Jon Arryn was dead and King Robert rode to Winterfell.
All of Winterfell, from the youngest stableboy to the oldest knight had put away other issues and tasks and focused on preparing for the royal family's arrival. Food had to be gathered, guest chambers prepped, and candles sought out to light the great hall. She had met with Maester Luwin at least a dozen times, discussing the special preparations that would be needed for the royal family. Lord Tyrion liked to read at night, so candles would be needed. Queen Cersei preferred a perfume from the Reach to scent her bath water. The Kingslayer would need at least six training dummies that could stand up to his attacks.
It was a trying, emotional time, and was made all the worse for the reason King Robert traveled to the North.
Ned had tried his hardest to hide his feelings; Catelyn knew that grief and fear had settled themselves upon his broad shoulders. It was funny to think of her Ned as anything but brave and she knew that to many in Winterfell such an emotion was thought to be foreign to him. He was the rock that they all grasped onto and used to balance themselves. Lord Eddard Stark did not tremble with fright. He'd marched into King Aerys' throne room not knowing what he would find. It was Ned who helped lead the charge that saw the Ironborn brought to heel after their failed rebellion. It was he who observed the old ways and swung the sword when delivering the greatest of punishments. There were some in Winterfell that whispered that their Lord had purged all negative emotions from his body, unable to comprehend such things as fear and sadness.
And yet he felt just as any other man did. His mourned for Lord Arryn, to whom he owed his very life and had been, during those dark times, a second father to him. Ned owed so very much to him; Had the Lord of the Vale simply shipped Ned and Robert to King Aerys in chains the Vale would have been made wealthy and House Stark would be extinct. There were some that claimed Lord Arryn protected the two in fear that the North and the Stormlands would unite against him for killing their lords and the crown would have been happy to let blame fall to another. Ned though knew that Jon Arryn had protected him out of both duty and honor.
The fear he felt was from the knowledge that Robert did not travel North merely to share his sorrow with Ned. The Hand of the King was dead and a new one had not yet been appointed, meaning that Robert sought Ned to take the position. They had been inseparable in youth and Catelyn sometimes wondered if their family would have stayed in King's Landing had Ned made it there first and prevented the Lannisters from sacking the city. That event had driven a wedge between the two men, brothers in all but blood, and saw Ned return to the North. Robert needed a hand though and age, Catelyn though, drove him to look to the past and old friendships.
It was the worst thing that could happen to her family; anyone else and Ned would have been able to find some excuse not to go. Robert was his friend though and that meant that Ned's sense of honor and loyalty would prevent him from turning the King away, despite how much he want to.
The fear of what Robert brought with him prayed on Catelyn's mind as well, though for different reasons. Twice already Robert had taken her Ned away. The first time he'd returned with that damn bastard. The second with Theon, who might as well have been a bastard himself.
'I am loathe to consider just who or what Ned might bring back with him a third time.'
Catelyn strove to forget about her own fears and worries by focusing on the tasks that still needed to be completed. Work was a wonderful balm for an aching soul and the Lady of Winterfell found it hard to focus on what would come of the visit while pouring her energies into prepping for it.
She had just gotten done inspecting the chamber that would house Prince Joffrey when Ned came upon her, a small scroll clutched in his fist.
"What is it?" Catelyn asked. "Has something delayed the King?" 'Is he not coming?' she thought, knowing better than to voice those words.
Ned merely shook his head, his jaw stiff and set. "No... it isn't from the king." He ran his fingers through his long, dark hair, clearly agitated. "It's from Antony. He's come to Winterfell."
Catelyn looked at her husband in disbelief. "Now? We must send a raven back to him, let him know that it isn't possible! The king-"
"The King is the reason he is coming," Ned groaned. "He wishes to speak with him and sees this as a chance to see us once more."
Catelyn pursed her lips. "Of course. Never mind that we will be entertaining the king, his family, the queen's brothers, and members of court... now we will have Antony and his household to put up with." She shook her head in frustration. "Does that arrogant man ever think of others?"
Ned clearly did not like the prospect of Antony arriving at the same time as the king. "I could send the raven, tell him that we can not house him."
