I had planned in adding the first fight with the Others too in this chapter but decided against it. I will post it in as a new chapter.
As always thank you for your support though I noticed many readers criticising Ashara Dayne's death in the initial chapters without reading anyfurther. I will not be entertaining their bullshit reviews or PM.
Moat Cailin, The Northern Realms
"By the Seven!" Were the words that slipped Magaery's mouth as the awe imposing structure of Moat Cailin came into view. She felt the structure commanding respect. They had arrived at the Starkhaven in the night and she was sleeping and had not came out of the deck till now. She had seen the lighthouse at the western side of the Winter Canal as they entered and she was sure it easily dwarfed the Hightower.
"Impressive isn't it." Garlan said as he came behind her. "This is the thing that stopped the Andals. And now that the Northerners had repaired and raised it to its former glory no army can enter the North."
Margaery shivered in the cold breeze. She saw the occasional snow here and there. It was still early morning and docks were still empty. She saw a party arriving.
"It seems that the they have come to receive us." Wilas who had joined them said and went down to the docks. The others followed him. She saw a Lady and a young boy who looked almost seven to eight name days old. She saw another boy who was fat with them. She recogonized him as Samwell Tarly.
"What is Lord Tarly's son doing here?" She wondered aloud.
"Didn't Grandmother tell you. Lord Randyll Tarly sent him here for fostering." Wilas told her quietly.
"Ohh." Was her intelligent reply. She did not like that she had never heard of this. Soon they reached the Northern party.
"On the behalf of Lord Aryan Stark we welcome you to the Northern Realms." He said hesitatingly looking at his mother in between for reassurance. "I am Bran Stark. Welcome to Moat Cailin."
"Thank you My Lord. We are grateful." Wilas replied and then proceeded to introduce them.
The red haired Lady now took the rein of the conversation. "I am Catelyn Stark. Welcome to the Moat Cailin. Your rooms had been arranged in the castle. Please follow us."
They started to go towards the great Fort. Wilas was with Samwell talking to him. The path they took passed through Starkhaven. The Tyrells looked around. Lady Alerie trotted besides Catelyn Stark. The city looked clean and paths were cobbled. There was no stinking smell like in Kingslanding or dust and mud like in Oldtown. Everything was ordered and meticulous. She remembered her Archmaester Gormon telling them about the planned construction of the Northern cities.
"My husband has already left for Winterfell. That if why he is not hear to receive you. " She heard Catelyn talking to Wilas.
"I heard that it is the time for the Spring Festival. And all the Nothern Lords are going to be there." Alerie said.
"You heard right indeed. It is one of the very few celebrations in here. It is going to be a big event. I must say you had come at the most fortunate time. This year the celebrations are going to be very big. Aryan had constructed a big arena. They are going to conduct Northern games for the first time." She explained.
"The Northern games?" Margaery asked.
"I am afraid even I am not much familiar with all the details. Suffice to say there are going to be different competitions for five days. Ned has gone to help Aryan with everything. As you may know that Lord Aryan had been away in Essos till now. And now that he has come to age Ned is now no more the Regent of the Northern Realms." Catelyn tried to explain.
"Lord Aryan had invited me here that to see to whether my damaged leg can be healed." Wilas said trying to get to the point as to why they were here.
"And we decided to accompany my son to see the Northern Realms." Alerie said.
"I am sure you will be healed soon My Lord. The prowess of Healer Qyburn is well known. And you all are most welcome to visit here." Catelyn said proving to be a gracious host.
"Pardon me my Lady but isn't Robb Stark Lord Eddard's heir? Is he too not here?" Wilas asked.
"Robb is being fostered at Barrowtown by Lord Willaim Dustin. But he will be there at the Wintertown." Cat said.
"How long will it take to reach Winterfell through the Kingsroad Lady Stark." Wilas asked.
"It will take more than two weeks." Catelyn said. "But we will not be taking the Kingsroad. My nephew had extended the White Knife. So we will be sailing. It is faster, safer and more comfortable." She finished with a smile.
Soon they reached within the walls of the Moat and Margaery was already looking forward to her time in the Northern Realms.
Wintertown, The Northern Realms
The preparations for the Spring Festival of North were in full swing. Aryan stood and watched as people hurried along to do their work. All the Lords had already arrived. From this year the Spring Festival was going to be a grand event. Aryan enjoyed the gobsmacked look on people's faces when they witnessed the grandeur of the Colosseum. It had already been a year since he returned back and he had wasted no time. His first decision was to organise the first Northern games during the Spring Festival. Aryan had modelled the events on the basis of the Olympics but wanted it to be a yearly event. Sprinting, jumping, throwing, chariot racing and horse riding events were going to be held in Colosseum. Swimming and boat race to be held in the White Knife. As for games Aryan decided to include joust. One of his own ingenious idea was to introduce war games like capture the flag or tug of war. Most of the competitions were open to small folks also. Initially it was met with skepticism. But Aryan was also offering incredible prizes (which he planned to use the interest from the Iron Bank). Now other Lords also liked the idea and started to train their own teams enthusiastically.
