what Robert would be thinking about her and the servant. Renly might have entertained similar thoughts about the guards, or maybe not - for all his faults, he was faithful to his Knight Of Flowers, Stannis observed to himself.
“Lady Daenerys,” Stannis announced stiffly. “Welcome to the flagship of Stannis Baratheon, First Of His Name, King Of Westeros.” She heard the servant saying harsh words to the bodyguards; she must be some sort of translator and that must be the savage language of the Dothraki.
“Lord Stannis, that’s only because your brother stole my father’s crown and then proceeded to impregnate every woman in Westeros except his wife,” she responded. The jape about Robert’s whoring and wenching tempered her opening statement, though Stannis still never laughed.
“Our eleven-greats grandsire built the Iron Throne by conquest and my brother took it thusly,” Stannis responded.
“And so your other brother aims to do,” Daenerys parried.
“Lord Renly is dead,” Stannis announced.
“Good. One less king to fight when we’re through with you. Care to die in fire or blood?” Daenerys raged.
“Spoken like a true Targaryen,” Stannis admitted. “but mine is the Fury,” he said, pointing towards the huge warship and parrying her variation of the Targaryen words with a twist of the Baratheon motto. The founder of his house was Aegon’s bastard half-brother Orys Baratheon, who had defeated Argillac Durrendon during The Conquest, adopting his motto and marrying his daughter.
“Mine are the dragons,” Daenerys answered as the creatures crawled over her arms and shoulders. “Dracarys”. All three let out puffs of flame and smoke into the air.
“She who can hatch dragons must be blessed by the Heart of Fire,” Melisandre announced, giving an alternate name for R’hllor. “She would be an invaluable ally against the Great Other,” the red priestess added. Melisandre had prophesied that Stannis was the reincarnation of legendary hero Azor Ahai who would defeat the cold and dark eternal enemy of R’hllor. R’hllor had sent her Stannis - mayhaps he had sent both of them Daenerys.

Davos guessed what Stannis was thinking and whispered in his king’s ear. “Your Grace, with all due respect, you mean for us to kneel to lizards? I say defeat her before they’re full grown.”
“She has both law and force behind her, same as I do. We could give battle, but it is no sure thing – and I am sure that you would prefer for you and your sons to remain alive,” Stannis countered.
“Aye, she hired some of the sellsails I would have preferred to hire for our cause,” Davos admitted dejectedly.

“So you’re returning to Westeros. I had heard that the slaver Jorah Mormont was also doing so,” Stannis snapped.
“He is on one of my ships, but out of respect for your righteousness, I did not want to present him to you,” Daenerys explained.
“A wise decision, especially so for a woman of four-and-ten,” Stannis admitted.
“He has offered me good counsel and loyal guard service, but I understand he cannot escape his crimes,” Daenerys stated.
“His Grace is quite just – I would know,” Davos offered.
“Ser Jorah understands that he is to join the Night’s Watch after we defeat our mutual enemies,” Daenerys said confidently.

Stannis thought it was his duty and right to be king, rather than something he wanted, unlike his brothers. Standing before him was someone worthy of relieving him of that responsibility. This could even help him focus on his greater duty as Azor Ahai.

He strode back across the deck and said “Your Grace, your claim is as good as mine, and we have greater enemies than each other, so I offer terms”.
“Offer them,” Daenerys answered tersely.
“I maintain my seat on the small council…”
“As I had intended if you proved this reasonable,” Daenerys agreed.
“My past actions and those of men loyal to me are to be acknowledged as non-treasonous,” Stannis demanded. He saw her hesitate at the pardon, yet she’d have to be a fool to not grant it. After all, he had absorbed most of Renly’s army in this manner.
“So let it be done.”
“Whoever sits the Iron Throne, Storm’s End is mine by right.”
“It shall remain as such.”

Satisfied, Stannis went to take a knee. “Daenerys Targaryen, First Of Your Name, I shall aid you in asserting your dominion as Queen of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.” It seemed best to fill her head with the titles.
“You shall. Rise, Lord Stannis.”

Now that Stannis referred to Daenerys as his queen instead of Selsye, some men japed that Daenerys was his third queen, the second being Melisandre. If they dared do so in Stannis’ hearing, such men were reminded that Stannis was not a man for frivolous humors. “My queen, we were already going to march on King’s Landing, and our army supporting yours would make victory even more certain.”

Chapter Text

“Iffi!” Daenerys shouted, the Dothraki word for victory. Jhiqui, Rakharo and Jhogo were already aware of the monumental accomplishment, but Aggo was the first aboard Valyrian to hear of it. Her archer bloodrider had stood ready to command that part of her forces if today had come to war. However, the arrows were un-nocked and re-quivered as soon as Daenerys returned to her fleet. Daenerys had presented Stannis with a Targaryen banner. It was displayed from a mast of Black Betha. Stannis’ arms, the Baratheon stag in a flaming heart, flew next to Daenerys’ dragon.

 

Lord Davos Seaworth was captain of that particular vessel, so Seaworth arms flew next to Targaryen and Baratheon. The blazon was a light grey onion on a dark grey field. House Seaworth usually put the onion on a black sail. However, a ship on a ship seemed ridiculous, so when used as a naval jack, the onion was put directly on the field.

 

Daenerys knew the story of the Seaworth sigil, and did not care for it. Stannis rebelled with his lord brother instead of serving his king, her father, and his stubbornness in holding Storm’s End had tied down the loyalist forces of Mace Tyrell and his bannermen for the better part of a year. They had nearly starved Stannis out when Davos, then a smallfolk smuggler, supplied the garrison with a cargo of food known for its onions.

 

War was a strange beast; if Daenerys had stuck too close to the circumstances of her father’s war, she may not have been able to win her own. Now Baratheon allied with Targaryen against Tyrell. Davos had been knighted for allowing Stannis to hold out long enough for Eddard Stark to break the siege. And yet Daenerys was seriously considering marrying that traitor’s son, grandson of fellow traitor Hoster Tully. At least Tywin Lannister was known to be an enemy of House Targaryen this time. He brought his host to King’s Landing supposedly to defend Aerys II. He sacked the city and had Rhaegar’s wife and children murdered. His son killed the king and his daughter married the Usurper. Daenerys would enjoy seeing Tywin’s head on a spike, yes, she would. Rhaegar’s wife had been Elia of House Martell, so Dorne would also be relieved to see the Lion of Lannister sent to the seven hells.

 

Aggo turned ‘iffi’ into a chant that spread through many of the riders on deck. Daenerys’ greatest victory to date was bloodless. And my wedding brought two-and-ten deaths, she thought to herself. My first wedding, she corrected herself, for gods know a second will be one of my future victories. Some of Daenerys’ khalasar were restless at the lack of battle, but Daenerys promised plenty of opportunities to draw blood once they landed in Westeros.

 

When Jorah spoke to Daenerys alone, he generally used the Common Tongue of Westeros. That generally wasn’t for privacy, as translators and some other Westerosi were usually about. His choice of language was simply a nod to familiarity. Usually he addressed her as Khaleesi, translating as ‘queen’ but meaning so much more, but the Westerosi title seemed appropriate with a major victory before she even landed. “Your Grace, you and Lord Stannis both proved wise. Now, with one of the seven kingdoms in your grasp, the other six should soon follow.”

 

Stannis would expect a good match for his Shireen. Daenerys wondered why that was not broached aboard the deck of Black Betha. “I believe not mentioning Lady Shireen was a deliberate test of you being sensible enough to think of her,” Jorah suggested. “Lord Stannis would be pleased to hear that you have passed that test.”

 

The girl being not quite ten, they had a few years to decide. A son of Daenerys would make Shireen a princess and potential future queen once again. It was common for younger women to be married off to older men, as Daenerys would know, but the opposite was not entirely unheard of.

 

Daenerys recognized that Targaryen incest was both a strength and weakness of the house; she read that her grandsire Jaehaerys II had compared it to flipping a coin. She did not want the practice to continue in so strong a form. Her children and Stannis’ would be only third-degree cousins, but even first-degree would have been an improvement by Targaryen standards.

 

When Aegon I died, the Faith Of The Seven rebelled against the dynasty born of incest. Aegon and Rhaenys’ son Aenys I was too soft in confronting the rebels, Aegon and Visenya’s son Maegor too barbaric. Daenerys did not want to emulate either. Aenys’ son Jaehaerys I brought decades of peace, something she certainly wanted to do with her time on the Iron Throne. Daenerys imagined what she could accomplish sitting the throne herself instead of working through the man who did.

 

Alysanne, the sister-wife of Jaehaerys I, had been one of the greatest Targaryen queens. She had convinced Jaehaerys to abolish some of the worst laws and customs that worked against women. She had also been a friend of the Night’s Watch, as House Stark had always been. Emulating that aspect of the Good Queen could certainly help her win the favor of the North. Besides, Daenerys heard Stannis’ priestess talk about fighting a Great Other. She knew the purpose of the Night’s Watch was to fight Others. Jorah was not a particularly studious man, but he was no imbecile either, and he had taken to researching his likely future home, expanding his library as they marshaled their forces in Pentos. The Others seemed like creatures from scary stories alongside grumpkins and snarks, at best gone for thousands of years, but the dragons had come back after being gone less than two centuries.

 

Irri placed Rhaego back in Daenerys’ arms and then began looking at Rakharo’s arms. Jhiqui joined her in the latter pastime. He was a man grown, though having passed six-and-ten only recently. Daenerys’ handmaidens were of an age with her, nearly women grown. Although Rakharo’s duty as bloodrider came first, Daenerys’ found her handmaidens’ gaze quite understandable.

 

“Did I just meet your goodfather today?” Daenerys cooed to her son. His skin tone was darker than his mother but much lighter than his father. He had his mother’s purple eyes and white hair from the blood of old Valyria. Her boy seemed strong at only a few weeks – imagine how he’d grow, how well he could fill his prophesied role as khal of khals.

 

The newly combined fleet sailed towards Dragonstone to unite with Stannis’ troop transports and rearguard, to assault King’s Landing as soon as the winds allowed. Daenerys found it passing odd that the Vale had apparently stayed out of the war, especially since Lord Arryn was Robb’s first cousin. However, those family ties should keep them from coming to the Lannisters’ aid. Daenerys judged that there wasn’t enough time to coordinate with Robb’s forces and she commanded the strength to defeat the Lannisters and Tyrells anyway. An alliance of Rock and Reach would fall to House Targaryen, as had happened nearly three centuries prior.

 

This was the two hundred and ninety eighth year after Aegon’s Landing. Daenerys became queen of her legendary ancestor’s domain when Viserys III died on day six-and-fifty of that year. However, on this day, ten-and-hundred, that right became a reality.

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“Your Grace, this is now the war of three kings and one queen,” Lord Umber told Robb. “Stannis has sent out a new proclamation now that he has bent the knee to Daenerys,” he explained. “Maester Vyman suggested I bring the raven’s scroll before the war council,” Umber added while passing Robb the piece of paper to smooth out.

            “Gods, couldn’t they have fought amongst themselves?” Robb muttered. “Some of you here in this council say I’ve had beginner’s luck at war, yet even I can see that Her Grace has more than enough strength to attack King’s Landing, and soon.”

            “Agreed in both regards, Your Grace,” Umber said.

            “I think we should join them,” Robb suggested. “Ideally, it shows that we’re allies. If not, defections from Lannister and Tyrell forces would be our best chance to stand against Daenerys and Stannis. Mayhaps those two sides would wear down each other and we could defeat them both.

            “To King’s Landing!” Umber agreed. “To King’s Landing,” Rickard Karstark growled. His firstborn son Harrion had been captured at the Green Fork, and his other sons Torrhen and Eddard had been killed at the Whispering Wood. Rickard was thirsty for revenge. Several other Stark bannermen joined in the call. Catelyn Tully said it calmly, cautioning against bloodlust. Roose Bolton also did not yell the three words, but for other reasons – he was cold, calculating and cruel. Robb and some of the other younger men had mocked his quirks and his reserved personality, but this was no man to jape with. At any rate, he was a superb commander of the bulk of the Northern infantry. Robb’s uncle Edmure Tully would command the bulk of the mounted knights.

 

            The march would be by land. No river flowed all the way from Riverrun to King’s Landing. Following the Trident to the sea at Saltpans and then sailing to King’s Landing would have put them right into Stannis’ territory. The Blackwater Rush flowed from the south of the Riverlands into King’s Landing, but its course was treacherous. Besides, the North had been devoid of strength at sea for thousands of years. King Brandon, the Shipwright, had died during a voyage, and his heir burned the fleet in grief, becoming known as Brandon the Burner. To rebuild was one of Robb’s dreams, likely with the help of a seafaring ally.

 

            To march east and attack King’s Landing from the north would present similar exposure to Stannis’ forces. Harrenhal castle, on the north shores of the Gods Eye lake, stood to the east. The lake and the castle’s Lannister garrison. Acorn Hall, to the south, would clearly be friendly to their presence. Pinkmaiden and Stoney Sept, further to the south, had been ravaged by the war, but held loyal to the Starks and Tullys still, and would welcome the presence of a march, if only to clear out the ravagers and ameliorate some of the damage.

 

Notorious Lannister enforcer Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane had perpetrated outrages in the region, starting or at least escalating the current war. Eddard Stark, in King’s Landing to serve his old friend Robert as Hand, had sent forth a force under Beric Dondarrion against Clegane. This was likely one of the things the Lannisters had Eddard killed for. Eddard had attempted to see Clegane brought to justice; Robb would ensure it in his father’s place. However, it would be difficult to restrain the eight foot tall and thirty stone heavy monster for execution. Robb may need help for that, which the hardly small Umber men seemed well suited for, but Robb would of course swing the sword himself, performing his father’s task in his father’s way. Beric had been ambushed by Clegane and now led men called the Brotherhood Without Banners in striking back from the shadows. They were heroes to the local smallfolk, and full army serving the same righteous cause should be even more welcome.

 

Stoney Sept was near a confluence of the Blackwater’s tributaries; the Northern army would cross the river near there and march along the other bank of the Blackwater to attack King’s Landing from the south. It was also a historic place. The Battle Of The Bells there had been one of Robert’s key victories in his rebellion against Aerys II. It was so named because the town’s bells had been rung to warn civilians as royalists and rebels fought in the streets.

            Robb was approached by another Umber after the main council meeting. “Your Grace?” the junior Jon Umber asked.

            “Yes?” Robb answered.

            “I know I jape like a fool about Lady Westerling, but I bring serious counsel,” the young Umber man exampled.

            “Then I shall hear it,” Robb said crisply.

            “You are our man, our king. Yet we all know that right now you are a boy wet with love. We can forgive you that, especially since you’ve managed to avoid thinking with your cock like so many men before you. Continue to control your thoughts, I’d say.”

            “I shall,” Robb agreed.

 

            Lord Hoster Tully was still bedridden but clinging to life. “May the Warrior continue to lend you strength, my royal grandson,” he said when Robb visited that evening. The army would ride at first light the next day. Robb would be with his men making final preparations, and Hoster would still be asleep.

 

            The bed Robb was concerned about would have Jeyne in it with him. She was relatively plain, Robb had eventually admitted, but seeing her smile, stroking her long brown hair, and hearing her beg for strokes of a different kind made her seem as attractive to Robb as anyone. Whenever he saw her, not just when he found her in his bedchamber, he felt a respite from his worries. This evening, she was waiting for him, so impatient she had already shucked her smallclothes. Usually she liked Robb caressing her as he pulled them off. He had thought of tasting her teats tonight, but the smell of her cunt was overpowering. “Oh my big strong king!” she called out as he practically threw her onto the bed in his lust. He thrusted as ferociously as he could manage without hurting his lady lover, who was conducting herself in a profoundly unladylike manner at the moment.

            He soon spent his seed, and then said “I love you even when I’m not inside you,” with a beaming smile matched when an intense glance.

            “As do I,” she said before snuffing the candles.

 

            The first day of the march was uneventful, except for being in shock at the desolation. The burned or abandoned fields were the last thing Westeros needed with winter coming. In the middle of the next day, they captured Lannister raiders surprised to meet armed resistance. Robb’s scouts rode down the faster ones to prevent them from spreading the word to Lord Tywin. Some of the slower ones were sprayed with Tully arrows before they could even try to retreat. The same cadre of archers are shot the leader’s horse out from under him.

 

Their commander was unmistakable. No wonder men called Gregor Clegane the Mountain That Rides. To him, there was no such thing as a two-handed sword, and he cut down several of Robb’s guards before he was subdued. He was about the only man in Westeros who had reason to call the seven foot tall Jon Umbers short, and so he did, with some foul language mixed in, as he was wrestled to the ground. Robb finally dismounted to approach him. “In the name of Eddard Stark, acting as Hand Of The King for Robert Baratheon, First Of His Name, King of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, for murder, rape, thievery and other destruction beyond measuring, I do hereby sentence you to die.” Robb drew his sword. Even with Gregor’s helm and gorget yanked off, it still took a couple swings to hack through his thick muscular neck. The body was carried away for both proof of the kill and a nicer burial than the monster probably deserved.

 

            Even with the most highly understandable delay, they would still make Stoney Sept before nightfall. Robb had already planned to delay the river crossing to the next morning. Ironically given the town’s holy name, it was known for a brothel called the Peach. Robert Baratheon had known it well, and Edmure Tully was near as much of a womanizer. Edmure was hardly the only man in the Northern army in the mood for some whoring. They wanted to warn the madam to get the girls ready, a ‘whore-ald’ some men japed. Robb consented to sending off the messenger when they were within sight of the town.

 

            The night in Stoney Sept, the crossing, and the four days’ march from the crossing to King’s Landing was also mostly uneventful, except for adulation for defeating Gregor Clegane. As Robb finally laid eyes on King’s Landing, he saw a far more fearsome enemy, but Tywin Lannister was deployed mainly on the other side of the river as he joined battle with the forces of Stannis and Daenerys.

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Tyrion Lannister was the runt of Tywin and Joanna’s brood, but he had nevertheless taken well to the family business of war in his own way. Tywin was as coldly cunning a general as any. Jaime was one of the great knights of the current age. Tyrion’s wits could be applied to weaponry as much as to anything else.

 

Tyrion mused on his brother’s capture. While the North did not take to the rituals of knighthood, Robb Stark’s men must’ve been good in order to defeat him. And now his host was bearing down on King’s Landing. Stannis Baratheon had joined his forces to Daenerys Targaryen’s, and their armies and fleets approached the city as well. This was no time for Tywin’s usual disdain of his second son – killed his mother in childbed, disabled yet all too abled in a whorehouse. I had that to be thankful at least, Tyrion realized. If we weren’t all about to die.

 

Cersei was the Lannister to be worried about; she thought rather overmuch of herself and did not act carefully. Her vicious idiot son Joffrey sat the Iron Throne, and the king’s lady mother was a horrible influence upon him. Also, Cersei offered her cunt to one brother but not the other, Tyrion muttered to himself. The small man had a large appetite for women, and he lived with one of the ones he couldn’t have.

 

Ill news started filtering through to King’s Landing. Robb’s army had ambushed Gregor Clegane’s raiding party. Supposedly Robb had finished off the man himself. Tywin never smiled, but he was especially unamused upon hearing of this. “Dondarrion’s outlaws were revered enough amongst the smallfolk for cowardly striking against Ser Gregor’s forces from the shadows. Gods know what the traitors will make of this.”

Tyrion had another disquieting realization. Dorne, led by House Martell, had stayed neutral, but this would certainly win them to the side of House Stark. During the climax of Robert’s Rebellion, Gregor had murdered Rhaegar’s widow Elia Martell and their son Aegon. He had supposedly raped Elia with Aegon’s blood still on his hands. Tyrion believed such tales of gratuitous barbarity about the giant brute. Amory Lorch was of average size yet like mind. Having less than half the brains the gods gave a turnip, Lorch had found it necessary to stab Rhaegar and Elia’s daughter Rhaenys dozens of times.

Tywin continued with some words for his loyal yet brutal servant. “There is a task for every tool and a tool for every task. Gregor Clegane had found his place in loyal service of House Lannister. Would that he could have made it back to King’s Landing to aid us in this struggle.”

 

Tyrion had encountered the fierce mountain clans of the Vale after he was freed from the Eyrie, the regional capitol. He had won over the tribes with humor and very serious promises. Their languages had no word for dwarf and so they improvised, calling him Halfman. Tyrion and the warriors of the mountain clans led Lannister forces in crushing Northern infantry at the Green Fork. Yet the war has gone poorly since then and here we are, Tyrion thought angrily. Whatever the odds here at King’s Landing, Tyrion would fight, and if the Halfman could, certainly regular men could as well.

 

His clans were off harassing enemy armies on the march. However, Bronn remained with him. He had freed Tyrion from the Eyrie in a trial by combat. The man was a sellsword through and through, but Tyrion had plenty of gold to offer, and a Lannister always pays his debts.

 

Only a few of Stannis’ ships sailed into the Blackwater Rush river before a chain was raised across the mouth of the river, trapping them to be cut to pieces by the royal fleet. That trap worked as intended but we sprung it too soon, Tyrion mused.

 

The remainder of Stannis’ fleet was out in Blackwater Bay when Tyrion gave his other order. “Fire!” Tyrion ordered. Wildfire, that is. The pots, burning green, were thrown at Stannis’ ships. It seemed they would lose to smoke on the water and fire in the sky. Yet it looked like the Lannister armada was thinning as well in the chaos. The Lannisters had a strong defensive position, yet their enemies had superior numbers. No matter what they got out of this, Tyrion would never forget the smoke on the water and fire in the sky.

 

Tyrion saw a small fast ship approaching the end of the chain on the side of the river across from the city.

 

            Tyrion’s brilliant defenses had done what they could against the forces attacking the city. However, with two enemy hosts approaching, Tywin felt he had to offer open battle against one of them before they both converged on King’s Landing. The force of the northmen and riverlords was smaller and did not include a naval component, so the Lannister host marched in that direction. To crush Stark and turn to confront Targaryen seemed sensible enough, although some had been left behind to reinforce the King’s Landing City Watch; the Gold Cloaks were hardly seasoned soldiers. Appropriately, the Lannister forces that rode out to confront Stark left the city through the Lion’s Gate.

 

            Without his clans, Tyrion did not join the fight, let alone in the vanguard. His deployment at the Green Fork had been fool enough, and Tywin did not wish to repeat his mistake of spite, especially with Tyrion as his only free son. Tywin stayed in the rear as usual. They both figured they were safe in the Lannister war council tent behind the lines.

 

            Tyrion couldn’t really make sense of the battle at a distance.  He had been confused enough right next to the action at the Green Fork. Robb’s infantry was still weak from that battle, but the Northmen and Riverlords held the advantage in mounted knights, and the Lannister and Tyrell foot fell to a brilliant charge. The archers had been about evenly matched and the hail of arrows hadn’t changed much at least so far.

 

However, Robb’s forces eventually overran the lines. Robb himself was leading the charge. “They call my son Kingslayer,” Tywin mouthed. And what of your other son? Tyrion thought to himself. “And they shall soon call me the same,” Tywin said while moving to draw his sword.

            The man of five-and-fifty was no match for the boy of five-and-ten. Nearly six-and-fifty, but not like to reach it, Tyrion thought. Tywin’s experience with a longsword, always kept sharp both literally and metaphorically, was no match for Robb’s youthful strength with one. Robb’s savage blows dented Tywin’s steel until a side cut hit the joint in Tywin’s armor at the left hip. The lion died with claws beared. Tyrion had chafed at Tywin’s mistreatment his entire life, but the man was still his lord father cut down before his eyes.

 

Well, Tyrion was Lord Lannister now. One of Tywin’s many slights was to not acknowledge Tyrion as his rightful heir. He had intended Casterly Rock for Jaime, but Jaime’s appointment to the Kingsguard has spoiled that. Mayhaps Aerys had done that specifically to slight Tywin. Who else besides Tywin’s second son? His daughter? Gods, no! Cersei had already proved herself more than enough of a disaster as regent, Tyrion mused. His brother Kevan? Tyrion had always liked Uncle Kevan, but found the man more a follower than a leader. “You ought serve the nephew as well as the brother, Ser Kevan,” Tyrion said, the first announcement of his lordship.

“As you wish, Lord Tyrion,” Kevan said, the first to acknowledge it.

 

            King Loren, not to mention Robb’s predecessor King Torrhen, had seen the wisdom in surrendering to dragons. Lord Tyrion recognized the prudence in giving up to wolves, and he walked unarmed to where the Young Wolf stood. No doubt Robb would support a compliant Tyrion’s rights to the Rock. Tyrion Lannister became even shorter as he bent the knee to Robb Stark.

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Robb now had another Lannister in custody, and asked him “Lord Tyrion, I am pleased you are being more reasonable than your late father. Now where are my lady sisters?”

            “You are using that word loosely to refer to the younger one,” Tyrion japed. “She escaped. They made me marry the older one.”

            “I’m sure that was real hard on you,” Robb japed back. It was his sister, but he wasn’t blind.

            “She’s barely past her twelfth nameday – I’m The Imp, but I’m not a monster!”

            “You are implying that it’s unconsummated?” Robb analyzed.

            “Yes,” Tyrion confirmed.

            “Then we shall find her and go to the Great Sept Of Baelor to talk to the High Septon about an annulment,” Robb announced.

 

            There had been very real battle on the King’s Landing tourney grounds. Stark battering rams had forced open the Lion Gate and King’s Gate, also on the southwest side of the city. Similarly, Daenerys’ forces had opened the River Gate on the southeast ride facing the Blackwater Rush. Supposedly, Daenerys and her guards had been the first through after the portcullis yielded to the ram, and then the city yielded. A bold woman. We are even more alike than I thought.

 

Robb himself would have been first through one of the western gates had he not been occupied by steel-based discussions with Tywin Lannister. His ram crews had made an end run around the remnants of the Lannister-Tyrell army. Some Western and Reach soldiers respected Tyrion’s orders to stand down if common sense had not already brought them to that conclusion. When Robb arrived at the Lion Gate, most of his soldiers had already poured through. The stragglers parted for their king.

 

Tyrion led them to his quarters, the group walking slowly to account for the dwarf’s stunted legs. Some of Sansa’s handmaidens were waiting in the solar. “Lady Sansa is in the bedchamber,” one of them announced.