Catelyn looked at Ned, shoulders slumped. She knew he would do it, if she begged, but it would bring shame upon him and his house to be so rude to family. "You know you can't do that. He most likely already sent a raven to the king, informing him of his arrival." 'Knowing Antony, he has worded it so that Robert thinks we suggested the idea.' Catelyn thought to herself. "No... no, we will just have to make due."
"At least it will be a small group," Ned stated. "If we are lucky, no more than a handful."
"He is a handful by himself." Catelyn let out a huff of air. "I know he is family Ned but-"
"Cat, he's only family because he shares my name."
That was true enough. Antony 'Tony' Stark was Ned's cousin but barely resembled Ned in looks and not at all in personality. His father, Horard Stark, had died young and rather than take up his role as Lord of the small family keep Tony had journeyed to the Westerlands, seeking fame and riches. He'd finally settled a day's ride north of Lannisport and discovered a mine of his own. While the Lannisters had gained their wealth through the gold that run deep under Casterly Rock Tony had built his fortune on the many different types of iron he was able to mine. Soon blacksmiths and metalworkers had journeyed to the abandoned castle Tony had renamed Iron Pointe and made their community the greatest source of weaponry in all of Westeros. Lords from the Reach and Dorne and across the Narrow Sea all sought out swords and shields made in Iron Pointe... and none fetched a greater price than those handcrafted by Lord Tony Stark himself.
Catelyn begrudgingly admitted that his creations were beautiful. The great mines of Iron Pointe produced metals of many different brilliant colors, so that a knight need not paint their sigil upon a shield or decorate their armor with their family colors. Tony created spears of blue and black and arrowheads that looked like emeralds. Smiths in King's Landing and other cities attempted to mimic Tony's work but all failed to achieve the wonder of his creations. Thus his fame and wealth grew and with them his ability to forge his own path. Tony was able to select his customers, no longer needed to take on any work he could get in order to procure gold dragons. Cat had heard of him turning down offers from many great houses purely because the project they wished him to work on did not challenge him.
If that were the extent of his ego then all would have been well. But Tony was arrogant and vain, seeing himself as an artist who could move about a room doing and saying what he wanted. He was brilliant, talented and skilled; women wanted to bed him and men wanted to boast that they had drank with him. He had all the vanity of Jamie Lannister and the vices of Tyrion. He scoffed at the old ways and didn't care about the shame he brought upon his ancestors with his actions. He held no belief in the Seven or the old gods and made no attempt to hide his blasphemy. Catelyn had only met him four times since her marriage to Ned: once after the war that sat Robert on the throne, 6 months before the Greyjoy Rebellion, and two quick visits after Rickon had been born. Each time Catelyn had found that the charm Tony was famous for did not work upon her and he appeared to be little more than a braying donkey demanding attention.
'A donkey would at least be useful,' she thought.
Ned gathered her in his arms and held her close, his calloused hands running along her back. "Hopefully it will be a short visit. He only said he wanted to come while the king was here... he might have an appointment at the Wall and won't tarry."
Catelyn doubted that. Tony hadn't needed to sell weapons to the Night's Watch since he was eight-and-twenty. "Perhaps," she murmured.
"Perhaps we'll get lucky and the Lannisters and Antony will be at each other's throats and leave us be," Ned said with a smile.
Catelyn chuckled at that. "The Seven be willing."
"I still don't see why we have to stand out here."
Sansa glared down at her little sister. Unlike Arya, who was shifting from foot to foot, kicking at clumps of mud and forever twisting her head this way and that, Sansa was an example of the perfect Lord's daughter: her back was straight and her head held high."It is proper. Would you have cousin Antony arrive to find all of Winterfell empty and his arrival unannounced?"
"The king and queen aren't out here," Arya said with a huff, crossing her arms over her chest. "They get to stay inside."
"They are the king and queen! Cousin Antony is only a lord... and not even a Warden like father." Sansa reached over and yanked on Arya's arms. "And stop doing that! A proper lady doesn't cross her arms."
Arya narrowed her eyes, nose flared slightly. She hated how Sansa acted like she was her mother and could belittle her and order her about. Arya did not understand why the world believed that just because someone was older than her that made them smarter. Her father and mother were smart of course, and so was Robb and Jon, but not all adults were intelligent. Hodor could only say his own name and Arya thought her septa was a fool, prattling on about useless things like knitting and weaving. Sansa was even worse, acting at times like she was still 4-years old playing pretend. Her head was filled with clouds and dreams of brave knights that would sweep her off her feet. Arya was quite happy to do her own sweeping.