As for the Kingdom itself everything was going on fine and was looking well and good. All his major projects were completed except the University which would take almost another year. One thing that had always bugged him was that the clothing of the small folk. While the nobles always had good clothes and apparels the small folk had only dirty clothes which they used again and again. Now that he had steady access to cotton from Essos, he had set up cloth mills in Lord Cerwyn's lands. Since each of the Northern Lords had some definite source of income Lord Cerwyn was left out. Aryan decided to solve that by setting up cloth mills for which the said Lord was very grateful.
Also with his guidance the Pyromancers had developed gunpowder. Since he already knew its devastative power Aryan decided to use the gunpowder only for fireworks and never in wars for at least for many years.
He had a council to meeting later with his Lords to discuss future plans for the Kingdom. Another headache was his marriage. Since he was the most eligible bachelor in Westeros he was bombarded by marriage proposals. His Lords also had used the festivals to bring their daughters to entice him. Alys Karstark, Jonelle Cerwyn, Rhonda Umber, Eddara Tallhart, Wynafryd Manderly, Meera Reed etc to name a few. Few of them had even tried to talk to him but he gently rebuffed them. He had a plan which to solve this.
It was times like these when he missed Ros. His bed-warmer was not available these days. He had sent her to Kingslanding. The last incident at Kingslanding had made him cautious and paranoid. So he had decided on building a safe house and possible escape route in times of crisis.
For this Aryan himself visited Kingslanding and was overwhelmed by its massiveness.
King's Landing was roughly square-shaped, sprawling across several miles and defended by tall walls and with manses, arbors, granaries, brick storehouses, timbered inns, merchant stalls, taverns, graveyards and brothels. There is a fish market outside the Rivergate. Hundreds of quays which were small fishing boats could be found in the harbor. Between buildings the roads are broad, lined with trees and branching alleys and streets.
The city covered the north shore of the Blackwater Rush and covers three tall hills, named after Aegon and his two sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. Aegon's High Hill, surmounted by the Red Keep, the royal castle located in the south-eastern corner of the city, overlooks the bay directly, whilst Visenya's Hill to the west is crowned by the marble-walled Great Sept of Baelor and its seven crystal towers. The Hill of Rhaenys in the north is capped by the collapsed ruins of the Dragonpit dome, its bronze doors shut for a century and a half since the last dragon died.
Behind the quays outside of the walls, there were ramshackle buildings which extended to the walls. These included bait shacks, pot shops, warehouses, merchant's stalls, alehouses, and prostitution rooms. Poor smallfolk reside in the slums of Flea Bottom, a maze of narrow streets and alleys.
He had determined that only exit points in Kingslanding were the Rivergate, the Dragongate, the Irongate, the Kingsgate, the Oldgate and the Gate of Gods. Also there were tunnels made by Maegor Targaryen but Aryan did not how to find one. So he had settled on a location which was near to both the Irongate and the Dragongate. This location had many advantages. It was where the nobility lived so there would be no unwanted questions from the Goldcloaks. Also it was near to the sea. So he had discretely brought a small mansion near Dragon Gate just a couple of miles away from flea bottom. With the help of Jaqen he was able to procure a Bravosi merchant who would stay there and cater to the nobles. He had sent Ros there to help procure shops in Flea Bottom discreetly which would soon be owned by him. He had warded the mansion. The work for a tunnel towards a small cove outside the walls had begun. At the same time he had was trying to buy many small business in Kingslanding. He had already established The Leaky Cauldron an inn near the Tobho Moats smithy. While the Bravosi merchant would deal with the business, Ros's mission was to slowly place his men into their businesses.
Aryan knew this would take time. Kingslanding was full of snakes and spies. He needed to do this without alerting the others particularly Varys, Littlefinger and Cersei. What he planned was to have the presence of his own army next time they went to Kingslanding to avoid surprises. He was patient. Missions like these required time and patience.
""I must say My Lord this place puts the Throne Room in Kingslanding to shame." William Dustin said which was echoed by many others.
All the Northern Lords were assembled at the great hall of Winterfell. Aryan was sitting on his newly crafted chair though it looked like more of a throne. It was crafted completely using magic using Weirwood. Even though it was disgusting to watch, his throne was inspired from Bloodraven entangled between the Weirwood roots. The Throne of North was a chair made from roots with branches extending in many directions. Two snarling dire wolves made of silver with ruby red eyes stood on either side.. With ceiling and parts of wall covered in mirror and beautiful candelabra the Great Hall of Winterfell looked truly marvelous.
