A Ghost in Winterfell

Winterfell by Lino Drieghe © Fantasy Flight Games
As discussed in Radio Westeros Episode 18

 

In Theon Greyjoy’s chapter “A Ghost in Winterfell” in ADwD, we find one of the great minor mysteries of the ASoIaF fandom.  It begins with a series of deaths. A Ryswell man at arms, Aenys Frey’s old squire, and a Flint crossbowman. Theon does not believe any of the excuses made for these deaths, thinking to himself each time that foul play was a more likely answer.

When Ramsay Bolton’s own man Yellow Dick is found dead, with his actual dick cut off and stuffed into his mouth, there can be no doubt that a bad actor is responsible for these deaths. Things are starting to go badly wrong for Roose Bolton, the snow is making the men anxious, the Freys and Manderlys are fighting and the stables have collapsed. It is during this chaos and friction that Theon flees a meal in the great hall and has a curious encounter.

When Theon steps outside he has a moment of peace in the falling snow that is strangely evocative of Sansa’s “snow castle” scene from the Eyrie. Then he walks on and meets a man:

Farther on, he came upon a man striding in the opposite direction, a hooded cloak flapping behind him. When they found themselves face-to-face their eyes met briefly. The man put a hand on his dagger. “Theon Turncloak. Theon Kinslayer.”

“I’m not. I never … I was ironborn.”

“False is all you were. How is it you still breathe?”

“The gods are not done with me,” Theon answered, wondering if this could be the killer, the night walker who had stuffed Yellow Dick’s cock into his mouth and pushed Roger Ryswell’s groom off the battlements. Oddly, he was not afraid. He pulled the glove from his left hand. “Lord Ramsay is not done with me.”

The man looked, and laughed. “I leave you to him, then.”

That short passage has inspired the eternal question — who is the hooded man? Many identity theories have been floated about the fandom, from Benjen Stark to Hal Mollen to Brynden “Blackfish” Tully. And while there is some value in ideas like Robett Glover, the brother of the lord of Deepwood Motte who was last seen trying to raise troops in White Harbor, and an idea which proposes the hooded man is simply in Theon’s imagination, our call is someone much closer to home, someone who would have very good reason to be in Winterfell, who may be much changed from the last time Theon saw him, and who Theon actually thinks is dead, making him a perfect candidate for an alternate interpretation of the chapter title. Harwin, son of Hullen, is both a possible alternate as “A Ghost in Winterfell” and a strong candidate for being the hooded man Theon encounters.

Probably the first question to address is why Harwin? That answer lies with Lady Stoneheart. Starting in ASoS, in the Merrett Frey epilogue, it’s made clear that she and the BwB are searching for her daughter Arya in the Riverlands. Remember that, besides Sandor Clegane, the BwB are the last people to knowingly see Arya Stark alive. The search continues into AFfC, when the BwB question Brienne about Arya, and we also learn that they have been gathering orphans in the Riverlands and housing them at the Inn at the Crossroads. It’s been speculated this is most likely an effort to discover Arya among the orphaned and displaced young people of the Riverlands.

Lady Stoneheart and the BwB would know that Arya was last seen with Sandor Clegane prior to the Red Wedding, but they will have also heard the news that some weeks after the Red Wedding, Roose Bolton set out for the north with a young woman in a closed carriage, reputed to be Arya Stark being taken home to marry his son Ramsay. In that light, it makes perfect sense that Lady Stoneheart would send a spy to Winterfell to see if this was truly her daughter, and if so to effect her rescue. Who better to send than the one member of the BwB who not only knew Arya well, but grew up in Winterfell and was an expert horseman?

Harwin is last mentioned by name in AFfC when Thoros tells Brienne that Harwin begged him to raise Catelyn Stark when they discovered her in the river three days after her death. And while there is a “young northman” in the cave when Brienne is brought before Lady Stoneheart, we think there’s a chance that young man is Hal Mollen, Catelyn’s sworn sword who was last seen heading into the Neck with Ned’s bones in ACoK.

The young man in the Brienne scene, whose voice is “frosted with the accents of the north”, is never identified by name. There has been opportunity for Hal to have rejoined his lady’s service, since Lady Stoneheart is noted to have been in Hag’s Mire and the Neck recently. In addition, it’s interesting that this young man says to Brienne:

“Can it be that my lady has forgotten that you once swore her your service?”

Hal Mollen witnessed Brienne’s oath to Lady Catelyn in ACoK, and since this comment seems to come from personal knowledge rather than something Lady Stoneheart said, we give pretty good odds to this man being Hal Mollen, and to Harwin having been sent on a mission sometime earlier, possibly during that trip into the Neck. But the theory doesn’t hinge upon that being true, since by most reckonings nearly two months pass between Brienne’s trial and the hooded man sighting. Which seems more than enough time for an expert horseman who knows the lay of the land well to make his way to Winterfell.

So having established motive and opportunity for Harwin, let’s look at the scene itself. It’s not immediately clear if Theon recognises the man. He wonders if this is the killer who has claimed four victims to that point, and thinks of him only as “the man.” But it’s very obvious the hooded man knows him. He clearly recognises Theon, and calls him “Turncloak” and “Kinslayer” — epithets that one could certainly expect from someone who lived in the Winterfell household. Theon denies being a kinslayer as usual, since he knows he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon. And as usual this is met with disgust and  the hooded man says “False is all you were” and wonders “How is it you still breathe?” Now, we know that Theon’s torture by Ramsay was known in the Riverlands,  Roose had made no secret of it. The man doesn’t seem surprised, and even laughs, when he sees Theon’s maimed hand, and seems to take some pleasure in leaving Theon to Ramsay.

These reactions seem to be all in keeping with what one would expect from Harwin. But what about Theon? It’s possible he wouldn’t recognise Harwin whom he hasn’t seen in several years, especially when we recall that Harwin was much changed and Arya barely recognised him when she first met the BwB. But it’s also possible that he does recognise him. And that is the really intriguing possibility because while Theon hasn’t seen Harwin in years, he does think of him.

In ADwD, in the chapter following his encounter with the hooded man, Theon is thinking about the ghosts that inhabit Winterfell and we get this:

That was long ago, though. They were all dead now. Jory, old Ser Rodrik, Lord Eddard, Harwin and Hullen, Cayn and Desmond and Fat Tom, Alyn with his dreams of knighthood, Mikken who had given him his first real sword. Even Old Nan, like as not.

So it seems that Theon assumes that all of the men who went with Ned perished in King’s Landing, but Harwin is the only person in his thoughts that’s actually alive. We think we’re alerted to this mistake on Theon’s part for a reason. Consider that while the chapter title “A Ghost in Winterfell” clearly applies to Theon, it’s made very plain in his thoughts that he thinks of himself as only one of very many ghosts: “there are ghosts in winterfell, and I am one of them.” Now if we consider that these chapter titles sometimes do have alternate meanings, and imagine what Theon would think if he saw Harwin, who he thinks is dead… the alternate meaning for this chapter title becomes very clear. The hooded man would literally appear to be a ghost to Theon, who is already spending a lot of time musing about ghosts and wondering about the voice he is hearing from the weirwood tree. In that light some lines that come immediately after the encounter with the hooded man make a lot of sense. First he thinks “He was trapped here, with the ghosts” and then “Leave Winterfell to me and the ghosts” and finally, when surprised in the godswood by Abel’s women:

“The ghosts,” he blurted. “They whisper to me. They … they know my name.”

