God of War

There was no ale or mead for dinner, not even for the sons of Lord Walder.

At first, the boy was not surprised. Wine, ale, and cider had been consumed by the bucket at Lord Trout's wedding, and a far larger quantity shipped to Sevenstreams - hundreds of barrels and kegs and casks to lull the Northmen into a drunken stupor. The castle's provisions ran low, not the best state before a potential siege. But then he saw that Ryman, famous as a glutton and drunk, had no wine with his food. And that Hosteen Frey was armored and armed, with a heavy kite shield at his feet. The older Freys were sullen and resentful, more so than usual, and lacking the braggadocio of the morning.

Big Walder Frey, the nine year old son of Jammos, had spied on Lothar and the others when they returned to the hall from the meeting. Snow's words were dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. True, the wolves had unexpected success on the field but that came with their full army and the element of surprise. In two hundred years, no man had dared to assault the Twins. And when they cut off a hand from a Mallister or foot from a Hornwood, the army would splinter and abandon the Starks. Perhaps, Lothar jested, the Freys would give Roslin more wolf pelts for her wedding. Symond boasted that with the promise of freedom for a lord, he might bribe an Umber or Karstark to steal Robb's insensate body from the camp.

There was no bragging or bluster at dinner. Ryman grumbled about the lack of drink and gorged himself on chicken and onions, the juices dripping over his set of chins. But the other Freys were not so piggish. Aenys and Jared huddled together, surrounded by knights and goodsons. Hosteen left after bolting down a gob of meat and strapping the shield on his broad back. Servants delivered messages to Edwyn and soldiers to Black Walder. Something was afoot but what could have changed that day? No ravens had flown to the Twins. No prisoners had died. Most importantly, Lord Trout was locked away - Big Walder had passed Roslin, her face streaked with tears, returning from her daily visit to the cells.

He finished the meal, pocketing two trenchers of bread dipped in brown gravy. Big Walder made his way to the other set of dungeons, where a copper groat bought passage to see Ser Robert, his mother's younger brother. Two Paege girls had married into the Freys, but his uncle was one of Edmure Tully's bold companions, all of whom languished at the Twins.

"Uncle." Big Walder rapped on the cell, waving the half loaves of bread.

"Don't call me that." Ser Robert's velvet tunic was soiled, the twining red and white snake sigil ripped and stained. Bruises and a broken nose marked the formerly handsome face.

"I am sure they give you little to eat." The boy held the trencher forward, a drop of gravy dripping on the muddy ground. This close to the river, the doors, walls and floor were perpetually damp.

The knight snatched the bread. "Why are you here, Walder? Your father killed Ser Kellery at the wedding. The Vances will not forget their dead brother."

"Have you heard anything, Ser?"

The knight snorted. "What news would I hear that you have not? The whole castle knows of Jon Snow's demands. He wants Lord Walder's head, the captives freed and the Twins surrendered."

"And what do you think?"

"Who doesn't want Lord Walder dead? Your father and uncles have longed for that for years. Sadly, the old weasel lives on. The Hornwood boy swears that Snow will rescue them, but I don't see how. The Northmen claim the White Wolf is a sorcerer."

Big Walder had heard stories that Jon Snow drank the blood of his enemies and conjured flocks of crows and packs of wolves in battle. A few days ago, a scout returned with a particularly outlandish tale - the bastard had made fools of the Lannisters and burnt the Iron Throne when he rescued Sansa Stark from the Imp's clutches. Lothar ordered the man whipped for spreading lies. No one could cozen Lord Tywin. That was known.

His uncle devoured the trencher and demanded the other hunk of bread. "I was at Riverrun when Snow arrived to help his brother break the siege. He set a siege tower on fire and toppled it on a shield wall of Crakehall and Marbrand men. He burned them alive."

"Jaime Lannister's forces were on the field. Our men are behind thick walls."

"I hope he kills you all. I don't see how Snow can take the castle but I will pray that the Stranger waits outside your door."

"If Death comes, it will come for all of us, including Edmure and you." Big Walder said.

"Worth dying to see Lord Walder punished for his crimes." Ser Robert spat and turned away. His uncle said no more.

Big Walder walked from the courtyard to the outer bailey, passing the chapel and the sounds of prayer of women to the Mother, the Maiden, and the Crone. He climbed the stairs of the gatehouse that hung over the drawbridge. When he reached the battlements full of soldiers, Big Walder suddenly knew why his uncles had turned sullen.

On the Western side of the Green Fork, a thousand campfires burned as far as the eye could see. A vast number of shields hung on trees and tents, sigils hidden by the flames. And lines of men marched, with many torches held up high in the night. How could the Stark numbers have increased so much? Big Walder was not the only one nervous. The soldiers and knights kept a wary vigil, arrows and quarrels nocked and catapults ready to fire. It would be a long night on the walls.

He flew over the gloom, the fading light in the sky no trouble for a raven's sharp eyes. The Twins truly were twins, identical stone keeps with the same numbers of walls, towers, and baileys, and equidistant from the Water Tower. Each castle had a high vaulted great hall and above that hall, a large windowed bedroom for the Lord of the Crossing. Walder Frey reserved both rooms for his use alone, so he could fondle young women in privacy.

That night, the meal was served in the western hall, and the sons and grandsons of Lord Walder clustered later at the gatehouse and barbican overlooking the Northern camps. A few soldiers manned the defenses to the East but Jon had no doubt the bulk of the Frey forces were in the keep West of the Trident. Unfortunately, the raven, even with keen eyes and ears, could not find the dungeons, likely hidden in the depths of the castle. For that, he would need a different animal - one used to skulking in dark corridors, and frightened by no man or beast. Jon cradled Balerion in both arms, when a loud cry rang through the tent.

"My Lord, you cannot go in, unannounced." Chett cried.

The black tom hissed and jumped to the floor. Jon pulled aside the makeshift screen to see the Hound snarling at a bunch of Rivermen. "Lord Tytos, what can I do for you?"

"I want in, Lord Snow. I know you are planning something." Lord Tytos had come with his two sons, hot headed Brynden and bookish Hoster.

"And what am I planning?"

"I don't know. But when I see Tully men set five fires each, I know that is not for cooking meat. And old Desmond Grell doesn't huff and puff up the Green Fork, tossing a torch away at the end of every march, for no reason. I despise Lord Walder. He had Lucas killed, and imprisoned my liege and young Ben. I would give much to bloody the Freys."

"But not your men." Jon said.

Lord Blackwood did not hide his bitterness. "I cannot risk Lord Tully or Ben."

Jon thought for a moment. "There is a shipyard near the Whispering Wood that serves the merchants of Ramsford and Fairmarket. Get the yardmaster and buy all the rope, canvas, nails and pitch. Bring them to the Winter Town crew as soon as possible."

"I will rush out there and drag him out of bed." Tytos said.

Jon rolled his eyes. "That is exactly what I do not want you to do. If Lord Blackwood rode down with his knights to Fairmarket, the Freys might find out. Send Hoster instead to rouse him. Have Brynden organize a convoy of wagons to bring the supplies in the morning. "

"But what can I do?" Tytos said, frustrated.

A smile crossed Jon's face. "Tomorrow afternoon, before the sun goes down, I want you to pick a fight with Jonos Bracken."

"Fight with the Lord Idiot of Stone Hedge? Why, that will be as easy as breathing."

"A public squabble with a lot of shouting. One that the Freys can see from the walls. But I want no one hurt. And afterwards, you and your men will storm off and pretend to leave the camps."