"Thank you Lord Dustin." Aryan said.
"I agree with William, My Lord. You have good taste in. Perhaps I will do something similar back home too." Lord Ryswell said raising is glass of mead.
After many other Lords said the similar things Aryan rose from his seat. The others calmed and sat down giving him attention. "Thank you all for coming here. Seventeen name days ago when I was born I did not know anything. I had never met my Father Brandon Stark. My mother used to tell me stories about how he would soon come and take us back to the North."
Few of the Lords raised their glass. Aryan saw both his Uncles who had a sad smile.
"But he never came. What came was that he and my grandfather had died." Aryan continued. "Then fate took my mother away from me. Even my maternal grandfather Lord Ulric Dayne did not want me. If it had been anyone else they would have just declared me a bastard and would have taken the North for himself. But not mu Uncle."
He stopped for his words to sink in. "Imagine if it was someone like Tyrwin Lannister then I would have perhaps never lived past four name days. But my Uncle Eddard did not do that. When the world and gods had forsaken me he brought me here, gave me my birthright, helped bringing us glory and guided me to what I am today. For that I would like to thank you Uncle Ned."
All the Lords started to cheer loudly and some like Greatjon who was sitting near Eddard patted on his back. Eddard smiled embarassed.
A servant brought a long box. Aryan took it from her and presented it to his Uncle and said, "I know it is not much for what you did for me. But please accept this as a humble gift from me."
"You did not have to do all this nephew. You are family. What I did was the right thing. Still thank you." Eddard said as he accepted the gift and asked, "What is it?"
"Open it and see for yourself." Aryan said.
Ned opened the box and pulled out a Greatsword. Made of Valyrian Steel and hilt of Dragonbone, the blade had a green sheen to it.
"It is beautiful nephew." Aryan said.
"You had seen Ice didn't you. I decided to add some colour to your sword too." Aryan said.
Many of the Lords had attention on the sword as Ned examined the blade. Ned swung the sword experimentally but no sound came. The usual whoosh sound that comes when the blade tears though the air was absent.
"Silent as the wind itself." Benjen Stark commented.
"Then I will call it Silencer." Ned said.
Once all talk about Ned's talk died down Aryan stood up again. "Next I want to thank you all My Lords. For supporting me till now and which I expect you will continue in future."
"You are being too humble Lord Stark. You have earned our respect rightfully. The Northern Realms is changed for good. We are rich. We are powerful. All because of you. Even the smallfolk speak highly of you. You care for them and they love you." Lord Robin Flint said.
"Exactly Lord Stark. We pray for your health and hope they you continue to guide us like this." It was from one of the leader of Mountain Clans.
"Still I would like to reward all of you for the continued support that you showed me and help in development of North." Aryan said as he clapped his hands. Immediately servants came in carrying more weapons with them, all of them made of Valyrian Steel. Many of the Lord's eyes bulged out of their heads seeing that. Even his Uncle's looked surprised.
"Are those made of Valyrian Steel?" Lord Flint asked.
"Yes, Lord Flint." Aryan said enjoying surprised look on their faces.
There were longswords, bastard swords, maces, hammer, spear all made of Valyrian Steel. He distributed them accordingly. The Lords eagerly took their gifts and started to examine them.
"Thank you Lord Stark." One of them said which was echoed by many others.
"How did you acquire all these Aryan? Valyrian Steel is very rare and I can count number of such weapons in Westeros in my fingers." Ned said.
"You are right Uncle. But it is not the case in Essos. As you know the Valyrian Dragonlords had ruled most of Essos there are plenty of Valyrian Steel there. It is . just that they are hidden in the secret stashes of magisters or merchants. It is just the matter of finding them." Aryan said. "I don't know whether you know this but there are many merchants in Essos in front of whom even the Lannisters would seem like peasants."
"I can't even imagine someone richer than the Lannisters." Somebody said. "Granted that you Starks are going to be richer than them."
"Exactly. We Westerosi nobles have a bad and retarded mindset. We never innovate. All we do is make the peasants work for us to gain money. We do use our minds to find resources to increase our income. But I did. We the Northerners sat over vast but underutilized resources. I had read about the strategies of merchants in Essos. And that is how I planned on increasing our wealth. I sent men to explore our lands. With the help of Maesters Marwyn and Luwin I made detailed plans on how to ulilise our lands and resources not only for us the Starks but also for all my Lords. How to sell our products across the world. And none of you can disagree that you are richer than before. Why should only the Southerners have all the pleasures of life while we fight with the nature for living."
"Aye." "You are right." Many such resonating answers came in support of Aryan.
