Lady Branda Stark
After sixteen years of marriage, her husband Jon Royce, brother to Lord Arthor Royce of Runestone was dead. Slain fighting the mountain clans alongside his liege lord, Lord Jon Arryn. Her husband had been a good, kind man, strong, smart and charming, she had loved him fiercely and he had loved her fiercely as well. How could she not when he did all he could to make sure that she was safe and felt secure in the Vale, away from her home and her brother and all that she had ever known. Her uncle Artos Stark had arranged the match between herself and Jon when she had been twelve, telling her brother Edwyle that the north had been isolated for far too long and that it needed to expand its reach in order to maintain better relations with those south of the neck, and as such wedding her to his wife's nephew Jon would be no big deal.
As it turned out though she had had her doubts about the marriage at first, and what fourteen year old girl wouldn't, the marriage had been a good one, a loving and caring one. The marriage had produced three daughters, Sylvia, Desmera and Melantha. Her eldest daughter Sylvia had been born nine moons after her and Jon's wedding night, a fierce spitfire of a girl her Sylvia was, she was a natural born heartbreaker she had wed Ser Desmond Corbray a good man someone who would be kind to her, her second daughter Desmera was the perfect lady, someone who knew her courtesies and knew how to use them to her advantage. Desmera had managed to charm Ser Malcolm Waynwood the heir to Ironoaks into marriage and for that Branda knew her daughter would always be happy Ser Malcolm was a fierce man, a bit of a rogue but he seemed dedicated to her daughter and that was all that mattered to Branda. As for her youngest daughter, Melantha was but nine years old and as such Branda had deemed her too young to leave behind Sylvia was fifteen and Desmera fourteen both flowered and knowing what to expect they did not need their mother as much as Melantha did and so when word had come from Winterfell that she should come back home she had decided to take Melantha with her.
Whilst she did feel some guilt at leaving behind her two eldest daughters she knew that they would do well without her there, they were smart and able to defend themselves and win people over to their cause. Melantha on the other hand still needed her mother's guidance and aid, and so she was coming to Winterfell with her. Winterfell, gods she had not seen her home since she had been Desmera's age, she had not seen it in so long she had almost forgotten what it looked like and what it smelled like. But she could never really forget it, no, one could never forget what one's home looked like even if one were to leave for many years and come back many years later. That was what it had been like for Branda, Winterfell was still the same imposing structure it had been in her youth, standing tall and proud through all the changes that had come and gone.
Her brother Edwyle was now Lord of Winterfell, he had been Lord of Winterfell since their father's death some twenty two years ago at the hand of Raymun Redbeard, their uncle Artos had ruled in Edwyle's stead until her brother had turned sixteen, and Branda knew her brother had looked up to and had admired their uncle fiercely. Branda had always lived in fear of their uncle, he was not known as the implacable for no reason after all, but the years and hindsight had given her some new perspective on the whole matter. Her brother was a good man, and a very good lord from what she had seen of her time in Winterfell, he ruled well and was if not loved by his people, then respected. He listened to all that came before him and judged their cases with what he believed to be the right and honourable thing to do. And he was a firm believer in the old gods, something that had won Branda's approval almost immediately.
Her brother had married Marna Locke, a sweet lady who knew her way around Winterfell better than Branda's own mother ever had, the people of Winterfell clearly loved their lady, and Edwyle seemed very happy with her. Marna had done her best to make sure that Branda felt as home as possible at Winterfell and she had done her best to also make sure that Melantha did as well and for that Branda would always be grateful. As for Edwyle's son Rickard, well the lad reminded Branda of Edwyle a lot, in his solemn demeanour and how he rarely if ever smiled but when he did the whole place seemed to light up, Branda had spoke to her brother about whether or not Edwyle had found someone for Rickard to marry, and her brother had replied that he had thought about wedding Rickard to their uncle Rodrik's daughter Lyarra, it would help please their uncle who was away north dealing with some matter or the other and would also keep the two very distinct lines close together to prevent any possible succession dispute should something happen to Rickard.