“Make that Princess Sansa,” Robb said as he smiled. Sansa heard the familiar voice and came running out of that bedchamber. “’Tis such a relief to see you again after the news of Arya’s disappearance,” he said as they pulled each other close for the first time in what was a few months but felt like ages. He didn’t know if she had heard about Bran and Rickon. Furthermore, dwelling on that news could’ve reminded him of being comforted by Jeyne after he heard it, and this was the worst possible situation in which to get stiff, especially since he wasn’t Jaime Lannister. “We’re on our way to have the High Septon annul your sham of a marriage,” Robb announced.

“Praise the Seven!” Sansa exulted.

Once they reached the sept, one of the septons recognized Robb and Sansa, saying “We are so sorry Joffrey had this ground profaned with your lord father’s blood.”

“It is not the Faith’s fault, it is Joffrey and Ilyn’s. They shall pay,” Robb answered. “For now, take us to the High Septon.”

Once ushered in, the withered old man said “I have already blessed Daenerys’ reign.”

“I do not seek favor for my lord brother,” Sansa said. “I seek an annulment of the marriage to my lord husband.”

“I do not contest it,” Tyrion added.

“I need only answer to one of the wedded pair, both is all the better. No matter, somebody fetch a septa,” the High Septon continued. It was Moelle of the Most Devout who answered and took Sansa away for an examination. She returned to whisper something positive in the High Septon’s ear, who pronounced that marriage annulled.

 

            As they left the sept, Robb had another demand to make of Tyrion. “As we all know, House Lannister has much gold. Some of that will be required to address the damage your House did during the war.” Tyrion grimaced. “Houses Stark and Tully, not to mention many minor houses and whatever smallfolk your father’s armies failed to kill,” Robb said, beginning to list claimants.

            “I am already short enough, I do not wish to be rendered a head shorter, arrangements can be made.”

            “Your prudence is appreciated, Lord Tyrion,” Robb acknowledged.

 

A large man garbed in green and black soon came running. “Cousin Jorah, I see you have returned from exile,” Dacey acknowledged.

            “That I have, though I may well be exiled to the Wall soon. Ah, Dacey, the oldest of Maege’s girls,” Jorah said to return the favor. He then turned to Robb. “Your Grace, Queen Daenerys requests your presence.” Robb wondered why this messenger acknowledged his title. Well, Jorah was a northman, though he had spent years in the east. Mayhaps it was just to get him to acknowledge the Targaryen woman’s crown. He hoped Daenerys had the same idea about a match between them, with him being addressed as a queen’s husband as well as a king in his own right.

            “Where?” Robb answered.

            “The throne room,” Jorah announced.

 

            Raynald Westerling had been one of Robb’s guards throughout this battle and its aftermath. Raynald was standing next to Sansa in their current formation, and said to her “You are ever so beautiful m’lady, and princesslike is even better than ladylike.” She turned several shades of red as he kissed her hand. Good, Robb thought. I hope this holds. A different Stark-Westerling match would be a great idea.

 

            Two young knights struggled to push open the massive doors to the Great Hall. Right inside the doors were two of the Kingsguard. Queensguard now, Robb supposed. He gazed down the cavernous chamber to see their slight young charge atop her throne. Robb expected anyone to look imposing on that bladed throne in that massive chamber. However, it seemed to Robb that Daenerys still would have looked every bit a queen standing in an empty field. Robb stood, silent, but remaining in that state would not impress her as a ruler or a lover. He cleared his throat and stepped forward.

            Robb was flanked by sword wielders of his own and did not sense any hostility between the two sets of guards. He saw his own hilt glistening on his left hip, but knew fingering it would appear hostile. As his feet brought him closer to the throne, he saw the queen’s gorgeous blonde hair elegantly draped over her body – no, lighter than blonde even. Her deep purple eyes burned into everyone in the hall, but especially him.

            Although Daenerys sat, they metaphorically stood as equals, so neither bowed or removed a crown. “Here I am, Your Grace,” Robb said simply.

            “And so am I, on the throne that rightfully came to me from my forefathers,” she answered. “You did keep your faith with former king Lord Stannis,” she stated. For her I’d gladly break my faith with Lord Frey, Robb thought, even more certain of that seeing her in the flesh. I’d rather like to see more of her flesh, Robb japed to himself. “I shall maintain it. Your army was instrumental in defeating the pretender. These things I wanted to acknowledge publicly,” she explained.
            There were four Queensguard standing at the foot of the dais that held the throne. With the two at the doors and Jaime in captivity, that made all seven. One of Daenerys’ Dothraki guards stood in the middle of those four, his sword with a hooked blade instead of a straight one.

 

“I want a private audience with His Grace,” Daenerys told the crowd.

            “’Tis fine by me, seems there are far worse things that the Her Grace’s presence,” Robb answered. They retreated to the council chambers, each posting a couple swords outside the door. Robb told Lord Umber’s son to hold his tongue for once. Dacey was not so boisterous to begin with.

 

            “There’s something else you want to say. Go on, say it,” Daenerys encouraged.

            It seems she had read Robb’s mind. “Gods, you’re beautiful,” he admitted.

            “I know it and have heard it more times than I can count, but I wanted to hear someone like you say it,” Daenerys confirmed.

            “So the feeling is mutual,” Robb answered, a weight lifted off his shoulders. Gods knew he had more than enough weights on his shoulders, especially at only five-and-ten.

 

            He extended his arm to shake her hand, and she parried “I don’t think that’s how you want to touch me, and I know that’s not how I want it”. He was impressed with her, he didn’t just want to press into her, but that too. So Robb hooked the arm around her back and pulled her close, using his other hand to brush hair out of her eyes before mating his lips with hers. She threw herself into it, wrapping her arms around his back to pull him yet closer. “I do believe this was meant to be, Your Grace,” Robb said as he broke the liplock.

            “We need to keep this quiet,” Daenerys stated. “My guards don’t understand Common anyway. Can we trust the discretion of yours?”

            “Yes, and especially these two. The big man, Lord Jon Umber’s son of the same name, is already prone to rude gossip, so the men are not like to believe him. Lady Dacey Mormont isn’t personally attracted to me so she’s not like to care.”

            Robb and Daenerys had both ensured that their armies not threaten the other. Drunken scuffles were the worst of their contact, some injurious or deadly, but that very well could happen amongst one’s own troops. Robb had given orders not to pillage, and it seems Daenerys had as well. Rapes were an exception rather than the rule as it all too often was when cities were sacked.

 

However, the whores of King’s Landing were already growing bowlegged. Robb saw one of his soldiers, wearing the armored fist of House Glover, stumble drunkenly out of a brothel. Evidently he had not paid the whore, as a woman came out chasing after him. In the presence of his king, he suddenly realized the error of his ways. He lifted the whore’s skirts, pulled a silver stag from his purse, and shoved it right up the whore’s cunt. Several of Robb’s men hooted and hollered while the ever ladylike Sansa was appropriately displeased. Robb saw one of the coins the man had spilled, and recognized his own face. Some of the first coins struck bearing his visage had been used to pay the soldiers on this march. It was a highborn lady who had made a man out of me, and I may well be bedding a queen in the near future, but I ended up inside a whore after all, Robb japed to himself.

 

            The peace between wolf and dragon was not due solely to the affection of their leaders for each other, but also to a common enemy. The dragon’s forces had found the lion-and-stag king, and Robb rushed to the scene upon receiving the messenger. The Dothraki guard Robb recognized from the throne room cuffed Joffrey as rudely as the little bastard deserved, pressing that sword to his throat. Another Dothraki said something to the guard in their native language and he pulled his blade away but maintained a firm grip of Joffrey’s clothing. A Baratheon soldier was the one to explain the situation to Robb in Common. “This usurper’s white cloaks had already left to serve their rightful queen, but the boy himself got off some crossbow bolts before being taken.”

 

            A group of both Stark and Targaryen soldiers would storm Ilyn’s chambers. One of Daenerys’ servants, a thick Dothraki girl, stayed in the rear to translate. Robb kicked in the door, being first through the ‘main gate’ like he had been at the Crag. The Dothraki guard’s whip quickly ensnared the target. “You have something for me, Ser Ilyn,” Robb snapped.

            The mute pointed to a large dark blade in the corner, with the smoky rippled pattern characteristic of Valyrian steel. The material was incredibly strong and light, so it was a shame the secret of its manufacture had been lost. Robb was not a short man, but Ice was even taller than he was. It had been Eddard’s before Ilyn used it to remove Eddard’s head. To add insult to that cruel act, Ice had not been returned to House Stark whose lords had wielded it for hundreds of years.

            Robb picked it up for the first time, lifting it through the air. Moving the light metal seemed almost effortless compared to the heavy regular steel he was used to wielding. It was as if his previous sword work was just training for wielding Ice.

 

Robb wondered what sweet names him and Daenerys might toss around in private instead of surrounded by advisers. Apparently the woman was willing to go by ‘Dany’, and what a woman she was! For now, their shared glances were obvious enough, and the heavy matter before them did not admit to more such thoughts. “I wish to kill the bastard myself,” Robb told Daenerys. “It was my father’s way, he who passes the sentence shall swing the sword.”

            “In this matter you shall serve most admirably as Queen’s Justice of a sort.”

 

            Joffrey and Ilyn were dragged towards the Great Sept Of Baelor – they would not be executed on its steps so as to appeal to the Faith, but they would meet their fate on the grounds nearby. Lord Umber’s son was charged with Ilyn’s arrest. Cersei would not be made to watch her son die as Sansa and Arya had with their father.

 

            Robb was again reminded of when his father had taken them to observe the execution of a deserter, a day that stuck in their minds even further for finding the direwolf pups on the return trip. Lord Umber’s son pushed Joffrey down. Robb again channeled the words his father had said that fateful day. “In the name of Daenerys Targaryen First Of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lady of the Southern Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, I do hereby sentence you to die.” One swing of the light yet powerful blade delivered that sentence, cleanly separating the ex-king’s head and body. Ilyn, rendered silent in mouth by the Mad King all this years ago, was more silent in body than Joffrey as he met the same fate.

 

            A match to Daenerys had made sense to Robb for awhile now, but meeting her made it seem like the most perfect idea in the Known World. They were inseparable during those few days in King’s Landing. Some thought it was a gesture of peace and planning of alliances. Robb was especially glad the Freys believed that. However, the young monarchs’ inner circles had come to know better. “The two of us together seem perfect for each other and perfect for our realms,” Robb intoned as one of his many private meetings with Daenerys drew to a close. “Will you be my queen as well as your own?” he offered.

            “Of course I will,” she said as she smiled.

 

Apparently he had really found his queen this time. He wrote two letters in his own hand. One was addressed to the whole of the Riverrun garrison. We won a decisive victory capped by me slaying Tywin in single combat. Tyrion, the new Lord Lannister, is proving much more cooperative. Daenerys sits the Iron Throne. The peace with her and Lord Stannis holds. Joffrey has been executed.

 

As for the second, he told the raven keeper “Mark it as being for my lady mother’s eyes only.” Definitely not for Frey eyes, Robb thought, because it announced his upcoming wedding to someone of another House. It read Sansa is safe. She was married off to Tyrion Lannister against the wishes of either, but it was unconsummated and has been annulled. Arya had already escaped the city, current whereabouts unknown. I recovered Ice and used it to avenge myself upon Joffrey and Ilyn. I am betrothed to Queen Daenerys – I am fascinated with her, and her with me; the match makes perfect sense for love as well as politics.

Chapter Text

Ascending those steep iron steps had been the highlight of Daenerys I Targaryen’s short life so far. She cherished Drogo’s memory, she looked forward to watching his son and her dragons grow, but it seemed like all that was but a prelude to House Targaryen reasserting its right to the Iron Throne. Her court had eagerly received her. As Viserys had said, they would rise for their rightful ruler. Or perhaps they were simply eager to be rid of their wrongful ruler.

 

Now that the Iron Throne was back in the dragon’s claws, what would she do with it? She didn’t want it to be so long until another woman sat the Iron Throne. Although her brothers had been older, she found it a riotous injustice that a younger son took precedence over an older daughter. She intended to outlaw that custom.

It had long since been outlawed in Dorne. Extending that to the whole realm would earn their respect and avoid any disputes with the southeast peninsula on those grounds. One hundred seventy years ago, House Targaryen had descended into civil war over such a matter, Rhaenyra I unsuccessfully challenging her younger half-brother Aegon II for the throne. Daenerys would decree that any future Rhaenyra would reign as Rhaenrya II; House Targaryen had so far avoided that concern by not re-using the name. Ironically, Rhaenyra I’s son Aegon III had been the only heir for Aegon II.

 

The slaves she freed called her breaker of chains, sometimes literally and sometimes not, but she had made the title clearly literal during the recent battle. Lord Stannis’ expert sailor Davos Seaworth had landed her near the mouth of the river. Aggo had planted arrows in many of the chain tower guards on their approach. They had landed with her dragons. With a curt “Dracarys”, the old High Valyrian word for ‘dragonfire’, they breathed upon the chains. The softened metal became easy work for bladesmen and the chain fell away. Baby dragons could do this much – grown, one dragon and rider could have carried out the entire task.

 

The bulk of their fleet was then clear to sail into the bay. The King’s Landing defenders had already spent most of their wildfire; the small royal fleet was easily smashed.

 

Daenerys looked at Robb again and thought I like this one. Upon hearing of Robb Stark, she thought he would be a tolerable match. Upon meeting him, though, she felt she could barely wait for their wedding day. He had proved himself an equal worthy of her, and yet his confident charm also touched her more personally.

 

Supposedly their meetings were for diplomatic purposes only. Signs of them bedding each other would make that lie too obvious, so they would refrain from that for now, perhaps until the grand ceremony during their wedding.

 

“I come to you no maid,” Daenerys warned.

“That is clear enough,” Robb said while looking in the direction of Rhaego being held by Irri. “Well, especially since I am no virgin myself, what does it matter?” This attitude is a good sign, Daenerys realized.

“You have the right of that, but I feel I should know about them,” Daenerys said.

“Only one,” Robb corrected. “Jeyne of House Westerling. I led my army in raiding The Crag, their seat, on the western coast. I took an arrow to the leg. Apparently the women of the house are healers, and I feel in love with the eldest daughter as she was treating my wounds.”

No wonder that Jeyne Westerling had become instantly infatuated with him. Daenerys was a far greater beauty, as he was glad to remind her, and yet she was becoming just as quickly captivated. Daenerys gave a simple response, though. “She did a great thing by healing you,” she said.

 “I knew there would be an even better wife for me out there, and I do believe I’ve found her. Now you’re the only one,” Robb finished. Daenerys heard Robb’s pain at casting Jeyne aside, even for her. Daenerys chose to view that as a good sign of how passionate of a lover Robb was.

 

“It seems you are hardly unfamiliar with a woman’s body – care to demonstrate that again?” Daenerys said lightly. She may well be a queen, but she was a girl in love too, and seemed something similar could be said about Robb the king and boy.

He rather liked the thin smooth dresses Doreah found for his betrothed. “Such soft fabric on such firm skin,” Robb panted while tracing his fingers all over her body. I wish we could bed each other already, Daenerys thought to herself. Much the same could be said of His Grace’s breeches, she mentally japed.

 

Robb admitted something else to Daenerys as well - their union would break his marriage pact with House Frey. Daenerys saw a lot of soldiers whose arms were a blue castle on a gray field. They had certainly done their part in bringing him this far, and even with victory assured, Robb knew he had to minimize the bloodshed when the secret was revealed. Yet Lord Walder was clearly a stubborn and easily slighted man. Daenerys and Robb were both ready to enforce a decree taking The Twins away from him, but were unsure of who to give it to – his Frey heir, or another House entirely?

 

So much resistance to her stemmed from dismissal of women, so it was refreshing to see that Robb wasn’t that kind of man in the slightest. It was evident the joy he experienced from reuniting with his sister, and the pain at missing the other one. She’d heard it said of men that ‘if he treats his sisters well, he’ll probably treat his wife well.’ She would of course tolerate no misdeeds, but she’d prefer it never got to that point. Dacey Mormont was treated as just another sword wielder, a very good one mind you, rather than as a place for men to stick their swords.

 

They would both enter the union with a realm to their name. Daenerys could excuse his declaration of independence, and she could accept being Queen Regnant in six of the seven kingdoms and Queen Consort in the other. The situation made the terms of the marriage contract to be of utmost importance.

 

They wanted their realms to remain separate but for there to be a joint heir so Westeros could not be torn apart by war between two different inheritors. If they died without children, one would be appointed regent for the other’s underage heir. Sansa Stark and Rhaego Targaryen would be the heirs apparent by usual rules.

 

“As handsome a lad as Rhaego is, I would rather my first son sit the Iron Throne instead,” Robb admitted.

“If our first be a son,” Daenerys corrected. “I wish to change the law to have oldest children inherit regardless of whether they be woman or man.”

“As it is in Dorne?” Robb realized.
            “Exactly,” Daenerys acknowledged. “Lord Tyrion might just be the last younger brother to inherit before an older sister,” she pointed out.

“Lady Cersei is not fit to govern a herd of swine anyway,” Robb japed.

“Aye,” Daenerys said in a strained voice.

 

She remembered the capture of the haughty Lannister woman. A group of Dothraki had found the hall she was in along with several other highborn women and one guard. Cersei had been about to order a murder-suicide. The other ladies, including Daenerys’ future goodsister Sansa, had escaped in the confusion. So had the guard, Ilyn Payne, although he was now shorter by a head. Those Dothraki had been too occupied with Cersei. No one deserved that, not even her. Daenerys remembered how she had seen Dothraki behave after battle. She thought she had made it clear that rape wouldn’t be tolerated from her khalasar. She had to make it clear again. Jhiqui got flustered translating the angry sentence ‘That’s the last thing you’ll ever use your cocks for!’, and the Dothraki blademan was not used to gelding men instead of horses. Daenerys had a good heart and was still brutal enough to do what needed to be done, a powerful combination.

 

Shaking that thought, she turned back to Robb. “If you give me a daughter first, that would be an excellent example of the new order.”

“If she is half the beauty you are, we would have no trouble finding a king for her,” Robb answered.

“The North may not have many knights, but you are as chivalrous all the same,” Daenerys complemented.

“And we fight as well too, though it was river knights who broke the Lannister host. They were led by my uncle Ser Edmure Tully. He is younger than my lady mother Catelyn, and my lord grandfather Hoster has long since taken to sickbed. It wouldn’t change the succession to the other Great Houses,” Robb pointed out. “Lord Tyrell’s oldest is a son anyway, Lord Baratheon has only a daughter, the new Lord Lannister is childless, and Lord Arryn is still a child.”

Daenerys understood what he was hinting at. “Mayhaps my new law can be implemented after Edmure succeeds Hoster. Yet what would your lady mother think of such?”

Family. Duty. Honor. She takes her House words seriously, so complain she would not.”

“Do you think she would make a good Hand?” Daenerys offered.

“I have not given her that title, but I may as well have,” Robb realized. “Astute diplomats make good Hands, it seems, and lads like myself and my uncle would rather be first on the battlefield. Ryam Redwyne and Myles Smallwood were good brave men, but very bad Hands.” He sounded like he was reciting a maester’s lessons, and he may well be. Daenerys had tried to study Westerosi lore, but it was more difficult on the run from the Usurper’s agents instead of safely ensconced in one’s father’s castle.

 

            Robb finally received an answer to messages he had sent his lady mother soon after the battle. Riverrun exults over your victory. Return to it with whatever forces you do not wish to leave in King’s Landing. The queen would be most welcome. Robb passed the parchment to Daenerys, who agreed with “Let us ride together”.

 

            Robb and Daenerys rode parallel towards the front of the formation. This was the first time he had seen the horselord’s widow ahorse, and he said “’Tis a beautiful horse for a beautiful lady. What’s her name?”

            “The Dothraki do believe that a khaleesi (queen) deserves a lame (mare) worthy of her place at the side of the khal (king),” she said, beginning a practice of switching between Common and Dothraki to teach Robb a few basic words. “However, they are not a sentimental sort liable to name their horses, so she’s called simply ‘the silver’.”

            “Some Westerosi warriors don’t either. Jaime Lannister says he’s had far too many destrier warhorses cut out from under him. The latest being at the Whispering Wood.” As he said the last line, he laughed at the memory of the accomplishment.

            “The Kingslayer, and father of that vicious idiot Joffrey, gets sent to the Wall. At least,” Daenerys demanded. Joffrey’s siblings Myrcella and Tommen had not been corrupted despite being bastards born of the same vile incest. Lord Tyrion had requested in open court that Daenerys legitimize his niece and surviving nephew; Her Grace found it reasonable to grant that request. Myrcella remained a ward of the Martells, House of her betrothed Trystane. King’s Landing had not received any word of a broken betrothal. A Waters would not be acceptable for their son, but a Lannister instead of a Baratheon may well be accepted. Reports indicated that the match was well-liked by the pair themselves.

            “Aye,” Robb agreed. “I have no need of the hostage now that the war is over, now that Princess Sansa is safe and Princess Arya has escaped.” The former smiled, pleased at her importance being favorably compared to that of the great knight. “He is not a man who should go free, he should not have gone free fifteen years ago, yet I do not want him dead. Gods know the Watch needs men of his ability. Lord Tyrion detested his late father, but likes his brother, and I do wish to respect the fact that he bent the knee as soon as he was able to do.”

 

            The bloodriders screened the front of Daenerys’ side. Robb had three knights ahead and to the left himself. “Two are literally ‘blood of my blood’,” Robb said, imitating the translated Dothraki phrase. “My uncle Edmure and his uncle Brynden,” Robb said, pointing to the two Tully men. It was obvious Robb had gotten his looks from that side of the family. “And Raynald is my future goodbrother from the looks of it,” he said pointing to the young man riding barely ahead of Sansa.

            “No wonder they call you horselords, you ride like the wind,” Edmure said to Rakharo through Daenerys’ translation.

 

            The song of steel in Westeros had finally calmed down for the time being, so the ride back to Riverrun was peaceful. War-weary smallfolk cheered the end of this round of depredations suffered as the high lords played their game of thrones. Robb said they had cheered on his army during the march to King’s Landing, and the support seemed intensified with victory assured.

 

The formation worked as intended - when they arrived at Riverrun, Catelyn saw two of her children first, and their future spouses.

 

            “Athjahakar maisi khal rhaesh Andalhi rizh sekke,” Rakharo said.

Catelyn was taken aback by the guttural tone. “What did he just say?” she asked of Daenerys.

“The Dothraki language always sounds like that,” Daenerys admitted. “Yet it was a compliment nevertheless – ‘The mother of the Westerosi King must be very proud of her son’.” For a woman so devoted to her children, it was very much a compliment indeed.

“Tell him ‘thank you’,” Catelyn answered.

“There is no word for ‘thank you’ in Dothraki,” Daenerys admitted. “Yer chomoe mae,” she tried for Rakharo’s sake. You honor her.

 

            “Your lord husband died barely a moon’s turn ago and you have already accomplished so much?” Catelyn wondered. “And you even already consider another? I am pleased that you hold my son in that kind of regard, of course,” she added.

            “I am not a miner’s mate,” Daenerys said effortlessly. “I am queen by blood, not solely marriage, and felt the need to act accordingly.”

 

Chapter Text

Catelyn wanted to talk to her son alone. “Well, you’re getting the pretty wife you wanted, that’s for sure,” she admitted. “I figured you wouldn’t be marrying a Frey, so I’ve been dealing with them as best I can.”

“We did talk of your adept diplomacy, Mother.” It would be obvious to her that Daenerys was the one turning ‘I’ into ‘We’. “She even wishes to name you Hand for it!” Robb joyously declared. “As such, I realized you already were Hand in all but name.”

“I am honored; may the position not lead me to the fate of my dear Ned.”

“Of course. Now, the Freys with me in King’s Landing thought my dealings with Daenerys were strictly professional.” We fooled them, at least well enough to not dispel their wishful thinking. “Not actually marrying Jeyne at least bought time.” Lord Frey said nothing about bedding women besides his daughters. Black Walder had japed that once I got ahold of one of his relatives I’d know what I was doing.

“Time we all spent well,” Catelyn agreed.

            “I’ll give them leave to return to the Twins, an order phrased as a suggestion. As you ought remember, there are some Stark and Tully loyalists left there. Once they’re free, we’ll make the announcement.”

            “Seems cautious enough, especially by your standards. Ned gave me bold sons, ‘tis sure, may the Father Above show him the mercy he wasn’t accorded in this world,” Catelyn said. “Speaking of Jeyne, you ought to head to her chambers,” she added, obviously reminded of some very important business. Robb followed his mother down the halls to see Brienne at his now-former paramour’s door. “You and Jeyne have a situation,” Catelyn explained, wanting to advise her son on that before he confronted the woman.

            “So my seed quickened in her. Gods, she’s with child as I’m about to marry another woman,” Robb realized.

“Conceived before the betrothal to another, there’s no dishonor in that. Maybe that’s how it was with Ned and Jon’s mother, but I didn’t really pry and he rebuffed me when I did,” Catelyn parried. “I understand you intended to legitimize any bastard you planted in Jeyne,” she continued.

“And those plans haven’t changed,” Robb answered.

 “Since that would be your heir, we needed a guard I could trust,” Catelyn explained.

“Daenerys and I determined that a child we have together would be heir to both of us,” Robb explained, “but the words actually put to parchment applied that only to the Iron Throne, not to Winterfell.”

“Indeed, the proof and clarity of the written word is preferred,” Catelyn said.

“I thought Sansa would be the next ruler of the North, but apparently my successor now lies in Jeyne’s womb. Well, I suppose I must needs see Jeyne now.”

 

Robb closed the door behind him, and through the oak and stone, he heard murmuring between his mother and her sworn sword. He turned to Jeyne and smiled. Jeyne returned the grin and further opened her mouth to ask “You know?”

Robb answered by way of saying “Evidently my seed is strong.”

“At five-and-ten it should be,” Jeyne parried. “Once it takes root, I wouldn’t expect much from most boys your age, but since you’re mature enough for a crown, I expect you’re mature enough for a son. You’re more a man grown than some lazy lad at three-and-twenty.”

“Or a daughter,” Robb said generously. “My lord father never thought anything less of his sister or his daughters. Speaking of which, we found Sansa.”

