Brown Ben Plumm: The Boldest Sellsword of Them All

Brown Ben Plumm by The Mico
Spoilers for The Winds of Winter here!

Ben Plumm, currently the commander of the Second Sons, claims to be the veteran of a hundred battles and a former bodyguard for the Pahl family of Meereen. It was he who suggested infiltrating Meereen through her sewer network, a plan allegedly inspired by his one time escape from the sword of Meereenese champion Oznak zo Pahl.

Plumm also claims to be part Braavosi, part Summer Islander, part Ibbenese, part Qohorik, part Dothraki, part Dornish, and part Westerosi. He’s also been heard to claim that he has a “drop of dragon blood” as well. This odd claim seems to have been inspired by the fact that Queen Daenerys’ dragons have a certain fondness for him.

“…as Brown Ben was leaving, Viserion spread his pale white wings and flapped lazily at his head. One of the wings buffeted the sellsword in his face. The white dragon landed awkwardly with one foot on the man’s head and one on his shoulder, shrieked, and flew off again. “He likes you, Ben” said Dany.

“And well he might.” Brown Ben laughed. “I have me a drop of the dragon blood myself, you know.”

“You?” Dany was startled. Plumm was a creature of the free companies, an amiable mongrel. He had a broad brown face with a broken nose and a head of nappy grey hair, and his Dothraki mother had bequeathed him large, dark, almond-shaped eyes. He claimed to be part Braavosi, part Summer Islander, part Ibbenese, part Qohorik, part Dothraki, part Dornish, and part Westerosi, but this was the first she had heard of Targaryen blood. She gave him a searching look and said, “How could that be?”

“Well,” said Brown Ben, “there was some old Plumm in the Sunset Kingdoms who wed a dragon princess. My grandmama told me the tale. He lived in King Aegon’s day.”

“Which King Aegon?” Dany asked. “Five Aegons have ruled in Westeros.” Her brother’s son would have been the sixth, but the Usurper’s men had dashed his head against a wall.

“Five, were there? Well, that’s a confusion. I could not give you a number, my queen. This old Plumm was a lord, though, must have been a famous fellow in his day, the talk of all the land. The thing was, begging your royal pardon, he had himself a cock six foot long.”

Where does this claim originate? Tyrion Lannister believed that Brown Ben Plumm was telling the truth, and may be possessed of not one, but two, drops of dragon blood. In fact, he offered this clever assessment not long after meeting Plumm:

“You’re less purple and more brown than the Plumms at home, but unless your name’s a lie, you’re a westerman, by blood if not by birth. House Plumm is sworn to Casterly Rock, and as it happens I know a bit of its history. Your branch sprouted from a stone spit across the narrow sea, no doubt. A younger son of Viserys Plumm, I’d wager. The queen’s dragons were fond of you, were they not?”

That seemed to amuse the sellsword. “Who told you that?”

“No one. Most of the stories you hear about dragons are fodder for fools. Talking dragons, dragons hoarding gold and gems, dragons with four legs and bellies big as elephants, dragons riddling with sphinxes … nonsense, all of it. But there are truths in the old books as well. Not only do I know that the queen’s dragons took to you, but I know why.”

“My mother said my father had a drop of dragon blood.”

“Two drops. That, or a cock six feet long. You know that tale? I do.”

The history Tyrion speaks of is this: During the reign of the fourth Aegon, his beautiful cousin Elaena married the elderly Lord Ossifer Plumm at the king’s request. Although Lord Ossifer died on their wedding night, reportedly after beholding his young wife’s naked beauty, the princess conceived a child, who was born some time afterwards and named Viserys, possibly  after her uncle, the former king. The timing of the young Plumm’s birth led to the legendary tale of Ossifer Plumm’s six foot long member, as clearly many speculated that the babe was born too late to have been conceived while old Ossifer still walked the earth. Many in the Westerlands believe that Elaena’s child was in fact fathered by none other than her cousin, King Aegon IV.

As Tyrion noted, it must have been a younger son of this Lord Viserys who made his way across the Narrow Sea, there to begin the mongrelized cadet branch of House Plumm from which sprang Ben of the Second Sons. And given the timing, we have to wonder of this young Plumm might have left Westeros to support his Blackfyre cousins. One other interesting thing of note is that while it’s mentioned repeatedly that the dragons are fond of Ben, and Daenerys thinks wistfully that “even the dragons had been fond of old Brown Ben, who liked to boast that he had a drop of dragon blood himself” it is her white dragon Viserion who is shown on page being friendly with Plumm. Viserion was hatched from a cream and gold egg. A close look at Westerosi history reveals that Elaena Targaryen’s most cherished possession was a dragon egg of those same colors, a curious fact that can only make us wonder at the mysterious origins of Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragon eggs. Could the egg that hatched Viserion have once belonged to another Targaryen princess, who became Brown Ben Plumm’s great great great grandmother?

