Bow of the North

by

coinhas2sides

chapter 69 - New information, New plans

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A note from coinhas2sides

Sorry for the delay, this was a rather long chapter and i haven't been very well the past couple days. 

Rob Stark POV (the following night)

“Order!! Order I say!” I shout towards the other Lords in the room. “I know some of you have heard the news already, but before we discuss solutions, we should compile all that we know so to not waste time.”

“Well said lad! Alright you buggers, shut your gobs before shove my boot in there!!” Jon Umber bellows in support causing the din to settle.

Once everyone has settled down and seated, I present the original letter that arrived last night, when the rest of the keep was celebrating I was approached by maester Kann. He was the maester that formerly served House Frey and told me that a letter had arrived via raven for Lord Frey.

The maester’s of the citadel are supposed to remain neutral in conflicts involving the Lords. They serve the current master of the keep they are assigned to, and in the case the keep is taken then they are to serve the new masters. In this case it was debatable who he was supposed to report to first. Though the Twins was taken by myself, I had returned part of it to the Frey so it could be said that who he serves is up to Kann.

It seems that despite serving Walder and the Frey family for nearly 2 decades he has formed no tight bonds to the family as I was handed an unopened sealed letter. Inside it contained a message from Tywin Lannister, telling Walder Frey that if he could delay us for 2 weeks then he could reinforce him and destroy us from the rear.

This revealed that my plan to cross the Twins was revealed by Lord Walder. I was not expecting him to send a message of switching allegiances when we had only just begun negotiations, though considering he didn’t anticipate me attacking the Twins I suppose I deserve it.

“Lord Tywin knows we are trying to cross the Green Fork, which means he likely knows where our destination is. Relieving the siege at Riverrun.” The other Lords nod. “This by itself is not too great an issue as we had taken him eventually finding out into account. Though, ideally we wanted to cross quickly and without informing the Lannisters, if the Twins required a long siege before crossing it would have made little difference due to Tywin’s inability to react.” I direct them to the map sprawled over the table.

“If the Lannisters learned of our plan of attack, they would be unable to unite against us due to the Baratheons still being a threat. Though they could send part of their forces to Riverrun in that time, we would also have time to bolster our numbers. Houses Mallister and Vance have expressed their support, as well as several other Riverland forces. In addition, this morning a messenger arrived from our allies in the north as well. The remaining forces from both your own Houses and those that were located too far to arrive on time have gathered at Winterfell and are making their way to us. In a few weeks we should be able to gather an additional 8,000 men from the North, and another 5,000 from the Riverlands. With the conquest of the Twins, and the added Frey forces, we could nearly double our number in 3 weeks time. The problem is that it would be too late.” I direct their attention to a second letter. “This letter was addressed to Lord Torren from his relative in the Reach. Lord Torren please explain.”

Lord Torren stands up straight and straightens his jacket before speaking to the room. “My Lords, my youngest brother married the daughter of House Chester from the Shield Islands, and sent me a message at great risk to himself. Due to the fact he could not trust the maester at the keep, he was forced to send the letter by ship until it reached the North where the message was copied by my castelan and sent to me here. In the letter he describes that the Reach has allied with the Lannisters and are in support of King Tommen. The Reach was gathering their forces and had sent them East to King’s Landing.” As he finishes he bowed to me before once again sitting.

The room starts their murmuring again. Several were already privy to this information, whereas those that weren’t now had rather distressed appearances. The 2 largest Kingdoms in Westeros uniting together Is one of the worst possible situations. But the underlying threat in the letter is what worries me the most.

“As you have probably already deduced, this is a serious blow to our plans. This letter was sent several weeks ago, which means the Reach could already be on their way to the capital by now. When they reach it, Tywin will then have free forces to reinforce Jaimie at Riverrun. We will be sent back to square one where we have lost our element of surprise and numerical superiority.” I point out.

The Reach is more than capable of fighting the divided Stormlands, which means the Lannister forces will be free to concentrate themselves on us and the Riverlands. The Riverlands are already scattered and it is only a matter of time before they capitulate. If Tywin arrives then other than the staunchest and most stubborn of our supporters, the rest will side against us.

“My Lord Stark, though I am reluctant to even suggest this... but perhaps we should sue for peace?” Lord Callis suggests mildly in a quiet voice. What erupts is a cacophony of objections and denunciations. Calls of cowardice are thrown around the most, but I notice several other faces in the room share the same timid disposition, with a few others looking to ponder the idea. I decide to cut this thought in the bud and put up my hands for quiet.