"And this will help you with your plans?"

"Aye, just like the Tully men. Do your part, Lord Tytos. Trust me to do mine."

That night, Jon ate a simple meal of bread and cheese in the tent with his sisters and their guards when Chett stood up at the benches for the Winter Town boys and the little birds.

"Maester Snow, I had a thought. You asked us to leave for Sevenstreams tonight."

"I did, Chett. The raven said that Clydas and Denys found many barrels."

"Maester, Gendry told me something very interesting." The excited boy pointed to the red priest. "He said that Thoros of Myr could outdrink even King Robert. That he was a sot and a fraud, the worst priest you could ever imagine."

The ascetic priest, now gray bearded and thin, frowned slightly at the embarrassed apprentice. "That was rather unkind, Gendry. True but unkind. I am a false priest no longer. The Lord of Light has opened my eyes…."

Chett interrupted. "Maester, you asked the Winter Town boys to scavenge the casks. But it makes far more sense for Thoros to steal a keg of mead or ale."

Jon cocked an eye at the startled Thoros. "True. Lord Beric and Thoros - the Freys departed Sevenstreams in a rush, leaving behind many discarded barrels. How many Brotherhood men do you have from here to Sevenstreams?"

"A few dozen, Lord Snow. And allies and sympathizers in the area, from septons, serving wenches, and innkeeps." Beric answered.

"You mean, bandits, thieves and whores." Sandor Clegane snorted.

"Take Chett with you to Sevenstreams and have your men bring back every cask, pipe and hogshead near the tents."

"What do you need wine or ale for?" a confused Thoros asked.

"I don't need wine. I need empty barrels, as many as can be found."

"Forgive us, Snow, but we don't understand." Mychel Redfort said. He expressed the curiosity that many others in the tent had.

Jon spoke in a kindly voice. "That is why you are a knight, Ser, and not a maester. The next few days will be a time for maesters. But soon enough, we will need strong arms and swords. Then there will be night work and knight's work."

Bleary-eyed soldiers stumbled into the great hall the next morning. The fires had burned well into the night. And when the flames dwindled to embers that still lit the western shoreline, the wolves began to howl. Through stone walls and wooden doors, the howls echoed through the castle, sending shivers down the spines of women and children. Even grown men, armed with longswords and shields, watched the shadows nervously.

Big Walder Frey had slept poorly. Each time he managed to fall asleep, the howling would get louder. And his two snot nosed younger brothers sobbed through the night, afraid that the wolves would kill them all. That was cousin Merry's fault. She had dreamed of a bleeding and burning giant torn to pieces by wolves on a river. The hysterical girl had told everyone who would listen about her so-called vision. Merrianne should have been a mummer, he thought. There were no giants at the Twins.

"How did the bastard get so many men?" Black Walder asked.

"We can hardly ask our spies now." Symond snapped back.

"It doesn't matter." Lothar said. "With Tully a prisoner and Robb Stark near death, Snow's forces will fade away. The Riverlords know that we will hang their heirs. The Northmen will learn that soon enough. The bastard cannot hold his army together."

Lame Lothar was right. That morning, the shields on the trees had vanished. The light drizzle made the entire world seem gray, and soldiers could be seen slinking south with their horses. If Snow had more men, they were hiding in the ragged tents, and certainly no threat to the Freys. From an embrasure in a parapet, Big Walder spied on a line of highborn prisoners - ladies and boys - being delivered to the Stark tent by a short woman in plate armor. Wagons, merchants, and a surprising number of children could be seen at the camps, but fewer and fewer men. And those men were not armored knights on war horses or well trained archers and crossbowmen but a motley crew of unruly smallfolk.

Later, a spat broke out between the Blackwoods and the Brackens. The two Riverlords stood nose to nose, pushing and shoving, to the great displeasure of Brynden Tully. Old wounds were reopened, in particular how the Brackens provided two mistresses to Aegon the Unworthy, sisters eager to serve the old whoremonger on their knees. Jonos Bracken insulted the manliness of the Blackwoods, calling them prissy pansies, more interested in the company of strapping young men than wenches. Tytos shot back that none of his sons wanted a Bracken whore. The exchange deteriorated from there, into the shaking of fists and waving of swords. In the end, the two sides were forced apart and no blood was shed. The Blackfish called the two men dunces, a sentiment shared by many observers. Both lords stormed off, furious, and the Blackwood knights mounted horses to ride away.

On the second night, his uncles grinned and smirked as they crammed down salt pork and turnip mash. Only half as many fires burned, and many were small, the flames barely surviving the light rain. Fewer tents dotted the shore, and there were no trebuchets, siege towers, ladders, or battering rams. Half a dozen catapults lay on the grass, but in pieces, with no crew fixing the broken machines. Snow did not have the means to break the gates or storm the walls. After dark, wolves howled but the cries were farther away. No attack came in the night. And in the light of the morning, the once feared Northern army looked even weaker.

"I say we toss our night soil down at the Starks." Edwyn said. "When disease breaks out in their camps, Snow will run like a dog. Our men can sally forth and capture the prisoners."

"And do you plan to lead us in the charge? Would you like to confront the North on the field?" Lame Lothar said.

"I am not a man of the sword." Edwyn said, his nose pinched and thin lips pressed into a sneer. He looked like a man sniffing his own shit.

"Our knights and men have barely slept the last two nights. The Mormonts arrived yesterday. There are only a few but their fighters are fresh from holding the Tooth." Symond said.

"The Mormonts are no worry. I would be happy to catch more She-bears to warm my bed for the cold winter nights." Black Walder Frey said, with an ugly smile.

On the third day, very little happened. A siege, without equipment, sorties or skirmishes, was deadly dull. Boredom and routine reigned over the Twins. Edmure was dragged out by a leash but the threat barely registered. The Freys were used to the antics, the Riverlords were busy squabbling, and the North did not care. Big Walder attended lessons with the maester and wondered if the siege would soon be over. Outside the walls, squires packed tents and saddled horses and the smallfolk children disappeared. That night, the fires along the Green Fork dwindled further. Servants brought ale and wine again with fish pie and roast lamb. No one guzzled and ate more than Ryman Frey, his blotchy face red and bloated.

The third night would be a moonless sky. Fourteen days had passed since the Traitor's Feast, and the preparations were finished, if rushed. Everything had been built, but not yet tested. There was no time for that.

Jon had told Arya and Sansa the complete plan. The others - Stark guards, the knights, the Wintertown Boys, and the little birds - received instructions on their role only. A few minor houses - crannogmen, mountain clans, and bastard knights - offered their aid. Jon refused, preferring silence. He would not risk any whisper reaching the Freys. It was harder though to deny the Mormonts, who were eager to join in any assault.

"We want to fight. We want to avenge Dacey." the She-Bear said in a private conference with House Stark.

"Dacey is not dead. But if the Freys see House Mormont, that could change."

"You know nothing, Snow" Lyra yelled.

"What Lyra means to say is that you may be clever, but you do not understand the world. House Mormont has fought the krakens and the wildlings for hundreds of years. We know what happens to women captured in battle." Maege said firmly.

"She is a hostage. Surely the Freys would not subject her to such …. abuse?" Sansa asked.

