Chapter 9: Times of Peace
Tyrion hobbled into his father's solar. A full year had passed since Lannisport burned. Tywin had been named Hand of the King after Jon Arryn resigned in protest. Robert decided to name Tywin Hand out of sheer spite. The relationship between Eddard Stark and Jon Arryn had also been wrecked by the massacre of the Ironborn. The Alliance that put Robert on the throne was being held together by the Tully and Lannister marriages alone.
Tywin was, as usual, writing something at his desk, so instead of going to the chair, Tyrion decided to head for the desk with the wine. Something about his own family hating him just made him drink more - which,incidentally, made his father hate him even more. Life worked in ironic ways like that. Tyrion was tempted to do the tumbling trick that his father had forbidden him from doing, but he instead grabbed a bushel of grapes and began tossing them high and catching them in his misshapen mouth.
He could see the vein in Tywin's forehead bulge with every grape. Tyrion anticipated Tywin would break within six grapes but Tywin held off till the ninth, impressing his youngest son.
"Stop that and sit in the chair before I drown you in the wine you so love"
"Oh father dearest, I already do so every day and still live to do more of the same the following day"
"You're coming to King's Landing with me"
"Why? Does my sister really miss me so? Or do you want to humiliate me in front of a different court for once?"
"You will clean the sewers of Kings Landing. I will not have the city smell of shit under my rule."
"Congratulations on being named King. When is the coronation ceremony, Your Grace?" Tyrion mocked.
"If you do your job within a year, I will let you go to Dragonstone and stay with Gerion for a year after that," Tywin said, annoyed.
"Just how badly is the realm fucked that you must come to me for help?" Tyrion asked sardonically.
"The Iron Throne is four million dragons in debt."
"FOUR? That is after the North paid almost ten as tax for the butchering of the Iron Islands? Just how is the King managing that?"
"It's not just the King. Your sister helps plenty. The books of the Master of Coin don't lie. The Iron Bank is willing to give loans after the North repaid all of theirs before schedule."
"Just how did the North pull off another miracle? The Canal itself was a fucking stupid investment. They could not possibly have enough gold to finance that without our help. Or after taxing trade through it for the next hundred years after it was built. Moreover, how did they clear out five islands before we managed to do two?"
"That is what I intend to find out. The Ironborn foolishly charged the Northmen in open battle while we were forced to siege them. Ned Stark was all too willing to pay the 10 million. The North probably raided the Royal Treasury during the Rebellion but there is no proof. Besides, accusing them without proof is beyond stupid. They could not have known the Ironborn would rebel. So where did they get so much gold from?"
Tyrion considered that for a moment. "I have many theories. Each more unlikely than the last. I heard rumors of rats breaking into granaries and drowning themselves with a full belly into Ironborn wells. No food, no water, no siege and the Ironborn are forced to fight the Northmen on the open field. Did they sell a Valyrian sword to settle the debt? Possibly Nightfall. But House Stark has kept the sword in Moat Cailin for some reason. Perhaps they found a Valyrian suit of armor and sold it to the Iron Bank? That could not have possibly been kept quiet. Another one is a secret agreement with Braavos supplying them with lumber. No shipments, however, to show for it."
"Your whores, I presume."
"They do put their mouths to such innovative use."
"You would get along well with the Master of Coin. He has grown his own little network of whorehouses."
"Please. I'd much rather be friends with the King. He seems to be running short of them recently and Littlefinger prefers to make money off of whores instead of fucking them."
"You just might be the only Lannister he likes. Now leave. You have a city's worth of shit to shovel."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you almost liked my work at Lannisport." Tyrion said as a parting smirk. There was no way he would allow Tywin to have the last word in any conversation. But Tyrion was oddly looking forward to meeting his Uncle Gerion and his daughter, Joy Hill. Apart from his Aunt Gemma, they were the only people who loved him as a family should.
