The North is one of the constituent regions of Westeros and was a sovereign nation ruled by Kings in the North before Aegon's Conquest. The largest region of the Seven Kingdoms, the dominion of House Stark extends from the border of the New Gift, which is controlled by the Night's Watch, to the southern edge of the Neck far to the south.
The north has been ruled by the Starks for thousands of years from the castle known as Winterfell. Notable bannermen of the region include Stark of The Dreadfort, Cerwyn, Dustin, Flint, Glover, Hornwood, Karstark, Manderly, Mormont, Reed, Ryswell, Tallhart, and Umber. Bastards of noble origin raised in the north are given the surname Snow.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Dawn of the 4th Century AC
- 1.2 Dawn of the 5th Century AC
Dawn of the 4th Century AC
The King at the Wall
After his timely intervention at the Battle of Castle Black helped turn back Mance Rayder’s wildling army, Stannis Baratheon offered to legitimize Lord Commander Jon Snow and name him Lord of Winterfell. Jon declined, citing his vows to the Night’s Watch, and Stannis marched south toward Winterfell with his army to deal with the Boltons.
Not long thereafter, Lord Commander Snow received a letter from Ramsay Bolton claiming defeat of the Baratheon forces and detailed accounts of Ramsay’s excesses of cruelty. Jon resolved to march south with a force of volunteers to join the fight to reclaim his family’s home, violating the neutrality of the Night's Watch from the political affairs of Westeros. This, combined with Jon’s controversial decision to allow Wildlings to pass South of the wall, lead to a conspiracy of Black Brothers attacking the Lord Commander and stabbing him repeatedly. Some say the Lord Commander was killed by his attackers and brought back from death by Stannis Baratheon’s Red Woman. Others state that he was merely gravely wounded and she healed him with her strange and foreign sorcery.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, Jon Snow presided over the execution of his attackers and declared his Watch over and his oaths fulfilled. The brothers of the Night’s Watch considered his term as Lord Commander ended and never charged him with desertion.
The Battle for Winterfell
Stannis Baratheon’s forces made camp at a small village just west of Winterfell while they planned their assault on the ancient castle. Roose Bolton was at first content to settle in for a siege and allow the winter weather to destroy the Baratheon forces, but word arrived at Winterfell of an army of Valemen approaching from the South, sent by Lord Harold Arryn at the behest of his new bride, Sansa Stark. Not wanting to be pinned between two armies, Roose made the decision to seek battle and destroy the Baratheon forces before reinforcements from the Vale could arrive.
Lord Bolton dispatched Manderly and Frey forces for an initial sally against the Southern invaders, but the Freys were deprived of their commander by a pit trap dug by Mors Umber. When the battle lines were drawn up according to the direction of the Manderly commanders, the forces of White Harbor turned cloak and attacked the Frey flank, throwing the Riverlanders into disarray. The battle quickly turned into a slaughter and the Manderly forces joined Stannis’s army. With intelligence about the Bolton forces and Winterfell’s defenses provided by the Manderlys, the Baratheon forces advanced toward Winterfell.
The battle between Stannis Baratheon and Roose Bolton initially favored the Warden of the North, but Bolton forces failed to win the quick victory they sought. The fighting had devolved into a bloody stalemate and both sides were tiring when horns from the south heralded the arrival of Vale forces. Roose Bolton shifted his lines so that the walls of Winterfell would partially screen him from a Vale cavalry charge, but the fresh troops turned the tide decisively. Ramsay Bolton turned and fled with the majority of the Bolton cavalry, while Roose Bolton was cut off and slain. The next morning saw Stark banners rise over Winterfell once more, and the heavily pregnant Walda Bolton became a prisoner of Stannis Baratheon.
Against the Long Night
Jon Snow and a contingent of Wildling volunteers met up with the Baratheon and Vale forces shortly after the Battle of Winterfell. Several of Robb Stark’s bannermen swore oaths that the King in the North legitimized his half-brother and named him his heir before his death at the Red Wedding. Ramsay Bolton’s history of brutish, cruel behavior caused several houses that had sworn to Roose Bolton to defect to the Stark camp. The Northmen hailed Jon Stark as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.
