The wind is at her hair. The currents running through the Trident carrying her longboat forward with all haste, the wind almost mootly adding to their speed as her men work the deck.
What a royal fuck this has become.
Robert Baratheon dead, Ned Stark dead, Stannis Baratheon burning the seven on Dragonstone, Renly surrounding himself with flowers, the North marching down to butcher Lions, the Lions going everywhere to butcher everyone else.
What a royal fuck this has become.
Still, one thing had undoubtedly put a smile on her fathers face when it all came crashing down.
Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark dead.
She had only seen both men once, and that was at the end of the siege of Pyke as they'd been deciding weather to take the son or the daughter. Robert was a giant in steel plate, with a hammer that had a head bigger than hers, and Ned Stark had been a solemn quiet specter, draped in dark colors, boiled leather and mail. With a greatsword that lived up to its namesake. As tall as Ned Stark himself. She remembered thinking that he must have been stronger than even Robert, since he could lift the thing with one hand.
Though she did remember some sadness to him, or at least, she thought she did. Memory was funny sometimes.
Her first instinct had been to sail home, see what her father would do if they would keep going business as usual, if he would throw his lot in with someone, or, more likely, ignore everyone altogether.
Pyke had very few friends in the greenlands. Her father had no reason to aid any of them and they even less so to call on him.
But this was just too exciting to pass up for her.
It was a war. And by the look of things rising up to be a real bloody one at that.
So of course as she'd been finished stocking up on supplies and her men had rightly fucked every cheap whore in Lannisport to confirm from the grapevines between the legs of said whores that her brother was marching with Robb Stark's Banners, she circled around the coast and made her way down the Trident to reach Robb Stark's army.
Her father might be angry but not so much she would think. She did so miss her darling brother.
Still first things first. "Quarl!" She shouted, seeing the man turn to face her, a quirk of his brow easily showing just what he thought she called him for.
She smiled. Later perhaps. "Hoist the colours and get up here when your done." She decided to tease him a bit. "Got something of a job for you."
Jamie Lannister kneels before him, bruised, battered, but not lacking for confidence.
"Lord Stark." He drawls. "Lady Stark."
"Kill him now Robb." Theon snarls his sword still drawn. "He killed nearly a dozen of ours on the field you saw it."
"You might want to listen to the lad." The Kingslayer smiles.
His face is grim, staring down at the oathbreaker who killed both of Lord Karstark's sons right infront of him before he finally mutters.
"Take him away."
The Greatjon and Theon move to do as he says when Jamie suddenly rises to his feet. "We can end this right here and now boy!" He says, challenging. "No one else has to die. You fight for the Starks, I fight for the Lannisters."
He stares at him, stares at him for a long time, and sees the confidence billowing there, just beneath the surface. Jamie knows he will win. Knows it as surely as he knows the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.
"If we do it your way Kingslayer..." That confidence brims. Certain that he'd taken the bait. Just a boy he says to himself now. Just a boy who thinks he's invincible.
"-you'd win." He says instead, and the frustration is evident behind that smiling veneer. "We're not doing it your way."
He looks to Theon, and to the Greatjon. "Take him away."
They grab him, haul him to his feet. They're not gentle..
Footsteps, behind him. He turns, so do the other men, swords half drawn.
Its only a scout, one of theirs. He looks startled, giving a quick glance at the half drawn swords then glances at him. "Milord, you'll want to see this!"
They tie the ropes and haul the longboat onto the rocky shore, she feels the sway of water give way to solid ground, hears the snaps of the colors raised high up on the mast.
Its not much longer after that.
They see the standard first of course. A big white Direwolf on a grey canvas. She smiles a bit to herself as they stand out there like scarecrows. Blinking owlishly. She half wonders if she's gonna have to send her men out there herself before someone else arrives, on horseback.
He's young, got a Tully look to him and they way every single one of the greenlanders turns to him tells her immediately who he is.
"And there's Robb Stark." She says. Before looking over to Quarl. "Lets get started then eh?"