So the tree has been speaking to him, but we think he has another ghost in mind as well. Imagine Theon, already haunted by the ghosts he created and hearing a voice speaking to him from the weirwood tree, seeing someone he has thought dead for these last two years. Might be good cause for him to think the ghosts are talking to him. And then in Theon’s TWoW spoiler chapter, when Theon is recalling how he tried to explain his story to Asha when they met in the snow, he thinks “He told her how he bedded down with Ramsay’s bitches, warned her that Winterfell was full of ghosts.”

Warning his sister “that Winterfell was full of ghosts” is very interesting in light of this theory that Theon had an encounter with a man he would consider a ghost. Let’s now provide some clarity on the other options that have been identified. One good question is why rule out other candidates like Robett Glover, Hal Mollen, the Blackfish and Benjen Stark? The obvious answer is that not only would Theon have recognised all of those men, having seen most of them recently during the fighting in TWot5K, but that he has never been shown to think any of them are dead, as he has Harwin, and so his reaction to seeing them might have been much different. One other thing about Harwin as an option that we think is important is that neither Roose, nor any of the lords or soldiers who are with him would be expected to recognise him, as they would Glover, Tully or Benjen Stark and even Hal Mollen who was Robb’s standard bearer when the northmen left Winterfell in AGoT. Harwin could thus easily blend in with the grooms, servants and freeriders that Winterfell is noted to be teeming with.

Consider also Theon’s reaction, wondering “if this could be the killer, the night walker who had stuffed Yellow Dick’s cock into his mouth and pushed Roger Ryswell’s groom off the battlements.” There is an almost supernatural feeling to this, and the fact that he feels no fear is appropriate given the fact that he seems so comfortable with his “ghosts.”

Speaking of Theon’s suspicion that the hooded man could be the killer, we think it unlikely. After Theon’s various interactions with Abel’s women it seems pretty clear that they were responsible for the Ryswell man at arms, Ser Aenys Frey’s squire, the Flint crossbowman and Yellow Dick. Since there isn’t anything we know of in the political situation at Winterfell to connect those four men, we surmise that they had some knowledge that made them dangerous. Since all were found outside, we further assume it was something they saw that marked them for death.

But what about Little Walder? Rowan denies that his death was down to Abel’s washerwomen, implying they are responsible for the others. We can’t rule them out because the body was discovered in the vicinity of the tower Abel met Theon in the night of the murder, but we definitely think there could be a second murderer in Winterfell who killed Little Walder. We find it highly suspicious that Big Walder is noted to be spattered in blood, when it’s just been stated that Little Walder’s blood was frozen, due to the body being found in a snowdrift. So while we can’t rule out one of Abel’s women or the hooded man as the killer,  we do think that Big Walder, who was so quick to implicate a knight from White Harbor, is definitely a strong suspect in that murder.

In conclusion,  Harwin as the hooded man makes thematic sense and is well supported by the text, but it appears that it’s probably best to look elsewhere for the perpetrators of the mysterious deaths that take place in Winterfell as tensions rise to the boiling point and Roose commands a snowy march to meet Stannis Baratheon in battle.

Valar Morghulis – Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane in ASoS

Arya and the Hound by ChaoyuanXu on DeviantArt

Arya’s first introduction to Sandor Clegane was most likely at her home when the royal party came to Winterfell. But it was his killing of her friend Mycah that lodged him in her brain as Enemy Number One. While she doesn’t witness the act, or the return of the body, she hears the tale from others– Jeyne Poole tells her: the Hound “cut him up in so many pieces that they’d given him back to the butcher in a bag”, while Jory tells her something closer to the truth: “[he] cut him near in half” and her father names it murder: “That murder lies at the Hound’s door, him and the cruel woman he serves.”

In ASoS Sandor himself attempts to justify the act when he is put on trial for murder by the BwB: “I was Joffrey’s sworn shield. The butcher’s boy attacked a prince of the blood.” Since we’ll see that Sandor, while he is a brutal killer, is honest and possessed of a certain honor (“Don’t lie … I hate liars. I hate gutless frauds even worse”), perhaps we can assume that perhaps his version close to the truth as he perceives it. When questioned about Mycah’s crime by Lord Beric, Sandor replies “I heard it from the royal lips. It’s not my place to question princes.”

Regardless of Sandor’s defense, the killing of Mycah has earned him a prominent place in Arya’s “prayers”, side by side with the people responsible for killing her father. By the time she encounters him in ASoS, when they are captives of the BwB, she has prayed for his death “hundreds of times.” The night before Sandor is brought in by the Huntsman she thinks about the people on her list: “Maybe some of them are dead … Maybe they’re in iron cages someplace, and the crows are picking out their eyes.” The next morning she wakes to the Hound about to be imprisoned in a cage outside her window. Have the gods heard her prayers?

When Sandor is brought before Lord Beric, he mocks the BwB for calling themselves knights. Then the BwB begin to accuse him of all the crimes of Lannister soldiers, holding him personally responsible for acts committed by others. His reaction is one of bitter anger: “Might be you are knights after all. You lie like knights, maybe you murder like knights.” He makes it quite clear what his opinion of knights is, saying:

“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink.”

Sandor is given a trial by combat against Lord Beric. When Beric’s sword breaks and he falls to the Hound, it seems the gods have spoken:

Arya could only think of Mycah and all the stupid prayers she’d prayed for the Hound to die. If there were gods, why didn’t Lord Beric win? She knew the Hound was guilty.

What happens next is perhaps the first moment that Arya sees Sandor as a human being rather than a beast:

“Please,” Sandor Clegane rasped, cradling his arm. “I’m burned. Help me. Someone. Help me.” He was crying. “Please.” Arya looked at him in astonishment. He’s crying like a little baby, she thought.

Arya grabs a knife and tries to attack the Hound as he is helped to his feet. When she sees his wounds, we get the faintest glimmer of compassion in Arya’s PoV:

His arm, Arya thought, and his face. But he was the Hound. He deserved to burn in a fiery hell.

With righteous anger, Arya accuses him again. Thinking his confession might make them kill him once and for all:

“You killed Mycah,” she said once more, daring him to deny it. “Tell them. You did. You did.”

His confession, dramatic and graphic as it is, seems designed for maximum impact, causing us to wonder if he had the same hope in mind:

“I did.” His whole face twisted. “I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed. I watched them beat your sister bloody too, watched them cut your father’s head off.”

Arya’s despair and rage know no bounds when she screams at him:

“You go to hell, Hound… You just go to hell!”

It is Lord Beric who sees clearly the hell that the Hound exists in:

“He has,” said a voice scarce stronger than a whisper.

To Arya’s disgust, the BwB allow the Hound to go free. But he returns not long after, looking to retrieve the gold they took from him. She is still filled with rage and threatens to kill not only Sandor, but his brother as well:

“Next time I will kill you. I’ll kill your brother too!”

Sandor assures her that she won’t and asks if she knows what dogs do to wolves, a question that remains in her mind for some time.

