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The Logistics of Good Living (ASOIAF, Brandon Stark SI)

ATP

Comrade
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Starks as icy gods...wait,i remember some story where Starks was desdendents of Others.Something about Otherstarks.
If we think about it,then entire story is about Ice and Fire.
Targs are affilated with fire,so Starks should be affilated with ice,too.

P.S Company od Rose arleady come back?
 

ATP

Comrade
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Yep.

Not commenting on the rest, except to say "not really, but spoilers."
Aerys would suspect North of rebelling after copmany of the Rose returned./Which is true/
How to prevent that ? show,that it is all Blackfyre fault/which it is/
 
Intermission: A Short Reach Is No State for a Hand (Jon-III)

Karmic Acumen

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A/N: Will hopefully not run into word count limits when I try to merge this with Jon-I later.

===========================


“-. 274 AC .-“


The meeting of the high men and learned men that followed the unexpected funeral, and which everyone jumped to have as soon as possible if only to distract themselves from the sick fuckery they’d just seen buried, wasn’t a meeting about the Bolton lands. That was already decided without them. All they had to do was stand there and nod and say aye in all the right places as Lord Stark went and attainted House Bolton right there over the fresh grave, its best possible claimant clinging to him and tearfully disavowing his blood all the while.

They stood and witnessed and said aye in all the right places and otherwise shut their bitch arse mouths.

The lands would be broken apart in many smaller domains, some of which would go to branch houses founded by the ones returning from Essos. They would even get to replace what troublemakers got culled during the spring war games, which would be more thoroughly planned in the coming days (and might become a regular thing?). Whether or not a new overlord would be assigned again at some point, the Lord Stark said neither aye nor nay to. Jon would’ve thought Lord Stark was holding the place for when Tybald was ready, but seemed not. His granduncle then? Or his cousin Osrick that was at least able enough to attend the meet? Not that other lad that went and made a fool of himself in the market earlier, surely?

Maybe little Ned? That’s what Jon would’ve thought in a sane world.

But then, in a sane world, the meeting of the high men and learned men that followed the unexpected funeral would’ve been the turning point in Jon Umber’s life. Especially since it had proof and witnesses and vouchsafers in the shape of that new Master of Silverpine Tower. Not to mention the Cerwyns and some three thousand northmen returned from Essos. And everything happening outside the walls of Winterfell, that too. Hells, just one of them Winterfell Wonders should’ve been the turning point in his life, and the life of the whole North for that matter. Jon didn’t need to have seen the faces of everyone half an hour into it, to know they all had the same thoughts as him.

Winterstone, summerstone, paper, glass (better than the Myrish!), postholers, drills, screws, hard hats, running water, wheel saws, band saws, chain saws, mechanical looms, spinning wheels, spinning jennies, spinning frame and flying shuttle for thread mills, wheel-powered everything, blast furnaces that could make iron by the cartload and the start of an idea to make something like it for steel. Two or three of them could have changed their way of life. Hells, the trip hammer upended blacksmithing all by itself. All of them together? They’d needed a whole new word for it. And they got it. Industry. Industry that was all just materials and tools for the real stuff.

Ice fishing that didn’t kill you overnight, maple sugar, beet sugar, soybeans, stone harvesters and buriers that could turn poor land into farmland, the latter doubled as a harvester for one of the two new crops that could each make the North self-sufficient all on their own again, new farming techniques and tools that could improve existing crop yields tenfold (tenfold!). Hedge plows, planters, crop lifters, threshers, seed drills, and Gods knew what else would come out of the woodwork in the future (tenfold! At least!). And did he mention that the fucking crannogmen were probably going to feed the whole North by themselves by this time next summer? Rice! Where the fuck had that crop been all this time? What dog shit! Also, fuck the Reach! And fuck the Riverlands too!

Cast iron stoves, portable camp stoves made of steel sheets that weighed practically nothing (not plates, sheets), a portable melting foundry (Squatmaester Nutter had made it up so he could work on them dentistry horrors on the go), handle-turned choppers, mashers and grinders, canning that outlasted potting six times over (at least!). Them tin cans sealed with cork and wax weren’t heavy as sin either, they didn’t shatter like wine bottles, they could stack into crates, they didn’t shit or need to eat like goats or chickens, they didn’t slow down an army on the march, they’ll let ships stay on patrol for months without resupply, and nobody would die of the runs. One be ever so sorry, Maester Danner, but all them logistics you taught just turned to shit! And if they have to import cork by the shipload from the Reach? Fuck the Reach anyway! They had screw-on lids now!

Piped water, piped water in your kitchen, piped water in your privy, new soaps, soap for your mouth, brushes for teeth, cleanliness rules explained clear enough to make some fucking sense, public baths, public steam baths, in-house privies that didn’t smell somehow, birthing forceps, cure for the fucking plague, Jon couldn’t even fathom how many people weren’t gonna die when these things started spreading. Sprogs. Sprogs everywhere! They wouldn’t die and they wouldn’t have to worry about starving! Didn’t look like any of those extra hands would be idle either. Haha!

The new foods weren’t as many, but they were tasty as a hug from your sane and sound Pa after a winter of jerky, cheese and porridge. Wedge pies, brans (Jon bravely didn’t check them for barbs), fruit candied in maple syrup, boiled rice, fried rice, boiled earth apples, soup of earth apples, baked earth apples, salted fried earth apples seasoned in rosemary and everything else under the sun (delicious!). Then Lord Stark blandly informed them that’s all they were getting because they were saving the rest for planting. Oh, and they weren’t going to trade them out either so they’d just have to grow their own when seeds and sprouts became available, unless they were willing to invest in so and so enterprise? It lit a fire in their bellies and then some, sure enough, because there was playing dirty and then there was House Stark.

How the fuck were they supposed to handle all this? Where had it all come from? Because most of it wasn’t the half-maesters they stole, they all said so! It weren’t all the Braavosi either. It was madness!

When Squatmaester Nutter mentioned he had plans for some two dozen new kinds of booze, Jon latched onto the news like one would drown their sorrows, and he wasn’t the only one. Maple mead, three kinds of berry wine, just as many strongwines, the same for firewine, fire ale, ten different kinds of firewater (one for every fruit!). They called horseshit of course – even a handful was too good to be true! – but the lunatic shrugged. Said that while he didn’t expect all of them to become available immediately – they needed fermenting for months, years even, it was horrible! – earth apples were the only thing he hadn’t developed a method for yet because he’s a master alchemist, don’t you know. As if they’d just believe him without proof! But then he had the gall to say it’d all be shit anyway because none of them could make real firewater worth the name without him having to distill it for days. He’d tried, don’t you know, and they could have these little ‘tumblers’ and taste for themselves what even his ‘best efforts’ amounted to. They sneered and tasted for themselves right good and the rat bastard! Who did he think he was, insulting the Gods’ own drink like that!?

They might have gotten a little worked up there.

When the war stuff came, the lords looked ready to just bend over backwards and pull their knees behind their ears so Lord Stark could have his wicked way with them and begin the next stage of their lives. Though that might just be the drink making him remember things weird-like. Unlike before, though, there were as many nutty ideas as there were good. The trebuchet would mess up forts right proper and there were ideas for an arrow ‘multi-loader’ that could make bowmen right terrifying (just what the legs of lasses had to do with archery, Jon hadn’t the foggiest). But unless Lord Stark was keeping anything else to his chest until the ‘war games,’ that was it. And maybe the signalling towers. Other than the canning and everything else that would splash over of course. Those YiTish wheelbarrows would solve a lot of their travel problems too, outside snow days. Jon supposed it made sense to see the Essosi sellswords in action before they decided anything else, but he didn’t see things changing much. Pike, crossbow and shovel, that’s all he had to say. Well, maybe one of them ‘entrenchment tools’ instead, specially if they really had to dig their latrines away from camp from now on.

Maybe there was something to be said about wooden armor, least if it was made of ironwood, but linen armor just sounded insane. Though maybe it was only meant for ski scouts in winter? Lamellar was a better idea in Jon’s opinion, didn’t them Wolf Pack fellows use it? Them that Osrick Stark done and mentioned that one time? There might even have been something about flying fires in there somewhere, but the drink haze had been at its worst around that point. Gods, that firewater packed a punch. Or was it firewine? Fireale? Fuck, who even knew, maybe it was all three banded together to dance a jig inside his skull just for kicks. Maybe he shouldn’t have drunk so much? No, that was just silly, he’d barely chugged enough for eight people!

When sailing finally got its turn at the end, the only surprise was Lord Stark’s command that most of the new ideas not be implemented yet. Or, at least, implemented but not deployed. Outside the North anyhow. He wanted them to be all strategic-like.