This sellsword of uncertain birth and checkered past grew to be one of Queen Daenerys’ most trusted captains. Companies of sellswords that can be bought to solidify defenses or further a military cause are common in Essos, and are usually comprised of soldiers from various origins. Men from Westeros have been known to join such companies, most often while in exile as in case of Aegor Rivers, the founder of the Golden Company, or Prince Oberyn Martell who famously served with the Second Sons. And while the slave armies of Essos have little choice in their part, sellswords will go to war for anyone who can satisfy their lust for gold. However, men who would fight and kill for gold are susceptible to one glaring weakness — loyalty. As Kevan Lannister said “a man who fights for coin is loyal only to his purse.”

Now, with just a quick glance at recent history, we can see this treachery evident in sellsword companies, even including those renowned for their loyalty. We have the Brave Companions, never well known for their honour, brought to Westeros at the behest of Tywin Lannister. All the gold in Casterly Rock couldn’t stop Vargo Hoat from turning on his employer, and switching his allegiance to House Bolton when the tide of the WoT5K was turning in Robb Stark’s favour. Then there is the case of the Golden Company, who have a long reputation of being the most loyal company in the world. The Golden Company had never broken a contract in their history until the return of their former leader Jon Connington in the company of a young man claiming to be Aegon VI Targaryen led them to break a contract with Myr and sail for Westeros. While rumours as to what led to this are swirling in Essos, Illyrio Mopatis told Tyrion  “some contracts are writ in ink, and some in blood” which supports the idea that young “Aegon” is actually a Blackfyre descendant of some sort, since the Golden Company was founded by Aegor Rivers in the wake of the rebellion of his half brother Daemon Blackfyre. Then we have the case of the Stormcrows who turned cloak against the Yunkai’i and now fight for Daenerys, under the leadership of Daario Naharis. The Second Sons also deserted Yunkai in favour of Daenerys when she planned a nighttime attack upon them after giving their leader Mero a gift of wine. There was a general rout during which their captain fled, and the Second Sons elected Brown Ben Plumm as their new commander and turned their cloaks.

However, the plot thickens here, as Ben Plumm and the Second Sons turned their cloaks once more, going over to the Yunkai’i when the Queen confessed that she could not control her dragons and thus would not be loosing them in the coming battle. At the end of ADwD the Second Sons were part of the forces besieging Meereen. But we learned from a Tyrion spoiler chapter from The Winds of Winter that when the tide of battle seemed to be turning in favor of Meereen, the Second Sons turned once more, with Ben declaring that they had been for Daenerys all along:

“We have always been the queen’s men,” announced Brown Ben Plumm. “Rejoining the Yunkai’i was just a plot.”

With this history, especially on the part on the Second Sons, one could be forgiven for wondering if it’s only a matter of time before the sellsword who clearly wants nothing more than to be on the winning side, turns his cloak again. And that same passage from The Winds of Winter gives us a subtle hint that perhaps Ben is destined to do exactly that.

As Tyrion observes Ben entering the Second Sons’ camp, we get a description:

Brown Ben Plumm wore plate and mail over boiled leather. The silk cloak flowing from his shoulders was his only concession to vanity: it rippled when he moved, the color changing from pale violet to deep purple

It’s interesting to consider the description of the cloak “changing from pale violet to deep purple” as possible foreshadowing of a turned-cloak in light of the fact that while Daenerys’ eyes are described on numerous occasions as violet, “Young Griff”’s eyes are described by Tyrion as dark purple. And when one considers the thematic significance of an offshoot of House Plumm supporting an offshoot of House Blackfyre things get even more interesting.

First, let’s recall that Viserys Plumm is rumoured to be the son of Aegon IV and Elaena Targaryen, while Daemon Blackfyre is the acknowledged son of Aegon IV and Daena Targaryen, Elaena’s elder sister. Daenerys comes from the line of Daeron II, Aegon IV’s legitimate son with his wife Naerys. Now if we assume as many do that “Young Griff” is in reality “Aegon Blackfyre” (*for a discussion of the possibilities see here) the possibility of his long lost cousin Ben Plumm becoming his supporter seems quite strong, especially if it were a position that might bring Plumm a good chance at collecting not only a reward from Aegon, but the promise he received from Tyrion upon the latter’s acceptance into the Second Sons:

Brown Ben’s note was the last. That one had been inscribed upon a sheepskin scroll. One hundred thousand golden dragons, fifty hides of fertile land, a castle, and a lordship.