When he seizes her away from the BwB and carries her off through the Riverlands she continually tries to kill him. He finally warns her that if she escapes she’ll only get caught by someone worse, like his brother. When Arya reveals that she already knows Ser Gregor, and his men too, having been their captive, Sandor is highly amused:

“Caught you? My brother caught you? Gregor never knew what he had, did he? He couldn’t have, or he would have dragged you back kicking and screaming to King’s Landing and dumped you in Cersei’s lap. Oh, that’s bloody sweet. I’ll be sure and tell him that, before I cut his heart out.”

Though it’s  not the first time she’s heard this, Arya seems somewhat shocked. Sandor taunts her with her own sister, whom he guesses she had a less than warm relationship with. He also mocks her hatred of him, and her desire to kill him:

Because I hacked your little friend in two? I’ve killed a lot more than him, I promise you. You think that makes me some monster. Well, maybe it does, but I saved your sister’s life too. The day the mob pulled her off her horse, I cut through them and brought her back to the castle, else she would have gotten what Lollys Stokeworth got. And she sang for me. You didn’t know that, did you? Your sister sang me a sweet little song.

Arya’s view of the Hound has become increasingly complex, from that moment of pity for his wounds, to the revelation of his hatred for his brother, his assertions of his own honesty, and now his claim to being her sister’s protector, a role the reader knows to be true. For whatever reason, when faced with the opportunity to betray him, she fails to do so:

“How do I know you’re good for it?” the bent-backed man asked, after a moment. He’s not, she wanted to shout. instead she bit her lip. “Knight’s honor,” the Hound said, unsmiling. He’s not even a knight. She did not say that either.

Of course we know exactly what the Hound thinks of knights, so it’s hard to judge his lie here. His utter disdain for the the institution extends even to those who blindly revere it:

“Knights have no bloody honor. Time you learned that, old man.”

Once across the Trident, the Hound finally reveals to Arya where he is taking her:

You think your outlaw friends are the only ones can smell a ransom? Dondarrion took my gold, so I took you. You’re worth twice what they stole from me, I’d say. Maybe even more if I sold you back to the Lannisters like you fear, but I won’t. Even a dog gets tired of being kicked. If this Young Wolf has the wits the gods gave a toad, he’ll make me a lordling and beg me to enter his service. He needs me, though he may not know it yet. Maybe I’ll even kill Gregor for him, he’d like that.

After their disastrous attempt to enter the Twins during the Red Wedding, both Arya and the Hound appear numb, unable to take action. Arya thinks of her mother constantly and berates the Hound for not letting her (or helping her!) try to save her. She wishes he had let her run into the castle, and he replies:

“You’d be dead if I had. You ought to thank me. You ought to sing me a pretty little song, the way your sister did.”

He’s now saved both of their lives, a situation that some might argue leaves both Stark girls in his debt. He has also slipped into the role of teacher, giving Arya instruction in things from how to loot a body, treat wounds and even how to give the gift of mercy:

“That’s where the heart is, girl. That’s how you kill a man.”

When Sandor takes a serious wound after the fight at the Inn where he kills Polliver and Arya kills the Tickler and the squire, Arya treats his wounds and then finds herself leaving him out of her prayers:

She had left his name out too, she realized. Why had she done that? She tried to think of Mycah, but it was hard to remember what he’d looked like. She hadn’t known him long. All he ever did was play at swords with me. “The Hound,” she whispered, and, “Valar morghulis.” Maybe he’d be dead by morning…

It seems like the implication is that as she has become familiar with Sandor, she has forgotten Mycah. The Hound is no longer in her prayers, perhaps because she sees the inevitability of his death (“Valar morghulis”) or perhaps because she no longer thinks him worthy of her brand of “mercy.” Remember that mercy for Arya implies death, while for others (notably her sister Sansa) it means pity and compassion. Perhaps a hint of compassion snuck in at the end.

At any rate, when the end finally seems at hand, Arya is unable to kill him, though she has promised him death dozens of times and has had a long internal debate over her reasons for killing him. Sandor begs her to do it:

“Don’t lie,” he growled. “I hate liars. I hate gutless frauds even worse. Go on, do it.” When Arya did not move, he said, “I killed your butcher’s boy. I cut him near in half, and laughed about it after.” He made a queer sound, and it took her a moment to realize he was sobbing. “And the little bird, your pretty sister, I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her. I took the bloody song, she never gave it. I meant to take her too. I should have. I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.” A spasm of pain twisted his face. “Do you mean to make me beg, bitch? Do it! The gift of mercy… avenge your little Michael…”

Sandor’s words here, and even his tears, closely echo the scene with the BwB earlier, though his tone has changed from one of defiance to one of desperate regret. But his attempts to bait her into a killing rage fail, and she tells him:

You don’t deserve the gift of mercy.

As she leaves him, in her thoughts she comes back to the interplay of dogs and wolves:

Maybe some real wolves will find you… Maybe they’ll smell you when the sun goes down. Then he would learn what wolves did to dogs.

Arya’s feelings about the Hound seem to have become increasingly complex. By the end we really can’t be sure if he doesn’t deserve mercy because she no longer wants to kill him, or if she merely wants to prolong his suffering. Nor can we say the options are mutually exclusive. What she has learned from close contact with Sandor seems to be at odds with what she thought she knew previously. It would be small wonder if she were experiencing some amount of cognitive dissonance. As she enters Braavos and beholds the Titan at close range, her thoughts return to the Riverlands, and perhaps a tinge of regret:

The Hound had been dying when she left him on the banks of the Trident, burning up with fever from his wound. I should have given him the gift of mercy and put a knife into his heart.

The multi faceted concept of mercy as a gift can be directly related to the “Gift” Arya will learn about at the HoBaW in Braavos. At times the Gift of the Faceless Men is a punishment, while at other times it is a release:

“Death is not the worst thing,” the kindly man replied. “It is His gift to us, an end to want and pain.”

Yet the kindly man also cautions:

“It is not for you to say who shall live and who shall die. That gift belongs to Him of Many Faces.”

While this lesson contrasts with the northern justice she was raised with, Arya may have shown in the case of Sandor Clegane an unwitting foreshadowing of the creed of the Faceless Men that she will struggle with in her time in Braavos.

 

As discussed in Radio Westeros Episode 11 – A Knight’s Honour

See more Sandor analysis in The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor

Art by chaoyuanxu

LemUncloak(ed): The True Identity of Lem Lemoncloak

Lem by Amok

Lem by Amok

Who among us hasn’t wondered at the true identity of the charming Lem Lemoncloak? One of the leaders of the Brotherhood without Banners, Lem appears on the page with no true name and no history, although we have names and stories for many of his fellows, including several of far less significance to the narrative. Some time ago a chance combination of musings inspired by the questions of fellow posters at westeros.org led me to connect Lem with another character whose name is mentioned but once and who is alluded to on only one other occasion. What would lead one to connect Lem with Ser Richard Lonmouth, erstwhile squire and companion of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen? To be honest, at first it was nothing more than the colour of his cloak combined with the conviction that the knight of skull and kisses is meant to be significant. But it turns out that there are quite a few textual hints that support the connection. While I initially laid this theory out on my own, much credit must be given to posters at westeros who picked up this cracked pot and ran with it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that with their help, this pot will now hold water.

