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Robb Stark (1 month after Ned death)

“We should march south and attack before they can fortify their position. If Darry is properly defended, then they will be able to withstand a siege even against everyone in the North.” Helman Tallhart, Lord of House Tallhart from Torrhen’s square, declares. He is in favour of a pre-emptive strike before Tywin can fortify the Town.

“We don’t have the troops to take Tywin. After the Manderlies joined we have about 22,000 men, Tywin has over 30,000. We are still waiting on several of the Lords and our troops from the rest of the North. Once they arrive, we can contend with Tywin, but as we are, we will only be wasting our troops.” Lord Glover, a bearded man, rebutes him with the difference between mine and Tywins forces, something I am all too clear on.

“If we wait for them it will be too late. They will have finished their defences and we will never cross the trident.” TallHart replies. “However, look here. If we head south we can receive reinforcements from the Riverland Lords.” Tallhart points to several of the Houses positioned along the Kings road. Houses like Carshalton and Atlanta are loyal to House Tully and considered our allies. If we persuade them and the other Houses east of the Green Fork to support us, we could make up the difference in our forces.

We would still be slightly smaller, but we could contest with Tywin which would be enough. Unlike the Lannisters we have no other enemies to the rear. We don’t even need to attack Darry. If we simply set up camp close to the Ford on the other side, we can either attack when they are distracted by the Baratheons, or wait for them to come to us, using the river against them. With the additional pressure their moral will quickly be reduced and could break them. However...

“However, they don’t have the troops anymore.” Roose Bolton, one of the most powerful Lords at the war table, speaks what is on my mind. “They previously sent their men to the Golden Tooth when the Tullys called their support. Even if they survived, they would not be willing to lend us their men for a questionable conflict.”

When the Lannisters first invaded the Riverlands, the Tullys called their banners, but due to the actions of Lord Gregor Clegane most were unable to arrive in time. Clegane led multiple raids on the western parts of the Riverlands. This meant the western lords, the closest to Golden Tooth, were unable to respond. Without the western troops the Tullys were quickly defeated.

The eastern Lords sent their men but they were too far and took too long. If the Golden Tooth had held till they arrived the situation may have been completely different. Instead the Tullys were forced back to Riverrun and the Lannisters led another force east along the River Road. Any Houses that didn’t receive warning of their advance was defeated, and those that did were forced to hastily retreat, losing many stragglers in the process. Convincing the Lords to risk their men again, if they even still have them, will be almost impossible.

“My Lord.” Ser Wendell Manderly, the second son of Lord Manderly, and commander of the Manderly forces, asks to address me. “I know this is a pressing matter for you. Your father was executed and sister unjustly kept prisoner. The Lannisters need to answer for it. However, I would like to advise patience. Right now our enemies are busy fighting others, we could wait until they are weakened and tired, while gathering the rest of our forces then strike.” Wendell proposes, which gives rise to a few calls for cowardice. The room then starts to bark back and forth.

“Quiet!!” I shout, silencing the room. “I suggest we all take a break for now. Everyone leave for an hour, we will convene again when we have all fed and rested.” The room agrees and starts to leave. I ask mother to remain.

When they have all left, I allow myself to relax for a moment. “*sigh* How did father do it?” I ask mother. The Lords are constantly bickering and none can agree on anything. The greatest problem is that except for a few, all the Lords and commanders have more experience than me on the battlefield. I earned their cooperation over the weeks by keeping a strong appearance, though I wish I didn’t have to feed Grey Wind Lord Umber’s fingers to do it.

“With patience and firmness.” Mother answers confidently. She massages my shoulders, stiff from standing straight, while she continues. “Instead of trying to stop the lords from conflicting, he allowed them to bicker when it was unimportant, tire themselves out. When an important matter arose that needed decisions, he would give clear commands that broke no arguments. So long as you remain calm, sure and respectful, the other Lords will follow your lead.”

I think to how I always remember father with other Lords. At feasts, tourneys or other gatherings he was never the loudest but was always heard. He would listen and wait before making comments or announcements. When I was young I always though father was just a quiet man, but now I realise it was a tempered action built by years of leading.

“They are right. All of them. We need to march south. If the Lannisters believe I am afraid of them, we will lose in engagements.” I think of Sansa and Arya. I have received no word about either of them for a month now. The only confirmation I have is that Sansa is still in the capital. “It is like you said. I need to defeat them in the field. Only then will they not hurt Sansa to keep from angering me. If they believe they have the upper hand they may hurt her to send a message. The other Lords may lose confidence in me if I remain quiet.” The North respects the strong. I trust their loyalty, but that is not the same as obedience or enthusiasm. They may not betray me, most of them have a serious dismissal of the southerners, but not following my commands is a possibility.

“I agree. When I think of what could be happening to my baby, my heart feels like it will break.” Mother frowns. “Arya gives me even greater concern. Though the fact she escaped Kings Landing is good, I have no idea where she could have gone or what has happened since then.”

We found out about my fathers death 2 days after it happened, but it was only the simplest of messages confirming his death. Both of us grieved heavily at the time. The capital entered a period of turmoil and shutdown after that, and it took a week before one of my bannermen’s relatives in the city sent us another message containing a more detailed story of the events. It was so unexpected that I didn’t believe it till several others came to me with the same news.

“She will be fine mother. Ben is with her.” I place my hand on hers to comfort her. “We know she was with him and that he escaped the city. Ben is the greatest fighter in the North, probably in all of Westeros. He treats Arya like a sister. They will come home, so long as we are here to welcome them.”