“We haven’t had much trouble in terms of southron spies, but that will change, and the seas are a different beast. I’ve commissioned the Maesters to perform a full assessment of the factions likely to involve themselves in the North’s business,” Lord Stark gestured at the maesters and acolytes seated across from them that had taken turns presenting the miracles on the mounds of paper before them. As if he even needed to justify himself. “Call it a teething job. Out of everything, the naval advancements may become our greatest tactical and strategic asset, provided we maintain the element of surprise. Since all the new goods and products will need trading, I want to get together over the coming days to discuss internal logistics instead. Chiefly, developing our rivers. Roads also, and there have been certain ideas involving rails that might mesh as well. Some focus on charting and map making would not go amiss either.”

Their new fleet (and hadn’t that been a surprise) and everyone on it had been snuck into the North via Widow’s Watch and Ramsgate. Ser Wyman Manderly had gone and made it happen, using planning, knowledge of the routes, and some new contraption called a compass that looked like magic when he showed it off. Far as anyone knew, the thirty-one ships that left Braavos had been swallowed up by a freak winter storm on the way to White Harbor. The ships with new figureheads and paint on their sails would ‘discreetly’ rejoin the sea trade one at a time over the next couple of years.

“Hopefully that will be enough ‘low cunning’ for the southrons and Essosi not to expect many other surprises,” were Lord Stark’s words.

Other surprises like new shipyards. And new ships. And construction yards in the many cave river mouths dotting the coasts. Insofar as they made coin enough for it from everything else anyhow. And sheathing ships in copper, which would definitely be held back until the next war that nobody wanted to guess about because they didn’t want to ruin the good mood none.

In the meanwhile, the maesters would be trying to develop a way to get location and distance based on numbers and the stars. Somehow. Sounded mad to Jon, and even the single half-maester with any knowledge of watercraft admitted they barely knew where to start there, which Lord Weyrman Manderly wryly commiserated on. But a lot of the rest had sounded mad too. There were mutterings about ways to sail against the wind, but nobody had figured out if those were actually good either. Or even possible. The only sure thing besides the compass and copper sheathing was that stacked planks bound in iron rings could be used to build masts, but that was it. Seemed that all that time in Braavos didn’t gain the Rose all that much knowledge about seamanship at all, compared to everything else. Just hazy ideas with no starting point. How strange.

The reason Jon recalled that bit so vividly despite the drink haze wasn’t because of what it meant but what happened right after. Namely, Squatmaester Nutter and uncle Hother hauling and dumping on the table the biggest, heaviest, most skull-cracking book Jon had ever seen, except the pages weren’t bound. Instead, they were held together by brass bolts through some mighty big holes in the side. They looked made to add new pages easily. He didn’t need to squint to read the words on the leather-bound whalebone cover.

The Inventory – Volume I.

“This,” said Osrick Stark on behalf of himself and his unavailable uncle, sounding positively vicious. “Is going to be our ultimate defense against every last guild and their dastardly anti-competitive practices.”

It was a record of everything they’d talked about, as well as a boatload of other little bits and bobs that people had come up with. The Marwyn ‘bent flow’ and ‘septic tank,’ the Luwys & Hus ‘ablution array,’ the Qyburn ‘antiplague,’ the Brandon Stark ‘duck tape’ (were Starks flaying things too now? Say it ain’t so!). All of it was written in impossibly orderly script and drawn up in right arse-whipping detail. It turned out that someone or other had invented something called a printing press – also outlined in the Inventory somewhere – that could make books as fast as the blast furnace made iron. They were just waiting on a good enough ink, which the maesters were well on the way to perfecting out of hemp oil, of all things, or linseed oil if that didn’t work. Every last one of them lords of the Great Houses would be taking copies of The Inventory with them when they left. And would be expected to coordinate with everyone else whenever someone in their land came up with something new that was good enough to put in. It would preserve and spread knowledge well into the future and then some.

And all of it would be freely accessible to every northerner who wanted to do any sort of business. Apparently, plan was that whoever got something recorded in that book was entitled to a share of the profits from whatever job or product used the same invention. Well, for the first four to ten years, and not if the other man came up with it on his own without ever consulting the Inventory to begin with. You could use the stuff in there to make whatever you wanted for yourself, but if you made it for a business or to trade, it was like as if the original creator invested into your business. You could negotiate your own deal if you got a hold of the original inventor, but it needed to be put down in writing three times, with a copy submitted to the nearest official archive.

“Plan is to restrict it to family lines that have lived in the North for at least three generations, and for access to the book to be logged by name and date,” Osrick Stark continued. “So we’ll know when some enterprising person owes anyone else for any sudden, lucrative ideas. Hopefully we’ll have something more comprehensive in place by the time foreigners start snooping, or people start sending their friends and paid nobodies in their stead in an attempt to cheat the system. We may eventually need to provide official supervision to negotiations, but it should be some time before people start strong-arming. That said, we might want to keep some of the big strategic assets out of public knowledge for now, like the blast furnace and naval advancements, especially the compass. Maybe the antiplague as well, considering how badly a wrong cure can go. We’ll need to talk it out further over the coming days to figure out exactly what can be risked and how. Finally, we’re still unsure about the time until the ownership of the idea ought to expire. We’re only trying to give clever folk time to make something from their ideas, not stifle everyone else who could make us money. ‘One generation’ seemed vague and excessive, and ‘one seasonal cycle’ was too inconsistent.”

Jon didn’t know enough to say one way or another if this was better than courting the trade guilds. They didn’t seem to have harmed White Harbor none, and he thought House Stark was completely nutters for actually wanting them to compete against each other. And everyone else. And their grandmother. He’d have split everything between them if it were him, so that everyone had something to work on that nobody else did. That way it was all neat and tidy and nobody had to scramble to constantly change what they were doing and how they were doing it. Wasn’t up to him though, so he didn’t say anything.

Plenty others did though, and it even seemed like the high lords of a mind with Jon might carry the day. But Lord Stark put his foot down and told them flat out that everyone was getting all or nothing. If they persisted, he’d put them up to explain why so and so House was less deserving of such and such compared to them. They could talk among themselves to coordinate if they wanted, but woe betide them if he finds out about any price-fixing done at everyone else’s expense.

“Or do you expect House Stark to force terms and shoulder all the resentment thereof?”

Jon seriously wondered why Lord Stark didn’t just say that from the start. It made a lot more sense than the whole ‘competition is good for the creation of wealth’ nonsense. Honestly, ‘plague killed my coin counters so I became a coin counter’ was only going to carry him so far. Jon still didn’t say anything though.

Nobody else did either, because it was around that point that people put their heads together going through The Inventory and started to realise just how many of them entries belonged or half-belonged to Brandon Stark.

And not the one from Essos neither.

Slowly, the eyes of all the High Men of the North turned to behold the child that had been sleeping in the chair at his father’s side since damn well near the start of that get-together.

Rickard Stark laid his hand on the boy’s head and gently nudged him. “Son? Take a break. There are some people here who want to talk to you.”

Brandon Stark stirred, opened his eyes-

Jon Umber sat straight suddenly, blinking rapidly to- but all the booze haze in the world didn’t change that those eyes glowed like snow as if they weren’t no eyes at all. All around him, Jon’s grandfather and all them other high men stiffened and brought their hands on the table with curses of surprise.

Or fright.

“… What-“ “Fucking hells-“ “Wargs, I knew it-“ “Is that- “My Lord-“

Brandon Stark raised a hand.

The High Lords all shut up.

And it wasn’t even to shut them up none. The boy instead reached hazily for the far window. A white raven that had also been napping all that time flew down from the rafters, unlatched the bolt and flew back to leave room for the window to open and let a pair of them black ravens in. They fluttered over to land on the lad’s arm, rolled notes held in their beaks and claws.

“Four snoopers so far. Martyn’s getting the last one in lockup now.” The white fog cleared from Brandon Stark’s eyes as he passed the first note on to his father. “Don’t look like they know each other, and Cousin Rodrik vaguely recognised three of them. Probably just regular Essosi plants that got swept up in things, though we’ll need to confirm with the others in the Rose. The fourth might be from the South somewhere, likely by way of White Harbor. No offense intended, Lord Weyrman.”

“… None taken, My Lord.”

Lord Brandon passed his father the second note. “There’s one bard in the Smoking Log that doesn’t know the new songs that Benjen’s been stealing from under me. But he’s pretty openly enthusiastic about the sheet music ours are showing him, so he’s probably genuine. Which doesn’t exclude him being a spy, so I’ll need to look into his dreams tonight to confirm.”

“I hope you’ll wait for supervision this time?” Marwyn harrumphed from two seats over next to Luwin. “Please don’t make me beg. I get a tad enthusiastic, or so I’m told. Honestly, they’ll let just anyone dreamwalk these days.”

“Your dreams terrify me more than any others I’ve seen in his world, Archmaester.”

“Only because you don’t remember them. You’re lucky I’m here. Letting that sort of entrenched preoccupation fester would be trouble down the line, mark my words. Never mind everything else you’ve been doing before your first shorthairs. You don’t want to grow up a deviant, do you My Lord? What am I saying, that’s already set in steel!”

