Grey Wind and Raynald Westerling: Alive!

Grey Wind and King Robb, by Amok

Warning! The following is a serious crackpot. But it’s crackpot with an interesting case to be made. What began as an exercise to see if I could follow a crazy idea (parts of this have been previously posted at westeros.org) to a realistic and evidence based conclusion grew into something that looks a lot like a real theory. Take it for what it’s worth, this was written in the spirit of having a little bit of fun.

Like many GRRM fans, I have a deep suspicion of any death that is presented to us sans corpse. So the idea that Grey Wind and Raynald Westerling could have somehow survived the Red Wedding continues to draw me back in. Reports of their deaths may be exaggerated, and the desecration of Robb’s corpse a smallfolk’s tale that grew in the telling. We have to remember that Robb already had the reputation of being a “wolf man” and of turning into a wolf in battle. It wouldn’t take much for a spurious tale put out by the Freys to cover their failure to kill the chained Grey Wind to become a popular story of horrifying desecration.

We know the mysteriously missing Raynald Westerling managed to release GW as the slaughter began, could the two of them have escaped together? Why would GW leave the scene of Robb’s death and how can we explain the many references to Robb and GW that occur in the text post RW? An examination of the key references shows exactly how it is possible and even likely that Grey Wind and Raynald live.

Vis a vis the Ghost “POV” ADwD, ch.3

Once they had been six, five whimpering blind in the snow beside their dead mother, sucking cool milk from her hard dead nipples whilst he crawled off alone. Four remained … and one the white wolf could no longer sense.

There are three possible interpretations of this:

  1. It could mean, as many assume, that of the six only four remain and one of those four is beyond his ability to sense (Summer, beyond the Wall)
  2. The white wolf plus 5. Ghost begins by “thinking” of himself as separate, so of the 5 “whimpering blind” one is dead and four remain- meaning four plus Ghost (who is apart) One of the four the white wolf could no longer sense- either because he is dead (in which case why include him on the group of “remaining” wolves?) or because he has gone beyond Ghost’s ability to sense him (ie beyond the Wall, as in Summer)
  3. Alternatively “four remained … and one he could no longer sense” could be as simple as a math problem: 4+1=5. Again, meaning Summer beyond the wall and four survivors south of the wall.

Just before this thought Ghost connects with Nymeria and Shaggy. Immediately following he has this thought: “the other side [of the great cliff]…was where his brother was, the grey brother who smelled of summer” He is aware of the presence and actions of the first two, but of Summer he only knows that he has gone beyond the Wall. 

In the second interpretation above, the one he can no longer sense being the dead GW would rest upon Ghost being able to sense Summer, but we have sufficient evidence to believe this could not be so. We are repeatedly given hints that the wolf connection ends at the Wall (that is, if the wall separates you) Jon and Ghost are not connected when the Wall is between them. It should be clear then that Ghost is thinking of Summer as the “one the white wolf could no longer sense” and the fact that he knows the one beyond the great cliff is Summer is the key. Therefore in the second and third interpretations above GW would be alive.

In support of this, we go back to ASoS, ch.9 and Summer’s “thoughts” on his pack:

He had a pack as well, once. Five they had been, and a sixth who stood aside. Somewhere down inside him were the sounds the men had given them to tell one from the other, but it was not by their sounds he knew them. He remembered their scents, his brothers and his sisters. They all had smelled alike, had smelled of pack, but each was different too. His angry brother with the hot green eyes was near, the prince felt, though he had not seen him for many hunts. Yet with every sun that set he grew more distant, and he had been the last. The others were far scattered, like leaves blown by the wild wind. Sometimes he could sense them, though, as if they were still with him, only hidden from his sight by a boulder or a stand of trees. He could not smell them, nor hear their howls by night, yet he felt their presence at his back… all but the sister they had lost. His tail drooped when he remembered her. Four now, not five. Four and one more, the white who has no voice

Here we have a precedent for the white wolf being thought of separately, which supports the second interpretation. Also, it should be noted that at this time Ghost is north of the Wall, which most likely prevents Summer from sensing him, providing equal support for the third. Again, in either scenario this supports, Grey Wind would be counted among the living in the Ghost POV.

