A/N: This is the end. Shall we begin?
Our Blades Are Sharp
Epilogue: Burning Bright
He yearned for it.
The Dreadfort, it felt like some distant memory.
Riverrun, King's Landing, Winterfell, the Redfort.
He had stayed in so many places across the kingdoms, but his heart and mind always returned to his real home.
There were mornings when he woke up and he just wanted to get on his horse and leave Riverrun behind, him and Sansa. To take her to the Dreadfort and show her the castle that he called home.
Our home. The correction made him smile. Let us just return north, ride to the Dreadfort. Father and his men can stay and fight for Stannis. He didn't care about the Iron Throne. He had seen enough of the south.
I just want to go home with my wife.
It was a movement that jilted him out of his thoughts.
"I'm sorry," She muttered beside him. "Were you sleeping?"
"No," He wasn't sure he'd call it that, maybe he was. He didn't know. "Yes."
They were in the bed of their shared chambers in Riverrun.
He opened his eyes to adjust to his surroundings. Mayhaps, I was asleep.
There was a dim glow coming from the hearth. He looked to the windows, but all he saw was darkness. It was still sometime in the night.
He turned back to face his wife who was nestled beside him. Her pale shoulders poked out from over the blankets. Her hair fanned out on the pillow, a halo of flame. And in the flickering light, her blues eyes shone like stars.
"Were you sleeping?" He asked while continuing to admire her.
She nodded, tendrils of fire swishing around her.
He pushed himself from lying on his back to lying on his side to stop any soreness from coming to his neck. "About?" He poked her and savored the sweet giggle she made in protest.
"Oh." Was the first word his mind could push out of his mouth. "We've only been married a week."
"We've been trying often enough," She replied with a sultry tinge that never not affected him.
That was very true. Domeric smiled. "However, unless I'm mistaken what we did earlier certainly wouldn't help get you with child."
It had not been his first time tasting that particular carnal delight.
"Husband," She mocked scolded him. "You may be right," she admitted, "But that doesn't mean you'll stop."
"It never crossed my mind."
"Good," One of her fingers was lazily skimming up his arm.
"So this child of ours," He was unable to deny the warmth that seemed to pool in his chest at the idea, "That we're so diligently-"
"And enthusiastically trying for," She finished for him, "Our baby Bolton."
Those two words worked remarkably well in his wife's voice. "Does this baby have a name?"
"The girl does."
He was surprised at how confident she was.
"Bethany," she murmured against him, answering his unasked question.
Domeric stilled. He felt something well up within while he thought of this babe with her mother's eyes and his mother's name. "I'd like that," He said when he could trust his voice.
She kissed his shoulder. "Good."
"And what of boys?"
"Boys?" She repeated in feigned dismay.
"I was an only child."
"Yes," She acknowledged, "but you're not the one who has to carry them." The shimmer in her eyes belaying her protest.
"Do you have a name for our only and lonely son?" He teased.
She let out a laugh before she answered. " What about Edric?"
He thought it over, but he was not certain of it. "My friend Mychel once told me I had to name a son after him." They had been drinking when these promises and declarations were made, but he thought it better to leave that part out.
"Mychel Bolton," Sansa tried out the name, but she didn't seem to like it.
Sorry, Mychel. It was not to be.
"What of Rogar?" He was the Bolton who bent the knee to the Starks, the Last Red King.
She nodded, "A good name."
"I could stay like this forever."
"I would not complain," he kissed her hair when she laid her head upon his chest. However, it was not the chambers of Riverrun where they should be, where he wanted to be...
"But?" She had sensed it too.
"Am I that predictable?"
She turned so that he could see her sly smile, "Only to me."
"I'm glad." He replied, but his mirth turned to wistfulness. "I was thinking of the Dreadfort. That's where I want to be, with you beside me, and in bed with me," His hand gently ran down her back. She met his words and touch with a content sigh. "I want to take you home."
"I would like that." She kissed him. "Describe it to me."
"The Dreadfort?" He realized how foolish he sounded afterwards, but he blamed her tantalizing kiss for making him a little dazed.