"This is not your father or brother, Lady Sansa. These are the Freys. Lord Walder might demand his turn first before letting his sons rape my daughter. I will not let Dacey rot at the Twins. Better dead than a broodmare for Walder Frey." Maege said. "I had five daughters, Snow. One died for you in battle. Lyra and I might die trying to rescue Dacey. But if we all pass, then Lyanna will rule Bear Island. She can make more Mormonts. I will not allow the Freys to abuse Dacey."

The women of Bear Island were fierce and proud. Lyanna was only a girl of nine name days when the Northern army departed Winterfell. "No, Lady Maege. You made vows to House Stark. You will serve better by appearing to depart south."

"The entire army appears to be heading south." Lyra snarked. "Are we going to allow the Freys to laugh at us? To think the North is weak?"

"All warfare is based on deception. Let the Freys laugh all they want. Appearing weak is not weakness. I cannot tell you the plans but I will say this. Look for me tomorrow at dawn."

"How will they find us?" Arya asked pointedly.

"Give me your war horn." Jon extended his hand to Maege. "When you hear it, you will know."

It was deep in the night when Jon paddled the raft down the river. The water was cold, the sky was dark and the Trident had quieted from a growl to a ripple, the only noise that broke the silence. Torchlight shone from the gatehouses on the outer walls of the Twins. The castle interior, the stone bridge and the Water Tower were dark. Jon aimed the raft for the central stone pier between two arched channels where the Green Fork rushed through.

Balerion sat next to Jon, the green yellow eyes staring intently at the bridge. The black tom's vision was blurred and gray but a cat needed far less light to see. Balerion was better at picking up motion and could smell and hear a human from far away. The cat hissed slightly and leaped into the top of a leather satchel. It was time.

Jon whirled the grapnel and threw it up toward the bridge. It took three tries but he wrapped the hooks about the crenellations on the stone bridge. He guided the raft so it butted against the stone pier. Then he braced two long planks on both ends of the raft. The poles extended far to the side, so the raft would stay in place. He carried the satchel on one shoulder, and extra loops of rope on the other. With Balerion's head peeking over his neck, Jon shimmied up the rope, legs walking up the wall. He leaped over the side, and kneeled, making sure no one had seen or heard him. Balerion descended from the satchel, sniffing the air. All was quiet on the Crossing. Jon took a white cloth and signaled to the North.

Arya saw the flash of white on the stone bridge and eagerly jumped onboard. She joined Ghost and Chett at the front with Ser Mychel at the back. The Hound and Brienne hesitated.

"Are we certain this thing won't capsize?" Clegane said.

The Winter Town boys had built dozens of rafts, out of wood scavenged from the bridge erected by the Northern Army, ropes bought from the yard, and barrels emptied at Sevenstreams. The Stark guards waited in the hills, while little birds and the rest of the crew watched from a pier.

"Quiet, stupid." Arya said.

"Ser, these boats won't sink." Chett pointed at the four ale barrels lashed to each corner, under the water. "The barrels are sealed and empty. Air is lighter than water, so they must float."

"Are you certain these are seaworthy? Has anyone ever travelled on a raft like this before?" Brienne asked.

"Jon just did, and he is already on the bridge." Arya said, rolling her eyes.

"Your brother is mad." Sandor snarked. But he and Brienne boarded the bobbing raft. The three fighters spread out, while Ghost stayed by Arya's side and Chett steered. Water lapped over the sides but the trip was quick and untroubled.

The boat bumped gently against the first raft. Arya caught the rope that flew over the side of the bridge. She tied the rope end through a large wooden cage and coaxed Ghost into the crate. The dire wolf crouched and they shut the box. On the bridge, Jon cranked the windlass and the pulley plucked Ghost into the air until he disappeared over a crenel. A brief moment later, the rope, sans the crate, was dropped down again into Arya's hand.

Arya got off her knees and wrapped legs and arms about the rope. Soon, she was pulled onto the bridge. She took in her surroundings as Jon worked on lifting the others with the pulley and windlass. The dark tower loomed over them, the top a good forty feet off the bridge. Only a few arrow slits on each side broke the monotony of the gray stone walls until the battlements were reached. No light shone from inside the Water Tower. Two hundred fifty feet in either direction, the tall carved doors leading to the castles were shut.

Ser Mychel, Brienne, and Sandor Clegane had made it up the bridge. Chett would stay below to lash the rafts together. Jon rolled up the pulley and the windlass, placing it back into a satchel.

"How do you expect to get into the tower? Are you going to knock?" Clegane asked.

"Could we pick the lock?" Brienne whispered.

The Water Tower had only one entryway facing east, an arched door of solid oak, reinforced with iron bands. A metal ring was held in the mouth of a hideous devil-like face and attached by a hinge to a plate on the upper right. "A door like this will be barred at night, and only opened in the morning." Ser Mychel said.

Jon took two black leather straps that tied to his wrists and wrapped about the hand, leaving the fingers free. Three short steel claws were attached to the inner palm of each strap. "We are not going through the door. We are going over the wall."

Jon took out two more straps and wrapped them around the feet. The claws hooked out from the soles. The black tom nodded, and then jumped into the satchel. Jon hefted the leather bag over his right arm and the rope over his left. He rubbed Ghost for good luck, and moved to the northern face of the tower to begin the ascent.

Jon climbed like a cat, the tiger claws punching holds and grips into the rough stone with ease. Up and up he went, until the steady burble of the river faded. Twice, near an arrow slit, he stopped, and warged into Balerion. The cat could smell the stink of men through the walls, but detected no movement. The dire wolf could smell even better, but Jon could not climb with Ghost on his back. He put those thoughts away as he climbed higher and higher until they reached the battlements. Balerion meowed softly into Jon's right ear. He did not need the warning. From this close, he could hear a soft rattle beyond the parapet. He inched up further, hidden by the merlon until the cat leaped onto the roof.

There were two of them, men in mail shirts - one snoring on his back, and the other dozing, his back against the wall. The black tom hissed, and the startled Frey soldier leaned over to examine Balerion. Jon jumped over the crenel and slammed the steel claws into the man's throat and mouth. Blood gushed out but Jon held his right hand over the face until the body went limp. He took out a dagger and cut the sleeper's throat. From the top of the Water Tower, Jon could see a few far away glimmers of torchlight in the castle. He checked the unlocked door, making certain there were no other guards. Silence still ruled over the night. Jon pulled out the pulley, rope and windlass. He had more work to do.

They assembled again on top of the battlements. Balerion had already padded down the stairs and Ghost followed soon after, the dire wolf descending quiet as a shadow. Ser Mychel and Brienne readied their swords while Clegane dragged the bodies away.

"How many do you think are in the Water Tower?" Arya asked.

"Maybe a dozen, but likely asleep. I saw no light on the climb up." Jon replied.

"Should we take captives, Lord Snow? They might tell us where the prisoners are." Mychel said.

"A captive might lie to save his life, or worse, lead us into a trap. We cannot risk any alarm. Kill everyone that we find. Search every corner and show no mercy." Jon said.

They killed ten more Frey men at arms on the way down, all of them still slumbering from the feast that night. Ghost could smell the ale and beer mixed with sweat. On the ground floor, Clegane unbarred the door, letting the cool breeze mix with the stale air.

"Well Snow, you have gotten us into the tower. But five of us can't take the Twins, unless Arya water dances them all to death. What are you going to do now?" Sandor said.

"It is the hour of the eel. We have three more hours until dawn, and then another hour until they open the castle doors. Every day, a bit after the sunrise, the doors open, and servants walk between the two keeps." Jon said.

"What about Frey soldiers? Do they also come then?" The Hound asked.

