2 Chapter 2: Drums of war

All around her she saw snow. To the east, west, south and north she saw snow.

It has been six years since she became the Lady of Winterfell. Despite her long stay, she remained unaccustomed to the cold winds of the North.

Catelyn had known she would become the Lady of Winterfell one day. After all, her father had prepared her for this eventuality when Lord Rickard Stark agreed to the betrothal. She was supposed to marry Brandon Stark but her betrothed was cruelly murdered by the Mad King.

Catelyn was horrified when word reached Riverrun of the cruel end her betrothed met. She had prepared herself to be the wife of the rough Northman. Brandon was headstrong and far more temperamental than anyone she had met. She had prepared herself to be a dutiful wife to her lord husband.

Yet, it was the will of the Seven that she marry the younger Stark.

She married Eddard Stark after the rebels smashed the royalist army in the Battle of Bells. She had never seen the younger Stark brother before her wedding day. Eddard Stark had remained a ward of Lord Arryn the few times Brandon had visited Riverrun. Hence, she had never met the younger Stark brother.

Even so, she married the man her father found for her like a dutiful daughter. Their marriage brought the Riverlands and the North to an alliance. With her dear sister Lysa marrying Lord Arryn, House Tully became the lynchpin of their grand new alliance. It was an alliance strong enough to overthrow the yoke of Targaryen rule over Westeros.

She cared not for the games of High Lords. At least, she didn't care for that all too much ever since she came to Winterfell.

In Riverrun, she had to act properly and be courteous every heartbeat lest she offends someone. In the North, it was the opposite. The ladies of the North were not so welcoming towards her and graced her with distant politeness. She remembered the aloofness and disinterest shining in Lady Barbrey's eyes. The Lords of the North on the other hand treated her as if she was the Queen!

Her husband was held in great regard by the Lords of the North. The Stark name held power in the North far beyond the Tully name could garner in the Riverlands. Perhaps, this was how all the former royal houses of the old kingdoms were received. It was a change she struggled to accommodate.

Ever so slowly she was becoming far more of a child of the North than a child of the South. Before she departed from Riverrun, her uncle had warned her the people of the North were gruff in looks but hold their hearts on their sleeves. It was as her uncle said and it was refreshing in its own way.

In the North, there were no plots to usurp positions of power. The servants of the castle were not spies for rival lords. There were no rival lords, to begin with!

The Starks were loved and respected in the North. The only House of concern were the Boltons owing to the actions of their ancestors. For centuries, the Boltons have remained loyal to the Starks. Even the former Red Kings have become staunch allies as seen in the Rebellion. The Vale, Riverlands and Stormlands all had houses that rebelled against their liege lords.

In the North, this was not to be. When her husband called the banners the whole North marched under the direwolf banners. The entire North marched in one pace under one leader to cast down the tyranny of dragons. The people of the North were simple people. It is hard to earn their trust as an outsider but once the trust is established you become one of them.

This was something she loved about the North. She may have left her family home for that of her husband but she never felt Winterfell alien to her.

Well, except for the Godswood.

She could never feel welcome in the Godswood of Winterfell. She had tried to do so much to Septa Mordane's charging. Not that she held any notion of abandoning the Seven and convert to the worship of Old Gods. It's just that she tried to see the Seven in the Weirwood trees.

In Riverlands, this was the norm as many houses hosted Weirwood trees and considered them a part of their culture. They were planted close to small septs and considered to be a part of the Seven with the faces of the Seven etched on the woods. It was a long tradition dating back to the coming of Andals. Although, it was a tradition not universally followed. The Starry Sept never acknowledged such fallacies. Most Riverland houses don't consider the Starry Sept as an authority in spiritual matters especially after Aegon the Dragon liberated her people from the cruel rule of the Ironborn. This schism in the faith had led Riverlands to develop different traditions.

Catelyn touched her belly and sighed. She was carrying the fourth child of her dear husband. It was only two years ago she delivered her first daughter Sansa.

Her first daughter was named after a famed Lady of House Stark who was set to inherit Winterfell during the Conquest of Dorne. While her twin sons were born out of duty, Sansa was born from love. Her daughter was the apple of her lord husband's eye. Even at the young age of two, her daughter managed to subjugate her husband to her will. Not a night had passed without her husband caring for Sansa before she went to sleep.

Catelyn was immensely happy watching her daughter and husband sleep. Sometimes Ned would sleep with their daughter sleeping on his chest.

Catelyn never imagined she would fall in love with her husband. From an early age, she had learned love was scarce in the world when her mother passed away. As the eldest, it has been her duty to care for her siblings in the absence of her mother. She considered herself blessed for she had found love even if she married for duty.

That doesn't mean her marriage was without ups and downs. While she loved her husband dearly her only complaint would be of the bastard's presence in Winterfell.