"There's this balcony on the tallest tower," If he closed his eyes, he felt as if he was standing there once more. He could feel the cool wind against his face. "It overlooks the Weeping Water," He explained, "It's beautiful. And at night to see this crystal blue water moving through the dark landscape that stretched below us," He could see it so clearly in his mind's eye. "It's like seeing a sword forged from light itself cutting its way through a canvas of black silk."
"It sounds beautiful," She murmured. "I want to see that first."
"Then you shall, Lady Bolton." He kissed her and she hummed her approval.
"Tell me more of our home."
So he did.
"I was surprised to receive such an invitation."
Dacey and Jon were sitting across from them. Sansa had invited them so that they could break their fast together. It had been Jon's betrothed who had just spoken.
"Oh?" Sansa furrowed her brow, "Why? We are to be family soon."
"You misunderstand," Dacey leaned forward, smirking, "I meant I was surprised to receive an invitation at this sort of hour," she winked.
"What can I say," Sansa matched her future good sister's smirk, "We worked up an appetite."
Dacey laughed, rocking back in her seat. Impressed, and surprised by Sansa's bawdy retort.
Domeric chuckled into his hand, keenly aware of the growing smug smile on his lips.
Jon looked like he wanted the floor under his chair to swallow him up.
"Forgive my betrothed," Dacey put her hand on his arm. "He has a gentle heart."
"More a gentler stomach if this will be our morning discussion," He corrected dryly. His lips crooked upwards before he took a bite of his eggs.
"Forgive me, brother," Sansa's apologized lightly, "I shall let you eat in peace."
"My thanks," He had no problem matching her tone.
"Do you know when you'll be wed?" Sansa was spreading some honey onto her bread.
Domeric watched them exchanged looks.
"Soon, if men listen to reason," Dacey sipped from the tart wine that the servants had brought up with their food.
Sansa looked pleased at that.
"She's very impatient for me," Jon put in mildly.
"I think it's only fair," Dacey remarked simply, "you've been able to wield Longclaw but I haven't been able to wield-"
Domeric had unwisely decided to take his drink while she was speaking and was now coughing some of it back up. He covered his mouth with his arm and felt Sansa's hands on his back.
While he recovered he saw Dacey raised an eyebrow at him. Her amusement was clear to see. Nor did he miss Jon's expression, and the look in his eyes when they turned to his betrothed. There was no shyness or embarrassment just a flickering unabashed smirk.
This was not the same old Jon Snow of Winterfell, that Domeric remembered before he and Sansa set off to the capital and him to the Wall. And it pleased him to see.
Now, he had a promising future with his betrothed, a new seat, acclaim and an earned title.
The knighthood has allowed others to finally see what Jon's siblings already knew of their brother, he observed, While Dacey wishes to see all the rest.
"This has been a very enlightening meal," Domeric noted.
"Too enlightening," Jon replied wryly, "And it's not yet over."
They laughed while his wife shook her head.
"I'm just glad I decided not to invite Father to this," Sansa added with a feigned sigh.
"That was fun."
He had taken Demon out and was pleased to say his newly acquired zorse was turning out extraordinarily well.
Domeric slid off said mount where Riverrun pages and stableboys were there to receive him and his small retinue of riders. They were more hesitant to take control of Demon, the zorse's fierce temperament was beginning to garner a reputation among the stablehands in the castle. One of the older hands finally took the exotic mount and led Demon away.
It had been brisk and refreshing. Riverrun castle felt stifling at times, and a good ride was a great reprieve to improve one's spirits. Domeric's only disappointment was that he went without his wife, who had declined to spend time with her mother and ailing grandfather. She also didn't share his fervor for it. We'll change that.
"As you say, my lord," Captain Rylon replied dutifully.
Domeric turned to his captain. Along with Rylen were a few Bolton-men-arms who had already been dismissed, his squire, Colmar and Bitter Robard.
"You should just be thankful it was a brief ride, captain."
Rylen raised an eyebrow, "Your definition of brief is different then mine, my lord."
Domeric smiled, but turned to address his squire. "Colmar, you'll oversee the horses and your other duties," He took the instructions with a nod. "And once you are finished you may have the rest of the afternoon off."
"Thank you, my lord," Colmar couldn't hide his surprised smile at the unexpected reward.
Domeric saw no reason not to give it. "You'll report to me before supper."