"Not many. Few men walk the bridge. Every morning, the guards from the gatehouse break their fast at the great hall. Now, we have a simple task - to bring more men to the tower." Jon stepped out on the north side, and waved at Chett. The boy had lashed together both rafts. Jon waved the white cloth. A line of rafts began to float from the broken wooden bridge, the barrels bobbing on the Green Fork. On each raft, kneeling guards huddled together with Winter Town boys and little birds. In groups of eights and tens, the Stark men began to arrive on the bridge.

It was still dark when the operation halted. Thirty one large rafts were lashed together, front to back, and formed a tail that stretched nearly from the Crossing to the wooden piers. After they had finished, Jon directed the little birds back to the broken bridge, to keep warm in the night. Many of the Winter Town crew stayed on the bridge, and wood, planks, and nails were strewn over the ground floor. Parts and ammunition for two carroballista were dragged up to the battlements, and the archers staked out the slits on the walls facing the two keeps.

Three hundred Stark guards sat quietly on the lower floors of the Water Tower, while archers waited on the higher levels. It was too early to string bows, and load crossbows, so men yawned and waited.

Jon sat on the floor, guarded by the Hound and Arya. He reached out and sensed Nymeria far away but Balerion the black tom probed the castle walls until he had found a forgotten window vent overlooking a storeroom. The cat explored dark corridors, scouting for guards, and smelling for prisoners. Unfortunately, every room stank of sweat and decay. The outside of the Twins had a certain gloomy beauty. The inside though was ugly and cramped, a function of too many people in too small a space. Jon traced Balerion's steps through the keep - down staircases, past kitchens and stables, and through barracks. Soldiers sprawled out in a disorderly mess. The cat traversed the castle, searching and searching, delving into every nook and cranny, until at least the castle had given up its secrets.

He opened his eyes. Men were preparing for battle, sharpening weapons, donning armor, and coating bowstrings with wax. The nighttime hours had almost passed and soon the sky would brighten with the soft light of the sun below the horizon. The nightingales would awake and sing, an odd accompaniment to a bloody battle.

"Lord Snow, should we call for the rest of our men? There are still a few hundred left at the broken bridge." Alyn asked.

"No, they will come when the battle begins. The bridge is only wide enough for two wagons to cross abreast. We can only place so many archers on the battlements and at the arrow slits. The corridors of the Twins are narrow. We are not fighting in the open. The most important element will be surprise." Jon said.

"The Freys will have two thousand, my Lord. We have four hundred. We have better men, but they have the numbers" Mychel added.

"Summon our men." Jon said.

They gathered at a guardroom, the leaders of the Stark forces at the front. Anguy the Archer, Lord Beric, Thoros of Myr. The bold Vale knights. Ser Alyn. Brienne and Sandor Clegane. Gerry and Chett. Jon addressed them, with Arya and Ghost at his side.

"Two weeks ago, the Freys attacked Robb and the North. They slaughtered men at a feast, captured Lord Tully at a wedding to a Frey girl, killed Lady Stark, and butchered our allies. The septons and maesters say that the gods - the old ones and the new - curse those who break guest right. But we are not fighting for the gods. We fight for our brothers. We fight for our men. We fight to show that treachery will lose to honor and justice."

"Lord Snow, what of women and children? And what if soldiers surrender?" Brienne asked.

"I intend to show the same mercy Lord Walder would give us. But as for prisoners, you may take them in battle. Make certain they will not stab you in the back. Your lives are more valuable than Freys. As for Walder and his sons, bring them to me dead or alive.

"We all want revenge for the fallen at Sevenstreams." Ser Robar said.

"And you shall have it. Whether we live or die, we will make Lord Walder pay. Strike hard and strike true." Jon said, dismissing the men.

Most of the soldiers departed from the room, leaving only the commanders and personal guards, awaiting their orders. "Pretty words, Snow, but do you really expect us to take the castle? How do you plan to attack?" Clegane said.

"We have three goals." Jon made a crude drawing of the western castle and marked several rooms. "This is the armory of the castle, where they will store extra armor, arrows, pole arms, and any siege engines. Arya will go and burn the storeroom."

His sister nodded. "I have the pitch ready."

"Perhaps Lord Beric and I should go with her. We have experience setting things on fire." Thoros of Myr said.

Jon nodded. He pointed to the great hall. "The dungeons are between the great hall and the river. We need to secure the prisoners. Brienne and Ser Alyn, that is your task. I think the eastern dungeons will be less guarded. Take them first. As for the western castle, send the majority of the guards there. The fighting may be intense at the great hall. That is the heart of the castle and where the Freys will make their stand. Remember that the task is the prisoners. Do not risk your lives trying to take the castle. "

"And what is the third goal, Snow?" The Hound said.

"Open the gates. When the attack starts, the Freys will fight at the hall or try to retake the bridge. A small group can make it past the bailey, and to the gatehouse. If we can raise the portcullis and lower the drawbridge, the battle is over." Jon held out the Mormont warhorn.

"I am in." The Hound said.

"So are we." Ser Mychel spoke for the three other Vale Knights. Together they would storm the gates, or die trying.

"Good, get ready. When the doors open, we will attack."

Chett waited until everyone had left. "Maester Snow, you didn't tell them about the final task."

Jon smiled. "They don't need to know. It is always good to hold something in reserve. Let the Freys commit their forces and we will surprise them once again."

"You can count on us, Maester." The boy left to join the rest of the crew.

For once, it was not raining. The sun had risen over the Green Fork, the sky was clear, and birds chirped in the morning light. The two sets of doors opened, and smallfolk servants emerged from both sides. Serving girls brought baskets of soiled linen to wash in the river. And soldiers hooted and hollered as they walked the bridge, eager to woo the maids. A black haired man grabbed a nubile wench by her waist and shoved a hand up her skirts. His companions laughed as the girl stumbled, her pale legs exposed to the thighs.

An arrow sprouted in the middle of the bold man's forehead, just above the center of the two close-set eyes. More arrows and quarrels rained down from the slits, and the servants were too stunned to do anything but scream in shock as Frey men died. The door for the Water Tower burst open, with Brienne, Ser Mychel and Clegane leading the way. But no one could match the dire wolf. Ghost cleared the distance between the tower and the western castle in seconds, and sprang through the doors, ripping men apart with the ease of a child playing with toy soldiers. The Hound and the Vale knights breached the western side and Brienne and Ser Alyn did the same on the east. Spikes were jammed into the doors, making them impossible to close. In a few minutes, the entire length of the stone bridge was full of Stark men. And at the wooden bridge, rafts launched again on the Trident.

Arya was dressed once again as a smallfolk, in drab browns and forest green. She had hacked off her hair, and the brown cloak covered her red and gold brigandine, and swords. She trotted swiftly to the doors. "Hurry up."

Gendry groaned under the weight of the firkin in his arms. "This is really heavy. I don't see anyone else carrying things."

"Roll it on the ground, stupid." Arya said. "We have to go. You don't see anyone else dawdling." Jon and Ghost had disappeared into the castle with the knights and the Hound. Stark men surged forward, rushing into the keep. As for the servants at the Twins, either they begged for mercy on their knees, or they fled before the attack, shrieking and wailing.

They made quick progress, before encountering a staircase to their left. The black cat met them at the steps, hissed, and turned. Thoros and Beric lent a hand, the three of them lifting the cask as they descended. Arya followed Balerion, the tom leading the way. They went left and then right and came to a long corridor. Arya dropped to one knee, listening carefully. She heard footsteps in the darkness, and angry voices. She pointed, their destination at hand.