Ned Stark sat in front of the Godswood meditating. He had begun the practice after returning from the Iron Islands. It made the nightmares slightly less terrible. It was Robb's tenth name day and Ned had called him, Jorah and Daenerys to teach them personally. The three children raced into the Godswood and sat next to him.
Ned slowly stood up and sat on a root of the Weirwood.
"All right then. Sansa, you need not hide behind the tree. You can join them. I won't mind"
"How do you always know, father?"
"It's time I teach you how. Yes. All fourthree of you. Jorah, you are my blood. And Daenerys, you may not have my blood but you still are my daughter. Sansa, we will do the same ceremony with you on your tenth name day, okay?"
"Aye father." all of them replied.
"Alright then. Robb, Jon. Place your hands on the trunk. Girls, I will need your help. In that bowl is a mix of weirwood tree sap, leaves and seed. Place some of it over both of their eyes."
The weirwood paste was applied over their eyes as they knelt. "Okay girls step back. And whatever you see, say nothing of this to anyone else. This is a Stark family secret. Promise?"
They nodded solemnly. Daenerys also had tears in her eyes at being considered a part of House Stark.
Ned placed one of his hands on Robb and Jorah's shoulders and began chanting in the Old Tongue. The weirwood paste began glowing with a faint red light. The winds began flowing as the leaves rustled. The trunk of the Weirwood began glowing with runes of the Old Men as they formed circles around the point where the hands of the boys touched the trunk. After a few moments the glowing runes disappeared.
Sansa rushed forwards and hugged her father.
"It's okay, little one. Everything is alright."
"Father. Thank you," Robb said
"What just happened? I thought the Maesters said magic was dead?" Daenerys asked.
"Okay, all of you. Come here. It's time I told you all."
The children rushed forward and sat in front of him. Theyoften sat huddled like this when Ned told his stories.
"Magic is real. Always has been, and always will be. Magic flows through everything and everyone. What we just did was an ancient Stark ceremony to see if a child could be a warg and awaken your Wolfsblood slowly. Tell me Robb, what did you see?"
"I was training in the yard and I saw myself swing a sword but then I felt like I was running through the Wolfswood. It was winter and snow was everywhere. I was running on all fours like a wolf. I think I saw a few shadows of people but I couldn't be sure. But I could feel them. The Old Gods."
"Robb, you are a warg. The Starks of old defeated the Warg king of the Wolfswood and married his daughter during the conquest of the North. The blood of wargs flows strong in us. Jorah, what did you see?" Ned explained
"I was running, like Robb said. But then, I began flying. I flew over the entire North. I saw Bear Island, Moat Cailin, a fort on a hill, and the Wall."
"Aye. You will be a warg as well as a greenseer. But you both will need to train. I want you both to work harder in the yard. You need to train your body and remember what it feels like before you leave it. You need to gain control over your Wolfsblood as well. It will take time and effort but you can master it."
"Is Uncle Benjen a warg or a greenseer, father?"
"Both your uncle and I are only wargs. We found out we were wargs when we were too old, so we can't be as strong as you two. I will teach you all I can. But be warned. Do not take this lightly. Do not experiment. These are ancient powers and there is a steep price to be paid for mistakes."
"Father, how will I learn how to be a greenseer?"
"It is a problem to be dealt with another day when you are stronger and older. For now, go train in the yard for the rest of the day until you are about to pass out. Come find me and I will teach you how to meditate. Sansa? Go watch over baby Arya and Bran. And don't tell your mother about what you saw. She can be scary even to me," Ned said in a conspiratorial whisper.
Sansa giggled and followed her brothers back to the castle. Dany was about to follow her when Ned asked her to wait.
"Daenerys, you are old enough to know the truth of what happened to your family."
"It's alright, Lord Stark. I know. Your stories were easy to decipher"
"Those stories are what the realm believe happened. Your family was not all terrible. Don't make the mistake the King does when talking about the Targaryens. Your mother was beautiful, kind, generous and a queen amongst women. Your brother was an innocent child as were your nephew and niece. I regret their deaths every day. But there are still members of your family who live. Maester Aemon at Castle Black for instance. I have asked for him to visit the University but he is coming to see you. He is an old man and his vision is failing him. Would you like to see him?"