"I will, my lord."
Domeric dismissed his squire with that. He hadn't moved very far before he spotted a familiar face.
The former maester was hovering just beyond the courtyard. "My lord," He was quick to make his bow. "I heard you were sighted."
"Is there something you need?"
"A raven came for you, my lord," Qyburn presented the letter.
He was not sure what to make of his messenger. Why is it Qyburn and not Wolkan or Vyman?
Domeric inspected the letter while he walked. Qyburn moved to keep to his side while Bitter and Rylen followed behind. He noticed the wax seal didn't look to have been tampered with. The parchment bore no hints that it had been opened and then resealed before it was given to him.
Satisfied, he turned back towards Qyburn, who didn't look the least bit offended at the unspoken accusation that went with Domeric examining it.
The former maester looked like a kind old man, but Domeric was aware of the secrets hidden behind his fatherly smile. His intimate knowledge of certain skills helped persuade Domeric into deciding to spare him while he crucified the rest of the Bloody Mummers.
Still, Domeric would not forget how quickly and ruthlessly Qyburn turned on them when it suited him.
"Good news, I hope."
"I don't know, why don't you tell me," Domeric responded blithely.
Qyburn chuckled. Amused, but not insulted by the implication. "I did not open it, my lord."
"I am glad," Domeric was not sure he believed him, but he didn't press the matter.
"I heard you will be staying with my father."
"That was his request," Qyburn gave a harmless smile.
He nodded. It was as he predicted, his father grew curious and interested in the former maester's talents and knowledge. They were not conversations he was privy to, but he knew the two men well enough to have an idea what they discussed. Domeric had been counting on that sort of familiarity to form between them when he spared the former maester.
Domeric looked up at Qyburn. "You may serve my father but do not forget how you got here."
"My lord, your fath-"
"Did not save you," Domeric finished for him. "Ser Edmure did not save you. Lord Stark did not save you." He stopped abruptly and turned to Qyburn. "I saved you."
"And I'm grateful," Qyburn dipped his head.
"Which means you will not forget that debt despite whatever distance may come between us," Domeric said quietly. "You will remember your savior while you serve Lord Bolton. You will not forget that it was the son not the father that spared you from the cross." He watched him closely, but the old man offered him nothing but a bland smile, while his eyes kept his thoughts well hidden. "Do you understand?"
Domeric saw his chambers ahead, but would move no further with the former maester for company.
Qyburn's hands were clasped in front of him as if to pay homage. He bowed his head, while that smile never left his face. "There will be no secrets between us, Lord Domeric."
"Thank you," Domeric nodded, "I reward good service."
"As you've proven, my lord," Qyburn replied, "I should return."
"Very well," Domeric watched the former maester play the obedient servant before he shuffled away. He'll either serve me truths or he'll serve me my father's words.
If its the latter, Domeric thought, When I'm done with him, I shall make him wish he had been crucified with the others. After all, the bowels of the Dreadfort are filled with those unwise enough to defy his family.
"Rylen, Robard," He turned to the two men, "I think I can manage the rest of the way to my chambers."
"As you say, my lord," Rylen's lips twitched, but he dipped his head.
Robard mutely bowed.
The two Bolton men retreated down the corridor. Their armored footfalls a distancing echo.
Domeric studied the red wax and familiar standard pressed into the letter as he walked the short distance.
The mark of House Redfort was a welcomed sight. He had been waiting for a response from them and hoped it was good news. When he arrived to his room, he noticed that the door was left open. He moved forward to see only his wife was inside and her back was to him.
Inspired by a sudden bit of mischief, Domeric put the letter away and slipped inside without making a noise.
He quietly crept closer to her, but before he was near enough Lady betrayed him.
She let out a whine that caused his wife to turn around to face him with a slight smile and a raised eyebrow.
"Traitor," Domeric directed his feigned frustration towards Lady.
The direwolf yawned completely indifferent to it.
"I suppose I was a fool to think I could sneak up on you." He shrugged at his failed attempt.
"You were," Her eyes were teasing and her smile grew, "But you're my fool,"
Domeric chuckled. "Such praise, my lady wife bestows upon me." He looked over her shoulder to see she was looking at several pieces of parchment that were spread out before her. The scrawl was very familiar as was its contents.
