Bow of the North

by

coinhas2sides

chapter 59 - South of Trident

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Tywin POV

 

The Stark boy is attempting to cross the river. That is the main point in the letter before me.

This was a letter I received by raven an hour ago. The sender was Walder Frey, who sent it in the hopes that I would send support. By that he meat he wants me to fight his battles for him.

I head to the drawer and pour myself a cup of wine. Dornish, which is ironically my problem at the moment. I received a letter from my brother a week ago, giving details from Varys’s spies. They spoke of movement by the Dornish, how a small army was positioned in the Princes Pass to the south.

Until then I thought that things were finally becoming clear and that the storm had passed.

When Stannis declared himself the rightful king, spreading those filthy lies about my children, I had concerns that I would be defeated. Stannis is one of the greatest military commanders in the kingdom, equal to my own reputation, if not exceeding it in recent years. If he managed to gain the support from the Stormlands then I would be unlikely to resist.

My current forces number only 30,000, while the Stormlands could muster over 40,000. Though my own forces have greater discipline and unity, the quality of the Stormlords surpass my own bannermen on average. Following that brute Robert on so many campaigns has inspired a certain level of martial prowess and military mindset among the Lords. While the Westerlands are still competent, they fall short of the Stormlands.

All of this is without considering the North that is currently marching on me. If they joined forces, or if they just attacked at the same time, they could roll over very force from the Neck to Storms End. If that happened I would be left with no choice but to abandon the capital and retreat to the Golden Tooth.

Once I have secured my path to the Westerlands and joined with Jaime’s army, I can finish off the Tully and turn Riverrun into a forward base of operations and face my enemies from one direction.

Unfortunately, abandoning the capital and allowing Stannis to capture it will greatly lower the legitimacy of my grandchildren in the eyes of the other nobles. If they think I am running scared and my family are collapsing, then our allies in the Reach and Crownlands may consider changing sides. Even my own bannermen will likely consider betraying me for their own survival and potential benefits. Taking my title of Paramount of the Westerlands is an attractive prize if they think I can’t hold it.

When Lord Tyrell sent me a message agreeing to my marriage alliance I was finally able to relax. Among other political and economical allowances, his daughter would be married to Tommen and she would become queen. An acceptable demand, though the other requests will be costly, I have confidence I will eventually take them back in time.

The important thing is that i now had access to the Reach’s numbers and grain. They have the largest number of soldiers other than my own, about 60,000. Though, I am somewhat worried about their leadership and quality. Other than a few such as the Tarly, the other Reach Lords are notorious for their softness, far lower than mine or Stannis’s bannermen

The head of the Tyrell family is particularly looked down upon for his failure to defeat Stannis at Storm’s End during the rebellion. Though he does have other talents.Economically the Reach is the only rival to the Westerlands. This is partly due to their fortunate location, but also due to the Tyrell’s good management.

Regardless what I think of them, they are what I need at the moment. With superior numbers they can still defeat Stannis when they combine their forces with the men in Kings Landing. The greatest worry was that Stannis would gather support and attack before they were ready.

That concern was removed when Renly appeared at Storm’s End. My daughter originally sent pursuers after the youngest Baratheon, and it seems he escaped to our benefit. When he declared he was also contending for the throne I was at first shocked, then delighted.

Another man trying to remove my family from power would normally be distressing, but not when he reduces the power of my other enemies. When Renly asked support from his bannermen, he divided the Stormlords. Some of them had already declared for Stannis, while others thought he had the better claim to the throne. Renly still had the support of his closest bannermen, and due to his popularity was able to gather the support of others, but it still left several in the middle.

The Lords that couldn’t decide who to follow and made themselves neutral. Now the 2 brothers are opposed to each-other, neither having the full support of the Stormlands.

The larger force currently belongs to Stannis, who has a little under 15,000 men with Renly a bit over 12,000 from Varys’s spies. The numbers are similar, but the superior force is undoubtedly Stannis. Not only is his army larger, he a more experienced commander, he controls the royal fleet, the soldiers on board being the most elite fighters at sea in the entire Seven Kingdoms. The Ironborn are arguably better fighters, slightly, but Stannis’s men are better trained and disciplined. If the Ironborn didn’t have 2-3 times the number, thenthe title of greatest fleet would have been taken from them.