“My Lords, you should not denounce Lord Callis so quickly, as he was only seeking to look at all directions.” Lord Callis looks to me gratefully, while the rest grumble with questioning glares at me. “It is one that we cannot and will not take however.” I say which brings relief to the room, several who likely suspected me of cowardice.

“The banner of rebellion has already been raised, lowering it now will not put us back to the starting line. Instead we will be putting ourselves and our next generations at the mercy of the enemy. If we sue for peace now the best that will happen is being made to pay war reparations, the kind that will cripple the North for the next decade at least, especially with Winter on it’s way.” The Lords frown at this, in particular the smaller Lords who tend to suffer from the cost of Winter more than the rest of us.

“The more likely outcome is that we will have to send hostages to the capital to ensure that we remain their dogs from this day forth. I am not sure how many of you remember the tales of Tywin’s youth, but I am sure many have heard the ‘Rains of Castemere’?” My mother interjects from the side.

The ‘Rains of Castemere’ is a ballad that was conducted by Tywin Lannister after one of his most bloody acts. House Castemere was one of several Houses in the Westerlands that had borrowed money from the Lannisters nearly half a century ago. The special thing about House Castemere was that they refused to pay back their debts.

I know there were several other factors at the time that led to the eventual result, but the main point is that to ensure the Houses that borrowed money paid, Tywin ordered the House to send a member of their family as hostage. When the Castemeres refused, they were killed to the last, every man, woman and child until House Castemere no longer existed anywhere except for a few distant bloodlines, and the words of a song.

If Tywin was willing to slaughter his bannermen for simply refusing to pay back their debts, imagine what they would do to us with the name of Traitors?” Mother finishes. The room becomes greatly overcast with that sentence, thoughts of their fate at the end of this conflict appearing to mind. I decide to correct those thoughts before they get too far off track.

“I would like you all to try and remain focused. The situation is not bleak as we still have several advantages. If we were forced to siege the Twins then it is likely we would be in trouble as we would not reach Riverrun before the enemy is reinforced. We did cross the river however, and not only that but maester Kaan tells me that Walder did not have any time to send a letter out of the keep during the attack. This means they still have no idea we now control the Twins and i intend to keep it that way.”

“Tywin cannot send troops to Riverrun until the Tyrells reach the capital, which means we still have some time. I propose we head there immediately with what forces we have and strike Jaime’s forces while they are unaware. With my grandfather and the Riverland forces freed we can join the North and Riverland together to contend with the Royals.” I say, indicating my intention to continue with the original plan.

“My Lord, though we may match them in terms of Kingdoms, we fall short in troops and resources. The Westerland and Reach are the 2 most powerful and wealthy Realms in Westeros. While we are no pushovers and I would gladly fight either one of them to the death, with the Riverlands weakened we cannot fight them both ourselves, and with winter on the way we don’t have the supplies to match them either.” Wendell Manderly speaks out in opposition.

“Ser Manderly presents a decent point, and if it was an even fight on the plains then we would find ourselves at a disadvantage. But if we free Riverrun then we can defend the Riverland using it’s namesake. The Trident and the Red Fork divide Westeros in 2. There are very few bridges and other crossing points, which we can easily defend. With Riverrun we can also watch the River Road that connects Tywin to the Westerlands. If we control it then the Lannister army will be cut-off from it’s source of supplies. They will either have to travel the long way around the mountains or rely on the Reach. The Reach is much further South and though they are rich in food they will have trouble transporting it by land. We on the other hand can use the numerous rivers to transport supplies making logistics much easier.” I state.

Though we cannot fight the Royal faction face to face we can outlast them. Using the Rivers to defend and the difficulty with logistics to strain the opposition we will have an even footing in the confrontation.

“If we take Riverrun this could work, however that is a big if. If we don’t take the time to gather forces then we will have trouble defeating Jaime in a decisive victory. If we lose, or if we only push Jaime back then we will spiral downwards. Tywin will send reinforcements to Jaime as soon as he realises we are attacking his son’s forces and we will be outnumbered again. Don’t forget that unless we completely destroy the forces around Riverrun then the River Road will remain in Lannister control and they will be able to respond quickly to any engagements. Tywin might not commit all his forces while the Baratheons are still in play, but sending and few units from both the Westerlands and his own camp is more than possible.” Lord Hornwood expresses doubt on my plans.

“You may be overestimating the difficulty of defeating the enemy because you are unaware of the way Riverrun is built. Though my family home is not as large or prestigious as the other paramounts keeps, but it is just as, if not harder, to attack. Built on the joining point of the Red Fork and the Brinewater, once the moat is filled it is impossible to invade. In addition, a siege require a full encirclement with forces placed on 3 landpoints. In other words, the Lannister host will be split into 3 groups, with neither one able to easily reinforce the others.” Mother reminds us of the terrain surround Riverrun.