"It's the Dreadfort," she confirmed his suspicion. "I asked Lord Bolton if I could look into some of the figures of the castle's household as well as some of the surrounding lands and sums."
Domeric stayed standing behind her. He kissed the top of her head, impressed at his wife's willingness to seek out such a responsibility that was not yet hers especially when it meant going to someone like his father.
"My father must have been pleased," Domeric wasn't entirely confident at that, but he continued, "Afterall, Lady Jonelle has been helping her brother with managing Castle Cerwyn."
"He was accommodating," she corrected, "He'll not truly be pleased with me until I've given you a few sons." She looked over her shoulder at him, a wry expression coming to her features.
"How are you finding it?" He didn't want to dwell on his father. Roose Bolton had no place in their marriage.
"That I feel like I'm back at Winterfell with Maester Luwin patiently correcting me," She confessed.
Domeric sensed the worry in her tone and the underlying fears that went with the changes she'd be facing.
Sansa was going to a new castle with servants and guards who were strangers to her and who'd be watching her constantly and discreetly judging their future Lady of the Dreadfort. She was afraid she'd fail in her role, overwhelmed with all the new duties expected of her.
It was nonsense and he would not let such things linger with her.
He put his hands to her shoulders and began to massage them. He hoped it'd help to alleviate those feelings and stress.
She reacted with a happy sigh.
He knew she still struggled with numbers, but he would not have her think so unkindly of herself. Domeric's hands began to knead and he felt the tension that she was carrying. "Our household is large as are our holdings," he admitted, "even my father needs help in managing them."
"Truly?" She perked up.
Some of the tightness began to slowly slip away underneath his fingers. "Absolutely," Domeric assured her, "My Aunt too, and I know she's gotten them wrong before," He leaned down to add it as a conspiratorial whisper that made her giggle.
"Thank you," she turned in her seat to face him, grateful. She kissed his cheek.
"Always, my lady," He returned her smile, pleased to see her mood was improving.
"How was your ride?"
"The ride went well, but a presence was sorely missed."
Lady stirred from where she was resting, believing it was herself.
"Two presences," Domeric made his correction.
Lady seemed to forgive him, padding over and nuzzling him until he petted her.
It was when he moved to comply did he feel and then remember the letter. "I received a raven from the Redfort," It had been forgotten and him distracted, but now he moved to retrieve it.
"What did it say?" She had let slip all thoughts or focus on the Bolton household and was firmly fixed on him.
"I didn't read it." He walked past the direwolf who huffed her displeasure while he sat down beside his wife. He broke the seal with a smooth motion from his dagger and read.
"There is grumbling in the Vale," He spoke while he scanned the contents quietly. "Lord Redfort says some are uncertain of my information."
"They call you a liar?" Sansa frowned, affronted at the slight.
"They call me Bolton," He was not surprised by the skepticism. On my honor as a Bolton rings false to many ears. Domeric had become familiar with it and the ways to handle it.
"Lord Redfort wrote that they refuse to believe me about the mountain clans involvement. They claim I'm stirring up lies to drag them into a war."
"How dare they!" Her eyes flashed in indignation. "You were there. You fought them. You killed them." Her tone softened somewhat at the mention of the battle.
He moved to cover her hand with his. "I suppose I should've sent them one of the heads," he replied dryly. "These houses care more for securing the Vale for themselves then this war," Domeric continued. "Lord Redfort says many are trying to court your aunt, seeking her hand in marriage."
"I wonder if she'll make as fine a wife as she has an ally," Sansa pondered sarcastically.
Domeric smiled. "There are still some that are upset and they are some of her more powerful bannermen." He then gave her the letter so that she could read it for herself.
"Will it be a civil war?"
"I do not know," Domeric had spent years in the Vale. He did not want to think about bloodshed being spilled along his favorite paths or fields. It was a land of beauty and now it looked to be tarnished in battle with neighbor fighting neighbor.
"If they do not join us," She looked troubled realizing that it was appearing to be the most likely outcome.