In ASoS chapter 43, the Ghost of High Heart demands payment for her news:

“A skin of wine for my dreams, and for my news a kiss from the great oaf in the yellow cloak…His mouth will taste of lemons and mine of bones

Earlier, the GoHH was consulted regarding Lord Beric’s whereabouts. At that meeting, the little woman who speaks of everyone in terms of their sigils and representations of their Houses, had this exchange with Lem:

“Dreams,” grumbled Lem Lemoncloak, “what good are dreams? Fish women and drowned crows. I had a dream myself last night. I was kissing this tavern wench I used to know. Are you going to pay me for that, old woman?”

“The wench is dead,” the woman hissed. “Only worms may kiss her now.” ASoS, chapter 17

With the bard Tom o’ Sevens the connecting reference at both meetings is a song. For Lem … kisses.

The arms of House Lonmouth have been described as “quartered of six: red lips strewn on yellow, yellow skulls strewn on black.” It was the connection of kisses, skulls (bones) and yellow with Lem which provided the “aha!” But the connections do not end there.

When Arya first meets him, she thinks he has the look of a soldier:

The man beside him stood a good foot taller, and had the look of a soldier. A longsword and dirk hung from his studded leather belt, rows of overlapping steel rings were sewn onto his shirt, and his head was covered by a black iron half-helm shaped like a cone. He had bad teeth and a bushy brown beard, but it was his hooded yellow cloak that drew the eye. Thick and heavy, and stained here with grass and there with blood, frayed along the bottom and patched with deerskin on the right shoulder, the greatcloak gave the big man the look of some huge yellow bird. ASoS, chapter 13

From lack of direct reference, it appears that he was not one of the original company that set out from King’s Landing with Lord Beric, but one of those who joined the Brotherhood in the Riverlands. Yet he does make a possibly revealing comment in this exchange:

Anguy the Archer said, “We’re king’s men.”

Arya frowned. “Which king?”

“King Robert,” said Lem, in his yellow cloak. ASoS, chapter 13

How to explain a large man loyal to Robert who has the look of a soldier, wears a distinctive yellow cloak and was living in the Riverlands prior to Lord Beric’s mission? Let’s take a look at the bare facts of Richard Lonmouth. We know that he was once Prince Rhaegar’s squire and companion:

Myles Mooton was Prince Rhaegar’s squire, and Richard Lonmouth after him. When they won their spurs, he knighted them himself, and they remained his close companions. ASoS, chapter 8

We also know that House Lonmouth was a stormlands house, and that Ser Richard was a one-time drinking companion to the Lord of the Stormlands, Robert Baratheon:

The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. ASoS, chapter 24

Knowing Robert’s reputation as a prodigious drinker, Ser Richard must have been of a similar bent, to engage him so. Lem is a large man also known to enjoy his drink:

Lem Lemoncloak pushed forward. He and Greenbeard were the only men there tall enough to look the Hound in the eye. ASoS, chapter 34

“You must have been drunk, or asleep.”

“Us? Drunk?”  Tom drank a long draught of ale. “Never.” ASoS, chapter 13

We are never told which side Ser Richard joined Robert’s Rebellion on.  Myles Mooton fought for the Targaryens and was killed at Stoney Sept by Robert Baratheon himself. Even the last we hear of Lonmouth doesn’t give a clear indication. Following the appearance of the Knight of the Laughing Tree at the Harrenhal tourney:

That night at the great castle, the storm lord and the knight of skulls and kisses each swore they would unmask him, and the king himself urged men to challenge him, declaring that the face behind the helm was no friend of his … The king was wroth and even sent his son the dragon prince to seek the man, but all they ever found was his painted shield. ASoS, chapter 24

Here we have no clear indication of which House he would side with: that of his friend and mentor Rhaegar Targaryen or that of his drinking buddy and overlord Robert Baratheon. But perhaps the words of House Lonmouth might be a hint that Ser Richard did indeed take a side.

The Choice is Yours

In his role of hangman for the Brotherhood, Lem is carrying out sentences based on a choice. In the case of Merret Frey, Lem gives the choice to Lady Stoneheart:

“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.” He turned to the dead woman and said. “What do you say, m’lady? Was he part of it?” ASoS, Epilogue

At Brienne’s “trial” the choice is given by the northman, while the sentence is carried out by Lem:

The northman said, “She says that you must choose. Take the sword and slay the Kingslayer, or be hanged for a betrayer. The sword or the noose, she says. Choose, she says. Choose.” AFfC, chapter 42

Lem is involved in choices being offered by the BwB, while there is also enough evidence to speculate he has made other fateful choices in his past. While “choice” can be seen as a major theme of ASoIaF, the fact that it is prominently featured in the house words of a minor house seems almost like a flag saying “look closely here”! Looking closely in this case has certainly led to some interesting theorizing.

Treading into speculative territory with the theme of choice, I’m going to suggest that Richard chose his overlord, Robert Baratheon and fought on his behalf during the Rebellion.  Just after Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are taken in by the BwB the company arrives at the Inn of the Kneeling Man. Here the young people are given ale by the innkeeper’s wife because she has no milk or clean water to offer:

“…the river water tastes of war, with all the dead men drifting downstream. If I served you a cup of soup full of dead flies, would you drink it?”

“Arry would,” said Hot Pie. “I mean, Squab.”

“So would Lem,” offered Anguy with a sly smile. ASoS, chapter 13

Why would Anguy say such a thing? Could it be that Lem once drifted in the river with the dead? Much later the Elder Brother on the Quiet Isle tells Brienne his story of being left for dead in the river after the Battle of the Trident, and washing up downriver, alive and reborn to a new life. Could something similar have happened to Lem?

Later, Lem reveals some local knowledge that just might indicate he was in the area as these events occurred:

“Lord Lychester’s sons died in Robert’s Rebellion,” grumbled Lem. “Some on one side, some on t’other. He’s not been right in the head since.” ASoS, chapter 17

And finally at the Peach, the brothel in Stoney Sept where Robert may have taken refuge before the battle, Tansy has this to say to Lem:

“…Lem is that you? Still wearing the same ratty cloak are you? I know why you never wash it, I do. You’re afraid all the piss will wash out and we’ll see you’re really a knight o’ the Kingsguard!” ASoS, chapter 29

If Lem is Richard Lonmouth, he might have been present at Stoney Sept with Robert and be known to Tansy from that event.  If she had knowledge of him being a knight in service to the man who went on to become the king, it might well explain her “Kingsguard” joke. But why vanish from the page then? Speculation brings us back to AFfC, and Brienne’s POV. In chapter 25 Septon Meribald describes to Brienne, Pod and Ser Hyle the inner turmoil of the broken man.

“…even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe … They take a wound, and when that’s half-healed they take another … And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone … And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world … And the man breaks.”

