The thing that strikes me most about Petyr is that he thrives on chaos. The more crazy the situation, the more opportunities he's able to extract from it. Indeed, rules, law, and order are all things that keep the status quo. Petyr is interested in advancement, and in that sense chaos is the only thing that gives him the opportunity to do so.
Petyr is constantly underestimated in the stories because of his low birth, and he prefers to indirectly influence many events through manipulation of other "pieces" in the Game of Thrones. Indeed, though Petyr is the catalyst for pretty much all the political turmoil in the story, very little of it (if any) can actually be traced back to him.
What Petyr's ultimate goals are continue to be a mystery. I don't think he aspires to sit the Iron Throne himself, since that would make him too big of a target and be far too perilous for his liking. I don't think his motives are for revenge since most of the people who wronged him in his youth are dead or dying. I don't even think wealth has much to do with it, since he is already, by all accounts, wealthier than most lords in Westeros.
So what is it that motivates Petyr Baelish? What is his ultimate game plan? He is really the only character in the story so far who has consistently come out on top and advanced himself while so many others have met tragic ends. Could it be that he's an agent of chaos, and his only goal is to cause as much upheaval as possible? Is he loyal to someone else and works for their benefit? Or does he have lofty goals that he's striving to achieve, to set himself up for ultimate power?
I wish I could answer these questions. But I do know this - Petyr Baelish is a mad genius, and the ultimate player in the Game of Thrones. He knows what it takes to move every piece in the game, he does not fear change and when unexpected developments arise, he quickly adjusts to suit the situation, and most of all - he's always defeating those who play against him.
Because there is no real POV for Petyr in the books, its easy to overlook his accomplishments since he appears sporatically, and his true actions are not really revealed until much later in the story.
This post is to put together the actions of Petyr Baelish to fully explore the role he's played in the events of A Song of Ice And Fire, as a testament to his "mad genius" when it comes to playing this Game of Thrones.
Most of this is taken from the books, though some of my own theories on his actions and motivations are peppered in where it makes sense to do so.
"And was I a piece?" She dreaded the answer.
"Yes, but don't let that trouble you. You're still half a child. Every man's a piece to start with, and every maid as well. Even some who think they are players." He ate another seed. "Cersei, for one. She thinks herself sly, but in truth she is utterly predicatable. Her strength rests on her beauty, birth, and riches. Only the first of those is truly her own, and will soon desert her. I pity her then. She wants power, but has no notion what to do with it when she gets it. Everyone wants something, Alayne. And when you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him."
Petyr's great-grandfather was born in Braavos and came to the Vale of Arryn as a sellsword in the hire of Lord Corbray, and took the head of the Titan of Braavos - a grey stone head with fiery eyes upon a green field -- as his sigil when he was knighted.
Hoster Tully, Lord of Riverrun, served in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, where Maelys Blackfyre secured the Stepstones as a foothold to invade the Seven Kingdoms. During the war, Lord Tully made friends with Petyr Baelish's father, and invited Lord Baelish to have his son Petyr fostered at Riverrun once the war was over.
A young Petyr Baelish was sent to Riverrun as Hoster Tully's ward and raised alongside Tully's trueborn children - Catelyn, Lysa, and Edmure. It was Edmure who gave him the nickname "Littlefinger," since Petyr's family ruled a small piece of land from The Fingers, a stretch of stoney coastline located north of the Vale of Arryn in the East.
The Baelish ancestral home has no formal name, and has little valueable land, mostly consisting of rocks and small herds of sheep. Petyr sarcastically refers to himself as "Lord of Sheepshit and Master of the Drearfort" in regards to it.
During his time at Riverrun, Petyr grew close to the Tully children, and fell in love with Catelyn Tully as he grew up. Though Lysa Tully fell in love with Petyr, Catelyn could not bring herself to look upon him as anything more than a "little brother." This lead to a love Triangle, with Lysa jealous of Catelyn and Petyr's affection for her.
One day, Lord Braken and Lord Blackwood came to Riverrun to seek Hoster Tully's help in a dispute between the two lords. Lord Braken brought a singer along with him and that evening the singer performed during a feast and Catelyn danced with Petyr six times. Eventually, the lords began to argue and Hoster Tully brought them to his audience chamber, leaving the children to their own devices.
Without supervision, the children began to drink wine unempeded. Edmure got drunk, and Petyr got up enough courage to attempt to kiss Catelyn. However, Catelyn laughed at him and pushed him away. The rejection hurt Petyr emotionally and he continued to drink until he passed out to help deaden his sorrow. Brynden Tully ended up carrying Petyr back to his bedchamber so Hoster Tully would not find him drunk.
Lysa Tully, feeling sorry for Petyr, snuck into his bedchamber that night to comfort him. She ended up having sex with him in his drunken state, losing her virginity to him. Petyr told her he loved her, but in his drunkenness, thought she was actually Catelyn, before passing out again after doing the deed. (This accounts for why Petyr believes he deflowered Catelyn Tully and would often brag about it.)
When Brandon Stark was engaged to Catelyn, Petyr challenged him to a duel for her hand. Petyr, after all, believed that Catelyn actually had feelings for him because of that night with Lysa. When Brandon Stark arrived for the duel, Catelyn begged him not to kill Petyr, since she thought of him as family. Brandon agreed, and in the duel, gave Petyr a wound to the ribs, piercing him harshly enough that it was feared he might die from the wound. Thus, Brandon was the winner of the duel, but spared Petyr's life, before running off to King's Landing with his father.
While Petyr was recovering from his wounds, Hoster Tully discovered that Lysa was pregnant with Petyr's bastard child. Shocked and angered that his daughter had surrendered her maidenhood to a lowborn man such as Petyr Baelish, and seeing the turmoil he caused with the engagement between Catelyn and Brandon Stark, Hoster Tully sent Petyr back to his family's seat in the Fingers, determined to let the boy rot there for the rest of his life. Hoster Tully then had Lysa abort Petyr's baby by drinking Tansy Tea, a solution which no doubt affected her ability to bare healthy children from that point on.
