Robb Stark POV
The Frey great Hall is about as large as you would expect for a House of their wealth, but the decorations are somewhat different. Rather than interesting conversation pieces and grand artwork or valuables, the Frey seem to have stuck to practicality and the room appears very subdued. Lolder says that it was due to recent years having a lack of notable guests. Most great Houses have scorned the late Walder’s invitations and the ones that do attend are either those the House have marriage alliances with or those that want to earn the favour of the House. Both groups were considered too lowly for him to bother showing off for.
Lolder is currently sitting at the head table, at the right end, along with the most influential of my bannermen such as the Boltons and Umbers. Lolder is dressed much better than the night of the attack and judging by the way it fits him I suspect it is either borrowed or stolen from his more wealthy family members. Neither I nor my banners bother to call him out on it as we have much more important issues to worry about.
The room slowly fills up, the 2 long tables with a large gap in the middle that lead to the door filled in order of rank. Lords are almost always placed closer to the main table than the knights though there are exceptions such as Wendell Manderly who commands the Manderly forces is placed in front of several lesser Lords. When the last few trickle in, one late entry gathers the attention of the room. Ben Baskerville enters with Brutus by his side, seemingly filling the room by themselves.
Despite the fact it can be no-one else I almost doubt his identity. In his hand is a flask of what appears to be ale or wine, likely the former. On his face lacks the usual smirk of confidence or solemn mask of respect, instead he gives off an air of danger. When one of the servants musters the courage to approach and lead him to his seating she is waved away and Ben moves to the side of the room and leans against the wall.
Several Lords and knights look at him in reproach, and one of the knights at the end of the table speaks up. “Ser Baskerville, we would like to begin and we are currently all waiting for you. Would you like to take your seat.” He asks in a polite, if firm voice.
Both Ben and Brutus turn to face the outspoken knight, and in a voice that freezes the spine, he speaks. “First, I am Lord Baskerville. Second, shut the fuck up before I break your teeth in.” His threat is underlined by the light growling from the beast before him.
The room goes silent at the blatant threat. Perhaps if this was someone else, drunk as they are, they would dismiss it as an idle threat and several would call him out on it. But the fact he is a Lord prevents the knights from speaking, in addition to his reputation among them leads none wishing to challenge him. As for the Lords, they have already been informed of Ben’s actions from the previous night and are not willing to test him with the current atmosphere he is giving.
Like this the knight was left on his own, facing a monster that looks as if it will suddenly snap, his neighbours shuffling to create some distance from him. If he takes the insult he will be shamed before the entire court, but he doesn’t know how far a drunk Ben would go if he dared to counter. In such a situation several Lords look to me. None of them want to risk provoking Ben, and only I could get him to back down in such a situation. However, knowing what he went through I will not shame him here.
“Now that we are all gathered I would like to begin. We will start with discussing the casualties of the previous night. Lord Bolton has taken a census of the dead and injured among the North and Lord Lolder has will report the deaths of the Frey.” I announce, ignoring the issue. At the mention of the losses the hall turns their heads from the conflict, even Ben who takes another swig from his flask and rubs Brutus’s back to calm the hound.
I also took the opportunity to input that Lolder is the new Lord of the Frey in the confusion, when I called him ‘Lord Lolder’. Usually he would be addressed as Young Lord at best, and maybe not even that since he is so far down on the family tree. Since I already called him Lord and received no objection it should make things easier down later in the evening.
“The total losses amounted to about 225 dead and about 300 injured. Our healers are still looking at the wounded, but the ones that should recover from their wounds within 2 weeks amounts to about half the injured with another hundred that should regain combat ability within the month.”
“The distribution of casualties in the East mostly came from among Lord Starks forces when taking the gate and from Lord Umber’s forces who led the charge on the last Frey resistance at the bridge.” The room is enveloped in the noise of applause and banging of cups on the table in support of mine and the Greatjon’s sacrifice. I call an end to it after a few moments, as it is not appropriate to celebrate in the face of the defeated, as noted by the few Frey faces that were invited to this meeting.
“The West Twin, however, we received a more pyric victory. Out of the 100 man company led by Lord Baskerville, only 15 including himself managed to survive, and were ultimately forced to retreat.” Roose continues. This caused a stir and the previously upbeat atmosphere became somber. Several Lords and knights looked to Ben in concern and some in disapproval. They were all disappointed as he had finished his flask and was too preoccupied signaling a servant to fetch a mug of ale to give them proper insight to his feelings.
Before anyone can try and reprimand him again, I signal Lolder , and he stands to report the casualties from the Frey Side. “My Lord Stark, fellow Lords, I would like your ear for a moment. Due to my late fathers foolish actions our forces both suffered greatly. My family lost near a thousand men in the conflict and over a dozen members of my family perished.” Several Lords look in sympathy to the man, though others glare, reminded that it was his treachery that led to many of those deaths. Though generally the Lords are grateful of the lack of casualties on our side, many find such methods distasteful as it plays on the fears of every Lord in Westeros. Betrayal from one’s own House.
“The Eastern side suffered the greatest losses, where 660 men died, most during the initial breach into the keep and the following struggle when crossing the bridge. Among the deaths included my eldest brother Stevran, my brother Hector, my …” He goes on to name several Frey that perished when leading the defence. “Fortunately, I was able to aid My Lord Stark and reducing the casualties, otherwise this list would likely be much longer on both sides.” Lolder reports, inputting his contributions.