“Gods, you’re your father’s son,” an exasperated Jeyne said. “And I suspect I would like Princess Sansa,” she finished more positively.

“Raynald certainly does,” Robb japed. “I hope they find themselves happily married one day.” Robb’s voice had a rare falter as he followed that up. “There is a different wedding in the much more immediate future.”

“Which one of Walder’s daughters did he stick you with as a bridge toll?” Jeyne spat with bitter sarcasm.

“No, the future Queen In The North is already a queen,” Robb answered with a heavy air of self-satisfaction.

“The tales of her beauty are legendary. No wonder, that you find Daenerys Targaryen a better prospect than Jeyne Westerling,” the latter admitted.

“You know I love you and would have already married you if the situation justified it,” Robb said somewhat defensively, frustrated in his mind about having to go over this again. “Yes, those tales are true, yet her force of will is similarly unique.”

 

“Your father raised his bastard. I trust you shan’t run away either,” Jeyne stated.

“Not only that, but I plan to legitimize it,” Robb announced. He realized he had never told her that. “I think that our child ought be fostered at its lady mother’s castle, though.” This thought was new to him. Jon’s mother was likely dead, or mayhaps living in some rude setting Eddard would want his child out of. Neither was true here. He had mentioned finding another match for her their very first morning together. It would be a political matter for the King’s will, but he complimented her with “I’m sure at least one other highborn man would want sweet Jeyne as his lady wife.”

“Mayhaps there will be a Jeyne Stark after all, if this be a girl?” Jeyne Westerling suggested.

“Mayhaps. Or another Robb Stark, if I’m holding a son in eight months’ time.”

 

To speak of another Jon, and it still felt odd to call someone besides his bastard half-brother that, Robb ran into Lord Umber’s son. “You’ll have a queen to guard soon enough. In fact, you already have. I shall become twice kinged and Daenerys twice queened.” He was the third person told, after Catelyn and Jeyne.

“Upgrade!” Lord Umber’s son congratulated.

 

            Robb needed to downgrade the Kingslayer. “Ser Jaime?” Robb said as he approached the Lannister knight’s cell.

            “Lord Stark?” he sarcastically replied, the Tully dungeons not having taken his spirit.

            “That’s Your Grace to you,” Robb countered, before informing the prisoner of things he absolutely had to know. “Your lord father died in battle in the Crownlands. Your lord brother was found to be much more reasonable about securing your freedom. Your chains will be struck as soon as Arya and Sansa are safe in Riverrun,” Robb said explaining the planned swap. “However, you will be trading your white cloak for a black one.”

            “So she reminds me that I killed her father, like everyone else does,” Jaime said, exasperated.

            “That treason, and the three treasons named Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. ‘Tis treason for a man besides the king to bed the queen, precisely because it confuses the line of succession in this manner. How many more died because Stannis and Joffrey both laid claim to Robert’s throne? On top of that, like how you were on top of Cersei, you also attempted to kill my brother. Consider yourself lucky, and consider yourself lucky that this did not happen fifteen years ago.”

“Who gets my white cloak?” Jaime wondered in a mutter, passively, momentarily shocked by the young king’s haranguing.

            Robb was willing to divulge this. “Loras Tyrell has expressed interest in taking the white.”

            “A skilled young knight, I would understand,” Jaime said to agree with the selection. “The vows shouldn’t trouble him, he’s not the kind of man to be interested in taking a wife, if you know what I mean,” Jaime japed.

            “I do not comprehend the jape and will leave it at that,” Robb admitted, “but I am very interested in that myself. My wedding to Queen Daenerys is set for her next name day.”

 

            “Uncle, I have a problem,” Robb said to Edmure.

            “Is the problem’s name Jeyne Westerling?” Edmure guessed.

            “Yes,” Robb acknowledged.

            “To tell you the truth, I fancy the wench myself,” Edmure admitted.

            “Leave the bedding until well after she’s birthed your grand-nephew or grand-niece. We all know you like to cause trouble with the wenches, but if she would have you, that would solve a lot of problems. Her and the rest of House Westerling may have wanted a king, but a high lord shall do quite nicely,” Robb observed.

Chapter Text

Catelyn Tully Stark was very happy for her oldest son. Robb had set himself up for success both personal and political with the betrothal to Queen Daenerys. He had made the right decision about when and when not to break the Frey marriage pact. The girl he didn’t break it for was going to make Catelyn a grandmother. All this almost distracted from losing her other two sons. Almost.

One of her daughters was safe back in her lady mother’s arms. Princess Sansa was also ensconced with Ser Raynald Westerling, for that matter. When Robb returned victorious from King’s Landing, had Catelyn met two of her children’s future spouses instead of one? It would make obvious political sense – the Westerlings had hoped one of their own would marry a king; a princess was about as close as they were going to get otherwise.
And a high lord’s heir – it seemed Jeyne may end up as Catelyn’s goodsister instead of gooddaughter. It seemed Edmure really did fancy the young woman. Edmure settling down? I’ll believe that when I see it and only then, Catelyn thought to herself. Robb wouldn’t have tolerated an unpleasant arranged marriage for himself, so he wouldn’t have done that to people he cared about. It hadn’t really been discussed with Jeyne yet, but she might be attracted to some of the same looks and personality traits as well as seeing the obvious political advantages.
House Westerling had risen far in these circumstances, not solely because of their daughter’s activities in the bedchamber, but also because of her activities as a healer – Robb said it had looked quite a serious wound, and now the leg was mostly back to normal. Their son’s battlefield exploits had also added to the phenomenon – in short, the house turned from an enemy to a cooperative vanquished foe to a loyal ally.

Catelyn’s other daughter hadn’t made it back home, but Arya had escaped immediate danger. In victory, Robb had avenged himself upon the killers of his father, her dearest Ned. Yet Arya had escaped their clutches even before her royal brother arrived. It was like that girl, half boy and half wolf. It was like Sansa to stay and try to negotiate, but she was cruelly outmaneuvered by masters at that game. She had fallen into the same trap as her father, but her head was still attached to her neck. Ned had been too honorable to see it coming, Sansa too naïve.

A man garbed in all black approached the gates of Riverrun. “’Tis Yoren of the Night’s Watch, m’lady,” he said by way of introduction.
Catelyn had already recognized the uniform; anyone in the Seven Kingdoms would. She wondered what business the Night’s Watch had at the castle. Nevertheless, she bid him enter, and saw to it that the more dangerous of his reluctant recruits were confined in the castle dungeons. “I don’t think we’ll have any more men for you, willing or unwilling, for a few weeks’ time,” she admitted.
“It’s not that you have someone for me. I have someone for you,” he explained with a flourish. “Arry, come forth. Or should I say Arya?”
“She lives!” Catelyn screamed, decorum lost in a mother’s joy.
“Mother, I was afraid I’d never see you or Jon or Robb or even Sansa ever again,” the relieved daughter admitted. It seemed she knew no one would ever see Bran or Rickon again; mayhaps Robb had told her.
“’Twas my son that brought back one of my daughters, a stranger that brought back the other,” Catelyn said to Yoren.
“House Stark has always been a friend of the Watch, this time the Watch was needed as a friend of House Stark,” Yoren said simply. “I made sure they didn’t have to watch their lord father die, and I got one of them to safety.”
“You may not act like much of a lady, but you are a princess. Your royal brother won this war, but it wouldn’t have felt like much of a victory with both my girls gone too,” Catelyn said as she embraced her younger daughter.

Yoren had also smuggled out a blacksmith’s apprentice. Catelyn quickly figured out why the commoner was such a target. Looking at him, he may as well have been a younger version of Renly Baratheon, and likely was the nephew thereof, one of the many bastards Robert Baratheon had scattered throughout the realm. The boy was probably running from Cersei. Catelyn sympathized with another wife who did not care for a husband’s bastards. However, Catelyn had never tried to have Jon killed.

Yet there were some things that even one’s worst enemies didn’t deserve. Her Ned had made one mistake; Robert had made a habit of it. No wonder Cersei had found her brother’s bed more appealing, as disgusting as that was, as much of a disgrace that was in the eyes of the Seven. Catelyn allowed herself a mildly rude jape – it seemed that her and her sister Lysa were two of the few women in the realm that her brother Edmure Tully wasn’t bedding.

The boy introduced himself. “It’s Gendry, m’lady,” he said. “I did not wish to take the black, but I thank Yoren for his hospitality all the same.” The Night’s Watch could always make use of a good blacksmith, but so could the forge at Riverrun. Gendry was not running from past crimes like many Night’s Watch ‘recruits’, so he was free to go to the same smith that had forged Robb’s crown.

Well, Catelyn had the plans for her son’s wedding to attend to, the celebration of that victory, a second crown for both husband and wife. She went to talk to the Riverrun septon, gazing upon the sandstone sept as she walked through the castle gardens.
“You know the words for weddings, do you not?” she asked of the man.
“Yes, m’lady, but I have said them only for servants, not for kings and queens,” he answered, nervous and stammering.
“They are the same words for the lowest of the smallfolk and the highest of the highborn, such as the son and future goddaughter of mine that will be entering the sept in a few days’ time.” As different as the peoples of Westeros were, the Faith Of The Seven bound most of them together. “The Father Above judges all men fairly with the same scales,” Catelyn answered, quickly dismissing the concern.
“A truly pious lady you are, ‘tis one of my favorite passages from The Book Of The Father,” the septon said approvingly. “I look forward to serving His Grace is this most important manner.”

Chapter Text

            Daenerys Targaryen and Robb Stark had won the same war separately, and each seemed to find the other the greatest jewel of their respective victories. They came to each other as equals, rather than a beggar king’s sister to a still-powerful king’s bed.

 

            “Khaleesi, it seems you love this king even more than the last one,” Doreah told her. She was skilled in the ways of the bedchamber, not love, indeed, a variety of bedding particularly distanced from love. However, it didn’t take a maester to see the queen and king’s feelings for each other. Doreah and her fellows Jhiqui and Irri knew Daenerys better than most – at first servants, growing into friends and near-sisters even.

 

            Though judging by her near-future goodsisters Sansa and Arya, sisterly love doesn’t always amount to much. Yet the graceful, hopeful Sansa and warriorlike, resourceful Arya both found a lot to admire in their new queen.

 

            Drogo had been chosen for her. She had realized her fate and tried to make the best she could of it. Well, that had led her here. However, she had chosen Robb, leaving no doubts about whether her feelings were real or an accommodation to circumstances. They were real.

 

            “Dany?” a deep yet not booming voice said. Robb was not far removed from the high voice of boyhood, and yet here he was. Daenerys was not all that far removed from her flowering, and she also stood as a ruler. Becoming a man grown was rather more fun than, or at least less obnoxious than, becoming a woman grown. What gods created such, if any at all? Probably deities as obnoxious as the average man.

 

            Yet Robb’s presence quickly drew her back out of such bitter thoughts. “Hello, Robb,” she said softly.

            Robb walked into the bedchamber she was using at Riverrun, and one of the handmaidens added something. “Khaleesi, shall we leave you two alone?” Jhiqui said, also quietly, but with more of a giggle. With a nod from their leader, they did so.

            “They’re not as boisterous as Lord Umber’s son, but they have a mind for rude japes all the same,” Robb observed.

 “Aye,” Daenerys told her beloved simply. It was a curious blend existing in some highborn women and the smallfolk that worked with them, Daenerys added to herself.

“Watch out for him during our bedding, but I am the only man lucky enough to actually have you,” Robb continued.

“That you are,” Daenerys cheerfully agreed.

She had no interest in batting away the hand at her left breast, none at all. He was even more insistent, when wanting to draw pleasure from it and bring pleasure to it, than Rhaego was when the babe wished to use the mound of flesh for its intended purpose.

Robb gently squeezed it. “So beautifully petite,” he panted, “like all the rest of your body. When the legends said Targaryen beauty was otherworldly, they weren’t kidding.”

“Starks are rather handsome too,” she countered. They both had enough of waiting to bed each other until their wedding in a few days’ time, but Doreah had given Daenerys plenty of other ideas. She reached past the laces of Robb’s breeches and squeezed his member. It had already gotten quite firm via the attention paid to her breast, but Daenerys still felt the flesh pulsating beneath her fingers.

“Ohh!” Robb moaned. The bulging veins under Daenerys’ hand made for something excellent to grip onto as she moved that hand up and down within the confines of the breeches. He spilled his seed on the front within a few gleefully agonizing minutes.

 

“Now what did I come in here to tell you?” Robb mused, and they shared a laugh before he remembered. “Oh. Yes. It turns out I got Jeyne with child before I left for King’s Landing. My father didn’t run from his bastard and I won’t either.” He had certainly worked up the nerve to say it with enough force.

“Someone wouldn’t need to know you long to understand how much you take after your father,” Daenerys admitted. And the degree to which you don’t, she added only to herself, not wanting to assault his pride. The Tully men who he also drew from had fiery personality as well as looks. And as the ruler of House Targaryen, she would know fire. That was a large part of what drew her to him, the heat that came out of the young man raised in the northern cold. “You have desires, it is known,” she said, amusing herself by using the Dothraki phrase, punctuating the jape by looking at Robb’s breeches.

“And my desire for her was nothing compared to my desire for you,” he responded, mischievously tugging at the laces. He revealed himself stiff again. It was looking like a better and better idea to have told the handmaidens to leave. She used her mouth instead of her hand this time. The way Robb called out even louder, it was clear Doreah had taught her well. The former whore enjoyed hearing reviews of her techniques, an interest that seemed to be more than just professional pride.

She was four-and-ten with the weight of the world, or least a continent or two, on her shoulders. She had the right to enjoy being lovestruck like many that age. It seemed fitting that the object of her affections understood from being in much the same situation himself.

 

With their clothes laced back up, she called the handmaidens back in. Jhiqui was cradling Rhaego. All three of them, and most other people besides hard-hearted warriors, loved the royal babe. Yet the thick bodied translator seemed particularly affectionate with him.

“How’d you like to hold a son several months early?” Daenerys asked Robb. “Not your son of course, but you’re probably the closest thing to a father Rhaego will ever know.”

Jhiqui walked up with Rhaego, and Robb smiled at the thought. The pale lad looked a natural with the swarthy babe. A good thing; they’d probably have many princesses and princes to raise once they started bedding each other.

 

            Catelyn Tully Stark had raised five ladies and lords even with her husband’s time – and head – cut short. “We were not so old,” she complained to Daenerys. Indeed she wasn’t, at three-and-thirty, her Ned having been not much older. Catelyn had room in her heart for a new daughter despite, perhaps because of, losing her husband and two of their sons.

            “Queen Rhaella died in childbed bringing you forth, did she not?” Catelyn asked of her current queen. The marriage was still a fortnight away, yet now Robb claimed only the North, leaving Daenerys undisputed queen by birth of the Riverlands as well as the five other southern kingdoms.

            “She did, but as you’ll have a new daughter, I’ll have a new mother,” Daenerys admitted through tears that were mostly happy. She admired the woman’s resolute sense of purpose, though certainly quieter than her own.

 

            Catelyn had made a lot of plans for the wedding itself. She was the only parent of either the bride or the groom left alive, and being so pious towards the Seven, she had an enthusiasm for making those arrangements. Daenerys enjoyed hearing Catelyn explain the details. She hadn’t had much time for religious education running from the Usurper’s sellswords. Or, that being necessary, she had doubted the quality of the Father’s justice. Yet sitting the throne that was rightfully hers, she wasn’t so skeptical. More to the point right now, she had walked through the fire and flames and survived, but a mother’s love was one warmth she hadn’t felt until she reached Riverrun.

 

            She needed to inform her Dothraki followers of the arrangements. “Khaleesi, this is far too important to happen inside,” Jhogo said of the sept.

“I married a Dothraki man in Dothraki fashion, I shall marry a Westerosi man in Westerosi fashion,” Daenerys tersely insisted.

Ironically, she found it appropriate to use an example of Dothraki sexism to help make her case. “Your people say nothing of whether important events in a woman’s life should happen under the open sky.”

She finished with another order. “I will consider it a good thing if there are less than three deaths. You are tasked to help ensure that is the case.”

 

To stop preferencing sons in inheritance was of major benefit to highborn women. The laws for the Iron Throne had been especially strict about sticking to the male line, giving priority to any male heirs, however distant. Not anymore. That was the first thing she fixed the Targaryen seal to once she physically sat the Iron Throne. Many practical administrative matters had been handled as verbal orders; this seemed a much more auspicious inaugural use of the sealing wax.

 

Unfortunately, females of any age and station found themselves needing to be concerned about the realm’s rape epidemic. She promptly took that seriously as well, announcing what she had done to Cersei’s aggressors. The law often didn’t punish what it called rape, and many things that seemed like rape weren’t even called that in the first place.

 

A husband could take his wife whenever he wanted, whether she wanted to or not. She felt in her heart Robb would never do such a thing, but Drogo had at least come closer to that more often than Daenerys would have liked to admit. To hear Cersei tell it, and she ought to be trusted as the one to know, it had been a regular habit of Robert’s. Daenerys was not at all surprised to hear of more of the Usurper’s vile behavior.

 

Daenerys had been married off young and had been relatively lucky and she would marry again still young, favored by the gods as a bride amongst many other things. However, those odds did not work out for many in Westeros. She didn’t like the thought of “but she’s flowered” as an excuse for underage girls getting deflowered.

 

Once the queen herself became six-and-ten, it would be flatly outlawed to bed underage girls, and until then, girls younger than her. The decree could be written with an exception for men only slightly older, say Raynald Westerling at three and a half years older than Sansa Stark. There were many changes Daenerys Targaryen wanted to me, but only so many she could make and implement effectively right from the start. Similarly, waiting for Edmure to succeed Hoster as Lord of House Tully would allow time for the realm to absorb the change in inheritance laws. Yet right now she focused on thought of changing herself back into a wife.

Chapter Text

Rodd and Daenerys’ wedding would be in the Tully family sept at Riverrun. The Great Sept of Baelor was often open to weddings of importance, and this was significant if any union was. Robb had dismissed that for obvious reasons. He reflected on that choice now.

 

“There’s no way in the seven hells I’m getting married near the spot where they killed my lord father.”

            “This is after all where I wed your father, and I even still have the cloak he used,” Catelyn observed as her son stood with her near that building.

            “That would save average guests the long journey to Winterfell,” Robb agreed.

            “Your lord grandfather is no average guest, but he is barely fit to move about the castle, let alone undertake a journey north,” Catelyn said of her bedridden father Hoster Tully.

            “It may as well be the sept here,” Robb said. “The godswood no longer has a heart tree, so what would be the point of saying vows in the name of the old gods if they are unable to hear those words?”

            “You are your father’s son, of course you would think of that,” Catelyn replied.

            “Well, the Seven are your gods as well much of the rest of the kingdom, folk I must impress. The point is that I stand next to Daenerys,” Robb finished.

 

Ravens had been sent throughout the south – most people of importance in the North had already been traveling with Robb. The northmen had already stretched their garrisons thin, leaving just old men and green boys back with most of the womenfolk, in order to stock their liege lord’s army.

White Harbor was the only true city in the North, at the south of the White Knife river whose source was even further north than Winterfell. Its lord, Wyman Manderly, was summoned. His second son Wendel japed “my lord father knows that weddings mean food”, and Wendel himself was hardly a small man.

 

Lord Manderly’s first son Wylis, commanding his father’s forces, had been amongst those captured at the Green Fork. Yet the diversion of Lannister forces there had set up the Whispering Wood and all the other victories that followed. Tyrion promptly ensured their release as part of prudently remaining in the new king and queen’s good graces.

 

The second Greyjoy Rebellion was the major unresolved matter in this war, yet invitations had been sent to the houses of the Iron Islands as part of peace overtures. There had been no answers, responses that might not be known until the day of the wedding itself – Daenerys’ fifteenth nameday, the 152nd day of the 298th year after Aegon’s Landing.

 

Some of Robb’s lords wanted to march North and confront them instead of feasting in the south. However, even an army as loyal as his could only move so far so fast for so long. They needed some sort of rest even without their king’s wedding to attend to. The marriage and celebration thereof was a way to secure their victory in the south before going for another one in the North.

 

It was better to deal with House Frey than House Targaryen, but still, that would make returning to the North more difficult than leaving it. The Tullys had long since had enough of the Freys’ recalcitrance. Lord Walder hadn’t rushed to his liege lord’s aid during Robert’s Rebellion either. Showing up after the Battle Of The Trident was already won, he earned the epithet ‘The Late Lord Frey’. The current situation provided an excellent opportunity to deal with him for good. There were worries that his heirs had learned some of the same questionable practices, so The Twins were entirely stripped from House Frey. This in turn presented a wonderful opportunity to reward the Westerlings. Why, it was the monarch’s prerogative in any event.

Robb and Daenerys were together as much as possible anyway, but he made especially sure to be near her for this. Daenerys made a point of sealing the decrees in front of the ailing Lord Hoster Tully. “It was a long time coming, from whomever sat the Iron Throne,” the old man announced. “As for the particular occupant of Aegon’s chair, may the gods continue to favor you and my grandson.”

 

            Daenerys and Robb had moved their courts to Riverrun for the duration. Daenerys had promulgated various laws for the protection of her fellow womenfolk. Many men would need to learn to listen to a woman, and quickly. If not her, her supportive soon-to-be husband who issued his own versions of most of the decrees.

 

A group of Dothraki warriors who had taken liberties with Cersei were all too familiar with Daenerys’ resolve. Several dozen rapers native to Westeros would be joining a certain slaver and murderous oathbreaking traitor in taking a one-way trip North, many more men than the Night’s Watch usually got, if such dishonorable creatures could be called men.

 

The crusade against rapers was visible now. It was a change, a long-overdue one, yet people found it hard to blame their new rulers for more thoroughly enforcing laws form long before their time. Many people found it easy to praise. The women who could breathe easier as the weight of that ancient burden began to lift. Those who could breathe at all – how many had been physically injured in such attacks? Of all the Westerosi who died in childbed, how many had been carrying a raper’s bastard? The men who cared about such women and were sick of the anguish, the guard duty, the vendettas.

 

The increase in marriageable and beddable age, as well as the rules making female inheritors much more likely, would take longer to show themselves. Besides, she was more deliberate with those changes since they would have an even greater impact on Westerosi society, especially in the intrigues of the highborn.

 

Yet for now, such morbid matters were both literally and metaphorically locked away in the Riverrun dungeons.

 

            The Day came, and bringing Loras into the Queensguard was the main official act not related to the wedding. Nevertheless, Daenerys connected the two by japing “Today, one man gives me a cloak and I give another man a different cloak.”

 

            Robb talked to the new white cloak alone. “Ser Loras, Ser Jaime and Lady Brienne indicated how you felt about the late Lord Renly.” Loras gulped, but Robb reassured him. “I found it hard enough to mask my love for a few days, a few weeks. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to have to hide it for a lifetime. So I do not feel your pain, but I think I might have some tiny understanding of it.”

            “Thank you, Your Grace,” a relieved Loras replied.

            “No wonder you took the white. Yet the vows apply to you as much as the other six.”

            “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it,” Loras said solemnly. He then moved to join his new sworn brothers, each standing against one wall of the sept.

 

Theon and his father Balon had been attainted traitor, so dominion over the Iron Islands went to Theon’s sister and Balon’s daughter Asha. Asha had been amongst the ironborn raiding the North, but she had agreed to keep the peace and return Deepwood Motte to House Glover in exchange for help asserting her claim to the Iron Islands. Robb and Daenerys had both found that quite reasonable.

 

Robb’s sisters were both glad to be part of their older brother’s wedding, but knowing the Stark girls, this participation took very different forms. Sansa was with Doreah, one of Daenerys’ favorite servants, spreading flowers throughout the sept. Arya was with Dacey Mormont and the elder Jon Umber, two elite Northern swords. As with Daenerys herself, the Mormont daughters were the rare type of woman who appealed to the likes of both Sansa and Arya. It was as if all seven of those Mormonts and Starks now had more sisters.

 

As with the ride out of King’s Landing, Robb picked three guards to go with the traditional three bloodriders of the Dothraki, although he had a different three his time. Choosing Arya helped continue the training their father had begun for her, and she was a sort of pair to the other woman warrior standing to the other side of Lord Umber. Dacey was tall for a woman, several inches taller than Arya. Lord Umber and his son were tall even for men and towered over everyone present. However different they looked, the northerners all carried some sort of sword. The bloodriders were all fairly young men, but very differently armed. Rakharo wielded a sword, the curved Dothraki blade known as an arakh, but Jhogo held onto a whip handle while Aggo rode in the center with a bow in one hand.

 

Daenerys walked alone from the entrance to the altar of the Mother, where Robb stood waiting next to it by the altar of the Father.

 

“In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls binding them as one for eternity,” the septon intoned. Catelyn undoubtedly would be pleased with his beautiful voice. Robb’s right hand was already intertwined with Daenerys’ left, and the septon wrapped a wide piece of plain gray cloth around their wrists. They turned from facing the septon to facing each other and spoke together. “Father, smith, warrior, mother, maiden, crone, stranger, I am hers and she is mine from this day until the end of my days.” Robb saw his mother mouthing the words with an air of satisfaction, and the whole crowd cheered as the sentence was finished.

 

“Robb Stark has taken Daenerys Targaryen as his lawful wife and she has taken him as her lawful husband in the eyes of gods and men” the septon announced.

“We sure did!” they said, still speaking together, barely able to hold back the words. Daenerys’ mouth cast the biggest smile Robb had yet seen from her.

 

            The Stark cloak, sigil of her second husband, was placed over the white pelt that had been a token of her first.

 

            Soon after the feasting began, Robb’s most unmistakable bannerman stood up. “I knew he was Eddard’s rightful heir, but he’s young enough to be my grandson,” Lord Umber said while looking at Lord Tully, Robb’s actual grandfather. “So I thought, what does he know yet? Enough to lead us to victory in the Whispering Wood, apparently.” He made another visual jape by looking at Ser Jaime, who led the Lannister loss.

            The knight took it well. “I respect that he led the charge, although surrounded by a personal guard. My lord father always seemed too cautious in just sticking with the reserves.”

            They were two of many who unsheathed longswords and laid the blade tips on the ground. Lord Umber started a chant similar to the one he instigated in the Northern war council tent that fateful night. “King In The South!” Nobles hailing from throughout Westeros followed along, as intended.