After the Mad King Aerys killed Brandon Stark and his Father, Hoster Tully sealed an alliance with Robert's rebellion by wedding Catelyn to Ned Stark, Brandon's little brother, and wedding Lysa to Jon Arryn, lord of the Erie and Warden of the East.
Lord Arryn had not had much luck with children, with his other wives not producing an heir for him. Knowing that it would be difficult to marry Lysa off since she was not a maiden, he made marrying her the price for his loyalty in the rebellion. Not only would his daughters be marrying into the strength of the North and the East, but he made the point that Lysa was proven to have been fertile, so Jon Arryn could expect to have an heir by her.
After the war, Robert Baratheon ascended to the throne and named Jon Arryn as Hand to the King. During this period, its assumed Petyr spent time in his family's home, reflecting on the events that had seen him banished there, and deciding that it was to his advantage to learn to become a better player among the high games the Lords play.
No doubt Petyr used his connection with Lysa and the affection she had for him to figure out a way to escape the exile Lord Hoster Tully had placed him in.
Lysa Arryn convinced her husband Jon to give Petyr a job as a minor sinecure in the customs office for the port of Gulltown, which the new Hand of the King did to please his wife. When Petyr excelled at the position by bringing in three times as much as the other collectors, Jon Arryn saw the potential Petyr had and gave him other appointments, which he also excelled at.
Eventually, Petyr conspired with Lysa to move to the seat of power in the Seven Kingdoms - Kings Landing. Under the guise that he wished to be closer to her, he prodded Lysa to pressure her husband to bring him in to a position at court. Lysa did as she was told, and pestered her husband about the appointment. Because of Petyr's wizardry at economics, and the constant pressure from his wife, Jon Arryn decided to grant the appointment, and after three years in the capitol, he rose to a position on the small council.
As Master of Coin, Littlefinger increased the crown's incomes tenfold. However, due to King Robert's spending, he also increased the crown's debt as well, taking out loans from Tywin Lannister, the Iron Bank of Braavos, and various other lenders. During this time, Petyr got the reputation of being a miracle worker, allowing gold dragons to multiply under his watch.
Petyr did not simply collect the gold and lock it in a treasure vault. He paid the king's debts in promises, and put the king's gold to work. He bought wagons, shops, ships, and houses. He bought grain when it was plentiful and sold bread when it was scarce. He bought wool from the north and linen from the south and lace from Lys, stored it, movedit, dyed it, and sold it. He would take the profits and leand them out, bringing home more money from the interest on the loans.
All the while, he moved his own men into place around the city. The Keepers of the Keys were his, all four of them. The King's Counter and the King's Scales were men he'd named. The officers in charge of all three mints. Harbormasters, tax farmers, customs sergeants, wool factors, toll collectors, pursers, wine factors - nine of every ten belonged to him. They were men of middling birth, by and large, merchants' sons, lesser lordlings, sometimes even foreigners, but judging from their results, far more able than their highborn predecessors.
No one had ever thought to question his appointments, and why should they? Littlefinger was no threat to anyone. He was a clever, smiling, genial man, everyone's friend, always able to find whatever the king or the Hand required, and yet of such undistinguished birth, one step up from a hedge knight, he was not a man to fear. He had no banners to call, no army of retainers, no great stronghold, no holdings to speak of, no prospects of a great marriage.
Of course, that was not the case. Petyr also used his entrepreneurial skill to invest in at least three whorehouses in King's Landing to help build his personal fortune. But I also believe that the investment in whorehouses also gave him access to gossip and information from around Westeros, allowed him to network with merchants, sailors, sellswords, and pirates, and also gave him blackmail information on various Knights and Lords in King's Landing. I have no doubt he also continued to hire agents to spy for him, and keep him abrest of what happened at court.
Eventually, he caught on to Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon investigating the parentage of the king's heirs. When he had Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon followed by his agents, he no doubt eventually figured out what they did - that Joffrey, Mercella, and Tommen were products of incest between Cercei and Jamie Lannister, and not the king's true heirs.
Seeing his opportunity, he approached Lysa and had her poison Jon Arryn with the Tears of Lys, an expensive poison that was colorless, tasteless, and undectable. He convinced her by telling her that Jon planned to send her son away to be fostered with Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone. This drove Lysa into a fit. Petyr told her to poison Jon for her son Robert and for their sakes, because with Jon out of the way, Petyr would have his opportunity to finally marry her. Lysa poisoned Jon Arryn's wine by bribing his squire Hugh to add it to Lord Arryn's cup, eventually leading to his death.
Once Petyr discovered that the king had decided to choose Ned Stark to be John Arryn's replacement, he saw even more opportunity. He knew that if the Starks and the Lannisters were to go to war, it would open up new avenues of advancement for him. He had Lysa write her sister telling her that the Lannisters were responsible for Jon Arryn's death. Petyr knew this would force Ned Stark to come to King's Landing and accept the position, putting him directly under Petyr's sphere of influence, since Ned Stark would be easier for Petyr to manipulate than Jon Arryn had been.
Petyr then sent Lysa to the Erie with her son under the guise of keeping them safe. He gave Lysa explicit instructions to keep the Erie out of whatever conflicts may arise from his intended plots, because his eventual plan had to do with the Erie remaining strong and untouched by war.
As he's waiting for the King to return with Eddard Stark, an unexpected development falls into Littlefinger's lap. Captain Moreo Tumitis brought Catelyn Stark and Rodrick Cassell to King's Landing so they could warn Ned about the assassination attempt on Bran and try to find out more about the Valyrian Steel dagger the would-be assassin used. However, Captain Moreo informed to Lord Varys, the King's Master of Whisperers, about his passengers.
With Lord Renly, Lord Stannis, and Ser Barriston away, that left only Littlefinger and Grand Maester Pycell to report to. Varys chose to approach Littlfinger with the information because of his history with the Tullys. Surprised by her sudden appearance, Littlefinger let's Varys know to meet him at one of his brothels where he'll have Catelyn Stark escorted to. However, he doesn't tell Varys he plans to get her there early so he might have time to talk to her before he appears.