"It would be a severe blow," Domeric was blunt in his judgment. "The Reach and Stormlands field a huge army between them and even if they took some losses against the Lannisters. The north and riverlands would struggle to field a force to rival them," It was the truth that brought neither of them comfort. "The Royal Fleet could help, but if the city fell to Renly then Lord Redwyne would have his son back and be free to lead his fleet," He stopped, the more he thought about it the less he wanted to talk about it.
I just want to go home with my wife.
"Then maybe the time has passed for ravens and messages."
Domeric saw his wife was contemplating something. Her blue eyes seemed to shine when she was thinking. Or so he thought. "You speak of an envoy?"
"Envoys," She corrected with a knowing smile.
And he understood at once. He felt his own lips twitch, "Tell me what you're thinking."
So she did.
"I've received a raven from King Stannis."
Domeric was sitting in Lord Stark's solar, Sansa was beside him while Robb sat across from them, and at the end of the table was Lord Stark. It had been him who had spoken.
The Lannisters had left the Riverlands and had been monitored the whole time. Harrenhal was given back to Lady Whent with Ser Edmure on hand to oversee it. Lord Tywin had not been the one who relinquished the keys to the castle. The proud lion had already left for the Crownlands probably to raise troops and food. They were forbidden to bring anything they had gathered in the Riverlands and they had been searched to make sure they were honoring the agreement.
"King Stannis will come to the Riverlands and accept our fealty." He placed the letter on the table in front of him.
"What of the truce?" Domeric thought the Lannisters may see this as a breach.
"Stannis will accept it," Lord Stark said with absolute certainty. "I've called you here because things must be tended to and it is to those at this table that will see it through."
That got Domeric's attention.
"What is happening, Father?" Sansa's tone showed her own interest about this particular summons.
Lord Stark turned to Robb. "I informed Robb this morning that for the time being I'm bequeathing the title Warden of the North to him."
Despite his Tully coloring Robb looked like his father sitting there quiet and solemn, impassive of the responsibility now placed upon him. "I will do you proud, Father."
A small smile escaped Lord Stark's stoicism. "I know you will, son." He then turned back to the rest of them. "I am unable to lead men into battle with this leg and I'm uncertain if even when healed I'll be able to." His tone betraying his frustration at the wound given to him by the Lannisters. "An announcement will be made in front of the rest of our bannermen tonight."
"What about the northern army?" Domeric wasn't sure it was ideal for an idle army to just sit and wait until this truce ended. A bored and restless army hundreds of leagues away from their homes. He saw certain problems that could arise.
"It will camp at Harrenhal," Lord Stark answered confidently, "Robb will oversee it, and Jon has offered to help his brother in the endeavor," Lord Stark said, "However, I've already spoken with Jon and he may have another role that he must take up."
Another role? Domeric was interested in what it was. He thought Jon's absence was potentially telling and it seemed he may have been right. Lord Stark must have spoken earlier to both Robb and Jon to inform them separately of future plans and roles.
An invitation that wasn't extended to him or Sansa it appeared. That didn't really surprise him.
I'm not his son. I'm only his good son. Neither Stark nor Snow, but Bolton.
Lord Stark's closing words brought Domeric back into the conversation.
"If we send the northern army they will not want to come back."
He did not blame them. Domeric wanted to go home too. I just want to go home with my wife.
"How are we to feed them?"
"Harrenhal was well provisioned by Lord Tywin," Lord Stark's smile was wolfish, "Stannis has also agreed to buy and bring in additional food and supplies if needed."
How long will discipline last? He wondered. When will the men try to desert? When will the boredom and drinking lead to bad decisions? What happens then?
Does Stannis and Lord Stark want the northern army to stay in the Riverlands because they believe the Lannisters hold on the throne is quickly slipping away? Their truce was against the Lannisters not Renly's army. They're preparing for the war to come with Renly and for it to come soon.
"What of the Riverlords?" His wife's question took him out of his thoughts.
Ser Edmure had already sent most of them home. Their forces too. The Heir to Riverrun wanted their lands restored and worked, the best they could to prepare for harvest. He was putting his people and not Stannis first.
"They will be called on when Stannis arrives to accept our fealty," Lord Stark did not sound as if it would cause any problems for them. "Ser Edmure has already pledged his house's support as have a few others."