We’ve just outlined that for sellswords, gold is a principal motivator. In Ben Plumm’s case, gold seems to come second only to saving his own skin, as he told Daenerys:

Silver’s sweet and gold’s our mother, but once you’re dead they’re worth less than that last shit you take as you lie dying. I told you once, there are old sellswords and there are bold sellswords, but there are no old bold sellswords.

In other words, a hundred thousand gold dragons would be worth nothing to Ben Plumm if he found himself in mortal danger. With that in mind, let’s consider what it might take for Ben Plumm to abandon the dragon queen once again.

Obviously in order to collect of Tyrion’s note, Ben and Tyrion both have to make it safely to Westeros, and there will have to be a regime change in King’s Landing. This is a compelling reason for Ben to have switched his allegiance back to Daenerys as the tide began to turn against the Yunkai’i. At that point in time, Dany might have seemed his best bet for getting both himself and Tyrion safely to Westeros. But what might happen if news reaches Meereen that another Targaryen has invaded Westeros and looks to be toppling the Lannisters from their perch in King’s Landing? This could be very interesting news indeed for someone who values personal survival only slightly more than cold hard cash. Because Ben Plumm just might be a position to deliver the Targaryen prince the very currency he needs to secure his claim to the Iron Throne, while securing his own future and collecting on his promise from Tyrion Lannister in the bargain.

Remember how Dany’s dragons are noted on numerous occasions to be “fond” of Ben? And that the white dragon, Viserion, was even shown to perch on his shoulder? What if Ben were to somehow abscond with that very dragon that we earlier speculated may have been hatched from an egg that once belonged to his ancestor, Elaena Targaryen? How could such a thing happen, and what might the outcome be?

Basically we see two possibilities for the how. First, Ben might decide not to wait for Dany’s eventual return and could simply kidnap Tyrion and the white dragon and make for Westeros with the intention of presenting Aegon with the dragon he needs in exchange for rich rewards and assurances of Tyrion’s ability to make good on his debt. But since we think that not only is the plot best served by Ben being reunited with Dany in Meereen, but also that Tyrion has some significant role to play there, it seems the second option fits best. That is that, if Valyrian blood is needed in order to be a dragon rider as seems to be indicated by GRRM’s comments here, Ben could be asked to bond with the dragon by the queen, since if she were to be actively seeking to use her force multipliers she would need riders for Viserion and Rhaegal. Once bonded and in possession of the dragon, he could break for Westeros for all the same reasons noted above, with the biggest difference being that his betrayal would be so much worse in this case and could even count as the “treason for gold” the Undying Ones warned Daenerys of in Qarth.

However it happens, there’s a lot of thematic sense in Ben Plumm turning his cloak once more in favor of Aegon Targaryen. Not only might it get a dragon into the hands of Dany’s rival, but it would put Ben in a position to collect his IOU from Tyrion. It could reunite the offspring of two of the Maids in the Tower in a neat twist that would be thematically fitting, and possibly fulfill one of the prophecies that have haunted Daenerys since Qarth. The textual hints are all evident, culminating in that one description from The Winds of Winter of Ben’s cloak turning “from pale violet to deep purple.” In which case, we suggest that Old Ben Plumm may turn out to be the boldest sellsword of them all.

Written with yolkboy, and featured in part on Radio Westeros Episode 15: The Battle of Fire

For the First Time in Years: Eddard Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen

Blood and Roses  by crisurdiales

Blood and Roses
by crisurdiales

In AGoT, chapter 35, Eddard IX, Littlefinger takes Ned to Chataya’s brothel to see Robert’s youngest bastard child. After the interview, as they ride away, Ned’s thoughts become introspective:

“For the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen. He wondered if Rhaegar had frequented brothels; somehow he thought not.”

This is a puzzling thought, since a closer look reveals that not only has Ned thought of Rhaegar recently, he thinks of him frequently. There are six previous sustained thoughts or conversations about Rhaegar in prior Eddard POV chapters. That means in seven out of nine of his POV chapters to that point, Ned thinks about or mentions Rhaegar. So what’s going on here?