Littlefinger has some of the Gold Cloaks of the City Watch (many of whome are on his payroll) go to the inn where Catelyn is hiding and excort her to one of his brothels where he is waiting for her. When he asks her why she is in King's Landing, she lies about missing her husband, but Littlefinger knows her well enough that he points out she would not have left her family and her duty in Winterfell if it were not important.
When Varys shows up, he's armed with information his informants gave him about Ser Rodrick asking around about a dagger. He asks Catelyn about the weapon, and asks Varys to find out who owned the knife.
Sensing an opportunity, and knowing that the knife must have something to do with Catelyn's surprise visit and wounded hands, Littlefinger claims the knife used to belong to him, but that he lost it in a bet to Tyrion Lannister. The ploy here is obvious, by linking the blade to a Lannister, it will further accellerate the tensions between the two houses, and also turn Catelyn into an unwitting pawn who will help Petyr to ingratiate himself to her husband, a man who wields great power as the King's Hand.
When Ned Stark finally arrives in King's Landing, tensions between the Northmen and the Lannisters are already high because of events that transpired on the road. Ned is summoned immediately to a meeting of the small council where he and Petyr Baelish meet for the first time.
After the council meeting, Littlefinger comes up on a weary Ned Stark trying to make his way back to his quarters. Petyr tells Ned he's going the wrong way and asks him to follow him. When asked where he is taking him, Littlefinger tells Ned he's taking him to his wife. Ned follows Petyr warily as he leads him to a secret passage outside of the castle, and down a hidden ladder in the cliffs, to where two horses await. (Its possible Littlefinger had this ladder in the cliffside created just for him, since only he and his agents seem to know about it and use it.)
Littlefinger takes Ned to a brothel in town that Littlefinger owns. When Ned realises what the house is, he feels Petyr is playing some jape on him. When Petyr tells him his wife is inside, Ned becomes angry and accosts Petyr, drawing his knife. But before any damage can be done, Rodrik Cassell appears and confirms that Lady Catelyn is indeed inside.
Catelyn informs Ned of the attempt at Bran's life as Littlefinger looks on. Ned is troubled and confused at the news, but Petyr helpfully suggests that Tyrion did not act alone in scheming to kill Ned's son, further increasing the tensions between the Starks and Lannisters by implying the Queen had something to do with this plot.
Knowing that his lie concerning the dagger could bite him, Petyr points out that accusing the Queen without proof is treason and cause for execution. He also points out how easy it would be for Tyrion to deny the accusation if its made, saying that his blade was lost or stolen. Slyly, Petyr councils Ned to forget the whole thing every happened and move on, even though he knows Ned's prickly honor would not allow that.
Catelyn tells Ned that Petyr has promised her that he will help Ned find the truth about Jon Arryn's death. Ned knows that Catelyn and Petyr were once very close, so he makes common cause with Petyr, even though he doesn't like it. This was most likely planned by Petyr so that he could exhert some influence on the new Hand, as well as lead Ned to the clues that Jon Arryn and Stannis had found concerning Joffery's parentage.
After Ned Stark gets settled in as Hand, Littlefinger visits him with his first lead. Four persons of interest for Ned Stark to investigate. Ned had looked into questioning Jon Arryn's household servents, but Lysa Arryn had taken them back to the Erie with her (conveniently removing any legitimate witnesses from Ned's reach). However, Littlefinger knows of a few who still remain within King's Lading to dangle in front of Ned.
These people consist of a pregnant kitchen girl hastily wed to one of Renly's grooms, a stablehand who joined the City Watch, a potboy discharged from service for theft, and Jon Arryn's squire - Ser Hugh of the Vale, who was knighted after Jon Arryn's death. I believe that some of these (or all of them) were kept in the city by Littlefinger as his agents, with the possible exception of Ser Hugh.
Ned is pleased to learn of Ser Hugh, since a man's squire typically knows much of his comings and goings - something Littlefinger knows as well, I am sure. No doubt Littlefinger had a role in getting King Robert to Knight ser Hugh after Lysa enlisted him to help her poison John Arryn, and found the coin to pay him for his service (Which Ser Hugh later used to buy his armor). I also find it convenient that Littlefinger waited until the tourney that Ser Hugh had entered was to start before informing Ned about him. I believe Littlefinger knew Ser Hugh would not say anything about his role in the death of Jon Arryn, so there was no danger in pointing Ned towards him. However, he could also use Ser Hugh to throw some more suspicion on the Lannisters.
Rather than have Ned question Ser Hugh himself (on the off chance that he could force Ser Hugh into giving up something because of his position as Hand), Littlefinger instructs Ned on how to covertly follow these leads. He points out the spies that are watching Ned's actions - some from Varys and some from the Queen. He tells Ned that if he wants to continue his investigation without attracting attention, he must do so though proxies, men he could trust, to go out and gather information for him.
Doing this actually goes towards winning Ned's trust - at least more trust than he previously had. Littlefinger even goes so far as to warn Ned not to trust him, but no doubt Petyr know's Stark's nature well enough that loyal service and good council would win him over little by little.
Thus, the game Littlefinger has arranged begins to play out. Ned is studying the book of the heritage of the great houses that Jon Arryn had been looking into before his death, supplied to him by Grand Maester Pycell. The questioning of the four leads Littlefinger had supplied hadn't born much fruit. However, the stableboy did tell Jory that Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon visted a brothel together, something which definitely catches Ned's attention, especially since Stannis has a famous hatred for whores and brothels.
Ned had also learned that Jon Arryn had visited an armorer before he died, this information coming from the serving girl in the kitchens. It's not beyond possibility that Littlefinger had instructed all the people questioned to give these clues to Ned's men - a tactic he later uses on the Tyrells when negotiating the Tyrell/Lannister alliance, using proxies to spread information he wants his targets to know about.