She could understand men especially those who go out for war cannot be expected to remain faithful to their wives. They face death frequently on the battlefield. Her Septa had taught her that men fall to wicked ways because war was never meant to be of man's nature. Wars should be fought for the divine and that was the sole just war. When men fight for material gain they shall often fall prey to sin.

Catelyn could understand why her husband lay with another woman. She had learned of her husband's bastard even at Riverrun and she had forgiven him long before he even reached her home after the war. What she could not forgive was the fact that Jon Snow was set up in Winterfell long before she even set foot in the castle.

She fiercely fought for the bastard to be removed from Winterfell but her lord husband always dismissed her concerns.

'Did Ned love the woman who birthed Jon Snow that much to have the bastard grow with his trueborn children?'

This was the question that burned in her mind not to mention the threat the bastard posed against her children.

Surely, Ned should know bastards are dangerous. Surely her lord husband knows of the Blackfyre rebellions and understands the threat posed by Jon Snow to her Robb.

It'd seem despite her lord husband growing up under Lord Arryn's roof he had yet to gain the wise teachings of the Seven. Children born from sin will only thrive in sin.

If her husband refused to see the danger posed by the bastard she decided she would not let her sons remain ignorant. To that end, she decided to teach her two sons the wisdom of keeping adherence to the tenants of the Seven. It was at this point, she realized the colossal mistake she made when discarding that the North held different views about bastards.

It took her five-year-old son to teach her this lesson.

Catelyn had charged Septa Mordane to teach Robb and Harrion of morality. The first two days of their teachings remained about topics like justice, honour, chivalry, kindness etc. On the third day, Septa Mordane taught her sons about sins and the punishment the Seven dealt upon those who sin. It was there the Septa explained to her two sons about the sins of bastards.

Robb dutifully listened but Harrion, her fiercely intelligent Harrion, immediately asked a question that attacked the foundation of her faith.

"If someone sins then shouldn't the fruits or punishment of that sin be held over those who sin rather than those who could not take part in the sin?"

That question had stumped Septa Mordane who spluttered and quoted the Seven Point Star.

"The word of the Seven is unquestionable dear Harry. The Gods themselves have spoken their will."

The response that came from her son was something neither she nor Septa Mordane expected from a five-year-old.

"If your God tells you that someone has sinned just because of the circumstances of their birth, which they had no control over, then that God is evil. Those who believe such nonsense are ill in their minds and people like them are those who commit the worst of sins. The sin of willful ignorance and blind hatred!"

Septa Mordane had once again tried to correct her little Harry to no effect. The Septa had even asked her to discipline her children but she was reluctant to do so.

Despite Harrion challenging her religious beliefs, Catelyn was struck by her son's reasoning.

'Can I truly believe a child is inherently evil?'

Any mother who loved her children could not bear thinking of children as a source of evil. The mere fact that she thought of her husband's bastard as a source of sin was influenced by her own hatred of her husband's unfaithfulness. It was there she understood that her anxieties regarding Jon Snow are birthed from hatred within her mind.

She had tried not to hate her husband's bastard but it was oh so difficult. It was difficult to let go of her fear towards bastards and very difficult to not worry on her behalf.

'Would Ned set me aside for Jon Snow's mother if he could?'

This was a thought that burned in her mind. Could it be that the love that blossomed between her and her husband was an illusion? Does Ned love the mother of his bastard more than her?

All these worries inhibit her from seeing Jon Snow as just a child. She could not let these worries go from her mind that easily.

To make matters worse, her Harrion was too close to Jon Snow for her comfort. No matter how much she tried to she could not change Harrion's mind. She had subtlety tried to remove her children from playing with the bastard.

She had tried to have the bastard take his meals from the kitchen just like the servants but Harrion would take his meals from the kitchen as well with his bastard brother. Catelyn tried to persuade and even physically force Harrion away from doing so but her son would refuse to take any food.

This had caused her husband to be cross with her and she eventually allowed the bastard to take his meals with the rest of her family. Although, she would never allow the bastard a seat at the table. Again, this posed a problem as Harrion would not take his meals if Jon was not allowed the same privilege. Harrion would join Jon Snow and take his meals on the floor.

All these events created rifts between herself and her second son. She had even fought with Ned over the issue but her husband would not chastise Harrion. There was one time Ned had done so and that was on behalf of Septa Mordane who complained Harrion rejected the teachings of gods.

Catelyn still remembered the fiery argument her son made that disarmed even Ned at that time.

"If I'm to believe in the tenants of the Seven-Pointed Star then I'd have to believe the vast majority of the North is filled with heathens that ought to be put to death. I also have to consider anyone born in Essos will be going to Hell simply because they were born in the wrong culture. If this is the book I'm to get morality from then I respectfully decline those teachings. I don't need my morality to be based on ramblings of fanatics and genocidal barbarians of antiquity!"

What turned out to be a supposed chastisement resulted in Ned ordering Septa Mordane to not teach Robb or Harrion of the Seven. Since then, Ned took the boys to the Godswood to teach them of the Old Gods.