Brandon Stark ignored him. “Mother would like to know if she should have dinner brought up or if we’re still leaving that for after.”

Lord Stark pinched his nose. “Maester Luwin. Please articulate my opinion on this.”

“Tell Lady Lyarra to get back to not doing anything strenuous. Tell her that Lord Stark’s standing orders are sufficiently comprehensive to handle that particular matter, and every other she might, entirely mistakenly, assume would not survive without her input. And tell her that our supply of pickled horseradish remains superabundant.”

“So. Later then.” Brandon Stark jotted a quick note, gave it to one of the ravens and his eyes flared white again. Both ravens flew back out the window. “I’m shaking my head no right now and… there we go, message received. She’s annoyed but doing as you said. I’m leading Benjen to her too, and Walder to fetch my guitar. Ben’s already better at it than I am so he’ll keep her entertained until we go attend grandnuncle – and there’s Lyanna too. Oh well, Mother can have her.”

… What the everloving flying axeshaft up the Night’s King’s blue pucker was even happening anymore!?

Was it the drink? It was the drink wasn’t it? He’d chugged it on top of quite a bit of ale and strongwine too. Aye, that made sense.

“Not strictly relevant, Luwys and Hus were designing a glass lamp for my nameday before the whole drama this morning. It’s going to have a curved mirror to focus all the light into something strong enough to read by. They’ve been talking to the blowers to mold the glass sides all fancy. Maybe pair it with glass baubles shaped like a mother direwolf with a full litter. With your permission, I’d have Vayon or one of Annard’s men happen onto their plans and grease the wheels. Maybe make sure nobody robs them now that their walls are damaged, or take advantage of Luwys’ lowered wits from the painkillers.”

… No.

Jon Umber paled.

He was dead. He was right fucking dead.

Brandon Stark shook his head, clearing the fog from his eyes again. “Right. That’s about all of it. What was the matter?”

Rickard Stark stroked his son’s head fondly before withdrawing. “These men have questions for you.”

“Oh! Alright then, I’m here for you now, my Lords. Sorry for being out of it, it’s not easy being in two places at once, and I seem to be going a lot more places than that lately. We’ve not fully integrated our Essosi cousins’ intelligence apparatus yet so there’s a lot of slack to pick up. Whoever said spycraft was easy was full of shit, and if any of you lot happen to suffer from the same delusion, then you’d better have a cypher or two and a new language to sell me. Now what was the question?”

You could hear a pin drop but Jon didn’t care because he was right fucking dead.

“… It was pretty rude, wasn’t it? I can teach others how to be in two places at once. As penance!”

Jon was right fucking dead, Lord Brandon was gonna impale him on his own axe shaft, split him in half on his own sword and spread him over his floor to use as a rug in place of his right fucking fucked name day presents.

He’d fucked with his Liege Lord’s name day presents!

“Ah,” Brandon Stark said on laying eyes on The Inventory, voice thick with distaste. “That thing. Go on, everyone. Go ahead and convey your misconclusions so I can dispel them.”

“You’re Bran the Builder.”

“Nope.”

For a moment, Jon almost thought he’d spoken himself, but then he realised the words had come from his grandfather.

“No.” Flatly repeated Lord Hoarfrost Umber. Because no one else seemed to have anything to say. “Just no. Just like that.”

“Yes.”

Grandfather looked between the Inventory and Lord Brandon in disbelief. “… What do you call this then?”

“The grandest collection of stolen ideas that has ever existed because I’m a no good, filthy thief.”

Lord Rickard facepalmed.

Grandfather stared between father and son for long seconds, then looked at every other high lord and their get. When they looked just as stunned as he was, the man turned to the only people who seemed more exasperated than dumbfounded. “How full of shit is he?”

“Completely,” said Robard Cerwyn, resting his chin in his hand. “And then some.”

“You lying liars!

“He was all offended on my behalf for not being given my proper due by my sweetheart,” Medger said blithely as if their Liege Lord hadn’t even spoken just now. “So he made metal sing and wrote a new language. For music. In one night.”

“Which I also stole from men long dead that were ten times my better because I’m a no good, filthy thief!

“For which we’re all very grateful, my lord,” Medger replied fondly. “Now if you went and gave me and my Lady a few dreams together, then I’d really be ready to name my children after you.”

SLAM!

Jon jumped as his Grandfather slammed a fist on the table. The ironwood dented.

“Do not. Make light of this.”

The closed meeting room in Winterfell’s Great Keep became absolutely chatter-free.

“Do you. Do any of you. Not realise. How much we are being asked to take on faith?” Jon didn’t remember his grandfather ever sounding so livid. “Should I just have faith that all of… of this somehow eluded us until now? Am I to think all of our forebears, my forebears, for the past 8,000 years, were lackwits that couldn’t come up with any of this? Am I to believe the same of yours? Will you believe the same of yours? Am I expected to just have faith that this isn’t all tall tales?” Grandfather looked up and glared at Brandon Stark and Jon was right, he looked livid. And crazed. “Do you expect me to just believe this, boy!?”

Brandon Stark met Hoarfrost Umber’s crazed eyes with his grey ones.

There was a frenzied pounding in Jon’s ears.

“Father,” said Brandon Stark. “May I borrow your sword?”

“… Granted.”

Brandon Stark stood on his chair, took Ice, hopped on the table, walked over to the pot of what had once been earth apple soup, took out the huge cast-iron ladle, dropped it on the table, pulled Ice out of its sheath, which took a while, then he – SHING – cut off the ladle’s handle. Re-sheathing the massive sword that was almost twice his length – which took another fair while – the boy set it down on the tabletop, pulled his small notebook from a pocket in his vest, ripped out a small square from a page and set it next to the blade. Then he put it back, stood and walked further down to where Lord Halys Hornwood was seated, except he didn’t stop in front of him but his wife. “Lady Donella.” The boy took a knee before the woman and smiled pleasantly. “May I borrow one of your hair pins? I assure you, I’ll be most careful not to disturb the whole, though I dare say letting your hair down would leave you just as beautiful.”

The poor woman didn’t seem to know if she should be flattered or aghast, but she nodded when her husband numbly took her hand. Really, what else was she to do?

Lord Brandon reached out past her ear, took one of the hairpins – one of them small ones – then he turned and walked back over to Grandfather and him, rubbing the pin with his silk handkerchief all the while. Then he took Grandfather’s mead mug, upended it all in his used soup bowl, dropped the torn paper on top, and then dropped the pin flat on top of that.

Right under their very eyes, Lady Donella’s hairpin slowly turned under its own power until it pointed north.

CLANG

Jon jumped. And this time, his Grandfather wasn’t much better.

CLANG went the pommel of Ice against the ladle handle.

CLANG

CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG -

A nearby spoon suddenly slid over the table and latched onto the iron handle like glue.

Brandon Stark puffed from the effort he’d just undergone, slowly pulled Ice again, lowered the blade on top of the handle’s end and - SHING – sliced a sliver right off.

It shot away from the rest as if blown by storm winds and fell off the table right in Grandfather’s lap.

Brandon Stark re-sheathed his father’s sword, walked forward and crouched before the Lord of Last Hearth. “Lord Umber.” The Young Lord gently picked up the lady’s pin. “Pick that up and drop it here like I showed you.”

Jon’s breath came in short bursts as he licked his lips nervously. He knew a command when he heard one. Would his Grandfather-?

Hoarfrost Umber stared Brandon Stark in the eyes, blinking slowly and breathing even more slowly, as if he were faced with the harshest cold in his life and was trying to calm himself down and show it how it could piss off like Lord Stark had taught them. Then, Grandfather slowly, slowly, picked up the sliver of iron, lifted it above the table, brought it above the paper floating in his bowl of mead, and dropped it.

The sliver of iron from a ladle’s handle slowly turned under its own power until it pointed north.

Jon stared. Hoarfrost Umber stared. Everyone stared between the Young Lord Stark and… the compass?

Brandon Stark stood, went to Lady Donella again, put the hairpin right back where it was – the woman blushing all the while, did her man not do his duty enough for her to act like an old maid? – and came back to them.

Then the Young Lord picked up the lodestone he’d just made, gently took his father’s hovering hand, turned it flat-side up, dropped the sliver in his palm and pushed his fist closed. “To answer your question, Lord Umber, I don’t care.” Brandon Stark waited for his Grandfather to lift his eyes from the wonder in front of him, then he smirked at him. “And by the time I’ve made you filthy, stinking rich, you won’t care either.”

The quiet that followed… Jon didn’t even know.

Hoarfrost Umber pulled back and then pushed up and away from the table so hard that his chair fell on its back with a crash.

What?

“Get up, Jon.”

Wha-?

“I said get your arse up, boy!”

Jon yelped as his Grandfather yanked his chair away from the table and hauled him out of his seat. What-were they leaving? But-

Hoarfrost Umber hauled Jon Umber away from the judging eyes of Lord Brandon, dragged him to the head of the table, pushed him to his knees in front of Lord Stark and then knelt next to him right after, bowing his head and raising his folded hands in entreaty.