As Ned's men begin investigating brothels and Ned discovers one of King Robert's bastards is working for the armorer that Jon Arryn had visited, the Hand's Tourney was underway. During the jousting lists, Ser Gregor Clegane killed Ser Hugh by driving his lance through the knight's unprotected throat. It can be speculated that Littlefinger had paid Ser Gregor to kill Ser Hugh, knowing that a Lannister bannerman being the cause of death for one of Ned Stark's best leads would further make Ned suspicious of the Lannisters. But more than that, it would also rid Littlefinger of a loose end (much like Ser Dontos, later in the course of events).
Of course, of even more importance at the tourney, Lillefinger has his first interaction with Sansa Stark, a girl who instantly reminds him of his boyhood love, Catelyn. Her beauty instantly snags him, and his attraction to her is painfully evident to Sansa, who tends to feel ill-at-ease around Petyr. It may have been at this point that Petyr began to wonder how best to win Sansa over to him, but this is unclear, especially since she was engaged to the crown prince. It may have been nothing but a passing fancy on Petyr's part at this point.
Its also during the tourney where we see Littlefinger's penchant for gambling. By all accounts, Littlefinger is a cautious and careful man, but he also seems to enjoy throwing caution to the wind at times for the thrill of it. We see this in his pursuit of Sansa, and his indulgences with games of chance. This also seems to be his achillies heel, since it is only when he takes these risks that he makes mistakes that could foul up his plans. Oddly enough, its because of this bet that Renly makes note that Tyrion Lannister always bets on his brother, something that could easily poke a hole in the hastily crafted story Littlefinger originally used to set Catelyn and Ned against the Lannisters. But fortunately for Petyr, Ned did not pick up on it.
Then next big development in Littlefinger's plan comes when Ned resigns from his office as the King's Hand. This occurs when the small council is presented with news from Jorah Mormont that Danearys Targarean is pregnant, and this drives King Robert into a fit. In a council meeting, Robert is set on hiring assassins to kill Danaerys, much to Ned's disapproval. When it comes to Littlefinger's turn to speak, he is in favor of the King's wishes to kill her, though he does suggest that rather than hiring assassins, which are expensive, they offer titles and lordships to whomever can enact the deed. This way, he could appease the King's wishes to kill her, but at the same time ensure that the attempts were likely to fail - because of incompetent would-be assassins putting the Dothraki on guard. (Whether this was to further engraciate himself with Ned, or because Littlefinger himself had plans for Danearys at this point, is unclear. But I'm willing to bet at least one of those is true.)
Petyr then approaches Ned after the meeting, while Ned is in the process of packing his things to flee the city. Littlefinger fears that if Ned leaves the city before he's figured out that Joffrey isn't Robert's trueborn son, he might not get the war he's been wanting, so he offers to take Ned to the brothel he's been searching for that night, knowing it will lure Ned into staying.
At this point, word had reached King's Landing about Catelyn's abduction of Tyrion Lannister. After bringing Ned to the brothel he'd been searching for, Jamie Lannister and his men ambush Stark, his guards, and Petyr on their way back to the Red Keep. It seems to me that it's possible the Lannister spies could have followed Ned to the brothel and reported back to Jamie, but I think its just as likely that Littlefinger may have had one of his own agents deliver the intel to the Lannisters, knowing that Jamie is brash and would attack Ned Stark.
If Jamie had killed Ned, Littlefinger knew that this would escalate the tension between the West and the North. However, even just the attack was enough to set the two houses at odds, eventually sending Jamie back to his father, who began ravvaging the riverlands not long after. At the very least, it would keep Ned Stark in King's Landing, which is probably where Littlefinger wanted him most.
Of course, one thing that can be said about Littlefinger is that he is not a fighter. As soon as he saw the situation, he trotted away to get the city Watch, leaving Ned and his men to fend for themselves. It would seem ever since he lost his duel to Brandon Stark, he has avoided trying his hand at fighting. And Littlefinger does have a knack for removing himself from dangerous situations, as we see with his departure from King's Landing, both before the Battle of the Blackwater, and the death of King Joffery.
However, as things turn out, Ned is spared, suffering only a broken leg from his encounter with the Lannisters, but losing the most trusted of his personal guard. Once Ned had recovered enough from his broken leg, King Robert made his ammends with him and reinstated Ned as Hand of the King before going off on a hunting expedition. During this period, Ned would have to sit in Robert's place on the Iron Throne and dispense the King's justice.
One such instance saw survivors from the Riverlands come before the court, telling tales of brigands raiding their lands and killing their people. The River Lords in attendance claimed it was the Lannisters, though they had no proof to back up that claim. However, they were able to identify Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides, and the one leading the raids.
The west had been a tinderbox ever since Catelyn Stark had kidnapped Tyrion Lannister. Both Casterly Rock and Riverrun were calling their banners, and armies were amassing beneath the Golden Tooth. It was only a matter of time before blood began to flow. Now, it was up to Ned to staunch the flow. No doubt, Littlefinger was interested to see how Stark would handle it.
Stark promised the victims justice against Gregor Clegane, and Ser Loras took this opportunity to volunteer to go after Ser Gregor (in no small part seeking revenge for being attacked at the Hand's Tourney).
However, Stark engaged Lord Berric Dondarrion to go after Ser Gregor, slighting Ser Loras.
When the court session was breaking up, Littlefinger overheard Sansa saying her father should have sent Ser Loras after the Mountain instead of Lord Dondarrion as she was descending from the dias. This caught his attention, since Petyr knew that the wiser strategy would have been to send Ser Loras as well. After all, by committing the favorite son of Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden, against the Lannisters, it would have given Ned Stark powerful allies from the south in his conflict with the West (a fact that seems to have been completely lost on Ned). Could it be this young, beautiful girl who reminded him so much of the girl he fell in love with so long ago at Riverrun possessed some level of cunning her father did not?