“Lady Stark makes a decent point. However, her assumption is all determined on the Lannisters not realising we have crossed the River. If they realise then no matter how fast our army travels, we will not reach Riverrun before Jaime is reinforced by either Tywin or the Westerlands then any tactical advantage will go out the window, If Jaime learns of our approach, he could simply shift his forces to respond to us as well, either retreating or defending as appropriate. This war won’t end with Riverrun, and without a decisive victory we will not survive the counter attack without reinforcements.” Roose Bolton inputs from the right. He is one of those that had remained silent so far, despite being probably the most informed out of the other Lords.

“Both Tywin and Jaime believe we are trapped at the Twins for the moment. All we need to do is make them think we are still stuck on this side of the river. Lord Frey, would it be possible to copy the writing of your late father and send a message in his name? In the letter House Frey would agree to Tywin’s suggestions, and promise to hold us for 2 to 3 weeks. With regular messages, some containing updates and others negotiations, we could trick them into thinking we were stuck sieging the Twins. By the time they realise we have tricked them we will arrive at Riverrun and it will be too late.” Lord Hornwood responded and directed a question to Lolder Frey.

Though everyone knows his status is entirely dependent on Myself and his behaviour, he is technically a Lord and commands a large army so he is accepted at our war councils.

Before his meeting began, we negotiated the forces that House Fry would contribute o the war effort. After the battle House Frey had a little over 4,000 regular troops that they could command, with Lolder indicating he could summon another 1,000 levies from his lands if needed. Due to the need to protect the Twins and ensure his lands don’t descend into turmoil after the recent regime change, he requested that 2,000 troops remain at the Twins.

This was immediately refused. If I left him with such a large force then I would need to assign at least as many men to the other Twin to ensure Lolder doesn’t betray me later on. This would mean I would gain no numbers for my march south when I need every man I get. I told Lolder that he could have at most 300 soldiers to ensure his protection and the safety of the keep. When he responded that that was nowhere near enough, I reassured him that I would be leaving at least 1,000 soldiers in the other Twin who can assist him in an emergency.

This was both as an insurance to ensure the Twins didn’t fall to the enemy, but also as a threat that if Lolder betrays us he will be dealt with. I will also be taking several members of the Frey family with me in the army and if Lolder ever betrays me I will have no trouble assigning a replacement. If one of them happen to give significant contributions then I may bestow them a Lordship and give them the other Twin as a reward. This will forever split the Twins in 2 and ensure no single family controls the crossing from henceforth.

Lolder got the message and asked if he could choose the men that would stay. I told him that if he could increase the number of levies from 1 thousand to 2 then he could choose all 300, if not then half would be his chosen and the rest would be levies.

“This doesn’t seem to be too hard, Milord. I know where my father kept most of his letters, and if you gave me some time I could copy the appropriate writing style and wording to match my father’s.” Lolder, dressed in finery answer’s after scrambling to get up. He probably thought he was only invited because of formalities and wasn’t expecting to be addressed.

“While Lord Hornwood’s idea for counter intelligence is a reasonable one, we should not assume Tywin is so careless as to rely solely on letters for his information. A single scout is all that is needed to see that we are no longer at the Twins, at which point our ploy will be revealed. In order to trick them we need to ‘show’ that we are still on this side of the river.” Lord Bolton Counters.

“And how would you suggest we do this Roose?” Jon Umber asks.

“By dividing our force into 2 and sending one of them south to clash with Tywin.” Roose answer. This brings a clamour to the room, many calling for the impossibility of the task, an opinion I agree with. The whole reason we are having so much trouble with this situation is that unless we use the entirety of our force, we can’t contend with the divided Lannister army. Splitting our army to 2 targets will only mean we can’t accomplish either task. I know Roose Bolton is no idiot, however, so I ask him to explain.

“What Lady Stark and Lord Rob said earlier gave me an idea. Riverrun is indeed made so that when sieging you need to position your forces into 3 groups, and that with the rivers to act as barriers we could easily defend against a force of 2 times. The positioning of Jaime’s forces means that if we can deal with a single side quickly, then we can use the rivers to act as barriers to guard against any counterattack from the other 2. In addition we only need to open one side to free the Riverrun forces belonging to House Tully bolstering our numbers.”