The men haul the bothe onto the shore, pulling it with thich rope as they shore it onto the gravel of the rivers edge, lowering down the gangplank of the longboat and letting them step foot onto the Iron Born's least favorite ground.
The horses plodded closer, with Stark at the head of the lot. She wondered if Theon was in this group. Her first guess would be to look for the stupid looking one.
"You must be...the young wolf. Robb Stark." Quarl said, smiling that disarming smile of his as he stared up at the riders. Though she could see he was really more concerned about the massive wolf pacing between the riders and the iron born.
"That's lord Robb Stark to you." A giant of a man responded, sitting on the back of an equally monstrous horse. Its color matching the man's dark boiled leather.
The young wolf held up his hand. A silent gesture demanding everyone's silence. "And you are Iron Born. Though I do not know your name."
"Quarl." Her sometimes lover said with his smile still firmly in place, though a blind man could see it was almost patronizing. "And this here is my crew."
The men grumbled, laughing to themselves at the unspoken joke between the lot of us.
The Stark Boy looked them over, she hears the wolf snarl, then she saw his gaze harden, those Tully eyes of his goin' fierce and angry, and with a single draw of his blade the whole lot of men, Ironborn and Greenlanders were drawing weapons.
The wolf snarls and snaps his jaws, barking and growling like a hound from hell, but its his voice that cuts through them like the winds of a blizzard. "Lie to me again, and it'll be the last words you'll speak in this world ser."
Quarl is tense, holding his blade at the ready. She has no doubt that her men could bloody up these green landers something fierce, on or off a boat. Even with that damn wolf. But she's not stupid, not knowing how many more men could be hidin' behind that tree line.
The sound is more like a whump with her gloves in place but it serves its purpose of drawing all eyes to her as she steps forward. "Well color me impressed." She says, pulling back her hood, as she smirks up at this green lander boy.
The giant man grows red in the face. "A woman? My lord, let me cut this lyin cunt's throat-"
"Greatjon." He snaps, silencing the man like the crack of a whip had just gone off. "She's not lying." He says before he dismounts his horse, much to his men's outraged surprise and protest.
He steps forward, staring at her dead in the eye though the boy's half an inch shorter.
"You're Asha Greyjoy." Its not a question, its a statement. The boy is sure of what he says.
Her smirk gets a little wider. "Well...color me impressed."
"Father didn't send you here?"
She picked her nails with her knife, her feet up on the surface of the table, staring at...Theon, with boredom and mild irritation.
She'd expected to feel something when she met her brother.
But all she really felt was annoyance at the utter lack of feeling he evoked.
Correction. She wasn't being completely fair. There was a moment of feeling vindictive triumph at the fact that her brother indeed was the stupid looking one.
And stupid wasn't limited to looks apparently as she repeated herself for the fourth time. "No. He did not send me here little brother. You can rest assured that my little visit was scheduled about as much as King Robert's death. Though I'm sure word will reach him in a few days.
Her brother's head shook, almost swiveling from side to side in flabbergasted disbelief. "So what exactly are you doing here?"
"In case you've forgotten little brother-" She drawled. "We are Ironborn. Our blood is salt and Iron. Over the years we've had plenty of salt..." She smiled, twirling the knife around her fingers. "But no iron."
Theon's face would have been comical if not so pathetic. It was Robb that caught her meaning first. "You came here to fight?"
She shrugged. "Father will want to sit on the isles and watch you and the Lannisters rip each other to pieces. He hates ya both equally. No offense Stark, but he probably pissed himself laughin' when he heard Robbert and Your Father were sent to meet the drowned god, or the old Gods or the seven or what have you."
Robb Stark's features tightened, it was subtle, but it was definitely there. Looks like she'd struck a nerve. She wondered just how honorable the honorable Ned Stark's son really was.
Just how far could she push eh?
She decided to push the conversation on however. "So, I came here to fight. And so here I am." She snickered. "The Iron islands send their wholesome regards with twenty of the most cut throat sons of whores to grace the seas, along with the sea bitch to lead em."