Thoros and Beric took out their weapons. The priest muttered a prayer to the Lord of Light, and the Lightning Lord ran a blade through his palm, cutting his hand open. Both swords burst into bright yellow flames.

"How did you do that?" Arya couldn't stop from asking.

"Thoros used cheap swords and wildfire at King's Landing." Gendry said.

"The days of those shabby tricks are over. The Lord of Light has blessed me with true magic."

Beric only gave a sad smile at Thoros' words, before the two charged ahead. Gendry followed, his war hammer at hand. Shouts of surprise and the clash of swords on shields rang out.

Arya crept down the hall, pushing the barrel. Thoros and Beric had already bought down three men, but several soldiers still stood in front of a large open door, as wide across as two tall men Arya could see even more Frey men in that room, some grabbing crossbows and spears.

Arya gently cut a hole through the bung of the firkin and jabbed a cord, dipped in wax into the hole. She struck the flint against a lump of steel, until the sparks caught on the fuse.

"Out of the way." She yelled as she rushed the barrel down the corridor, the cord aflame. With one last push, she angled it through the door, and then ducked for cover.

For a brief moment, nothing happened and then the pitch caught fire. The barrel exploded, engulfing the armory in flames. Desperate men scrambled out, only to be cut down by Thoros and Beric. Others ran away, and fell to Arya's blades and Gendry's hammer in the back. Screams could be heard in the room still, as the dark reddish fires blocked any exit. Black smoke billowed out and then there were no cries, only an inferno that consumed the weapons of the armory. Sweat dripped on her smiling face.

"Let's go." Arya said.

"Where to, my Lady?" The Lightning Lord asked, his sword now red with blood and not flames.

"The gatehouse. We are going to help Jon take the castle." Arya followed Balerion without looking back.

Brienne kept her shield up and sword ready as she strode down the hall, leading a bunch of Winterfell men. They had been assigned by Ser Alyn, who after spiking the eastern door, had moved to reinforce the western side. They were an odd bunch, but they were proud of their house, wearing a tabard of a grey dire wolf, with white eyes, over their silver mail. Some even had cloaks pinned with hands of beaten silver to commemorate Ned Stark's brief time as Hand of the King.

"My lady, perhaps you should allow me to lead.' A stocky clean shaven man said.

She did not have a good memory for names. Was this Hayhead or Porther? She knew he was not fat enough to be Alebelly or Fat Tom, and the unfortunately named Poxy Tim had scars on his face. "And why should I do that?" Brienne replied.

"Well, everyone knows that a Northman is worth ten Southron swords and…"

Four Freys jumped out from behind a screen. Two were armored, and likely had been on patrol duty. One had only a breastplate and shield and the last wore a mail hauberk over a gambeson. Brienne bull-rushed, trusting in her steel shield and sturdy blue plate armor. She got past the first two men and sliced down, her blade severing the right arm of the third man near his shoulder. She slammed the shield into the hauberk, the rim clanging into the chin. A brutal slice later, and the fourth soldier was down, bleeding from a cut throat. The two armored men turned but hesitated, knowing that they could be easily flanked. In that moment, Brienne thrust her sword into a cheek, the bloody point coming out the other side. The last man attempted to run, and Brienne brought him down with a swift kick. She pulled out a thin poniard and plunged it through the back of the gorget.

"Bloody Hell, Harwin, she can really fight." Fat Tom said.

"You were saying?" Brienne said, wiping the sword and dagger on the stained gambeson.

"We are glad to follow your leadership, my lady." The stocky man squeaked.

"I am no lady." Brienne said as she sheathed the poniard and took up the longsword.

When they entered the dungeon, the jailer blanched, promptly threw down the keys and scurried away. Brienne thought for a moment about pursuit but decided prisoners were more important than an old hunchbacked man. They found Marq Piper, Daryn Hornwood, Lord Goodbrook, Little Ben Blackwood, and many others from the riverlands.

A tall man with a wine stain birthmark stretching from cheek to neck took charge. "How did you find us?" Karyl Vance asked. The lord helped some of the weaker captives to their feet.

"Snow. He took the bridge." Brienne responded. There were ten highborn prisoners and a dozen more squires and pages, but besides Hornwood, the Northmen were not here. Neither was Edmure Tully.

"The bridge - Not the castle? But how?"

Brienne pursed her lips. "You will understand, Lord Vance, when you see the bridge."

"Edmure is in the other castle - so that Lord Walder and the Frey scum can gloat over him." Robert Paege said.

"I hear many men coming." a fat Stark guard shouted.

They beat a hasty retreat, Brienne and Karyl Vance holding the rear. The riverlord looted a few shields and swords from the dead soldiers. And many of the prisoners had suffered poor treatment, even the young boys. She could hear the baying of hounds as they ran the corridor. At least a score of Frey men at arms pursued them, waving swords and spears. They made it past the doors onto the stone bridge. Stark guards defending the water tower marched east toward them, a forest of spear points down the center of the bridge. The Freys and their hounds rushed forward, only to stop in shock. A six foot spear whistled over Brienne's head, skewering three soldiers through the torso. Quarrels, bolts, even rocks rained down on the enemy, and then another massive bolt nailed a hound through his head. The dogs whined and whimpered, and men ran, only to be shot in the back by arrows. Another giant spear whooshed through the air. The ballistas on the battlements ruled the bridge.

The phalanx parted, allowing them to make their way west. The prisoners stared in wonder at the hive of activity. Stark men swarmed the Crossing, and more guards formed rows of eights with spears and shields to assault the castle. At the western riverbank, rafts landed against the last pier, and men scaled ropes and ladders to the bridge. But what surprised Brienne was the action around the Water Tower. A dozen Winter Town boys were busy with nails and wood, hammering planks together into large flat sheets. Chett oversaw the pulley and windlass as those same sheets were being lowered down toward the river. On the tail of rafts that stretched from stone bridge to wooden bridge, small figures danced about, placing the wood decks down, and orders were shouted and relayed back and forth.

"What are they doing?" Brienne said, wondering.

The freed Rivermen gaped at the line of rafts bobbing together. "How did they build all this?" Karyl Vance asked.

"Wood, rope, pitch, nails and barrels. The Freys were kind enough to leave us the empty ale and wine barrels at Sevenstreams." Chett said.

"We must go to Lord Edmure's rescue." Ser Robert Paege said.

"You will need armor and shields." Brienne said.

Chett pointed to a large pile of armor and weapons. "We stripped the bodies killed by our archers. Help yourself." The boy returned to his work, overseeing the little birds and his crew.

Brienne led the rivermen, the Hornwood boy, and the half dozen Winterfell men into the castle. Here, the fighting had been more intense. Bodies littered the hallways, and doors and windows had been smashed and broken beyond repair. Most of the dead were Frey men but some were hapless servants caught in the crossfire. Many more smallfolk had surrendered and knelt on the ground, weeping and terrified.

She found Ser Alyn in the great hall, a third of the way into the western castle. The Twins were two formidable castles, built with extensive fortifications, walls and towers. None of them protected from an attack from inside. The Stark forces had cleared the rooms to the great hall, but there they met with strong resistance.

"Ser Alyn, we have rescued the rivermen." Brienne said.

"Well met, Ser. What of Edmure Tully?" Karyl Vance said.