Tears were streaming down the little girl's face. Every time she ventured out into the Wintercity, she heard whispers in the streets calling her the Mad King's daughter and dragonspawn. Even after hiding her silver hair, the distrust of the North was apparent to her. A part of her raged and fumed and desperately wanted to prove them wrong, but a part of her also hurt every time she heard the Targaryen name be cursed in the streets. Sometimes she even felt jealous of Jorah because he could hide his heritage and choose who he wanted to be. But Maester Aemon was just like her. A dragon left without his kind.
"Please. I'd like to meet him father." She said with tears in her eyes.
She couldn't hold it together anymore and ran towards Ned and hugged him and broke down in tears. Ned held her and comforted her. After she broke into hiccups, he placed a finger under her chin and made her look into his eyes.
"People will call you many names. But I will always and forever more, proudly call you my daughter. I have also asked Archmaester Marwyn to teach you and Measter Aemon any and all Valyrian magic possible. You are the last of the Valyrians and you should not let your heritage die."
Mors Umber was fucking pissed. When he came to Hardhome he looked forward to killing Wildlings. And now, here he was, seven years later only one coronation away from being called a King Beyond the Wall.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Mors boomed. "Mance fucking Rayder. A man of the Nights Watch calling all the elders of the Freefolk together is a fucking joke in the first place. The only reason I'm not laughing is because a fourth of the Elders fucking showed up in the first place. Now I don't know what the fuck you were thinking, but why should anyone trust your word, Oathbreaker?"
"I broke the oath because I had to. The Others are coming. The Night's Watch would not believe me. They'd have killed me if I'd stayed." Mance said heatedly.
"So instead of trying to convince them you fled like a craven."
"WHAT WAS I TO DO? Alliser Thorne and his cronies from Kings Landing were planning on killing me!"
"I heard a different story, Mance. One where a man of the Night's Watch was attacked by a shadowcat and fell in love with a girl. She mended his black cloak with red silk and the man left the Watch in turn."
"Aye. I did. The watch captured me as a boy and made me swear their oaths. Living with the Freefolk made me understand what freedom was. I could not go back to the shackles of the Watch."
"So it was not the Others that made you leave the Watch and break your oaths. It was the cloak that you wear with red silk in it. Still fucking sounds like an Oathbreaker to me. Beyond the Wall there are no laws to follow. But you have broken an oath taken in front of a Weirwood. Why should anyone trust your word?"
"You say that as if I had a choice. I may have broken my oaths but the Others will kill us all, Oathbreakers or not."
"Oh I believe you about the Others. I just don't trust you to do anything about it. You brought ten elders and leaders of the Freefolk in one place to make you King Beyond the Wall. The only reason it did not work was you did not believe the stories about Hardhome. And now I have to fucking deal with this bullshit."
"Who the fuck would have believed Mors 'Crowfood' Umber himself was building a city at Hardhome. I half expected it to be a trap to massacre 'wildlings'. Your daughter was stolen and you've been thirsting for the blood of the Freefolk since. How do we believe you will keep us safe and not kill us in our sleep?" Mance asked angrily.
"Fuck you, you honorless cunt. Aye, I came here for the blood of Wildlings. Aye. But I found those who stole my daughter. No custom of the free folk allows for six men to take one wife and leave her for dead after using her. I killed them as slow as a Red King of old for what they did. Since then I have been doing what Lord Stark asked of me and make a safe haven for the Freefolk. Hardhome was once a prosperous city burned to ash, but the North Remembers and a Stark wishes well for his kin. He has the blood of Bael, remember?"