… Oh. Oh.

Jon bowed and folded his hands and offered them to their lord ruler, just like his Grandpa. He’d always known the day would come when he’d have to do this. To say he’d looked forward to it would be a lie. Somehow, though, as Lord Rickard rose from his chair to stand over them, and as Lord Brandon walked over to stand over them on the table next to the man, it didn’t make him feel less of a man.

Then his grandfather spoke, and Jon suddenly had something new to wonder at when his mind stumbled over his Grandpa’s words half a breath in.

The oath was not what he’d been taught.

“To the House Stark of Winterfell we pledge the faith of Last Hearth, the faith of House Umber, the faith of all its sons and daughters, all its children true. Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you. Call on us at need and we shall heed. In war. In peace. In life. In death. To the House Stark of Winterfell we pledge our faith, now and always. Above all else in this world. Above all others.” When Lord Hoarforst Umber lifted his eyes, tears were streaming out. “I swear it by earth and water. I swear it by bronze and iron.

“We swear it by ice and fire.”

Jon’s breath caught. The last words didn’t come just from his grandpa at him. They came from everyone. Looking around, it was to see Lord Rickard Stark and his Son as the only men in that room not on their knees.

Lord Stark smiled. It was the slightest thing, barely there. But it seemed to transform his whole face. He took Grandfather’s hands in his. “And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor. This is the oath of myself, Lord Rickard of House Stark, Lord of the North, King of Winter, Lord of the First Men and Green Men and the Children true, Steward of Vows New and Ancient. Now stand, my lords, stand tall and proud as all Men of the North should, and let us make our future.”

The Lords of the North each knelt and pledged and stood again, tall and proud, ready to make their future.
 
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ATP

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Now,Starks just get their own fanatics.Not bad thing.
Back to technology - i read "Dies the fire series"/not whole/ ,when Earth lost modern technology and survivors come back to medieval tech - they still used rails,but trains was powered by horses,and gliders for scouting.
And human powered armored galleys,if i remember correctly.
SI could do all that things before steam engines would be made.
 

Karmic Acumen

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Now,Starks just get their own fanatics.Not bad thing.
Back to technology - i read "Dies the fire series"/not whole/ ,when Earth lost modern technology and survivors come back to medieval tech - they still used rails,but trains was powered by horses,and gliders for scouting.
And human powered armored galleys,if i remember correctly.
SI could do all that things before steam engines would be made.
There were actually horse-drawn railcars in real life too, but you don't really need them unless you're hauling cargo - there are hand-cranked platforms too.

Armored ships are also good idea, but I imagine they'd be shit at speed and maneuvering against wooden vessels.
 
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The Whispering Monk

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There were actually horse-drawn railcars in real life too, but you don't really need them unless you're hauling cargo - there are hand-cranked platforms too.

Armored ships are also good idea, but I imagine they'd be shit at speed and maneuvering against wooden vessels.
Modern sail plans and coppered bottoms will make the extra weight extremely bearable, and still probably have more maneuverability than what's floating around Westeros.
 

ATP

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Modern sail plans and coppered bottoms will make the extra weight extremely bearable, and still probably have more maneuverability than what's floating around Westeros.
Indeed.I also remember 1632 series,when Denmark to face Sweden ironclads made by americans used galleys with screws driven by humans to ram them with blackpowder explosives.
Of course,SI probably would not waste time on it if he could made good steam machines instead.
 

Karmic Acumen

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Of course,SI probably would not waste time on it if he could made good steam machines instead.
Which he can't. He only knows how to make a steam spinner. Anything else will have to be done by someone else.

Armored ships will be considered when there's iron and steel enough to go around. Right now, it's all going into shovels and plows. It's certainly good to have the option though.
 

ATP

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Which he can't. He only knows how to make a steam spinner. Anything else will have to be done by someone else.

Armored ships will be considered when there's iron and steel enough to go around. Right now, it's all going into shovels and plows. It's certainly good to have the option though.
So,instead of steam ships galleys with screws with some iron armour.And woodfen rails woth iron tops - for horse powered wagons,it would be enough.
It still made wonder for North logictic and their galleys would stil made short work of any enemy.
Do not forget about gliders and ballons,too - althought with his warging abilities,it is not need.
 
Intermission: A Short Reach Is No State for a Hand (Jon-IV)

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A/N: Will merge this with the rest of Jon's POVs when I post the next and last part of this volume.

===============================

“-. 274 AC .-“


That evening, as the Lords and Ladies and Heirs of the North went and attended what did turn out to be the turning point in his life, Jon Umber thought about how you could fit all the music in the world within the space of a day and get tired of all the songs in a few months. At most. If you were half-deaf. And didn’t remember stark shit between a day and the next.

The night you return, we're having a feast

The songs he knew were lays and ballads. Stories put to rhyme. Those that weren’t plainsongs spawned by them septons and choir boys down south anyway. They got their fair share of southron bards every once in a while that somehow thought they’d get coin for them. Not all them learned to keep their worship lays to themselves either.

The candles will burn, you've conquered the East

He wouldn’t be surprised if them septons paid them to peddle their chants up North where they weren’t wanted.

So get home safe, as you can't be replaced,

Other than that? Love songs, some mockrhymes about the southrons (most of them shit at not coming across as the fakery they were), some mockrhymes about the North when them bards were drunk enough to go honest (those made for great bar brawls), and big history matters put to verse (dull as dishwater).

The honors you've earned, you fought like a beast,

That left just the big ones that you heard everywhere. The Bear and the Maiden Fair in every alehouse. Brave Danny Flint around every fire. My Lady Wife at every wedding. The Rat Cook, The Dornishman’s Wife, On a Misty Morn. He’d even heard the Rains of Castamere a few times. It was shit.

So let's toast in your name, raise your glass to the moon,

Touting your own horn like that was like a king saying “I am the King.” If people need reminding you’re the king, you’re a shit king. Or a shit butcher as happens.

Shall we dine with the gods, here's a toast, here's a toast to you!

What kind of nutter expects praise for slaughtering the broody hen and her chicks along with the cock? That’s just wasteful! You’d never see a Stark do something like that!

Painting the map with the blood on your hand,

This song was like nothing he’d ever heard though. It wasn’t some lay or story, it was… the singer talking to her man? Except not really because the man was dead so she was actually talking to his memory?

Expanding the realm, and winning new lands,

It repeated a bunch, but it was short and simple to sing along with and made you picture what’s happening instead of having to think about it. Would be a killer at repasts, especially late at night with people deep in their cups and all sad-like.

Get home safe, cause you can't be replaced,

Sing one of these, get the buggers all sobbing their lungs out their nose, then everyone can go and be all merry-like again once they got it all out.

The night you return, we're having a feast.

Still too dainty for his taste, but that might just be the singer. Not that he’d ever impugn Lady Lyarra’s singing voice – he’d never impugn anything of Lady Stark’s! – but he was more of a low and rumbling kind of man. Maybe he should give it a try later?

The night you return, we're having a feast
The candles will burn the night you return


“Another thing of the Young Lord’s?” Jon asked Maester Luwin as the song ended. “He makes new songs too?”

“Not quite,” Luwin answered as he led his grandfather and him through the Godswood. “The only one I know him to have put to rhyme is ‘Winterfell Fair.’ I’ve no doubt he dreams of many others like he does so much else, but he hasn’t put any to verse, as I understand it. Not beyond what few hymns he sang his siblings when they were small.”

But they’re not small now? “He sings hymns to sprogs? What hymns are those?”

“He calls them stoneballads, at least according to Lady Lyanna. He doesn’t sing them except in private with his siblings. Not even the Lord and Lady have heard them.”

“Oh.” Something Skagosi? Them island wildlings called themselves the Stoneborn, didn’t they?

“They’re quite the source of drama, it turns out. Did you know the Young Lord took to sequestering himself with young Ned in this very godswood the evenings in the week before Ned was sent to foster? All to teach him a stoneballad all his own, as I understand it. Lady Lyanna still hasn’t forgiven him for it.”

So the littlest Starks went from worry to jealousy in as much time as it took a proper lad to run away from the sight of the Maester carrying books. Not that Jon had experience in things like that or anything.

“So unless he has those written down somewhere, he’s not put down anything to rhyme. I’ve lost count of the many tunes he hums when the mood strikes him, but words are rare and unintelligible. He says they’re all in languages we’ve never heard of and he hasn’t the time to translate them. He did work with some of the carvers to create the guitar – the only instrument he’s ever handled in his visions, whatever that means – but he’s shown no remarkable talent for it, despite his perfect pitch. No, if you hear a tune that sounds like nothing you’ve ever encountered, especially on an instrument, it’s most likely the work of Little Benjen.”