"The Freys are defending the staircases. They are fighting hard to prevent us from reaching them. Lord Tully is in a dungeon on a lower level." Alyn replied.

"That staircase also leads up to the keep. Lord Walder Frey sleeps there." Robert Paege said.

"Aren't there other staircases down?" Brienne asked.

"There are, but Lady Arya set the armory on fire. The flames make it too difficult to reach the dungeons from the steps closer to the bridge."

"Then we shall clear a path." Marq Piper said. He prepared to charge the shield wall. The Frey knights were densely packed, the kite shields overlapping.

"Wait, Ser. There must be a better way." Brienne said. Charging a wall of shields held by trained men would be costly. In battles, such a formation was broken by cavalry, not infantry.

"At Riverrun, the Crakehall men made a last stand. Snow dropped a burning siege tower on their heads, and they surrendered." Karyl Vance said.

"We don't have siege towers here." Harwin said.

That was an obvious and unhelpful comment. Brienne looked around. In the great hall, there were many, many tables, a testament to the numbers and wealth of House Frey. And if there were tables, then -

"The benches." Brienne said. "We can use them as a battering ram." The tables sat ten men per side, and some of the oak benches were over twelve feet long, and light enough for two men to carry and run.

"A bench will not kill a knight." Harwin said.

"We do not need to kill them. If we drive them back, the soldiers will retreat up the stairs. And then we can reach the dungeon."

The rivermen formed teams of two to four. Ser Alyn ordered a quick volley of arrows and then Brienne and the others smashed into the shieldwall. The benches, as long as a knight's lance, forced the Freys back. The path down was left unguarded. They hurled the makeshift rams forward, and then ran down the steps.

The western dungeon had more guards, but they were poor fighters. Brienne slew two men easily before the resistance crumbled and surrendered. Marq Piper and Karyl Vance went first to their lord. A hempen noose dangled from Edmure's neck, and his feet and legs were filthy. The silver trout on the tunic was brown. The Greatjon roared when his cell was opened, and Wylis Manderly hugged Hornwood with fat, happy arms. There were others, as well - Lord Glover, Rickard Karstark, Robin Ryger, Cley Cerwyn, Ser Helman Tallhart, and Patrek Mallister.

The Greatjon and the other Northmen gathered over Dacey Mormont, shielding her body with theirs. Her clothes were torn and shredded. The breeches had been torn away and thrown carelessly through the prison bars. Her nose was broken and her right eye blackened. The right cheek was puffed and darkened and there were scratches on the arms, chest and thighs. The bruises told a clear story about the horrors of war.

"Lord Robb, how is he?" Dacey stood up, the dirty shift barely decent. She spoke through cracked, bloody lips.

"He is alive but hurt badly. Snow leads the attack on the castle." Brienne said. "My lady, can I offer you a cloak?"

Dacey shook her head as Clay Cerwyn handed over the breeches. She shook them out and put them on, covering the marks on her legs. "Get me a sword, or better yet, a morning star."

Lord Karstark swiped a sword from a cowering guard. He offered it to Dacey who caressed the hilt like a newborn child. Then she stepped forth and hacked off the dungeon warden's neck. The fleshy fat head rolled on the stone floor.

"Lady Dacey, he surrendered." Brienne said.

"Not to me." the she-bear replied.

"She is right. Kill the Freys! Where is Smalljon? Is he fighting with Snow?" the Greatjon asked.

"None of your men are here. Or yours, Lord Karstark. Or the Tullys. Or any of the riverlords. They could not join because the Freys held you hostage." Brienne said.

"Then… how did Snow take the castle?" Karstark said.

"The castle is not taken. Snow played a trick, but he has only a few hundred Stark men." Vance said. "We need to escape, but there is another matter."

Robert Paege dragged out a few more from the far side of the dungeon. Brienne was shocked to see Ser Stevron, old, tired, hobbling and supported by two young men. She recognized Olyvar, Robb's squire, but not the other, a boy of the same age. They looked like cousins, but everybody did at the Twins. Ser Perwyn followed, and his face was beaten and ashamed.

"Fucking Freys!" Karstark spat.

"No, Ser. These men tried to help us at the wedding. Stevron was wounded in the leg, defending me. And Perwyn fought Hosteen for killing Lucas Blackwood."' Robin Ryger said. The old knight's arm was swollen black and smelled foul.

"But his brother attacked us at Sevenstreams. I smashed a flagon of wine in his face to get free before I was knocked out by the back of an ax." Dacey said.

"That was Benfrey, not me." Perwyn said. "I swear I had no idea of my father's plans."

"They could all be liars. Lame Lothar is clever enough to put spies in the dungeon. How can we trust any Frey after what Lord Walder has done?" Wylis said.

"They may be scum but the Freys are Lord Edmure's bannermen. They answer to the Tullys." Marq Piper argued.

"The Freys betrayed the North. House Stark will decide their fate. If Robb Stark cannot, then Snow will." Dacey said. The Northmen clearly agreed. "Now, can we get out of this place?"

"We came down the staircase in the great hall. But Frey knights were defending that. We may have to fight our way through them." Brienne said.

"There is another way out, that would avoid any guards." Perwyn said.

"Past the armory? Arya Stark burned that one." Brienne said.

"No, my lady. There is an old storeroom with a concealed postern gate. The exit is below the bridge footings, and leads to the Trident, under the Crossing. It was built before the Water Tower, so that the Freys could attack any passing boats." Perwyn said.

"Lead the way. But if this is a trap, I will pull the guts out of your body while you are alive." The Greatjon said cheerfully.

The drawbridge was not the problem. Once lowered, that would be hard to raise again in any reasonable time frame. But the portcullis was an entirely different matter. The long tunnel had two portcullises, grated gates, plated with iron, mounted on vertical grooves that could be quickly raised or lowered. Attackers could be trapped between the two metal grilles, and easily killed. Defenders could drop stones and boiling water through murder holes in the ceiling or shoot arrows and bolts from the slits and loops on the sides.

The hoisting equipment - a winch, windlass and ropes - to raise and lower the gates would be located in the guardroom above the tunnel. And sometimes a guard could even smash a latch, and the portcullis would drop swiftly.

Taking the guard room was not the hard part. Enough soldiers had rushed to the great hall from the gatehouse that the enemy numbers had thinned out. But holding the guard room against attacks from Freys in the gatehouse, barbican, and flanking towers would be difficult for five men and a dire wolf.

"Jon!" Arya had found him, thanks to Balerion. All four - Arya, Thoros, Beric and Gendry - had soot on their face. "We burnt down the armory."

"I can tell." It was no use to tell Arya to keep safe. They were already near the guardroom. Safety came with action. "Ser Andrew Tollett. I want you to approach the guards. Tell them that the Northmen were defeated, and that Lothar Frey wishes them to come to the Great Hall."

"But my Lord, I look nothing like a Frey. The Tolletts of Grey Glen have no weasels or vultures as ancestors." Andrew said.

"Do you think we bloody look like Freys?" Sandor said. The Hound wore a drab cloak and an ugly leather skullcap. The cowl and cap hid his scars but not his height. Clegane towered a whole head over any Frey. Andrew was the shortest of the Vale knights.

"Perhaps you could be a knight from a house sworn to the Freys." Beric said.

"And what are their sigils?" Tollett asked doubtfully.

"You can be a fucking Haigh. Black pitchforks. I stuck one up Donnel Haigh's arse in a melee." Clegane said.