"Now that we have dealt with this we need to talk about settling the free folk." Aryan said as started to lay out his plans. Even though they had many time talked about this still many of the Lords were apprehensive of admitting the Free Folk into their lands. Aryan couldn't fault them because simply the Wildlings were savages. Their way of living certainly didn't help the matter. He knew that he was taking a risk. But better have them here than leaving them as fodder for the Others which would in future perhaps threaten the humanity.
Aryan had analyzed the visions showed by Bloodraven to him. He had realized that while the Others could be destroyed with the help of Valyrian Steel their horde of undead was a different problem altogether. Even if you cut their limbs of they still continue the attack. The only solution was to burn them. But when they come in large number then even with his magic to aid him Aryan knew that their chances would decrease. That is why he was so intent on bringing the Free Folk inside the Wall.
After lot of assurances they finally agreed on Lord Dustin's idea that most of the Free Folk would be settled in the West Coast. Aryan had to give credit to William. The Free Folk were martial people who were battle hardened. Like him, William also was wary of future attacks by the Ironborn. By housing the Free Folk in the Western Coast of the North, the Ironborn will face stiff resistance and will give the Northeners more time to retaliate.
"Well now I think we had finished is there anything else any of you want to discuss before we disperse." Aryan asked looking around fully aware of what was going to happen.
Few lords looked at each others faces and finally it was Lord Cerwyn who spoke, "My Lord now, it is also now time to think about marriage. We would like to know if somebody caught your eyes. There are many ladies here who would make a good wife for you and give you heirs."
He wanted marry Gabrielle. Besides there was also the matter of Arianne to consider. They now had a son. She had written to him how Doran was against her. She thanked him for bringing her mother back who was keeping Doran busy and her safe from his schemes. While polygamy was not forbidden by the Old gods he was not sure whether a Northern bride may accept a co-wife. Perhaps her father may also take offense to that. Gabi could deal with this easily. Veela's were more accepting of these things. So in order to bring Gabi here first he had to ensure that there would be no eligible ladies for him. Since both his father Brandon and Uncle Eddard had Southern wives they would want him to marry from North. So he had decided to use magic to aid him.
"As a matter of fact I had spent a lot of time thinking on it." Aryan said as he took out a bunch of parchments and passed on to the Lords. "You will find that I had made a potential marriage alliances among all the heirs and daughters here in North."
What the other's didn't know was that the parchments were enchanted with compulsion and confundus charms. The Lords would be forced to accept the alliances without questioning.
They were busy examining the parchment nodding at list.
Lord Manderly was sitting with Lord Eddard talking. Aryan had decided to betroth Robb to Wynnafryd Manderly after discussing with Eddard. It would be very beneficial alliance. Since the Manderlys controlled a large part of his navy he wanted them close. The rest he had made on his own but he had made sure that the girls and boys in the list were nearly of same age. Similarly Benjen's son was betrothed to Alys Karstark. For the time being Aryan had decided against pulling his younger cousins into his schemes. Arya was definitely a no no. Eddard had said Catelyn wanted a Southern marriage for Sansa, so he had left her off too.
"This is good My Lord. I can see how everyone could benefit from these." Rickard Karstark said seemingly happy about for his house. He was just happy to be tied to the Stark line.
"Now if none of you have any objections with the alliance we could make it official soon." Aryan said.
"Agreed My Lord." Came many voices.
"Now all that have finished that still leaves you out nephew." Benjen said.
It was Eddard who answered this time. "How many of you remember the Rogares?" He asked.
"Who?" Greatjon asked. The question was present in many of the Lord's eyes.
"I remember them having married to the Targaryens. If my memory is correct she was a Queen too." Wyman said still thinking.
"To those who don't know the Rogares are a rich family in Essos based on Lys. Once they were so rich that they even rivaled the Iron bank but due to certain unfortunate circumstances they lost much of their glory and were forgotten in time." Eddard said. "But in recent times the Rogares have re-established themselves again. They are rich and now Lysandro Rogare practically rules Lys. During his journey to Essos Aryan had a meeting with them for trade expansion. And now the Rogares want a marriage alliance with us. We believe that it would be beneficial for us in long run and help in establishing a foothold in Essos."
"Why do we need a foothold in Essos?" asked Robyn Flint.
"There are two reasons. The first is food. We cannot grow food in Winters. While we have sufficiently stored for many years we cannot be sure of how long the Winter is going to be. So with this alliance I would be able to get access to some space to grow food. As you know the climate at Lys is warm we can grow food through out the year. As for the second reason..."
Aryan nodded at William who was the military expert and commanded the Northern Army. When he had come back Aryan had received complaint from Walder Frey that the Northern Army had attacked the Frey men. Aryan had discussed that with William and came to know that Walder had tried to attack the bridge had constructed across the Green Fork. So he just wrote to Walder saying Fuck Off in the most polite way possible.