Arya stubbornly kept her arms crossed. "Touch me again and I'll... I'll bite you!" she hissed, low enough so no one else could hear her.
"Mother!" Sansa hissed, utterly scandalized.
"Sansa, shhh!" their mother shushed. "Lord Antony is arriving."
"Sansa, not now!"
Arya smirked to herself; the battle had gone to her. She glanced out of the corner of her eye at Sansa, who looked fit to be tied, and brought her arms to her sides, adopting a long of serene bliss. Sansa gapped at her before setting her jaw and staring ahead, her fingers clenching open and shut. The youngest Stark girl put all thoughts of her sister out of her head and focused on the arrival of Lord Antony Stark and his host.
She'd only been five when Antony Stark had last visited and Arya did not have many memories of that visit. Still, she knew plenty about him and wanted desperately to meet him and see if he lived up to all the whispered rumors the servants passed amongst each other. They said that Antony was a rogue and a scoundrel and nothing at all like the Lord of Winterfell, which made Arya feel a connection to him. She too didn't feel like a proper Stark and wondered if, as a boy, Antony felt separated from things as she did.
The first of the men to arrive was Hogan on his giant stallion. He was only a head shorter than Hodor but just as thick and strong as the gentle giant, though his face was grim and heavy brow forever furrowed. He slid out of his saddle, his heavy boots sinking in the mud of the main courtyard.
"Why do they call him 'Happy'?" Bran whispered. "He doesn't look happy to me."
"It's a joke," Arya stated, rolling her eyes. "Like calling a fat man Tiny or a tall man Little." She watched as Hogan strode forward, looking about Winterfell as if he expected an attack to be launched at them. She'd heard that Hogan had been a sellsword before Lord Antony had employed him to be his shield and that the man was forever looking out for danger. "They say he never smiles and looks upon everyone as a potential threat." Once Hogan was sure that all was ok he lifted the banner he'd been carrying and waved it in the air, signaling the rest of the riders to enter.
"Disgraceful," someone murmured behind Arya. The young girl understood why some in Winterfell were upset: while Lord Antony used the direwolf as his sigil, his was colored red and gold, making it look more fitting for the Lannisters than the Starks. Jon had said that Antony was honoring both his family and the House that had allowed him to make his fortune, for it was Lord Tywin that had given his permission for Antony to open the mines of Iron Pointe, but it appeared that there were those in Winterfell who viewed such actions as a slap in the face of Arya's father.
With Hogan's signal Antony's group began to ride in. Arya grinned as she spotted Ser Jamie Rhodes, the commander of Lord Antony's soldiers. He was a tall, lean, dark skinned man who hailed from across the Narrow Sea. Arya had heard all manner of stories about him, such that he was a former Horselord who had pledged himself to Lord Antony or that he was a disgraced member of the Second Sons, trying to regain his honor. All Arya knew was that in his deep blue vest, coat, and pants and white shirt he made for an impressive sight. He got off his steed and strokes his neck, turning enough to allow Arya to see the sword slung over his back. He wore two more short swords, one on each hip, but one of the servants had told Arya that Ser Jamie Rhodes preferred his shoulder sword to do his work.
Another murmur rose up as Maester Jarvis was next to arrive. It was almost unheard of for a maester to leave the castle he'd been assigned to but then again if half the things Arya had heard about the seemingly sweet looking old man were true then Maester Jarvis was far from being a normal maester. One of the cooks had told her that Jarvis had nearly lost his chain for studying the deeper magics; he was one of the very few maesters in Westeros to have a ring of Valyrian steel and he was forever seeking out old tomes and forgotten scrolls in the search for new magics.
A covered wagon rolled forth, similar to the one that had carried the queen and the young prince and princess, and from it emerged Lord Antony's wife, Lady Vyrgina Stark. Arya had heard that she was beautiful and a few of the servants had compared her to Lady Sansa; Arya begrudging admitted they were right. This Lady Stark was tall and lithe, with red hair that hung down to her shoulder blades and wide, bright eyes. A heavy white cloak covered her shoulders but instead of making her look bulky it only showcased her lean form. Of all the members of Antony's house, Vygina was the only one to meet universal approval among those of Winterfell. She looked exactly as a Lady of House Stark should.