"Perhaps I should accompany Ser Andrew as well. I will be a septon bringing good tidings." Thoros of Myr said.

The two entered the guardroom. Cheers could be heard through the thick oak door on hearing news of the victory. A few soldiers strolled through the door, only for the Hound and Jon to kill them from behind. Ghost and Balerion rushed the guardroom, followed by Lord Beric with a flaming sword, Ser Mychel and the other Vale knights. And when the Frey men attempted to raise the alarm or escape from the white dire wolf, Thoros and Andrew hacked at exposed necks and arms. In a few moments, the bloody work was done.

"That was not noble, Lord Snow." Thoros lamented.

"No, it was not. We are here for revenge, not to be celebrated in songs." Jon said.

They sealed the doors, blocking them as much as possible with tables and doors. A rope and pulley system on the far west side of the room linked a counterweight to the drawbridge. Ser Mychel and the Vale knights lowered the bridge. At the same time, the Hound and Gendry put their backs, legs and arms to work on the windlass, lifting first one gate and then the other. Jon located the latch, in the center of the guardroom.

He took out the auroch horn that Maege had given him last night. A long low blast rolled through the gatehouse, escaping the lowering drawbridge and echoing through the Western shoreline. Jon turned back, and blew it again, the noise sounded through the castle, striking fear and dismay in the defenders. And then one last blast came from the warhorn, deep, mournful, a dirge for a departed dire wolf, Grey Wind - who died fighting at his brother's side. We did not forget you, Jon thought.

"Hold the doors. So long as the bridge and gates are open, winter is coming for House Frey."

They heard the war horn on the western side of the camp, where Jason Mallister and the Silver Eagles broke their fast. And they heard the war horn on the southern edge, where Brynden Tully and his outriders rushed to saddle their horses and ride. Maege Mormont, the closest of the Stark commanders, already had her men armed and armored when the call came. But the quickest answer would come from the North.

Brienne followed Ser Perwyn as they exited the castle onto the river. Her sword was at the knight's back but the Frey men showed no signs of betrayal. They were eager to repent but she wondered whether it was too late. Her master at arms at Evenfall had told her the North was hard and cold, with no mercy. Judging from the eyes of the prisoners, Ser Goodwin was right. "What in the Seven Hells is that?" The Greatjon said.

Near the shore, the rafts were empty but at the Water Tower, the Winter Town Boys were hard at work. A long ramp, made with planks and buttressed by wooden blocks, stretched from the stone bridge to the rafts below. Ropes had been lashed on both the upper and lower portions of the ramp, bracing the inclined plane of wood against the stone pier of the Crossing. Brienne squinted, and saw that on the broken bridge, another ramp also stretched down to the river. In between, flat sheets of wood lay over the line of rafts, connecting the two structures.

"Bloody Hell. Jon Snow built another bridge." Wylis Manderly said.

Was that possible? In the morning, Brienne thought it was only a line of rafts butting against the Crossing, but that was before the Winter Town boys built the ramps and the little birds laid out the deck. The rafts were connected now with more than just ropes. Cross planks formed a smooth surface across the Green Fork.

A horn blew, long and low, the blast echoing over the river. A second burst rang out, followed by excited cries on the bridge.

"My mother's horn." Dacey said. "Who is blowing the Mormont horn?"

"Snow went to the gatehouse to raise the portcullis and lower the drawbridge. He must have succeeded. The gates are open." Brienne said.

The third blast reached their ears. And then a howl came from the North, a strange, terrifying sound - horrible and yet melodic. Dark shapes gathered on the broken bridge, their necks bent upward, as if howling at the moon. But there was no moon, Brienne thought. The sun shone brightly over the Green Fork.

A monstrous she-wolf with a white belly and dark gold eyes jumped from a wooden pier and landed on a raft. The floating bridge was a fragile thing. A horse would have to be led carefully over the deck. And men in armor would need to walk slowly to keep the ties between the rafts stable. But wolves were lighter than horses and more balanced than men. Nymeria ran over the pontoon rafts, her legs a white blur, until she sprang up the ramp onto the bridge. Her cousins followed, hundreds and hundreds of grey wolves. The dire wolf howled again at the Water Tower, and then raced west into the castle. Her little cousins followed, snarling and gnashing their teeth, ready to hunt and kill. The frenzied wolf pack passed the Stark soldiers without breaking stride. Screams broke out in the castle. Brienne almost felt sorry for the Freys.

Only two doors led to the guardroom, and the Freys were too stupid or too afraid to go through the window. The gatehouse had three floors. A bold man could climb down a rope to attack. Such a trick would not have succeeded, but the frantic attempts to breach the guardroom were failing. Against normal swordsmen, the sheer numbers of soldiers would have prevailed. But the Hound and Ser Mychel Redfort were far from normal. Clegane fought with a brutal savagery that most could not match. What the Hound did with raw strength, Ser Mychel achieved with speed and skill. Robar, Ben, Thoros and Gendry were wounded by arrows but Andrew and Lord Beric still fought. And Ghost, Jon and Arya killed any men who managed to get past.

A bugle sounded behind them. Whether it was a Tully trumpet or a Piper horn, Jon did not care. The Stark bannermen were coming. From the corner of his eye, he saw a silver eagle on purple and a black trout on blue and red. The closest blazon was the black she-bear walking in a green wood. The Mormonts reached the drawbridge. Lady Maege sent five rows of three steel clad soldiers abreast, with shields at the right and left sides to block arrows and more shields defending the front, back and top of the tortoise formation. A lusty roar broke out when the men reached the end of the tunnel unscathed. And then, a horde of angry Northmen and riverlanders burst into the castle.

"Snow." A knight with a sigil of a black toad or frog on a white lily cried out in panic. "Snow, will you accept our surrender?"

"That depends, Ser. Were you at Edmure Tully's wedding? Did you attack my brother's men at Sevenstreams?" Jon shot back.

The old knight looked like he would piss himself. He ran, only to fall to Nymeria's jaws as the dire wolf ripped out his throat. The Hound and the knights watched as the other Frey soldiers fell to the she wolf's pack.

They walked down the steps of the gatehouse to the keep, the Hound and Ser Mychel guarding Jon. Truthfully he didn't need them with Ghost and Balerion at his side. Nymeria accompanied Arya, and dozens and dozens of wolves cavorted around the courtyard. In the inner bailey, joyful reunions broke out between the ex prisoners and their families. The Manderly brothers hugged, giant bellies jiggling as they slapped each other on the back. Jon saw a sheepish Edmure speaking quietly to the Blackfish, Tytos and his sons, Hoster and Brynden, embracing Little Ben, happy Vances and Pipers, and Maege and Lyra Mormont holding Dacey close. Like always, the bellows of the Karstarks and Umbers threatened to drown out the other bannermen.

Ser Alyn and Chett approached, unconcerned about the wolves surrounding Jon and Arya.

"Report, Ser." Jon said.

"We have done it, Lord Snow. We have broken them. A few Freys have barricaded themselves on the upper levels of the keep, but our men only need rams to batter down the doors."

"Tell the Freys that I demand their surrender. If they do not open the doors, the deaths will be more painful. And what about the prisoners?"

"Maester, Lady Brienne freed the prisoners. We saw the ones from the eastern castle on the bridge. And Clydas and Denys saw the others on the western river bank." Chett chirped.

"You did well building the pontoon bridge, Chett. The Winter Town boys performed admirably. And make sure to thank the little birds too." Jon said. The boy beamed with pride.