Meribald makes it clear that anyone can break, at any time. Every man has his limit and it’s just possible Ser Richard reached it in the aftermath of the Trident.  Two references make me believe this could be what happened to Lem:

“Bugger that,” said Lem Lemoncloak. “He’s our god too, and you owe us for your bloody lives. And what’s false about him? Might be your Smith can mend a broken sword, but can he heal a broken man?” ASoS, chapter 39

“You are not the only one with wounds, Lady Brienne. Some of my brothers were good men when this began…” AFfC, chapter 42

I’ve already suggested that Anguy’s “sly” comment may indicate that Lem went into the river with the dead at one time. Let’s suppose that Richard Lonmouth went into the river after the Battle of the Trident, as the Elder Brother did. If he was fished out and nursed back to health by some kind soul, it would have been some time before he was able to get news of what had happened in the battle and afterwards. Would he have been devastated to know that his friend the Prince had been killed by his overlord? Would the guilt of his choice have weighed heavily on him? Certainly that would be enough to cause a break. But I think there’s even more at play here. I’m speculating that Ser Richard chose the winning side, so why wouldn’t he have emerged at some point to claim his reward from his overlord and new King? Assuming Lem is Ser Richard, I think the explanation behind his abiding hatred of Lannisters might be the final piece of the puzzle. We don’t for sure know why Lem hates Lannisters so much, or if Richard Lonmouth was ever married. But we do know that Lem Lemoncloak was married, and had a child:

“I want my wife and daughter back,” said the Hound. “Can your father give me that?” AFfC, chapter 42

Going right on assuming Lem and Richard are one and the same, I will posit that Richard Lonmouth’s family was in King’s Landing during the Rebellion. Perhaps his wife came from a loyalist family, perhaps they thought it would be a safe place to retreat to. But we know that when the Lannisters sacked the city there was no mercy for anyone, from the royal family down to the poorest smallfolk. Could his wife and daughter have been among the casualties? It might explain his need to hang “lions” and judging by his comment, his association of them with that act. Finally, Lannisters being the new good-family of his former overlord might make it once and for all impossible to come forward and publicly serve Robert.

Because a revelation of this sort would require a narrative purpose, we return to the Tourney of Harrenhal and the knight of skulls and kisses vow to unmask the knight of the laughing tree (whom most of us assume to be Lyanna Stark.) We know that GRRM uses thematic parallels frequently in his narrative. We also know that Arya Stark bears a resemblance to her aunt:

“Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.” AGoT, chapter 22

Looking at some of the interactions between Arya and Lem, one incident in particular stands out. When Arya learns that she is in truth the prisoner of the BwB, she attempts to flee:

…when she glanced back over her shoulder four of them were coming after her, Anguy and Harwin and Greenbeard racing side by side with Lem farther back, his big yellow cloak flapping behind him as he rode. ASoS, chapter 17

It’s easy enough to imagine a similar scene with Lyanna pursued over similar ground by a group including Ser Richard Lonmouth.  Later, almost like a sly nod to this possibility Tom sings to Arya:

Tom winked at her as he sang:

And how she smiled and how she laughed,

the maiden of the tree.

She spun away and said to him,

No featherbed for me.

I’ll wear a gown of golden leaves,

And bind my hair with grass.

But you can be my forest love,

and me your forest lass.

ASoS, chapter 17

Here then we arrive at a possible narrative purpose for Lem being Richard Lonmouth. He might be able to shed light of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s first interaction, the reason Rhaegar crowned Lyanna QoLaB and possibly (if he remained in the Prince’s confidence) events that came after. At the very least he would be one of the few attendees of the Harrenhal tourney who is still alive.  This would place him in the same category as the elusive Howland Reed of One Who Knows Much and More.

In conclusion, Ser Richard Lonmouth, whose house colours are black and yellow, is never mentioned after his cameo at the Tourney of Harrenhal. During the Wot5K an outlaw of no known name or history appears in the Riverlands wearing a distinctive yellow cloak of heavy (and most likely at one time, expensive) cloth. In his arc, Lem is associated with kisses and choices, both known motifs of House Lonmouth. Based on these associations, a connection between the two can be made. Close reading further allows us to enter into some speculation to fill in the details of the intervening years. Finally, as to the significance of this theory, if he was a part of the search for the knight of the laughing tree, and some revelation was made, Ser Richard could be possessed of interesting insight into the story of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

Addendum, December 2014:

With new information now available from TWoIaF, the Supreme Court of Westeros taking up the case, and E09 of Radio Westeros presenting the theory in audio format, the time seems right for a short addendum. TWoIaF tells us that Ser Richard Lonmouth was among Rhaegar’s supporters at court when there was an obvious divide between Rhaegar and Aerys:

Prince Rhaegar’s support came from the younger men at court, including Lord Jon Connington, Ser Myles Mooton of Maidenpool, and Ser Richard Lonmouth. The Dornishmen who had come to court with the Princess Elia were in the prince’s confidence as well, particularly Prince Lewyn Martell, Elia’s uncle and a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard. But the most formidable of all Rhaegar’s friends and allies in King’s Landing was surely Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

Since this description comes during a discussion of court politics and conspiration around the time of the Tourney of Harrenhal, the implication seems to be that Lonmouth supported regime change. Next from TWoIaF is the strong hint that Lonmouth accompanied Rhaegar into the Riverlands on that fateful mission that resulted in the disappearance of Lyanna Stark:

With the coming of the new year, the crown prince had taken to the road with half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants, on a journey that would ultimately lead him back to the riverlands, not ten leagues from Harrenhal . . . where Rhaegar would once again come face-to-face with Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and with her light a fire that would consume his house and kin and all those he loved—and half the realm besides.

Let’s revisit Ser Barristan’s information: “Myles Mooton was Prince Rhaegar’s squire, and Richard Lonmouth after him. When they won their spurs, he knighted them himself, and they remained his close companions” With that in mind, combined with the information in TWoIaF, we can surmise that the half dozen companions were most likely Arthur Dayne and Oswell Whent (as previously revealed in the WoIaF app) Mooton and Lonmouth (both identified as close companions of the Prince on more than one occasion) and possibly Connington and Prince Lewyn Martell, whom TWoIaF indicates were also strong supporters of Rhaegar.

Given the outcome of the Rhaegar and Lyanna situation, with Aerys executing Rickard and Brandon Stark and calling for the heads of two of his Lords Paramount, we propose that Richard Lonmouth chose Robert in the Rebellion in order to effect that regime change it was earlier implied he supported. Remember that quite early on Rhaegar was well out of things and the Rebellion was technically against Aerys, aimed at removing an increasingly mad tyrant from power. Rhaegar’s eventual involvement– no doubt out of a sense of duty to his House and perhaps an effort to safeguard his children in King’s Landing– would play right into the themes of choice and the broken man that were identified earlier.

For the record it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait too long to put this theory to the test. Last we saw of the Riverlands in ADwD, one person who likely knew Richard Lonmouth was on a collision course with Lem Lemoncloak and is a strong candidate for a reveal. When Jaime Lannister resurfaces he may find himself in for a surprise reunion with someone from his past.

GNC — Riverlands Edition: The Capitulation of Riverrun, or Wolfish Hearts in the Riverlands

warwick-castle When Jaime Lannister arrives in the Riverlands, the siege of Riverrun is not going well. Daven Lannister’s forces consist of a contingent of Freys under the command of Ser Ryman, his own Westerland forces, Lord Emmon Frey and Ser Forley Prester’s host and the river lords who bent the knee. The riverlanders are

“A sullen lot…Good for sulking in their tents, but not much more.”

AFfC, Jaime V

Daven tells Jaime that the half the men he sends to forage for supplies never return. Some desert, but others are found dead.