“Let us say that we send 8,000 troops south towards where Tywin is. That will still leave us with over 15,000 troops, more than 20,000 if we include the Frey forces and any other Houses we can convince to commit to us along the way. With numerical superiority and the element of surprise, we can destroy any of the sides we wish before the other 2 could react. With the Tully forces added, we will then greatly outnumber the remaining Lannister forces.” Lord Bolton explains his plan.

“It is an interesting idea, but there are several points that I would like to point out.” Lord Hornwood starts to counter. “Even if we send a force south, Tywin would still be suspicious of our sudden change in direction. He has just been told that we are sieging the Twins, and now we are marching south? Anyone would think this is a trick and investigate, if he doesn’t just crush it outright.”

“In addition, your plan to attack Riverrun is contradictory. You say that we can use the rivers to hold back the other enemy troops, and after we have regrouped with the Tullys we could attack them as we please. However, would they not just use your own trick against you, and use the Rivers against us? They will have more than enough troops left to keep us occupied until they are reinforced by either the Westerlands or Tywin. Then both our main force and splinter force will be destroyed by our outnumbering counterparts.” Lord Hornwood announces somewhat smugly.

Though I understand he is pleased to see the fault in the plan of the one that just dismissed his own, I wish he could then follow up with a new one that will work. Fortunately, it seems he was smug too soon as Roose follows up with a continuation of his plan.

“Lord Hornwood makes several veritable points, and I have fortunately thought of them. The first comes from Lord Hornwood’s earlier suggestion for counter intelligence. We will still send a message to Lord Tywin under the name of Walder Frey, but we will change the contents. We will reveal that our forces found out about the alliance between the Tyrell and Lannisters, and their plan to attack the Stormlands. In our panic, we decided to suspend the siege of the Twin and march against Tywin to ally with the Baratheon’s. The force we send south will pretend to be a vanguard to secure our crossing, while we wait for our reinforcements from the north and then march down as one large army.” Roose reveals his intention to still use the letters for counter-intelligence, though in an even more diabolical way.

As I tap the table lightly, I can’t help but think it is an amazing idea. The possiblity of a North and Stormlands alliance is too great a threat. Not only is it believable, but even if Tywin had suspicions he would have no choice but to prepare in the worst case scenario.

An alliance between the North and Riverlands could be disregarded as the Riverlands have been greatly weakened and we could not threaten the Westerlands and Reach united in their minds. If we joined with the Stormlands, 2 powerful lands together, then it could tilt the scale. In fact if it wasn’t for the fact I would have to abandon my grandfather and his allies, as well as the fact my intention is not to fight the entire kingdom, I may have considered going forward with it and disregarding Riverrun altogether.

It reminds me of when I watched Ben’s preliminary fight the year he became a knight. He explained to me his action of using sudden reinforcements to throw off the enemies and believe that there was a greater threat hidden in the surroundings. This left the other competitors immobile and unable to press the advantage allowing Ben to score a devastating blow to his main competitors and retreat without a scratch.

“As for the second point there are 2 points you need to remember. Though the Lannister forces could use the rivers to defend, their remaining force will be split in 2 by the river as well. They will have no way of predicting which side we are going to cross from and attack so we will control the initiative. If they try to cross the river to combine their forces then it will take time and we can just target them as they cross.” Roose enlightens us to the flaw in defending both banks.

“We could also use the boats to cross more easily than them. My family has a large number of boats that are used for fishing and transport, which when Riverrun is attacked are brought in so the enemy can’t use them. Once we free Riverrun we can use the boats to cross more easily than the enemy which have to either swim or use rafts.” Mother reminds us of her families resources.

The plan seems to gather the approval of the majority of the room judging by their murmuring. The only backlash it received was from those that thought the plan was too complicated and thus had too many ways it could go wrong but they were silenced when told that the situation was against us and only with a gamble could we overcome it. When asked if they could provide a better solution they all grumbled quietly before shutting up.

“There have been many good ideas suggested today and I thank you all for your contributions. I suggest we all take a break for now and I will call another meeting when I have thought which plan is the correct to pursue.” I ask the rest of the room to leave, which they agree and bow as they resign.

It seems after the battle of the Twins my prestige with the other Lords has risen. Before some of them would look down on me due to my age, and it was only due to my family name and the loyal support of my stronger bannermen like the Umber and Karstarks that they obeyed me. Now they follow because they believe I am not only an appropriate Lord, but one that will lead them to victory.

The only prerequisite is that I need to win and keep on winning.

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A note from coinhas2sides
Spoiler: Spoiler

 Due to illness i have not had much time to write last week and will be on holiday this week so not much time to write. I will try to post the next chapter Wednesday, but if not it will be postponed till the following week.

Thank you for reading and please comment 


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