A crowd of bannermen had gathered around Jon and Arya. The Blackfish, the Greatjon and Lady Mormont pushed themselves to the front. "My Lord, what are your orders?" Alyn said

"I want every Frey brought to me - living or dead. Find them all - Lord Walder, his sons, their children and children's children." Jon said.

"Lord Snow, we have not taken the eastern castle. Some of the Freys and their men may have escaped." Alyn said.

"First, clear every part of this castle. Then take the eastern castle with no loss of Northern lives. Chett, find ravens, either in the rookery here or back at the camps. Send ravens and riders to all the nearby holdfasts, village and inns. Anyone who shelters Frey men will suffer the same fate." Jon stopped and thought. "Bring all of the prisoners to me. Kevan Lannister. Baelor Hightower. Tarly. Every squire and lady from the Tooth. Every captured knight and lord. Let them see the fate of traitors. And send our most trusted men to escort Sansa and Robb here." Jon said.

"It may take time, Lord Snow. Lord Walder has a very large family."

"Then Robb will be here to see justice done." Jon replied.

The Great Hall was already full of snot-nosed Freys praying to the Seven for mercy. A few minor prisoners had been delivered - Lord Crakehall and the Strongboar, Brax knights, Lord Estren, Prester men. The throne of black oak with the Frey sigil carved on the back, reserved for the Lord of the Crossing, was empty. Jon had spent the hour writing ravens, and speaking with the chastened lords. Among the bannermen, only the Mormonts could hold their heads high.

Some of the pack had departed for the forests and hills but others remained, devouring horses in the stable. The wolfhounds in the kennels were all dead. Nymeria, Balerion and Ghost sat near Jon, and ravens fluttered about, waiting to take letters South and East.

They dragged Lord Walder, his bald chinless head wearing a look of stunned disbelief. Ryman and his sons were brought in kicking and screaming, and a few others were bound in ropes with their wives, sons and daughters. There were lots and lots of Freys. Jon did not recognize many but the plump man with dark ringlets of hair dressed in woman's garb was Lame Lothar.

"We found him trying to escape as a serving wench. He was hiding with the maids in a storeroom." Lord Beric said.

Nymeria leaped forward, snarling, traces of blood still visible on her face. Jon raised a hand, and Ghost veered in front of his sister. The two dire wolves trotted back to their bondmates.

"A warg walks among us, A WARG! Snow will steal our children and mate with our women. He is an abomination before the Seven. " Lothar frothed at the mouth.

"Perhaps I am a warg and a sorcerer. But you are a dead man. Your line is dead. Your house is dead. And soon enough, you will be dead." He spoke to the Stark guards. "Take Walder, and chain him to the black chair he loves so. Make certain he has a good view."

The old man babbled and screeched as Alebelly and Fat Tom grabbed and carried him. Chett and Gerry tied ropes firmly about the wrists, arms and neck.

It was still morning on the Green Fork. Jon looked about the great hall, full of terrified prisoners. More were coming. "When the sun sets, House Frey shall end."

Author's Notes

Big Walder is one of the two wards sent to Winterfell. There is an inside joke on how Big Walder is actually shorter and smaller than Little Walder. The theory that Big Walder killed Little Walder is intriguing because he is only nine years old. But Big Walder, son of Jammos, is quite astute.

The wolf pelt refers to the Frey letter to Tywin Lannister. "Roslin caught a fine fat trout. Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding."

The trick of the missing cookfires comes from the Battle of Guiling in 354 BC. (Warring States Period in China). The battle was between Sun Bin and Pang Juan. Sun Bin had his troops use 100,000 cooking stoves the first day, 50,000 the second day, and 20,000 the third. Pang Juan believed Sun Bin's forces were deserting and rushed into an ambush. In the folklore version, Sun Bin carves the words "Pang Juan dies under this tree" on a tree and kills him there with archers. No way to fit that into this story though.

Edwyn's contribution about night soil comes from the war council at Riverrun in A Feast for Crows. While some prefer to negotiate (Riverlords), and others to launch a raid (Strongboar), Edwyn says the archers should poison their arrows with night soil (human shit) and aim for the Blackfish's helm. To which, Karyl Vance asks whether the night soil will be Edwyn's own contribution, or his actual shit.

All warfare is deception. That comes from Sun Tzu's Art of War. Incidentally, Sun Bin claimed to be a descendant of Sun Tzu, and wrote his own book on tactics.

Jon uses a pulley and windlass system to move heavy things - like Sandor Clegane. A windlass is a vertical capstan and both were used on ships to multiply force when pulling cords, ropes and sails. Archimedes (200 BC) is credited as inventing the windlass although it seems clear the Chinese also had their own version. The windlass is basically a complex pulley.

Addam Marbrand has a similar idea to take the walls of Riverrun. He would have led a dozen men in boats and scaled the walls with ropes and grapnels. This plan is rejected by Walder Rivers, but the difference here is that there is a huge distraction, and the watchers are faced out toward the walls, not inward at the castle.

A wine barrel, depending on the exact origin, holds about 32 gallons. A firkin is a quarter of the size. I would guess that a full barrel weighs about 300 pounds. A half barrel of beer (15.5 gallons) weighs 30 pounds empty and 160 full. As for Arya's cord, the first fuses were used by the Chinese in the 10th century to delay ignition in fireworks.

"The North was hard and cold, and without mercy." Eddard Stark says that to Catelyn. I thought that was early, when they beheaded the deserter, but it turns out to be when Robb executed Lord Karstark for killing the Lannister boys.

Jon Snow built a pontoon bridge - not to cross a river, but to link the two bridges. Pontoon bridges have been around since ancient times. Xerxes famously built one across the Hellespont, the strait that marks the border between Asia and Europe. Historians estimate that Xerxes transported several hundred thousand men and all their baggage over a mile of water. The Chinese and the Romans also used pontoon bridges.

Jon also used the empty wine and ale barrels left at the feast to make pontoon boats. In the DIY videos, you literally strap PVC barrels to a hardwood frame, and that's it. Technically, you also need to screw the barrels in place, get a sturdy board for the top of the frame, and leave a space for the engine. But that is a fancy video. Jon's barrel rafts are even simpler, although he has to devise a place for the ropes so the rafts could be tied together. The physics of pontoon bridges are odd. When men march in unison, the walkway would heave up and down, and pressure would build. But a heavier vehicle that distributes weight evenly causes very little stress! So a man or a horse had to cross carefully. But a tank could roll over without problems. The science is that each pontoon has to sink to gain buoyancy and recover when the load is passed. Nymeria is awesome, so she can lead a huge pack over at top speed.

In a Feast of Crows, Jamie hears about a wolf attack "hundreds of the bloody beggars" with no fear, led by a monstrous she-wolf. This is Nymeria's pack.

"A warg walks among us" is stolen from Janos Slynt when he is politicking to be Lord Commander. I am not sure why that line didn't matter in the book. The Jon chapters swing from "I may be executed for living with Wildlings" to Jon Snow, Lord Commander. That's a credit to the untrustworthy POV and GRRM's skill at selling Jon as a destined hero - well at least before the last two seasons. I don't see why the Night's Watch would want a warg commander unless they accept that Jon Snow is the promised one.

"When the sun sets, your line shall end" is what Aegon the Conqueror says to Black Harren before Balerion burns the castle. And the actions of Nymeria - growling and snapping - mirrors Grey Wind's behavior at the Twins in the books.