Wait, really? So it wasn’t just…

They heard footsteps from behind and turned to see that fancy guard of Lord Brandon’s – Martyn – and his big squire – Walder? – who’d stayed behind to close the gates. Seemed they were the last ones in. Jon wished they’d caught up earlier. He’d not realised quite what it meant that the forest inside Winterfell spanned three whole acres. He’d thought they were lost at a couple of points before the music reached them – even Maester Luwin had seemed a tad nervous. They could have used the two to lead the way.

Now, there was something else on his mind. “… The other Starks are magic too?’ Jon asked in a hushed voice when his Grandfather didn’t react to his glances. Lord Hoarfrost Umber hadn’t said a word since the pledge.

“That remains unclear. Archmaester Marwyn thinks Little Benjen might be tapping into whatever Lord Brandon taps through him, and the Young Lord agrees. Uses him like a muse, he calls it, whatever muse means.”

Jon tried not to show his discomfort. This wasn’t the south where albinos and people who could talk with animals were smothered in the cradle, but this talk of magic still disturbed him. What did Luwin even mean? Did little Benjen get into Lord Brandon’s head somehow? Did the Young Lord go into his? Wasn’t getting into the minds of other men the reason for all them skinchanger wars where the Starks gone and killed King Warg of Sea Dragon Point? And all his greenseers and Children of the Forest? What about King Marsh? Jon didn’t know anything specific about that part, but there had to be some reason why the crannogmen bore Stark rule so easily. Was it safe for such a small boy to trawl through whatever Lord Brandon saw that had him lacking wits for years? Did the lad even mean it? Did Lord Brandon even mean it? Or was he just pressing on their heads just by being there? Was Jon being enchanted right now?

He asked Luwin all that just to see if he could.

He could.

The relief was like a spray of snow on his back. Thank Gods that was out of the way!

“You’ve stumbled onto our biggest conundrum thus far.” Luwin was thankfully oblivious to Jon’s inner thoughts. “Untangling this mystery is the main reason Archmaester Marwyn came north with the rest of us.”

Well, good to know the Starks already had the experts looking into it. He never should’ve doubted them!

The darkness of the forest started lifting. Jon assumed they were close to their destination. The Winterfell godswood was proving to have a very dense canopy. He counted ash, chestnut, elm, hawthorn, ironwood, oak, sentinel, and soldier pine as they pressed on. Their thickly tangled crowns were made even thicker by the blanket of snow that had piled on top. It blocked the light almost entirely, unlike the forest floor where Jon still spotted patches of old, packed earth and humus and moss.

Finally, they emerged into the center of the grove. An ancient weirwood stood there, with smooth bark as white as bone, and five-pointed leaves that looked like bloody hands grasping at them through the snow weighing down the boughs. The face carved into the heart tree was old and peaceful and so clean of red sap or blemish of any other kind that Jon couldn’t make out where the bark ended and the frost began. It made the cluster of people at its base stand out almost as strikingly as the pool of black water.

Them other worthies from the meeting were lined up on the outer side of the pool. Jon led his eerily silent grandfather to stand at the end of the line furthest in and frowned at the water. It wasn’t frozen but it wasn’t steaming either. Crouching, he stuck his fingers into it. It was ice cold. Wasn’t Winterfell supposed to be built on a hot spring? This was so cold Jon wondered why it hadn’t turned to ice like every other pool and pond he’d seen on their journey.

Inevitably, though, Jon’s attention was pulled to the people across the water. Lady Lyarra was on the farthest side of the clearing, sat on her palanquin between two of the edge-most roots. Lyanna Stark was on one side of her, knitting blue roses into a crown. Benjen Stark was on the other, slowly plucking at the chords of that strange pear-shaped instrument. Across from the Lady and children, nearest to the rest of them, was Archmaester Marwyn and another, older maester kneeling around a bubbling pot of pewter – no, two of them. Jon almost missed the second one because it was small and didn’t give off any smells or smoke. The big one – Marwyn’s – had a long, serpentine lisle of smoky steam spiralling up and out in their direction.

Jon almost sneezed when it tickled his nostrils. It smelled strongly of earthy roots and spices and leaves and threatened to make his eyes water.

Even the whole magic brew didn’t keep his attention for long though. That honor went to the men right under the Heart Tree’s face. Osrick and Rodrick Stark on one side. Lords Rickard Stark and Brandon Stark on one other. And in the middle of it all, laid back on a bed of moss and branches, was Brandon the Elder, looking like a carved statue with frost grown from his brows and beard as he rested under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.

Jon thought he might be starting to understand why they’d been gathered here.

When Benjen Stark finally ceased plucking chords at a gesture from his father, Brandon the Elder stirred. Watching him move his head was like seeing an old tree try to uproot itself and shake off snow and age. When he spoke, even that sounded like the cracking of dry wood. “Is it time?”

Time for what?

“Just a bit more, granduncle,” Lord Stark murmured, meeting the old man’s grasping hand half-way. “We still need to get the witnesses ready. I hope that’s alright?”

“Parade me as you wish.” The oldest Stark crinkled his eyes. “My king.”

“Only to honor you,” Lord Rickard said, not denying the title. He then gestured to Brandon Stark who’d finally approached from where he’d been… writing something or other in the snow and earth all over the place.

Stark Elder turned his head to look at the boy. “Hello Brandon. I’m Brandon.”

“So is half the North,” the Young Lord said drily. “Hello grandnuncle.”

“… I’ve been dreaming of you, great-grandnephew. Sometimes so vividly… Did we meet in truth before?”

“This is the fifth time.”

“Ah… You still don’t live up to the vision.”

The banter continued but Jon couldn’t keep up with it because that was when Marwyn and the other greycoat came and started handing them steaming mugs of that pungent whatever it was.

“What’s this?” Jon asked when he was the first one served.

“If you refuse, you won’t get an answer. If you accept, you won’t need one. Lord Stark’s orders.”

“Is that so?” Jon glanced at Lord Stark, who actually met his gaze and that of the others expectantly.

Jon drank. Nobody else refused either.

It had a very strong flavour he’d never tasted and it made him lose track of whatever else the Starks talked about out few minutes in because he got too busy gagging and then puking his guts out. And that was his personal hell for the next half an hour. It was like the perfect set-up for one of them big poisoning cockups the Dornish fancied, except nobody stood to avenge it because everyone else was off spilling their guts too. Them two maesters had the gall to lug them around like dodderers all the while. Couldn’t risk them retching in the pool, don’t you know. Fucking cunts, he’d break them over his knee, he would! He would! As soon as… as soon as he could stand back up and… and figure out why he felt so good all of a sudden, wow.

“That would be you expelling the last of the impurities and negative energy. What can come out the top end at least,” said the old maester he didn’t know. Because Jon had apparently rambled that last bit aloud. “The brain is now releasing certain substances that cause pleasure. I am told it is normal after bowel cleansings such as this.”

Jon groaned pitifully, swaying where he’d fallen on all fours. “That why we were told to piss and shit or we wouldn’t be let in?”

“Quite.”

“Great. Go away.”

He went away.

Jon groaned and patted himself all over. Mercifully, he still had all his limbs and was still in his thickest garb, including that new kind of hat with ear flaps made of beaver pelt. He then looked around blearily, finding his grandfather and everyone else doing just as bad as he was. Wow, them mermen puked enough for ten people, didn’t they? Jon climbed to his feet – which took a while – waited to see if he’d fall over – which took another while – then figured he wasn’t drunk so he helped his grandpa up too. Was he always so light? Then they hung off each other on the way back to the pool’s edge, where they thumped their arses down on the tallest, thickest root they could find and waited. Watched the Starks talk about… something or other. Essos, sounded like. How them Company of the Rose sellswords and who knew how many of everyone involved with them had to skedaddle because the whole place was full of cunts.

Also, because one or both of the two main cunts involved were probably Blackfyres. Maybe. Wait, what?

“Wait,” Rodrik Stark squinted from where he knelt at the side of his grandfather. “The One and a Half Cunts are Blackfyres? But why didn’t they help us then?”

Brandon the Elder closed his eyes as if in pain, then looked at Lord Rickard pitiably. “Please forgive my grandson. He’s not a bad lad, he’s just a moron.”

“What!? Piss off, Pop, as if you even considered them!”

“He has a point,” said Osrick Stark from where he stood over the both of them. “What would Blackfyres have to do with this? I thought it was some sort of alliance between the merchants of Pentos and Bravos to eliminate any merchants of northern origin. With the Iron Throne’s decree not to tax northern trade with Essos, a new market has just opened where northmen living in Essos are the favorites. I thought the attack took place to eliminate the monopoly we would have on the new trade route that just opened. If Mopatis or Varys are Blackfyres, they gained nothing from destroying the Kingdom in Exile, even if they did know about us. It’s certainly not their hands that our assets are being divvied up between. They’d have been better served helping us so they’d have the Company of the Rose as a ready army for further weakening the Targaryens.”