Jon assumed command of the Northern and Vale forces and pursued Ramsay toward the Dreadfort while Stannis took his forces and marched back toward the Wall and the greater war waiting for him. Stannis and his men marched into the blinding snows and howling winds, never to be seen again -- though legends among the Wildlings tell of a man with a flaming sword, who turned back the Others and slew their undead king, saving the realms of men from eternal winter.
The Fall of House Bolton
Ser Davos Seaworth had undertaken a secret mission to retrieve Rickon Stark from Skagos, but Roose Bolton’s spies caught wind of Seaworth’s movements. The Leech Lord dispatched several of the Bastard’s Boys to intercept them and hold them at the Dreadfort for insurance.
When Jon Stark’s army caught up with Ramsay at the Weeping Water, the new Lord Bolton proudly displayed the flayed skins of Rickon Stark and Davos Seaworth on wooden frames outside his camp in the hopes of provoking the Northern forces into a rash attack. This stratagem was not nearly enough to overcome the crushing numerical advantage of the Stark army, and the Bastard of Bolton attempted to flee back to the safety of the Dreadfort. Knights of the Vale cut off his retreat, and Ser Lucas Corbray and Ser Andar Royce brought him before Jon Stark. Ramsay Bolton met his end on his knees at Longclaw’s edge, and the remaining defenders of the Dreadfort surrendered not long after.
Ramsay’s last act of cruelty doomed his House as Jon Stark presided over the executions of the remaining Bolton males and any loyal commanders and knights. The question of Walda Bolton’s child remained a contentious issue until a raven from Winterfell announced the birth of a daughter who had been named Emberlei. Jon Stark decreed that House Bolton was no more, and that Lady Emberlei would remain at Winterfell as a ward of House Stark. Castellans from Winterfell oversaw the former Bolton holdings for the following two decades.
Jon Stark returned to Winterfell with Rickon’s bones, where he was reunited with his half-sister Sansa. Despite some of his bannermen urging him to take up the mantle of King in the North, Jon followed the Lady of the Vale’s counsel and declined to call his banners. Not wanting to subject the North to further bloodshed and the ravages of dragonfire, the new Lord of Winterfell sent a raven to King’s Landing to pledge fealty to the Targaryens. Aegon and Daenerys recognized Jon Stark as the rightful Warden of the North, though rumblings for Northern independence would continue for years to come in castles and holdfasts throughout the North.
Jon Stark wed Wylla Manderly soon after taking up his seat as Lord of Winterfell, and she bore him an heir whom he named Eddard in the following year. They named their second son Brandon when he was born two years later. The two young wolves were a study in contrasts. While Eddard was stoic, laconic, and thoughtful, his younger brother was boisterous, hot-tempered and charismatic. The Lord and Lady Stark did their best to bring balance to their two eldest children by reining in Brandon's excesses and encouraging Eddard to step up and develop his skills as a leader.
The Coming of Spring
Jon Stark had allowed the Wildling tribes to pass South of the Wall and even man some of the abandoned castles along the Wall to defend against the coming invasion of the Others during his time as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. While some volunteers joined Stannis Baratheon on his march against the Enemy, most of the Wildlings hunkered down to wait out the Winter and await the coming of the Others. When the Long Night ended and spring finally returned, the tribes saw this as proof that the Others had been defeated. The unity that Mance Rayder had forged broke down as old tribal hatreds resurfaced.
Some tribes returned north of the Wall to return to their ancestral lands, others joined with the Hill Clans, while still others attempted to permanently settle upon the land in the Gift they'd waited out the Winter in. Even more troubling, some tribes turned to raiding and ranged further south. The Night's Watch called to Winterfell for help and Jon Stark found that the good will that he'd built with the Wildlings was a fragile thing indeed. The White Wolf had little luck negotiating an end to the problem and was forced to call his banners and drive the Wildlings north once more. The Free Folk considered this a betrayal by the former Lord Crow, but their disunity allowed the Northern Houses to focus on one tribe at a time rather than fight the Wildlings as a single host. The lack of southward facing defenses in the castles along the Wall aided the process of dislodging their new occupants and returning them to the control of the Night's Watch.