Will all the Riverlords flock to Stannis? He thought some may be tempted to consider Renly since he was still in a better position than them. Not by right, but by might.
"There is one important matter that needs to be discussed and that is why you've been summoned," Lord Stark's tone ensnared Domeric's interest,
"Your mother has requested to stay in Riverrun to be with her father," He bowed his head. "Lord Hoster's health is failing and she wishes to be with him. I'm willing to allow it and for Arya and Rickon to stay with her for the time being."
"What of Bran?" For the first time in this meeting Robb showed surprise at his Father's words. "Was she not to return to help him?"
"She was, but that has changed," Lord Stark answered, "She will stay at Riverrun. Arya and Rickon will stay with her for the time being." Lord Stark said, "Bran has done a commendable job, but he should not be left alone. I do not like it, and he will need help for there are more trials to come."
This was it, Domeric realized. This was why Lord Stark had gathered them.
Someone needed to be sent to Winterfell to run the north. Domeric could not think of a better and more prominent role than that.
This was too good and he could not lose it.
Some would call it craven. Domeric would not bow to such words. If Boltons truly cared what others thought we'd have changed our banners centuries ago. We have not. We will not.
What good is a brave corpse? His father would ask him softly. It will not tend to our lands. It will not give us sons and daughters to replace them. It will not pay our taxes. It will not defend our borders.
No, my son, he finished, It is better to be cautious than foolish.
"What of Jon?" Robb proposed suddenly, "Jon could do it and do it well."
He seemed an easy candidate for the position, but Jon would not get it.
Domeric's suspicion was confirmed by Lord Stark's hesitance to respond.
Lady Stark would never allow it. She'd sooner abandon her dying father at Riverrun then let Jon be in such a high standing position with Bran at Winterfell. Lord Stark ruled the north, but he was known to heed his wife's opinion and respected her wishes.
In this, he'd listen. Domeric was sure of it. Jon was capable and loyal, but Lady Stark would never see that. All she'd see is the threat and slight of her trueborn son being led by his older bastard Stark looking half brother in the heart of the north.
Domeric knew what he had to do.
He loved Jon as a brother, and trusted him with his life, but Lady Stark did not. And that presented Domeric with an opportunity he had to exploit.
"We can go," He offered up, "Sansa and I," He felt her squeeze his hand in support, and he knew she was thinking along similar lines as he had been. "Who better to be with Bran then his sister and his good brother? We know Winterfell. We know the people."
Domeric had to pick his words carefully here. He was certain Lord Stark had already considered his daughter for this role, but Domeric needed to show the benefit of both of them going.
"Ser Rodrik is a good man, but he is not a lord," Domeric observed respectfully. "And if this King-Beyond-The-Wall does march south we will need forces. I will be able to rally those of my family, Bolton, Dustin, Ryswell," He gently reminded his good father of the power he could call upon, "for Winterfell of course and without delay."
He had to be very delicate. His family's history and reputation did him no favors.
I have to show both strength and respect.
"If not given leave to call the remaining northern levies, my lord."
Domeric was working against his Bolton name, but Lord Stark would want family to be at Winterfell to help and lead and Domeric was that now.
Robb could not because he was needed in the Riverlands. Jon could not because Lady Stark would never allow it and Lord Stark would not cross his wife on this. Regardless, his earlier words hinted at another role that Jon needed to take. Who else can he turn to?
Lord Stark looked to be mulling it over.
It's ours, he felt triumphant. He was to go to Winterfell with Sansa. We'll not be separated.
Then Robb spoke.
"Domeric, what of the Vale?"
He wanted to curse or wince at the mention of the Vale but he did neither. Domeric couldn't look upset at being removed from the possibility of Winterfell.
I should not show them how much I want it. It could be seen as being improper or grasping.
He needed to be careful and tread lightly.
Domeric had delivered his report to Lord Stark after receiving Lord Redfort's letter and his opinion that an envoy would be needed if there was to be any considerable chance of the Vale marshaling its forces.
Originally, Sansa had proposed they should go together. It was an idea that he happily agreed to. It had made the most sense.
Everything's now changed with this news about Winterfell.
How can I go to the Vale as a simple envoy when I could help rule the north?
No, it was Winterfell he wanted. It's Winterfell I need.
