It was inevitable that war would come. The Targaryen conqueror was beaten back, but he was not defeated. The realm would experience almost eleven years of prosperity before King Aegon would wage war on the North again, but we all knew it was eventually to come.
By the end of February 8020, word reached Winterfell that the Conqueror had raised an army intent on coming to the North to finally claim what the Dragonking decided was his. The banners were called and we waited. And waited. After almost eight months of having a 30,000 man army sitting on Moat Cailin, no Targaryen army had arrived.
King Torrhen took a gamble. If the Targaryen king was too occupied in the south to commit an army to the war in the North, the North would bring the war to him. King Torrhen himself, now a 63-year-old man, led the army personally, aiming for Harrenhal and the region that would eventually become the King’s Landing. He bypassed the Targaryen armies still reinforcing the war in the Vale and led 15,000 men towards the heart of the Targaryen kingdom, leaving behind Princes Brandon and Donner to command the half of the army left in defense of the kingdom.
I wish I could say the gambit worked, but the forced march south was hard on the King’s army, and a third of his manpower didn’t make it all the way to Harrenhal, a castle owned directly by Aegon the Conqueror. Then they still had to commit to a siege with Targaryen allies making moves towards the castle.
Meanwhile, in the North, Prince Brandon learned that a Targaryen force of 14,000 was arriving from the Riverlands, and he sent a message ahead to his King that he would be engaging them just south of Moat Cailin. The battle was lead by a dragon-riding Targaryen who devastated Prince Brandon’s army before retreating in defeat.
When news of the attack reached the King, he engaged in a series of skirmishes to break away from the siege of Harrenhal and set off for the North. 5,000 men made it back to the North, a third of the initial fighting force. By the time they arrived in mid 8021, the Prince’s armies were engaged once more in combat with the Targaryens, who were calling up fresh manpower from recently conquered kingdoms.
Torrhen and Brandon linked up and unified their forces, but the 8,000 man army was no match for the 15,000 men bearing down on the King’s Course and the lands surrounding Winterfell. The combined armies drafted up an additional 2,000 in what was left of their levies’ reserves and marched towards their capital in a last-ditch effort to attempt to push back the Targaryens and hold off of a defeat.
The armies of the Starks and Targaryens clashed one last time just south of Winterfell, and with 6,000 reinforcements from the south hitting the Starks from behind, the armies fell defeated.
On 23 March, 8023, King Torrhen I, King in the North, bent the knee to the Conqueror and his sister-wife and dragon-rider Visenya, surrendering his crown and pledging loyalty to Aegon the Conqueror. The King in the North was relegated to Lord Paramount of the North in Aegon the Conqueror’s new kingdom.
The North was in a changed state following the war. Prince Donner and Brandon Snow, the bastard brother of Torrhen the Just, were both dead in trials by combat. Both were given grand funerals with what was left of the Stark funds to honor their decades of service as servants to the realm. The Northmen flocked to Winterfell to pay respects to the third-born Prince of the North and to Brandon Snow, who while never legitimized in life or posthumously by his brother, was still given a Lord’s funeral for his years of services to his brother the King.
During the early days of the war, the late Prince Joah Stark’s 19-year-old half-Dornish son Hullen Stark entered into an incestuous relationship with his cousin, the 16-year-old Lyra Stark (of Prince Donner’s blood) and married without telling the Stark household. The lovers were captured and imprisoned by Torrhen in January 8021, who wouldn’t tolerate the loose sexual morals of the Dornishmen in Starks raised in Winterfell. Despite being an affront to House Stark and Torrhen’s personal honor, he chose to disavow them rather than putting their heads to the block and swinging the sword. Lyra would remain on Skagos, a courtier to a minor lord, while Hullen would be found in Essos years later, dead under suspicious circumstances. The two half-Dornish cousins ended up having one child during their brief incestuous, Mark Stark who resides in Winterfell. Though a child of incest, Torrhen looked upon his great-grandson favorably, not wanting to punish a child of his family for the circumstances of his birth.
During the year following the War of Conquest, rogue vassals rose up against what they decided was unjust tyranny from the Lord Paramount Torrhen who attempted to seize traitor lords for conspiring against the Stark heirs, leading to the first major civil war in the North of recent and known times. The Stark armies, still exhausted from the recent war of Conquest, were unable to gather up enough forces to subdue their enemies, and those he did raise were smashed as smaller armies before they could cross the enemy lands and join up as one.
The remnants of the Stark armies fell, and 67-year old Torrhen the Just was forcefully deposed in favor of his oldest heir Prince Brandon. In 8025, the reign of the former King in the North, blinded by old age for years and unable to field his own armies in the wars, was brought to an end. The elder Stark spent the rest of his days living in the care of the Lord Paramount of the North.