Ned Stark - Winterfell
I 'm writing you now not as your king but as the friend you've known since we were both boys, as the friend and brother you've followed into war twice without question or hesitation. Gods know I wish I didn't have to write this letter but I have no choice I'm surrounded by those I can't trust despite what others might say.
It's been two years since the Greyjoys were driven back to those rocks they call home and in those two years I haven't known a night where I haven't woken up with worry and anger. Despite what Jon and the rest of the small council tell me my hold on the throne is anything but secure. I'm surrounded by traitors they may have bent the knee but they hold no love for me they're only waiting for the dragon spawn across the sea to return and the rats won't be long scurrying out and trying to stab me in the back.
If there was any other choice I wouldn't ask this Ned but I need to neutralise the threat and there is only one way I can think of doing it without creating more enemies. I know you might curse me for it but I must ask you for a favour. The Tyrells owe everything they have and are to the Targaryens and that's a debt that can't be easily repaid. I know it in my gut that the moment Viserys Targaryen tries to return to retake what he believes his, the Tyrells will be first to join his side and with them come an army of one hundred thousand.
I need to bring the Tyrell's onside and I can't risk giving them any claim to the throne. Tyrell has a daughter the same age as your boy Robb and with your consent I would organise a betrothal between the two.
It's not an order Ned so don't take it as such I know you, you might feel like your honour means you have to do what I ask but not in this. Think carefully on it and if you consent I will be in your debt and anything you ask will be yours.
Ned Stark read and reread the letter three times before sighing internally and looking up at the man who had delivered it from Kings Landing. He had met Ser Davos Seaworth twice before today and like those instances today for some reason was a sombre occasion.
"Do you know what this letter says Ser Davos" he asked the former smuggler.
"I do not my lord, the king himself gave me the letter with strict instructions to keep it on my person and ensure no one but you read it" Ser Davos said almost immediately.
Ned thought on this carefully, why was Robert so insistent on such secrecy. His thoughts didn't linger for long on this tho he thought on what it would mean for Robb to marry the Tyrell girl, the benefits could be great but the consequences could be greater.
Looking back to Ser Davos once more he knew he would need to think on what Robert asked carefully and needed to weigh up everything. "Vayon" he shouted out calling out for his steward who wasn't long entering his solar.
"Please find rooms for Ser Davos and the men he travelled with, the hospitality of Winterfell is yours Ser" he said leading for both men to nod and leave but not before Ned spoke once more. "Vayon once Ser Davos is settled find Lady Stark and Maester Luwin tell them I wish to speak to them."
It wasn't long before his wife and the old maester the two people who's opinion he trusted above nearly all others were sitting before him. Before either had the chance to speak he spoke first "the king asks me to betroth Robb to Lord Tyrell's daughter. He will organise the match himself if I give my consent."
All the while he spoke he was analyzing the faces of his wife and maester. As he anticipated his wife seemed confused with what she heard while Maester Luwin looked concerned.
"Why does the king wish you to marry Robb to the girl why not marry his own son to the girl" Cat asked to which he told them both about the letter the king sent and about the fears the king held.
"Ned I don't understand why you look so troubled true Robb is young for a betrothal but sooner or later we would have had to arrange one why not with the Tyrells. The marriage would bring trade and prosperity to the north would it not?" his wife said confused.
He couldn't help but feel a little angry, how his wife who had spent so many years in the north still didn't understand its people he didn't know.
"My lady although a match with the Reach would bring wealth it would also bring with it trouble. The Lords of Winterfell have been marrying northern brides for thousands of years; if Lord Robb marries outside the north he will be the second generation of Stark lord to do so. Such a thing is unheard of in the history of the north it would cause tension among the other northern lords" Maester Luwin said almost taking the words from Ned's own mind.
Cat didn't seem to believe this tho as she shook her head in disbelief "even if the lords are unhappy with the marriage they are loyal to my lord husband and his family."
Tired of his wife's lack of understanding he spoke much louder then he intended to "the lords are loyal because we have always rewarded their loyalty with marriage something they all desire. If the opportunity isn't there then we cannot be certain of certain lord's loyalty."
The silence that followed made Ned regret raising his voice but it needed to be done to get Cat to understand. It lasted a minute or two before Maester Luwin broke it with the question he was waiting to hear "what will you do my lord will you accept the kings offer."