Before the conversation could be continued further however, one of the lords entered the tent, its flap allowing a chill breeze of night air to whisper through its cow hide protection. "My lord. The men have gathered."
Robb Stark stood without preamble, along with Theon, she did the same. If only not to stay seated.
"My lady, I will return shortly to continue speaking of thi-"
"You can return whenever ya want Stark, I'll be going with you now so it makes no difference. I want to see what you green-landers do when you plan how to fight without words."
His surprise was momentary. "My lady, we are not even sure yet if I'll let you join us-"
"What?" She interrupted with such audacity it made him clench his jaw. "You'd rather I go fight with the Lannisters?" She smirked, sauntering off towards where the pyre was being built for the lords of the north to gather and speak.
"We can't pledge to Renly!" One man shouted over the chorus. "Rely is the youngest he must come after Stannis!"
"You would have us pledge for Stannis when the only forces to his name are his own on Dragon Stone? Renly has all of Highgarden and the Reach at his back! Even the Lannisters are barely buying off enough mercenaries to match his numbers!"
Robb let them argue, listening to the differing, voices, opinions, arguments, accouterments and statements. Let the words wash over him. It was a difficult choice.
Honor told him what his duty was. That Stanis was the rightful heir to the throne.
His mind told him what the prudent choice was.
To enter a war backing Stannis was to enter a war on two fronts, against the Lannisters, and against Renly's host of flowers.
To support Renly was to make a force of more than half of Westeros against the House Lannister. Dorne loathed the lions, and the Eerie was under the rule of his aunt. If the eagle were to move from its perch it would be in his favor.
He looked around to the faces in the crowd to the men and women that had marched south with him.
Theon, the Manderly's Karstark, Dacey Mormont, Dormond, Bolton. Every lord north of the neck had sent their hosts with him.
It was his duty to do what was best to get them back.
His eyes caught a smile in the crowd, turning their to find the Kraken's daughter seated just at the edge of the gathering, a cup to her lips as she drank, staring at him as though questioning what he would do.
It was the Greatjon's voice that thundered through the cacophony this time.
"My lords...My Lords!" He looked around, staring at each man there dead in the eye. "Here's what I say to these two kings!" Without preamble he spit into the ground at their feet, a string of saliva loosing itself in his beard as the men laughed at the outlandish statement.
"Renly Baratheon is nothing to me. Nor Stannis neither! Why should they, Rule over me and mine from some flowery seat in the south!?"
Robb could see his words. Could see where they were leading to, what they were doing, how the men were nodding in agreement and he found himself utterly powerless to stop it.
"What do they know of the Wall? Or the Wolfswood? Even their Gods are wrong!"
The men roared with laughter even as the Greatjon drew his massive sword. Pointing it straight towards Robb. "Here!" He roared. "Sits the only King I mean to bend my knee to!"
And as they roared out, with thunderous voices that drummbed the knight like the cry of some rising God "The King in the North, The King in the North, The King in the North!" Robb Stark felt his heart hammering in his chest, pounding against his ribs. Finding his mother staring wide eyed, as ser Rodrick chanted in muted awe at what had transpired in the span of a few minutes.
The only one who seemed oddly sane in this moment of rebellious lunacy that had swept them all and was rapidly becoming more than lunacy, more than a wild statement, and approaching the ventures of reality was the Kraken's daughter, the Sea Bitch laughing and cackling as though the world had opened all its treasures onto her lap.
She found first blood at Oxcross.
When they fell on the Lannister host, Asha's blood had sang, her legs ached with days of riding, her men complained, her lower back throbbed with the weight of her sword strapped across it, but the sound of those first screams of battle had surged an adrenalin through her the likes of which she hadn't known in a long while.
She was not the best at the back of a horse, no Iron born was, but she did ride, the hooves of the mount pounding into the dirt in time with her heart as the stillness of the night gave way to the bloodied chaos of battle.
