Robb POV (one week later)
“My Lord the actions you have taken are not only an insult to my House, but to all the noble Houses in Westeros. You are illegally occupying my families land, destroying the surroundings, and are even mistreating myself and my brother, official messengers of House Frey.” The scrawny bearded man declares from across the table. My war council and I smile at his outburst while I write the finishing touches on the document in front of me.
The occupied land he mentioned refers to my army, currently camped just outside the Eastern Twin. I gave the order to move a week ago, explaining my plan to my bannermen just after. Several thought the plan was too complicated and unnecessary, though several like Lords Bolton and Hornwood complimented me for my cunning. In the end none opposed which was the main concern.
We arrived 3 days ago and I gave the order to set camp. The destruction of property refers to the logging. After setting camp I ordered the men to start chopping trees and gathering the logs to the south of our camp.
The final charge, mistreating a messenger, refers to the manner in which I received the messengers of the Freys. On the first day they sent a rider to invite me to the Twin, where I could discuss with Lord Walder my visit. I refused to even see the man, sending him back to the Twin. He was told that if Walder wanted to talk he could come out to see me.
It seems he was infuriated by my actions as he didn’t come out or send anyone else. They manned the walls and closed the gates, giving a strong front. That lasted about 48 hours. He obviously couldn’t stand not knowing what I was doing. This morning he sent 2 of his sons, Lolder, the man in front of me, and Nader, the man waiting in the guest tent. They claimed Walder was sick and due to his old age, 94 this year, he was unable to greet me personally. That was fine, I never expected him to come out.
This was according to plan, except for 2 of them showed up. I wasn’t expecting both of them to come together, but I suppose the implications help to reinforce my opinion that the overall plan will work. The fact Walder doesn’t trust his children to come alone only proves the internal quarrelling. Despite their objections, I had them meet with me separately. When I finished writing the document I gave it a blow to ensure the ink was dry, then turned to Loder and addressed him.
“House Frey is about to be destroyed.” I tell him plainly, my face no longer smiling. He looks disturbed for a second, trying to understand what I just said. When he does, he gets red in the face and starts to splutter again, worse than before.
“My Lord I will ask that you clarify that statement! It sounds as if you are threatening me?” He states, angry at the mere presumption.
“I am not threatening you, I am threatening your entire House with war.” My confirmation of the statement turns the originally red face slowly pale. He looks around the room and realises he is outnumbered and in the middle of what is turning to be hostile territory. He starts to shuffle his feet. “Lolder, do you realise what your father, Lord Walder Frey is doing?” At the mention of his father he calms for a second, then shakes his head.
“He is trying to replicate the situation from 15 years ago.” I signal to the servant to pour wine and offer one to Lolder, which he accepts, though doesn’t taste it till I do. Still afraid I will kill him it seems. Good, that is the mindset I want.
“During the Rebellion, your father huddled up in his castle, claiming neutrality throughout the entire war until the very end. At the time my father and king Robert were too busy with the Targaryens to bother with House Frey. Rhaegar was marching north, the coalition didn’t want to waste manpower and time rooting you from you keep to punish you, so they passed you by.” I take a drink from the wine, Lolder looking a bit angry and embarrassed to have his father insulted like this.
“Your father is trying to do the same thing again. He hopes that I will march south to fight the Lannisters, and when the victor is decided, kick the loser while they are down to join the winning side.” I pause and look him in the eye. “He is wrong. I will not march south, because I know I cannot win. I also know that Tywin will never march north as it will expose the capital to the Baratheons. Rather than standing on the side, House Frey is now directly in my path.”
I pause to drink my wine while I wait for the situation to sink in. “In one weeks time I will declare that House Stark, for betraying their oaths to House Tully, and siding with the Lannister traitors, is at war with House Frey.”
Lolder has become more and more pale as he realises the implications. “That is absurd!! What evidence do you have!” He questions.
“Your leige Lord, Paramount of the Riverlands, Lord Hoster Tully, sent you several orders to send support to Golden Tooth and later Riverrun. You refused. You then denied our crossing of the Fork, cooperating with the Lannisters. If House Frey does not surrender in one weeks time, I will be forced to attack. On behalf of my grandfather, I will root Lord Walder from his keep and hang him as an oathbreaker. The rest of House Frey will be stripped of their peerage, the men sent to the Wall, and the women and children exiled.” I list their crimes and consequences, Lolder paling with every sentence.
