Honor & Fealty chapter 25
Lord Walder Frey had the wherewithal, at the very least, to be present and at the forefront when the caravan crossed from the Northern Tower to the Southern Tower. Several golden dragons and a royal decree from the Iron Throne were enough to make him step out of character and actually put on an air of hospitality.
While his children and servants tended to the Northern and Southern heirs, Lord Frey held a private audience with Lord Renly Baratheon and Lady Catelyn Stark.
Unfortunately, royal decrees and gold could not inspire tact in Lord Walder Frey. "How does it feel to have the lame-legged heir of a glorified steward serving the countrymen of your lord husband? The lords of the Northern houses must have him hopping from one foot to the other just to take the piss."
"Lady Stark, do not take his banter to heart. Pleasantries only go so far. When you look deep down, past the vulgarities and his tactless rhetoric, it's only his way of speaking directly."
"A lesson I learned long ago, Lord Baratheon. It is evident that very little has changed, save for appearances. As to that disparaging remark regarding Willas Tyrell, he has earned respect among the Northmen. They do not see him as a Southerner made humble at their feet." Catelyn said politely with an even tone.
"There is talk of a maid from Bear Island with not a pair of coppers to rub between two fingers being betrothed to your eldest boy. He would have found a greater dowry from a marriage to any maid from my lineage."
"Contrary to your perception, Lord Frey, there is very little about the union of houses that is ever simple. I know this all too well. House Mormont has been loyal and faithful to House Stark for generations. Along with the other houses in the North, they have protected the entire realm from the ancient times of the Long Night to this day. Their honor, loyalty and duty were never measured in gold or glory."
"My brother, our king, and I can certainly vouch for their honor and sense of duty. They live and, unfortunately, have died by it." Renly spoke up as if to reinforce Lady Stark's argument.
Lord Frey only scoffed. "Honor and Loyalty. Bah! The poor and destitute have such things raised up on pedestals and displayed on their mantles as if they mean a damn thing. Honor never put meat on my table, wine in my chalice or clothes on my back. Loyalty never set a fire in my hearth or put gold in my hand. I have seen many people die for both. Not a wretched soul was ever saved by either."
"I would advise caution in your words, Lord Frey. You seem one moment away from summoning bards and breaking into song." Renly quipped in an attempt to bring levity to a very tense moment.
"Lord Frey, seeing as we are only passing through, we will not take up any more of your time. Once our horses are tended to, we will continue on our way to Riverrun." Raising his goblet, Renly spoke without mockery, "To our relief and your...whatever you have."
"I never thought I'd see such a brood that would make the Wildlings look more hospitable or housebroken." Dacey whispered into her chalice.
"You'll find no argument from me, Lady Mormont." Brynden Tully said, being close enough to hear her sentiments. "On the other hand, not all of them are so terrible."
Dacey saw exactly what he meant. Margaery was pleasantly talking with a young girl who called herself Roslin Frey. She was timid but lovely with a gentle heart that matched her comely exterior. Robb was befriended by a young lad named Olyvar, who longed to leave the Twins behind to find his way in the world and break away from the preceding reputation his family had gained as mongrel extortionists and profiteers. Willas was conversing, to her surprise, with a knighted member of House Frey. Ser Perwyn Frey was both well raised as a knight and possessed of a better character than the majority of his extended family.
"Have you ever heard of Riverrun?" Brynden asked, taking her attention away from the Tyrells and the Frey knight.
"Apart from Robb being born there, I do not know much else. As for the lands south of the Neck, I do not recall hearing much of anything good."
"Everyone south of the Neck does not want to kill or have dominion over the Northmen. In fact, you might actually get along well with the members of House Blackwood. They are descended from the First Men and keep to the same gods you do."
"I never knew that, Ser Brynden." Dacey said. It was a surprise that anyone south of the Neck kept to the Old Gods.
Before Dacey could ask more about House Blackwood, Catelyn Stark and Renly Baratheon entered and signaled everyone to take their leave. Much to the disgust of Lord Walder Frey, Dacey insisted that Grey Wind stay close to her and Robb. Thanks in large part to Renly Baratheon's negotiations and a few extra gold dragons, Grey Wind was not separated from them for one moment. He was certainly the most effective way to keep the mongrel members of House Frey at bay.
Throughout the journey from the Stormlands to the Riverlands, Brienne of Tarth never thought to question Renly Baratheon's decision to intercept the small traveling company from Winterfell. In truth, she did not give any thought to House Stark. They were of the First Men, not the Andals. They kept to the Old Gods rather than the Seven, which meant they did not care for knighthoods.