The last to ride in was Lord Antony Stark himself, sitting gallantly upon his stallion. Looking upon her father's cousin Arya quickly came to the conclusion that Lord Antony looked like a blend of Stark and Lannister, which she supposed helped him fit in better in the Westerlands. He had the dark hair of the Starks but his frame was lean and he wasn't overly tall like Arya's father. His moments were fluid like the Kingslayer but his face resembled Jon's greatly to the fact that one could have thought them father and son. Lord Antony wore his beard very short and so neatly trimmed Arya wondered if he shaved every few hours. He wore dark clothing and a black fur cloak but there were hints of red that peeked out from the dark material. A sword was strapped to his side though it was nowhere near the size of her father's sword common sword, let along the great sword Ice.
"Ned!" Antony called out, swinging out of his saddle gracefully. He took a moment to adjust the short jacket he wore before striding forward, looking about courtyard with a smirk on his face. As he strolled forward he moved his head and his hands about, as if he were afraid to stop moving lest he turn to stone. "You know, I always tell myself that I remember every detail of Winterfell but when I get here I find that my memory is completely faulty. Guess there are some things that can't be remembered and can only be experienced."
Arya was surprised by the way Antony spoke; it was the slow, careful way her father conversed, like he was weighing each word to ensure he did not waste a single letter. Lord Antony's speech was fast and energenic, words falling off his tongue at a pace that made it hard for one to follow a conversation if they weren't dedicating all their attention upon Antony.
The Lord of Iron Pointe shook Ned's hand and turned to Catelyn. "I see you're still with this gloomy grump. I'd have thought you'd have run off to Riverrun by now. I kid, I kid, good to see you, Cat." Antony kissed Catelyn's hand, ignoring the frown that graced the Lady of Winterfell's features.
"Antony," she said coolly.
"Really? Antony? Really? No 'Tony' or 'Ton' or 'T'? Really that upset about the joke? Sorry, forget that I can be a... hmm..." He snapped his fingers towards the dark knight. "Rhodey, what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Asshole?" Ser Rhodes supplied.
"Hmmm... no, not the one I was looking for but it fits. Anyway, ignore me most times, you'll find yourself living longer and give you less wrinkles from frowning at my jests." Like a whirlwind Antony was already moving on to Robb, leaving Catelyn fuming and Arya doing her best not to giggle. "Oh, look at you! Last time I saw you Robb you I could pick you up and set you on a high cabinet. Studying well? Learning how to be a Lord and be all gloomy and boring?" Robb looked as if he couldn't decide if he should scowl or laugh and Antony clapped him on the shoulder. "Still have a lot to learn, I see. The cold hasn't frozen your sense of humor just yet. Now then, who is missing…" He raised his hand up, placing it near Robb's head, then drew it to the left, just over Sansa's head. "Nope, sorry beautiful, you aren't next. Looking for someone a bit less…girly. Where is Jon Stark?"
"Snow," Catelyn bit out, trembling with outrage. "Jon… Snow." Ser Rodrick and a few other citizens of Winterfell grumbled under their breath, disgusted by the dishonor Lord Antony showed Lady Stark by bringing up the bastard and daring to put him on the same level as her children.
Antony, however, didn't pay them any heed. "See, I never got that. Why the goofy last names for bastards? Snow, Sand, Waters, Storm? Half of Westeros is made up of bastards and personally, and this is just me speaking, I would think it smart NOT to piss them off by, I don't know, giving them different last names and treating them like crap because their fathers stuck it in a strange woman. They might decide one day that they are sick of being insulted for something that isn't their fault and rise up in revolt. Kinda ass backwards thinking not playing nice with them and all that but what do I know, I'm not a Warden… I'm just a rich genius who cares about others. No offense, Ned. Now, where is Jon?"
"I am here, Lord Stark," Jon said, stepping forward.
"Him too?" Antony turned to his wife, who merely smiled at his annoyance. "Ok, I'm convinced there is something in the air around here, something that makes all of you formal and grouchy. Pepper, try breathing through a rag or something, ok?"
"Tony…" she said with a smile, though her tone was as icy as the Wall. "Be… nice."