Mors took a swig from his horn of ale. "Hardhome is now a fully functional city and fuck the superstitions about it being cursed. Here's what I'm prepared to do. Harma and Rattleshirt, I fought you both and beat you both. If you agree to set aside your feud, I will find a place for you at Hardhome. I offer you heart, food and water sworn by blood and weirwood. I shall arm you with armor and steel and not ask you to kneel. I have neither shed blood of or for either the Hornfoots or the Nightrunners. I extend the same offer to you as well if you can keep your feud aside. Great Walrus, Bear and Elk, all of your three clans from the Frozen Shore are welcome. Tell me, is it true what they say about the Ice River clans?"
"Aye. They eat people." Great Walrus said.
"We only eat corpses of those that have died or been killed. We do not kill for sport, you frozen cunt," one of the leaders of the Ice River clans defended. The Frozen Shore clans had fought the Ice River clans for generations. However, Mors could not allow them to eat human flesh.
"Any that consume human flesh are not welcome at Hardhome. You can join the Oathbreaker. I will not have you under my protection. Now take him and fuck off. The only reason you all are alive is because of guest rites. I will give you one day. Run as far as you can as fast as you can. And hope I find you before the Others. I will burn your bodies but only to deny them a corpse to raise." Mors said.
The Ice river clans left immediately in a rush as did Mance. The next morning, Mors was readying his horses when a scout returned with news of a clan coming towards them. He decided to seek them out before they reached the campsite. Mors was expecting a war party made of armed men. He instead found women and children accompanying the men. This was no war party. He decided to ride down with a few dozen men. Enough to not make it look like an attack but not make them look like easy prey either.
"Who leads this clan?" Mors asked
"Tormund Giantsbane is the name. Who asks?"
"Mors Umber. You the fucker who slept with a giant?"
"Nay I'm the fucker that was nursed by one," Tormund said with a loud booming laugh.
"Oh wait. That was my ancestors that slept with giants then," Mors replied and laughed with him. "What brings you here, Giantsbabe?"
"I heard the elders from many warring clans were meeting under guest rite. I came for the ale and action!"
"Aye they did. You missed the action but there is still ale to be had. Have some bread and salt first."
The clan slowly made their way to the campsite. Since there were many warring factions coming for a truce, a neutral spot was chosen beneath the Fist of the First Men. Tormund and Mors met in their tent soon after. Mors caught him up with the deals made with the clans and offered them refuge at Hardhome.
"I see what you mean, Crowfood. I understand. But my clan is bigger than Harma's or Rattleshirt'. They are warring clans. I have built my clan on strength alone. It is that which protects every member of my clan. You need to prove you can beat me before they accept your offer."
"Aye. I will not fight you with weapons. I want to see what drinking a giantesses' milk has done for you Talltalker," Mors said with a grin
"Oh your ancestors fucked a giant before the Wall went up. I'll cut off my beard if you still have their blood in you, One-eye."
"There are many ways of combat, Giantsfart. Which would you choose to face the blood of giants?"
"Wrestle me for it in your furs and we'll see which one of us is strongest, Kneeler."
"Didn't take you for a sword swallower but you didn't crawl into the giantesses stomach, it was her ass. That is why she thought you her child, Giantstink"
The two continued bantering and name calling as they made their way to an open area. Men, women and children alike gathered around them to watch. Tormund was a fighter of well renown to the Freefolk and they looked forward to seeing how the kneeler fared against him.
The two men circled each other until they both stopped talking. Mors and Tormund charged at each other. The two locked hands and pushed and pulled. Mors suddenly grabbed Tormund by the furs, turned around and shoved Tormund with his hip. This lifted the big man into the air and he landed hard on his back. Mors refused to attack him while down and waited for Tormund to catch his breath.
"That was new." Tormund muttered.
The two men charged each other again and this time, Tormund feinted a swipe at Mors' left leg, but instead grabbed his other leg and grabbed it and lifted it high in the air. A quick swipe with the other leg took the off balance Umber straight to the ground and laid him on his back. Mors and Tormund both had great big smiles stretches across their faces. Neither had faced an opponent that could match them. However, Mors had been trained by his elder brother Jon and was used to beat downs.