 

            Robb capped this short speech by hoisting Ice into the air. The ironborn knight Harras Harlaw, one of Asha’s followers, was the only guest who came bearing Valyrian steel, and Nightfall was the first blade to follow Ice’s example. “My wife has new titles today as well,” Robb said, then bellowing four words “Queen In The North!” Lord Umber was the first to follow, and the hall echoed even louder for Daenerys.

 

            “Daenerys…may I call you Dany, Your Grace?” Robb began nervously. It seemed odd that this overwhelmed him at all when being one of the first onto the battlefield didn’t.

            “You may,” she smiled back.

            “Good, for Valyrian names do not roll easily off Westerosi tongues,” Robb admitted.

            “Roll onto her!” someone shouted, impatient for the bedding after filling himself with special Arbor water.

            Robb felt he’d use the interruption instead of ignore it. “I am looking forward to that part of today’s festivities as well, moreso than you because I’m the one who actually gets to be alone with her.” That quieted the japing drunk. “Even capturing Ser Jaime be not so impressive compared to hatching dragons, yet it seems the gods have favored the North as well, ever since the Whispering Wood. They must have, for they let me marry the most beautiful woman in the Known World.” She didn’t even blush, but was already red enough. She had since removed both her Stark cloak and unsigiled fur coat to reveal Targaryen colors, a deep red gown with simmering black accents.

 

            The oaf Mace Tyrell and the boring Stannis Baratheon were not much of a sight as they brought their wives onto the dance floor. Doran Martell did not wish to talk about his wife’s absence. Even had she been present, he was too racked by gout to stand, let alone dance. Robert Arryn was a boy far too young for a wife. Though still far too old to be at his mother’s breast, some japed.

Asha was amongst the masses of Westerosi nobility in attendance, surrounded by crew of her warship Black Wind. She had unexpectedly inherited too recently to start thinking about her own heirs. Besides, she was more comfortable with the likes of Arya and Dacey instead of Sansa and Jeyne. The house guards and the Queensguard stood silently at the edge of the hall. “The gods favor you the double king and Daenerys the double queen,” Asha stated. “I would not at all have complained about a similar alliance, a wonderful match you obviously are.”

“It does mean a lot when a woman tough enough to rise amongst the Ironborn thinks of that nevertheless,” Robb admitted as Asha went to join the other sword wielders. Margaery Tyrell carried some regret too, for the Tyrells has been defeated on the battlefield instead of won in the sept.

Princess Sansa was still infatuated with Ser Raynald and they made quite a sight. Jeyne was with child but not yet visibly so, so there was no scandal in swaying with Edmure Tully to the music.

Tyrion approached the wall of guards, extended his hand, and said “Lady Tarth?” Again Tyrion used that word loosely, Robb thought, but Brienne answered Tyrion’s request, leaning her sword up against the wall. She was two and half feet taller than him, and they were two of the ugliest members of the Westerosi nobility, but their earnest effort dancing in the Hall appealed to the crowd. Or the audience was laughing at them. Well, Tyrion and Brienne would understand each other in that regard at least

 

As the boisterous crowd returned to another round of feasting, Lord Tyrion Lannister had some private advice for his king, waddling up to the dais to whisper in his ear. “A man about to bed a woman shouldn’t drink too much, even if he’s as young as you, Your Grace. I’ve learned this the hard way, or not so hard way.” Robb nodded as Tyrion hoisted his own filled goblet. “Some wine is always good. To the King and Queen!” he toasted.

 

Robb announced another pressing matter from the dais. “After the end of these festivities, Lord Umber and his son are to escort these new Night’s Watch recruits to Castle Black. Then they have my leave to return to Last Hearth. The Umber soldiers needs not travel all the way to the Wall.” However, he had chosen the Umbers for this mission because they lived close to the Wall anyway. Yoren the Night’s Watch recruiter needed the reinforcements. Sworn knights were rare in the Watch these days, and now they were getting two in Jaime and Jorah. They were joined by the rapers and other criminals, and the announcement’s prominence had even drawn some free volunteers.

 

The dragons were outside on the lands to the west of the castle. Confinement stunted dragons’ growth. The Targaryens of old had built an utterly massive structure in King’s Landing called the Dragonpit, and even that hadn’t been enough for those beasts. These were small, but not for long. Even at their current size, they awed everyone who saw them, since no one alive would have remembered the last dragons. They made short work of the meats sent out by the kitchens, charring and swallowing.

 

Back inside the Great Hall, “The new coat of arms, Your Grace,” one armorer said as he presented a breastplate to Robb. “A direwolf argent on a field of white and a dragon gules on a field of black combatant,” he explained to the crowd, combining Stark and Targaryen sigils as Joffrey had done with Baratheon and Lannister arms. The words Ice And Fire were etched at the bottom of it.

Only members of both houses were entitled to bear these new arms. The other Starks would continue with the full Stark sigil. Dothraki wore no armor, but Rhaego would eventually carry the full Targaryen sigil, perhaps as the paint scheme on a leather vest. So far only Robb and Daenerys were of both houses, until their union produced heirs.

 

The singer was certainly very aware that he was playing a wedding, going through many of the classic love songs - Two Hearts That Beat As One, Oh Lay My Sweet Lass Down In The Grass, and so on. Robb and Daenerys gazed at each other and drank in every word. The singer finished My Lady Wife and said “I apologize if that seems like an understatement, my Queen.”

“Your voice is beautiful, it is known, you are forgiven,” answered Daenerys, now a queen by marriage as well as birth.

 

He started playing The Queen Took Off Her Sandal, The King Took Off His Crown, meaning it was time to strip the newlyweds and carry them to bed. Daenerys and Robb both actually removed the specified accessories. The mother of the groom took them in for safekeeping, as Robb’s relatives were some of the few people present who had no interest in the bedding.

“Without ‘er gown, she’s the most beautiful woman in two Known Worlds,” someone called out as the last wisps of Daenerys’ cloth flame sputtered to the castle floor.

The attention turned back to Robb. “He may be from the North, but he isn’t lacking down south,” Doreah pointed out, speaking to the crowd in general. A man’s arousal was much more visible, but people watching Daenerys closely, and gods there were many, knew she just as eagerly anticipated what awaited beneath the sheets. Doreah leaned in to whisper in Robb’s ear. “When you bed her, kiss her there. Trust me.” Robb nodded his assent.

 

The frenzied crowd finally got them wrapped in the bedchamber’s blankets and waited right on the other side of the door.

 

“Now a Targaryen’s kneeling to a Stark, huh?” Lord Umber’s son had plenty of rude japes when it came to Jeyne, so he was even more enthusiastic now that his king had a wife. Three centuries ago, the last Stark king submitted to the first Targaryen king. Now, the first Targaryen queen took the manhood of the next Stark king into her mouth.

“Yes,” Robb moaned back.

“What, she can’t answer for herself because her mouth is full?” this Jon realized.

“The King Of Winter is coming!” Robb shouted back.

 

Robb picked his bride up by the waist, savoring the feel of Daenerys’ naked firm young rear end in his hands for the first time. She wrapped her legs around him as he carried her to the bed. She came to rest atop the blankets, a mixture of her leaning back and him laying her down. He remembered Doreah’s instructions, parting Daenerys’ lower lips and kissing the pink bud he saw within. Doreah was beyond right, as the queen’s writhing and moaning clearly indicated. It was beyond Jeyne’s reaction even when Robb finished bedding her, and this couple was just getting started. “Robb! Robb! Robb!” she said rhythmically.

 

There was no doubt the crowd outside the door heard her loud and clear. “So what’s it like riding a dragon?” an anonymous soul called back.

“He’ll have to mount me and find out!” Daenerys challenged.

Robb gladly investigated. He slid his cock between her thighs and into her cunt so easily, she may as well have been as wet as the forked river surrounding the castle. He moaned “Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods!” Daenerys wrapped her arms around his back, pulling him even closer as he thrust into her. Robb had an answer for the unknown person on the other side of the door. “At least her claws aren’t so sharp!” he shouted. “But oh she’s still filled with fire!”

“Seems like she’s got plenty of ice in her right now!” the same voice countered.

 

“Did Jeyne ever have the pleasure of the king’s kiss?” Daenerys asked quietly.

“No, that was only for you, my queen. You can credit your girl Doreah for that idea,” Robb answered with an air of satisfaction.

“She does know those things, and I’m glad she does!” Daenerys exulted.

In the morning, they lay amidst sheets tangled by having moved their bodies in any way they could think of. Each of them had guards in the hall throughout the night, a much more eventful evening than most moonlight sentry duty. Yet the unarmed would soon come to visit. “Khaleesi, care to break your fast?” Irri asked of her queen.

“No, I’m still stuffed from that seven course feast,” Daenerys answered.

“And she’s full of something else too,” Robb parried as he drew his bride’s body close yet again. “She’s hungry for nothing besides me right now, but I could use some bread and meat.”

“Your Grace. You have risen as well,” Irri observed.

“In more ways than one,” Robb answered mischievously as he pushed into his new wife yet again. After he finished, the king and queen faced each other side to side and he said “May our reigns and our marriage both be even half as blissfully smooth as this.”

Chapter Text

            Jon Snow had heard men say the Wall was a world apart from the rest of Westeros, not simply dividing the Seven Kingdoms from the lands beyond the Wall. The Night’s Watch took no part in the affairs of the realm; although the Oath did not directly include such a vow, it was long-settled custom. Yet towards the end of this long summer, the affairs of the realm came to them.

 

The realm didn’t interfere with the affairs of the Watch, letting the recruits pass. Those of the Watch were often called ‘crows’ due to the black uniforms, those who traveled Westeros looking for recruits being further known as ‘wandering crows’. Yoren was the senior one of those and had just arrived at Castle Black.

 

The Night’s Watch got a steady stream of grudging recruits from amongst the criminals of Westeros. The black brothers also gained new members whose de facto crime was being on the losing end of political machinations or wars. The turmoil following King Robert’s death was starting to bring men of both kinds to the country’s northern border, and either could find redemption on the Wall like many fallen men before them.

 

Ser Alliser Thorne had taken the black after fighting for the Targaryens in Robert’s Rebellion. He was now the master-at-arms here at Castle Black, and was a rather disagreeable sort, especially to a lad used to Winterfell’s Rodrik Cassel.

 

Winterfell, Jon thought, memories rushing back to him. Two of his blood brothers had been murdered there by the turncloak Theon Greyjoy. Theon and Jon hadn’t ended up particularly close to each other, despite both being outcasts compared to the trueborn Stark children, and Jon was as outraged as any other northman.

 

Ser Jaime Lannister had served Robert dishonorably, his epithet ‘Kingslayer’ well-deserved. Perhaps he should have been sent to the wall right after Robert took the Iron Throne, yet his trading a white cloak for a black one had been delayed until additional crimes were exposed. Jaime insisted that the Mad King had needed slaying, which was hard to argue with, but his later actions were less defensible. However, Jon didn’t care so much about who Jaime had bedded freely compared to the rapers who manned the Wall.

 

Ser Jorah Mormont had served a winning side of the current war, yet his past crimes caught up with him. Night’s Watch Lord Commander Jeor Mormont was disappointed in his son. Jorah had frittered away their House’s wealth on a pretty wife used to living an even richer life, and as the Mormont treasury ran dry, Jorah sold some criminals into slavery. This dishonor stung yet further because Jeor had voluntarily taken the black in order to give his son lordship.

 

Jeor would send his son to one of the Watch’s other castles. Family life was supposed to be left behind at the Wall, replaced by the oath brothers in the other men of the Watch. The Mormonts would hardly be alone in being challenged by this aspect of life on the Wall. Jon had tried to ride south to Stark aid, but was talked back before he got too far.

 

Maester Aemon understood - now past his hundred and first nameday, he had been similarly tested several times in his long life. Maesters, whether on the Wall or not, did not use last names even if they had them. As such, Aemon had to explain he was a Targaryen. Specifically, he was brother of Aegon V. That made him uncle to Jaehaerys II, grand uncle to the Mad King, great grand uncle to the Mad King’s successors. Aemon had stayed at his post even as the Targaryen dynasty fell.

 

The recruits did bring news from the South; word often reached the Wall even later than this. Jorah spoke publically to the garrison of Castle Black as a whole with an overview of recent events. “Aerys II’s son Viserys III died,” he began.

“Well, any side of this war had no shortage of enemies,” his lord father pointed out.

“’Tis true,” Jorah acknowledged. “Renly, usurper even to Robert’s claim, also lays dead. Robert’s successor Stannis bent the knee to the rightful queen Daenerys I.”

“The dragons, are they real?” called out Samwell Tarly.

 

Sam’s lord father had forced him out of the House Tarly seat at Horn Hill; being even the bastard of Eddard Stark and Winterfell didn’t seem so bad by comparison. Jon had found a friend in Sam, though they were different sorts of outcasts. He was one of the brighter men of the Watch, although he didn’t have much competition in that regard. He had taken to bookish pursuits instead of military ones. Sam was also a lordling with a taste for some activities typically associated with the ladies. In some ways this made Sam the opposite of Jon’s dear half-sister Arya, in some ways the same for being different.

 

Sam was arguably not the most ladylike man of the Watch. Mayhaps that was the sweet-voiced Satin, exceedingly well-groomed, even perfuming what semblance of a beard he managed to grow. That may have suited his work as a boy-whore in Oldtown. However, a wandering crow had picked him up near Gulltown in the Vale rather than his birthplace in the Reach. He was taking well to weapons training. He was more clever and educated than the average man, although no Sam. The Watch had a place for every man, and his skills were what mattered, not his past.

 

Jon was drawn out of his thoughts about Sam by Jorah’s answer to Sam’s question. “Her Grace has returned dragons to the world, yes. Even as hatchlings, they are wondrous creatures. I will not belabor the point for those who have not seen them.” There would be plenty of time for tales later; right now, he acts as an important messenger, Jon surmised.

 

“Her rapid march to King’s Landing culminated with an attack on the city from the east as Lord Stark’s forces approached it from the west. Robb slew Lord Tywin Lannister in open battle and carried out Joffrey’s execution.” The Lannisters paid for what they did to my House and the Greyjoys soon will, Jon thought. “Robb and Daenerys made peace,” Jorah continued.

 

“A horizontal alliance!” “Alliance between the sheets!” “He was set over her, alright!” some wits of the Watch interpreted. The dregs of Westeros who got sent to the Wall were all the more prone to rude japes with life on the Wall putting them in contact with fewer people who would question such behavior.

 

“Yes, they are wedded and bedded,” Jorah said with resignation. “Representatives from all of Westeros were present to support the union, including the Iron Islands. Lord Balon’s daughter Asha, one of the ironborn captains, made peace with Daenerys and Robb in exchange for support of her inheritance.” Gods know her brother Theon doesn’t deserve Pyke or much of anything besides a blade to the neck.

 

Jon’s uncle Benjen Stark was one of Jon’s major inspirations for taking the black. Jon had then found precious few like him amongst the black brothers and Benjen himself was still lost beyond the Wall. The Lord Commander was concerned about how many rangers were not returning, even those of Benjen’s ability. The ones who did return, being greeted by the traditional one horn, reported that men and women living near the Wall had fled their villages. The Lord Commander had wanted to head out in force to investigate these and other strange circumstances, but he chose to stay his hand upon news of the large batch of recruits that had just now arrived.

 

Aemon had seen many kings of his House, so he would not have been so shocked by that. However, he was still surprised to hear of his great-grandniece on the Iron Throne. “There was also a civil war the last time a woman claimed the throne. This time she won,” the wizened old man observed. Maester Aemon reminded Jon of Maester Luwin as he recounted the history of The Dance Of The Dragons, Rhaenyra I versus her younger half-brother Aegon II. Ironically, though Aegon was victorious, he ended up dying without male heirs, and the crown went to Rhaenyra’s son Aegon III anyway.

 

The few black brothers of noble families wondered what the new arrivals knew of their relatives’ fate. Yoren approached Jon. “I personally rescued your trueborn sister Arya and escorted her to Riverrun. She even stood guard with the sword you gave her as His Grace walked through the sept.” If men of the Night’s Watch were prone to crying, now would have been the time to. Jon had Mikken the Winterfell blacksmith make Arya a sword suited to her small stature, and she had named it Needle, as that was the form of needlework she’d rather do. Presenting it to her was one of the last things he’d done before leaving for the Wall. “Princess Sansa remained in King’s Landing but was found safe after the battle. No word of Brandon and Rickon.”

 

Longclaw

 

Jon would refrain from having Longclaw on his person while in Jorah Mormont’s presence. It was the ancestral Valyrian blade of House Mormont, as Ice was for House Stark. Jorah had left it behind as he fled into exile, and being reminded of it might kill his already-wounded pride. Jeor had recovered it, and how it passed from the Mormonts to Jon was a tale of a more honorable sort.

 

Jon had went slightly beyond the Wall to take the oath of the Night’s Watch in front of a heart tree instead of in a sept, to honor the old gods of his lord father. Sam had joined Jon, rejecting the new gods of the lord father who had rejected him. There Jon had found two corpses in that haunted forest, which were brought back to Castle Black for burial.

 

However, the corpses had other ideas. They rose as wights, servants of the monstrously cold Others, apparently very real instead of ancient legends. One had been cut to pieces by the Castle Black garrison, but not before killing Ser Jaremy Rykker. Like Alliser, Jaremy had been a Targaryen loyalist who had taken the black to avoid immediate death upon the rebel victory. Another had made it to Jeor’s quarters. Jon only defeated that one by starting a fire.

 

Longclaw had lain amongst the ashes, and Jon had received it as a gift for saving Jeor’s life. The hilt had burned or melted, but the blade was made of sterner stuff. Jeor had the bear’s head pommel replaced with a wolf design, the sword keeping its name as being appropriate for both beasts.

 

Friends In High Places

 

Jon had questions he wanted to ask Ser Jorah alone. “Does he love her?” Jon wondered of his royal brother’s union.

“He certainly does, and what man would not?” Jorah answered.

It was clear Jorah was emotional in talking about Daenerys. “Ser Jorah, how old are you?”

“Three and forty,” he explained.

“And Her Grace is five-and-ten. Mayhaps, just mayhaps, that is part of the explanation for why she did not return your interest.”

“I am no king, and he already was one,” Jorah admitted.

“What does he seem to think of his victory besides taking such a wonderful wife at the end of it?” Jon continued.

“He seems to feel he has plenty of a victory even without Queen Daenerys by his side. He never expected or wanted to the Iron Throne, rather independence and justice for the North, which he most certainly achieved. I suspect there are many fights still ahead for the realms they lead.

 

Ser Endrew Tarth was a second son instead of a third like Benjen Stark but nevertheless found the Wall appealing compared to being a minor branch of his House. He was relieved to hear that his brother Selwyn and niece Brienne had survived the war; Selwyn’s other children had died young long before.

 

The King and Queen were preparing a campaign to root out the ironborn raiders in the North as well as remnants of resistance in the South. The Night’s Watch recruits had left before the doubly royal host, so this was as current as their news of the war went.

Chapter Text

The Warrior and The Healer

 

            Few women belonged on a battlefield, but Brienne Tarth was certainly one of them. She certainly didn’t seem to have any other place. A young woman with bronzed skin and long dark hair seemed to be in a similar situation. She was clearly here to heal the soldiers, not bed them like many of the other wenches following the army north.

 

            Brienne was reminded of Jeyne and moved to talk to the other healing woman. “Brienne of Tarth, sword wielder in the Northern host. Who are you and what brings you here?”

            “Talisa Maegyr of Volantis. I resolved that I would not waste my life as so many other noblewomen seemed to do.” Volantis was all the way across the Narrow Sea, so she must be determined to be here, Brienne thought. Well, Queen Daenerys had journeyed even further.

            “Just so, Lady Maegyr. As you took up healing arts, I took up killing arts,” Brienne answered. “I had just as little taste for frivolous parties,” the Maid Of Tarth declared.

            “Aye, and while Westeros has its downtrodden smallfolk, it has no slaves like the so-called Free Cities,” Talisa said, beginning to sound downright angry. “I saw the truth of slavery as a child, when a ‘mere slave’ saved my younger brother’s life.”

            “From drowning, is it?” Brienne guessed.

            “How did you know?” Talisa said in shock.

            “My older brother drowned when he was eight and I four, so that cause of death be high on my mind,” Brienne explained. “Either that or the two sisters between us who died in the cradle.”

            “I am sorry to hear that, but apparently the gods made you stronger,” Talisa suggested.

            “Mayhaps so,” Brienne agreed. “And the new queen has as little taste for slavers as you do. She was exiled to Essos rather than born and raised there, but just as surely saw the evil of it,” Tarth explained to Maegyr.

            “Would that my old cousin would understand that,” Talisa said with resignation. “Malaquo from a senior branch of House Maegyr is one of the three elected leaders of Volantis and gladly makes use of slaves. Not having to face the damages of war, he is rather more fond of that as well.”

 

The Siege

 

            The force approached the Twins. However, passage would be even more difficult for the Northern army than it was the first time. The castle had been given to the Westerlings. However, the Freys dug in for siege instead of giving it up peacefully, hardly the first House to behave this way when being stripped of their lands.

 

If any host could besiege such a well-fortified castle, it was this one. The army moved to blockade the roads leading up to the castle. What few arrows came forth fell short. A few Frey bannermen were caught in the attempt to join their liege lord’s garrison. As they were escorted back to the stockades, Brienne recognized the triple berry bushes of Charlton, the yellow bird of Erenford and the pitchfork of Haigh.

 

            Brienne looked down at her shield, the most prominent display of her own coat of arms. It was quartered – first quarter pink with a sun or, second quarter azure with a crescent argent, third quarter azure, two pallets wavy mud red, a trout hauriant argent, fourth quarter white with a direwolf argent. The chief was drawn from the arms of House Tarth – as a trueborn child of the house, she was entitled to them. The base came from the birth and married colors of the woman she served, who had dispatched her here. Lord Hoster had approved the use of the Tully fish and King Robb that of the Stark beast.

 

            Brienne was personally sworn to Catelyn Tully Stark, but had been dispatched to her son’s army. In a way, Brienne was pleased that she had gotten the honorable assignment even though it was a dangerous one. Mayhaps she would finally get the respect her skills deserved, fighting for a queen in her own right, whose king had a sister like Arya and vassals like Maege and Dacey.

 

            Brienne found it highly considerate how Arya’s half-brother Jon had gotten her a sword suited to her small stature. However, since Brienne had the size and strength to be suited to a regular longsword herself, she regretted that she could teach the warrior princess only so much. The queen was no taller than her goodsister, and thought of something like Arya’s needle for herself. However, she wielded authority by blood with her words and deeds, and would soon have the greatest weapons the Known World had yet known – dragons. The magnificent creatures were growing rapidly, especially the black and red one, but not rapidly enough to take to this battlefield.

 

            There was precious little activity visible to the besiegers. The best archers in the host attempted to shoot down the defenders on the parapets. Brienne, as a longsword wielder, stood back. Aggo of Dothraki stepped forth, and felled several Frey guardsmen. He had a bow of dragonbone. That material was, amongst other things, to bows what Valyrian steel was to blades. The Stormlands knight Balon Swann looked at that bow like how Brienne had looked at Ice or Nightfall.

 

            Aggo was one of Daenerys’ bloodriders, and while Dothraki culture mystified many Westerosi, Brienne included, she understood this group to be even more closely bound to their ruler than a Westerosi kingsguard.

 

Balon seemed a knight of kingsguard caliber in both fighting skill and demeanor, and may well be suggested for a white cloak should one of Daenerys’ Queensguard fall. Ser Preston Greenfield was relatively safe in Riverrun with Catelyn, who had been appointed Hand.

 

The other six of the Queensguard were here, and so were all the other people who would merit their protection. Queen Daenerys had brought her son Prince Rhaego, and had chosen to extend the white cloaks’ protection to her husband and the key members of his family, his sisters and unborn child.

 

Jeyne Westerling would have liked to march north as another healer. However, she would stay in the rear and would stay at The Twins once the castle was secured for her House. Everyone involved thought it was a bad idea since she was great with child, especially the king’s child. If she bore Robb a daughter, a match of that princess to Prince Rhaego would prevent certain arguments over succession, Brienne mused.

 

House Spicer, that of the Westerling children’s lady mother, had no seat, but gods knew Walder’s massive brood would leave plenty of space behind for the family of the new lord’s wife.

 

            Ser Raynald spent his sixteenth nameday in a dingy war camp. “Your Graces, heir to the Twins is quite a gift,” he said to praise his sovereigns, “but Walder doesn’t wish to share,” he japed. He was in Robb’s personal guard, along with Dacey and various other Northern swords of renown. Brienne would deployed near that group, but not quite part of it. The bulk of the swords including these would be in the middle of the formation. Dacey preferred her mace, but ‘swords’ was nevertheless poetic.

 

No less than Arys Oakheart, Boros Blount, Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant of the Queensguard would march alongside them. Their sworn brother Loras Tyrell was leading the van of lancers. Of course that’s where the Knight Of Flowers would be. Since long before he was Brienne’s sworn brother and commanding officer in the Rainbow Guard, he had never lacked for bravery. The Lord Commander of this order, Ser Barristan Selmy, would be in the rearguard with the queen herself. So would the bloodrider Jhogo, his whip best suited to the defensive detail.

 

The bloodrider Rakharo would take his sword to the vanguard. Dothraki light cavalry was nearly unparalleled in the open field or against lightly defended targets; they would need plenty of support against such an imposing castle as The Twins. Here they’d be riding alongside Westerosi heavy cavalry. Archers would advance behind the horse. All of it was backed by siege engines belching stones.

 

By the gods, this host would have that castle. Or was that by the god? Vezhof zala! shouts rang out. The Great Stallion wants it! No wonder the Dothraki were such superb riders, having a society centered around horses to the point of calling their god that. Khaleesi asta ildates! followed, meaning The queen says we strike!

Chapter Text

Siege Of The Twins

 

            “Attack!” Robb ordered, as both his own king and a general for his royal wife. However, he swung a regular longsword to give the command. It was dangerous enough for him to be on this battlefield, even without such a visible sign as Ice or his new armor in both Stark and Targaryen colors. A literal crown was more suited to walking and sitting at court anyway. Those items rested safely back in the command tent.

