226 A.L. Long Lake

Artos Stark

The wildlings were pushing hard, they clearly were much more strongly united behind Raymun Redbeard than either Willam or Artos had first thought. As he brought his sword down again and again, severing heads from bodies, Artos could not help but curse Jack Musgood, the man was Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and yet somehow he had allowed some 20,000 wildlings to scale over the Wall and cross into the north proper. That Lord Harmond had thought something suspicious about it all had been a boon really. Artos continued hacking and slashing his way through men, cutting them down to size, breaking them as though they were nothing more than flies, which when one took in Artos' skill with a sword they truly were. The wildlings fall before him like flies, and he bathes his sword red with their blood, truly he wishes that the wildlings would learn that until they can muster at least basic discipline they will never stand a chance of conquering the north. He can sense the urge to break inside of them and that is what makes him swing his sword with even more urgency he intends to kill as many of the blasted idiots as he possibly can. He cuts through a big giant of a man whom he knows is called Toregg, Raymun's second in command, he cuts through another wildling and then another one before he comes face to face with Darin Shape cutter a man who was once a sworn brother of the Night's Watch but is now wildling scum. Artos growls and then begins hacking at the man they exchange blows backwards and forwards for some time, but eventually Artos' superior skill with a blade means that he triumphs cutting through the man and leaving him in pieces, spurring his horse onto meet the next challenge.

He finds himself fighting beside his brother Willam, the Lord of Winterfell and a charmer and a great fighter. Together the brothers as they did during the Blackfyre rebellion that saw them both make their names, they cut through wildlings swinging their swords left, right and centre, cutting through the mass of savages with ease. It becomes so easy for them, that Artos finds himself fighting on autopilot, cutting through men in a detached manner that his father had often described fighting as. He swings and they fall down to their deaths, no two ways about it, he swings and swings, and his sword is now completely red. Willam he notices is engaged in a duel with a red haired man, whom he recognises as Raymun Redbeard, Artos himself is faced with three opponents whom he deals with at the same time. He swings at one and takes his head off before the man can raise his axe, his swing makes it easier for him to defend a potential blow from a hammer, and he uses his strength to break that contact and then end the man with three swift swings. The third man, proves to be a tougher opponent, he swings and the man blocks, the man swings and he blocks. And so it goes for some time before eventually they are both battered and bruised and Artos manages to push through the fatigue to spear the man with his sword.

Artos looks up from the dead man in time to see Willam brought down low by a blow from Redbeard's sword, and he howls as his brother doesn't get up but instead blood continues to pour from the wounds he took. Artos spurs his horse forward, cutting down those men foolish enough to get in his way, and soon he and Redbeard are engaged in a duel. Swinging, hacking and slashing, swinging, hacking and slashing, they fight neither man willing to wield ground to other, the ground is covered with bodies and blood and still they somehow they both maintain their footing, before Artos swings and knocks Redbeard's sword from his hands, another swing and Redbeard's hands are gone, and then Artos kicks the man to the ground, and swings his sword once more and splices his head in two. He does not have long to enjoy the sense of victory for soon enough he is brought low and faints.

He comes too in his tent, his head hurts as does his body and he feels weak, weaker than he has felt for some time. A figure comes into view and he recognises it as his brother Donnor. He opens his mouth and manages to gasp out. "What happened?" before he begins coughing up blood.

Donnor a grim man is silent for a moment before he says simply. "We won. Willam died killed by Redbeard. But you slew Redbeard and once the wildlings realised what had happened to their famed king beyond the wall, they fled, were killed or were captured. Lord Harmond is dealing with some of them now."

"What will happen to me?" Artos asks, he is not so foolish as to believe that he will survive tonight.

Donnor speaks once more. "Your wounds are too severe for us to consider moving you from here brother. And as such the maester believes that it might be best to leave you here until nature runs its course."

Another voice speaks then much deeper than Donnor's. "In short what Donnor is trying to tell you brother is that you will die here in Long Lake, and not in Winterfell like you so wished." Errold, that was the voice, his youngest brother and the most conniving of them all.

"Errold enough. Have some respect, Artos might not be able to teach you manners in his present state but he will be around to remind you about this lack of them." Another even deeper voice says, Brandon.

Artos laughs and more blood comes up. "Ah brothers, I have missed you, and I shall miss you. We all know I do not have long for this world. I just hope you will keep the north safe. Keep mine and Willam's children safe as well."