“It might [be] outlaws, or not. There are still bands of northmen about. And these Lords of the Trident may have bent their knees, but methinks their hearts are still… wolfish.”

AFfC, Jaime V

He continues

“My scouts report fires in the high places at night. Signal fires, they think… as if there were a ring of watchers all around us.”

AFfC, Jaime V

Regarding the “bands of northmen” a review of troop numbers is in order. Robb goes to the RW with thirty-five hundred men:

“Thirty-five hundred they were, thirty-five hundred who had been blooded in the Whispering Wood, who had reddened their swords at the Battle of the Camps, at Oxcross, Ashemark, and the Crag, and all through the gold-rich hills of the Lannister west.”

ASoS,Catelyn VI

and

“Thirty-five hundred riders wound their way along the valley floor through the heart of the Whispering Wood, but Catelyn Stark had seldom felt lonelier. Every league she crossed took her farther from Riverrun, and she found herself wondering whether she would ever see the castle again. Or was it lost to her forever, like so much else?”

ASoS, Catelyn VI

We know of those thirty five hundred that most were slaughtered. But maybe not all:

“We found a thousand corpses afterward. Once they’ve spent a few days in the river they all look much the same.”

Edwyn Frey, AFfC, Jaime VII

Roose Bolton arrives with another thirty five hundred:

“Some five hundred horse and three thousand foot, my lady. Dreadfort men, in chief, and some from Karhold. With the loyalty of the Karstarks so doubtful now, I thought it best to keep them close. I regret there are not more.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

We know he has left a force of some six hundred men at the Green Fork guarding the crossing.

“I left six hundred men at the ford. Spearmen from the rills, the mountains and the White Knife. A hundred Hornwood longbows, some freeriders and hedge knights, and a strong force of Stout and Cerwyn men to stiffen them. Ronnel Stout and Ser Kyle Condon have the command.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

The Freys have a force of some two thousand that ultimately crosses the Neck with Roose Bolton. I think it’s safe to assume that Robb expected exactly that number to accompany him. But wait! Just a few chapters earlier, at the same strategy meeting where Robb’s will is signed, he reveals his plan to assail Moat Cailin from three sides, including the rear with the aid of Howland Reed. He numbers his force at over 12,000:

“Once I link up with Lord Bolton and the Freys, I will have more than twelve thousand men.”

ASoS, Catelyn VI

Even assuming that the third of Lord Bolton’s strength lost to Ser Gregor (two thousand Norreys, Lockes, Burleys and White Harbor men under Wylis Manderly, putting Roose’s total expected force at over 6,000) were counted in that number, we are left with a few questions. There are still over five hundred unaccounted for- is that the size of the group that accompanied Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover?  Furthermore, did Condon and Stout rejoin Bolton’s forces with their six hundred? I think not, since Theon’s observations of the troops crossing the Neck account for only a little over 5,500:

“Three days later, the vanguard of Roose Bolton’s host threaded its way through the ruins and past the row of grisly [ironborn] sentinels–four hundred mounted Freys clad in blue and grey, their spearpoints glittering whenever the sun broke through the clouds. Two of old Lord Walder’s sons [Hosteen and Aenys] led the van.

[…]

The northmen followed hard behind the van, their tattered banners streaming in the wind. Reek watched them pass. Most were afoot, and there were so few of them. He remembered the great host that marched south with the Young Wolf, beneath the direwolf of Winterfell. Twenty thousand swords and spears had gone off to war with Robb or near enough to make no matter, but only two in ten were coming back, and most of those were Dreadfort men.

[…]

Farther back came the baggage train–lumbering wayns laden with provisions and loot taken in the war, carts crowded with wounded men and cripples. And, at the rear, more Freys. At least a thousand, maybe more: bowmen, spearmen, peasants armed with scythes and sharpened sticks, freeriders and mounted archers, and another hundred knights to stiffen them.”

ADWD, Reek II

Also, we have the fact that of the two thousand men with Wylis Manderly, not all were killed or captured:

“Two-thirds of my strength was on the north side when the Lannisters attacked those still waiting to cross. Norrey, Locke, and Burley men chiefly, with Ser Wylis Manderly and his White Harbor knights as rear guard. I was on the wrong side of the Trident, powerless to help them. Ser Wylis rallied our men as best he could, but Gregor Clegane attacked with heavy horse and drove them into the river. As many drowned as were cut down. More fled, and the rest were taken captive.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

Admittedly, at this level we are dealing with quite a bit of estimating of troop size. With eyes wide open that George has actually said this is one detail that is frequently wrong in PoVs, it still seems that there is room to believe that among the “bands” Daven mentions, there could be two substantial forces (five to six hundred each) who remain armed and under the command of a warleader, in addition to the scattered remnants of the force from the ford. Upon arriving in the camps at Riverrun Jaime makes note of the river lords’ banners:

“Lychester and Vance… Roote and Goodbrook, the acorns of House Smallford [sic] and Lord Piper’s dancing maiden… the banners he did not see gave him pause. The silver eagle of Mallister was nowhere in evidence; nor the red horse of Bracken, the willow of the Rygers, the twining snakes of Paege… none had come to join the siege”

AFfC, Jaime V

When Jaime meets with Brynden Tully to offer terms, he suggests the Blackfish  take the black

“I will permit you to take the black. Ned Stark’s bastard is the Lord Commander on the Wall”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Tully reacts with suspicion

“Did your father arrange for that as well? Catelyn never trusted the boy, as I recall, no more than she trusted Theon Greyjoy. It would seem she was right about them both.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Why the comparison with Theon Greyjoy? Because Jon made common cause with Stannis? Seems like laying it on a bit thick to me. While one could make a case that Brynden Tully was far away at Riverrun when the will was signed in Hag’s Mire and is unaware of its contents, as evidenced by his next exchange with Jaime  he is still flying the direwolf of Stark above Riverrun many months later. Surely he is holding out because he knows there is an heir?

“…Does it matter how the boy perished? He’s no less dead, and his kingdom died when he did.”

“You must be blind as well as maimed, ser. Lift your eyes and you will see that the direwolf still flies above our walls.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Coming from someone who thinks all of Ned and Cat’s children are dead, and has just dismissed the only surviving Stark out of hand, this seems like an odd statement. Is it empty bravado? Or a subtle threat? I think the latter is more the Blackfish’s style. When diplomacy fails, Jaime summons a war council. Lords Piper, Vance of Wayfarer’s Rest and Vance of Atranta are in attendance. Karyl Vance counsels against hanging Edmure to move the Blackfish and has nothing but scorn for Edwyn Frey’s suggestion of arrows smeared with nightsoil. Norbert Vance offers to parlay with his old friend Brynden Tully and Lord Clement Piper scoffs at this idea. An argument with the Freys breaks out and almost comes to violence. Jaime puts Edmyn Frey in his place by reminding him of the Freys double treachery and dismisses the council. Jaime’s next move is to retrieve Edmure from the Freys’ gallows. As he cuts him down he is accosted by Ser Ryman Frey, in company of a whore wearing a very curious crown

“…a circlet of hammered bronze… graven with runes and ringed with small black swords”