 

So did Grey Wind. Lady was dead and Nymeria was lost, but the direwolf was still comfortable back with his master’s sisters. A direwolf made Valyrian steel, richly decorated armor and a crown look positively nondescript by comparison. The beast had already proven itself a literal terror in battle by Robb’s side. Yet for this battle there weren’t as many enemies in the field to maul, nor enemy horses to spook. There was plenty of cavalry on the side attacking the castle, though. By the gods, one learned quickly that it was unwise to interfere with a Dothraki’s horse.

 

Of course, any battlefield would be deadly, but especially this one, considering the defenders’ personal grudge against him. Yet how could he honorably order his soldiers forth if he was unwilling to go himself even surrounded by the personal guard? Even in more mundane affairs, honorable leadership seemed in large part a matter of example-setting.

 

Daenerys was, amongst other things, one of many worried wives right now. She wasn’t armed with traditional weapons, but still, she rode as close to the front as she could. She nevertheless found her time to charge, such as when she took the dragon hatchlings to weaken the chain blocking the Blackwater Rush on the way into King’s Landing. “We ought get Her Grace a sword like your sister’s,” Brienne Tarth suggested.

“Mayhaps so,” Robb agreed as the army surged forth. The horse was in front so as to not be delayed waiting behind the foot.

 

The overall rush to attack did seem justified. The prisoners told a consistent tale; the Freys were not like to be starved out. Supporting the massive besieging host was rather more difficult with the Riverlands ravaged. Even with the Tyrells being cooperative, supply wayns had to trek up far from the south. The Crownlands were closer, but not so large and fertile.

 

Daenerys’ Dothraki horde was still well over ten thousand strong, and they expected to strike hard and fast, the battle plan partially an adaptation to their style of warfare. Stannis’ detachment to his queen’s army also still numbered the better part of twenty thousand. Robb had marched south with near as many, but perhaps half as many were marching north with him. After all, they had fought their way through a longer war. Roose Bolton had lost several thousand foot in the disaster at the Green Fork, most from Houses besides his own. Mayhaps Lord Bolton was right that his discipline kept the result from being even worse. While Robb misliked the man, he had to focus on the current battle.

 

Trebuchet hits had damaged the gatehouses, and the fast cavalry charge further impeded the Frey defenders’ ability to raise the drawbridges. Robb supposed they had been left down to help rush more defenders and supplies into the castle. The camp stockades and quartermasters’ tents were full of examples of the failure of that strategy. Lord Walder was about to be dealt more education on the matter.

 

However, the bridges had been raised somewhat and needed to be pulled back down. The curved Dothraki arakhs were even worse at hacking at the chains than straight Westerosi longswords. Like much of Dothraki culture, they were optimized to be used on horseback, rather than off it. Rakharo had dismounted and put his down. Tugging at the wooden planks, he was proving his arm muscles were not just for the amusement of his khaleesi’s handmaidens. Khaleessiyasi was a mouthful, queen being derived from king, handmaiden from queen, and then a plural.

 

Robb was glad to have the Umbers back, although it hadn’t worked to move them north ‘as escorts’ for Night’s Watch recruits. He was wholly unsurprised to see the lord’s son amongst the northern soldiers surging forth to join the eastern ones in pulling at the bridge. Brienne rushing into the gap was more of a shock. Well, she belonged there - freakish strong for a woman, she had yet more raw muscle than many of the men here. She deserved the credit for her skill in battle and her willingness to use it.

 

“Ready the rams!” Robb called back. He saw men rushing forth with logs they had capped with iron, but there hadn’t been time to put them on wheels and hang them from ropes, let alone cover the nonexistent frames. The drawbridge was finally dragged back down to the road, men and women weighting it down. The portcullis crumpled under the ramming blows.

 

The latest volley of arrows came at Robb’s personal guard. Most of the shots did not hit, but Patrek Mallister took one in the arm. A Dothraki saw the wound and shouted out “Koalakeesi khali rhaeshi andalhi!The Westerosi King’s healing woman!

 

‘Khal’ was translated as ‘king’ but meant far more, a leader of one of the hordes on the eastern plains, so Dothraki addressed Robb with the ‘land of the Andals’ qualifier. Ironically, he was of the blood of the First Men, not the Andals, yet gods knew there were plenty of nuances of their culture he didn’t understand either. It seemed ‘eesi’ was also the ending for the female form of some words besides ‘king’.

 

“Get him to Jeyne Westerling!” Robb nonliterally translated. Gods knew she could treat such a wound. “Ser Raynald, you know where your sister is!” Patrek could move back only with help, as others moved forward.

 

The rammers bashed in the other side of the gate. Or was that ‘bashed out’? They rested their logs on the other bank of the moat so more than a few soldiers could pour in. Rakharo got back on his horse, but the heirs to Tarth and Last Hearth picked up their swords and went past the twisted metal.

 

Even the best archers mayhaps would be unable to shoot back through an arrowslit, and had little room to draw inside the gatehouse, but a straight sword could be jammed through them, and so Brienne and Jon did. Some blows struck arrowshaft and stone, some flesh and bone. With the sides cleared, they ran past the heated objects dropped from above, sustaining minimal damage and drawing out some more Frey ammunition. Robb, his personal guard and the unmounted Queensguard were the first of the swords in behind them.

 

The vanguard raiding party faced the tower in the middle of the bridge, but turned their attentions upwards rather than to the northeast. Even breaking the main defenses on the southwest bank, Robb was not taking any chances. “Clear the tower!” he bellowed. It would hold more people of value and would preclude a Frey rearguard action on the royal host storming the  bridge. “Pikemen!” he further ordered. Their longer reach would help the march up the staircases; there was no time to go for Ice even now that two more feet of blade length would be most useful.

 

The foot that came forth were squires to Manderly knights. One of those knights, Lord Wyman’s second son Wendel, stood in Robb’s guard. Wendel, a large high-spirited man, called out “Preston Woolfield!” Robb had learnt more about his bannermen from riding with them, and recalled some of this knowledge. Preston’s sister Leona was the beloved wife of Wendel’s brother Wylis.

 

As Robb hoped for, Preston’s pike caught Frey defenders rushing downwards expecting merely to meet swords. Working up the spiral, he was surprised at one of the bodies found, but not particular sad to see the man fallen. Black Walder looked like he had barely fixed his swordbelt.

 

However, a different group emerged from an intersection of the staircase and a hallway, running through Boros Blount of the Queensguard before being subdued. Mandon Moore seemed glad to further bloody his sword avenging himself upon the murderer of his sworn brother. The bodies would have to be left for the return march, which gods willing would happen, and soon. It was torturous in multiple ways to have to avoid losing one’s footing on blood-slicked stone.

 

The force kept finding more Freys and their Rivers bastards to evict. Near an upper chamber, a young man’s voice called out “He’s in here, Your Grace!” Robb recognized the face of the only Frey with the sense to address him thusly. Olyvar, one of Lord Walder’s many younger sons, had squired for Robb before the alliance soured, and seemed one of the few Freys sorry to see it go. I was to see to his knighting. If he tells it true here, mayhaps I will anyway.

 

That chamber’s door was tall enough even for Umber men. Or Tarth women. Lord Umber’s son procured a makeshift battering ram – his shoulder. The sound of steel leaving scabbards was dimly heard behind the splintering. Umber turned away from the door as it fell open. Out fell Ryman Frey – dumb as a stone, he hit the ground as quickly as one.

 

Arys Oakheart of the Queensguard had the quickest reaction, cutting off the arm of the heir to the Crag, now. Lord Walder’s firstborn Stevron fell fighting bravely on Robb’s side at Oxcross. Damned shame, he ought have proved more reasonable than his father or sons, mayhaps preventing allies from turning enemies.

As usual, if someone died after their heir, the inheritance went to the dead heir’s own heirs. Stevron’s son Ryman and grandson Edwyn had died in this chamber’s chaos, with Edwyn’s daughter Walda about to become Lady Of The Crag.

 

Robb locked eyes with the peevish old man he was looking for, as the royal sword wielders restrained the other surviving Freys in the room. “Walder Frey, you are under arrest for treason against your liege lord and your rightful king and queen.”

“Heh! The only woman I ought be calling queen is one of those daughters of mine you swore to marry!” Then mayhaps we all would have had to surrender to the dragon queen. Calling her my wife wasn’t just for the sake of my heart, Robb mused to himself. Lord Walder continued ranting. “I’m simply unwilling to reduce my House to lords of a western ruin, yet alone surrender my castles to your whore’s father!”

The insult stirred Robb’s blood. The kick to the old man’s frail legs was not particularly chivalrous, but neither was the slander. “Speaking about Lady Jeyne in that manner is not doing your cause any favors!”

Queen Daenerys had made it abundantly clear that anyone in the army was authorized to kill Lord Walder. Such open and costly defiance was not to be tolerated. This swift strong response was not only to enforce the decrees transferring The Twins to House Westerling, but also to establish their overall authority early in their reigns. Lord Walder Frey had refused several opportunities to surrender peacefully.

 

“Ser Wendel, show out this fragment of his brood!” Once this command was carried out, he said another. “In the name of Daenerys Targaryen First Of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lady of the Southern Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, I do hereby sentence you to die.”

 

As the group peacefully made it to the top of the tower, Robb figured they ought signal to both besiegers and occupiers that the Freys had capitulated (by decapitation).

 

Raynald had retreated with his House’s banner when evacuating the wounded Patrek. The Westerling arms had been changed to reflect their new holdings – the Frey blazon of blue towers on gray, but in Westerling white on yellow. Their ancient seashell charge remained as a row of three along the top rather than a descending triangle of six.

 

Well, the banner of any Iron Throne loyalist would get the point across. Brienne bore three, those of her House and the birth and married Houses of the woman she served. She knelt to remove the cloak that had a copy of them. She stood up, sent a Frey banner fluttering to the moat below, and hung up hers in its place. What my lord grandfather would have given to see his arms flying from his recalcitrant bannerman’s castle! Robb gleefully realized. Granted, the blue and red waves with a fish were in the lower left, the Stark direwolf next to them, the Tarth sun and moon on top.

 

They strode down to the entrance, many carrying either the live bodies of prisoners or the dead bodies of allies. Petyr Frey showed his face, one which Robb mentally compared unfavorably to Brienne’s. The late Black Walder had called his younger brother ‘Petyr Pimple’ for a reason, not merely being his usual disagreeable self. He helped them find Lady Walda, mayhaps hoping to be accepted as regent or castellan for his niece. Dacey Mormont demonstrated the ladylike grace not existing in anyone else present as she holstered her mace to escort the little girl out.

 

The riders and archers had continued to secure the outside perimeter while preparing to besiege the middle tower. They cheered the sword wielders’ presence that signaled the end of the battle even more than the striking of the Frey colors. Rakharo welcomed them with “Najaheya!”, a Dothraki word meaning Battle victory!, and that pretty much said it.

 

 “STARK!” a shout rang out, to which Robb raised his longsword, starting a further chorus. “Khaleesi mahrazhkem!The queen’s husband! There was no word for ‘consort’ in Dothraki, so the title of the regnant was followed by that, or chiorikem, wife. More cheers in both Common and Dothraki followed.

 

The assembled soldiers cleared a path for the elites to return to the rear. Robb heard the exultation he really wanted to hear, his name out of Dany’s mouth. Then they got down to business, news of the combat inside the tower. “Survived another one after far too many did not. Ser Barristan, Ser Boros was the only one of your sworn brothers to fall. Ser Loras is alive and well, impossible to miss as usual.”

 

Lajak Andahli Halah!” Jhogo spat, Loras’ existing epithet ‘The Knight Of Flowers’ translated into Dothraki. The third Tyrell son’s polished behavior was especially off-putting to the rough men of the eastern plains. There was no word for ‘knight’ in Dothraki either, so they had taken to using ‘Andal Warrior’.

 

After all, the Andals had developed knighthood and brought it to Westeros when they invaded thousands of years ago. The training and weapons of knights had contributed mightily to the success of that conquest. Although in the North, the First Men yet held at Moat Cailin, Robb thought, not without pride in his people. While it was impossible to attack from the south, the ironborn had taken it from the north, and that would surely be the site of our next battle, Robb’s thoughts continued, being reminded of the present reality.

 

Ma Rakharo m’ Aggo thiri.” Rakharo and Aggo live, Robb reported to Jhogo.

 

“Here is Lord Walder’s head. Edwyn’s daughter Walda, the Lady Of The Crag now, is the girl with Lady Dacey,” Robb said.

“So be it,” Daenerys said approvingly.

 

            Robb then made his way to the healers’ tents, also in the rear. “Your Grace, I could not save Patrek,” Jeyne said to greet him apologetically. Gods damn that archer! “The arrow landed too close to a major blood vessel; trying to extract the flint, he merely bled out faster.”

 

            One of the other healers standing near her spoke up. She bore unfamiliar arms, two tigers not quite combatant. “A few months with child and still working with patients! I have never been in that situation, but as a fellow healer, I understand and appreciate her dedication.”

 

            “I thought those two might make fast friends,” Brienne observed, explaining what she had learned of the other highborn healer when they met on the march. To hear the Maid of Tarth tell it, Queen Daenerys would like this Talisa Maegyr too.

 

Maesters were to serve whoever actually controlled a holding, and that held true here as elsewhere. The raven cages were like to be busy from reporting news of this battle. Robb was not looking forward to sending that raven, but the least he could do was write it in his own hand. Lord Jason Mallister, it is with deepest regret that I inform you your son Patrek perished of an arrow wound sustained in the siege. May the memory of his essential honorable service live on. This was not the time to bloviate with his titles, so Robb signed it simply King Robb Stark.

 

Jason had captured Gawen and now the Lord of Seagard lost his son securing the castle of his former captive. Robb was not sure what the Mallisters thought of the genuineness of the Westerlings’ change of heart. He was also not sure who would succeed the longterm Tully loyalist now. Jason’s brother Jeffory had been murdered by the Mad King. While in the retinue of my uncle Brandon Stark, Robb realized. Jason’s own uncle Denys had taken the black decades prior.

 

            A group following Robb’s party into the tower had found some Frey women hiding in a storage room, much like what Olyvar had pointed out with the men. When those lady captives were brought before their queen, Daenerys promptly asked “I trust there are no rapers amongst this lot?”

            “No, Your Grace,” a pale, frail young woman answered.

            “Good, for I take my anti-pillaging orders particularly seriously.”

            “Aye, we are here in general recognition of the fact that your decrees are to be taken seriously,” Joyeuse Erenford, Lord Walder’s eighth wife, recognized.

            “You have the right of that!” Daenerys said enthusiastically. “Now, Lady Joyeuse, we can find a proper match for you, a good man, who is hardly four-and-seventy years your senior.” Gods, what some lords extracted from their bannermen – their maiden daughters! Robb thought with disgust. His aunt Lysa Tully had an unhappy marriage chiefly because her lord husband was merely forty years her senior, and Jon Arryn had been a good man! Mayhaps Joyeuse could be wed to their son, in due time because Robb’s cousin Robert was only five.

 

            Now they ate of Lord Gawen’s bread and salt, at least the elites who could fit into The Twins’ halls. “Or, two towers white united by a bridge white. The time of the cendree and azure was past,” he said while pointing to the new banner. “Yet my house shall not forget our past, though the six seashells pilewise had to be reduced to three chiefwise.”

 

            “The business of the heralds being done, it is time for that of the cooks and servers,” his lady wife interjected. “My own House Spicer was aptly named. Horseradish is dominant in this dish, accenting the flour, butter and milk that the ham cubes and small noodles sit in. To His Grace, who has made so much possible for both my Houses!” she said as Robb was served first.

 

            “To your heir Ser Raynald,” Robb answered, lifting his goblet, only water in it. Unlike the Umbers, heavy drink would hit him hard when already tired from a day of fighting. “Not only one of my loyal battle companions, but also my future goodbrother. It was only rumor and conjecture outside those closest to us, but he is betrothed to Princess Sansa.” They were both seated to his left. The nature of their kiss, though it be a chaste one, demonstrated their approval more than any words could. Raynald had sometimes pointed out that he did less with Sansa than I had done with Jeyne, and I admit the point was well-taken, Robb mused.

 

            Most of the hall joined in the cheers. “Mayhaps His Grace secured this chair for his nephew,” Lord Gawen japed. The Lord Of The Twins sat a massive construction of black oak, the back carved in the shape of the bridge and its towers.

 

            “Or a niece, if they have older girls.” The new Dornish-style inheritance laws were common knowledge but not common speech. “And mayhaps so. Yet mind you, my first, another grandchild of yours, shall sit stone at Winterfell if I have no heirs by my wife. My stepson shall ascend to iron at King’s Landing.” Yet greater things had been prophesied for his wife’s son, helping bind the riders to her cause. It was a grim thought, but if Rhaego predeceased his mother, Dany’s first child by Robb would sit the Iron Throne and the second would inherit the North.

 

            While Daenerys had a birthright, asserting it had proved even more of a challenge than rising above his own lofty inheritance. It was wise to reward one’s highborn allies, but the Essosi smallfolk to his wife’s right had risen yet further in service. Half the usual guards stood silently behind the benches while the rest ate at the same table as their sovereigns, switching places as each man and woman ate their fill. Most of them also needed to refresh their bodies from a day of battle. Robb had been counseled that no man or woman who had seen the terrible glorious absurdity could quite refresh their mind even avoiding grievous physical wounds.

 

            The castle had limited capability to support such a large host, including provisioning it with bathwater. As Robb settled into the hot water and saw it quickly start to turn gray, he thought It’s good to be the king, especially considering the queen I’m getting clean for.

 

            They were sovereigns, yet still guests in one of their lords’ castles, so they claimed some of the more opulent secondary quarters. Barristan and Jhogo were standing outside their queen’s chambers as they had around the command tent earlier today.

 

As Robb stepped inside, he marveled that his queen’s beauty never ceased to amaze him. Here was the most beautiful woman in the world, eagerly awaiting him, wearing nothing. “It seems I shan’t be wearing these fresh cloths for long, my dearest Dany, he said in a low whisper.

“Because of something long in them,” she replied in an ever more seductive voice.

 

Her teats were as a beautiful as small ones could possibly be. As he licked at one of the nipples, her sweet moans only fueled his hunger for his royal bride. Having already shucked his breeches during the teat-illating endeavor, he pulled away only to send his tunic to the stone floor along with them. Being a few inches taller than her, he lifted her up to enter her, and the way she wrapped her body around his confirmed how happy he was making her.

 

There would be nothing waiting for them between the sheets. Above them was a different matter. As they collapsed, their bodies happened to roll so that hers was on top, and he saw the most beautiful sight in Daenerys bracing herself to slide up and down his body. Her luxurious brighter-than-blonde hair swayed along with them in the chamber’s cool summer breeze. He felt himself about to give her his seed, and wrapped his arms around her back to pull her yet closer.

 

When they eventually figured out they ought actually sleep, she gazed into his eyes again and said “This, this is how I’d rather remember today.”

 

Ser

 

            It was customary after a great battle for many men to be knighted for heroism recently displayed. Any knight could make a knight, but it was a much greater honor for the ceremony to be performed by a knight of renown. The five living and present members of the Queensguard had a busy day ahead of them in the sept here at The Twins.

 

            Before making new knights, they would first anoint a man already a knight. Balon Swann would be taking up Boros Blount’s white cloak, already having been considered for the next opening in the Queensguard. Like his future sworn brothers, he had been amongst the defenders of King’s Landing, but promptly took up faithful service to his new, rightful sovereign once she had arrived.

 

A raven would be sent to Ser Preston Greenfield about his new sworn brother – Her Grace did not wish to leave the slot open, and the plans for the march north did not admit of several days’ delay for safe travel to or from Riverrun. Daenerys obviously had to be present to receive Balon’s oaths.

 

A sept was a place of the Seven, knighthood a ritual of that Andal faith. However, a few people who did not keep the New Gods were also in attendance, Robb chief amongst them, partially as a gesture of respect for their comrades receiving honors today. “Fekh Vojjor m’ Ave, ma Mai, ma Lajak, ma Nayat, ma Marik, ma Kristasof, m’ Athdrivar,” Robb said, a man of the old gods trying to list the names of the new for the sake of followers of the Great Stallion.

 

“Ser Balon Swann, you have been deemed a quality of knight suitable for the Queensguard in both honor and skill at arms,” Daenerys began. These were similar to the words she had read for Loras Tyrell in time for him to stand guard during his sovereign’s wedding.

 

Sekke davra ovvethak!” Aggo called out – superb archer, high praise indeed considering the source. While that was Balon’s preferred weapon, he was hardly unskilled with lance or morningstar either.

 

Balon knelt and Lord Commander Barristan gained the floor. “Repeat after me, ser,” he began, and so Balon did after each line.

“I will serve and protect the rightful occupant of the Iron Throne and designated members of the royal family. I will obey their commands and keep their secrets. I will take no wives nor father any children. I will hold no lands, titles or crowns. I will do so until my death and even if it causes my own death. So help me gods.”

“Arise, Ser Balon Swann of the Queensguard.” Being of a similar size to his predecessor, he was given the exact same cloak and armor.

 

Those not yet knights also knelt, being tapped on the shoulder with the flat of a sword blade as they were reminded of the ideals of knighthood. Those blades had all been bloodied recently, a reminder of the reality.

 

To be brave in the name of the Warrior, to be just for the Father, to defend the young and innocent for the Mother, to further protect women for the Maid, to not needlessly destroy what the Smith hath wrought, to respect wisdom for the Crone, to not fear death and the unknown as represented by the Stranger. Fine values, Seven aside, though I understand how the ritual appeals to some, Robb mused.

 

Preston Woolfield and Olyvar Frey were the only names Robb recognized amongst the recipients. His comrade Wendel and uncle Edmure joined the six white swords in performing the ceremonies. His great-uncle Brynden was no less a great knight, but as usual rode with the scouts. Yesterday, he had patrolled the southwest bank of the Green Fork. Today, he was one of the first back across the Green Fork to check the northeast, although he fortunately did not find any significant threats to their flanks or rear in either case.

 

Raynald and his uncle Rolph Spicer was also focused on matters relating to actually establishing their family as controller of this castle and its attendant lands and incomes.

 

Loras Tyrell did not return his longsword to scabbard when the other knightmakers felt they were done. “There be no law against knighting women!” he announced, obviously having this planned as his conclusion to the day’s events. “And if there was, knowing Her Grace, mayhaps there soon would not be.”

“Ser Loras tells it true,” Daenerys acknowledged.

“Hear hear!” Robb echoed.

The septon here had stayed largely quiet, silently anointing with seven oils the new-made knights that had wished for it. However, he obviously felt a need to speak up on this matter. “I believe the Faith does not forbid it either, mayhaps because it never thought to. What is the will of gods and what is the will of men?” he finished philosophically.

 

Robb had never considered the matter either, but it very much made sense now that Ser Loras brought it up, especially knowing full well the particular woman he had in mind. Loras was clearly enjoying the moment, bellowing out “In recognition of extraordinary heroism displayed in yesterday’s events, but also in honor of our mutual admiration for the late Renly Baratheon, bring forth Brienne Tarth!”

 

Brienne was as shocked as anyone, yet clearly much more overwhelmed. For Robb, it was an intriguing intellectual matter. For her, it was being offered the thing she had most wanted but had never known she could have. All she managed to say was “I will” as she knelt before Loras in front of the altar of the Warrior.

 

“Does anyone doubt her courage, her honor, her skill with a longsword? I do not! She bested me to win a tourney melee in front of Renly. Apparently I have forgiven her for that.” Quickly moving past that jape, he continued. “We were reminded of her capability in a real battle. My sworn brothers Arys, Meryn, and Mandon certainly saw of that, as well as Wendel Manderly and Raynald Westerling.” And your king, but I recognize this is a matter for sworn knights. The latter was unable to give his testimony right now, but the four she had fought alongside throughout the entire battle could hardly deny it.

“When we saw the Frey banner replaced with any other, which happened to be hers, we knew we had another battle won,” Ser Balon said, having watched from the outside.

Then the audience to the unprecedented event heard an inside view. Arys spoke up. “She was one of the first of the foot on the bridge and in the gatehouse, even ahead of us, His Grace, and most of his guard. She was with us through the march up the tower.”

 

These touches of steel, these repetitions of words, were anything but routine for anyone in the sept. They all knew they were bearing witness to a major moment in history. Some had left, although it was unclear whether it was due to disapproval or impatience after their own ceremony. Many of the newly dubbed had already vacated the sept. “In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all other women?” Loras japed.

After the seventh challenge, Brienne answered “Honored yet humbled, I accept. Certainly I admire Nymeria, Visenya and Rhaenys, yet I’ve looked up to the multitude of legendary knights as surely as any of you have, and one of those men yet stands here.” It was one of the odder pieces of praise Ser Barristan Selmy had yet received in his long life. “I hope I can yet deserve bearing the same title as them.”

“Arise,” Loras said simply.

 

Northern warrior women had as little taste for knighthood as their male counterparts, yet Dacey seemed the most overjoyed after the recipient and was the first to address her by her new title. “Congratulations, ser.”

 

The North

 

Many Riverlands men, notably his uncle and great-uncle, stayed to reinforce the garrison of the Twins as the Westerling presence there became more firmly established.

 

Unofficially, that would also offer more information as to whether a betrothal of Edmure and Jeyne would be a good idea. For the sake of propriety, it would be kept much more secret than Raynald and Sansa had been. As far as the realm knew, the dance at the wedding had been a courtesy which Edmure proceed to extend to several other ladies.

 

            Lord Umber had some advice for his king. “Your Grace, my son was one of those who stood guard for you the night after the siege. Knowing my heir, he went around giving an accurate report.” The implication of ‘In the form of rude japes’ was understood. “Cherish your youth. Older men are not able to fight all day and bed their wives all night.”

 

Mandon Moore was the white cloak to remain here. The Lord Commander belonged by his queen’s side, and Ser Balon needed to accustom himself to life amongst his new brothers. Sansa and Jeyne cared not one whit for Meryn, hardly a fantasy of knighthood. While they liked Loras and Arys, Mandon was more eager for the solitary assignment.