When he asked Sansa her reasons, she replied that in the stories, the young beautiful heroes always defeated the monsters. Petyr couldn't help but delight in her innocence. He left her with one last piece of advice. "Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day to your sorrow." (No doubt this is the same lesson Petyr himself learned the day he dueled with Brandon Stark.)
When word reached Petyr Baelish that the King had been gravely wounded in a hunting accident, he knew his moment had arrived. Varys had been aware of the Lannisters trying to murder Robert for years, so it's no great stretch to know that Littlefinger knew about this too, and by having Jon Arryn killed, he also knew that when the King brought Ned Stark to court, it would force Cercei to try and kill her husband even quicker. With the King out of the way, the Starks and Lannisters would be at each other's throats, and he'd be exactly where he wanted to be in the conflict - right in the middle.
With the King dying, Petyr was well aware that both Cercei and Ned Stark would be vying for control. The only question he had to answer was who would he back? And of course, he'd back the player that made the most sense. After all, Petyr controlled the City Watch (because he controlled the purse strings), so he knew it was just a matter of time before he'd be called into play.
And it would seem Ned Stark was the first to call for him.
When Petyr arrived in the Hand's chambers, Ned had already dispatched a letter to Lord Stannis. Varys had already hinted that Stark would become the Lord Protector upon Robert's death, and Petyr wasted no time congratulating Ned Stark on the honor. Stark's reaction, of course, confirmed the appointment - something Petyr was sure rankled Stark to no end.
Ned finally confesses to Petyr something Littlefinger's known since the beginning - that King Robert will leave behind no trueborn children, and that Prince Joffrey and Prince Tommen were born from incest between Cercei and Jamie Lannister. This of course, means Stark planned to give the throne to Stannis Baratheon.
Of course, having Stannis sit the throne was not something Petyr wanted. Stannis was no friend of Petyr's, a hard and unyielding man. He was not easily corruptable, manipulated, or mislead, and would most likely cast Petyr out of his hard won position once he had taken the crown. This would not do, so Petyr cleverly suggested an alternative to Stark.
Petyr made the point that Stannis could not hope to sit the Iron Throne without Ned's help, and that if Stark were smart, he'd place Joffrey as King instead. Petyr tries to make it clear that Stannis will have to kill Cercei and her children if he hopes to sit the throne securely, and that Tywin Lannister would not sit idly by while his kin are killed. He paints a scenario where civil war breaks out, the Lannisters and their allies on one side, and Stannis and his on the other, and the realm will bleed. (And honestly, this is probably the truth of the matter.)
But Petyr then poses an alternate scenerio which suits everyone much better (and one which plays to his advantage far more as well). He proposes that Ned Stark seize power for himself, make peace with the Lannisters, wed Sansa to Joffery, Arya to Tommen, and Rob to Myrcella. He points out it will be four years before Joffery is old enough to rule in his own right, and that is enough time to foster the boy so he looks to Ned like a father and therefore easily controllable. And if he proves otherwise, four years is enough time to get rid of Stannis, reveal Joffrey is the product of incest, and then seat Renly on the throne.
Its a clean scenerio, one that avoids the war, safeguards House Stark, keeps the Lannisters at a disadvantage, and rids them of Stannis. Not only that, it sets up Littlefinger as a strong ally of Ned's, and in exchange for his help, Littlefinger will simply ask to become a proper Lord, so that he might continue with his plans to wed Lady Lysa and gain the Vale. (This is not explicitly stated, but judging by what Littlefinger later asks of Tywin Lannister, once can guess this is what he was angling for.)
However, Ned is having none of it. He points out that the Lannisters killed Jon Arryn, his men, and tried to kill his son. There would be no peace with the Lannisters, and Stannis was the rightful heir.
At this point, it became clear to Petyr that Ned Stark was not the man he wanted to attach himself to. The man's honor was far too ridgid, and his goals were counter that to Petyr's. However, Stark still needed his help, and asked Petyr to deliver the City Watch to him so that he had enough swords to fight the Lannisters. Petyr agrees to bribe the City Watch on Ned's behalf, and takes his leave.
After his conversation with Ned Stark, it became clear that he was not the horse Petyr wished to hitch his saddle to. This made it clear that Petyr's best play was to approach Cercei and let her know that Ned Stark had written Lord Stannis, meant to sit him on the throne, and depose Joffrey with the help of the City Watch.
The Queen had known of Stark's plans thanks to Sansa, who had come to her with Ned's plans to send them away from King's Landing, and was already making arrangements to secure Joffery's rise to the throne when Littlefinger approached her. He offered to deliver her the City Watch, but also made it clear he had lied to Ned Stark and said he would deliver the watch to him. This, no doubt tickled Cercei, and when asked why he would betray Ned Stark, he probably told her that his love for Stark's wife did not mean he'd commit treason against the rightful heir to the throne.
This move also made sense in other respects. Littlefinger knew that Cercei was a woman of low cunning who was easily manipulated, and having the Lannisters on the throne would help his goals far more than Stark ever would. So Littlefinger made the arrangements with Janos Slynt to deliver the city's Gold Cloaks to Cercei, offering him Lordship of Harrenhall in return for his allegience to the Lannisters. Money was good, but the promise of raising Slynt to a Lord would ensure that the City Watch would not betray them, no matter what Ned Stark did or said.
When the King finally died, Cercei wasted no time crowning Joffery and setting the stage for the confrontation with Ned Stark. Littlefinger dutifully reported to Ned, telling him that he had done as promised, and that the City Watch was Stark's to use as he saw fit.
Ned went to the throne room with Petyr at his side, to face Joffery and Cercei, with his household gaurd at his side, and the City Watch at his back. Cercei gave him one final chance to keep from making his play against her and her son, but Ned stark's honor kept him from backing away.
Once Ned committed to capturing Joffery and Cercei, the trap was sprung. Janos Slynt ordered his men to attack Ned's guards, and Petyr himself grabbed a knife from Ned's belt and held it up to his neck, capturing the Lord of Winterfell while making clear he had been telling him the truth the entire time - "I did warn you not to trust me, you know."
