11th Month of 299 A.C. Greywater Watch
Lord Willam Dustin
By the gods was it hot here, you'd think with winter coming, the damned neck would be cold, but no it was a damnable marsh and swamp and so it was bloody hot. He'd only ever passed through the Neck he'd never tried to stay here for long periods of time, there was something about it that made it seem unwelcoming and foreboding. He did not truly know what it was about the place that made him feel so off, but it was there nonetheless and he knew that Galbart and Maege felt the same, there were ill omens in the air and he did not like to think on their meaning. His men were none too happy coming here as well, they wanted to be there attacking the Moat, as did he, he wanted to see his wife again and feel her embrace. But no he had a duty to his king and he would wait until he received word before doing anything to contradict those orders.
The war had been going so well for them all, they had beaten the Lannisters in almost every single battle they had fought, and then things had begun to fall apart. The moment the king had sent Theon Greyjoy back to the islands they were doomed to fail, Willam had warned the king as such, but oh what it was to be young and headstrong and to believe too much in the goodness of people. The king and the north had paid for that folly when Theon Greyjoy and the Ironborn had invaded the north and Winterfell had fallen and been sacked. The king's brothers had been killed, and the king had been wracked with grief. It was that and nothing else that had driven him into the arms of the girl, the Westerling girl who was no fit match for the king. And that had angered those weasel faced shits, Willam had offered to break their arms and legs for deserting but the King had denied him that pleasure.
Despite nearly a moon of trying the king and queen had yet to conceive a child when last Willam had seen them, and so the King had named his bastard brother Jon Snow as his heir until such a time that a son was born to him. Willam had been a witness alongside every lord apart from Bolton to the will and its contents and had affixed his seal to it as well. That the Lady Catelyn had accepted the decision just showed that Ned had been right to be open to her about his bastard son. Willam and his men as well as Galbert and Maege had taken ships from Seagard to the neck and from there they had wandered until they had been found by Howland, his old friend from those dark times.
And now it seemed his friend had news to bring, for he had asked for Willam himself, Galbert and Maege as well as Willam's own son Roddy who had come with him whilst his eldest son and heir Durin remained with the king, into the room that was Howland's solar. Howland looked grim as he asked them to sit down and then spoke. "My friend and source within the twins Allad Blackmyre has reported to me of what has happened at Lord Edmure's wedding. It appears that the Freys decided that the King should pay for his breaking of the marriage pact. A most heinous crime, they murdered the king and his mother as well as those northmen and rivermen who were with them whilst Lord Edmure was bedding his wife. The King is dead."
A shocked silence follows this and then Willam speaks. "How sure are you that this has happened? That such a violation of guest right has occurred?"
Howland looks at him and there and then he sees the truth of it in his friend's eyes. "Allad would not lie to me Willam. And I would not lie to you. He saw it unfold with his own two eyes, and managed to get out because they did not know whom he was. The King is dead my lords and lady. And now it is down to us to ensure the cause is not lost."
"How certain are you Howland?" Willam asks trying to keep his voice calm but feeling anger begin to grow inside of him. "What proof is there that the Young Wolf is dead?"
His friend is deathly silent and Willam feels anger and panic mix together, Durin was at the wedding. Eventually Howland responds. "Allad saw what they did to the body of the young wolf, they killed his wolf and then removed its head from its body, and then removed the head of the Young Wolf and sewed the head of the wolf onto his body. There was blood everywhere according to what Allad reports."
The image is so visceral and disgusting that Willam has to close his eyes. "What of the others?"
"Allad does not know what happened to your son Willam, but he knows, in fact he saw Dacey Mormont die. I am sorry my lady." Howland responds.
Galbert and Maege seem too stunned to speak and so Willam takes up the thread. "This, this betrayal of trust and honour is something that will never be forgotten or forgiven. This, this is a crime. And we know for certain that this was not only Frey's doing. The man is many things but brave he is not. He would never do something like this without protection. It reeks of Tywin Lannister and his lot, and then there is the matter of Bolton. Was he in on this?"
Silence and then Maege speaks her voice thick with grief. "It would not surprise me. We all know the Boltons have been more trouble than they are worth. Roose has always wanted that one thing that he could not have, and now he has it. Frey would not have done it without Tywin Lannister's protection, but he also would not have done it had he not had someone in our own camp willing to do the honours himself."