"When Lord Stark went to Lys there he met certain person. To be more precise the Captain of Golden Company. As you know that the Company of Rose was formed by those who did not like Torhen Stark bending knee to Aegon the Conqueror, they are now a reputed Mercenary Company in Essos. He had talked to the others too. You would be delighted to know that many of our descendants still live across the Narrow Sea." Willaim explained.
This elicited responses from those present who wanted to know more about them. Aryan told them in detail about the meetings and after sometime they calmed down.
William continued, "Since they also share the Northern blood Lord Stark wanted to do something for them. Bringing them here is not feasible. It may cause problems regarding inheritences. So Lord Stark arranged with the Rogares for establishing a base for the Company of Rose to protect Lys as well as to protect our acquired lands too. In return the Company of Rose had agreed to aid us in times of War."
"We could use them for surprise attacks against our enemies who would never expect such a thing." Aryan explained. But he did not reveal the aid he sent to the Company of Rose.
"So do any of you object this alliance?" Eddard asked.
Nobody said anything. Aryan sighed in relief. He had succeeded. Now even if later when the Lords think with clear minds they may not be able to raise objections as they had already signed the agreements.
"Now that we are finished I would wish all of you luck for the games. May the best win." He said as the council dispersed.
"My Lord." Rodrick Cassel came to him. "Lord Eddard's family is here. And they are accompanied by the Tyrells."
"Of course. We will go." Aryan said. Then something registered to him, "Did you say Tyrells?"
"Yes, My Lord." Replied Rodrick.
"Hmm. I had asked Wilas to come here to see to his leg." Aryan recalled back.
"It would seem the that he has been accompanied by his mother, sisters and brother." Rodrick replied.
"Then we will welcome them." Aryan said as they neared the gates of Winterfell and he saw Eddard Stark already there along with Robb who had arrived just a couple of days ago. His ward or in Aryan's words his liability Theon Greyjoy was also standing behind him. Aryan always had an eyes on the young squid. After the last encounter Theon had started to behave well enough under Stark's eyes. But when he was away from them it was a different story. While Eddard was willing to give Theon a second chance Aryan was not. It seemed his aunt also agreed with him which was why Theon instead of staying back at the Moat was here. Standing behind Eddard, Theon met Aryan's eyes and immediately looked down avoiding contact with his eyes. Aryan smirked at that. 'Fear can be so effective.' He thought.
Aryan then cautioned Rodrick, "Ser Rodrick have keep an eye on all who accompanies them. Knowing Olenna Tyrell she will try to use this opportunity well. I don't want to take any chances."
"You don't need to remind me that My Lord. I have learned enough with my time with you to expect these things." Ser Rodrick replied as they neared Eddard Stark.
"Uncle, Robb." Aryan nodded to them. "You must be excited to see the others."
"Of course My Lord." Ned nodded.
"How many times I have to tell you Uncle not to call me by the title. We are family." Aryan asked.
"Until you get used to that nephew." Ned replied with a small smile.
Knowing it will be a futile attempt to argue further Aryan turned to Robb, "And what about you Robb? You had not seen them for almost a year?"
"Yes cousin. I missed them. I am looking forward to meet them." Robb nodded.
"How is your time at Barrowtown?" Aryan asked.
"I must say it has been very exciting. Unlike at Moat Cailin where everything is peaceful Lord Dustin some times send me to deal with the bandits along with his men." Robb replied.
"William has been exceptional in fostering him. A couple more years Robb will be ready to bear the burden of administration." Ned told Aryan. He then addressed Robb, "Just don't tell you mother about the more dangerous parts of your fostering. You know how she is. She will worry unnecessarily and will start asking me to call you back."
"Yes. And that will defeat the purpose." Aryan agreed.
"Of course father." Robb nodded.
"Come with me for a moment nephew." Eddard said as he led Aryan to some distance from the others. After making sure that they nobody could overhear them Eddard asked, "Robert had written a letter to me."
"His Grace really wrote a letter to you?" Aryan asked.
"I was also surprised when I read it. Never expected him of such a task. Regardless he did." Ned said. "He was congratulating me that you had sired a bastard with the Princess of Dorne."
"Oh," said Aryan. 'If the King knows then it then the whole Kingdom knows.'
"Do you have to say anything about this." Eddard asked again.
"I have a reason for this Uncle." Aryan said. "I am trying to prevent Dorne from going against us."
"What reason would Dorne have to go against us. The seven Kingdoms are in peace. Even though what happened with the Martells was unfortunate Jon Arryn had resolved it peacefully." Ned said.
"That is where you are wrong Uncle. Doran is a long term schemer which makes him even dangerous than Tywin. Along with the others he also holds us responsible for the death of his sister and her children." Aryan said.