I frown as that was not part of the discussed script. He likely sought to remind everyone of his contributions in this war for when it comes to declaring his Lordship later, but he chose the wrong audience. Where previously only the more astute Lords remembered his betrayal, now even the dimmer ones are staring with contempt. These men are of the North, where except for a few, they care more about the act of betrayal than the lives such an act saved.
“What of the West Twin?” I ask to distract the room. Already several are mumbling insults directed at Lolder, and I want to cut it off before someone makes a public defiance. Though I don’t care for Lolder I still need to make him a Lord to fulfill my oath.
“Yes, Lord Stark, the deaths at the West were fewer, but I have to say they hurt my heart the most. The total soldier deaths, both in the battle and those that could not be saved from their wounds numbers about 300. Among which I was told that nearly 150 were caused by Lord Baskerville and his hound alone, as witnessed by many of the surviving soldiers. During the conflict my father and eldest nephew were among the casualties.” Lolder finishes by rubbing his eyes due to false tears, but no-one was paying attention to him anymore. This announcement drew many gasps. Many think it a lie, but when they look to Ben they see no pride or guilt, but are faced with a straight stare that somehow meets every pair in the room.
They soon turn back and debate among their neighbours, no-one willing to contest him. I don’t blame them as I doubted it myself, and was only after seeing the arrow stairs on the tower, the smashed gate and interrogating a dozen captured soldiers that I believed it. When I met with him after the battle, I wanted to ask him about it, but decided against it then. He seemed in no mood and there was too many things to take care of now that we had taken the keeps. I will still need to speak with him, if only to find out what is wrong, but I will do it when we are alone and when he has had time to mourn.
Most of the room is still debating Ben’s deeds, though the more observant have turned their attention to alternate between me and Lolder. ‘Seems they figured it out’ I thought. I already told the people at the main table of my plan, and while some are disapproving, they have all agreed to support it.
“My Lords, your attention please. I know you have much to discuss and there will be time for that later. For now we have urgent business, the most pressing concerns the fate of House Frey and the Twins.” I call the room to order.
The hall soon quietens as this is one of the most controversial topics that the other Lords are in doubt of. The Twins represent the first conquest of the war and the reward is a magnificent one to be sure. The Twins may not be comparable to the great keeps and cities like Winterfell, Dreadfort and White Harbour, but it represents one of the richest resources north of the Trident and south of the Neck.
Whoever controls the Twins controls the easiest method for crossing the Green Fork. The toll alone would make a House wealthy, the lands on either side of the river make it one of if not the best land in the Riverlands. The minor Lords all look excited and sit upright hoping to make a good impression and catch my eye. Foolish if they think a last minute impression would change my mind, but understandable that all have that ambition.
They have some hope that due to the fact the other great Lords didn’t contribute too strongly, they have a chance of being chosen as custodians at worst or even the new Lords at best. Except for a few ancient Houses, many of the smaller Lords would be willing to give up their family lands if that was what it took to be bestowed the prize that is control of the bridge. The likelihood of giving it to one of the more powerful Lords is low for fear of them surpassing the Starks in power.
They are wrong to assume, as even if I didn’t have the prior agreement I would not relinquish the Twins to someone not directly loyal to my family, at least while the war is going on. If I had to choose I would either pick my mother or Ser Rodrik. No-one could dispute my mother as she is not only the Stark matriarch, but her family has ruled the Riverlands for centuries, so she is the most appropriate. Rodrik on the other hand has served my father for years and fought in all his battles, many alongside the Lords present. He would see no objection from his old war buddies.
“With the passing of the late Lord Walder Frey, his oldest son and the eldest 3rd generation heir, the state of inheritance for House Frey is questionable. Not 3 hours had passed after Walder Frey’s death and the members of House Frey began to fight for power. It is clear they cannot be trusted to decide among themselves. As such I have decided to support someone who will lead House Frey down the correct path... Lolder Frey, please stand forward.” I say and Lolder moves to the middle of the room before the main table.
Several surprised faces appear with another handful displaying something akin to disgust. It seems my distraction wasn’t enough to make some in this room realize Lolders earlier mistake. I ignore them and push through.
“Lord Lolder has realised the mistakes his family has committed and for showing mercy to his family and loved ones, he has agreed to support us in our righteous undertaking. In recognition of his sacrifices and will, i have decided to make Lolder the Lord of House Frey until an agreement has been made within the House as to who the rightful successor is. He will be allowed to manage the Eastern Twin for the duration of the war and, depending on his contributions, I will restore House Frey to it’s full glory with all the lands included.” I declare. The Lords sitting on the main table stand and clap while Lolder kneels.
The rest of the room soon claps as well, though much more reluctant and some were hesitant it will do for now. The important thing is that I have gotten the majority of my bannermen’s acceptance which is the important part. I call for a night of celebration for the army. Tonight we will make merry and tomorrow we will put our dead to rest. As the room filled with cheers I looked towards the side and notice that Ben was missing.
The fact he managed to leave with a humongous Hound without me knowing is honestly impressive. I wanted to use tonight to talk to him. Both to see what was wrong and to ask his advice. Tomorrow night I will call for the war council where we will decide what to do from now on and I wanted his advice before it. Ben has contributed greatly towards this war already and feel that before it is over, I will need to rely on him again.