AFfC, Jaime VI

After engaging in his new favorite sport of Frey bashing, Jaime dismisses Ryman and orders him to leave the crown. Let’s make careful note of two witnesses to the scene. The first is a singer with a woodharp, who can be none other than Tom o’ Sevenstreams. The second is the whore herself. We learn that Jaime dismisses Ser Ryman and that not long after  he and his escort of fifteen armed men have been hanged just south of Fairmarket on their way back to the Twins, presumably by the BwB. As Walder Rivers tells Jaime “It is almost as if they knew that he would be returning to the Twins, and with a small escort.” Since we know by the crown’s later reappearance that Ryman did not in fact leave the crown as Jaime ordered, we might assume he was still in the company of the whore as well. Could she have been the source of the BwB’s information? It’s very interesting that Petyr Frey was also in the company of whore just before he was hanged by the BwB. In Merrett Frey’s PoV he thinks “Let them hang him, he brought this on himself. It’s no more than he deserves, wandering off with some bloody camp follower like a stag in rut.” Fast forwarding a bit, notice the speed with which the BwB (in the person of Brienne of Tarth) were able to track Jaime to Pennytree after his visit to Raventree Hall and recall Hildy, the camp follower seen with Lord Jonos Bracken. The day Jaime met with Lord Jonos and Lord Tytos (and Hildy) he departed Raventree Hall and arrived at Pennytree the same evening. Around midnight Brienne rode into the camp looking for him. Can it be coincidence that in three cases where the BwB is looking for a target and quickly locates him, there turns out to have been a camp follower in his presence? Is the BwB is using women to soft target individuals? While there’s probably a much more massive plan in the works, this would speak volumes about BwB operations possibly being much more covert and sophisticated than we thought. Back to Riverrun, Jaime delivers his terms to Edmure in the presence of his squires (Josmyn Peckledown, Garrett Paege and Lew Piper), Pia and the singer (Tom o’ Sevens): Convince the Blackfish to yield the castle and the smallfolk can remain unharmed, the garrison (including Ser Brynden) will all have the option of taking the black and Edmure can choose between the Wall and captivity with his wife and child at Casterly Rock. If he refuses:

“…my coz will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wave of attackers, so you’ll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades. When the castle falls, all those inside will be put to the sword. Your herds will be butchered, your godswood felled, your keeps and towers will burn. I’ll pull your walls down, and divert the Tumblestone over the ruins. By the time I’m done no man will ever know a castle once stood here … Your wife may whelp before that. You’ll want your child, I expect. I’ll send him to you when he’s born. With a trebuchet.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Jaime departs and leaves Edmure to be entertained by the singer

“I’ll leave you to enjoy your food. Singer, play for our guest whilst he eats. You know the song, I trust.”

“The one about the rain? Aye, my lord, I know it.”

Edmure seemed to see the man for the first time. “No. Not him. Get him away from me.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Presumably there followed an interesting interlude between Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams, who beyond doubt is the singer and also one of the chief lieutenants of Lady Stoneheart’s band of outlaws. The flies on the wall? Garrett Paege and Lew Piper. We can only guess at what messages were relayed, or if plans were laid. The opportunity was certainly there however. Next we see Jaime and Edmure is in the great hall of Riverrun. The Blackfish has slipped out by the water gate under cover of night. Edmure waited almost the entire day before surrendering the castle to the Lannisters. As Jaime says, the Blackfish could be ten leagues downstream. Ten leagues downstream would place him in the vicinity of Fairmarket, where Ryman Frey was waylaid  and the last known location of Lady Stoneheart’s band of the BwB, and within a very short distance of Pennytree, location of the next act in the drama. Jaime is not amused.  He thinks:

“For a man who was going to spend the rest of his life a prisoner, Edmure was entirely too pleased with himself.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Emmon Frey is apoplectic. He wants Edmure punished. After being told by his wife that he must hold the castle or abandon it, Ser Emmon replies

“To be sure. Riverrun is mine, and no man shall ever take it from me.”

AFfC, Jaime VII (emphasis mine)

Foreshadowing of the retaking of Riverrun by Lady Stoneheart, who now has an operative inside the castle?

“…this castle seems a nice place to spend the winter”

Tom o’Sevens, AFfC, Jaime VII

Yes… but with whom? Edmure Tully and the Westerlings  are sent to Casterly Rock with a guard of 400 men under the command of Ser Forley Prester. The Riverrun garrison is allowed to depart: stripped of arms and armor they vanish into the Riverlands. Ser Desmond Grell and Ser Robin Ryger elect to take the black. They are dispatched to take ship at Maidenpool with an escort of twelve of Gregor Clegane’s men under the command of Raff the Sweetling. In the process of departing Riverrun, Jaime takes leave of the Freys. They are wroth about Ser Ryman’s death. Jaime is unmoved, and repeats the order he first issued in front of Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams to Ser Ryman:

“King Tommen requires all the captives you took at the Red Wedding.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Next he grants the river lords leave to return to their own lands. He promises Lord Piper that the captives will be ransomed and hears the advice of Lord Karyl Vance

“Lord Jaime, you must go to Raventree. So long as it is Jonos at his gates Tytos will never yield, but I know he will bend his knee for you.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Worth noting is this passage in ASoS ch. 43: When discussing what to do with Arya, Lord Beric says

“Still, we dare not go blindly here. I want to know where the armies are, the wolves and lions both. Sharna will know something, and Lord Vance’s maester will know more. Acorn Hall’s not far. Lady Smallwood will shelter us for a time while we send scouts ahead to learn…”

One reason this passage may be somewhat overlooked is because this the moment that Arya runs away from the BwB straight into the arms of Sandor Clegane.  We know Sharna is the innkeep at the Inn of the Kneeling Man and we’ve seen the BwB at Acorn Hall before, but Lord Vance’s maester is a pretty high level contact and possibly not unrelated to the fact that it is ultimately Lord Vance who urges Jaime to venture to Raventree Hall, thus putting himself in BwB territory. At Raventree Jaime meets Jonos Bracken and Tytos Blackwood, and learns more than a little about the ancient Bracken-Blackwood feud. Bracken appears to have well and truly turned his cloak. Blackwood is more pragmatic, and close. He enquires about Edmure and Brynden Tully, giving nothing away. When the talk turns to hostages we learn two things.  Brynden Blackwood is the heir, whose whereabouts are never mentioned. Since his next younger brother Lucas was with Robb at the RW, it may be safe to consider that Brynden was also a part of Robb’s forces, but in an as yet unidentified deployment. Lucas perished at the RW in spite of kin ties with the Freys. Jaime promises to have his bones returned (probably an empty promise since just recently the Freys  have admitted to him that they dumped many bodies anonymously into the river)  As Jaime takes his leave he mentions that Riverrun awaits. Blackwood makes this odd rejoinder

“Riverrun? Or King’s Landing?”