"While I can agree to your reasons I still do not understand how that will affect us. We can easily defeat Dorne." Eddard said puzzled.
"The Martells had signed a contract with Ser William Darry on the behalf of Targaryens at Bravos to marry Arianne to Viserys. In exchange to Arianne becoming a Queen they Dorne would provide military support. For this Doran is bringing the whole of Dorne under his hold. Dissenters are dying. Just like Uncle Ulric." Aryan said.
"Ulric was killed?" Ned asked surprised.
"He had been poisoned over the years. It seems they wanted to mold Edric and through him get the support of Starfall. Uncle Ulric realised it and hence sent Edric here. I am sure Gerold is under Doran." Aryan informed him. "That is why I had to do this. Arianne is more interested in ruling Dorne than becoming a Targaryen Queen. So we talked and did this. Now Doran's plans have derailed to some extent."
"I had known. But still the child would be called a bastard." Ned lamented.
"No Uncle. No child of mine will be a bastard. I have plans and if they succeed the future Prince of Dorne will have Stark blood running through him." Aryan promised.
"They are here." Rodrick announced as they saw a small procession nearing them. The White knife had been widened enough that the Marauder could easily sail through it and dock. Also the small river dock of Wintertown was very busy one. The use of boats for travel as well as transportation of goods had been very successful. The Tyrells had came all the way in Houseboats. It had been Aryan's idea which he had seen in Southern India during his travels. He had built one for him at Winterfell. Soon every Lord in the Northern Realms had ordered one for themselves. It was such a great success that the builders had also got orders from Essos too.
The group approached them. Aryan led his group as he went towards them.
"I welcome all of you to Heart of the Northern Realms. Welcome to Winterfell. The hospitality and pleasures of Winterfell is yours."
After the usual pleasantries the group were led inside.
As Aryan led them inside Margaery latched on to his arm.
Aryan turned his attention to her and asked, "I had hoped after our last meeting that you would stop your attempts at seducing me."
Margaery suddenly blushed. Garlan Tyrell who was besides his sister started to laugh.
Composing herself she replied, "A lady can try. Perhaps you would have changed your mind."
"It has been only a year. I don't see much change in you that could change my mind." He replied back.
Perhaps to save his sister from further embarrassment Garlan changed the subject and asked, "The whole place looks rather new for one of the oldest castles in Westeros."
"We had renovated and expanded Winterfell. Our Stark ancestors had designed Winterfell with minimum low vanity. I mean there had been nothing here other than essential things. But times have changed so must we. That is why with help of Uncle Ned I redesigned Winterfell." Aryan replied.
"I love these blue roses." Margaery said as they passed a small garden. The gardens in Winterfell were specially designed with plants that could withstand the cold. In times of snow they were covered with detachable glass walls.
"Ah the Blue winter roses. It is a true Northern beauty. Sadly it cannot grow in warm climate. You can enjoy them here only." Ned answered from back. Eddard very much loved these flowers. It was a reminder of Lyana.
Near the guest wing of the castle the Castellan and his assistant were waiting for them. They led the Tyrells inside. While the other Starks walked towards the Great Keep.
Jaqen stayed behind just enough to say, "It has been done. The men are on the way," and promptly went away without waiting for a reply.
He saw Edric standing with Arya. He approached him, "How are you Edric?"
"I am good cousin. Lord Eddard has started to teach me how to be Lord." He said.
"That is good to hear. Did you gain any new friends." Aryan asked.
Edric pointed to Arya. "She is?"
"So are you and Edric good friends Arya?" He asked her.
"Yes. We like playing together. Unlike Sansa and her friends Beth Cassel and Jeyne Poole, Edric sometimes plays sword fighting with me." Arya said. "But you had not kept your promise."
"What promise?" Aryan asked though he knew she was asking about teaching her swordfighting.
"You promised to find me a sword fighting instructor." She said.
"Who said I didn't?" He asked her back.
Suddenly her eyes changed glittered with happiness."You did. Why didn't you tell me?"
"It was funny to see you pout." He told her with a laugh while she scowled. "Go with your Father. He will take you to Syrio Florel your new instructor."
Arya jumped and hugged him. Then she started to drag Edric with her towards Eddard. "Come on Father. I want to start right away."
"A Lady should not use weapons. A lady's armor is courtesy. Lord Stark I urge you to not give that girl these lessons. She would not find a proper husband." Septa Mordane said.
"Your opinion is duly noted and totally discarded. There is nothing wrong about learning defensive skills. If tomorrow she is attacked by someone she is not going to be save by the courtesy." He told her.
"But how will she find a husband." Sansa pipped.