"My lady!"

Her musings were cut short as Maester Luwin called for her attention.

"Master Luwin?"

"My lady, a raven has arrived from King's Landing."

"From King's Landing?" she asked in surprise.

The capital has been silent for a long time.

"I'm afraid so, my lady. Where is Lord Stark?"

"In the Godswood with the children." she answered before a worry settled in her mind. "Has something untoward happened in the Capital?"

"Aye, my lady. War is coming to Westeros once more. Balon Greyjoy has declared himself King of the Iron Islands. The Lannister fleet anchored at Lannisport has been attacked by the Ironborn fleet. The King has called the banners."


Eddard felt the gentle rustle of the leaves. The chirping of sparrows gave the Godswood normalcy that soothed his mind.

It was funny to think this is how he found peace in his life. If Brandon or Lyanna was to see him like this they would have teased him endlessly. Sadly his brother and sister passed away.

'Or maybe...' he thought, as he looked at the face carved on the heart tree.

'Maybe they are watching him from beyond.' he thought.

He closed his eyes and leaned back against the trunk of the tree breathing in deep from the misty Northern air.

'If you are watching Lya I kept the promise. Your son is safe by my side and so long as I breathe he will live.'

Opening his eyes he glanced at the three children sitting on a large branch of the heart tree. The branch was not so high so he had no reason to fear for the children to fall down. He smiled at his sons chatting away excitedly over the new story he told them of the old Stark kings.

Sitting in the middle was Harrion who has an uncanny attention span and an inquisitive mind when it came to knowledge. Maester Luwin had repeatedly informed him of the sheer intelligence exhibited by Harrion. From a young age, Harrion remained inquisitive of his surroundings. Growing up, his son only seems to have expanded on this trait.

At first, Eddard had doubted Maester Luwin's observation about how alert young Harrion was. As Harrion grew to the age of three he also began to note how calm Harrion was compared to Robb or Jon. Harrion also learned to walk and talk far early than his other two sons who only managed to gurgle out sounds.

It was also noted by Maester Luwin how quick Harrion was to learn his letters and numbers. By the time Robb and Jon began learning the letters and numbers, Harrion was already reading books from Winterfell's library. If all of the above hadn't convinced him the incident with Septa Mordane convinced him of how much sharp Harrion was compared to normal children.

At first, Eddard had thought Harrion to have a specific problem against the Faith of the Seven. It turns out, he was wrong and instead his son decided that he was not going to believe in any gods.

'Belief without evidence brings less clarity to the truth. Those who do not seek truth will court ignorance. Those who do not recognize their ignorance will become a disaster to themselves and those around them.'

These were the words Harrion said to him when he had asked the reason for his son's scepticism in gods. His son apparently decided to coin the idea that there is no god.

Eddard felt that was the truth but an inconvenient truth regardless. If there was any god wouldn't they have stopped wars from happening in the world? Wouldn't gods would have stepped in and lent the righteous people aid?

These were queries Harrion raised on different occasions to which he had no answer. Even a well-learned man like Maester Luwin has struggled before Harrion's questions. Despite Harrion's scepticism of the divine his son found no discomfort in visiting the Godswood. Like him, Harrion preferred the peaceful air of the Godswood. He took notice Harrion had increased his visits to the Godswood recently. Eddard took that as a good sign.

"My love!"

Eddard looked up from his musings to see his lady wife approaching him with a parchment in her hand. His lady wife is a beautiful woman and the baby bump in her belly only increased her beauty tenfold.

Her beauty only grows as years go by, Eddard thought.

"Have you come to join us, my lady?" he asked with a smile.

He amusedly watched as Robb jumped down from the branch he was sitting on to jump into Catelyn's arms. Robb has always been far closer to his mother than Harrion.

"I'm afraid not my love."

The sombre tone in his wife's tone clued him to an unsavoury event.

"Robb, Harrion, Jon. Please take your leave."

After the children left the Godswood he turned to his wife with a raised eyebrow.

"King Robert has called his banners my love. The Ironborn have rebelled."

His wife's words were a knife to his heart. Gods he had prayed and hoped he would not have to fight another war in his lifetime. He could see why Harrion chose to believe there are no gods.

But, he could not refuse the call to arms put forth by his King.

"You could stay my love. The King will be sending the fleet to combat the Ironborn. Surely, the North lack a fleet and you will be needed to defend the shores of the North." Catelyn said, hoping to keep her husband with her family.

"I shall serve where the King commands me to serve. Knowing Robert, he will ask for me to stay by his side. It won't do to reject a King's command." said Eddard as he led his visibly disappointed wife towards the castle.

War was coming to Westeros once more and like last time he would fight as is his duty. He just hoped his children would not fight in wars. If peace could be achieved in the time of his children he would fight a thousand wars to do so.

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