He is silent for a minute, eyes darting back and forth while thinking, then he appears to come to a realisation. “You’re bluffing!” He declares. “You already said you can’t defeat the Lannisters, you won’t take the risk to attack the Twins and losing even more of your men. We of House Frey are not some small House you can bully! We have over 6,000 men, armed and manning the walls. The Twins have stood unbreakable since its construction. You would never take the risk.” He foolishly reveals how many troops he has, too excited at having found the weakness in my argument. He is exaggerating his forces as well. I estimate he is probably inflating the numbers though.
“’Unbroken’, not ‘unbreakable’. It is true that the Twins have never been penetrated since their construction, but that is due to the lack of challengers.” When mother mentioned the history of the Freys, this was one of the points that stood out. “Other than your initial years, your House has never actually experienced a siege. Since the Aegon’s conquest, your House has remained neutral in every conflict. Never attacking, never attacked. You submitted to the winners, sometimes sending a small force at the end. It has allowed you to survive, growing rich and populous. But it has made you soft and weak.”
“Tell me, Lord Walder, how much food do you have stored? As a prime trade route you have never had to worry about food flow before, especially since you are connected to both sides of the river. Have you built any trebuchet or anti-siege equipment? It has been so long since you have attacked or defended a castle, you have probably forgotten their existence.” I go on to list other aspects that defending against a siege requires. I can tell he hasn’t even thought of them. It is likely that until today, House Frey never believed we would siege them.
‘War is the greatest teacher’ Ben would sometimes say. The Frey’s have never improved or modified the Twins for hundreds of years. Warehouses have been replaced for living quarters for their expanded family and wealthy lifestyle. Other than the Twins they have neglected to reinforce their other settlements and towns. Lacking watchtowers and fall back points because they thought the Twins would never fall.
“In the past your soldiers have only ever managed your territory. They are good at controlling the populace, fighting off the occasional raiding party, maybe. But they have never gone for long periods without food or rest. Never had to watch their men die around them in bulk. After the first hundred, men will desert, after a thousand there will be a collapse. Even if we lose troops, we will have gained the Twins, and the wealth of House Frey. With it we can restore our numbers. You on the other hand will be sent to the Wall if you’re lucky, dead if not.” I tell Lolder. I can see he is shaking in fear at the thought now.
What I don’t tell him is that I have no intention of losing troops. If after a week they haven’t surrendered, I will begin a bombardment on the Twins House Frey hasn’t experienced a siege for centuries. Without trebuchet or other anti-siege equipment they cannot respond to a distanced attack.
The logs we have been chopping will be turned into trebuchet and boats. With the boats we can ferry several thousand troops across and enough supplies to blockade the western Twin, preventing any additional supplies to get in, or any of them to escape. The trebuchet will be used to fire upon the eastern Twin from a distance, breaking the wall and destroying their moral. In several weeks the other Lords and bannermen will also have made their way from the North, filling our ranks with even more troops. Eventually the Frey’s will either surrender or be defeated with minimal casualties to my army.
Some of my bannermen have expressed concerns over damaging the bridge. In that case we should be thankful for the Twins being so large. They will shield the bridge, and any damage done will be negligible. Even if the bridge collapses, temporary repairs can be made by leaving a small force behind while the rest crosses using rafts. The key point is the Frey will no longer be a threat to our rear.
This was a strategy that Ben once taught me. Why fight an enemy face to face, when you can hit them over and over from afar. Less glory, but also less risk and greater reward.
The only problem with this plan is the time it will take. We have very few craftmen here, constructing the boats and siege equipment will take 2 weeks to start with. Then there is the time required for an actual siege. Grandfather said in his messages that they can hold for between 2 and 3 months at most. It has already been a week since then so I need to get to Riverrun quickly if I want to stop their defeat. The requirement for success is to cross the Fork with the Twins under my control.
I considered just building boats to cross the river and then heading directly to Riverrun, but there were several complications. Making a few boats for soldiers and light equipment would be relatively quick, but enough to send all our supplies, horses and carriages? That would take way too long, if it is even possible.
Negotiating with the Freys to let us cross their bridge is too risky. Walder Frey is not known as an honourable man who keeps to his word. I would expect him to either stab us in the back when we are weak, or if we need to retreat, he could deny our crossing again, trapping us between the river and our enemies. The only solution is if the Twins are stripped of the majority of the Frey soldiers and my own men control the crossing. Securing a path for retreat.
Now that I have let Lolder stew for a while, it is time to propose the alternative.
“Forgive me Lord Lolder, I should have been more tactful. I should point out that I take no pleasure in this decision, which is why I would like to offer an alternative.” He looks up at me, confusion in his eyes at my sudden change I tone.
“If Lord Walder surrenders, then this could all be avoided. However, I fear that in Lord Walders old age he may have turned … confused, shall I say. I fear he may make a decision that goes against his better sense.” I remind him of his father’s current condition.