'Clearly her beauty is inversely proportional to her brains.' Aryan thought. He told her, "Not everyone's aim in life is to get married, have children and spend rest of their life in a castle as a Lady looking after her family. About Arya, I am sure she will find a husband in who will accept for what she is."
Eddard decided to take them inside not to deteriorate the stayed behind. "Aunt Catelyn, I would like to have a word with you."
Eddard nodded to him while the others looked on with puzzled faces. Aryan sent them forward and asked Ser Rodrick to accompany told them, "Uncle Benjen, Aunt Dacey and your cousins had already arrived. Why don't you meet them."
When he was sure they were alone he asked, "How is our new guest settling?"
After arriving back at Starkhaven from Kingslanding Aryan had not stopped there. After dropping his Uncle along with Rhaella he had hurried back to Winterfell. Rhaella had her old signet ring in her hand. Aryan without her knowledge had enchanted that ring with a mild notice-me-not charm along with a compulsion charm so that she never removed her ring. He had also sent one of Faceless men who used to work as a jeweler at Wintertown to the Moat to take care of any surprises. Even though he had magic to aid him he was not foolish enough to attract unwanted attention, especially Robert Baratheon's wrath. The Stag King had a soft corner for Starks. That is why Aryan was not willing to derail that relation.
"She is settling well nephew." Catelyn replied. "Though I must say it is causing me sleepless nights. What you, I mean we are doing is essentially treason."
"I know that. But consider it an act of kindness towards a woman who has lost everything in her life. At least you can provide her that. I could have brought her here with me. But I thought it would be more better if she had company of women to help her." Aryan thought.
"You had done the right thing nephew. Actually I feel sorry for her. I had seen her as a Queen in her regal stature. Now seeing her as a broken woman is something I do cannot bear to see. But don't worry I will take care of her." She assured him.
"Did she attract any attention?" Aryan asked.
"You had done well in disguising her. The dark hair instead of the usual silver hair of Targaryens itself is a very good disguise. I had told everyone that she is Septa. But that itself is a problem now." Catelyn said.
"How?" Aryan asked.
"She seems to hate the gods. She never visits the Sept or never speaks of the Seven." Catelyn said. "Septa Mordane had become suspicious of her."
'The Gods did not do anything for her. A failed marriage and an abusive husband. Her children dead or lost. She must hate the Gods.' Aryan thought. "I hope you can deal with that."
"Don't worry My Lord. If cannot handle at this, then I am a failure as a Lady of a Great House." Catelyn said. "Besides both Ned and I are sure that you are also keeping an eye. So it is not like we are having much problems. And I must tell you this from the day Ned told her that Prince Viserys and Princess Daenarys are alive at Pentos there has been a visible change in her. Her eyes have hope."
"Good to hear that." Aryan said.
"I hope you are not planning to give shelter to them too?" Catelyn asked.
Aryan hummed in thought then said. "I don't know. Truthfully I had not given any thought to that. From what I heard Viserys seems like a lost cause. He is already showing the Targaryen madness. I don't know anything about Daenarys. But suffice to say they I feel that they are continuously watched and are pawns of a bigger scheme." He told her.
"Then what are you going to do?" She asked.
"I am working on it. Though sometimes I wonder why I am doing this. The Targaryens brought only misery and grief to us. Grandfather, Father and Aunt Lyana," He said.
"Because it is the right thing to do." She said to him.
"I hope so too." He told her as he finished the conversation.
Margaery was walking through Wintertown towards the Stadium. She could see large number of people going the same way. The sun was setting. Even though she wore warm clothing she still occasionally shivered. She really liked the new clothes. They were not the usual fur. Instead it was just like clothes with threads made using fur which the sellers were calling sweaters.
While she enjoyed the time here she was also frustrated. She had tried to gather information. She had many ladies in waiting. On the instructions of her grandmother many of them had tried to use their feminine charms on the people here. Their prime had been the Castellan Jaqen to get the information about the wealth of the Starks and secrets of the castle. But it failed. In fact they failed to get even a reaction from him. Next like many others they tried to get the secret of glass. But they were not even allowed inside.
"Still disappointed that you could not find anything here little sister." Garlan teased.
"Stop it." Margaery said with pout. She herself had tried to get close with Robb Stark and get something out of him. But like all the Starks she had met even Robb proved to be very guarded.
"Give your scheming mind a rest sister. I know Grandmother wants best. You know that methods have not succeeded here. So why don't you stop trying and enjoy the night. I heard that there is going to be a surprise today." Garlan said.
"I don't like surprises anymore. I may not know much about wars and strategy. But after coming here and seeing the castles suddenly I fear how inferior the castles of Reach are." Margaery said.