It has been noted that Ned never seems to have a negative thought about Rhaegar. This is used to support the idea that Ned knows that Rhaegar was not the kidnaping rapist Robert thinks he was. This particular thought actually goes a long way in that department– Ned compares Robert to Rhaegar and Robert comes up wanting. Since we know that Ned himself is not the type to frequent brothels (to Petyr Baelish’s evident glee– he delights in making Ned uncomfortable by taking him to these places, as we see on two separate occasions) we can assume that with this particular comparison he is thinking of Rhaegar as a man of honor like himself.

To review Ned’s previous thoughts and conversations about Rhaegar is revealing and gives a clear picture of how Ned perceives Rhaegar. Beginning in AGoT, chapter 4, Eddard I, when Ned and Robert are in the Winterfell crypts visting Lyanna’s tomb, Robert is overcome with emotion and tells Ned:

“I vowed to kill Rhaegar for what he did to her.”

 The exchange continues:

“You did,” Ned reminded him.

“Only once,” Robert said bitterly.

They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert’s hammer stove in the dragon and the chest beneath it. When Ned had finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream, while men of both armies scrabbled in the swirling waters for rubies knocked free from his armor.

“In my dreams, I kill him every night,” Robert admitted. “A thousand deaths will still be less than he deserves. “

There was nothing Ned could say to that.

Ned thinks about this scene, the death of the man who allegedly kidnaped and raped his sister (“How many times… How many hundreds of times?”), extremely dispassionately. Robert is still full of hate, but Ned manages only polite pauses and quiet sympathy. First hint that all is not as it seems! The scene proceeds into a discussion of Jon Arryn’s son being fostered by the Lannisters:

Ned would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin, but he left his doubts unspoken. Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word. […] “Lysa ought to have been honored. The Lannisters are a great and noble House.” […] “I have more concern for my nephew’s welfare than I do for Lannister pride,” Ned declared.

Here we have an example of Robert avoiding all those unpleasantries he doesn’t care to deal with, hiding behind the “nobility” of his in-laws. Ned isn’t fooled as he recognizes the true nature of House Lannister and their regard for the lives of children, and has a much more vehement reaction to the fostering of his wife’s nephew than he does to the supposed kidnap and rape of his own sister.

In chapter 12, Eddard II, Robert raises the issue of Daenerys Targaryen and her unborn child. Ned strongly objects to the murder of children.

“He remembered the angry words exchanged when Tywin Lannister had presented Robert with the corpses of Rhaegar’s wife and children as a token of fealty… It was said Rhaegar’s little girl had cried as they dragged her from beneath her bed to face the swords.”

For Ned, the murder of children was and is unspeakable. But Robert has not gotten over his hatred of Targaryens

“Unspeakable? The king roared […] “And Rhaegar… how many times do you think he raped your sister? How many hundreds of times?”

It is clear from Ned’s POV that the Lannister crimes far outweigh those of Rhaegar Targaryen, as the conversation continues to a discussion of Jaime as the Warden of the East. Ned is disturbed at placing so much power in the hands of one family. He recalls the aftermath of the Trident, the Sack of King’s Landing and the death of Aerys Targaryen.

“You took a wound from Rhaegar,” Ned reminded him […] “The remnants of Rhaegar’s army fled back to King’s Landing. We followed… I expected to find the gates closed to us [but] the lion of Lannister flew from the ramparts, not the crowned stag. And they had taken the city by treachery.”

At the center of the most dishonorable actions of the war in Ned’s memory is not Rhaegar Targaryen, but the Lannister family. Robert disagrees:

“Treachery was a coin the Targaryens knew well,” Robert said. The anger was building in him again. “Lannister paid them back in kind. It was no less than they deserved. I shall not trouble my sleep over it.”

“You were not there,” Ned said, bitterness in his voice. Troubled sleep was no stranger to him. He had lived his lies for fourteen years, yet they still haunted him at night. “There was no honor in that conquest.”

“The Others take your honor!” Robert swore. “What did any Targaryen ever know of honor? Go down into your crypt and ask Lyanna about the dragon’s honor!”

“You avenged Lyanna at the Trident,” Ned said, halting beside the king. Promise me, Ned, she had whispered.