 

The announcement of Sansa’s betrothal was particularly well received especially by the couple themselves. In due time, she shall stand before the altar of the Mother. Brienne knelt before the altar of the Warrior. She distinguished herself alongside my personal guard and the dismounted Queensguard in storming the southwest tower. Ser Loras saw no prohibition against knighting worthy women, and dubbed her at the end of the mass ceremony following the battle, Robb sent to his mother. Well, now the Maid of Tarth would have to live the reality of knighthood as well as see it.

 

Loras Tyrell, may the gods bless his reckless soul. Suddenly respect for Brienne went much further beyond the few people who knew her closely. They knew what her new title meant, especially considering who had granted it and who had approvingly watched it happen.

 

Those who ignored the truth due to her gender were still legion, but not as legion. “Was the 195th a timely fluke?” challenged a man Stannis had sent with Daenerys.

A few minutes of ringing steel later, the answer was a clear no. “All my life men like you have sneered at me. And all my life I've been knocking men like you into the dust,” Brienne concluded.

 

            “Ser Clayton Suggs? Who knighted that fool?” Barristan sneered. “Not a hint of honor concealed anywhere about his person! I shall grant that Ser Brienne is particular skilled with a longsword, and even if Clayton is better with a blade than she made him look, that is obviously not the whole of knighthood!”

 

“Lajakeesi ondee shores tawakofa esina,” said one of the Dothraki – ‘the woman warrior wears a different steel dress’. Robb thought it an interesting twist on the disparaging term for people who had the sense to fight in armor. It made sense to have some fast lightly armored forces, but not an entire army of them. The combination of the Dothraki and Westerosi methods was proving particularly effective, though.

 

            Crossing the bridge was peaceful, although securing it had been anything but. Traveling northeast towards the kingsroad went largely without incident. Actually reaching the path of Jaehaerys I was very eventful. “We’re home? We’re home!” Arya shouted. Many unnamed Northern blades followed Ice and Needle in being raised in celebration. Well over a hundred leagues to Winterfell, but every step brings us closer and I shan’t spoil this victory, Robb thought. Arya would be the Stark in Winterfell once we recapture it and leave to confront ironborn elsewhere.

 

            This section of the road was the far extreme of the Neck, the south of the North. This meant Daenerys was now in Robb’s realm and would defer to him instead of vice versa, but they often seemed of similar judgment anyway.

Chapter Text

The new queen had much to learn about the new king’s land, and he was glad to teach her. This part of Westeros was a giant swamp. Only the crannogmen had any chance in the seven hells of navigating it. Well, like most Northmen, they were fiercely loyal to House Stark. Apparently they were men short of stature but not of heart. However, the neck’s local lords the Reeds needed to find the host. No outsider could locate their seat of Greywater Watch; the land it was on floated around the swamp.

 

            To aid the Reeds in noticing and properly identifying them, they flew as many Stark banners as they could, mayhaps striking Targaryen or combined colors. A hunter stalking prey in the bogs dipped his round green shield with a further black circle upon it. He was a short man, though not a dwarf like Lord Tyrion. He spoke to the crowd in general. “Ethan of House Reed, son of Lord Howland’s brother Rickard. The direwolf is always a welcome sight to the lizard-lion, but especially in these days. I regret that Greywater Watch can only accommodate a small party.”

 

            “Well then, I shall be in that party. Robb, son of Eddard. Once the false king Joffrey had him murdered, my bannermen made me their king…”

            “The King in the North!” Lord Jon bellowed. Gods, that man is as loud as he is large.

            “Yes, Lord Umber was the first to declare it,” Robb admitted.

            “And he ended up making the Lannisters pay their debts!” the bannerman continued to shout. Joffrey more whimpered than roared, Daenerys mused, thinking of their official House words after Umber cited the unofficial motto. Lord Tywin had at least wielded his own sword.

            “Their house’s fate was sealed as soon as the North and Riverlands marched on King’s Landing from the west as another host approached from the east,” Robb explained.

            “And what of that other host, Your Grace?” Ethan Reed wondered.

            “I married its commander,” Robb answered, beaming. “Queen Daenerys Targaryen!”

            “Her Grace is also welcome at Greywater Watch,” the impromptu envoy announced.

 

            “We shall organize our traveling parties with haste,” Daenerys answered assertively.

 

            “Ma Balon m’ Aggo assolakea okri,” Daenerys commanded. Balon and Aggo will be camp commanders. A bloodrider often commanded part of the khalasar anyway. One of the Queensguard was an obvious choice to stand for the Westerosi part of the host. She wanted Barristan as an officer but also as an adviser in the meeting to come. Besides, archers would be more useful in the field than in a hall.

 

            “Lady Maege is castellan!” Robb added. Lord Jon was too boisterous for the job. Before Robb had even been crowned, he had taught the man a lesson about respecting his liege lord and the officers set over him. Lord Roose could be trusted about as far as he could be thrown, but his cold calculating manner gave no specific cause against him.

 

            Arya wished to travel with her royal brother – and his personal guard. It was clear how much she admired Ser Brienne and Lady Dacey; they were a vivid real-life possibility for her. With Needle at her hip, she looked a splendid imitation of the young women she sometimes identified with more than her blood sister. Brienne had the right of it - Daenerys ought get herself a sword like that. Well, a prince would go to Greywater Watch along with the princess, Daenerys thought as Doreah handed her a swaddled Rhaego.

 

            Her handmaidens were joined by three Stark servants. The rest of the bloodriders and queensguard traveled alongside Brienne, Dacey, Lord Umber’s son, Ser Wendel, and the less familiar but no less loyal Robin Flint and Owen Norrey. This time they rode off to peace instead of war.

 

Hadaen Ma Zhif

 

            They were ferried through the swamp to the Reeds’ floating castle. Lord Reed presented the traditional food and salt. “Does Her Grace care for the frogs’ legs?” his wife Jyana wondered.

            “I’ve eaten far worse,” Daenerys pointed out. A raw stallion heart, a Dothraki ritual to lend strength to a khal’s unborn son. Mayhaps it had worked, looking at hale and hearty Rhaego, but it had still been disgusting. The khaleessiyasi laughed, the memory of preparing her being nearly as fresh in their minds.

 

“She, she’s a willful woman,” Robb said. “I am honored that part of that will is to have me.” You have the right of that. Gods, this wonderful king I’ve found!

 

“Daenerys, I have an item that once belonged to your predecessor,” Lord Reed announced.

            “Aerys the second of his name?” she replied. Daenerys was one of the very few to not call her father the Mad King. Besides, Rhaella had shielded Viserys from the worst of Aerys’ behavior and thus Viserys couldn’t have informed Daenerys of it even if he had cared to.

“My apologies, Your Grace. I meant Marla Manderly, the last Queen In The North, as wife of Torrhen Stark. ‘Tis a brooch of the Stark direwolf wrought in solid silver.” White Harbor was known for its silversmiths, after all. The Dothraki had even named it Vaes Vizhadi Ildaki after those artisans, not having nautical words like ‘harbor’.

 

            “Thank you, Lord Reed,” she said as she pinned it to a shoulder of her gown. “’Tis useful when I wish a Stark accent to Targaryen colors.” The handmaidens seemed pleased at the release from this task, but it meant much more to some of the highborn present. Daenerys’ brother Viserys had suffered a devastating mental defeat when forced to sell their mother’s crown while in exile. The original crown of the King In The North was lost after having been surrendered to Aegon the Conqueror.

 

            “So we’re twelfth-degree cousins or so?” Ser Wendel wondered while looking at Robb, equally surprised by the history.

 

            “The Freys have been forcibly divested of The Twins,” Robb explained.

            “Welcome news! They have ever been encroaching on our land!” Lord Reed cheered.

“Now, with the war in the south won, we must needs remove the ironborn from the North,” Robb explained.

“Aye, and Moat Cailin has been the bane of armies attacking from the south for millennia,” Lord Reed said with resignation. “Even the crannogmen can lead only so many soldiers through the mire to strike at it from the north, especially against the mass of ironmen sailors encamped there. And what can we do to the Greyjoys while they hold my children?”

 

“I am afraid they don’t. They murdered my brothers; they aren’t like to have saved the children of my bannermen,” Robb said somberly.

“Whether Meera and Jojen died or escaped, the ironmen shall pay!” Lord Reed declared with conviction and fury expected of the situation but not of his small stature.

“In fire and blood!” Daenerys added.

“Spoken like Aegon the Conqueror indeed!” Lord Reed said, recognizing the Targaryen words.

“Aye, my nine-greats grandsire, and I sit his throne, mine by right. Well, I’ve been a mother for barely four moons’ turns and would promise a similarly unpleasant fate to any who slaughtered my babe,” Daenerys declared, holding Rhaego more visibly in front of her.

 

“He can’t be Robb’s already,” Lord Reed said, having done some sums in his head.

“His Grace is my second husband, and Drogo was my first,” Daenerys pointed out. Khali Rhaeshi Andahli mahrazhkem akataki anni, ma Drogo atakoon, she heard Jhiqui explain for the sake of Irri, Rakharo and Jhogo. Explaining who Drogo had been was translated as Khaleesi ezzoe ifakis, the khaleesi is educating the foreigners.

 

“So much of your host is cavalry that avoids putting to sea?” Lord Reed assessed.

“Vo hrazef laz indee mae, anha zalok verat mae,” Jhogo interrupted Jhiqui.

“A horse can’t drink it, I don’t want to travel it,” Daenerys explained. “He essentially confirmed what you said. That is the usual tone of the language. It took me some time to learn the sounds myself and I still cannot say them like a native.”

 

“Then I suggest they hold the center, march up the causeway, to surge through once a host of Westerosi opens Moat Cailin from the north,” Lord Reed announced.

“I thought you said you could lead only so many soldiers through the bogs,” Robb countered.

“Aye, mayhaps more than I thought, especially if you can get men across the Bite to take the other flank,” Lord Reed said hopefully.

“The Manderly navy ought at least be able to handle that!” Ser Wendel said proudly. “Quicker than bringing ships up from the south.” And of course, their loyalty to the Starks was unquestionable, just like that of these Reeds.

 

They needed to find a stationary holdfast by which to communicate this to Lord Manderly, and re-establish contact with the patrolling Asha Greyjoy. This entailed a march westwards along the Cape Kraken peninsula.

 

            “Lady Asha?” Daenerys said after they saw the Black Wind near Flint’s Finger.

            “I am Asha of House Greyjoy, aye. Opinions differ on whether I am a lady,” she japed as she answered.

            “I know the feeling,” Brienne added. “Many women highborn or smallfolk don’t care for who I am either.”

            “Ah, the Maid of Tarth. I’ve heard of the knighting, and from what I’ve heard, you earned it as well as anyone. Like most proper ironborn, I keep the Drowned God, but I understand what it means for a woman to have undergone that ritual of the Seven.”

            “Dacey understands that too. She keeps the old gods like most proper northerners, but she was the quickest to call me ser,” Brienne added.

            “I did, didn’t I?” the heir to Bear Island agreed. “And a girl certainly has someones to learn from right now,” she added, pointing at Arya.

            “I do,” the princess answered. “I’m simply not big enough to swing big heavy things like they can, but I’m still getting better. Now aren’t stories about Visenya and Rhaenys much more fun than those about Jonquil?” she finished to hearty laughter. Yes, right now Daenerys was in the company of those more interested in warrior queens than maidens charmed by knights. More than that, she was actually living the life of a fighting queen equal to her king.

Chapter Text

Moat Cailin

           

            The next stage of the Stark and Targaryen fight was to actually liberate Moat Cailin. Naval action had played essentially no part in Robb’s war until now, and while Daenerys’ fleet had lined up against Stannis’, they had made peace. Robb had been mostly victorious so far, but only on land.

 

            “Since apparently you are not a lady, how about calling you Master of Ships?” Robb said to Asha. This would help win ironborn loyalty. Wyman Manderly seemed the only other viable choice. The Manderlys, with solid loyalty like most other Northern houses, were not like to take offense. Besides, who could best fight an ironborn than another ironborn?

            “I would accept, considering myself well-suited to the office,” Asha acknowledged.

 

Robb and his wife were keeping some separate advisors anyways. This included her master of ships Stannis. Him and his fleet were still in the south. Lord Mallister and his ships remained at Seagard. He was still grieving the death of his son, and that loss put his House in a particularly precarious position. Not all of Robb’s forces could be committed to the attack, so considering the Mallister status, it made sense to leave them amongst the defensive garrisons.

 

The initial stage of the Moat Cailin battle plan was a clear opportunity for Asha to demonstrate her newfound loyalty. Black Wind was on the west coast of Westeros, yet so were the ships of Victarion Greyjoy, for the Ironborn had already taken that approach to capture Moat Cailin. Black Wind was still flying the Greyjoy banner. The besieger’s ship, as well as some of the occupier, bore the same sigil on their sails. However, they were both trueborn of the House, or representatives thereof. So they were both entitled to the gold kraken on black. Not much could be done about it except mayhaps capitalize on the confusion.

 

Asha reported that the bulk of the Iron Fleet under Victarion had left. The remnants were more than the Black Wind could take on itself, and she hadn’t been looking to join battle anyways. She had retreated in good order. She cautioned that the garrison mayhaps was stronger than the handful of remaining ships indicated. The theory was that those who landed might not have all reboarded their ships to sail elsewhere.

 

“What is Victarion doing?” Daenerys said, speaking for the others in Robb’s war tent.

Me orzo!” Jhogo blurted out.

“Is it a trap?” Daenerys continued.

“It can mean only one thing,” Asha answered. “My lord father lies dead.” Asha must have had time to think of this while making return sail, Robb realized as to her calm state of mind. “and my nuncles wish to take his place. The only thing that seems to be of enough importance to pull Victarion away.”

“Usurpers?” Robb guessed. “Serves Theon right!”

“Our laws are not so simple. It is called kingsmoot; the ironborn meet on the Islands to choose their new king. The Seastone Chair is not Theon’s by right, though the deceased king’s sons must be allowed to present their candidacy. Once when this did not occur was a dark spot in the history of the Isles.” The non-ironborn present all decided to sit and listen to the expert explain. “The kingsmoot hopefully avoids a fool like my arrogant brother taking the throne. It is not even limited to the fallen king’s relatives, though if I did not stand here, I may have hoped to make peace as Queen.”

“Well, that seems moot because like as not the new king would intend war,” Robb said. If it was unavoidable, by the gods do everything in your power to wage it effectively, Robb thought, figuring (mayhaps hoping) that honorable methods were more effective anyway in the end.

“My nuncle Victarion can certain wage it,” Asha answered.

“So can Lord Stannis. Mayhaps they shall face each other again.” And may Stannis crush the fleet of another Greyjoy rebellion, Robb prayed.

“Yet he is a stable man. His brothers Euron and Aeron are mad,” Asha added.

“Euron seemed no making of a king, to hear Theon tell it,” Robb recalled.

“On that I agree with my dear brother. If only he could get off a wench’s arse and use his brain more often,” Asha teased.

“Aye, sometimes we had to roust him well after midday,” Robb recalled of his foster brother. Or was that his father’s hostage? Robb’s mind went between the two thoughts. No doubt Theon’s had time and time again, the uncertainty greater to the person it affected.

 

            Asha’s scouting mission may have distracted the Moat Cailin garrison from the true plans. Once Manderly ships landed a host and Lord Reed led another through the bogs, Asha’s ship could have more impact. The ironborn sailors would not be able to hold their ships and the castle, especially with a few leagues to march between one and the other. Asha would stuff Black Wind full of seaworthy men and women to board and crew the fragment of the Iron Fleet still moored in the Fever River. She even resigned herself to sailing with some relatively seaworthy non-ironborn. Ideally, Qarl, Hagen and Hagensdottir from Asha’s crew would become ship captains in their own right by the time that day was out, along with Harras Harlaw or Tristifer Botley at need.

 

            The crannogmen could harass the ironborn occupying the fortress, but could not launch a full assault themselves, considering the size of the garrison. Robb ordered Lord Reed to have the crannogmen stay their hands until the full attack along with other northmen and northern allies. This reminded Robb of his allies’ maneuvers.

 

Asha had already sailed away again. The Dothraki rode up the causeway, as far north as they could go without being in range of archers in the towers at Moat Cailin. The mass of horses would have been hard to sail across the Bite even if their riders had cared to travel by sea. They had traversed the Narrow Sea, but that had been absolutely necessary. The riders had become ship passengers once, and a first time at anything often made it easier in various ways to do that thing again. At this point, rude japes practically make themselves, Robb thought of his thoughts. Yet while he’d had Jeyne many times after having her maidenhead, Dothraki were not so eager to become frequent ship passengers, thinking it something to be used sparingly.

 

Daenerys of course respected that. To care for those who followed you seemed a fundamental principle of leadership, though one couldn’t be too friendly with those they might have to judge or send into battle. The legacy of Stark honor had helped Robb absorb this. It was hardly romantic, but Robb and Daenerys had grown to love each other so much partially because they understood each other’s situation so well.

 

Some non-Dothraki, mounted or not, stayed with the rear of the host on the causeway. Arya was notably amongst them – after all, she had seen only eight namedays. Even young squires that took to the battlefield with their knights were at least a few years older. Grey Wind stayed with her. Direwolves were a terror in open battle, as Robb and Grey Wind had shown time and time again in the marches through the south. The beasts didn’t seem as deadly in storming a castle.

 

Robb rode east towards the ships Lord Manderly would have waiting in the Bite. “May the gods be ever in our favor,” he said to Daenerys as he rode off. This was one of those moments in which they spoke as rulers rather than lovers.

 

            A Manderly fleet awaited them in the Bite a few days’ march later, as ravens had promised. It seemed a simple matter, only a short sail south of White Harbor, and Robb’s host needed simple transports instead of war galleys. Wyman, it was japed, was Lord Too Fat To Sit A Horse, yet he could still fit on a ship. “Your Grace, I figured I ought welcome my fellow northmen back home in person.”

            “It is appreciated, my lord, and both of your sons are still amongst our number. Time to show some ironborn how unwelcome they are,” Robb answered.

 

Robb and Brienne were both amongst the first wave of passengers to disembark from the Manderly ships. Moat Cailin was still leagues to the south and west – they would march as close as they dared without being seen, make camp, and attack the next morning. A fusillade of flaming arrows would be the signal for the crannogmen and the khalasar to join in the fight. Cailin did not have significant gates and walls any more, so there wouldn’t be so much impediment to the stampede up the causeway once Robb’s portion of the host engaged the tower garrisons.

 

The host had been in a very different situation last he marched south on Moat Cailin – thousands more northmen, including two more living sons of Rickard Karstark. Robb had a living father then too.

 

Robb knew the Gatehouse Tower a little better than the others, having taken it as his seat during their last visit. “May storming this tower work as well as taking the Twins,” Robb said before a battering ram slammed into it. Once the door gave way, ironmen poured out at the same time Robb and his soldiers headed in.

 

A crunch indicated that Dacey’s morningstar swung true yet again. That sound would never quite stop being sickening. A man bearing a bone hand on red recognized the woman’s black bear on green. “Trueborn you may be, but Mormont women are the Storm God’s bastards,” the Drumm taunted as he and his comrades rained down heavy blows of their own. Robb and the rest of his personal guard charged toward that part of the chamber and ran their swords through the Drumm soldiers.

 

Yet by that point, many of Dacey’s joints seemed mangled. Robb worried whether they could get her to a healer. She sure as hells couldn’t retreat under her own power, and her comrades would have to carry her in a way that wouldn’t further injure her. Tarth went ahead and slung Mormont over her shoulders. Brienne ran back out, like as not to take her patient to that very traveled healer who had landed with them. Lajakeesi ma koalakeesi, Robb mused in Dothraki. His own steps backward indicated to the rest of the personal guard that their work in the tower was done.

 

            Ironborn in the other towers had made it out into the courtyard before battle was joined. This protected the rest of the ironborn archers while Ice and other Northern swords had splintered many a bow in the Gatehouse Tower. Crannogmen were attempting to shoot back into the Drunkard’s Tower with minimal success. They weren’t to shoot into the melee that had developed in the courtyard for fear of hitting their allies. The Dothraki vanguard was only just starting to engage.

 

Robb had intended to attack the towers as separately as possible to prevent them from providing cover fire to each other. That plan had worked a third of the way; Robb and his guards resigned themselves to support of the other two thirds. The ironborn needed to strike a quick blow against Robb’s infantry, northman…and northwoman.

 

            Maege was leading a charge towards the Drunkard’s Tower when an ironborn arrow found her face. Robb was no healer, but he knew that wasn’t a wound a soldier might recover from. Her eldest daughter still had a chance at life. Brienne had not returned from taking Dacey to Talisa; the healers’ tents were in the camp north of the fortress. Mayhaps she was explaining the nature of the injuries or otherwise assisting; mayhaps she thought she’d be too easy a target running back to rejoin the battle by herself.

 

            Robb could’ve used Grey Wind by his side now. It was too late to get him now. Fortunately, Robb’s men were soon greeted by mundane beasts. The Dothraki would not appreciate their stallions being called such, but even magnificent fast riding horses didn’t seem like much compared to direwolves.

 

            The horselords were finally able to close the distance; while Robb’s force had not been facing imminent defeat, the cavalry had certainly brought about victory quicker and with fewer Northern losses. Some ironborn learned the hard way how effective the curve of the arakh was from horseback. Ironborn handheld weapons were too short to be of much use against riders. Yet the harsh warrior cultures seemed more alike than the appeared at first glance.

 

            Maege’s death hurt worse than many of the fallen. The bannermen themselves had so gladly and so ably led the North and Riverlands behind him. Maege had been the only bannerwoman to take to the field with him, though some heads of houses, man or woman, had stayed in their keeps while sending other forces south. Lord Medger Cerwyn had eventually succumbed to his wounds sustained at the Green Fork. That seemed different, since it had not happened suddenly, nor had it occurred in Robb’s presence. Mayhaps Robb was particularly worried for House Mormont, with Dacey gravely wounded as well as Maege dead.

 

            Robb was not alone in this sentiment. It was with particularly heavy hearts that he and the guard marched to camp. Once arrived, those in camp cheered the safe return of their king but recognized from his demeanor that it was inadvisable to be too celebratory.

 

It was obvious where Dacey would be found. Brienne silently stood guard outside the tent, her commander and comrades the only ones she would yield for. “A private audience, ser,” Robb ordered. From this, Brienne could tell that Robb’s news for Dacey was nothing good.

“I am quite relieved to hear you still alive,” Robb said of his soldier’s screams. “It is with great sadness that I inform you your mother is not.” The noises Dacey was making turned form screams to cries. When Robb heard of his father’s death, he had been filled with rage at the cruelty and injustice of the act. Dacey seemed empty.

“There seem no good ways to die, but some better than others,” Dacey admitted. Like taking a shot that killed instantly instead of lying in agony? Robb worried. “and she died with weapon raised against ironborn.”

“She did. I have no doubt you will live, and continue to live up to her legacy. Gods willing, there will be only one set of bones to take back to Bear Island,” Robb said.

“Speaking of Lady Dacey’s bones, several of them are broken, though fortunately each in only one spot and with none sticking out through the skin. I had to push them back into place so they stand a chance of healing straight. Brienne had to hold her down while I did so,” Talisa explained.

“Not only did she move me or keep me still when necessary, she’s been a friend I most sorely needed. My blood sisters are back home, but I’ve got another one right here,” Dacey agreed. Robb knew of what she spoke. The bond between those who fought together was a powerful one; he deeply enjoyed that rather than revel in the carnage.

“Those boards I tied down ought keep your limbs straight, and I’ll work on mixing up some stiff bandages. You must needs rest for at least a fortnight, but ought recover with infection remaining at bay,” Talisa assessed. If it doesn’t get infected, Robb heard but knew better than to say.

 

            Much of the host, including Robb himself, split off to march the ironborn captives to the Fever River. If Asha had not won out yet, she would by the time thousands of allies arrived, or gods forbid, she could be avenged.

 

            The next day, they could fortunately act on their ideal plan, to simply deliver the prisoners. The compliant ones could set sail again under the watchful eyes of captains new to them.

 

It seemed the skirmish had gone about as well as Asha could have hoped. “Your Grace!” she called out as soon as Robb was close enough to hear her. Once he came closer, she began to name the ships captured. “Manfryd Merlyn saw sense and kept command of the Kite.

            “It sounds like his repentance would earn a pardon,” Robb answered. This was hardly unheard of with rebels who had surrendered peaceably, as had apparently been the case here.

            “Aye, he forestalled the burning of his own ship and mayhaps others,” Asha agreed.

           

There were five more new to ship command. Asha introduced her new captains. “Hagensdottir, now of, fittingly, the Warrior Wench. Qarl of Reaper’s Wind. Tristifer Botley now has the helm of Seven Skulls. Yet two of the longships seemed ill-named. Your Grace, I expected you would mislike ‘Headless Jeyne’; Ser Harras found ‘Headless Joffrey’ more fitting.” Robb’s head, still very much attached, nodded its approval. “‘Maidens Bane’ seemed a memorial to rapers; Hagen renamed it Firemane after his daughter’s hair.”

 

            Sometimes it seemed like ironborn hated women even more than the average man in the green lands, as they called the rest of Westeros. Yet ironborn sometimes hated everybody not from their land, man or woman, and had a modicum of respect for their own women.

 

            The Iron Fleet belonged to the Iron Islands as a whole, somehow. Black Wind was Asha’s personal property and the captured ships were deemed transferred to the Greyjoy inheritance.

 

“Traitor!” one of Victarion’s ironborn harangued Asha.

After a few repetitions and echoes of this, she issued a rebuttal. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. You call me traitor because I tired of falling in with your treason.”

“Robb is no rightful king either,” the defeated raider pointed out.

“I and my bannermen rose against the cruelty of an unrightful king,” Robb explained. “Balon rose both times because he saw an opportunity for reaving and raping. Now Westeros is under a rightful ruler.” The Iron Throne, the object itself and not the power it refers to, is lucky to have contact with my magnificent wife, Robb allowed himself in his thoughts.

“And she is under you,” the ironborn japed. Or on top of me, in front of me, and so on and so forth. Gods damn it, this is not a time for japes!

“He’s an asshole but he’s not wrong,” Lord Umber’s son admitted. Robb would have simply laughed if that was the man to make the jape in the first place, so why blame the prisoner for it?

