I've been a fan of fanfiction for a long time and finally decided to publish one of my own. I hate to pull that card, but English is not my first language and I am writing this without a beta, so I apologise beforehand for any mistakes made, grammatical or more of the "accent" nature. If you are interested in stories with incredibly realistic depiction of GoT-era speech and/or beautifully written prose, there are many fics among my favourites which I invite you to read. I am satisfied in aiming to provide a story with a believable and interesting plot, written in a language that is not too grating. Reviews are a way to help me in achieving that.
This story is basically a form of continuation of a reply I wrote to a thread on Reddit posing a question along the lines of "You are Ned Stark in 298 AC and have been given all knowledge of the show/books. What do you do?" This story does not begin in 298 AC, nor is this Ned Stark given all knowledge of future events – just the knowledge that I have arbitrarily decided to give him. Not that it will always do him much good, considering the rippling effect his actions will have.
As for the time-travelling itself, many authors who write these sort of stories try to incorporate it into the story somehow, calling on magic cast by characters or even introducing deities like "Fate". Obviously some form of magic was involved, but it might or might not be addressed in the story. I believe the user drakensis has done this very well in his story Wearing Robert's Crown.
Disclaimer: GoT belongs to HBO and GRRM.
The night was dark, filled only with the rushing sound of the Weeping Water. It was a pleasant sound that clashed with the nature of their mission, but aided them in masking their sounds.
Not that they much needed the help, with the eight Crannogmen in their party. The men and women of the Neck had provided them with a set of grey and dark brown clothing specifically made for blending in with the muddy forest ground around them. They had also had them roll on the ground to cover their scent. Jory and his nineteen companions, Stark men-at-arms, had reluctantly gone along with the idea. They were hundreds of leagues deep into Bolton territory; failing their mission meant death or a fate far worse in the dungeons of the Dreadfort.
He had loyally followed his liege Ned Stark in putting the Greyjoys back into their place. Jory had been there, along famous warriors like the Kingslayer and Thoros of Myr with his flaming blade as they had stormed Pyke. This type of fighting, cloaks and daggers in the night, was… different. Both better and worse. Pyke had been a battlefield, a storming of a castle, the visage of dead bodies strewn everywhere. It was bloody and gory and still gave him nightmares, but at least he had not had to constantly live in fear of being detected.
They had stayed away from all roads, riding through rough terrain to a dilapidated tower in the northern Hornwood forest. There they had waited for weeks before receiving a message by raven to deploy. Using detailed maps that had been left in the small holding, along with food and water, they stayed well away from any populated areas or lands belonging to belligerent lords. Eddard Stark was known for his honour, sense of justice and kind hand. What they were conspiring to do went against everything he stood for: assassinating a (seemingly) loyal bannerman.
The Crannogman leading the party stopped and held up a hand. A come-hither gesture brought Jory to him, and he pointed out what he had seen: smoke rising up from beyond a hill.
"You and your men stay here while me and mine go take a look," the short statured man whispered. Jory nodded and watched mutely as they grouped up to talk before scattering in different directions in pairs, blending in with the snow and disappearing before his very eyes. All but the leader, Hyet Fenn, who crawls up to the hill to dare a look over the crest.
The Stark men await them there in the trees and bushes, keeping a careful watch of the garrons they had brought along. A time passed, what felt like hours, but was probably minutes, before Hyet crouched his way forward to us.
"Lord Stark's intelligence was right… Lord Bolton and his escort are here on their way back from the Whitehills," he spoke.
"So we managed to catch up with them," he replied back in the same low tone, relieved.
"Aye, though he brought along a substantial guard of forty men."
The men grumbled but Jory shook his head.
"We have the element of surprise. Furthermore, they are expecting brigands or wildings, not us and… them," he retorted back, before turning back to the Reed bannerman. "What's the plan?"
"'tis simple," he began, grabbing a twig to draw in the snow before them. He drew the camp with the various tents strewn around a middle one belonging to Roose Bolton himself. The plan itself really was simple: the Crannogmen would begin by picking away at the sentries in simultaneous effort, before we all would send off burning arrows into the tents. As the camp descended into confusion, the rest of us would come down in an organised line to cut away at the unprepared men, while the crannogmen would lend ranged support from the other side. No witnesses were to be left alive, but the primary objective was obviously to kill the lord himself.
Hyet stopped in his explanation and tilted his head. Jory realised he was trying to listen to something and tried to catch on but failed, hearing only the sounds of wind and the singing of birds.
"Get your men ready while I relay instructions to the rest of my people," he said before returning to the hill.
The men in question did not need to be told twice, checking their hauberks before covering them in ragged fur. Jory did the same and within minutes he was surrounded by a gathering of wildlings armed with castle forged steel, sturdy ironwood bows and oil-tipped arrows. Ready, they inched their way to Hyet, who laid making… bird noises.
Men made strange sounds when they died, Jory knew, but they were too far away to hear them. Instead, bird sounds confirmed their deaths for us.
"Nock and light your arrows," Hyet instructed, moving to the crest of the hill with the rest of Jory's men fanned out behind. Three people quickly got their arrows on fire and helped out the rest of them. The fire lit up the previously dark night so much that they almost had to avert their eyes. Fortunately, they did not have to aim very well.
"Draw, my men should be out of the way by now." He mumbled the last part. Just to be safe, Hyet held the next command back for an additional fifteen seconds. The men-at-arms kept their arms steady. "Aim at the northwestern edge and… Loose!"
The plan worked better than Jory expected. The tents quickly caught aflame and in the confusion, the Bolton horses ran rampant across the camp, trampling men in their sleeps. Shouts of confusion and pain filled the air and the next stage of their plan began.