“The coordination speaks of much longer-term planning,” Lord Rickard explained. “Such a level of preparation couldn't have happened so quickly or spontaneously. If anything, it reads more like a hasty counter-plan set off by unexpected developments.”

“Your trip South,” Brandon the Elder said lowly from his bed of tree and snow. His air was that of one who’d long since reached this conclusion on his own.

“Some of the broader backing and cooperation required for this escalation would certainly have come from Aerys' boon to the North and White Harbor,” allowed Lord Stark. “It certainly has the Essosi scrambling to take advantage as we speak. How they justified the hostile takeover probably varies as much as the people involved, though, and the coordination could not have been achieved spontaneously. Nor so quickly.”

“Pentos wasn’t gonna let the Braavosi have the prize all to themselves,” Rodrik Stark muttered, stroking his grandfather’s limp hand. “Braavosi trade houses ganged up to prevent the inevitable monopoly of Blue Petal Manor. All the other Free Cities would have gotten in on it just for the chaos.”

“So, what?” Osrick asked skeptically. “Mopatis and Varys felt backed into a corner and just up and decided to throw the dice? I don’t see it. This is already turning out to be as disruptive for Pentos as it is for Braavos and Essos as a whole. What grand plan could they have had that was worth this cockup? I can’t see how this didn’t turn into a ruinous loss for themselves with little to no chance to recoup whatever they invested. And it has to be a lot. Connections, blackmail, information, coin, whatever else. It makes no sense.”

“Unless their grand plan was specifically designed to destroy the Kingdom in Exile,” Rickard Stark said. “Assume you’re a Blackfyre. Now picture yourself in their position: you are the rightful royal line of Westeros but have been spurned at one time or others by one or all of the Seven Kingdoms, save one. That one kingdom happens to be running an operation no different from what you’ve been driven to do across the sea. An operation that you probably know about since your predecessors uncovered it through whatever means in the past. This Kingdom has never participated in a Blackfyre rebellion. Even better, the southrons let their septons besmirch their good name while assuming they’re perfectly happy with treatment under the Iron Throne. None of that is something easily swallowed by people who've been suffering the same as your dispossessed royal lineage. So what do you do?”

Osrick Stark frowned. “You… wait and see?”

“Notwithstanding the cutthroat mercantile infiltration and espionage methods used by rote,” Rickard Stark nodded. “With every time the North refused to get involved in Targaryen kinstrife, the Blackfyres would have been more comfortable considering the Kingdom in Exile – and through it the North – a powerful potential asset.”

“And then we fought in the Ninepenny War,” said Brandon the younger.

Well, Jon thought. Shit.

“… Oh,” Orsrik Stark scowled. “And we turned from potential asset to enemy asset in need of subsumation or dismantling.”

Jon felt a chill go through him. If it really were Blackfyres and not just cunts coming together to do cuntish things… How long must the decapitation strike have been in the making? It would’ve worked too, if not for the grey rats doing their own cuntish things back home.

Brandon the Elder, it turned out, felt the same. “… All the rage I have ever felt has risen from my flesh like a steam of disbelief.”

“It’s all conjecture, admittedly,” Lord Stark admitted ruefully. “But you did say they’d made it clear it was personal. Even though your interests had never clashed more than the norm. Nor had you even met.”

“You know…” Jon had to strain to hear Lord Brandon, though thankfully everyone around him was doing their best to be quiet too. “I’m feeling more and more pleased with every passing moment that I live here in the North instead of these free cities.”

“Free cities that are based on horrible chattel slavery and only have a cursory aquaintance with the concept of honor?” Osrick Stark asked dryly as Jon and everyone tried not to preen too obviously. It was their brain being all woozy, that’s all it was. “Remember that any place that has to call itself ‘free’ more than once is not.”

“Free Cities that can’t even band together to cow the Dothraki and other problems to trade out of a fear of someone else possibly gaining a slight advantage?” Rodrik asked flatly, looking at his increasingly quiet grandfather worriedly. “Also, they want the instability in the near middle space to bring about more slaves being sold. Even though the disruption of civilization and depopulation of the interior is slowly but surely destroying Essos and will bring about an economic collapse the likes of which none of the Free Cities or Dothraki will survive.”

Jon blinked slowly. He hadn’t even thought that far. Maybe the peacock wasn’t such a simpleton after all.

“Free Cities that would rather have pirates cripple large scale trade through the Broken Arm in fear of their rivals being able to set a tax?” Rickard Stark told his son. “Remind me to go over Daemon Targaryen’s conquest of the Stepstones at some point.”

“For all the good it did,” muttered Brandon the Elder, words coming more slowly now. “Not that I’m one to talk.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, grandnuncle,” scoffed the Young Lord. “What you brought us will change everything.”

“Hah!” The bark of laughter seemed to drain the man. It took him a time to muster new words. “Tell me honestly boy – how many crops are actually any good.”

“Four.”

This was what real disbelief felt like, Jon thought on seeing the look on the old man.

“… That’s three more than I hoped,” the man whispered, though it carried all the same to Jon’s ears, somehow. “Four more than I thought...”

“Most crops won’t live outside our glass gardens,” Lord Stark said gently. “And we already have those that will.”

“The sugar beets, soybeans, potatoes and rice, though, they’ll change everything,” the Young Lord smiled triumphantly. “You are magnificent, grandnuncle. Thank you.”

The elder Brandon watched his namesake in wonder and laughed softly, then settled on a tired smile. “You’re such a nice boy. I only recognize three of those though.”

The Young Lord frowned. “Right. Potatoes. I meant earth apples.”

That didn’t go down well with the old Prince at all. “…What.” The old man blinked, affronted. “What. That swindler’s nonsense wasn’t just cheap swill?”

“… No?” The Young Lord tilted his head uncertainly. “It’s the best crop in the world. I mean, rice is great and all, it keeps forever and we’re lucky we have a bog the size of a country to grow it in. But potatoes still multiply at least fivefold at their worst and they can grow practically anywhere. Do you have the names of who got them? They might be worth a bonus. Best to cultivate such daring people.”

The Elder Brandon looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

“It’s alright, grandnuncle,” the Young Lord said magnanimously, stroking the old man on the forehead. “Everyone makes mistakes. I forgive you.”

The Godswood of Winterfell rang with tired, free laughter.

Jon watched and listened, feeling something close to awestruck as the Starks casually talked about completely changing their entire way of life as if their self-imposed duty of doing right by them didn’t weigh on them none. As they stood there amidst red leaves and fallen snow that gleamed under the strewed rays of winter’s evening, the men of House Stark looked like Kings of Winter holding court as if their rule had never broken, strong and firm and perfectly reflected in the pool of black water. The shadows of leaves played on the Lords Stark’s faces. The Godswood shimmered languidly in the shade of the evening. And as a breeze wafted midst red leaves and white branches, the Gods of Earth, Stone and Tree seemed to hold their breath.

The fey mood seemed to reach them too, then. “It’s time, isn’t it?” the Elder murmured.

Lord Rickard took the hand that was already held by his son and looked in their direction. “Mage? Are they ready?”

“Aye, Lord,” Marwyn was pouring wooden cups of some clear liquid. “By your leave?”

“Granduncle? Are you ready?”

“Just about…” The old man turned his head to Osrick Stark. “I love you, nephew. And I’m proud of you.”

Osrick Stark looked stricken. “I love you too, uncle. I’m proud to be your blood.”

The Elder turned to Rodrik Stark then, who looked fit to run away like he’d tried earlier that day. “I love you, grandson.”

Rodrik Stark looked about to cry. “I… I love you too, grandfather-“

“But since I won’t get to live long enough to be proud of you too, I’ll have to settle for some last advice.”

Any hint of tears vanished as the lad gaped, shocked. “Grandfather!”

“Now I know you can’t control yourself, so I forgive you in advance for getting yourself disowned and thrown out on your arse.”

“Pop, you complete-“

Fortunately our King here is a fair and generous man and likely won’t send you off empty-handed, so I still expect you to marry a good Lady. Better not be some whore though. I don’t have a hope you’ll steer clear of brothels, but at least buy and refurbish one to offer proper quality merchandise. Should give you a fair revenue stream if naught else. But if your wife isn’t highborn, there’ll be hell to pay. You should look for one from a noble but poor house. Offer a good bride price instead of taking a dowry. Buy land, use coin to incite smallfolk to move to your estates, have them clear marginal land, build villages and so on. Loan your liege lords money and ask for prestigious titles as a reward. Employ a mercenary captain as your master-at-arms and have him train a fine force beyond what the garrison and bannermen would provide. After a few generations, all the high-born will forget brothels and cheese-mongering were behind your family's military power, fine titles and honours and great wealth and will be eager to have their sons marry your dowry-laden daughters.”

“Oh fuck you so much, Pop!”

“Alas, I’ve not a drop of Targaryen in me, so you’ll have to live without.”

“So very much.”

Lord Rickard shook his head and looked down at his son. “Brandon?”

That halted the mummery quite soundly.