Mors feigned an injury in his leg and laid a bait. Tormund saw it and attacked. Tormund grabbed Mors around his chest and tried to lift him by taking out the strong leg. Mors instead twisted around and grabbed Tormund in turn and lifted him. The blood of Giants had long been rumored to flow amongst the members of House Umber. But nothing really came close to the stories as watching Mors Umber lift a six and half foot man over his head and swing him around like a rag doll by his foot and smash him into the ground. Tormund's clan happily followed Mors back to Hardhome as a friendship quickly built between Mors and Tormund.
As the summer flourished, the North did as well. Trade between Essos and Westeros boomed with the new Northern Canal. Lannisport, Seaguard, and Lycansvart were the ports to most benefit from the new trade. With Tywin as Hand again, the Seven Kingdoms hoped to flourish again. However, the King had his own designs. The fractures between the North, the Vale and the King had become transparent quickly. The Baratheon King was ruling in eccentric ways.
Tywin had made an attempt to secure control over the Iron Islands but by King's command, the Islands were handed over to the Tullys. Tywin did not like this but said nothing as he was a newly made Hand. Subtle sabotage was easier and Hoster Tully was no longer the ruler he once was. Tywin instead chose to finance the development and expansion of Seaguard. The Mallisters would soon be able to challenge the Tullys with the right incentives and stay beholden to Tywin. A highborn Lannister daughter being married to a Mallister bastard was a small compromise to make.
The Vale quickly isolated itself from the Realm and Jon Arryn focused his efforts on taming the Mountain clans and training his son Robin to be a better man than either of his wards. He was also blessed with a daughter he named Betha. Robin was a healthy child and was growing to be a healthy boy. Jon took comfort in the fact that his trueborn son would carry the legacy of the Arryns forward and not let their honor down like his foster sons had.
The Reach, being an agrarian economy, bounced back slowly but resolutely after the pillaging by Euron. Plans were made to increase trade and make back the money lost to the Ironborn as well as the expected sale of grains to the North during winter. Ironically, the University of Frost provided a way for the Reach to make money.
An Acolyte had designed a new type of ship called a clipper. The ship was deceptively fast on open waters and had large cargo carrying capacity. These ships began running from Bear Island with a very new type of cargo. Ice. Huge chunks of Ice were broken off from the Frozen shore and quickly shipped south towards Dorne. The faster they made it south, the more money they made.
The Onion Knight became one of the best to sail these journeys and was given a castle on Old Wyk by Lord Tully. The ice allowed for the Reach to sail ships with fresh fruit and produce to sail further away and reach the free cities. New markets were opened up as trade flowed fast and hard across the Narrow Sea. However, this new trade meant the Crownlands and the Stormlands suffered and this bred resentment against the King.
Another Acolyte discovered the secret to making glass and was promptly sent to Dorne. The North did not have the sands necessary to produce the glass and were not equipped to deal with the assassins the Myrrish glassmakers would inevitably send. So the Dornish began producing glass and defended against Myr as well. The North became a major buyer of glass as glass gardens spread across holdfasts.
The Citadel was none too happy about the new discoveries made by the University of Frost and made many attempts to discredit them. Most of the Lords in the south refused to entertain new ideas from the University. Some were even outright poisoned and killed. This was ignored in the south but when the Maester at White Harbor killed an Acolyte by poison, he was immediately beheaded. The Citadel refused to send a Maester and an Acolyte was chosen to replace him instead.
This increased the tension between White Harbor and the Reach, but when the High Septon attempted to use the Septons in White Harbor to force the issue, Wyman Manderly took a drastic step. The Shield of the Faith announced that the Sept of the Snows would be dismantled and the statues of the Seven present there would be sent to the Sept of Baelor. House Manderly formally announced they would be renouncing the Faith of the Seven and severing all ties with the Reach. This resulted in small pockets of the Faith Militant being formed in secret all over the South.
When a Septon attempted to order Robert to do something as the Defender of the Faith, Robert got annoyed by his preaching and banished him from King's Landing. He made a Royal proclamation stating that House Manderly had done no wrong and were free to practice their faith. No desecrations of the Sept had occurred, and it was respectfully dismantled, hence no Royal intervention was necessary.