She didn't need to be careful, didn't need to think, to look. The lannister men stumbled out of tents, half naked and disoriented while the Stark men were in organized ranks. The horse beneath her trampled straight into the camp, her sword swinging and hacking off heads and severing limbs.
The saddle straps snapped, or perhaps they were cut, it didn't matter, she still fell onto the hard packed earth.
Her shoulder screamed, the pain shooting through her limb, even as she rolled with the fall, getting to her feet, untangling herself from the saddle as she drew her axe, grinning like a madwoman. The horse beside her brayed in dismay, stomping its feet as it panicked, she edged away, blocking a wild swing of a soldier with her sword before burying her axe into his skull.
He found her by morning light.
She was awash of blood, laying over the red stained grass as though it were her own bed, eyes closed, a smile tugging at the right side of her mouth, her hands were clasped above her stomach.
"Are you enjoying yourself?"
Her smile grew wider, eyes opening to stare up at him. "What's wrong boy? Never seen a real woman who didn't act like your green land court ladies?"
His head shook, almost minutely. "That's not an answer."
She pushed herself up, getting to her feet as she stretched, cracking her neck and rolling stiff shoulders. He spoke again. "Most of the men here want to go back home. Tend to their families. Their fields."
"We do not Sow." She recited her house's words. "If not fightin here I'd still be fighting somewhere. Across trade ships from the Narrow sea, gulley's and gibbet rafts. We're ironborn. And our blood is-"
"Salt and iron." He finished, almost sighing out the word, as though exasperated.
She raised an eyebrow, turning to face him. "What? You gonna pretend you don't like it just as much?"
"I don't. I lead my men and I do what I must for my...kingdom." He hesitated over the word, the title of 'Your grace' and all that implied therein still an unfamiliar notion.
"Do ya really?" Her smile was predatory, almost catlike. "I saw you getting your own hands bloody when the battle was joined last night. That wolf-o-yours has a taste for man blood too."
"You think I'll sit back and let my men fight my battles just because I don't like to fight?"
"Did the Mad King ride into the Trident? Did the Negotiator man the fortresses that protected the reach from Dorne himself?"
"The Mad King was craven and the Negotiator was always frail."
"And you're no frail craven hmm?" She smiled. "You want to get in there. Get your hands dirty, your blood rushin. Difference between us Your Grace is that I ain't afraid of lettin people see that."
She turned, Lorren Longaxe was huffin and puffing his way over, shouldering aside Stark men and damn near everything else as he came closer. "Captain." He panted. "Found Rolfe."
"Alive?" She asked, masking her trepidation. It wouldn't be the first time she'd lost men. Either by the sword or to the Drowned Gods halls out at sea, but she never liked it when it did happen.
"Aye." Lorren hawked up a wad of bloody phlegm. "Took an arrow to the knee though. All but useless for the next few months Maester's sayin. We'll have ta take him back ta the Black Wind.
She'd taken eight of her men, left four aboard the ship to guard her. Looks like now she was down to six. "I'll go see him soon. Tell Fingers he'll be getting on a horse soon to take im back."
Before Lorren could walk off, the young wolf stopped him in his tracks. "You don't have to do that."
She turned, staring at this would be king of six and ten as he stared right back. "Your man can stay here under the Maesters care same as all our men."
She smiled. "We your men now Stark?"
He shrugged, swiveling on his heel as he walked away. "The offer stands, take it or leave it, there are things I must see to."
She looked back at Lorren, shrugging her shoulders. "You heard the king." She smiled sardonically, Lorren did so as well. "He can stay with the Maesters."
They stormed The Crag.
More ruin than fortress, its walls crumbling on the side that faced the sea, The Stark men rushed the walls with ladders, battered the gate with a ram, and climbed onto the battlements with the ferocity of the stark sigil.
Robb was one of the first over the wall.
So was Asha.
The fighting was brutal and close, men pressed against each other as they pushed and shoved atop the thin walkways that lined the walls, with many falling off to suffer broken limbs or necks.