ADwD, Jaime I

…almost as if he wanted to ascertain Jaime’s next steps. Could this be a further hint of an undercurrent of communication regarding the Lord Commander’s movements? What happens next is well known. Jaime and his tail camp at Pennytree. At midnight his scouts return with a woman who has ridden up asking to be brought to him. Brienne of Tarth tells Jaime she has found the girl with the Hound, and that he must come at once and alone or she will be killed. We know from Kevan’s later conversation with Cersei while she is imprisoned by the Faith, that  he does indeed depart with her, and up to the point we have knowledge, has not been heard from since. Of course, most speculation goes that Brienne has agreed to bring Jaime to the BwB in exchange for Podrick’s (and maybe Ser Hyle’s) life. We can only wait to see what will happen at this confrontation and although it might seem a foregone conclusion, I’m not so sure. Returning to Pennytree, we have Jaime’s men (described as a “tail”, so a relatively small force) left leaderless in the Riverlands. It seems plain that they make it make to Riverrun, since word has reached Kevan that Jaime vanished with a woman, possibly Lady Brienne. I wonder about the three boys though- Lew Piper, Garrett Paege and Hoster Blackwood. The first two may have overheard the conversation between Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams. All three are aware of the escape of the Blackfish and at least some of the movements of the BwB. Hos would know the countryside well– would the confusion of Jaime’s departure be a good occasion for the hostages to depart? Or do they remain as eyes and ears in the Lannister camp? Either way, I don’t think we can ignore their presence and the fact that the sons of some of the more Stark-loyal riverlords are together. Once Marq Piper is freed from the Twins, if these three escape, the Lannisters will have no hold over this particular trio of families. As for the freedom of Marq Piper, Greatjon Umber and any other captives from the Twins, it is plain that Tom o’ Seven knows of the order to send the captives to KL. Since the Frey forces are currently spread between Winterfell, Seagard, Darry and Riverrun, I suspect the captives will be put on the Kingsroad with inadequate guards and waylaid by the BwB. So now we have Edmure and Jeyne Westerling heading west under a strong guard of four hundred. The Blackfish is at large and the Riverrun garrison has been set free, albeit unarmed. Jaime is alone in the Riverlands with Brienne, his tail left leaderless. Ryger and Grell are heading east, armed, under light guard. Riverrun is garrisoned with a force of two hundred Freys or Lannisters, but they have a senior member of the BwB in their midst. Any castle can be taken if the enemy can gain access, and the enemy now have the means to open the gates. The BwB has become increasingly bold, hanging Lord Walder’s heir and his escort of fifteen armed men less than a day’s march from the Twins. Undefined “bands” of Stark supporters remain at large, possibly numbering in the thousands. It’s worthy of note that with the forthcoming release of the captives from the Twins and abandonment of Jaime’s tail at Pennytree (which includes not only Hoster Tully, Garrett Paege and Lew Piper, but also Ser Hugo Vance, one of the sons of Lord Norbert Vance of Atranta, who has been acting as Jaime’s standard-bearer) and the recent capitulation of Riverrun, the only remaining hostages the Lannisters have in their control are Edmure Tully and Jeyne Westerling. Roslin Tully presumably will remain at the Twins, where her child is certainly at risk once it is born, but anyone seeking to save or sacrifice it will first need to breach the Twins. Also of extreme interest is that the Blackfish was presumably the mastermind behind the great Stark-Tully victory at Oxcross, which involved circumventing the Golden Tooth via a secret path discovered by Grey Wind. With  the Riverrun garrison at large, I propose that the Blackfish means to take command of them once more and set out for the Westerlands to ambush Forley Prester’s party and free Edmure and Jeyne, whose safety he has been charged with. In support of this idea, let’s recall the Tully words– “Family, Duty, Honor.” We learn in ASoS that upon his departure from Riverrun, King Robb named his great-uncle Warden of the Southern Marches, and charged him with Queen Jeyne’s protection. It’s seems likely that Brynden Tully would fulfill his duty as Warden of the Southern Marches and protector of the Queen, rescue Jeyne and his nephew, his last surviving family, and annihilate the Lannister host under Forley’s command. Even more compelling is the idea that to stand and fight is perhaps the most honorable and therefore characteristic action the Blackfish could take. The problem with this idea was the lack of PoV characters in the area to relay such a significant event. But we recently received a strong indication from GRRM himself that we will see Forley’s host early in TWoW. In an interview at the San Diego Comic Con last summer George revealed that we will see Jeyne Westerling in the Prologue of TWoW. So an ambush of the Prester party, with possibly Ser Forley himself as the viewpoint character, seems a strong possibility. The problem of arms for the garrison could be solved by the BwB, who seem to have no problem overcoming good sized groups of armed men. Besides the demonstrated availability of abandoned arms and armor throughout the Riverlands, each group of twelve or fifteen men they ambush or kill adds to their supply. Then there’s Gendry—one has to wonder exactly what he’s been doing at his forge at the Inn. Gendry has been demonstrated to have the knowledge for blade forging. In the many months he has been at that forge, there can be no doubt he has had time to forge (given the raw materials) or mend a great deal of weapons. The ambush of Prester’s party cannot happen in isolation though. In order to preserve the delicate balance of rescue operations, there must be an established communications network. Let’s revisit the words of Daven Lannister:

“My scouts report fires in the high places at night. Signal fires, they think… as if there were a ring of watchers all around us.”

I think the BwB have established a communication network that involves signal fires (we know from his remarks to Brienne that Thoros isn’t spending a lot of time fire gazing these days) and spies. From Lord Vance’s maester to Lady Smallwood to Sharna the innkeep to Tom o’ Sevens inside Riverrun, they seem to have endless capacity to get the downtrodden people of the Riverlands to cooperate with them. The hostages from the Twins will be released, one way or another, by the BwB themselves. Ryger and Grell, by this time, are most like en route to Eastwatch. Weather may play a part in their journey, but as Tycho Nestoris was able to reach it, so should they. What messages, if any, they bring is anyone’s guess, but we know they had ample opportunity to receive them from both the Blackfish and Edmure. This will leave Riverrun and the Twins. With Tom o’ Sevens inside, Riverrun will fall at a time of Lady Stoneheart’s choosing. The fall of the Twins, will be carefully planned to coincide with Lord Walder’s death. We have had plenty of indication of the chaos that will occur when that happens, most clearly in Merrett Frey’s POV when he thinks “It was like to be every son for himself when the old man died, and every daughter as well.” Looking at Jaime’s interview with Maria and Amarei Frey at Castle Darry, they told him:

“Some of the river lords are hand in glove with Lord Beric’s men as well … The smallfolk too … Ser Harwyn says they hide them and feed them, and when he asks where they’ve gone, they lie. They lie to their own lords!”

Put together with all the evidence just discussed, it seems plain that the BwB have politicized their agenda in the Riverlands and with all the hints at plotting, spies and conspiracies, it’s likely we’re going to see a lot more of that agenda in TWoW. It also seems reasonable to conclude from all the hints and the overarching theme of revenge that in the opening pages of TWoW the Riverlands are going to become a shitstorm of Stark and Tully vengeance. While the Riverlands web is still separate from what is happening in the north, I predict an intersection of political agendas of the two areas in the future (thus the title of this essay) For a thorough analysis of the original Great Northern Conspiracy, I can think of no better place to look than here. Yeade has written up the theory brilliantly in eight parts, with appropriate links to the original posts at Westeros that introduced it. Further in depth reading can also be found here. The Winterfell Huis Clos by Bran Vras is an intimate deconstruction of Theon’s ADwD chapters, well worth a perusal by interested parties. Finally, Yolkboy and I discuss this subject in Episode 09 of Radio Westeros.

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