(The fact that Littlefinger trusts no one is a trait that serves him well, even among his own sworn men. Oswell Kettleback had been in Petyr's service a long time, and Ser Lothar Brune is close-mouthed by nature. Yet Kettleback watches Brune for him, and Brune watches Kettleback, a system of checks and balances to make sure his men stay loyal to him, and if they don't Petyr knows about it beforehand. This was a lesson Ned Stark never learned, because he believed in people's honor, while Petyr believes in people's self-interest.)
After the dust settled from the apprehension of Ned Stark, the Queen took over duties of Regent, and one of their first tasks was dealing with Sansa Stark and getting her to publicly state her father was a traitor, to help further justify the seizing of Ned, and appeal to the rest of her family to keep them from taking up arms against the crown. When brought before the small council, it was revealed she'd been placed in a tower room with her friend Jeyne Poole, the daughter of Winterfell's steward. Of course, Cercei did not want Sansa to have any companions, so Littlefinger offered to find a place to put her outside of the city. (Later, Jeyne would be used to substitute for Arya Stark, and married off to Roose Bolton's bastard to help him lay claim to the North. It's unknown if Petyr had a hand in this, since it seemed to be Tywin's way of shoring up Roose Bolton's support.)
Of course, seeing Sansa again in the small council chamber, alone, helpless, and beautiful, no doubt quickened Littlefinger's plotting. I believe its here where he started planning how he might take possession of her away from the Lannisters. Of course, at this point she was still engaged to the King, which would make stealing away with her difficult.
After Sansa sent out the letters - to Robb, Catelyn, Lysa Arryn, and Hoster Tully - Joffrey held his first official session of court as the new King of the Seven Kingdoms. The session was meant to summon all the great lords to do fealty to him to prove their loyalty. Failure to do so would mean forfieture of their lands and titles. He also named his grandfather, Tywin Lannister, as the new Hand of the King, and his mother Queen Cercei as Regent, with a place for her on the small council. He also took this opportunity to reward the commander of the City Watch, Janos Slynt, by naming him Lord of Harrenhall.
But the biggest moment, by far, was when Joffrey dismissed Ser Barriston Selmy, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, from duty, and replaced him with The Hound, Sandor Clegane. It would seem that Littlefinger knew the decision to dimiss Ser Barriston was a foolish thing to do, but it was Joffery's notion and he went along with it because he knew it to most likely be the first of many missteps made by the young new king and his council, thus creating the chaos that he thrives so well upon.
Finally, Sansa Stark approached the King and begged for mercy for her father. Joffrey agreed to grant that mercy if her father confessed his crime. Cercei knew Ned Stark was more valuable alive than dead, and offered him a deal. She would spare his life, and that of Sansa's, if he would confess his crimes, denounce Stannis and Renly, and have his son return to the King's peace. In return, Ned Stark would be sent to the Wall to take the black and serve out the rest of his days.
Stark agreed, and a public spectacle was to take place on the holy steps of the Great Sept of Baelor where Ned Stark would confess his crimes, and the King would appear to be merciful and send him to the Wall.
Littlefinger was in attendance this day, and saw when Joffrey suddenly took a hard stance against all traitors to his crown and ordered Ned Stark executed.
The chaos that ensued with the beheading was something I'm sure Littlefinger relished. Now, the Northmen would surely go to war with the Lannisters, which meant that the crown now had three armies to deal with instead of just those of Renly and Stannis. That, and Littlefinger was now permanently rid of a man he considered to be an enemy, and the object of his affection - Sansa Stark - was now completely alone and vulnerable.
Things quickly got more interesting after the execution of Ned Stark. Now there were four kings in Westeros, and soon there would be a fifth. War was ravaging the Riverlands, Renly was marching east with the power of Highgarden at his back, Stannis was still a looming threat, and Robb Stark had defeated Jamie Lannister, taken him captive, and cut off Tywin Lannister from his supply line to the West. Soon, the Ironborn would hold Moat Calin, and be raiding in the North.
The stage was set for Petyr Baelish to make his moves. He just had to wait for the right time to do so.
In the tourney on Joffrey's 13th name day, Lothar Brune, a freerider in the service of Petyr, was set to joust Ser Dontos the Red. But before the joust could occur, Ser Dontos embarassed himself by running out onto the tourney grounds drunk and half naked, chasing his mount. It was an amusing site to all but King Joffrey, who ordered the drunken knight killed, but Sansa Stark cunningly was able to save the poor knight by convincing Joffrey it would be crueler to make him a fool instead of killing him.
During the tourney, the small council was meeting, and it was here where Petyr, the Queen, and others recieved Tyrion Lannister, bearing a message from his father that he was to assume the roll of the Hand of the King in Tywin's absence. No doubt Petyr knew that Tyrion suspected him of framing the Imp for the attempt on Bran Stark's life, but also knew he had no proof and could do nothing against him. However, we do get to see that Petyr does tend to believe in curses at this point when he recommends to Tyrion that he not stay in the Tower of the Hand, since the last four Hands met with terrible ends. This also comes into play later when Petyr expresses his belief in the curse of Harrenhall. (Could this mean that Petyr is a believer in magic and the supernatural? I think so.)
As Tyrion goes on to secure his position as Hand by securing the City Watch for himself, Stannis sends out Ravens to all the great houses exposing the incestual relationship between Queen Cercei and her brother Jamie, declaring that Joffrey was an abomination and not the true King. Littlefinger also points out that Stannis has taken up with a red priest.
The Queen, however is irate. She suggests ripping out the tounges of anyone spreading the tale of incest. Tyrion feels doing so would only lend it creedence, and Littlefinger agrees that they do nothing to stop the spreading of the tale. (Though Tyrion believes the commoners will grow bored with the tale, should Littlefinger ever need to make a move against the Lannisters, having the tale grow far and wide would give him the support he would need to depose any of Cercei's children.)