Antony rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Jon. "You look well." He patted him on the shoulders, much as he had Robb. He leaned in close and Arya strained to hear his words. "Next time I come, you tell them all that I want you standing right at the head of the line. The world is always going to want to shove you down but that is no excuse for going along with it. You fight back like the direwolf and you let them know you are better than them." Jon managed a nod at that and Antony smiled, though only Arya noticed the quick glance he sent her mother's way. There was a story that and she wanted to know more.
Arya tuned out the pleasant words that Antony shared with Sansa, knowing they were all about her beauty and grace and how she was a fine young lady. Instead, she mulled over the man himself and found that her opinion of him was most assuredly the opposite of her mother's. Antony was brash and rude and quick with a jest. He was not the stern northern lord her father was and eldest brother aspired to be. But Arya was fine with that, because she herself wasn't like the rest of her family either.
"And why are you smiling?" Antony asked, looking down at her. "Thinking about all the rumors you've heard about me and wondering if they are true. Most of them are… except that thing about the pig and the dress. I'll have you know it was a cow."
"I heard it was a horse," Arya said with a smirk.
"Arya!" Catelyn snapped.
"Someone from Winterfell who hasn't had their humor sucked away!" Antony said with a laugh. "Wonderful! You're sitting next me at dinner tonight."
Arya's face broke wide with a grin and she could hear Sansa letting out little 'tut-tuts' of disbelief. She chanced a peek at the rest of her family and saw that Robb and Jon were both fighting back laughter while her father did his best to keep her mother from pouncing on Antony and throwing him out of their home with her own bare hands.
"I think your mother doesn't like me," Antony said with a wink before looking right at Catelyn. "Her and Jon. The three of us can sup with the king. It will make for some wonderful conversation." Sansa nearly fainted at that and Antony's wife let out a long suffering sigh.
Arya, meanwhile, quickly decided that Antony was her new favorite relative.
Next Time: Tony meets with King Robert to reveal a new venture that could benefit Westeros… and bring the wrath of some very powerful players upon his head. Also, there is a banquet, Benjen arrives, and the Lannisters meet up with Tony and his family.
Author's Notes: As if I don't have enough on my plate, this one has been tickling the back of my brain for the last day and a half and demanded to be written. There are plenty of jokes online about Tony being a lost member of the Stark family and I think some people have written a few stories about it. The problem is that I know exactly what I want to read and I doubt anyone has really done a story like what I am going to attempt here.
I was also inspired by 'The House of Wayne', a brilliant story that took Bruce Wayne and put him, and Gotham, in Westeros. That story, combined with the same principles I used for the "Harry Potter Pokémon Master" series led to this: taking Tony and his cast of characters and applying them to the world and rules of Westeros.
A few minor notes: It does annoy me that people use normal names when importing characters into this world. It is so jarring to see Kevans and Joffreys… then read about Bills and Mikes. Thus, in the spirit of Mr. Martin, I took character names and altered/deleted letters to create their Westeros names. Luckily, Tony, Pepper and Rhodey all have nicknames that can stay the same.
Second, probably the biggest alteration here is making Pepper be married to Tony. Honestly, I couldn't think of a good way to include her otherwise. You can't make Pepper a whore and it would make no sense for a Lord to have a female servant running around snarking at him. Make her his wife, however… now things get interesting. Plus, I like Tony in a relationship with her.
Third, as of right now there is no plan for the Avengers to show up, mainly because it would be simply too large of a project to include them. That said, for those interested, here is how I see them in the Westeros world: Captain America would become Ser Roggers, a legendary member of the Night's Watch from the time of Aegon who was lost in the North. He would awaken a wight during the 'modern' time, but keep his mind, thus having the strength and power of the wight but the heroic nature of a man, making him VERY dangerous. Thor would be Thor, cast down from Asgard to Westeros as punishment for hubris and discovered by a woman in Dorne. Hulk… the only thought that comes to mind would he would be an attempt by the sorcerers across the Narrow Sea to create the ultimate warrior.
There is a chance Black Widow could appear in this story, as could Hawkeye.
Finally, a question I will pose to all of you: if you could pick only one member of the Stark family to join Tony's household, who would you pick and why? I have some ideas for this, as I want a Stark child to be involved with Tony's adventures, but want to get opinions.