"Hail to the Magnar! Hail to the King in the North! Hail to the Stark in Winterfell! Hail to the High King!" -Rallying cry of the High Kingdom of the North
Westeros changed with the coming of the Andals.
Foreign sails were sighted off the shores of the Vale, and soon the Bronze Kings, as well as the many other petty Kings of the Vale found themselves under siege in their mountain keeps, their armies defeated by the steel-bearing invaders, the Weirwoods burned, their people converted by the sword, and their territory reduced day by day.
The First Men of the Vale fought valiantly and fought hard, the coalition led by the Bronze King Yorwyk Royce VI winning many victories against the invading Andals, giving hope to many that the Old Ways would survive the Andals. Alas, the armies of the Vale were routed at the Battle of Seven Stars, and the Andals gained their first hold on Westeros. The Arryns claimed the Vale as theirs, the Bronze Kings were cast from their thrones, and those who did not bend fled to the Mountains of the Moon, determined to never surrender. And, Old Gods be good, they never did.
The Riverlands faired no better. Soon after the conquest of the Vale, the Andal invaders, bolstered by levies from the conquered Vale Kings, marched up the Trident, founding their own, small Kingdoms as they went. The petty Kings of the region did their best to resist, but constant defeats in the battlefields, betrayals, and captured keeps all ensured the fall of the Riverlands to the Andals.
Yet, hope was not lost. Tristifier Mudd VI, considered to be the greatest of the River Kings, led his armies against the invaders, slaughtering Andals left and right, killing lords and smashing hosts ninety-nine times. Unfortunately for the Mudds, and by proxy the First Men of the Riverlands, Tristifier was slain in his hundredth battle by a group of seven Andal Kings attacked him at once, and so the Old Ways were lost to the Riverlands. Tristifier heir, Tristifier V, did his best to emulate his father's victories, but to no avail. Thus, the Mudd Kingdom collapsed under the weight of the Andal heel, and the First Men of the Riverlands bent. Cracklaw Point faired better than the others, yet they two were brought to heel, not by sword, but through marriage. And with marriage came the Seven Pointed Stars, and the Weirwoods burnt to ash.
During all this, with the burning of the sacred groves, the Children were being cut down on sight, hailed abominations by the septons of the Seven Pointed Star. Out of desperation, they fled the Riverlands, seeking haven in the remaining lands of the First Men, where the Weirwoods still grew. One of those places was the Isle of Faces, where any and all Andal armies sent to subjugate the holy land were defeated by 'dark sorcery,' as all the Andal armies disappeared off the face of Planetos upon landing on the Isle. Yet, the Children of the Isle would never set foot in the Riverlands again, for just as the Riverlanders abandoned the Children, they would do the same.
The Andals were not prepared to deal with the Storm Lords.
While the Andals made much ground earlier in their conquest, King Qarlton III put an end to that temporarily, defeating the invaders in several battles, as well as passing on his battle prowess to his successors. The Battle of the Bronzegate saw Monfryd Durrandon V saw the Holy Brotherhood of the Andals defeated, albeit at the cost of his own life, yet the Andals recovered from the setback, pushing the Storm Kings back and seizing Tarth and Estermont as their own. In response, to halt the expansion of the Andals, King Baldric the Cunning played an archaic version of The Game, pitting several Andal Kings against each other, attacking each other as well as the lords of Cape Wrath. His successor, King Durran XXIV, allied with the Children of the Forest, both local and refugees who had fled the Vale and the Riverlands, forging the Weirwood Alliance and defeating the Andals at the Black Bog, the Misty Wood, and the Howling Hill, halting the decline of the Storm Kings for a time.
In the end, the Stormlands were Andalized through marriage, as the last viable Andal armies in the Stormlands were defeated by King Cleodon I and smashed next to Storm's End, forcing the petty Andal Kings and warlords in the area to bend to the Fury. Yet, even after cowing the Andals, the Faith of the Seven was accepted, the Weirwoods burnt once again, and the Children slain or forced to flee.
So the Children fled, to the last bastion of the Pact, where the Weirwoods still thrived, where the Old Tongue was still spoken.
And the Kings of Winter met them with open arms.
At the end of the Long Night, Brandon the Builder married a Child of the Forest. Many often forgot that the blood of the Children ran through the veins of the Starks, but they did not. Neither did the Children, who fled North to seek refuge with their human kin.
Theon Stark knew this. In fact, he knew a great many things. He had seen the Andals invading from his bedchambers in his sleep, had seen the Weirwoods burn and the Children wail.
All this, he saw, at the age of two-and-ten.
It did not take the Green Men long to realize that the future King of Winter had been blessed with a vision, a vision that foretold of a dark future if correct. So, Theon's father, Eddard, now known to most in the North as Eddard the Unifier, did something that many Kings of Winter had done before; he went North of the Wall. But, he did not go to fight the Freefolk. King Eddard went to invite them, to the chagrin of many. He invited them North, promised them the lands of theCrùn Magnar. They would be allowed to retain their autonomy, so long as they ceased raiding the North and fought in the armies of the King in the North.
At first, many of the Freefolk were suspicious of such an offer, and yet many more sneered at it. So it came as a surprise to all when the Magnar of the Giants, Crann, fell to one knee and pledged fealty to the Stark.
The Giants had long memories. While the First Men may have forgotten the threat that came from the Lands of Always Winter, they did not. They also did not forget the pact they had made with the Builder thousands of years ago, and though it may have ended with the death of Brandon, Crann used the audience with King Eddard to renew it.
Eddard was, of course, shocked and mildly cautious at this turn of events; he had expected weeks of negotiating and hassling, and of all the Freefolk to accept his offer, least of all had he expected the Giants to do so. A thousand plans raced through the Stark's head as he thought of ways to improve every keep in the North, for even South of the Wall the work of the Giants was renowned.
The next to pledge fealty were the Thenns of the valley, feeling more akin to the Northerners than their significantly more barbaric neighbors. Eddard accepted, taking note of the strange, furry goats the Thenns, and many other Freefolk, had brought with them, already planning on how to manage the new animal when it was brought with them.
All in all, a good half of the Freefolk chose to accept, lured by promises of warm Summers and green pastures, while the other half denounced them and returned to their homes to feud and fight with each other.
Whilst leading the Freefolk back to the Wall, Eddard had a dream. Not like his son's, no. He had a wolf dream, which led him to wake in the night and follow a path unseeable by humans in the dark, and there, in the Haunted Forest, he found a den filled with Direwolves, tended to by a Child of the Forest.
To the Child he offered his reverent greetings, and to the Winter King the Child offered the wolves, and who was Eddard to refuse such a blessing?
Two weeks after setting out from the Wall, King Eddard returned at the head of a great host made of Giants, mammoths, goats, and Freefolk alike. Upon allowing them to pass through the Wall, the Stark personally led them to their new homes, supplying farmer, Green Men, and druids to help the Freefolk in building their new community. To the Giants, he invited them to Winterfell, to view the keep their ancestors had built, and they agreed.
So it was the Eddard Stark, King in the North, rode to his keep flanked by Giants and Direwolves, a sight for all to see.
And, when Eddard finally returned home, Theon's dreams changed.