Kings Landing had become a tense and dangerous place to be. People unused to the city tended to disappear quickly. Tyrion's efforts had resulted in the capital not smelling like shit. However, that made the scent of blood all the more apparent. The city was busy tearing itself apart slowly but the King was too drunk and the Hand had no time for the opinion of sheep to notice.
The Spider was perhaps the happiest he had been. The Seven Kingdoms were on the verge of declaring war on each other. His nephew was growing up to be a promising king. Sending him with Jon Connington and the Gold Company was turning promising results. The realm would tear itself apart due to the absence of the Red Dragon and a Black Dragon King would ride in and put it back together again. But for now, peace needed to be maintained and the realm kept from bleeding until the King was ready.
Religious tensions were spreading across the Reach and Westerlands. It was only Tywin and Olenna taking care of the problems in the shadows that kept things from boiling over. The Dornish were not a people to take the Seven very seriously. Fanatical Septons tended to disappear in the desert. The Riverlands, the Crownlands and the Stormlands all, however, saw small pockets of bandits and sellswords marking themselves with the Seven Pointed Star.
This tension however went largely unnoticed in the North. This isolation between the North and the other Kingdoms had grown more severe with the self-reliance of the North. Braavos became a major trade partner and White Harbor grew and expanded. The Road network of the North also expanded. Winter road linked Lycansvart, Torrhen's Square, Winterfell and White Harbor. The Blood road began in White Harbor and headed north linking Hornwood, Dreadfort and split into a fork to head towards Last Hearth and Karhold each. The Woods road was built to link Lycansvart and Winterfell to Deepwood Motte by going around the Wolfswood. The Horse road was built by the Ryswells and Dustins to link them to the road network from the Rills.
The friendship between Domeric Bolton, Smalljon Umber and Asher Forrester had also grown. The three boys had admirably held their own during the Greyjoy rebellion. They had taken to travelling to all the keeps around the north and dealt with bandits along the way. They earned praise and renown amongst the smallfolk for their deeds and help.
Domeric had heard about his half-brother and had sought him out. The only thing that saved his life was Smalljon dragging him and Asher to the Dreadfort in time. Ramsay Snow however, disappeared after the attempted poisoning attempt. The blood of the giants protected Smalljon from the poison killing him, but cost him his characteristic booming voice and left him with a raspy sound in his throat. But perhaps the worst affliction he suffered from, according to his companions, was the gas he let off for a week that made Domeric and Asher wish they were dead.
Robb and Jorah meanwhile trained furiously against each other. The two brothers pushed each other in the training yard as well as the library. They had even taken to disguising like their father and visiting the Debate Halls of the University. Daenerys joined them in the evenings and the three debated ideas late in the evening. It was in one of these discussions that led to the trio requesting a meeting with Lord Stark.
They sat in front of their father and nervously shuffled in their seats. Robb began by saying, "Father, Jon and I are now soon to be grown men. And we think we should be sent to foster with different lords. We know Dany can't leave because the King forbade it but we have plans for us."
Ned looked at them amused and decided to humor them. "Elaborate"
Jorah decided to take over and said, "Robb needs to get close to the bannermen of the North. So we thought he could foster with different houses and keep travelling. Three and ten is not too old and not too young for the nobles of the North to get to know the future Lord Stark."
Daenerys took over, "And if we send him to foster now, we hope that the Ladies will look at him as one of their children and the heirs will consider him a sibling and be more loyal to him when the time comes."
"All right. Which houses and in which order?"
Robb said, "Manderlys first. The tensions with the faith and the new trade means they need our support and trust. After that, House Glover. I would have said Bear Island, but Arya would be a much better option to send there as a Ward. Lady Maege Mormont's youngest daughter Lyanna and Lord Mormont's son would be of the same age. Lady Mormont and Lady Maege will balance each other out and teach Arya both the North and the South."