Now, it was all slipping away from him.
Except now it was worse. With Winterfell needing help, Sansa would be sent there and he'd be tasked to go to the Vale alone.
His plan was crumbling. The dread was pooling in his stomach. Domeric thought desperately at how to fix this before it was too late. Before they were separated. When would I see her again? If I'm in the Vale and her in the north.
It was not an answer he wanted to dwell on.
"Father," Sansa's voice cut through Domeric's panic and then she banished it with her next words, "What if you went to the Vale?"
Domeric kept his face neutral so as to not betray his giddy relief that his wife had come up with the perfect resolution.
He hid his eager smile upon seeing Lord Stark looked intrigued by it.
Another nudge was needed. It was his turn. "It is true, I know the men of the Vale," he admitted, "However, it is their sons I truly know. And they are not the ones who can raise their men. It is their fathers."
"Father, you said it yourself with your leg you cannot fight," Sansa followed up after him. "You fostered in the Vale longer than Domeric. You know those lords. You fought beside them in two wars. You are Lady Lysa's good brother."
Lord Stark's face betrayed little and his eyes less as they flickered from Sansa to Domeric. "You are right."
Domeric met his gaze with an impassive look. He would not betray any excitement or interest towards Winterfell.
It was a long moment before Lord Stark revealed his intentions. "I will go to the Vale."
He didn't react. It was too early to celebrate. Domeric waited patiently despite his tangled nerves upon not knowing what roles awaited him and his wife.
"I will do so after ensuring there will be safe conduct on my journey," He began, "As well as conferring with Stannis when swearing to him the north's fealty," Lord Stark then turned back to him. "Domeric?"
"Yes, my lord?"
"You and Sansa will return to Winterfell."
Domeric immediately dipped his head. He would not look happy despite the exhilaration he felt thrumming through him. Nor relishing the reward that he'd be going to Winterfell with his wife.
He showed nothing but a formal smile to his good father. "If that is your wish, my lord."
"Thank you, Father," Sansa was not him. She was smiling brightly.
It appeared infectious since it was enough to make Lord Stark smile back. There was a softness that shone in his eyes when he looked at her.
Did I misjudge him? Domeric considered, reflecting on Lord Stark's sudden show of empathy of their potential plight. He too had been married during a war and had to leave his wife to fight. He'd understand their anxiousness too well.
Perhaps, he did not want that same fate for his daughter.
Whatever the reason Domeric was grateful for Lord Stark's trust and his decision.
"I will send a raven ahead of you informing Winterfell to not only expect your arrival, but your roles and power invested in you two," His eyes were on his daughter. "Winterfell will be yours, Sansa. Bran is young and this is not a burden he should be carrying especially alone."
Sansa was poised in her seat. Undaunted, at what was being asked of her. "I understand, Father."
"Domeric, I'm entrusting you with the north, my home, and two of my children," Lord Stark's tone clearly conveyed what he thought most important in that list. "Neither Bran nor Sansa can lead men into battle. You will be recognized with the authority to raise any additional men if it is needed to defend the north."
"Thank you, Lord Stark," Domeric replied softly, "I pray it is not."
"If this King-Beyond-The-Wall does march south. You will take command of the forces and lead them north to defend the Wall."
"It will be done, my lord," Domeric did not see this band of wildlings as a threat just a nuisance that he's dealt with before both in the Vale and in the north. They raid and then they flee. They will always choose flight when faced with might.
I'll be bringing the might of the north to bear down on them. The sight of their forces will send this king fleeing back to whatever frozen hut he crawled out of. If not, I'll crush them. The wildlings will break and scatter.
He thought of Father's words to him all those years ago before Domeric set off to foster at Winterfell. Him explaining the difference between their family and the other northern houses.
It is our ambition. We are loyal, but that does not mean we must be satisfied with our position.
Father was right. I'll give the Bolton name more glory and power then any ancestor before me.
It'd be a Bolton who'll have saved the north from the wildlings. It will be a Bolton protecting the north.
Domeric saw himself and Sansa at Winterfell together in the Great Hall of House Stark. He smiled.
It'll be the Boltons ruling the north.
A/N: The sequel is posted as "Our Blades Are Sharp 2: The Red Reign."