richard madden (2)

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Who’s your favourite royal?

2

“Why not a peace?” Catelyn asked.

The lords looked at her, but it was Robb’s eyes she felt, his and his alone. “My lady, they murdered my lord father, your husband,” he said grimly. He unsheathed his longsword and laid it on the table before him, the bright steel on the rough wood. “This is the only peace I have for Lannisters.”

The Greatjon bellowed his approval, and other men added their voices, shouting and drawing swords and pounding their fists on the table. Catelyn waited until they had quieted. “My lords,” she said then, “Lord Eddard was your liege, but I shared his bed and bore his children. Do you think I love him any less than you?” Her voice almost broke with her grief, but Catelyn took a long breath and steadied herself. “Robb, if that sword could bring him back, I should never let you sheathe it until Ned stood at my side once more … but he is gone, and a hundred Whispering Woods will not change that. Ned is gone, and Daryn Hornwood, and Lord Karstark’s valiant sons, and many other good men besides, and none of them will return to us. Must we have more deaths still?”

“You are a woman, my lady,” the Greatjon rumbled in his deep voice. “Women do not understand these things.”

“You are the gentle sex,” said Lord Karstark, with the lines of grief fresh on his face. “A man has a need for vengeance.”

“Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be,” Catelyn replied. “Perhaps I do not understand tactics and strategy … but I understand futility. We went to war when Lannister armies were ravaging the riverlands, and Ned was a prisoner, falsely accused of treason. We fought to defend ourselves, and to win my lord’s freedom.

“Well, the one is done, and the other forever beyond our reach. I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain and thank the gods. I want you safe, Robb, ruling at Winterfell from your father’s seat. I want you to live your life, to kiss a girl and wed a woman and father a son. I want to write an end to this. I want to go home, my lords, and weep for my husband.”

The hall was very quiet when Catelyn finished speaking.

“Peace,” said her uncle Brynden. “Peace is sweet, my lady … but on what terms? It is no good hammering your sword into a plowshare if you must forge it again on the morrow.”

“What did Torrhen and my Eddard die for, if I am to return to Karhold with nothing but their bones?” asked Rickard Karstark.

“Aye,” said Lord Bracken. “Gregor Clegane laid waste to my fields, slaughtered my smallfolk, and left Stone Hedge a smoking ruin. Am I now to bend the knee to the ones who sent him? What have we fought for, if we are to put all back as it was before?”

Lord Blackwood agreed, to Catelyn’s surprise and dismay. “And if we do make peace with King Joffrey, are we not then traitors to King Renly? What if the stag should prevail against the lion, where would that leave us?”

“Whatever you may decide for yourselves, I shall never call a Lannister my king,” declared Marq Piper.

“Nor I!” yelled the little Darry boy. “I never will!”

Again the shouting began. Catelyn sat despairing. She had come so close, she thought. They had almost listened, almost … but the moment was gone. There would be no peace, no chance to heal, no safety. She looked at her son, watched him as he listened to the lords debate, frowning, troubled, yet wedded to his war. He had pledged himself to marry a daughter of Walder Frey, but she saw his true bride plain before her now: the sword he had laid on the table.

Catelyn was thinking of her girls, wondering if she would ever see them again, when the Greatjon lurched to his feet.

MY LORDS!” he shouted, his voice booming off the rafters. “Here is what I say to these two kings!” He spat. “Renly Baratheon is nothing to me, nor Stannis neither. Why should they rule over me and mine, from some flowery seat in Highgarden or Dorne? What do they know of the Wall or the wolfswood or the barrows of the First Men? Even their gods are wrong. The Others take the Lannisters too, I’ve had a bellyful of them.” He reached back over his shoulder and drew his immense two-handed greatsword. “Why shouldn’t we rule ourselves again? It was the dragons we married, and the dragons are all dead!” He pointed at Robb with the blade. “There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m’lords,” he thundered. “The King in the North!”

And he knelt, and laid his sword at her son’s feet.

“I’ll have peace on those terms,” Lord Karstark said. “They can keep their red castle and their iron chair as well.” He eased his longsword from its scabbard. “The King in the North!” he said, kneeling beside the Greatjon.

Maege Mormont stood. “The King of Winter!” she declared, and laid her spiked mace beside the swords. And the river lords were rising too, Blackwood and Bracken and Mallister, houses who had never been ruled from Winterfell, yet Catelyn watched them rise and draw their blades, bending their knees and shouting the old words that had not been heard in the realm for more than three hundred years, since Aegon the Dragon had come to make the Seven Kingdoms one … yet now were heard again, ringing from the timbers of her father’s hall:

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

THE KING IN THE NORTH!

Catelyn XI, A Game of Thrones.

4

Gods be good, why would any man ever want to be king? When everyone was shouting King in the North, King in the North, I told myself … swore to myself … that I would be a good king, as honorable as Father, strong, just, loyal to my friends and brave when I faced my enemies … now I can’t even tell one from the other. How did it all get so confused?

3

  “Lord Stark,” Jon said. It was strange to hear him call Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him with desperate hope. “There are five pups,” he told Father. “Three male, two female”.
  “What of it, Jon?”
  “You have five trueborn children,” Jon said. “Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord.”
  Bran saw his father’s face change, saw the other men exchange glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at that moment. Even at seven, Bran understood what his brother had done. The count had come right only because Jon had omitted himself. He had included the girls, included even Rickon, the baby, but not the bastard who bore the surname Snow, the name that custom decreed be given to all those in the north unlucky enough to be born with no name of their own.
  Their father understood as well. “You want no pup for yourself, Jon?” he asked softly.
  “The direwolf graces the banners of House Stark,” Jon pointed out. “I am no Stark, Father.”

(…)

  “There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them, smiling.
  “He must have crawled away from the others,” Jon said.
  “Or been driven away,” their father said, looking at the sixth pup. His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.
  “An albino,” Theon Greyjoy said with wry amusement. “This one will die even faster than the others.”
  Jon Snow gave his father’s ward a long, chilling look. “I think not, Greyjoy,” he said. “This one belongs to me.”

Bran I, A Game of Thrones

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9

…and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them: for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands;
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
And some are yet ungotten and unborn
That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin’s scorn.