Robb shoved a man back with his foot, getting enough room to swing his sword where the blade cleaved into the man's helmet, a rush of hot blood slipping through the metal visor and neck opening as he fell to his knees.
He kicked him off, shoving another distracted Westerling soldier with his shoulder. The man stumbled, one foot searching for purchase before he fell with a gut twisting tumble onto the wooden roof of the horse stables down below them before he slammed into the ground.
His men hurled themselves over the walls, beating back the Lannister bannermen, pushing the enemy away from their King as The Greatjon roared from the other side of the battlements "The King in the North!" The words taken up by every soldier as they fought their way atop the gate house with the Stark standard bearer tossing the Westerling Banner from its place, placing his own.
Robb looked, as the men turned and fled, as the Westerlings threw down their weapons and raised up their hands.
The walls were taken, the Courtyard was awash with blood and bodies.
And Asha stood there with a smirk on her face.
She spread her arms in a mocking, magnanimous gesture, shouting over the cacophony.
"The Crag is yours Your Grace!"
Then she raised her axe, and Robb felt himself tense, a spike of fear skewering him as she let fly.
And the weapon buried itself in the chest of an archer, his bow cluttering to the ground as he fell with a pained shout the arrow going wide of Robb, its intended target.
They stayed at the Crag for a while.
It was there that her dear nuncle finally found her.
The Iron victory came ashore with four other longboats, the Black Wind toed behind them. Victarion stepping onto the shore, in full armor, with the baneful Kraken helmet on his head.
She leaned on the broken battlements as the Stark men made ready for a fight and a welcoming simultaneously.
Honestly, greenlanders should learn to keep things simple.
Quarl walks up to her, whistling low. "Well looks like our trip is over."
She shrugged. "Looks like. Go get the boys. We'll be shoving off back to the islands soon."
Its not long before she's smiling up at her uncle, all feigned innocence and sweetness. 'Nuncle! You're here." She opens her arms and wraps him in an over exaggerated hug. Victarion's lips curl, sensing her sarcasm. Robb, his men, and Theon are right behind her, all looking on, wondering just where exactly this was going.
Ever to the point, Victarion pushes her off, and turns to Robb. "We've come here by order of Balon Greyjoy. Asha will be coming with us, immediately."
"Oh nuncle I'm hurt. Not even a hello? Even after I found-" She sauntered off to Theon, wrapping her arms over his shoulders. "my dear, long lost brother, your nephew that you've missed so much?" He snarled at her as she went to pinch his cheek."
Even she had to admit, that the utter lack of interest Victarion showed at the news could make anyone feel like they measured up to the importance of an earth-worm. He didn't even look at Theon. He just stared straight at her; glaring at her. All but cursing her for bringing him out here to drag her back.
Then, without another word, he turned. "Come."
The words 'Before I drag you' were very nearly audible.
Asha scoffed to herself, smiling. She walked away from Theon around to face the Stark men, some of whom still looked rather flabbergasted at the quick departure of her dear nuncle.
Here some of them were hoping to discuss terms or some such.
She looked at Robb, who stared straight at her. She pulled out her axe, looking at it for a moment before tossing it to him.
He was visibly surprised when he fumbled to catch it, blushing in embarassment.
She laughed. "Just in-case you need me to save you from another Archer, Your grace.
And with that last taunt Asha turned and left after her men, not even bothering to spare another glance at any of them.
She'd had her fun here.
Well here you go.
To be honest this one can go one of two ways.
Either A, I leave it here as is, with the "what if" scenario this has lain out since Robb isn't injured, he wont be "seduced" by Jeyne Westerling, no red wedding, Theon never left to the Iron Islands so no sacking of Winterfell and leave it up to your speculation on how it would play out.
Or B I can continue this into something resembling a Robb/Asha, friendship kinda thing and try to play out what I think would happen after these events and what would be different.
But this would be up to you readers. I'm gonna leave it up to a vote which I rarely do. But here I'm genuinely undecided on what would be best.