Petyr then suggests to try and counter Stannis's strategy by spreading tales that Stannis was a cuckhold and that his child was beget by his fool Patchface, and not by him. Cercei loves the notion, further winning him her favor. However, the tale will also weaken Stannis in the eyes of the common folk, and cause him to grow more wroth with the Lannisters - both things that Petyr could conceivably turn to his advantage down the line.
However, Tyrion soon grows wise to Petyr's skill at deception, in no small part because of his suggestion about spreading the false tale about Stannis. This puts him on Tyrions radar more than he had been, something that may have actually been part of Petyr's plan.
Petyr proposes they spread the tale through his whorehouses, and have Vary's send agents into the ale-houses and pot shops to help spread the word. Indeed, this seems to be Littlefinger's preferred method of subterfuge, sending out others to spread lies or information that filter out among his targets.
Now Tyrion went about trying to find who among the small council was more loyal to his sister as a way to further strengthen his position as Hand and marginalize the Queen. One of his suspects was Petyr Baelish, and so Tyrion approached Petyr with an interesting proposal, one that was actually meant to test his loyalties, but at the time Petyr did not know that. The Lannisters needed the Vale's armies if they were going to stand a chance against either Stannis or Renly. In fact, this was the scenerio Petyr had been hoping for since sending Lysa off to keep the Vale out of any of the fighting. Also, his spreading of the rumors that he had deflowered both Lysa and Catelyn made him the man to go to to negotiate with Lysa, and Tyrion did not disappoint.
Tyrion offered to find Jon Arryn's real killer, and officially declare Lysa's son as Warden of the East. And to sweeten the deal, he offered to wed Myrcella to Robert Arryn in exchange for the Vale siding with the Lannisters in the fight. This offer took Petyr by a bit of surprise. Tyrion was basically giving Lysa a royal hostage to foster at the Erie. When Tyrion revealed that Cercei had no knowledge of this offer, Petyr had to laugh. Then, he asked what was in it for him.
Tyrion made the offer that for Petyr's service, he would be granted Harrenhall, one of the richest plums in the Seven Kingdoms. Its lands were broad and fertile, its great castle as formidable as any in the realm, and greater even than Riverrun.
Petyr liked the idea of gaining Harrenhall, but he remained coy, telling Tyrion the castle was cursed. Tyrion dismissed his concerns and sweetened the pot by saying he'd make Petyr liege lord of the Trident, which would mean all the Riverlords, including the Tullys, would be forced to do him fealty for their lands.
The offer was exactly what Petyr had been hoping for. With a stroke, Tyrion would make Petyr one of the greatest Lords in the realm. Of course, such generosity did make Petyr a bit suspicious. However, he agreed to play along, knowing that the title of Lord of Harrenhall was exactly what he needed to carry out his plans.
As Petyr went about securing a ship for passage to Gulltown to arrange the match between Robert and Mercella, he used the opportunity to reach out to Sansa Stark. When Petyr heard of how Sansa had saved Ser Dontos Hollard at the Tourney for King Joffrey's 13th Name Day (most likely from Lothar Brune, who was set to joust against Ser Dontos when Sansa saved him), Petyr believed he found the perfect catspaw to help him extricate Sansa Stark from the clutches of the Lannisters.
He approached Ser Dontos in secret after he had been stripped of his knighthood and made a fool by King Joffrey's command. He promised the drunken old knight ten thousand golden dragons if he would enter into his employ and befriend Sansa Stark, eventually helping her to escape King's Landing. Ser Dontos agreed.
Now that he had his agent, Petyr had one of Sansa's maids slip a message under her pillow that instructed her to meet Ser Dontos in the godswood of King's Landing. The godswood was chosen because no other place in King's Landing was safe from Vary's spies. Since it had no place for them to hide, Petyr could be certain Sansa could talk to Ser Dontos about escape without his plans being discovered by the Enuich. But it also was the perfect cover, since it was well known that Sansa prayed to the Old Gods of the North, so frequent visits to the Godswood by her would not raise suspicion. Now it was just a matter of time before he could ensure leaving with Sansa Stark, the young girl who reminded him so much of his childhood love.
However, it was at this time that Petyr discovered the offer Tyrion had made about Harrenhall had been a lie. Tyrion planned to send Mercella south, to the Dornish, which would mean a match between her and Robert Arryn would be impossible. It was a disheartening development for Petyr, but one that could soon be easily rectified, even if it meant having to delay his plans a bit.
One positive development was when Tyrion sent off Cercei's Lannister guardsmen to escort their cousin Cleos Frey back to Riverrun after Rob Stark had sent him to King's Landing with peace conditions. Without her own guard, the Queen had her cousin Ser Lancel hire sellswords for her. Anticipating Cercei's play because of Lancel informing to him, Tyrion sent his man Bronn out to find sellswords he could place in Cercei's employ, but who would actually inform to him and keep him aware of his sister's plots.
Once he heard that Bronn was looking for sellswords (no doubt due to his ownership of many of the brothels in King's Landing), Petyr contacted Oswell Kettleback to get his three sons to King's Landing. Placing them in the right locations in the city, it was not long before the Kettlebacks were noticed by Bronn and brought into the employ of the Lannisters, as men seemingly loyal to Cercei, but informing to Tyrion. However, they were ultimately informing to Petyr the entire time, thus giving Petyr three well-placed agents within the Lannister power struggles to keep him informed so as not to be fooled again.
But before any more court intrigue could take presidence, word reached King's Landing that Lord Renly had been slain, and though much of his strength har remained at Bitterbridge with his queen, all of his knights and bannermen that went with him to Storms End has switched sides to Stannis Baratheon. With Stannis now having a substantial ground army and strength at sea, King's Landing and Joffrey's rule were now in dire peril.
However, Tyrion sensed opportunity. The Tyrell's had not gone over to Stannis's cause. He theorized that if they could win over Loras Tyrell, his father Mace Tyrell may raise his banners to the Lannister cause. Tyrion decides to offer to wed King Joffrey to Margaery Tyrell, to give Mace Tyrell the Queenship he'd been seeking to place his daughter in with Renly.