 

Victarion would pay for being drawn away by the kingsmoot; it certainly had made the liberation of Moat Cailin much quicker and much less painful. However, even a larger ironborn garrison ought have fallen in time, and a retreat now incidentally concentrated ironborn strength on their islands for a battle that seemed inevitable.

Chapter Text

The shouts were hardly unanimous, but nevertheless clear. “Victarion! Victarion King!” Balon’s second brother, Quellon’s third son, was glad to hear it. Of course he wished to be king, but he honestly believed he offered the best chance at success for the ironborn.

Euron, born between Balon and Victarion, was ill-suited to the circumstances. He offered grand dreams that seemed like empty promises, an audacious offensive when the ironborn needed to make defensive preparations. He offered treasure from his past voyages; fortunately the ironborn saw through those bribes. Victarion thought his gifts were much more reasonable. He and Euron weren’t the only claimants, but the only ones with any serious chance of being crowned.

Victarion intended to simply continue what Balon had accomplished, and had told his people as much. He would have followed a King Euron, mayhaps grudgingly. Would Euron serve King Victarion in such a manner? Victarion feared not.

 

“We have always faced some chance of invasion when circumstances fall against us,” Victarion spoke. Like when Stannis trapped me off Fair Isle, the new king had the sense to not announce publically. “If every one of us make the circumstances in our favor, we shall prevail. We shall fight to the end, throughout our islands and the seas surrounding them. We shall defend our islands, whatever the costs may be.”

 

This time, the Iron Fleet would be protecting its home waters rather than attacking the Westerlands. It was often easier to be on the defensive. They knew the terrain and cared to protect it more than attackers were motivated to conquer it. They had shorter supply lines. Did Robb truly grasp such fundamentals after mayhaps a year in the field, compared to Victarion’s own decades?

 

Robb hadn’t lost a battle yet, though only fighting on land. Wherever the combat was, often the only fight that mattered was the latest one. His wife had success in command as well. In choosing her, he seemed to be thinking with both his brain and his cock. There was another woman he’d met after one of his early battles. Greenlanders didn’t have salt wives, but Victarion understood this general concept well enough.

 

He’d had salt wives, once, but Euron ruined that. His third was found carrying Euron’s child. She insisted she was raped, Euron bragged about seducing her. It was hard to tell when there weren’t other witnesses. Victarion suspected she was making excuses for her adultery. For this, he beat her to death with his bare hands. Euron’s boasting included a slander against the size of Victarion’s manhood. Victarion had wanted to kill Euron too, for his part in the whole affair.

 

Euron had brought back another woman for Victarion. Knowing Euron, he had bedded her first and this was probably a trick. Mayhaps he was mocking his brother for not being able to acquire such a woman himself. She certainly was beautiful, long dark hair and light brown skin.

Victarion explained that being expected to serve one man was an improvement over having to fuck many. She seemed to understand this, but couldn’t answer. Euron had cut her tongue out, mayhaps to protect his own secrets. This would make it harder to use her as a spy, especially since whores weren’t likely to be literate. Victarion did like being able to talk about certain things. He did like bedding her, possibly because he hadn’t had a woman since his wife.

 

Asha complicated things. The Drowned God or the Storm God, either of them could take his traitor niece. He did not want to oppose her for the first time while facing Stannis again. She had aided the loss of Moat Cailin and retreated from Deepwood Motte. Well, the Cailin garrison could have made a stand there or at the Islands, and fate had dictated the latter.

            Theon was another matter. His nephew was loyal but had been a fool, desperate to prove he hadn’t been softened by his years in Northern captivity. He went too deep into the green lands with too small a force, and fell to the predictable Northern counterattack. Hopefully Robb would be occupied cleaning up his own realm instead of attacking Victarion’s.

 

Robb had the honor to fight his own battles, the sense to set an example for his men by doing so. Why would his invasion of the Iron Islands be any different? Victarion decreed that, if possible, Robb was to be captured alive, and that alive or dead, his body shouldn’t be tossed into the water. If they got him, it would do more than just repulse this particular attack. Theon had eliminated Robb’s brothers – only children, but useful to take them out of consideration. Yet the Starks still had a clear line of succession, two sisters not in captivity. Daenerys likewise had living trueborn relatives. Whether or not they had worthy heirs, it would help if either died without a joint heir.

 

Most of the ironborn strength had come back for the kingsmoot, except for Asha’s renegades, a few garrisons in the green lands, and some raiders very far afield. Victarion ordered them to remain close to home. They did raid some nearby holdings to acquire supplies, yet the reaving under Balon had already reached most of the nearby targets.

 

Robb was currently in opposition to the Isles, but Daenerys was a mortal enemy. She had a burning hatred of rapers and slavers, and likely considered the ironborn as such for taking salt wives and thralls. Ironborn did not buy or sell anything, let alone slaves, and the captives’ children were born into freedom. Yet Victarion recognized he likely wouldn’t have much success in arguing this point.

 

The Dothraki were fearsome light cavalry with both sword and bow. Some of the greenlanders made for solid infantry or heavy cavalry. The common man was prone to mock foreigners, but the better fighting man had some respect for what enemy soldiers were capable of. Robb and Daenerys absolutely must not be allowed to land, and Victarion made this clear.

 

Victarion was confident that victory was within reason. He looked forward to the Iron Fleet smashing the invaders and seizing the initiative.

Chapter Text

The North had been left with minimal castle garrisons, and most of the few remaining soldiers were boys too young or men too old. Winterfell’s guards had been drawn out by an ironborn attack elsewhere and the kraken ended up with both castles. Lord Roose’s bastard son had taken it upon himself to recapture Winterfell. So Robb focused on liberating the rest of his realm as he marched further north.

 

The Tallhearts found themselves besieging their own seat. Ironborn raiders under Dagmer Cleftjaw were quickly evicted when Robb’s returning host arrived. They would be kept prisoner until after the war. This was merciful, at least compared to a choice between death and The Wall. They hadn’t abused their highborn hostages, which helped their case.

Lord Helman had died in battle in the south. His son Benfred had been killed back in the North. He had been a gallant youth, but underestimated the enemy. A knight of summer, Robb thought, thinking of his own mother’s words. They hadn’t been close friends, but had gotten along quite well when he came to Winterfell. Eddara was now head of house, her uncle Leobald regent as well as castellan.

 

Robb had been warmly welcomed in his homeland, but his actual home was an ironic exception. The bastard of the Dreadfort was not keen to relinquish Winterfell, and held its staff hostage. His lord father was the only man who stood any chance in the seven hells of reasoning with him. Even that took awhile to bring him to yield. “Ramsay Snow, don’t make me rue the day I raped your mother!” Roose muttered after the parley. The open rage was uncharacteristic for the cold-hearted man, and he was about to pay dearly for it.

            “Get him out of my sight!” Daenerys said with even more anger.

            “Yes, my wife,” Robb confirmed.

            “The smartest three words a man can say!” Ser Wendel said as he pushed Roose away.

            “You have learned well from your goodsister Leona,” Daenerys complimented.

            “You ought know that Her Grace likes rapers nearly as much as slavers!” Wendel added to Roose. He would stay alive only by taking the black. His son would die. Yet that was not something to dwell on in this moment of celebration.

 

            Robb was to look every bit the king he was as he rode back into his seat, even sitting ahorse with his crown. He bore Ice across his back and wore the ornate armor received at his wedding. Yet the plate was functional, and had marks of Moat Cailin. Arya rode unarmored, Needle at her side.

 

When the East Gate was opened, Arya spurred her horse forward, racing her brother through it. As such, she was the first Stark in Winterfell since the outrages against Bran and Rickon. Praise the gods that this war has not totally crushed her playfulness, Robb mused, a few feet behind.

 

            The heir to the Iron Throne was Prince of Dragonstone, one of the traditions Daenerys had carried forward from her ancestors. Similarly, the heir to the North would be styled Prince of Winterfell. Or Princess, as Sansa was Robb’s current heir. This was so even if Bran, Rickon or both were found alive. Robb had copied Daenerys’ copy of the Dornish law that an elder child was heir regardless of gender.

            Robb had long since planned to legitimize the bastard he had planted in Jeyne. He wanted his own child to avoid the taint that had befallen his half-brother. Daenerys had consented on the condition that the babe inherit after any of Robb’s children by her. There were no such children yet, but not for lack of effort. With a wife as beautiful as the Maiden made flesh – and what flesh! – he had to struggle to stay focused on his duties to the realm. He had cause to think she felt similarly.

 

            Winterfell would still pass to one of his children, as it had to come to him through his father. Rhaego would still sit the Iron Throne. Maybe a Stark would still end up as lord of the Seven Kingdoms, especially given Targaryen attitudes on incest.

 

            Now it was time to deal with the shell of a man who merely called himself Prince of Winterfell. “So you finally found out that thing between your legs was good for more than just pissing,” Theon snarled as Robb approached.

            I sure did. Both of them a far higher caliber than any of your whores or wenches, Robb knew better than to say. “This is no time for japes, Theon!” he announced publically.

 

            Robb turned to the man who had once been something like a brother to him, pronouncing the sentence in his own name now that he was back in his own realm. “Any last words?” Robb asked. He carried out executions himself as his father had taught him, and part of the lesson was to hear the condemned’s final words.

            “I have heard my father died back on the Iron Islands,” Theon began. Gods willing, his successor shall soon follow, Robb thought. “But my real father lost his head at King’s Landing. I made a choice, and I chose wrong,” Theon admitted. “I confess to a particularly cruel jape; your brothers are not really dead. I presented the bodies of smallfolk in their place,” he confessed.

            “Good. If that be true, it be about the only way to save your own life,” Robb shot back. Some of his soldiers confirmed it was, but were equally unsure where the true princes of Winterfell had gone to. “While you seem a traitor, I admit you were following your lord father; he was the one to have turned traitor. Mind you, this was the second time, and your sister eventually recognized her true king and queen. If you and your men do not want me to swing this sword, to the Wall with you!”

 

            As for lighter affairs, a blacksmith had finally been commissioned to make Daenerys a sword similar to Needle, and Her Grace planned to name it Dragon’s Tooth.

 

            The defiant Greyjoys were back on the Iron Islands, but the Boltons were present and also held in low esteem by the King in the North. “Mayhaps they ought be divested of the Dreadfort,” Rickard Karstark suggested in council.

            “Meet the Freys’ fate?” Robb said, intrigued. Both Frey and Bolton had finally pushed their liege lords too far.

            “There will be no House Bolton to put in another keep,” Rickard pointed out gleefully. Rapers were often sent to the Wall; the Night’s Watch could use a man like Roose. A chopping block could use a boy like Ramsay. The lords still in Robb’s favor were still in favor of this plan.

 

Now his lords faced the matter of what to do with the Bolton holdings. “The Dreadfort is near Karhold,” Rickard pointed out, apparently wanting it granted to a Karstark. The grim Bolton castle lay between Karhold and here, Robb thought of a map Maester Luwin had instilled in his head. Though it was a dark place, it was a strong castle, worth keeping if it could be taken intact. Razing rebel castles was more the wont of the late Tywin Lannister, and The Rains Of Castamere was not the sort of song Robb wanted about his deeds.

“So is Last Hearth,” Lord Umber righteously bellowed as he was wont to do.

“And Hornwood, to the south. Yet the Hornwoods have been hurt even more by this war than some of us, so their house would be stretched too thin by granting it to them,” Robb pointed out. The Hornwood succession was itself a concern. Its lord and heir died for him, the lord’s widow forcibly wed to Ramsay and now dead. The lord’s bastard, or a trueborn relative from another house? Yet one of those houses was Tallhart.

 

“I have an idea that seems it would appeal to both lords. Let us see if Alys Karstark takes a liking to one of the younger Umber sons.” A match to the third son Harlon Umber would be beloved of the singers, as King Harlon Stark had subdued the Boltons centuries prior. Yet the namesake was obviously not sole grounds for the match.

Brienne had stood quietly along with several other soldiers until now. “I would suggest we not tell the suitors what is at stake. I am familiar with those who pretend to be gallant with their eyes on rich lands,” she advised. Courting her could easily turn into a mummer’s farce, Robb admitted to himself. Yet he had known Alys since she was a sweet girl and had heard she’d developed a Northern beauty.

Brienne’s words were accepted as advice towards the replacement of the Boltons. It was also a reminder of the Tarth succession, but that was one of many southron affairs that did not concern the north as it stood ready to win its own wars.

Chapter Text

            Tyrion was glad the new king and queen were resolved to deal with the ironborn once and for all. The Iron Islands had been a recurring threat to the Westerlands for obvious geographic reasons. Yet it was the northmen and river lords who had ravaged the Lannister homeland

 

            Tyrion sailed north with the bulk of the Lannister fleet. He did wish to oversee their part in the preparations, but he also wanted to make contact with Brienne Tarth again. She had genuinely appreciated his company at Robb and Daenerys’ wedding, far more than Tyrion usually got. It was exceedingly rare to be liked for who he was, rather than tolerated because of Lannister gold.

 

            The fleet stuck to the coast after leaving Lannisport. The Iron Islands were relatively close until ships got to the bay where Seagard was located; this route minimized exposure to longships. Westerosi galleys were bigger and stronger, but ironborn ships excelled at hitting quickly. Both sides apparently wanted to concentrate their forces rather than risk a premature conflict; the ironmen also refrained from probing attacks.

The Lannister fleet passed through the straits of Fair Isle where the Greyjoys had been defeated once before, and this seemed like a good omen. Ships of the Reach were just now approaching Lannisport; the royal fleet likely was still passing through the Stepstones. The Redwyne fleet had sailed to Seagard.

 

            Lord Jason Mallister had been left without heirs, so it was understandable he was being left in command of a defensive fleet. Someone had suggested Lord Frey’s widow to him, and they both seemed to like that well enough, and his vigor and moderate age worked in his favor, especially by comparison.

 

Aggo and other Dothraki archers would reinforce shipboard forces. Their swordsmen would be amongst the first troops to land once the seas were clear. Robb and his guards would take to one of Asha’s ships. It was odd to see Greyjoy longships welcome at Seagard. Some guards who came near to sounding an alarm apparently thought the same.

 

Brienne remained amongst those fighting closely with Robb. “Another dance?” he asked, following that with an emphasized ser. She also had not forgotten their moment together at the wedding feast. She seemed to think similarly well of it.

“You are extraordinary, but I wish more people had the freedom to be like you,” he told her.

“And that the world didn’t hate us for who we are,” she answered. Indeed, they were both outcasts, at least by the standards of people from noble houses. So they each vastly appreciated people who gave them the respect they deserved. However, none of those had been suitable matches until now.

With her being highborn, people couldn’t hate him for it like they had with the commoner Tysha. Her failed suitors had their eyes on Tarth, not a problem for a man who already held Casterly Rock.

 

It was questionable whether Dacey Mormont would take to the battlefield. She had been seriously wounded in the recapture of Moat Cailin, yet that motivated her to seek revenge, especially since her mother had died in the same battle. She was also eager to deal with the general threat for good. Ironmen had plagued Bear Island as well as the Westerlands. Indeed, Mormont women learned to fight because ironmen often raided while the men of Bear Island were away on fishing expeditions.

Well, she was the exact opposite of a malingerer, buttressing Robb’s example on other matters. Her broken bones were setting and didn’t seem to be getting infected. The healer deserved praise for her success, but also Brienne for carrying Dacey away from the battlefield and helping the healer work. They were at least as close as many male war comrades.

 

            Edmure was not here, but Tyrion had heard that he seemed interested in his nephew’s leavings. No one ever said the heir to Riverrun was particularly smart. Tyrion, in his wit, was acutely aware of a lack thereof. Ironically, it was nevertheless a sensible match.

            Robb was his father’s son as much as Tyrion was not, but in both appearance and personality he had more than a bit of Tully in him. Mayhaps Jeyne found some of the same things to like about his relatives. They may have gotten to know each other while both traveling with Robb.

            Robb couldn’t much have married her, and this idea would help placate the Westerlings. A high lord’s heir was the next best thing to a king, Tyrion supposed. House Westerling would also be happy with the betrothal of their heir to Princess Sansa. His annulled wife deserved someone she was genuinely happy with, Tyrion thought. Obviously the Twins would serve them well in addition to the marriage pacts.

 

            The attack was set for the last moon of the 298th year after Aegon’s Conquest. The Westerosi force ought be ready by then, when Stannis’ ships arrived. Even if they encountered unfavorable wind at times, their ships had oars.

            Stannis would attack directly from the south. This would save time and prevent the bay from becoming even more crowded. It would also hit the ironborn in two places.

 

            The fleet near Seagard hardly remained idle. For instance, Robb and his guard practiced boarding actions. Asha offered advice, and the use of her ships as practice targets. She was impressed Robb’s soldiers went through the drills in full armor. To the ironmen, fighting at sea in armor meant you weren’t afraid of drowning; they might not expect this from the Westerosi.

            Tyrion was fascinated by a contrast with the Dothraki, who thought that armor of any sort meant you were afraid of injury. Shori tawakof, they said, meaning ‘steel dresses’. That was about the only dress Brienne would wear, Tyrion japed to himself. Dacey was comfortable in both. That aside, many of the Dothraki had come to see the applicability of Westerosi tactics, though their own culture was suited to their own methods. The western sailors and eastern riders were both fierce warrior cultures, one of many aspects of the upcoming clash.

Chapter Text

            A lot of things went through a soldier’s mind at a time like this, but Brienne was especially gratified to see Dacey put on her armor. Lady Mormont had every reason to wish to take part in this battle, and had healed well enough to allow it. A few days before the fleet set sail, she had success moving around in her battle gear. “Thank you, Talisa. Thank you, Brienne,” she said as she slipped off her chainmail coat.

 

            Dacey didn’t have her comrades’ practice in boarding actions, so she would stay on the deck of Black Wind until they landed on the Islands. Even in combat at sea, she could help defend the ship.

 

            Daenerys’ dragons were magnificent creatures, and had a mental impact. However, they were still too small to be ridden in open battle, even if their queen was not so large. Likely two of her children would become her fellow dragonriders, mayhaps including the one that rode inside her right now.

 

            Harlaw was a few days’ sail from Seagard. It was peaceful until they were in sight of the island, then anything but, as expected. “Ram the lead longships!” Robb ordered. Archers with flaming arrows could light sails, but that wouldn’t do much good against ships that relied on their oars, so there was no sense in giving them warning or wasting ammunition. A Lannister galley slammed into the longship in the point position.

            “Golden Mane has an iron ram,” Robb recalled. Tyrion recognized that war was hardly a game, but nevertheless enjoyed reciting such facts. Well, a lord ought be knowledgeable about the resources available to him, Robb thought, especially if he was not able to take to the battlefield himself.

            “And it seems Iron Kiss just received its namesake,” Asha japed.

 

            Harlaw was the house of Asha’s mother, and a stronghold of support for Balon’s daughter rather than brother. As such, there was only token resistance once the fleet landed. Baelor Blacktyde also saw the sense in ending this war; his namesake island to the northwest would also surrender peacefully. They would not take part in the rest of the battle, to help pretend that they were still on Victarion’s side, and to save the trouble of more ironborn fighting other ironborn.

Stannis sent a raven that he had overwhelmed resistance in and around Saltcliffe. He needn’t have worried about who received it – it was celebratory to Robb and Daenerys’ forces, but it would have warned Victarion’s troops.

 

            Tyrion ought to visit Lord Rodrik’s library someday, but there was obviously no time for that now. The northern and southern fleets would converge on Pyke very shortly. It was maybe a day’s sail from here. Most of Robb’s forces were to leave Harlaw at first light; Stannis was expected to move with similar speed.

 

            Stannis’ ships were already in battle with the Iron Fleet by the time Black Wind sailed into view. Asha’s ships stayed towards the rear to help ensure Stannis and his men did not mistake them for enemy reinforcements. His flagship Fury was charging the center of the ironborn line, its scorpions filling the air with bolts.

            It was clear that the new arrivals should cut off one of the enemy flanks. Most of Asha’s squadron moved to form an outer cordon. The additional speed of longships would be useful to help keep enemies from retreating, and the placement would help avoid confusion with Victarion’s ships.

Firemane and Warrior Wench were far to the outside. Hagen certainly supported his daughter’s military activities, Brienne thought with amusement. Her own lord father merely accepting such behavior was still a fast improvement. Kite, Reaper’s Wind, Seven Skulls, and Headless Joffrey stuck together slightly to the inside. Black Wind would join the galleys in charging directly into the fray.

 

Kite remained loyal to Asha’s cause, but paid for it, rammed by Ravenfeeder. Seven Skulls attempted to relieve its comrade, but got tangled up with the Raven. It looked like they would all sink. Tristifer was too smooth for Asha’s rough tastes in men, but they nevertheless had remained close friends.

 

Black Wind was already grappling with another ironborn ship, and couldn’t much disengage to come to their aid. One of Asha’s men was first to drop to the enemy deck, dagger at the ready. It was hard enough to remain stable even without a large weapon drawn. Also, daggers remained useful for exploiting small gaps in armor.

 

The deck was littered with bodies from Black Wind and Thunderer alike, but there was room for the rest of Black Wind’s boarders. The rowers rose to fight; many other fleets did not have such crews. At one point, Asha’s axes found separate targets at the same time.

 

Brienne recognized the pattern in the blade the captain’s son was holding. There was similar steel in very close proximity. “Your Grace!” she called out to Robb. “You aren’t the only man here with Valyrian steel!” Fortunately, the enemy’s longsword did not match the Stark greatsword.

Also, he had been so occupied with the king that Brienne could easily approach him from another direction. Her castle steel made him just as dead. Ironmen could scarcely complain about a soldier plundering their target, Brienne thought as she hefted the beautifully light blade.

The captain was an old man and had entrusted Red Rain to his son for this decidedly nonceremonial purpose. He and his other son, armed with ordinary steel, had been taken alive. It was doubtful they would remain that way. This time, the primary instigators of the rebellion were to be executed.

 

Victarion and his closest followers had been on the other flank, closer to the island. They had been unable to surround Stannis, but many of them remained afloat. He was in Iron Victory, a name about to be proved wrong. Euron’s Silence and Aeron in Balon’s Great Kraken, had also evaded Stannis’ ships so far.

Aeron had been a wild man in his youth, but turned to the Drowned God with a vengeance after Greyjoy’s Rebellion. Losing his ship at Fair Isle and spending the rest of the war in captivity had changed him.

Stannis hoped to sink his ship again. The influence of Melisandre, priestess of R’hllor, had set him on a vendetta. Against Drowned Men, that was useful, but it was causing tension with followers of the Seven, Old Gods or Great Stallion.

 

Robb’s contingent headed towards the island with the oarsmen making all possible speed. Survivors from their wrecks helped crew the captured ships. Thralls were quite glad to row against their masters.

They did manage to catch several of Victarion’s ships attempting to retreat. Stannis’ fleet drew the noose tighter at a cost of many of its own ships. Iron Victory was repelling boarders, but that put Victarion and his lieutenants in plain sight for the archers. The remaining vessels fought to the bitter end, a microcosm of the overall battle.

 

The catapults on Fury, as well as siege engines on other vessels, began flinging death into the Greyjoy castle. This bombardment would clear the way for troops to storm the castle. There was no harbor closer than Lordsport, so it would be impossible to land heavy equipment, hard to send even unmounted warriors ashore.

The latter would have to wait for daylight. Even the massive fires of several buildings and ships alike did not illuminate the coast enough. The castle’s defenses were nearly exhausted by morning.

Dacey was in the first wave like her cousin Jorah had been when Pyke was subdued nine years ago. Brienne, their comrades and their king were right behind her. She was putting her new sword to good use. Robb would argue it was amongst the traitor property confiscated, but wanted her to keep it beyond this battle anyway.

 

Brienne was no expert on Westeros’ Valyrian steel inventory, but a maester was glad to give her a lesson on her new blade. Hilmar Drumm had taken it from House Reyne long before Tywin Lannister had wrecked that house. Hilmar had used his wits, much like how Lann had acquired Casterly Rock.

Fortunately she was confident that Tyrion’s feelings were genuine. She now had something very desirable to House Lannister, which hadn’t had Valyrian steel for a long time, and was sore about it. King Tommen II and the greatsword Brightroar had been lost in an expedition to the east centuries ago. Tywin shopped for a replacement, but it was one thing even he couldn’t buy. Tywin’s brother Gerion went missing when going after Brightroar itself a few years ago. Gods-damned shame, since he was one of the few people that had treated Tyrion with any sort of respect. Uncle Gery had encouraged his nephew’s wit with books, and was amused by him instead of mocking him outright.

 

Victarion had concentrated his strength on his south and east borders, so with those fleets smashed, the rest of the islands surrendered quickly.

 

Reaper’s Wind and Headless Joffrey had combined to capture Thrall’s Bane. Like many others, it had been rowed by thralls, which seemed like a sort of sick jape.

Daenerys had made clear that she saw thralls and salt wives as slaves to be offered freedom. If they remained on the isles, they were to be treated no worse than ordinary laborers. Admittedly, that wasn’t such a great fate here. The rough sea was hard to fish, the soil hard to farm, and the deep dark mines yielded only common metals. No wonder the ironborn turned towards raiding. Yet their warmongering, slavery and rape was still not to be tolerated. They needed an alternative, which would be a major challenge for the realm at peace.

That seemed like a good matter to be concerned about. Brienne had learned that she was indeed quite good at war, but also that she had seen quite enough of it. Lady Catelyn was especially proud of the latter. They were two of many people who welcomed the end of these hostilities.

Chapter Text

After all this death, Robb had a matter of life before him. Jeyne was likely to take to childbed any day. Seagard has been a good port to use for the attack on the Iron Islands; it was also close to The Twins and Jeyne. Catelyn had recently traveled there; considering how important family was to her, the birth of her first grandchild was a momentous occasion.

 

He took one of the faster ships back to the mainland, and promptly took to horseback with a small force that included Raynald for obvious reasons.

Dacey continued recuperating at Seagard rather than attempting to travel at such a pace. The Umber men led Robb’s part of the force dealing with stragglers and holdouts of the ironmen.

 

The end of the war and becoming a father both seemed an auspicious start to the new year. Robb mentioned both upon reaching the gates. “We have triumphed upon the Isles and the realm is now at peace. Am I yet a father?”