Here we have a stark (forgive the pun 😉 ) contrast between one view of honor and another. In Ned’s view, the killing of children is the height of dishonor. He harks back to his promise to his sister here, which is most likely inspired by his recollection of what the Lannisters did to Rhaegar’s children in King’s Landing. When Robert urges him to “ask Lyanna” Ned recalls the promise she extracted from him. Robert has different views of honor, informed at least in part by his interpretation of R+L. Their earlier exchange in the crypts supports the notion that Ned does not in any way share that interpretation. Robert’s notion that Lysa should have been “honored” by his plan to hand her son over to the Lannisters proves his utter obliviousness to the brutal nature of Lannister policy.

Chapter 16, Eddard III finds the royal party at the Darry holdings. Arya has been accused of attacking Prince Joffrey, and after days on the run has been found and brought before the Queen in the Darry audience chamber. Ned recalls:

“Ser Raymun lived under the king’s peace, but his family had fought beneath Rhaegar’s dragon banners at the Trident, and his three older brothers had died there, a truth neither Robert nor Ser Raymun had forgotten.”

Once again we have a memory of Rhaegar Targaryen and of the war fought against his House, contrasted with the actions of the Lannister family. While Ned hardly expects the Targ loyalist Darrys to support him in the matter of Arya and her wolf, in his mind, as always, the clear and present danger comes from House Lannister.

Chapter 20, Eddard IV the party has finally reached King’s Landing. After an emergency meeting of the Small Council, Ned is taken by Littlefinger to see Catelyn at her hiding place in a brothel in the city. She tells him of the attempt on Bran’s life, shows him the scars on her hands and the dagger that made them, and accuses Tyrion Lannister of hiring and arming the assassin. Ned refuses to believe that Tyrion could have acted alone and Littlefinger insinuates he did not. Ned cannot accept that Robert might have knowledge of this act…

“Yet even as he said the words, he remembered that chill morning on the barrowlands, and Robert’s talk of sending hired knives after the Targaryen princess. He remembered Rhaegar’s infant son, the red ruin of his skull, and the way the king had turned away, as he had turned away in Darry’s audience hall not long ago. He could still hear Sansa pleading, as Lyanna had pleaded once”

Here we are again, with a memory of Rhaegar paired with Lannister infamy, in both past and present. In this passage there is a clear connection between Robert’s acceptance of child slaying, Ned’s anxiety over it, the protection of innocents, and a young woman pleading for mercy. If Sansa was pleading for Lady’s life, what could Lyanna have been pleading for if not her son? Who posed the danger to Rhaegar’s children, to Lady, and allegedly to Ned’s own son Bran? None other than House Lannister. Hidden beneath the overt memories and never mentioned explicitly, yet undoubtedly heightening Ned’s anxiety given the nature of his train of thought, is the fact that the child that he promised to protect from Robert’s fury and the Lannister willingness to enable him as a killer of innocents has been sent into the far North in the company of the very Lannister now accused of trying to harm Bran.

Chapter 30, Eddard VII is even more explicit in the connection. Ned finally connects with the Robert he once knew, and seems on the verge of finding proof of Lannister perfidy once and for all. Knowing that if he finds this proof, it could mean war, he thinks

“…if Lord Tywin dared to rouse the west, Robert would smash him as he had smashed Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident.”

The Lannisters, architects of cruelty and dishonor in Ned’s POV, seem poised to meet their end in the face of Robert’s fury and Ned is both cautiously optimistic and relieved at the prospect.

Chapter 33, Eddard VIII finds things have taken a turn away from the “old” Robert at a Small Council meeting. Robert is resolved to send hired killers after the pregnant Daenerys Targaryen. Ned is furious and refuses to sign off on the plan. Their bitter quarrel of fifteen years previous seems to come to life all over again:

“Your grace, I never knew you to fear Rhaegar.” Ned fought to keep the scorn out of his voice, and failed. “Have the years so unmanned you that you tremble at the shadow of an unborn child?”

This is the second time Ned mentions Rhaegar aloud. Both mentions are to Robert during moments of truth telling. The latter time is highly provocative, but in both cases the initial subject matter is Daenerys Targaryen and the killing of children. In fact, more often than not, when Ned thinks about Rhaegar Targaryen it is connected to his death, his slain children, the threat to his young sister, and the role House Lannister has played in turning Robert into a child killer.

I believe this is highly revealing of Ned’s motivating anxiety, and when he meets Barra he realises in the course of his discussion with Littlefinger the danger she is in from the Lannisters.

 “…Robert got a pair of twins on a serving wench at Casterly Rock […] Cersei had the babes killed and sold the mother to a passing slaver.”

