Take, for instance, the letter little Lyanna Mormont sends to Stannis: "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK."
I remember people wondering about the letter, wondering to whom Lyanna was referring, seeing as Robb was dead, Rickon and Bran and Arya were thought dead, and Sansa was probably disinherited. But now that we know that Robb did legitimize Jon and that Maege did go north with the message, the letter makes a lot of sense.
... If Maege did get the word out, which I agree it seems like she must have, why did no one actually get in touch with Jon? They could get a letter to Stannis at the Wall; why did no one send Jon a letter or make an attempt to get in touch with him about the news? And why did Bear Island tell Stannis to go piss off a bridge one moment, only to join up with him the next?
Here's my theory: I have said, for a while, that the Northmen are using Stannis as a means to an end (and yes this includes Manderly, although it's speculative as to whether he knows about Jon; more on that in a sec) and have no real intention of bending the knee or recognizing his authority when all is said and done. BUT ... they need someone to flush the Boltons out.
What if they're biding their time to reveal the truth about Robb's will until after Stannis' forces defeat Bolton's, or Bolton's defeat Stannis'? Whoever wins, his forces will be depleted enough from beating up on the other that pro-Stark forces (Mormont, Umber, Manderly, Glover, etc.) will be able to sweep aside the "victor" relatively easily. Or to put it in terms that have been discussed before, Stannis is the Dothraki, Bolton is Robert and Jon is Aegon.
If Jon's legitimization and role in the will is revealed too early, the northmen risk that Stannis and/or Bolton will get wind of it and take Jon out. But if they keep it under wraps, they can push Stannis and Bolton's forces into bleeding each other, with Jon and his secret untouched until the time is right and the northerners have the advantage.
As for Manderly, I have also suggested before that something reeks about his offer to Davos — that there's a sleight of wording, that there's something else going on here. There's the question of why the northerners would want Jon if Rickon is alive, and vice versa. Manderly refers to Rickon as his liege lord — and really, he is in a way. If Jon is Robb's heir to be King in the North, Rickon would move into Winterfell as the Lord Stark. As I've suggested before about Robb's will, a lot of it depends on how it's worded. If he thinks that Bran and Rickon are definitely dead, it's likely that he leaves them out entirely and just focuses on Jon, because why include people who you "know" to be dead? This might suit the northerners fine, given that Jon is an adult and Rickon is a small child. However, Rickon is still a legitimate male Stark, still technically Jon's heir now (assuming Bran's out of the picture), and still able to trump the fake Arya. So they can still use him — and they can send Davos after him on the premise that if Davos retrieves him, they'll support Stannis. However, if Stannis loses, they're not bound to that agreement, and if he wins, as I suggested earlier, the northerners can shunt him aside — it's their season, and their country. And if Davos for whatever reason fails, they still have Jon.
And to keep going with Manderly, the insanely analytical Tze once made a point of dissecting the songs that Manderly called for at Ramsay and Jeyne's wedding. All of them have to do with the Night's Watch. Not only that, but all of them send a pointed message in their own way, with context. Manderly has killed and served the three missing Freys = The Rat Cook. Jeyne is a girl disguised as someone she isn't = Brave Danny Flint. Then there's The Night That Ended, in which the Night's Watch rides out and saves the day. Manderly is also pretty jovial about all of this. What if his song selection is his subtle way of teasing/goading the Boltons, knowing what's going on behind the scenes? It almost smacks of someone coming up and saying, "I've got a secret but I'm not going to tell you." Taken together as a whole, the song collection basically says, "I'm onto what you're trying to pull (Danny Flint), but I've drawn blood already under your nose (The Rat Cook), and ultimately my side's going to win (The Night That Ended)."
So to sum it all up — the pro-Stark northern families know about Robb's will and are moving into position, with the aim of forcing Stannis and the Boltons against each other and dispatching with the "victor" before "going public" with the will and reinstalling a Stark king.
ETA: And there's also Barbrey Dustin, as brought up lower down. Now a lot of people think she's totally in the can for Roose, but that doesn't really explain why she had Theon take her down to the crypts. I think she's playing a "lady doth protest too much" game, and went to the crypts to verify that swords were missing and/or that there was evidence of Bran and Rickon having been there. She might not like the Starks, but Ramsay murdered her nephew of whom she was very fond; somehow I have to think that stings a wee bit more.
Edited by Apple Martini, 07 December 2012 - 01:06 AM.