“In that case I would like to offer you an alternative. An opportunity to save your family and House from destruction.” Giving him an excuse other than self preservation to justify his next decision.
“What, what offer?” He asks, quick to grasp at straws.
“In 2 days time, at midnight, I want you to open the main gate. You will ride out the gates and my forces will control the opening.” I tell him.
The room goes quiet, Loder shocked at the plan. Several of my bannermen look quite uncomfortable with this, but those like Lord Bolton and Ser Manderly have a smile on their face. We had already discussed this earlier and I decided it was necessary. This was the best case scenario I was hoping for. If this discussion works, we will be able to take the Twins in the fastest time with minimal casualties.
“You want me to betray my House, betray my family? Are you mad? I would never stoop so low as....” He quickly rejects the implications, stating his undying loyalty to his House. I am already well aware of the relationship of the Frey family and don’t believe a single word of it. From what mother tells me, the Frey are rife with internal conflict, all of them just waiting for Walder Frey to die so they can fight over inheritance. I am simply providing the chance to speed the process.
“I am not asking you to betray your family. I am giving you the option to save it.” With the distinction made I give my offer. Though the relations in the family are close to the worst, being branded a traitor by his following generations is still something to avoid. “If you help in the taking of the Twins and the subsequent surrender of House Frey, I will be merciful. Your father is still guilty of breaking his oaths, so he must be punished. He will not be executed, but rather he will be stripped of his title and position. The rest of your family will be spared.” At this point I pass the document I was writing earlier to Lolder.
“As the one to stand up for justice and brave great danger to save your families honour and name, I, Robb Stark, Lord of Winterfell, swear to name you the Lord of House Frey in your fathers absence, and the holder of the western Twin. The other keep will remain in the hands of one of my bannermen until the war is over. If House Frey fully supports us in the fighting to come, the other Twin will be returned.” Lolder stands in shock, clutching the paper as he reads it.
Though the Twins aren’t in my territory, and the Frey not my bannermen, by taking the keep by force I will then have the right of ownership over the Twins and the prisoners. I can do with the prisoners and hand the keep to whoever I wish.
This is the offer of a lifetime to someone like Lolder. He is the 19th of Walder Frey’s children, so far from the seat that it may as well be in Essos. He lacks real power or skill, otherwise he wouldn’t be sent as a messenger. When Walder finally passes away, the heir would almost definitely start a purge of the Twins. The Frey family is too large, and even for a House as wealthy as the Frey, there are too many unnecessary mouths to feed. If Lolder was lucky he would be put in charge a few farms, a far cry from his current lifestyle, if not he would just be sent away from House Frey altogether.
“This document describes the offer I am making to you. If you agree then you and I will sign as the participants, while my bannermen beside me will sign as witnesses, with each of us taking a sealed copy.” Though my opinion of Lolders character is low, I will not dismiss his paranoia. With a signed copy and several other Lords attesting to it, if I was to break my word then I will never be trusted again. By my enemies or my allies.
“My, my Lord, you do me a great honour with this offer. To tell the truth, I am reluctant to follow the path my father has set for my House. But I am filial to my father, loyal to my House and am extremely conflicted with this decision. In particular, your decision to hold the Eastern Twin, a keep my ancestors spent several generations to build, and no guarantee it will be returned to me... you see my dilema my Lord?” Lolder spouts some bullshit. He places the document on the table, though carefully and not out of reach, with his head bowed in a humble manner. His eyes however are looking up at me with greed in his eyes.
It seems I underestimated his greed, he wants to raise the price of his betrayal. Already he talks of it being his keep before the deal is even done. But I have no mind to parley with him. I may be willing to perform a distasteful act to preserve the lives of my men and win this war, but that does not mean I will bargain over bloody coins with him.
“It is unfortunate to hear that Lolder Frey.” Neglecting his titles. “Please regard my best wishes to Lord Frey. I will see you again in a weeks time, Lolder, though I am afraid it will be under less pleasant circumstances.” I give the pre-arranged signal to the guards, who move to take Lolder.
“Wait! Wait please milord. I haven’t agreed to the offer yet!” Lolder panics at the change in tone, grabbing the document in a rush, as if afraid they are coming to take it from him. Which they would have, as well as remove him from my camp.
“I am well aware you have not agreed to the offer, Lolder. But I have no time to barter with you. Either you agree to the current arrangement, and full-fill your part in 2 days time, or the deal is off. All that remains then is to wait if Lord Frey will surrender in the next week. If not then I will not rest until the House of Frey becomes nothing more than an unpleasant memory in everyone’s lives.” I give my ultimatum and wait for Loder to make his decision.