MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL ESP @semper-eadem and @roses-are-roses THIS STORY IS YOUR PRESENT. because this was the last one i wanted to post before we talked about the rp.

it's really hard to use the poly iphone app on an ipad ugh. i have no idea how this will turn out.

JON

They found Robb in the field below Riverrun. His tent was a war room, with his most trusted knights and lords barking suggestions in his ears. Catelyn Stark sat behind him, glancing at Jon warily. The clamour stopped when the men caught sight of Ava Doran.

"Lady Ava Doran of Folly," Ser Lochlyn announced. Men stood, including Robb. Ava followed Ser Lochlyn into the tent, and was greeted with all the courtesies afforded to the highborn.

"Your host is impressive, Your Grace," she said with a kind smile. Jon watched Robb's eyes; he looked hesitant, slightly, but would be drawn in, as Jon had himself.

He had not slept after Ava had left his chamber. One of the serving girls brought him more wine, and he had paced. Again, he thought, surely she wouldn't marry someone like him, a bastard like him. But to protect her honour, he would have to ask. He would do it once they left Robb, after they discussed his marriage to Akka.

"You bring me a proposal," Robb said, beckoning Ava closer. Her dress shimmered when she walked, like the way the sunlight in Folly made the water sparkle. "I received your ravens."

Ava nodded. "Yes, Your Grace. I intended to come here to offer your my younger sister. She is five and ten, beautiful and full of grace. She would make a fine wife."

Robb began to speak, but Ava held up her hand to stop him. "I know your intentions were to gain independence for the North and rule yourself. It is a noble quest. But what of the people of the South? We are ruled by the Iron Throne. Much better a wolf than a lion. The Dorans were promised rule of the South by Aegon; we have not yet received it."

"You are a small house, Doran," Rickard Karstark quipped. "You must be as mad as your father to believe you can rule in the South."

"From the Iron Throne, we can rule from Kings Landing to the end of the world," Ava shot back. 

Robb's face was contemplative. Battle had hardened his expression, Jon thought.

"Karstark has a point," Robb agreed. "Yours is a small kingdom. What do you want with the entire South?"

Again, Ava smiled, sweet yet unbendingly strong. "Wouldn't you want what was promised to you, Stark?" she asked softly.

Jon knew the truth of it. The Dorans wanted safe passage through the Narrow Sea, so that their poppies could be sent to the Free Cities without interception by the Dornishmen. Perhaps, too, the people of Folly wished to shake the curse of being the smallest of the seven kingdoms.

"If Stannis and Renly fail, who will the South bend the knee for?" Ava asked. "The stranger in the North, or those who promise them Lannister gold? You need an ally in the South, Stark. You need to take the Iron Throne, or they will come for you. You are not safe in the snow if the Lannisters win. I promise you our armies, our ships, our gold. You may find it is almost as much as the Lannisters keep," she smiled coyly.

"Lady Doran has the truth of it," Catelyn said, to the surprise of the Stark men. "A grave truth, I am afraid."

Jon Umberly shook his head. "Even so, Lady Akka is a young maid, she is not a queen."

"I do not mean to offer you my sister," Ava said calmly. "I mean to offer myself."

----------------------

AVA 

Minutes passed like hours. While Catelyn Stark whispered into her son's ear, he stared at her. Remember your graces, she told herself. Be patient, be courteous.

Whatever you do, do not look at Jon Snow.

She had changed her mind after speaking with her uncle. Akka, though lovely, was a poor choice. Aelena needed to reign in Folly. The Martells would be more likely to marry Arianne to a Lannister, but she knew there would come a time that they might consider an alliance with the Starks - especially if they looked to be winning the war. Now was the time to act.

Robb rose, and the tent grew silent. Slowly, his fingers brushed against hers, and he lifted her handy to his lips.

"Lady Doran," he said softly, "we shall wed within the month."

It was unheard of, they told her. The news spread through the camp quicker than news of a battle. The men regarded her as some strange, foreign creature.

"To propose your own marriage, it is... it is not done," Myles Doran said.

"These are times of war, sweet uncle." The two walked through the encampment, talking softly. "I care for the Starks much more than I care for the Lannisters."

"But to give yourself? Did you seek the counsel of your father?"

Ava laughed. "Adaris thinks that I am betrothed to King Renly. He would be saddened to hear otherwise, so don't tell him."

"And what do you intend to do now? March through Highgarden, right into the arms of Renly?"

"Renly intends to fight Stannis," Ava pointed out. "If the army of the Scarlet Hills takes the Roseroad and follows behind, who will know? When we pass through the Reach, we will have Casterly Rock squeezed between my army and Robb's."

"Will you send all our men to fight the lions?"

"And leave Folly ready and waiting for the Dornish? I would be as mad as my father."

Myles kicked at a rock, sending it tumbling into the stone wall of Riverrun as they approached the gate. "Look at you, you lop off two heads and you figure yourself a warrior. Battle is not so simple, Ava."

"I know, Myles," she smiled. "That is why I am marrying a king."

----------------------

JON

She called on his chamber the same time as last night.

"You are angry," Ava remarked, perching on the end of Jon's bed like a crow.

"That was a dirty trick you played last night, Lady Ava."

She seemed surprised. "It was no trick, Jon Snow. Just too much grape from the Neck."

"What kind of highborn lady gives herself to a man one night, and marries his brother the next?" he asked bitterly.

"The kind of lady who cares more for the good of her people than for her own feelings, however strong they may be." She stood, her height seeming to tower over him. "It is not so simple. I will learn to love Robb, and I will try to forget you. Because that is what my people need. I cannot force you to disregard me, but it would be best. For everyone."

After she had left him last time, he had felt warm. Now the coldness of the room pierced him as the door slammed shut and her footsteps echoed down the hall. Ghost jumped to his bed, nuzzling Jon's hand and licking his neck.

So this was the brutality of war, Jon Sow realised.
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