The young lord nodded, taking the hand of the old man in both of his. “I’m ready.”

“WAIT FOR ME!”

Jon winced at the shrill scream. Looking aside, he watched Lady Lyanna hop down and run to the Elder Stark’s resting place.

“A prince should have a crown you know! Even if he’s old!” The Small Lady loftily tucked her crown of blue roses around the man’s resting head. None too gently either. But since Jon could see bloody nicks on her fingers from all the way over there, he was going to forgive her. So long as she actually broke off all of them thorns.

By the bye, wasn’t there any Stark that felt the cold?

Well, main liners at least. Osrick and Rodrik both wore scarves and gloves.

“Right then.” Lord Stark waited for Lyanna to return to her place under his gimlet eye. Finally, he looked back at the rest of them. “Then if you are done, Mage?”

Marwyn nodded to the old maester to start handing out the mugs. Then he went to stand just behind the Young Lord.

Jon accepted the cup apprehensively. “… This won’t make me puke again, will it?”

“No,” the old maester assured him, smiling kindly. It made Jon’s skin crawl. “This is to help you see.”

“See what?”

“Magic!” called the Young Lord, making Jon flinch and then gape as the boy then produced the sodding Crown of Winter from a small box that had been buried in the snow all that time. “I could waste my time and effort to make pretty sparkles, but that would just be pandering to skeptics.”

“You’re inventing new words again, son.” Lord Rickard was suspiciously straightfaced as he accepted the Crown, put it on his head, and then pulled a circlet from under his cloak to put on his son’s head in turn. Something the Young Lord didn’t seem to have expected, though that surprise didn’t last long either in the face of his Lord Father’s next words. “The only ‘pander’ that exists is the name for people who arrange sexual liaisons.”

Jon gaped.

“What?” The Young Lord balked, aghast. “Well shit. Forget I said anything.”

Gladly, Jon thought, appalled at the sheer nerve of treating their moment of fucking crowning so flippantly. He quickly gobbled up the brew just to make sure he didn’t break out babbling.

It tasted like old boot.

Didn’t set him off barfing again though, and none of them other worthies looked greener than usual either by the time the maester got around to them. He guessed that was something?

Now what was it that – oh, Benjen Stark was playing that odd lute again. Pretty nice tune too. Another new one. Bit slow and sad though. And where did the pipe sounds come from? And were those trumpets? But where the hells were the drums-

Looking ahead, Jon saw the Kings of Winter come again, save one. The Young Lord was gone. In his place was an unlined outline cut into the shape of a hooded cloak made of one and one thousand eyes of blue and white fire. Except not really because all Jon saw when his sight lingered was crows being burned inside out. It made him wonder if he could eat some of them crow souls too and grow some new eyes of his own. But then he just felt like a heel when he noticed them eyes were all droopy and sad-like.

The Elder. He barely had any light inside him at all. Everybody else had a whole bunch of them lights all over them from bum to head. Some were stuck really deep in too. But the old man barely had any. Even the blue roses around his head had more light than whatever used to be in him.

The Young Lord’s garb weaved itself open and overlayed the old man, somehow. The two thought together then. For a lifetime between one moment and the next. Of sense and reason and knowledge dreamed into the world from beyond the stars and everything the man did throughout his life that meant something. It was enough to enlighten even the littles sprog with wide eyes full of wonder, but none of it found a point of purchase. The Elder Stark was an old and tired greybeard that just wanted to rest and didn’t care how it would end.

It didn’t sit well with their Starry Prince. At all.

Jon felt rooted under the sudden feeling of refusal as that outline of a hand rose. Feathers of light and darkness parted to expose a baldric made of shining orbs. Each their own light of worldliness. Each showed a lifetime at a glance. When that outline of a hand touched the orb that glowed brightest, Jon suddenly knew from experience how it felt to kill a bear with your bare hands with your guts spilling out. From somewhere near and behind, there was a gasp-

Then a large hand came down upon the first and stopped everything. Marwyn. Marwyn the Mage. He looked like a boar on two legs, armored in dark steel and a salt-speckled beard so long and red and bright it may well be on fire. He was behind the Young Lord now. His other hand slowly rose as well, pointing away. Pointing at the Heart Tree.

Jon looked at it. It was white as bone with leaves as dark as midnight that still had shadows, somehow. All black and white as if no color was allowed to touch it, even from all the bright lights of all shades and sizes that came out of everyone now. There was something gleaming in one of its eyes. Like a gemstone. Or a tear.

The drop fell into a funnel of feathers and eyes, rolling all the way across the clearing into Lord Brandon’s hand.

Marwyn retreated.

“…Oh.” The Elder stared at the light in the Younger’s hand, awestruck. “…so this is what you meant…”

Brandon Stark dropped the light.

It sunk into the old man and bloomed into a flower, then a river web, then its own star field that filled him and lit up like dawn with a sigh of elation.

The Younger took the Elder’s hand and unravelled around him. The great cloak of feathers unwove itself. The eyes unbraided from runes to flares and then floating fires scattering like stars at midnight. The black sky melted down through the mists above them, then lower until it seeped all the way through the branches. The speckled void overlayed the boughs. The eyes and stars interposed where the leaves once were. And as the night sky swallowed them all, the ground seemed to fall away and they passed up through the firmament on the wings of some grand, mighty music played by voices and instruments that were out of this world. The sky… The firmament was so far-flung. Full of so many things Jon had never cared to think about. No more than the Stark Elder had. He could see the man even now, drinking rapturously from whatever was that revelation, growing more than he was with each star that passed until he shed himself of himself entirely.

“… For this…” An old voice. But not tired. Not anymore. “I think… I might have the strength after all.”

Jon watched, dumbstruck, as the Prince of Winter left his body behind. Shot upwards into some new life, past stars and moons and planets like a star unto himself. Suns adrift, suns made of tree fruit, yellow moons made of old cheese. And everywhere… worlds. Big and small, dead and living, with big men and bigger men and dumb men and dumber men and a young prince with golden hair that bestrode a world all his own while chopping and uprooting baobabs under guidance by a man taller than the world was wide. Grey-haired, long-bearded and jolly-eyed, the First Flint leaned on his axe and brightened when he saw them, pointing them out to the small child and waving happily at his son who stared dumbly at him from two steps behind where Jon watched everything, completely thunderstruck.

Jon’s heart stalled. He heard the chords of peace. He heard the drums of war. He heard pipes and trumpets. The Godswood teetered suddenly as if weighed down by the weight of the world. The sun sunk behind the edge of the sky. Its scattered beams moved and winked out as shadows took their place the more each disappeared from amidst the branches. A distant roar sounded from the far east as if screamed by an angry dragon. The warning howl of a wolf rose to meet it from beyond the edge of the world in the far North. A one-eyed raven soared watchfully high above in the pool of black water. Then, suddenly, the calls of snow shrikes snapped Jon Umber out of his stupor to find that hours had passed and the moon was out in the night sky.

What… but… ugh… Forsooth…

What in yon fuck just happened?

“He didn’t leave anything behind.” Brandon Stark. Glum. Jon barely heard him despite being just a few feet away.

“He’d already given everything out.” Marwyn the Mage. Thoughtful. Then blithe. “Chin up, Young Master. That just means he can’t be reanimated!”

“Does it really?”

Later, when Jon was sitting down on some big root or other that didn’t belong to the weirwood, grandfather came to him just as he was beginning to realise he should probably be worried about not remembering how he’d gotten there.

“I’ve been informed that we will no longer practice First Night.”

“Right.” Belatedly, Jon wondered about that raven back in Wintertown that called him a berk. “… We’re… not all that small after all, are we?”

Grandfather didn’t reply immediately.

Even his silence sounded old, Jon thought.

“… We are expected to come together again at some point in the next few years, to talk about further plans. We will bring our maesters so we might streamline the land claims, legal codes, and whatnot for efficient development. This should give us time to assess their loyalty in the meanwhile.”

“Right.” That was just good sense, Jon figured.

“… You will remain in Winterfell when I leave.” Jon blinked, finally looking up at the old man. “You will serve the Lord Heir as his retainer. Attend to him as it pleases him. Learn anything he and the maesters deign to teach you.”

“Oh…” Jon blinked several times, but he was fair sure he wasn’t gonna know if he was alright with that or not until tomorrow.

“The other heirs are staying as well,” said old Lord Umber. He seemed… somehow smaller than he used to. “The Flint as well.”

Jon looked back at Torghen and thought back to the sight of the dead Chieftain waving at him while smiling from ear to ear. “Right.”

“... I’ve been instructed to send your father here as well.”

Jon’s neck almost cracked from how fast he snapped his head to look back at his grandfather.

Lord Hoarfrost Umber looked... Jon didn’t even know what to call it. No words he could think of felt remotely right. His chest tightened at the sight.

“… I don’t have it in me to hope, lad.”

“Oh grandpa.” Jon stood and embraced the old man.