Nevertheless, she did not dismiss all the Northerners as heretic savages who knelt before trees. Her father spoke to her about the women of House Mormont on Bear Island. It was one of the few things that inspired her to train. The other motivations were to knock down every man who ever mocked her or dismissed her as a motley fool.
After leaving the Twins, Renly Baratheon summoned her to his side. Lady Stark, who was right behind Robb Stark and Dacey Mormont, was alongside her uncle, the Blackfish, Ser Brynden Tully. Up ahead, a heated yet whispered argument was going on between the Tyrell brothers with Margaery trying to keep the peace.
"Come with me, Lady Brienne. I will require you at my side." That was what he told her. She did not know what he expected her to do but she dutifully obeyed.
When they were close enough to speak, Renly called out to the young heir to Winterfell. "Robb Stark, how does it feel to be back on the famed lands of your birth? I can imagine it's exhilarating."
"I could not say for certain. I was too young for the Riverlands to have made an impression, Lord Baratheon. As far as I am concerned, the North and the Riverlands are both places I can call my home."
"Of that, I have no doubt." Renly said jovially before turning his attention to Dacey. "Lady Mormont, I have in my company a woman who, like yourself, has the fervor for martial activity on the battlefield. May I present Brienne of Tarth, the only child of Lord Selwyn Tarth."
Brienne did not give Robb much thought since he was, in her eyes, as most men were to her. Brienne only acknowledged Dacey Mormont due to her silent admiration of her house and of awe that the dark haired, green eyed woman was both comely and formidable. "My lady." Brienne spoke with a curt nod to Dacey, who returned it in kind. Grey Wind growling at her was enough to catch her attention. The wolf did not know her but somehow could sense her general dismissal of both him and his master.
"Robb, there is much for us to discuss. Since we both have more than capable women at our backs and a direwolf to serve as mediator, I am hard pressed to find better circumstances."
"While that may be true, Lord Baratheon, we're all headed towards an uncertain certainty." Robb replied. Dacey smiled at the unexpected wit from Robb.
"A wolf with wit is a fit traveling companion indeed. What could be both certain and uncertain?" Renly asked.
"The future. There's much to look forward to and nothing that is completely certain." Robb replied before adding, "I'm certain you have much to discuss with me and I want to give my full attention. For now, it would be best to keep looking forward so as to not lose our way."
"Well spoken. Upon our arrival at Riverrun, once the formalities are over, we'll talk then. In the meantime, I'll see to aiding my betrothed in keeping the peace between a would- be knight and his elder brother."
Once Renly Baratheon and Brienne of Tarth had gone ahead, Catelyn approached Robb and Dacey. "You both handled it well enough."
"Somehow, this was just the first of many challenges for us in the way of diplomacy, Lady Stark." Dacey said calmly. "Lord Baratheon certainly wanted me to know about his inclusion of women."
"If he had seen Grey Wind before today, I'm sure Lord Baratheon would have marched a stag at his side just to show he could have a live sigil of his own." Robb said.
"For future conversations, keep such opinions to yourselves. Even offhand comments can be cause for hostility and conflict." Catelyn advised her son and future good daughter.
"I have always lived under one certainty. No matter how peaceful and cordial someone may be, hostility and conflict always show up like an early frost. Too quick to prepare for or evade." Ser Brynden said grimly. "The best you can do is put your head down and weather out the storm as best you can."
Dacey smirked. "This early frost, is it in our company now or is it waiting for us in Riverrun? The Northmen know all about winters and frosts, early or late."
"Nevertheless, Lady Mormont, I would advise strongly that you take Lady Stark's words to heart. If events go as I think they will, as the Starks are fond of saying, a winter is most certainly coming."
A/n: Sorry for the long wait. School work, part time job and real life certainly got in the way. On the other hand, it has given me some time to reflect on this story and get perspective on how to end it, considering how there are so many characters in Game of Thrones. The key point in this whole story is clearly Robb Stark and Dacey Mormont. I have entertained ideas about Mya Stone being in Winterfell, Jon and Lyra, and even something involving Margaery Tyrell. For now, those ideas are in the air, so to speak. There is only one point that I'm on the proverbial fence about. When King Robert Baratheon visits, should it be when Dacey is pregnant with Robb's child or after she had given birth to Robb's child?