But even with all that it won’t be an easy fight. Stannis might be exceptional, but Renly’s bannermen are no push-overs either. And Renly still has one great advantage over Stannis, and that is Storm’s End. The seat of Baratheon’s has never fallen to a siege. Even during Aegon’s conquest it was due to the stupidity of the former owner leaving the safety of his keep to meet them in the field that led to it’s capture.

Renly is not as brave as the former Lords, and will not be likely to take to the field unless he has a clear advantage. And while the ancestral seat of the Baratheon’s remains in Renly’s control his bannermen will not abandon him lightly.

Stannis knows it’s strength better than anyone. So long as it stands, Stannis will never win an easy victory, which means extended conflict between the brothers, further weakening the Stormlands and earning me time to deal with my other enemies.

Though it seems the Tyrells have also thought of this, and are thus taking their time to respond to my call. They are likely hoping to wait until the Baratheons are weakened before dealing the finishing blow. This will save their strength while mine is spent dealing with the Tully and Starks, then do the bare minimum to earn the reward I have promised. I worry that with the difference between my power and the Tyrell’s closing, I need to finish this war soon. Otherwise it will be their family controlling the kingdom rather than mine.

I couldn’t afford to wait though, as while my rear is still exposed, I can’t move my forces out of fear of being flanked. I still haven’t forgotten the Vale and Iron Islands who have yet to support a side in this conflict. They both have enough forces to tip the currently fragile balance to either side. Unfortunately, I lack the resources to win over the Iron Islands and the Vale after already making promises to the Reach.

Thus, I entered into another round of negotiations with the Tyrell to provide sooner assistance, promising Lord Tyrell the position of Master of Coin. I intended to send Baelish away anyway. Both to remove his influence at court and to send him to the Vale so he can bring them back into the fold.

If he can convince his old paramour then it would give me a much greater manoeuvrability. If Lysa Arryn could commit even a token force, it could demoralize the Starks enough to bring them to the bargaining table. If he believes his own aunt has sided against him, then he will feel the strain I have of being surrounded on all sides.

Just when it was finally agreed, they took back their words and requested a further delay. The Dorne had placed soldiers on the Princes Pass and the Reach needed to ensure they were ready for a potential incursion in case they invaded.

I had to sigh at that. Varys provided a more accurate analysis, showing the Dornish were fortifying choke points and fortresses rather than scouting invasion routes. The Second Prince of Dorne, Prince Oberyn Martell was also spotted leading the Martell forces there. It was clear that they weren’t going to attack, but they already ruined the opportunity. If the Starks were held up by the Twins, I would have sent the mountain to lead our cavalry to harass their rear and inflict damage. With him caught from both sides he would have

Now I can’t risk dividing my forces further without the Reach defending my rear. If one of the Baratheons get impatient and attacks King’s Landing before dealing with the other brother, I will need to hurry back to defend it. Something much harder to do without my cavalry.

This would be easier if I could have Tommen and my daughter move to the Westerlands, but no-one would follow a king that abandons their capital, especially one that hasn’t even been attacked yet.

I was able to negotiate the use of their navy. My spies were able to detect the departure of the Dornish fleet and they haven’t landed anywhere on Westeros. Varys informed me that the princes Trystane and Quentyn Tyrell were seen to board the ships before they left. It is assumed that they were sent away to Essos where they would be safe while the war occurred.

A reasonable assumption that bothers me. Doran Tyrell is a cautious and cunning man. I cannot see him sending away the majority of his fleet just to protect his sons. If I wasn’t occupied with the army I could devote more energy to the south, but currently my best informants are focusing on the north and east. Until I have resolved them, I cannot look into Dorne. Instead I tell Varys to look into it and hope the man’s fear of me and common sense will lead to him telling the truth when I ask.

With the Tyrell fleet joined with the Lannister, we now have enough ships to contend with Stannis in the event he proves triumphant. Once the ships reach King’s Landing I will be more confident with it’s defence until the Tyrell can organise their troops.

I also send 2 ravens. One to Walder Frey, telling him that if he can delay the Starks for 3 weeks, then I will have reached the Twins and reinforce him. This is a lie as unless both the Baratheons were suddenly killed I would never make it there in just a few weeks. I am sending it so as to buy time for Jaime, the other recipient of the letter.