Ned reflects that the Robert he once knew would never have condoned such a thing, but now he’s not so sure, as Robert has become “practiced at shutting his eyes to things he did not wish to see.”

Back to the exchange with Barra’a mother which would lead once more to thoughts of Rhaegar, it began:

“I named her Barra,” she said as the baby nursed. “She looks so like him, does she not, milord? She has his nose, and his hair…”

“She does,” Eddard Stark had touched the baby’s fine, dark hair. It flowed through his fingers like black silk. Robert’s firstborn had had the same fine hair, he seemed to recall.

“Tell him when you see him, milord, as it… as it please you. Tell him how beautiful she is.”

“I will,” Ned had promised her. That was his curse. Robert would swear undying love and forget them before evenfall, but Ned Stark kept his vows. He thought of the promises he’d made Lyanna as she lay dying, and the price he’d paid to keep them. […]

Here we have Ned making a promise to a young mother regarding her child and suspiciously, it reminds him of the promises he made to his dying sister. All the way back in Eddard I, he recalled that moment:

 “Promise me, she had cried in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life…”

Not only does the promise remind Ned of his sister, but the young girl’s reaction is highly evocative of Lyanna’s:

She smiled then, a smile so tremulous and sweet that it cut the heart right out of him. Riding through the rainy night, Ned saw Jon Snow’s face in front of him, so like a younger version of his own. If the gods frowned so on bastards, he thought dully, why did they fill men with such lusts?

In this situation, Ned’s train of thought has gone from young girl with infant to promises to his dying sister and now to Jon Snow. Surely there is a clear connection, even a mirroring, of the two situations? His anxiety over the fate of Barra leads him to this bizarre thought about Jon Snow. Often used as proof that Ned thinks of Jon as his bastard or, alternatively, to question the conclusion that R+L=J was a legitimate union, I believe this thought is more complex. As Ned rides off, concerned for the infant and mother he has just met, he thinks of Jon Snow. Since he has just been thinking of his sister, this seems natural enough. It is the fact that he has been thinking about the promises made to his sister that I believe leads to the thought about bastards. In order to fulfill his promises to Lyanna, Ned has had to raise Jon as his own bastard, denying him something that is his by right and making him equal in status to the bastard daughter of a whore in King’s Landing. This is part of the price he has paid to keep his promise, and the reason he thinks of Jon in the context of bastards being frowned on by the gods. Like his concern for the safety of the children, this is all part of his hidden anxiety. Furthermore, we should note the phrase “Ned Stark kept his vows.” This POV assertion by Ned that he is a man who keeps his vows stands in direct contrast to the notion that this passage affirms that Jon is Ned’s bastard. Since he has earlier admitted to Robert that Jon Snow was born after his marriage to Catelyn, I believe this is a subtle hint that Ned has not forsworn himself in any way and that by raising Jon as his own son he has in fact been engaged solely in fulfilling a vow made to his dying sister. Finally, here is where the train of thought becomes quite curious. After a verbal exchange with Littlefinger about Robert’s bastards, wherein he learns about Cersei’s willingness to dispose of them, he comes to thought we opened with

“For the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen. He wondered if Rhaegar had frequented brothels; somehow he thought not.”

Since we have clearly established that Ned thinks of Rhaegar often, there must be some hidden explanation for this thought. As it has been demonstrated that Ned’s thoughts about Rhaegar generally center around his death, child slaying and the perfidy of House Lannister, I think the difference is that here he (“for the first time in years”) allows his thoughts to go one step further and thinks about Rhaegar as Jon’s father. His unspoken thoughts have now gone from his sister, to promises, to Jon Snow, to bastards in brothels, to Rhaegar Targaryen and, interestingly, we arrive at the conclusion that Rhaegar would not have frequented brothels. Meaning? Ned unconsciously allows himself to think about Rhaegar as the father of his sister’s child, compares him to Robert who father’s bastards in brothels and with serving wenches, and upon reflection decides that Rhaegar would not behave in this way. Surely if Ned believed that Rhaegar had fathered a bastard child on his beloved sister, he would not reach such a charitable conclusion? I believe that here, in this passing thought, we have proof from Ned’s own thoughts, as compelling as the scene from the Tower of Joy, that Ned is aware of Jon’s legitimacy. Furthermore, taken as a whole, Ned’s collective thoughts about Rhaegar support the notion that he bears no ill will for the dead prince. Interestingly, close examination has also shown that Ned has seen with clear eyes that the true enemy of the Crown in his lifetime has been House Lannister.