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Battle at Winterfell

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Battle at Winterfell
Conflict War of the Five Kings
Date Autumn 299AC
Place winter town at Winterfell
Result Bolton victory
Combatants
House Stark House Bolton
Commanders
Ser Rodrik Cassel+
Lord Cley Cerwyn+
Leobald Tallhart+
Ramsay Snow
Strength
almost 2,000 men:
600 Starks
300 Cerwyns
Flints
Hornwoods
Karstarks
Manderlys
Tallharts
about 600 Boltons
Casualties
Ser Rodrik Cassel+
Cley Cerwyn+
Leobald Tallhart+
all troops scattered
20 or 30 Boltons[1]
For the later campaign see Siege of Winterfell.

A battle at Winterfell[2] occurs in the winter town by the gates of Winterfell, determining the outcome of the North during the War of the Five Kings. Forces loyal to House Stark besiege Winterfell, which is held by House Greyjoy. House Bolton, though sworn to the Starks, betrays the Stark army. Following the battle, the Boltons have the castle and its winter town burned in the sack of Winterfell.

Contents

Background

With the majority of the northern lords and their hosts fighting in the Riverlands and the Westerlands of southern Westeros, the North is left relatively undefended. Lord Balon Greyjoy declares himself King of the Isles and the North and orders his longships to take the North by conquest. His son, Theon Greyjoy, is sent to harry the Stony Shore with Dagmer Cleftjaw. After completing this task, the two plot the capture of Winterfell, the ancestral seat of House Stark. Dagmer besieges Torrhen's Square, the seat of the Tallharts, in order to draw out the garrison of Winterfell, leaving the castle lightly defended.[3] Theon captures Winterfell in one night.[4] After some of his prisoners, including Bran and Rickon Stark, disappear, however, Theon presents the burned bodies of two sons of a miller as those of the missing Stark princes.[5][6]

Ser Rodrik Cassel, the castellan of Winterfell, breaks Dagmer's force outside of Torrhen's Square. Strengthened by Tallhart men, he marches on Winterfell from Castle Cerwyn.[7][6] Many of the ironborn with Theon abandon him, including Urzen, Stygg, and ten of Asha Greyjoy's men, leaving Theon with only seventeen remaining in his command.[1] However, Theon has allowed a House Bolton serving man, "Reek", to leave Winterfell in search of aid by promising to find a few hundred reinforcements for Theon.[6]

The Stark army assembled by Rodrik totals less than 2,000 men.[1] It includes 600 from Winterfell and its vicinity under the command of Rodrik Cassel, 300 Cerwyns under the command of young Lord Cley Cerwyn, and a force of Tallharts under the command of Leobald Tallhart. Banners from Houses Flint, Hornwood, Karstark, and Manderly are also seen.[1] Lord Wyman Manderly sent a dozen barges packed with knights, warhorses, and siege engines up the White Knife.[6] At Winterfell Theon sees northern catapults and scorpions, but no siege towers, although there is plenty of timber in the wolfswood if need be.[1]

The Battle

Ser Rodrik Cassel and Theon Greyjoy parley outside the gates of Winterfell. Rodrik demands the ironborn surrender Winterfell, and he promises safe passage for all who were not involved in the murder of children. Theon counters by having a noose put around the neck of Rodrik's daughter, Beth Cassel, and promises to hang her at dusk if he does not retreat, and he will continue to hang hostages at every dawn and dusk until they leave. The parley accomplishes nothing other than terms being given.[1]

Later as the sun sets, a force of roughly 600 Boltons from the Dreadfort arrives and meets Rodrik's Stark army. Believing the Dreadfort men to be reinforcements, Rodrik offers his hand in greeting to their helmeted leader. However, the man takes Rodrik's arm off at the elbow and reveals his identity as that of Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Lord Bolton. Rodrik thought he had previously killed Ramsay for his crimes against House Hornwood,[8] but Ramsay had actually switched clothing with his now-deceased serving man, Reek.[1].

Although outnumbered, the Bolton force under Ramsay attacks the Stark army, leading to fighting in the streets of the winter town. From atop Winterfell's battlements, Theon, Maester Luwin, and Black Lorren watch the Dreadfort men repeatedly wheel and charge the Stark soldiers, preventing them from forming up between the town's burning houses. Cley Cerwyn is killed by an arrow to the eye, while Leobald Tallhart dies as well. While the Stark army is routed and dispersed, Ramsay loses only twenty or thirty of the Dreadfort men.[1]

As the battle winds down, Theon admits Ramsay into Winterfell, and Theon recognizes him as "Reek", who had brought back the Dreadfort's garrison, although Rodrik had slain Reek-disguised-as-Ramsay in the Hornwood. The Bolton men cut down the ironmen, sack the castle, and attack its servants, such as Maester Luwin.[1]

Aftermath

Although the battle at Winterfell is not especially bloody,[9] the hold of House Stark on the North is shattered. Most of Rodrik Cassel's leaders are killed, but a good many of his common soldiers escape and return to their villages and holdfasts. However, their accounts of what happened vary.[10]

At the Twins prior to the Red Wedding, Lord Roose Bolton tells Robb Stark, the King in the North, that his son Ramsay successfully rallied the northmen after Theon's ironmen cut down Rodrik and Leobald.[11]

After the retaking of Deepwood Motte, Stannis Baratheon's army is joined by Cerwyns, Hornwoods, and Tallharts who survived the battle outside the gates of Winterfell.[12]

Quotes

Kromm: They're fighting. More men came up, hundreds of them, and at first they made to join the others. But now they've fallen on them!

Theon: Is it Asha?
Kromm: No, these are northmen, I tell you. With a bloody man on their banner.[1]

- Kromm and Theon Greyjoy


Theon: Ser Rodrik had you five to one.

Ramsay: Aye, but he thought us friends. A common mistake. When the old fool gave me his hand, I took half his arm instead. Then I let him see my face.[1]

- Theon Greyjoy and Ramsay Snow

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