When Jon thinks “Ghost knows Grey Wind is dead” later in the chapter, he is accepting the misdirection of the white wolf’s thoughts about his pack mates in the wolf dream as it confirms what he thinks he knows in his waking moments. We have sufficient hints from other POVs to believe otherwise. Take this thought from Bran’s POV inside Summer from ADwD, ch.4:

“They were his now. They were a pack. No, the boy whispered. We have another pack. Lady’s dead and maybe Grey Wind too, but somewhere there’s still Shaggydog and Nymeria and Ghost. Remember Ghost?” 

Again Bran, like Jon, thinks that Robb is dead and that his wolf was killed with him because that’s what he has been told. But Summer’s POV does not confirm this.

When Dany goes to the HotU, she sees a feast of corpses “In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany in mute appeal.” The dead wolf headed king at the feast would seem to indicate Robb Stark. But the wolf head does not have to be interpreted literally, since the direwolf is the sigil of House Stark. Interestingly, the iron crown, while it may refer to the crown of the North which does have iron elements, could also be a historical reference. The Iron Crown of Lombardy is one of the oldest symbols of royalty in Europe. It is reputed to contain an iron nail from the True Cross and as such would be a potent symbol of death and resurrection. At the same time, Christ is called the Lamb of God and the King of the Jews (INRI is inscribed on the cross) so the lamb, kings scepter and Iron Crown all taken together in this vision point in one direction: resurrection.

Theon’s dream of the dead of WF in ACoK, ch.56 seems clear cut. Everyone he sees is dead. People Theon knows to be dead who never sat in Winterfell’s hall. Robb and Grey Wind enter and “man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.” Given its placement in ACoK, the RW probably hasn’t happened yet and it seems like simple foreshadowing. But remember that the entire Theon chapter deals with his worsening nightmares (both sleeping and waking.) This is a dream arising out of Theon’s guilt. He sees these visions accusing him for his betrayal of the Starks and they actually confirm nothing but that fact.

Martin gives us a clue when he specifically avoids committing on GW in the Ghost POV and introduces doubt in the Summer POV. Why be obtuse if he’s truly dead? We know Lady is dead but have only been told GW is. We have no actual eyewitness to a dead GW. Cat hears him howling in her final POV, after which we have nothing but hearsay and rumor about the desecration of Robb’s corpse. We have Dany’s vision and Theon’s dream and we have a chain of wolf:corpse connections. But look closer at the alleged wolf head on Robb’s corpse, the wolf’s head brooch from the fake Bran and Rickon corpses in Theon’s Clash chapter, and the corpse of Catelyn Stark that was thought dead but then revived, in part due a wolf’s mouth. The second two show the connection between a wolf’s head and a false corpse or a corpse that is resurrected. So when we are told GW’s head was sewn to Robb’s corpse we should connect it with a false death or a revival. I don’t think Robb is alive, yet much of the symbolism points to a fake death. Could the “false corpse” in this instance be Grey Wind?

In AFfC, ch. 44 we have this exchange between Jaime, Edwyn Frey and Walder Rivers:

“Tell me, is Ser Raynald Westerling amongst these captives?”

“The knight of seashells?” Edwyn sneered. You’ll find that one feeding the fish at the bottom of the Green Fork.”

“He was in the yard when our men came to put the direwolf down,” said Walder Rivers. “Whalen demanded his sword and he have it over meek enough, but when the crossbowmen began feathering the wolf he seized Whalen’s axe and cut the monster loose of the net they’d thrown over him. Whalen says he took a quarrel in his shoulder and another in the gut, but still managed to reach the wallwalk and throw himself into the river.”

“He left a trail of blood on the steps,” said Edwyn.

“Did you find his corpse afterward?” asked Jaime.