"That does not surprise me sister. I remember Lord Tarly visiting Cider Hall when I was being fostered by the Fossoways. My Goodfather has a great respect for Lord Randyl Tarly. Even though Father has never given him enough credit to him Lord Tarly is still loyal to our house. Lord Tarly had said no outsider has ever held the North. At that time I was young and more like Loras. I had asked him why. With enough men we can take even the most well defended castle perhaps if we have enough men, say the rest of the six kingdoms together against the North, we could easily defeat them."
"And what did he say?" Margaery asked.
"He told me that the unlike the other Kingdoms the North is secured from all sides. The Naval forces of Starks and Manderly's at the East and the Western coasts. The wall will protect them from the North. Then there is the Moat Cailin. You must know it was the Moat that stopped the Andals. Perhaps the North could have been defeated a couple of years ago. But the first thing the Starks did was to secure the North from all sides and they succeeded. Perhaps we never told you this but Wilas and I from the day we arrived are trying to find out what the military strength of the North is." Garlan said.
"Why do you want to know that? I think the North could field at the most Forty thousand men." Margaery said.
"But that was till King Robert's rebellion. It was after that the North started to grow and more people started to come here. That means surely the North could muster a larger host." Garlan reasoned.
"Oh. I didn't think of that." Margaery said.
"Exactly. Good thing Lord Randyl had thought of this and told me. Along with Wilas I had been trying to get to know the military strength of the Lords of North. Normally the Lords I have seen seem too happy to tell their military strength, to show how powerful they are. But here everyone seems to be guarded not all interested in boasting unlike the Reach Lords. It is like that something big is going to happen in the coming years." Garlan said.
They siblings walked silently towards the stadium where they Wilas was waiting. The sky was darkening as they neared their seats which was quite near to the Starks themselves. Wilas was sitting near Aryan talking. When he noticed them coming he called out, "Brother. Sister come sit near us." He indicated two seats near him.
Both of them first bowed to Aryan before taking their seats. Wilas said, "I was just congratulating Aryan about his betrothal."
"Lord Stark is getting married?" Margaery asked unable to hide the surprise in her tone. She almost slapped herself when she saw Aryan looking at her with a raised eyebrow evidently noticing her tone.
"Do you have any object My Lady?" He asked with a smile.
She shook her head and said quickly, "No, My Lord I was just surprised."
Further conversation was halted when Benjen Stark came to get Aryan. "Everything is ready nephew."
"I will be back in a moment." Aryan said and followed his Uncle.
"Who is he going to marry?" Magaery asked in a whisper to Wilas.
"You would be surprised." Wilas said.
"Come on tell me. The most eligible bachelor at present in the seven Kingdoms is going to be married. I want to know who it is." Margaery asked again.
"Gabriella Rogare." Wilas said.
"Don't play your silly games with me brother. There is no such house as Rogare in Westeros." Margaery said rolling his eyes. But seeing the seriousness in his eyes she began to think. 'Where have I heard of Rogares?'
Suddenly it struck her. "You mean as in the Rogares of Lys who were once wedded with the Targaryens."
"The very same." Wilas agreed.
"I thought they were dead. After what happened to Larra Rogare soon the Rogares were ruined." Margaery said trying to remember the history.
"We were wrong. But they are now the most powerful in Lys." Wilas said.
"But why are the Starks marrying outside Westeros." Margaery wondered.
"I don't know. You tell me. Or better yet when you go back ask Grandmother." Wilas said. Then he whispered, "Aryan is coming back."
Both the siblings recomposed themselves.
Taking back his seat Aryan announced. "We are about to begin."
"What?" She heard Arya Stark shouting from her seat. Margaery also wondered. In fact she could see all people confused as a horn blew. Suddenly out of nowhere she saw a shooting star. But something was not right. Instead of falling from the sky here it was rising from ground into the sky. 'What?' She asked again in her mind. And then the star exploded with a small boom.
"By the seven." She said aloud clutching her chest as she saw the colourful scattering of light. The whole crowd was silent and soon they exploded shouting.
"Is this the surprise you were talking about nephew?" She heard Dacey Stark asked Aryan.
"It is. Did you like it." Aryan asked as more stars rose from the ground and exploding in the sky in different colours.
"It is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life." Said Dacey.
"I agree." Said Catelyn.
"What is this thing?" Wilas asked Aryan.
"Fireworks." Aryan answered.
"I can see." Wilas said with a laugh as more followed. The fireworks continued well for the Night.
"LET THE GAMES BEGIN."
Melissandre will come within a couple of chapters.
Tyrells travelling to the Northern Realms in not for plot progress. After reading 'The World of Ice and Fire' I realised that no Lords ever travel to the North with the exception of King Robert. Margaery reporting back to Olenna what she had seen may perhaps change Tyrell manipulations accordingly after all the Lannisters are no longer the most powerful in Westeros.
Till next update...