Daenerys continued, "We also need to send Sansa to Barrowtown, Lady Barbary Dustin will be able to teach her more about how to be a proper Lady of the North than Lady Stark can. And Sansa is not like Arya. She does not like to fight."
Jorah said, "Sansa is too young, but letting Lady Dustin have a say in Sansa's marriage may reduce the bitterness she holds over Lady Stark usurping what she sees as her position."
Dany said, "I will also take a more active role in running Winterfell with you and Lady Stark."
Jorah murmured, "Preparation for the future no doubt"
Both Robb and Dany broke out in furious blushes at that. The two avoided talk of their betrothal at any cost. The two teenagers had feelings for each other but were too stubborn to do anything about it. Jorah loved making allusions to their betrothal and watching them blush.
"What about you Jorah?" Lord Stark asked
"Well at least for a few years, Robb needs to travel alone and build the bonds with his bannermen as your heir. I was planning on joining him after a few years.", Jorah replied
"Obviously I disagree with Jon on that father. I wanted him by my side the entire time. I trust no man more than Jon to watch my back." Robb stated firmly.
Dany had quietly been observing Lord Stark and asked, "But you have plans for Jon already, don't you?"
Lord Stark smiled and said, "Moat Cailin, Queenscrown, Hardhome. I have three very important castles to fill and incidentally have three boys of Stark blood. Bran and Rickon are too young to choose, but the Umbers cannot hold both Queenscrown and Hardhome indefinitely. Jon, you get to choose which castle best suits you. So, how about you foster at each castle for 2 years."
Jorah was shocked at the offer. He had never had any ambitions apart from protecting his pack. He had hoped for being the Master at Arms for Winterfell at the most. He looked towards Robb asking for permission, but the red haired boy had a large grin stretching across his face that told him all he needed to know.
Moat Cailin had been garrisoned by freshly trained recruits from all over the North being trained by Martyn Cassel and Howland Reed. No Lord had been named but many second sons across the North were eyeing the fortress.
"As you wish father. But on one condition. Do not ask me to choose until both Bran and Rickon are of age and choose before me," Jorah said resolutely.
"Very well Jon," Lord Stark said sadly. He had made many attempts to temper Catelyn's rage against Jon but it had still affected the young boy's confidence in his place at Winterfell.
"Our words are Winter is Coming. Father may honor your words but if the situation calls for it, you will do your duty, Jorah Snow." Dany said firmly with a glint in her violet eyes.
"We love you brother, but mother is wrong. We trust you with our lives" Robb said with the same glint in his blue eyes. "Father, if Jon insists on being an idiot, would you have the King legitimize him?"
"All right, that's enough. Calm down. You know well I have offered to legitimize Jon but only if he so wishes. He does not ask out of respect for your mother. So respect his wishes. That being said, I'm not letting either of you leave until you show more control over your Wolfsblood. How much progress have you made?"
"We can hold it for ten minutes while meditating, but while sparring we can hold it for half an hour," Robb boasted.
"Very well. You have one moons time. I expect you to hold it for an hour while meditating and last against me for twenty minutes in a spar. Then and only then will I allow you to leave" Lord Stark challenged.
The two boys' eyes lit up with the challenge No man had seen Lord Stark lose a fight since he discovered and trained his Wolfsblood. Uncle Benjen was the only man who could fight him to a draw. Even two-on-one, Eddard Stark would not be an easy man to hold off for two boys of three and ten, even with their Wolfsblood fully trained. These boys, however, were not ones to let a challenge go unanswered and promised to try their hardest.
As they left, Dany and Robb began throwing ideas for possible names Jorah could take as a Lord. Jorah asked them to worry about naming their son first. This resulted in him being chased all around Winterfell by both Robb and Dany with murder in their eyes and blushes on their faces.
Eddard Stark couldn't help but smile. Being a father to his children was the best part of his day. He wondered if he was too old to taunt his younger brother about taking the Black one last time. A raven left for Lycansvart with half a dozen taunts about taking the black as well as an uncle's demands to see his niece named after their sister as the sun set.