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

Curiously, this exchange fails to convince the reader of two things: that Grey Wind is dead or that Raynald Westerling is dead. In particular, it should be noted that the Freys are well aware of Westerling’s sigil, calling him “the knight of seashells.” This indicates that he was wearing his surcoat when he went into the river. Had they fished him out, even days later after bloat and rot set in, surely he would have been recognizable by that sign? As for Grey Wind, it is precisely the fact that Raynald freed him of the net he had been entrapped with that gives one hope that he may have survived.

Going back to Merrett Frey’s epilogue in ASoS, we get this about Grey Wind:

“Stark’s direwolf killed four of our wolfhounds and tore the kennelmaster’s arm off his shoulder, even after we’d filled him full of quarrels…”

“So you sewed his head on Robb Stark’s neck after both o’ them were dead,” said yellow cloak.

“My father did that. All I did was drink. You wouldn’t kill a man for drinking.”

A few of things are troubling about this. First, Merrett has just recently recalled that his part in the Red Wedding was to get Greatjon Umber drunk enough that he would be easily subdued. Although the Greatjon drank enough wine “to kill any three normal men”, Merrett failed since Umber managed to wound three and kill one of his captors. Merrett himself by his own admission was drunk and was probably significantly so, since that appears to be how he deals with stress. It’s entirely possible he did not witness any of the events concerning Grey Wind firsthand. It’s also highly unlikely that ninety year old Lord Walder himself sewed a direwolf head to a man’s body, and yet that is what Merrett relates. Here again, we have an account of Grey Wind being shot with quarrels but not him dying. In fact he was still killing whatever came near him after being “full of quarrels.” Finally, let’s take a look at the actual logistics of sewing a direwolf head onto the body of a sixteen year old. Direwolves can be as big as ponies and Bran recalls Maester Luwin teaching him the difference between a wolf and a direwolf in AGoT ch.37:

…a direwolf had a bigger head and longer legs in proportion to its body, and its snout and jaw were markedly leaner and more pronounced.

When you think about it in those terms, sewing a direwolf head to a human body sounds like a story cooked up by someone who has never seen a direwolf. It’s even possible that one of Nymeria’s famed riverlands wolf pack (we know they were in the area) was captured and killed and its head used to desecrate Robb’s body.

In ADwD Jon I, Jon thinks about his dead brothers and their wolves, specifically with regard to his encounter with Summer at Queenscrown “he wondered if some part of his dead brothers lived on inside their wolves.” I think this is another clue– in order for this to be the case his brothers’ wolves would have to be alive. At any rate Jon only has one dead brother. Robb’s final words to his mother are “Grey Wind…” If Robb was able to warg GW as the last blow was struck at the RW, he could be living his second life in GW. While the Varamyr Prologue in ADwD makes it clear that he expects the human consciousness to eventually fade without a body to return to, there could still be a reveal of this through Arya’s wolf dreams if GW were to encounter Nymeria. (Since Nymeria has tossed off all attempts by lesser wolves to mate, I have often wondered if she’s actually “saving herself” for one of her own kind.) Varamyr’s thought about Jon Snow’s direwolf: “there would be a second life worthy of a king”, which many point to as a hint of Jon Snow’s true identity or even Jon’s fate, could very easily also be a hint that Robb has seized his chance at the “second life” (or resurrection) every skin changer has the opportunity for. This would be the final piece of the puzzle– the explanation for how Raynald would have been able to flee with the wolf, rather than the crazed wolf trying to fight to Robb’s side.

In summary, we have a number of references to GW which seem to point to resurrection or false death. We have some POVs which seem to indicate a sense of GW’s death, but taken one at a time we see they are dreams reflecting the reality perceived by the dreamer or, in the case of Dany’s vision, a symbolic representation. While we have insufficient evidence to prove either way, there may be just enough textual clues and references to point us to a living Grey Wind, warged by the dying Robb Stark, still alive in the Riverlands with Raynald Westerling.

 

Edit March 2017–

We recently discussed this theory, and much more, on Episode 30 of Radio Westeros. Stream it here or visit our website for other options!

 

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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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