‘Ser Baskerville assassinated the king’ is the word on everyone’s lips. I never knew Ben had it in him. He always came across to me and the others as the careful type. Not only did he kill Joffrey, the shit who killed my father, but he also saved Arya and declared it to the entire city, right in front of the traitors and their army. I have already heard a couple songs about it around the camp.

What I told mother wasn’t just comforting words. I truly believe if Arya is still with Ben, they will get home safe. He was an inspiration to me growing up. The way he would talk about plans and strategies reminded me of father, and sometimes when I told Father of them, he would admit to being surprised at the insights. He was just a few years older than me, but could match my father in mind and surpassed everyone in body. If I had to choose anyone to look after Arya, I would choose him.

Haaahh. I am sorry Robb, I didn’t mean to distract you. Back to what we were talking about. I agree that we need to go south, but we can’t fight the Lannisters like we are.” My mother tells me, shaking herself free from her negative thoughts.

“I know. We don’t have the men to win, but we also don’t have the time. If Tywin reinforces Darry, we will never remove them. If we wait for Stannis and Renly to sort themselves out, and then fight them, then Tywin may use Sansa to force my hand. Even if the Baratheons win, which is unlikely if they fight each other, they may just turn Sansa into their hostage next. Or worse she may be killed in the fighting.” I tell mother, to her obvious distress.

A few days after my father was killed, Stannis declared himself the next rightful king, due to the fact Roberts children were actually the bastards of Cersei, the product of incest. He sent word to all the Lords in Westeros demanding they pledge their allegiance to him. I debated this information for sometime, but ultimately decided it was moot at this point, and to put off my reply.

I had no way to travel to the south, without a large fleet and Tywin blocking the Kingsroad. Lord Manderly mentioned this to me when I was in White Harbour that it may be time to rebuild the North fleet, but I told him that it would have to be put off for now. In fact, declaring the North for Stannis would have provoked the Lannisters into hurting Sansa. As I was waiting at Moat Caitlin for the rest of our forces, I received another letter a few weeks later, this time from Renly Baratheon. In it he declared that he was contending for the throne and requested my assistance for taking it.

This was bad news for me. I have no concern for who sits on the throne so long as my family is safe and justice is delivered. But it meant Tywin was no longer facing a united force from the Stormlands, but 2 divided forces, ones who may start fighting each other.

“I need to fight soon. To do that I need a larger force, and the only way to do that is to find allies in the south.” I tell her. “Aunt Lysa said she would not fight with us and as Lord Bolton stated, there is no chance of gathering forces along the Kings Road. The other realms are both too far and hold no particular friendship with us.” I turn my glance to the West.

“Then what would you suggest we do? Our options are rather limited.” Mother asks.

I point to where Riverrun is located on the map. On it there are markers for the forces located there, more lions than trout unfortunately. “If I cannot gather help east of the Fork, I will cross it to the West. Grandfather told us he had around 7,000 troops in Riverrun, while the Lannisters have surrounded them with about 30,000 troops led by Jaime Lannister.” Mother turns her gaze to her family home.

“The eastern lords had their lands raided by Clegane, preventing them from sending their troops. The Houses north of Riverrun, like the Mallisters and Vances still have most of their forces intact. The only thing keeping them from helping the Tullys is that they lack leadership and are scared of the Lannister force. If we unite them, then combined with the forces at Riverrun, we will outnumber Jaime.” I move the markers for my forces to Riverrun. Like this the lions no longer surround the trout, but are instead flanked themselves, caught between my army and Riverrun.

“This could be the victory we need to show the Lannister forces we are serious. If we cause enough damage to their forces, and unite the Riverlands, we will have the forces to pressure the crown to negotiate on our terms.” I take several deep breaths, trying to calm my excitement. Whenever me and Theon would discuss tactics and strategies in the past, mock battles and debating past battles, we would ask Ben for advice. He would always remind us to take it slow. Things never go the way you want it to on the battlefield. You can only think as broadly as possible, and have several plans and back-ups for when they go wrong.

This is quickly proven by my mothers face, which has turned into a frown. “This is a good plan, Robb. But it all depends on one thing. Crossing the Green Fork.” She moves the markers to just south of the Neck. Her face turns from a frown to more of a scowl as she continues.

“The only crossing on the Green Fork north of the Trident, is the Twins. The House in charge of the Twins is House Frey. If I know Walder Frey, he will stay out of this fight until the end is in sight, and even then, he may never leave his castle.” I have heard of House Frey, though never anything good. Father would always speak negatively whenever he spoke of them.

I asked mother to tell me what the problem was. She sat down and gave me a quick run down of the House’s history, distant and recent. I never knew a House like that could go so long without ever fighting a proper battle or that there could be such a disloyal man like Walder Frey... Wait. Never fighting, large family and disloyal.

“...As poorly as I think of Walder, he is still ambitious, despite lacking the capability. If you are set on crossing the Fork, it is not impossible. I could visit him, he should give me face, and maybe convince him somehow to....” Mother continues to talk, lacking confidence in her plan, but I am only half paying attention. Instead I am absorbed in my thoughts.

I start to think about those points. When I look at the map, I plan my next move. I have to be careful, because depending on how I do it will set the momentum for my battles to come. When I look at the map, I can only come to 2 conclusions.

First, I need to cross the Green Fork to relieve the siege on Riverrun. The second, House Frey cannot be trusted to control the crossing. At least not as it currently is.

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