The Winter of Wolves struck first and struck hardest in the North. The unending snowfalls and lethal cold became trying even for the hardy Northmen, who availed themselves of increasingly desperate measures to survive as the winter wore on. Some turned to poaching, others to banditry, and still others sought milder conditions further south or across the Narrow Sea. The Thorns of Winter raided seemingly at will from White Harbor to the Neck, until they moved south into the Riverlands in search of richer prey.
The same winter saw the Ironborn descend under the command of Hrothgar Ironshod. After making an initial feint at Blazewater Bay, the fleet of Ironmen swept north through the Rills and the Stony Shore. Ironshod set up a kingdom upon Sea Dragon point and terrorized the western shore of the North for five years. The deep snows made it nearly impossible to move troops, greatly hampering the Northern efforts to expel the invaders. When the winter weather finally abated, Hrothgar decided to go on the offensive rather than wait for the Northern Houses to organize and confront him en masse. The tide of battle in the Wolfswood didn't turn until the forces of House Stark under the command of Jon Stark's two eldest sons arrived. The Northern host pushed the Ironborn back into the sea, slaying Hrothgar and all his sons.
In the year 322 AC, Brandon Stark wed Emberlei Bolton at Winterfell. Jon Stark named his secondborn the new Lord of the Dreadfort. The following year, King Aegon VI announced the construction of a Winter Palace in the Sheepshead Hills in an effort to cultivate better relations between House Targaryen and the North. Construction was slow due to a series of missteps, and discontent toward the Southron royalty continued to simmer.
Rhaegar I sent his heir Prince Aenar and his sister-wife Princess Helaena to get the stalled construction project back on track and assuage the Northern discontent in the year 341. The visiting royals met with an aged and ailing Jon Stark at Winterfell, and Helaena undertook a tour of the North on the back of her dragon Starfyre that did much to defuse the mounting crisis and generate good will toward the crown.
Lord Brandon Stark became the focal point of the opposition to the Targaryen presence in the North and any attempts to extend Southern influence. His defiance only increased following his father's death. He led a raid against the Winter Palace that caused significant damage to the unfinished structure in the year 343 and was blamed for an unsuccessful attempt on Prince Aenar's life. His blatant contempt for his brother's authority forced Lord Eddard to raise his banners and march on the Dreadfort. Lord Brandon surrendered when Prince Aenar appeared astride Viserion above the battlefield rather than see his men bathed in flames. Lord Brandon was condemned to death, and Prince Aenar returned to the capital after the execution due to King Rhaegar's declining health. The Winter Palace was abandoned and its remains allowed to crumble in the harsh Northern climate.
Desperate, starving northerners turned to banditry and ambush during the Great Famine. Scores of trained soldiers, and those that joined them, all leaving their loyalties behind, banded together along the Kingsroad to wreak havoc upon the holdings of nearby nobles. Houses along their path of banditry, all ravened to Winterfell, telling of encounters with deft and well-trained bandits calling themselves “free men”.
When reports of thieving raids breaching the walls of some northern lords' keeps reached the greying Lord Stark, he decided even the Great Famine was no cause for such lawlessness. Gathering the most capable of his garrison, he rode south to rid the road of the pestering cravens. The already-weakened Stark force reached the Barrows,.but were met in the night by several organised bands that seemed to have grown into the hundreds.
The bandits were too adept in the hills for the men of Winterfell, and Lord Rickard was felled by an arrow in the dead of night. His heir retreated back to Winterfell, and soon the call went out to the other lords to reconvene and scour the Kingsroad.