His grandfather hugged him back, arms going almost painfully tight around his midriff as he sunk his face in his shoulder. It was the first time ever that the man let himself lean on someone else, let alone Jon himself. “You’re a fine lad, Jon.” His voice was tight too.

Jon huffed. “A fine lad that done and almost broke guest right,”

“And what do you think I was about to do?”

Jon hugged him tighter.

“You are a good man, grandson. I know I never say it, but you are.”

“It’s alright, grandpa. I have hope enough for both of us.”

Jon pretended not to hear the sound that came from his grandfather at hearing him say that.

He looked around at the various people still scattered about. The Starks had retired. The Lady Lyarra and the two littlest Starks off to bed. The lords overseeing the entombment of the Elder’s remains in the Crypts. Everyone else was still around though. They were all sitting or loitering in a general state of stunned bewilderment with the occasional haunted or teary eye. All save Torghen Flint, who’d not moved from his spot. He stood as firm as a mountain, rooted in place still staring up through the branches as if he could will the winter gloom to part and lay bare once again the starry sky.

Jon looked up too. There was a white raven flying high above, eerily clear in the grey winter night. Then a second came up from the south and swept it in a mating dance, cheery as a bell.

Spring dawned upon the North to the merry sight of ravens white as snow courting in the sky above Winterfell.

 

Abhishekm

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So Brandon the Junior has Superman the good cartoon esquire balls of memories in his spirit self representing the lives and experiences of those he has helped pass through to the other side. The Flint that fought the Bear managed to retain atleast some of his awareness in the Green Dream to recognize the mc and to wave and give his kid a hug. Also Brandon the
Elder died of old age but stuck around long enough for Brandon's bong party to wash away a bit of the burnout. That a good enough 'yes but really no' summary?

Also just getting better and better Karmic.
 
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Karmic Acumen

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So Brandon the Junior has Superman the good cartoon esquire balls of memories in his spirit self representing the lives and experiences of those he has helped pass through to the other side. The Flint that flight the Bear managed to retain atleast some of his awareness in the Green Dream to recognize the mc and to wave and give his kid a hug. Also Brandon the
Elder died of old age but stuck around long enough for Brandon's bong party to wash away a bit of the burnout. That a good enough 'yes but really no' summary?

Also just getting better and better Karmic.
Yes, but really no.
 

ATP

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Happy Easter !
Prince fighting with baobabs? good one,i think.Little Prince is book full of wisdom.
And now,war with Targs id sure.North should told them about Blackfyres - if they fifgt,they could not attack North.

P.S patatoes are very important - apart from preventing hunger,it changed military,too.
I read,that Napoleon era armies would never be so mobile if they could not take patatoes from field.Becouse defenders could quickly burn their crops on fields dening them to enemy,but how to burn patatoes on field ?
 
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Karmic Acumen

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P.S patatoes are very important - apart from preventing hunger,it changed military,too.
I read,that Napoleon era armies would never be so mobile if they could not take patatoes from field.Becouse defenders could quickly burn their crops on fields dening them to enemy,but how to burn patatoes on field ?
Huh, this is a neat tidbit that hadn't occurred to me. I'd read a lot about how conquering and holding the North is an even more insane idea than Dorne. But now it seems I gave potential invaders at least some chance of establishing something approaching logistics. As long as the invasion doesn't happen in winter of course.

===================​
Anyway, while I work on the last POV of this book, and since SB will be on the fritz for the foreseeable future (though it's finally back up, thankfully), I may as well ask this here too: either of you grand total of two readers have an idea on how population will go from this point on?

Let's say we go with the "military numbers represent 1% of total population." If we use the numbers generally accepted to be most accurate (Martin himself confirmed them I think) and handwave current population to be the same as the one during the War of the Five Kings, more or less (let's say the winters counterbalance it with population decline), the men available for muster per faction would be thus:
  1. Crownlands: 15,000
  2. North: 35-40,000
  3. Riverlands: 35-40,000
  4. Vale of Arryn: 35-40,000
  5. Westerlands: 50-55,000
  6. Stormlands: 20-25,000
  7. Dorne: 25-30,000
  8. Reach: 120,000
  9. Iron Islands: 15,000
And therefore, the total populations per kingdom would be this:
Numbers summarized below:
  1. Crownlands: 1.5 million
  2. North: 4 million
  3. Riverlands: 4 million
  4. Vale of Arryn: 4 million
  5. Westerlands: 5.5 million
  6. Stormlands: 2.5 million
  7. Dorne: 2.5 million
  8. Reach: 12 million
  9. Iron Islands: 1.5 million
Assuming negligible growth rate otherwise (below 0.3%) I need to figure out the annual growth rate for the North after everything that's been introduced (reduced child mortality, improved health and wellbeing, more food, more healthy diet, increased lifespan, etc.).

The only serious recent attempt I've seen at this was in A Farmer's Tale, where it went something like: 2.5% growth per year for the first few years, then 3.5% average after that.

But that's just one story, the region was one of the least populated anywhere to begin with, the numbers weren't universally considered big enough by readers, and that particular setting didn't get penicillin.

Then there's the immigration, which I don't even know where to start on. I have no idea how many descendants those 10,000 of Cregan's soldiers would have had in the past 143 years, and they wouldn't be the only Old Faith people coming up. But not all of them would come (or even most) and it's inevitable that the occasional Seven-worshipping peasant would want to cross over too.

With 2.5% for the first two years, then 3.5% for the next two, this would bring the number up to roughly 4.5 million by the time 278 AC comes around without immigrants factored in.

==========================

I've had it said that years 1-2 would have negligible growth (except for whatever minimal immigration happens), but then there would be a boom of 2-3% and then as much as 5-10% in year 4 and thereafter.
 
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Abhishekm

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Yeah 5% is probably an appropriate amount once the new standards actually get dispersed a bit. Assuming you have a midwives guide or some kind of Farmers Almanac that atleast mentions common medical instructions for the laymen. Between a suddenly widely available general knowledge on basic medical practices and availability of a far larger food base parent having on average one to two more children be born and live would not be that odd.

For a population where the majority are still in childbearing age or younger with a stable marriage base that is pretty reasonable. The Agricultural Revolution was the good one where population growth is concerned.

Also SV is back. I read it there too Karmic. Just comment here first because I like the site more.
 

ATP

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If you really gave population basic medic knowledge and patatoes to live,then it could be 10%.So,5 millions or more.
Very important thing about patatoes - before they come,one famine could starve population.With them you are save,unlight blight come.And even then you still should be partially save with many kind of patatoes.

P.S Prussia could fight during 7th years war becouse of patatoes - less people was need to work then if they use grains.
 

The Whispering Monk

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I think the North's population boom will actually be staggering enough to create a fairly heavy cultural pressure.

Especially with the addition of southron immigration. Theyre going to bring enough 'southern' cultural baggage to stress the northern traditions and setup. Not to mention all the spies, theives and ne'er-do-wells.
 

Karmic Acumen

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I think the North's population boom will actually be staggering enough to create a fairly heavy cultural pressure.

Especially with the addition of southron immigration. Theyre going to bring enough 'southern' cultural baggage to stress the northern traditions and setup. Not to mention all the spies, theives and ne'er-do-wells.
I've been thinking about that actually, and I think the opposite will be true. Rickard specifically put out word only for Old God followers, and the majority of descendants from Cregan's old army are in the Blackwood lands, who are also Old God followers. Their numbers will not be very big either - 10,000 people wouldn't have multiplied THAT much, and only a handful of people will actually pick up and leave.

It's inevitable that some new way people will want to come north eventually, but Septons will preach against it every step of the way. Also, seven lovers can be directed to White harbor to work one of the shiny new trades or Manderly land farms. Any others will be directed to Cape Kraken, where there's already a lot of mixed blood and culture from all the Ironborn settling and expulsion, as well as contact with the Westerlands.

Rickard also has no plans to allow the faith to expand north more than he already allowed the Manderlys. So, anyone who worships the seven will have to do without septs or septons and septas.

Incidentally, Northmen (especially Crannogmen) will have little issue turning people away if it comes down to it. Or closing the Neck entirely if the call down south backfires. They'll even be generous and provide coin for the wasted trip! But that's unlikely because winter just ended, so there will be a shortage of manpower down south, not a surfeit of idle hands.

Finally, even with maximum interest by southrons, immigration will be a very small trickle compared to the native population boom. So any cultural pressure will be exerted by the Old Way, interestingly enough.

Tl;Dr: You will be assimilated!
If you really gave population basic medic knowledge and patatoes to live,then it could be 10%.So,5 millions or more.
Very important thing about patatoes - before they come,one famine could starve population.With them you are save,unlight blight come.And even then you still should be partially save with many kind of patatoes.

P.S Prussia could fight during 7th years war becouse of patatoes - less people was need to work then if they use grains.
I guess I'll really need to keep in mind potato availability on both sides of the neck by the time war breaks out, if it ever does.
 
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