Hyet slinked off to the side to do his part while the men of Winterfell discarded their bows. They quickly mounted their rides and rode around the hill to come up to the Boltons from the flatter terrain in the south. The Northern garrons, while far from fast and strong warhorses, actually served them better as they could deftly find their footing on the uneven ground despite the meagre light conditions.
Their opponents did not immediately catch on to the fact that they were under attack. Their sentries had been slain by camouflaged Crannogmen assassins, the corpses quickly pulled away. The remnants of the "rain" of twenty lit arrows were rapidly burning up with the tents, which the Bolton guards were doing an admirable job of beginning to quench. That was the situation the previously outnumbered riders flanked into, swords raised.
Jory saw at least five men be trampled by their modest cavalry rush, and another five be sliced open. The men on the other side of the camp turned to defend themselves but received only arrows or daggers in the back for their trouble.
Before long, the fighting was reduced to basically a last stand: Lord Bolton and two soldiers. A couple of their brethren had ran off to try to escape but would quickly be hunted down.
"Wh-what is the meaning of this?" the Dreadfort lord called out in that cold and soft voice of his. He was hunched over due to a limp; an arrow from Hyet's men had caught him in the leg. The poison was spreading through his body by the seconds and it was showing in how he was struggling to hold up his sword. "You are not wildlings or-" he collapsed to a knee before he could finish the sentence.
The men, who to their credit were loyal enough to falter at seeing their lord crumble, were quickly beset and killed by their numerically superior opponents. The lord himself fell further onto his side in a undignified heap.
"Flaying is a crime punishable by death in the North, Lord Bolton. We are your executioners, sent by Lord Stark," Jory stated as three of his men came into the clearing dragging two corpses, followed by another two Crannogmen doing the same with one corpse.
"Curse… you…" the lord panted out and then tilled. The milky pools that were his eyes looked like big drops of water turned into ice.
Jory and his men eyed the Lord grimly, considering the ramifications of just what they had done.
"That was the difficult part," Hyet stated from the side.
"Aye," Jory muttered and shook his head. "Come on lads, there's still more work to do."
Weeks later found Jory and Hyet in the Lord Stark's solar, kneeling before their lord and Jory's uncle.
"Rise," the lord ordered.
The flames in the hearth were flickering due to the howling winds without, creating long shadows along their grim faces that made the whole situation feel even more ominous.
"Did you succeed?"
"Aye, my Lord," Jory answered for them both. "We delivered your justice."
"Good," the Lord of Winterfell affirmed with a nod. He turned to stand before the hearth, leaving them staring at his back. "And what of the bastard?"
"We dealt with him and… planted the bodies there, as you bid," Hyet replied.
The lord turned to them and met their eyes.
"You have done a great service to the North, my men, though I fear I asked too much of you."
Hyet's face curled in a grimace and Jory shook his head.
"No, my Lord. It was necessary."
"Yes, the man's despicable son needed to be put down, and the lord himself for turning a blind eye to his actions."
"Oh?" Ser Rodrik spoke up from his spot, looking confused. Ned Stark had a grim but knowing look on his face.
"We discovered that the Bolton bastard and his men would use hunting dogs to hunt local peasant girls for sport. We came upon one such scene and rescued the poor lass."
"Another two girls were found in his house, flayed, along with the remains of others… We gave mercy to them both."
Had the circumstances been different, Jory would have found the sight of his uncle's horrified face humorous.
"And what of the girl you rescued?" Lord Stark prodded.
"She saw us in the Bolton armour we had pilfered. She fainted of exhaustion, so we set the scene up as you instructed and left her not too far from the nearest village."
"Good work," Lord Stark said and walked over to his desk. He procured a small parcel and a scroll, both covered by the Stark direwolf seal, along with a jingling pouch.
"I suspected that you would be successful in your endeavours so I had these prepared in advance for Howland. Give him my regards."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Ser Rodrik, have Hyet and his men fed and taken cared of before their ride home."
"Of course, my Lord."
The dismissal had been clear and they both exited, leaving Jory and the Stark alone.
"Here, payment for a job well done," the older man said and handed Jory the pouch. Jory caught a flash of gold; one golden dragons for each and every one of his men. The equivalent of two and a half year's pay for the hardship of a few weeks. That amount of money could ruin lesser men, but the men-at-arms who had accompanied Jory had been carefully chosen. They were not greenboys who would rush to spend it all on expensive drink and women, but rather veterans with families of their own. Good men with bigger things in their lives than themselves.
"And for secrets to be taken to the grave," Jory finished. "I will go distribute it at once… Discretely."
"Very well. You are dismissed."
Something had changed in his liege lord, Jory mused as he made his way down to Winter Town to personally deliver his men's rewards. The honourable Ned Stark of old would have called for the Lord Bolton's arrest and that of his bastard son, attempted to give him the fair and transparent trial he believed every man and woman were due… and suffered a civil war in his lands as a consequence. Instead, he had carefully planted spies in the Dreadfort's court and lands and bid his time until the Lord stepped out of the comfort of his castle to send a mixed team of grizzled Stark and surprisingly talented Reed men to discretely take him out and pin the blame on his monster of a son.
How had he found out about the bastard anyway? Had the informants always been there, keeping the lord abreast of the tragedies the lowborn of the Weeping Water were forced to suffer? The fact that the Red Kings of old were terribly cruel and sadistic was known by many, but it was shocking and even ironic that Roose Bolton and the bastard son whose crimes he had abetted by keeping him hid away had taken it upon themselves to keep that despicable tradition going. The scenes at the miller's house would come to fuel his nightmares for years to come.
In that moment however, Jory felt a strong measure of pride. Pride that he and his house enjoyed the privilege of serving a house like the Starks, who worked to ensure the well-being of all Northerners.