“That is welcome news, especially with winter approaching. And Jeyne has not yet given birth,” Ser Mandon answered.

 

“So glad to see peace, and so glad my son sees it,” Catelyn said.

“Aye,” Brienne agreed. “Though I do like this prize of war,” she added as she drew Red Rain. Catelyn quickly recognized what she saw. Ned and then Robb had made her used to seeing Valyrian steel.

“I was just starting to fight Denys Drumm. The lady knight hastened the end of that encounter and retrieved his weapon,” Robb explained.

“She’s earned it,” Catelyn said with amazement.

 

Lord Dunstan had been executed for his part in the rebellion. His sons had been spared, but the house lost its sword to Brienne and its flagship to Asha. Limiting the ironborn will and ability to make war would help ensure peace. Yet tormenting them would incite further rebellion. The mainland forces kept what they’d captured but did not confiscate more.

 

“To more than a new year!” Gawen toasted at the first evening meal of 299. The weary soldiers needed the rest whether or not they took a personal interest in their liege’s heir.

Robb was no longer limited to one glass of wine at his father’s table; he took a few. Some of his men were even less restrained. “Lord Umber is here in spirit,” their king japed.

 

The commotion in the middle of the second day was clearly Jeyne taking to childbed. Sybell was right by her daughter’s side, and not solely because of the blood bond. She did have some knowledge of midwifery. Her house name was somewhat inaccurate. Besides plants for keeping and flavoring food, the Spicers were also involved with healing herbs. That led them to pursue knowledge of healing overall. Robb of all people understood the benefit of that approach.

 

Those who weren’t healers did not interfere with those who were. Well, Robb would not want them to fight. Even to a soldier, the amount of screaming and blood was astonishing. Blood and pain was no lie, that much was certain. “May the Mother Above bless this new mother,” Catelyn prayed.

 

Rhaego’s presence in Robb’s life seemed plenty uplifting, but it was a far more intense matter with one’s own, Robb quickly learned. That this was one of the greatest moments in a man’s life, that was no lie either.

 

From the first time Robb had bedded Jeyne, he had sworn to legitimize their bastard if it came to that. Daenerys was well aware of Robb’s plans to legitimize the child, but Robb did not wish to remind her of the decree itself, so for the southrons’ sake, Catelyn executed it as Daenerys’ Hand. His mother was acting as his wife’s Hand a lot lately – Daenerys’ own pregnancy often left her physically indisposed, especially when it came to sitting the Iron Throne.

“Robb Rivers for moments, Robb Stark for life,” the king said as he pressed his seal into wax.

“A long life to him and his father! To honoring our House with his own honor,” one of the Westerlings offered.

“Thank you, my lord. I hope I can do as well as my own lord father did,” Robb answered.

“I wish to take that toast with milk of the poppy,” Jeyne said, the other mothers casting very knowing glances. The maester knew it was no jape, retrieving another white vial.

The decree had made clear that while the child was legitimate he would enter the line of succession after any other legitimate children of his parents. Jeyne came after Raynald and Rollam anyway, so the Westerling inheritance was functionally unaffected, but this very much changed who followed Robb. Daenerys insisted on her child as heir to Winterfell rather than Jeyne’s babe.

The new Prince of Winterfell would be joining the current princess once mother and child were well enough to travel. Robb was receiving ravens that all was well. Arya seemed to be doing well with Wylis Manderly as castellan, though this was one of many reasons Robb wished Maege still walked this world. It seemed Arya was making fast friends with Wylis’ high-spirited daughters, but they were also youthful.

 

The first raven went to Edmure at Riverrun. He and Jeyne still seemed a good match, the political and personal appeal buttressing each other. It would be unseemly for him to be seen with his nephew’s former lover at this time. They would wed once she recovered.

Robb’s lord grandfather seemed not long for this world. Edmure was making final preparations to take his father’s place, already bearing some responsibility with Hoster confined to sickbed. “If the Seven will it, mayhaps he see the babe, and see his own son wed,” Catelyn said. Catelyn also stated that her brother should not take to calling himself Lord too soon. Hopefully he would not need to.

 

Sansa and Raynald were often seen together, and at their shared nephew’s nursery in particular. This seemed fitting when they would be sharing a babe of their own.

Sansa embraced expectations for women as the likes of Arya tended to reject them. Sansa was clever about how she worked within that setting, which also made their lady mother proud. The Starks and their allies certainly had much to celebrate at this time.

Chapter Text

            In ways, my nephew seems a better man at five-and-ten than I do at six-and-twenty, Edmure Tully thought as he saw the two Robb Starks together.

 

            Edmure, in his kind hearted aspect, cared deeply for his people. He even sheltered some of them during sieges. Yet he took more than a lord’s interest in some lowborn women. “You had one bastard and not only did you acknowledge him, you legitimized him. I probably have several bastards and I’ve ignored them,” Edmure confessed.

            “Well, the mother is highborn. With Delena Florent and Edric Storm, even Robert ‘bed anything with a pair of teats’ Baratheon knew that. Now, if you want to own up to your by-blows, I encourage it, but don’t expect me to be issuing legitimization decrees to all those Riverlands smallfolk,” Robb answered.

“Understood, Your Grace,” Edmure said simply. He did not plan to create any more. As far as anyone could tell, he seemed faithful to the idea of wedding Jeyne. He’d had many other maidenheads in the past, so he was particularly unconcerned about Jeyne’s status.

 

His Grace had other royal business to attend to. Jeyne was accepting of Edmure’s by-blows. Any such bastards had been sired before he was betrothed to her. Daenerys had been generous to her in a similar situation. Edmure soon started riding through the Riverlands. The Peach had missed his business, but it was an obvious place to check.

 

            The night during the march on King’s Landing, Edmure had bedded a young woman with curly black hair. She now had a babe mayhaps a moon’s turn old. The battle of King’s Landing had been about nine moons prior. He looked not dissimilar to Edmure. Already this search was successful. The heir to Riverrun did enjoy his victories.

            Her mother still worked here and had been King Robert’s favorite. It was unsurprising that Bella was Robert’s bastard, come to think of it. If that had been mentioned during the war, it had been overlooked. Well, it seemed a fitting name for the boy. Edmure liked the babe’s energy. Many men were charmed by sons like them, and Edmure seemed no exception.

            Jon Connigton had supposedly searched the town very thoroughly for Robert. Mayhaps he had missed the obvious, or Robert had outrun him here too. Edmure knew that whores sometimes hid their customers and distracted men who came looking for them.

            A lot of the other whores at the Peach also had newborns, including Bella’s mother. Edmure recalled that Lord Umber’s son had been inside her. Edmure preferred younger wenches; the Umber man was not as particular. Edmure would inform the other northmen and riverlords, give them the opportunity to claim their bastards as well.

 

            Edmure left to go on the march in search of more of his natural children. There was a boy Serwyn, barely past three namedays. “Ah, so his father is also a knight,” the relieved wench said.

            “I am good, but no Mirror Shield,” Edmure said.

            Another wench had been very aware of who’d spilled his seed in her, and named her son Edmure accordingly. This boy was just shy of his sixth nameday. Men often spoke of having a son in their arms, but this one was old enough to understand the joy of being in a father’s arms, which magnified the sentiment for both of them. It was a good thing the heir to Riverrun was getting used to this, especially since he and his wife were obviously both fertile.

He found two more girls. Tansy had seen slightly over five years. Edmure was amused by the name. Tansy tea prevented such things if you could get it, which most smallfolk admittedly couldn’t. There was a Tansy at the Peach, too. Edmure thought it was a shame she was an innkeep rather than one of the whores – the redhead had huge teats. The second daughter was Smokeberry, barely past four. The smallfolk certainly liked naming their girls after plants.

How many could not be found? Some may be dead, whether due to natural causes or the war. Edmure was not one to brood on such things, but they did not escape his mind entirely.

 

            Those four and their mothers were also interested in going to the father’s castle. Edmure and his party returned the Riverrun the twenty-sixth day of the third moon for that year. His father did not like his eldest daughter’s name. Otherwise, he seemed to like his new grandchildren well enough, or at least liked that his son was owning up to them.

            Hoster had already met his first great grandchild. The Westerlings had arrived for Jeyne’s wedding eight days prior, leaving Rolph in charge of The Twins. His cousin Samwell remained there as manager of the castles’ military affairs.

 

            Jeyne at least did not mislike Edmure’s children or their mothers. She helped treat some minor ailments of theirs. At least they were minor at a properly stocked castle. Mayhaps Robert’s bastards would still make for friends, but Bella seemed to think it was a gods-damned shame Gendry was her half-brother. Edmure knew that look in a wench’s eyes. Both of them had a good deal of their father’s looks, and Robert had been a handsome man before his appetite for feasting and drinking caught up with him. The hunting and whoring hadn’t kept him active enough. Gendry swing a blacksmith’s hammer instead of the weapon of war, but strength would likewise not hurt his appeal to wenches.

 

            The ceremony was set for Jeyne’s sixteenth nameday in nine days. Edmure had one quarrel with the wedding arrangements. He misliked singers. Once he’d had so much strong drink that his cock wouldn’t rise. That would’ve been the first time he had a woman, but a singer bedded her instead, and made a song about a floppy fish.

This singer finished with the familiar tune of The Queen Took Off Her Sandal, The King Took Off His Crown. Daenerys and Robb had taken the title as a literal instruction when getting ready for their own bedding. Robb acted accordingly to prepare Jeyne for hers. Daenerys was ensconced in King’s Landing, about to give birth.

            “Queen Jeyne, approximately. And here’s a man who knows a thing or two about bedding her,” Lord Umber’s son japed. He hadn’t exactly intended to be a wedding guest; he was on his way south to claim his bastard daughter.

            “Bend both your knees to him!” someone suggested.

            “Not that, her cunt’s soaking wet, she’d rather have his cock shoved in that hole!” someone else argued. Even for a bedding that seems rather lubricated by drink, Edmure mused, trying to distract himself from his sober and throbbing cock. Either idea would please him.

 

            She wasn’t the prettiest, but she was sweet and smart, and she knew how to fuck. Edmure chose not to dwell on how this knowledge had been obtained.

Chapter Text

Soon after Jeyne wed Edmure, a child would be born within Daenerys’ union to Robb. It didn’t seem very soon for Daenerys – even prepared from having brought forth Rhaego, even with the midwives and maesters available to someone of her wealth and station. She considered the marks Rhaego left on her belly the way some men thought of their battle scars. The battlefield often entailed interminable delay before the moment of action; so too did the birthing bed.

 

Robb rode hard for Kings Landing, with only a few of his family and followers. Riverrun to the crossroads was about ninety leagues, a hundred and thirty more south to the capital. Even a small group with such resources and urgency would take more than a fortnight, though hopefully less than a moon’s turn.

Brienne and Raynald were in front, swords at the ready. Raynald had traded for an arakh, realizing the Dothraki were onto something using curved blades from horseback. Brienne stuck with a longsword since hers was Valyrian steel. She’d taken Red Rain from Denys Drumm when doing her part to subdue Balon Greyjoy’s second rebellion. The ironborn had no grounds to complain about objects acquired in such a manner – why, the Drumms had taken it from the Reynes. Robb was not inclined to object, as Denys had been about to attack him with the weapon.

 

Dany had not gone into labor by the time they reached the Red Keep but even those of inexpert opinion could tell her confinement was near. Catelyn, however, had learnt five times over. Of course she was here. When she’d said she had a new daughter, she meant it. Her children were a centerpiece of her life, and now Dany was one of them, having gained the mother she’d never had. Catelyn’s blood daughters both admired Dany in their own way – Sansa Her Grace’s grace, Arya her ferocity. Goodsisters did not usually bond over sword practice, but the bearer of Dragon’s Tooth looked forward to matching Needle when she recovered. Brienne enjoyed providing the encouragement she had lacked and was sometimes still denied.

 

Robb found Dany alone except for Ser Loras in his white cloak at the door. Loras started to say something, but discretion prevailed. Had she made a show of wishing to see her husband alone, it would have incited rude japes. Such comments would’ve been accurate, however. His eyes focused all over her even in her current state. She knew nothing could take her beauty, but was glad he knew it too.

“Doreah reminded me that my mouth is still perfectly accessible.” He could’ve taken her from behind, but that would’ve reminded both of them too much of Drogo. Dany pointed to a stool, as she was in no mood to kneel. “Eager, I see.”

“With so much time apart from such a beautiful…” Her tongue traced the top of his manhood before engulfing the whole member.

 

Daenerys had copied the Dornish law that an elder child was heir regardless of gender. So if she was about to birth a girl, the child would still be behind her half-brother Rhaego for the Iron Throne, but ahead of any future brothers. That possibility would be realized. “The babe is a girl, Your Grace,” the maester announced. “Someone inform His Grace that wife and daughter are well.”

 

The messenger didn’t have to go far. Robb stood guard outside the chamber, at hand without interfering in the business of women and healers. Ice was too unwieldy in such a situation, so he had an ordinary longsword at his side. Everyone said that to hold a son was a defining moment in a man’s life, but the little girl just placed in his arms was just as special. “I would suggest Lyanna, after my brother’s love for your aunt.”

“That’s beautiful.”

 

On Daenerys’ sixteenth nameday, the first since their marriage by way of the new gods, she told Robb she wanted to repeat her vows to the old gods. It would be at least a moon’s turn before she was in a state to travel. The Isle of Faces was not so far but she wished to wait for Winterfell.

 

Mayhaps she had considered her goodmother’s counsel on the importance of accepting the faith of one’s husband. Sometimes followers of the Great Stallion disdained the old gods as did worshippers of the Seven but so far this had been contained to drinking quarrels.

 

Robb led Daenerys down a so called trail in the godswood, a path only those raised in Winterfell would know. One of Robb’s bannermen stood ready to say simple words, for weddings were much simpler in a religion without clergy. Lord Howland Reed he was, particularly loyal to Robb’s father. “Who comes? Who comes before the god?”

            “I, Daenerys of House Targaryen, come here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble, I come to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes with me?”

            “Me. Robb of House Stark, King In The North”

            “Queen Daenerys, do you take this man?” Lord Reed asked.

            “I take this man,” she whispered.

            The young husband and wife knelt before the weirwood, bowed their heads and rose again, all together.

 

Robb and Daenerys often shared easy laughs when alone together. ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’ was no jape, and they were the only ones to fully understand each other. Dany had not been equally powerful when she had been Drogo’s consort. As much of a comfort as they had been to each other, something had separated sun and moon.

 

            “Is heaven between your legs, my love?” Robb japed, though not sure how serious he was being. King and queen were still young lovers. “Sup on some ambrosia, why don’t you?” she said while throwing her legs apart.

 

            The next morning, they had a meeting with their lords, so spent most of the night actually sleeping. “Feasting is all well and good, but winter does come. Jon tells us that worse than wildlings are massing beyond the Wall.” Such facts became clearer and clearer as time marched on. The cost to confront it grew with delay. The concept was favored by a particular faction, but that did not reduce the issue to mere politics; the stakes were allowing the world to remain survivable.

 

            “Fire should answer ice, but I am but one dragon rider with three dragons.”

            “I doubt the Others will wait until Rhaego is of age.”

            “I know of someone, Your Grace,” Lord Reed said. “We’re already in a secret session, so this seems as good a time as any: Jon Snow.”

            The noble assemblage could hear a quill drop. Daenerys was the one bold enough to break the silence. “Like father like son with Targaryen women?”

            “Your Grace, the late Lord Eddard is not truly Jon’s father, but rather his uncle.”

 

            Catelyn realized her jealousy had been misplaced all these years. “So my Ned was never adulterous, not even once?”

            “Yes, my lady.”

            “His brother Brandon was hot-blooded,” Catelyn pointed out.

            “Brandon was not the Stark sibling parent to Jon.” One did not need this room’s knowledge of Westerosi history to then tell Jon was the child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. With a Lyanna barely a moon’s turn old, it seemed ill to speak the name.

 

Rhaegar had sent her and three of the Kingsguard to a tower in Dorne. It had taken seven men to best them and Howland still did not care to speak the other five names. Winterfell maids told stories of how Ned defeated a knight as great as Arthur Dayne. The Sword of the Morning was frequent in Viserys’ stories. The blade itself had been returned after being captured in battle. Brienne did not care to hear this, but Dawn was the one sword more precious than Valyrian steel and Rhaegar’s men had been honorable to the last rather than the Drumms’ unjustified rebellion.

 

            “Lord Stannis speculated that the cause of her death during the rebellion was birthing Rhaegar’s child.”

            “Just so, Your Grace. I was with Eddard when he found his sister dying. Ned had promised to never reveal the secret.”

            “No wonder, as the Usurper certainly would have had my nephew murdered, just like having Rhaegar’s other two children slaughtered, and sending his dogs after Viserys and I.”

            “Since Jon has taken the black, he no longer has a claim to the Iron Throne. If not Eddard’s son, raised by the man he’ll have learned to keep his word. There is also precedent as a Targaryen. Aegon V’s brother, Aemon, already a maester, refused the Iron Throne in 233.”

            “We ought still tell him in person at the first opportunity.”

 

            “Your Grace, I know the late prince was no kidnapper or rapist. Lyanna had eloped with him. The High Septon himself performed the ceremony.”

            “It makes sense she’d prefer my brother to the Usurper. Yet wasn’t Rhaegar already married to Elia Martell?”

            “The new gods made an exception for incest amongst House Targaryen, mayhaps also for polygamy.”

            “So my bastard goodbrother was my trueborn nephew all along.”

 

Daenerys and Robb still sat separate thrones, though that distinction was becoming more and more theoretical. She’d made clear that this would end upon his death, though the Stark heir would have the same position under the Iron Throne that his House had enjoyed since Torrhen knelt to Aegon.

 

Soon after their second wedding, they would attend another couple’s first. This would also involve the rituals of two faiths, but on the same day. Asha as a person focused on waging war at sea, but as a Lady Paramount had more of a mind for marriage and childbearing. She found it advisable to marry amongst the ironborn; the known world was going through more than enough culture shock as is. Likewise, Daenerys wished Rhaego to marry amongst the Dothraki when that time came.

 

The royal couple would be hardly the only Westerosi notables in attendance at the ceremonies on Blacktyde as Asha married its lord Baelor. Like his bride, he’d seen through the dangerous folly of Balon and Victarion. However, Daenerys was the only one to arrive by air.

 

He was a relatively young man, the Greyjoy Rebellion having been his father’s war. Asha certainly seemed to like him well enough – if not love, happy enough for a political match. That he was a dashing handsome figure didn’t hurt.

 

 “We come here to join these two as eternally as the seas – Baelor Blacktyde, captain of Nightflyer, and Asha Greyjoy, captain of Black Wind,” the priest spoke. Gods knew they had plenty of other titles. It seemed fitting for these seafarers to focus on the ships they sailed in and their ranks thereupon. They scooped water out of the sea to brush on each other.

 

            “What is dead may never die, but rises again harder, stronger, faster,” the priest of the Drowned God said yet again.

            “Sounds like you’re in for a busy night,” Lord Umber’s son japed.

 

            There was an ordinary couple approaching the sept by the time the highborn party left. These smallfolk were not so small. “Feast with us,” Asha offered.

            “It would be a good idea to serve some fish this evening,” Lord Umber’s son continued, getting further into his cups.

            “Are you hungry?” one of Asha’s retinue offered, daughter of one of Black Wind’s sailors and a member of the crew herself.

            “Yes, and warm thanks to your fiery hair,” he said, neglecting to mention his similar reaction to blond or raven-haired women in the past.

 

            Many voices rang out ‘bed them!’ including Daenerys’. For many Westerosi brides, it had been a tradition to suffer through but for this one it was another chance to show how bold she was. “I don’t need your advice,” Asha said to more than one rude jape.

 

            “More blessing to your union, but we have further royal matters to attend to.” Robb had never thought that being king would mean such frequent journeys on court business. At least this time he would finally see Jon again, as they were off to Castle Black.

Chapter Text

            No King or Queen had visited the Wall since Jaehaerys and Alysanne two centuries ago, and these royal visitors were Steward Jon Snow’s half-brother and Maester Aemon’s great-grandniece.

 

            “The Night’s Watch takes no part in the realm’s internal political affairs,” the black brother intoned, “but we welcome the monarchs of Houses Stark and Targaryen – Robb the first of his name and Daenerys the first of her name.”

            “Thank you,” Robb answered. “As said by raven, we wish to have a private meeting with Steward Jon Snow,” he continued.

            “Very well then,” the fellow steward responded. This must be Sam Tarly. Jon had made fast friends with one of the few other highborn young men to take the black these days. A messenger went to fetch Jon, as he was currently manning the top of the Wall.

 

“Your Grace – the dragons, they are real! I trusted Ser Jorah’s news but still wanted to see them with mine own eyes.”

“For too long, they were only stories. I have made those tales true again. Lord Tyrion said that after seeing one in flight, a man may as well stay in his garden, as no other sight could compare.”

“Jon says I would like him – a clever man, an outcast amongst the highborn.”

 

            “Robb! A joy to see you again! Even with hundreds of black brothers, I miss my true ones.”

            “And you, especially with Bran and Rickon still missing. But the Watch needs more than a few hundred men, given what you report from beyond the Wall.”

            “Indeed. The Others are the true threat, but the Free Folk…”

            “Free Folk?”

            “What the wildlings call themselves. I disguised myself amongst them on Watch orders. A day ago, a raiding party scaled the Wall and attempted to take Castle Black from the rear. We held it but the main force is coming.”

 

“Since you did not come alone, I suspect more than a social call.” With Ned murdered, maybe they were delivering the secret of my parentage in his stead, Jon thought. He wasn’t surprised to see Lord Reed here - he had been one of Eddard’s longtime companions, and would know who Jon’s mother was if any man alive would. However, Jon was surprised to see Queen Daenerys join them. “Your Grace, was my mother of House Targaryen?” Jon guessed to try and explain her presence.

            “Not exactly,” the young queen responded.

            “Jon, your Stark blood is from your mother, not your father,” Lord Reed explained. “You may know I went to the Tower of Joy with Eddard to try and rescue his sister Lyanna. She was there birthing you. We were unable to save her, being soldiers instead of midwives, but we brought you back to the North with us.” Maybe the man who’d raised him hadn’t been able to find a healer quickly enough, but why hadn’t Rhaegar provided one? He’d claimed to love Lyanna but hadn’t cared for her. Apparently he’d risked her to preserve the secret of her location.

 

            “So he raised his nephew as a son,” Jon said to summarize. “I think I’ll forever think of him as my father; my true sire must’ve been Prince Rhaegar.”

            “Indeed.”

            “That would have made me the Mad King’s heir,” Jon observed.

            “Which would have made you a target for the new king. It was Lyanna’s dying wish for Ned to conceal you. And so he hurt his friend and wife to protect his sister and nephew.”

 

            His vows to the Night’s Watch would keep him off the throne, but that made it safe to tell him. Jon had been jealous that Robb would inherit Winterfell, and this may have presented the opposite problem. Daenerys seemed much more honorable than the stories about her father, but Jon still could tell she could be dangerous.

            During the Dance of the Dragons, House Targaryen also had dragons without riders. Lord Reed stated that Daenerys wished to put out the same call Jacaerys Velaryon had then, one reason Howland felt it was finally time to reveal Eddard’s secret. He was certainly more to be trusted than Hugh Hammer and Ulf White had been.

            Even without that, the truth of his parentage was still happy news, but Jon was especially awed by the dragons knowing they were his ancestors’ pride and joy.

 

            Rhaego was more in the care of his father’s people than his mother’s next husband. Jon took it for granted that the reports from Eddard’s actual son were true. “I hope the khalakka will think of me how you feel about Eddard,” Rakharo said. A great many women wanted him and this was a positive indicator of he’d act if his seed took root.

 

            “Jon, my deepest apologies.”

            “Lady Catelyn…”

            “I was too often cold because I thought you a sign of an infidelity my Ned had never actually committed anyway. Even if that had been true, I should not have mistreated you for it. I regret that extremely.”

            “Thank you.”

 

            Reed handed Jon a sheet of parchment. He instantly recognized the Stark seal, which had passed from his uncle to his first cousin. The Targaryen dragon was nearly as recognizable. Instead of a legitimization decree, it was an announcement that he had been trueborn to begin with.

 

            “Honor yourself. You can’t much have a secret marriage,” Robb told Jon. Yet since he’d taken and held Ygritte, they were wed as far as Free Folk custom was concerned.

 

            Even as a man of the Night’s Watch, constrained by the black brothers’ oath, this was invaluable to him. Yet since he’d taken the black, he could be told without the knowledge being a threat to the Iron Throne.

“Guess who’s not actually a bastard?!” he shouted to his fat friend Steward Samwell Tarly upon emerging from the meeting.

            “Congratulations! News is often late in reaching the Wall, but not usually five-and-ten years. Maester Aemon may wish to know about his kin.” He’d lost his eyesight. The only other black brother of an age with him, Ser Wynton Stout, had lost his wits. Such was a problem of serving for life.

 

It also befell the white cloaks. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard was castellan of Kings Landing. Barristan Selmy felt too old for such arduous travel. Yet such a distinguished man was not to be tossed away.

Arys, Meryn and Preston were with their queen’s children at Winterfell. Dany hated to be separated from her babes but hadn’t dared expose them to the cold. Jon had learnt that the Free Folk so often lost infants that they didn’t get their true names for two years.

 

            “Jon, Arya still carries Needle. Dany’s blade Dragon’s Tooth is patterned after it.”

            “Where is my sister?” He’d just learned that Ned and Cat’s children were his cousins, but what he’d been raised with stuck with him.

            “Right here! Mother felt I could learn from the likes of Brienne as I wished while still being made aware of court affairs.”

 

            “Reinforcements are riding hard from Eastwatch but it may not be enough. Whatever the circumstances of our birth, whatever our actions since then, we are united in defense of the realms of men. Our visitors share that goal if not share our words - though the Queensguard oath is modeled on ours.” Mandon, Loras and Balon nodded assent. Jaime looked away in shame at the reminder of having to trade his white cloak for a black one.

 

The royal party quickly agreed to stay at Castle Black. It would be the height of selfishness and cowardice to abandon them, wreck the rapport they were developing with the Watch. “The crown must defend its realm,” Daenerys pointed out.