As he says those words he looks at his brothers and sees Donnor, Brandon and Errold glaring at one another and he fears that his words will not come true, there will be war he knows and the children will suffer for it. It is with these dark thoughts and not thoughts of his wife Lorra or their children Brandon and Benjen, that Artos Stark closes his eyes and dies on the 25th day of the fourth month of the 226th year after Aegon's Landing, he was thirty three

228 A.L. Winterfell

Melantha Blackwood

It was complete madness, why would they do such a thing she knew not? It had been two years since her husband and her favourite goodbrother had died during the battle of long lake, two years in which Melantha had done her best to rule the north in her son Edwyle's name. Before today she had thought she was doing a good job, her son's bannermen clearly respected her and respected her husband's memory and so were doing all they could to ensure that peace reigned throughout the north. That was until the ravens had come pouring in today, her husband's three brothers Donnor, Brandon and Errold had called different houses of the north to their name and were all calling themselves the rightful lord of Winterfell. The shock of it all had nearly been enough to knock her off her feet, she had always been aware that Donnor- grim and serious Donnor- had never liked her viewing as too southern to mean anything but bad news but Brandon and Errold had never treated her with any disrespect in fact they had always treated her warmly and fairly, as if she was one of their own. That they would now turn around and declare themselves Lord of Winterfell when the Lord of Winterfell was in Winterfell itself, was a worrying thought for Melantha and made her wonder if they would try and send men to kill her sweet son.

When news of this all had reached her Melantha had gone and spoken to the only son of Beron Stark who was still in Winterfell. Twenty two year old Rodrik Stark known was the wandering wolf to some, he was the best warrior in the north now his brother Artos was dead, and as such Melantha had thought that he would agree to fight his brothers and defend his nephew's rights. She had been pleasantly surprised when he had refused to do just that. In fact he had been stock silent and then had said. "I will not do it. I cannot do it Melantha. You can ask anything of me but that. I cannot do this, to fight my kin? That is the most heinous of crimes, they might have taken leave of their sense but I have not and I shall not let my name get dragged into this mess."

"And so you will let them threaten Edwyle and Alysanne? You would let them come here into my children's home to run amok of the very thing that your brother and the man you swore a holy oath to?" Melantha had said.

Rodrik had closed his eyes then and had sounded pained when he replied. "Do not do this to me Melantha. I bore the pain of it all when Willam died, I will not see my family tear itself apart because Donnor and Errold are too proud to see sense. If I lead the men for Winterfell, then that means I consider it a serious threat. If I do nothing then support for this cause might die down, and the lords will remember what good Willam did them."

"And what will that achieve? Apart from weakening my own son's cause?" Melantha had asked.

Rodrik though had shaken his head and simply said. "I will not do it."

And so without her goodbrother's support, Melantha had been at a loss to do, until Maester Lomys had reminded her that she had kin in the Riverlands and very powerful friends at court. So she had written both to Raventree Hall and to Riverrun, and then to King's Landing. Both her brother and her goodbrother had written back saying that they would send men to aid her once the King had given his consent. That consent had come some days later, written in King Maekar's neat hand, he had promised her the full backing of the Iron throne and that she could use men from the Riverlands and that soon enough men from the crownlands would come as well.

That raven had come some three weeks ago. A knock on the door and the entrance of Maester Lomys took her from her musings. "A maester," she said as calmly as possible. "What news have you brought me?"

The man was silent a moment before he said. "Bad news I am afraid my lady. It would appear the war of words between the brothers has changed into a war of steel."

"What do you mean? Have they completely taken leave of their senses then?" Melantha asked dreading the answer.

The maester handed her the letters and she read them and then exclaimed out loud. "The audacity of these men! Breaking their sworn oaths and then fighting so close to where they would rule. Have they no honour? No shame?"

Maester Lomys answered her thought in actual fact she had not needed an answer. "Well my lady, at least we now know where most of the important houses loyalties lie and that is not with young Edwyle. With Glover forces having defeated the Tallhart forces in the Wolfswood, and Dustin troops having defeated Manderly troops near the White River. It would appear Donnor and Brandon have the advantage over young Errold though now that Umber and Hornwood forces are engaging in battle it might be the time to see if Rodrik could be persuaded to bring House Bolton to our side?"

Melantha sighed and shook her head. "Rodrik has been quite clear in that he will do nothing to stop this fighting from happening. That he himself has not declared himself Lord surprises me. Though it does seem as if he is merely waiting for the opportune moment, and sending him to Jonnel Bolton now would be a very, very bad idea I feel."

"And what of the help Lord Tully promised my lady? When shall that be arriving?" Lomys asked.

Melantha sighed and said. "I know not, winter has set in and as such will delay many things."

Lomys looks at her then and says gravely. "Then I guess we must hold out and hope for the best, a quick end to this foolishness."