Dawn of the 5th Century AC
The Defiance at Long Lake
In 402 AC, Lord Ronnel of House Lake, consumed by grief upon learning that only the bones of his sons had returned to White Harbor from the The War of the Three Thieves, flew every raven in his rookery to lords of the North. His message: Winterfell has given our sons to the Dragon for the last time. Join me at Long Lake to free the North.
It did not take much subterfuge for the message to promptly land in Lord Stark’s hands.
Though still battered and weary, Lord Stark marched that of his host that could fight west of the Sheepshead Hills directly to the mouth of Long Lake. Along the way, the northmen marched past the trails, paths, and roads that would lead most of them home to their hamlets and farmsteads. Not yet to return home despite years away, they marched on to fight their fellow northmen.
The defiant ones that had answered Lord Ronnel’s call were few in number, not near a thousand. And fewer still when many retreated in sight of the Stark host. No parlay was afforded the aged and grieving father, for he, his men, and the remainder of House Lake’s male lines were put to the sword in a single afternoon.
Heavy snows soon began to fall, causing many men, all who had survived the indiscriminate nature of dragonfire at sea, and the hell of battle upon the Stepstones, to make their final treks home just as the Scarlet Winter descended upon the land. Many never made it home to their families.
The Scarlet Winter was the worst on record since the Winter of Wolves over half a century before. Even as White Harbour and the White Knife froze solid, House Manderly found ways to make the most of the circumstances. They hosted a Tournament to celebrate the centennial of the coronation of Aegon VI and Daenerys in 402 AC. This tournament was attended by Houses from the North, the Vale, and the Riverlands. The tournament grounds were built on the frozen bay, and horse races held on the surface of the White Knife. The tournament was notable for a brawl between the knights of House Manderly with the knights of House Frey, which started over an exchange of taunts about the two houses' respective roles in the War of the Five Kings and the Second Conquest. The participants were all disqualified from the joust.
"Victory" on Skagos
In the early months of 404 AC, the northernmost lords were faced with dwindling foodstores, and rumours upon the wild winds of Winter spreading among their smallfolk that Skagosi houses and tribes, the "savages" across the Bay of Seals, enjoyed a surplus of food they had hoarded through ill gotten means. Risking an outbreak of lawlessness, the lords organised over a thousand of men for a sacking of the island. The Lord of Winterfell, sympathetic to their plight, only offered the ambivalent response: “These are desperate days.”
The mainlanders attacked as swiftly as the jagged, partially frozen Bay of Seals allowed them. In the swirling snows, some stretches of ice seemed as though they reached all the way to the island. Many men, impatient and tired of the breaking of ice required to move along, abandoned their longboats to march. The Bay would claim many before any steel was swung. Once upon the shores of ice and stone, violence was met with violence, but the invaders pushed through to Driftwood Hall and beyond. The loss of fighting men and supplies occurred at every encampment and in every skirmish, and when staunch resistance was found at Deepdown, the seat of House Crowl, the vengeful invaders were thrown back onto their meandering path, which would eventually toward the lands near Kingshouse.
After chaotic sieges, the spoils of victory were said to have only been grainhouses and village cellars just as depleted as on the mainland. This news, however, did nothing to diffuse other rumours brought home by the victorious men: that many of the Skagosi stored their dead alongside with what little food they had, and that the northerners were right to end the horrific cannibalism.
Revenge from Skagos
In 405AC, the meltrush, the thawing seas, and the warming sun brought to the North more than just the end of Winter and a life renewed. Major incursions of raiders from Skagos descended on the mainland. The Skagosi had no single leader or unified goal besides enacting revenge upon those that made them suffer during the Scarlet Winter. The chaos of the raiding complicated the efforts of House Karstark and House Umber to defend their lands. The raiders move about in small bands and mostly avoid confrontations with Northern force, and predicting where they will pillage next has proved difficult. Sacked villages report missing women and children after the Skagosi attacks, and there have been conflicting rumors that the missing people were victims of Skagosi cannibals or carried off into slavery.