Willam can feel the anger begin to grow inside of him, his own goodbrother. Gods he can't wait to kill the man. "He must have been planning for this all along. When Greyjoy left, and the Ironborn invaded, no wonder Snow began making moves, he knew his father would protect him. Gods dammit." That last word is shouted.
Maege nods. "Aye, Ramsay Snow was always kept on a leash by Roose, it does not make sense for him to be cut free unless this was something Roose was always planning. And now he has that chance. The north is broken without a Stark to lead."
"We are not completely broken. There is strength still here in the north. My wife can speak with her father and raise men ready for when the need arises. And we have this." He holds up the will. "So long as we have this, we know that there is still at least one Stark still left alive who can help rally the north and defeat Bolton. The Young Wolf's dream will not die."
"But how will we ensure that? There are Ironborn in Moat Cailin, and Ramsay Snow prowls through the hinterlands. We must be careful of how we do everything from now on. Bolton will have the backing of the Lannisters and the Iron Throne. That means no one can be trusted." Galbert reasons.
Willam looks at Galbert and then looks at Howland who speaks. "We of the neck know ways around Moat Cailin that will make it far easier for you to get to places north of the Moat without the Ironborn ever finding out or seeing you."
Galbert does not seem convinced but Willam does not have the time nor the patience to argue with him and so he says. "Trust him Galbert. We do not have long. Sooner or later Roose Bolton and his allies shall be marching northward and we shall need to be prepared for when that time comes."
"What do you suggest then Willam?" Maege Mormont asks.
"First of all we must make sure the Manderlys are onside. They are now the most powerful house in the north, they have ships and the most amount of men remaining, Galbert your brother should be in White Harbour as well, I want you to go there and to being asking to meet with Wyman. Beg, do what you have to but remind him of the promise." Willam says, the plan coming together, Galbert nods, Willam then turns to Maege. "You shall come with me Maege, we shall follow one of Howland's men round the Moat and then ride for Barrowton. From there men shall be raised, some will come with me to fight the Ironborn at Moat Cailin, and others shall go with my son Roddy to the wall."
"Why do you wish to make it easier for Bolton to come into the north my lord?" Galbert asks.
"Because doing so makes it seem as if we are doing our part to help him. He will need allies and friends when he comes north, and as much as I hate to do it, I am his goodbrother and so shall be expected to play along. It is a ruse, but it must look honest. That is why I will go with some men towards Moat Cailin, aid him in getting back into the north and we have his trust. Roddy meanwhile will head north along with you Maege, head along the Kingsroad and see if you can find any remenants of Cerwyn and Tallhart men and perhaps we can learn the truth of what happened at Winterfell, rally the mountain clans, send word to Theo, tell him to bring the hunt. And then get to the Wall and show Jon Snow the will."
"And what you have of me Willam?" Howland asks.
Willam looks at his old friend and says simply. "Keep Bolton and his men occupied, make it hard for them to cross. But allow Bolton to pass through freely. Do enough to cause trouble, but not enough to come close to killing them. We want them alive for when they come home."
"Manderly will be hard to convince. His maester is a Lannister by birth if I remember correctly, and besides if he is not seeing Robett which I do not think he is, what reason would he have for seeing me?" Galbert asks.
"Two are better than one. Even Wyman is not such a coward as to refuse to see a fellow northmen. Discuss terms, discuss anything you want when the man holds court, but just make sure you get a chance to speak to him in private, for that is when Wyman's true brilliance will show through. You both must speak to him to figure out what happened here in the north whilst we were gone." Willam states firmly.
Galbert nods and Maege speaks. "How do we even know that Jon Snow will want to become King? He swore himself to the watch, that is a serious vow for a Northman to take, and we do not look kindly upon deserters."
Willam thinks back to the lad he once knew, and he does not hesitate in response. "The lad will do what he believes is right for his family. Seeing as it was his brother's last wish that he take up the mantle of King, I believe he will do it. The Starks have always been about family, and the north. I do not see why Jon Stark will be any different. Besides, this is no deserter, this is our king we are speaking of."
Silence greets this statement, and then Galbert asks. "When do we begin putting these plans into action?"
Willam thinks for a moment and then looks at Howland before responding. "Two days' time. We must move and quickly."