In it I explain the situation, and tell him he needs to speed up the siege. If the Frey can delay the Starks for a few weeks then we can defeat the Tully at Riverrun and confront the Stark host with our superior combined force. Even if Walder cannot delay the Starks, I will still be notified when they cross and can inform Jaime to prepare his defences. Without the element of surprise, I doubt Robb will defeat my son with our forces equal.

If the Stark boy actually tries to attack the Twins then he will lose too many men and be severely weakened. We will finish our enemies to the North and then crush our foes to the south.

 

Robb POV

 

I stand beside my bannermen as I look towards the Twins. The fires from the watchmen on top of the walls illuminate the structure and remind me of the challenge that my soldiers need to overcome.

It has just turned midnight and my men are in position. In the area closest to the Twins you will see several men patrolling the area, same as every other night. This is an illusion done to reduce the Frey’s guard. Inside the tents, soldiers are armed and at the ready, the tents filled to the brim. Earlier in the day I had them slowly fill the tents and only some would return to other parts of the camp, to keep the Frey from getting suspicious. The dozen or so tents are filled with over 500 of my best soldiers from both my own and the other Lords.

The tent at the front will have the gap facing towards the Twins and will be responsible for leading the others. When Lolder rides out from the gate, and only if he comes out, a war cry will be called and they will charge for the opening. The rest of the men in the tents will flow out as well upon hearing the war cry.

They will have to be quick. I don’t know how many men Lolder can muster but it surely won’t be many. Killing a few guards by surprise and then opening the gate will be possible, but having them hold the gate from the rest of the soldiers on the wall will be impossible. In fact I told Lolder to inform his men to surrender immediately and kneel on the ground so they aren’t killed by my men by mistake. Though his death would be no great loss, I wish to honour my oath to him so long as he does not betray me.

“Ser Wendell, are the men ready to fill the gap?” I ask Wendell Manderly by my side. Behind me and the rest of the Lords are about 1,500 cavalry, the entirety of my armies cavalry. If the gates are seized by my men then I will lead my cavalry through the gate and reinforce the vanguard before the rest of my army follows us in. If the cavalry gets inside the Eastern Twin will be captured. The enemy should collapse, and all that will be left is to cross the bridge and take the Western Twin.

“Yes Milord, all the horses have been calmed and we will be ready to charge as soon as you give the order.” Wendell answers. The Manderly’s are the family with the most cavalry other than my own. As they are also a firm supporter of my House and Wendell is a capable commander himself, I decided to make him the leader of the cavalry when I am not present.

“My Lord!” a young runner calls to me as he approaches camp. He is stopped by the guards before I allow him through. He bends over and holds his knees, panting, before giving me his message.

“My Lord, I am the messenger sent by Lord Baskerville. He told me to tell you that his troops are across the river and in position. We are ready to attack as soon as you are.” He announces to the surprise of the other Lords.

They knew what Ben was responsible for attacking the other side of the wins. When they were told he had only requested 100 men they were dismissive except a few who expressed their admiration at his bravery, Lord Umber being the greatest approver. Most were still doubtful how he was going to cross undetected when he only had a few hours and a single raft.

When the young soldier told me how the men crossed we were all shocked. I never knew those were 2 methods for crossing a river. They sound complicated, but when pictured in your mind seems obvious.

Just then I heard someone beside me call my attention to the front. There was movement from the gate, followed by a loud noise. The gate was opened and suddenly 3 riders rode out from the gate. The one in the front was carrying a torch and shouting.

I couldn’t tell the face and voice clearly, but as it got closer I was almost certain It was Lolder. Seems he followed through. Shortly after the men from the front let out a war cry and charged forward, the riders making sure to keep left and out of the way. The rest of the men hiding in tents suddenly burst out and headed for the Twins as well.

“Ready the men!! As soon as they clear the gate, we are going to charge the breach and secure the courtyard. Wendell, ready the cavalry, once they give the signal, we need to be ready to move! Theon, sound the horn, wake the men.” I inform the relevant people as we ready ourselves.

Theon blows a loud horn beside me. To not be too suspicious I had half the camp sleep in the camp and didn’t tell them what is happening. It was a risk, but with only half our army on ready we were still double the Frey and there were no other nearby forces. I have confidence by the time the men wake and are set to order, we will have taken the Eastern Twin. By that time, hopefully Ben will have prevented Walder from escaping and we can move with our entire force to take the remaining Twin across the river.

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