Her brother to his credit had waited for some three moons before broaching the topic of her getting married once more. He had at first said that she did not need to if she did not want to, after all she was a woman grown who had had children already and Branda knew her brother feared losing her to the birthing bed more than he feared what his bannermen would do should she not marry again. However, Brand knew that she would rather get married once more than have to remain at Winterfell and become a burden to her brother and nephew, and so she had consented to her brother finding her another match. That had just encouraged the vultures to come circling, men like Roose Bolton, Lord Jorah Umber, Wyman Manderly and Cregan Karstark had all begun making advances toward her, and though she liked and admired Jorah and Cregan Karstark she did not really trust them not to make moves on her brother's home once he was gone, she did not trust Roose Bolton or Wyman Manderly as far as she could throw them, and that was something her brother also felt. IN the end they had agreed on her marrying Jeor Mormont, the Lord of Bear Island. Jeor already had a son by a previous marriage a boy named Jorah who was some three years old, the man was a good man, true and brave, and loyal that was the most important factor. And being the dutiful vassal that he was he had agreed to wed Branda and so here they were in Winterfell's godswood.
Her husband did look somewhat dashing in his dark green tunic and cloak, and as her brother led her towards the heart tree she felt her breath leave her somewhat. "Who comes?" her husband to be asked.
"Lady Branda of the House Stark. Who claims her?" her brother replied.
"Lord Jeor of the House Mormont." Her husband to be replied.
Her brother walked her to the heart tree and then walked forward and stood in front of them and spoke in that iron tone of his. "We are gathered here today lords and ladies, to witness the binding of heart and soul of two people. Lord Jeor Mormont, Lord of Bear Island and a true lord of the north and Lady Branda Stark, a strong and proud lady and a dedicated mother. If there is anyone here who believes that this wedding should not happen let them speak now, or forever hold their peace." When none spoke her brother went on. "Now, in the sight of the old gods, I do here ask. Do you both promise to remain faithful and true to one another?"
"We do." Branda and Jeor said in unison.
"Do you promise to always be each other's strength and counsel in matters of the mind and heart?" her brother asked.
"We do." Branda and Jeor replied.
"Then as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North and as the purveyor of the Old Gods I do hereby name you husband and wife. You may now seal your marriage with a kiss." Her brother said.
The kiss was short, soft and chaste but to Branda it was a relief now they were married and they would soon be venturing toward Bear Island. The feast itself was something to behold, her brother was not often one for extravagance but it seemed that when it came to her, he was, there were so many courses that Branda found herself begging off the food for sometime following the fifth or was it the sixth course? She spoke often with her husband and her brother, and danced most often with her husband, she found Jeor to be an interesting fellow with a lot to say and a lot of things he wished to discuss. One such thing was her daughter Melantha. "My sister Maege is roughly the same age as your daughter my lady," he said in that gruff voice of his. "I am sure the two of them will get along well once we return back to Bear Island. I have already made sure that certain things are put in place to ensure that you are more comfortable."
"Thank you my lord," Branda said. "You need not have gone to all the extra strain but I thank you anyway."
There was not much chance for talking after that for shortly after the final course was served and eaten, there were calls for the bedding. Two days after the wedding festivities had come to an end, Branda, her daughter Melantha and her husband and his family made the journey back to Bear Island. The place was not as bleak and dull as Branda had been led to expect from the books she had read and from what the maester at Winterfell had told her. True there was not much of the imposing stature of Winterfell, but there was a certain earthly beauty about it, with the trees creating a sort of peaceful atmosphere. The people were strong and fierce as a result of having to deal with wildlings and raiders, but were nice people who were always willing to give her hand with doing certain things. Her goodsister Maege took to Melantha almost immediately as her daughter did to Maege. Her husband did what he could to help her settle into life at Bear Island, and when Branda began taking lessons in how to defend herself, she sensed his approval. The smile on his face when she told him she was with child some two moons after their marriage was one that she would always remember and cherish.
About nine moons after their wedding day, on the fourth day of the second moon of the 259th year after Aegon's Landing, her son Barthogan Mormont was born with a full head of dark brown hair and with grey eyes and the traditional long face of the Starks. He was a big baby, bigger than any of her girls had been but she was happy and she knew instantly that she would always love her son the best out of all her children. Her husband seemed more than happy with having a second son, and her goodsister Maege and her own daughter Melantha soon began taking to playing nurse and house with her son, she truly felt at home at Bear Island. Life was good, but there would be trouble brewing soon enough. A black dragon was soon to take advantage of the tragedy that befell the Targaryens some seven moons after her son's birth and her husband would be called away to war.