He knew what he was going to do he knew it almost immediately when he read Roberts letter he just needed to hear everything out loud.
"We will accept. Robert would not have asked unless he felt he had no other choice. There will be conditions tho I cannot risk the north simply because Robert feels threatened. And work will need to be done to ensure that the bannermen don't feel neglected" he said leaving little argument.
His wife seemed to forgive him for his previous outburst as she spoke up then at hearing his decision "what do you have in mind my love."
"Marriages must be made to show the lords that we have not forgotten them but we are merely appeasing the king" he said looking at his wife who's face realised almost immediately what marriages he meant.
"Ned the rest of the children are far too young especially Arya and Bran they are but babes and Sansa isn't that much older" she said pleadingly.
Luckily for Ned Maester Luwin spoke up once more "my lady Lord Eddard is correct marriages are needed. Who did you have in mind my lord?"
He thought carefully on that not every lord would need to be appeased many were fiercely loyal no matter who the future lord of Winterfell would marry but they too couldn't be forgotten."Roose Bolton's son and heir Domeric is only a couple of years older than Sansa and from what I have heard he is quiet and gentle nothing like his predecessors. A marriage between the two would strengthen the ties between Winterfell and the Dreadfort as well as repair relations between my family and Lady Dustin who is said to love her nephew greatly. As far Arya and Bran I would hear your suggestions"
"My lord; the Manderly's have long been loyal to your family and Lord Wyman has two granddaughters one of which is a similar age to Lord Brandon I believe. A marriage between Stark and Manderly would mean that a Stark could take up the Wolf's Den once more, perhaps with Lord Wyman's permission it can be changed from a prison into a Stark seat once more" Maester Luwin said all the while looking at Ned.
It was a good idea and it meant that Bran would one day be a lord in his own right with an ancient seat under his control. Before he had the chance to respond or voice his agreement Cat spoke up for him. "It is a good idea Ned if it must be done then I would prefer that Bran be surrounded by those whose loyalty is above question"
"Very well my lady and what of Arya who would you suggest she wed?" Ned asked pleased that his wife is coming around.
Cat seemed to be thinking carefully on the possible options available to them and took her a minute before she spoke once more. "The Ryswells, lord Rodrik has three sons all of which are older than Arya but not by much, I believe Lord Rodrik would be more than glad to wait till Arya comes of age for any of his sons"
He couldn't help but smile at his wife before once again speaking "very well it's decided I shall write to the three lords asking them to come to Winterfell to discuss the matches."
"My lord if I may, Lord Karstark may feel slighted by not being offered a match" maester Luwin said reluctantly.
"You're correct Maester but there is nothing we can do now" he said angry about the position Robert was putting him in.
Ned looked at the old Maester who was struggling with something, "speak Maester what's on your mind?"
"My lord there is one more possible option that you have, Jon is the same age as Lord Karstark's daughter. If you were to ask the king about legitimising Jon and give him lands and a keep then I believe Lord Karstark would be more than happy to accept the match" Luwin said reluctantly all the while ignoring Catelyn's furious gaze.
"No I won't allow it he is a Snow and will remain as such I won't accept such an insult to me or our trueborn children" his wife said with a cold fury he had rarely seen.
Not wanting to anger his wife further he held back the fact that he agreed with Luwin instead merely changing the subject about him having another idea to please Lord Karstark.
"I will also see about arranging marriages between some of the lords with Winterfell possibly covering the dowries" he said making a mental list of the families he would need to contact.
The three of them spent the rest of the afternoon writing out letters to his various bannermen as well as writing the letter to the king with his consent and numerous requests that he needed met for the marriage to take place in the future.
He gave the letter to Ser Davos the next day with strict instructions that it was only for the king's eyes none other.
A raven came just over a month later from Kings Landing from the king.
I am in your debt. It has all been arranged the Tyrells have agreed to everything you asked not that I gave them much of a choice and so have I. The Queen of Thrones wants to discuss the match with you personally so she will no doubt by in contact.
Thanks you my friend,
I'm not finished with my other story I'm still working on it but this was something I was thinking about, let me know if it's worth continuing. And as always I own nothing.