Littlefinger liked the notion since it freed sansa Stark of her marriage contract to Joffrey, and brought with it sizable armies and wealth to King's Landings defense. But more than that, it brought the opportunity Littlefinger was waiting for. Littlefinger offered to go to Bitterbridge and negotiate the Tyrell alliance.
By this point, King's Landing was starving, and it looked as though Stannis would be attacking soon. By being the one to make the offer, he'd be able to remove himself from the city so he would not be in danger should Stannis win the battle when he attacked. If he was successful, he'd be positioned to reap a great reward for his service, and if he was not, he'd be able to switch sides to the victor of the battle without having harm come to him.
However, there were other reasons to send Littlefinger. He was not old like Pycell, or needed as Varys was. Neither Cercei or Tyrion wished to leave for fear the other would gain power. Petyr was on the King's council, but not of the King's blood, so he would make a poor hostage. He knew Loras Tyrell in passing at court, and has never given Mace Tyrell any reason to dislike him. But more than that, he was also considered to be a skilled negotiator. He knew that he was the best choice for the small council to send to broker the alliance. The Small Council gave him three hundred Gold Cloaks, some Knights, and all the gold and documents he required to properly treat with the Tyrells.
Petyr left as soon as he could, no doubt winning over the loyalty of his escort as they made their way to Bitterbridge. When Petyr reached Highgarden to negotiate the marriage alliance between the Tyrells and the Lannisters, he had his men spread disturbing tales among Lord Tyrell's servants about King Joffrey about his cruelty. This lead to Olenna Tyrell, also known as The Queen Of Thorns, who is Mace Tyrell's mother, enter into the negotiations with misgivings about a match between her granddaughter and the new king. Though Petyr praised King Joffrey to the skies.
Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden, had his heart set on getting his daughter to become queen, so Olenna Tyrell could not refuse the offer of a Lannister marriage alliance outright. However, Petyr had his party spread word about how Ser Preston Greenfield of the Kingsguard had died in the riot in King's Landing, and paid singers of the court to sing of Ryam Redwyne, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight - all famous members of the Kingsguard.
Because of this clever bit of subterfuge, Mace Tyrell realized there was an opening in the Kingsguard, and insisted that his youngest son Loras - known as the Kinght of Flowers - be given a position in the Kingsguard as part of the marriage contract with King Joffrey. This would not only give his youngest son some measure of stature since there was no land for him to inherit, and relieve Mace from having to set up a marriage for Loras (which would have been difficult anyway considering Loras is homosexual), but it would also put his mother Olenna at ease knowing Margery's brother was there at court to protect her from any bad behavior from Joffrey.
However, Lady Olenna wasn't convinced this solution was for the best. She knew that Loras was hot tempered, and should Joffrey mistreat Margaery, it was likely Loras would kill Joffrey and cause a disaster of epic proportions for their house. But Lady Olenna realized that she did not need joffrey to make Margaery queen, since there was another male heir with Tommen.
Thus, Petyr allowed Olenna to hatch the plot to murder Joffrey herself. In fact, it made no matter to him since his goal was simply to secure the alliance of the South with the king in order to give him the title he needed to wed Lysa Arryn. However, once he knew what Lady Olenna was planning, he offered her help in the form of Sansa Stark. How this arrangement came into play isn't known, but we do know that Petyr had a part in planning the assassination by having Ser Dontos deliver Sansa a silver hair net with poison beads in it after the Battle of the Blackwater, where the Tyrell host had joined up with the army of Tywin Lannister and defeated Stannis Baratheon as he attacked Kings Landing.
Once the Battle of the Blackwater had finished and the dust settled, Tywin Lannister took up position as the Hand of the King to his grandson Joffrey. Once he was in place, Petyr approached Tywin about compensation for brokering the Tyrell alliance. Petyr brought up the notion of making him a proper lord by granting him Harrenhall, the same rewards Tyrion had promised him for brokering a marriage pact between Myrcella and Robert Arryn.
Tywin knew that Lordships were cheap, and Harrenhall especially since it was said to be cursed and currently in the possession of their enemies from the North. Seeing it as an empty title, Tywin was happy to grant it to Littlefinger as his reward for loyal service, along with Wardenship over the Riverlands.
However, Petyr knew that though it was an empty title, all he needed was a title with enough power behind it to arrange a marriage to Lysa Arryn, which being the Lord of Harrenhall would grant him. Eventually, the Lannisters would want to bring the Erie back into Joffrey's kingdom, and when that time came, Petyr would be in the position to deliver it, and gain himself the wardenship of the East in the process. Thus, by approaching Tywin with a request for a Lordship over great seat which had proven troublesome, he would gain easy access to it. But, he could then leverage that title to gain access to a rich part of the kingdom that had a full army untouched by the war, which could put him in a very powerful position in the future.
During this time, Ser Dontos informed Petyr that Sansa Stark no longer wanted to escape, and that the Tyrells were planning to whisk her off to Highgarden and marry her to Mace Tyrell's oldest son and heir, Willas.
When Petyr met again with Tywin Lannister, he brought him news of the Tyrell plot to steal Sansa Stark. When Tywin came up with the notion to marry her to Tyrion before the Tyrells had a chance to act, Petyr suggested that Tyrion also take his place as Master of Coin on the small council as he went off to woo Lysa Arryn and bring her back into the King's Peace.
At the next meeting of the small council, Petyr announced his intention to leave King's Landing for the Erie with the intent of wooing the Lady Lysa, vowing to deliver the Vale to King Joffrey without spilling an ounce of blood. When others on the council expressed doubts to the union, Littlefinger pointed out that before, he was too lowborn to have married Lysa Arryn, but his new status as Lord of Harrenhall made the match possible, which is what he intended all along.
The Lords of the small council begrudgingly agreed to Petyr's assertion, and Tywin went on to name Tyrion as his replacement as Master of Coin. Petyr insisted that he leave to begin courting Lady Lysa immediately, though it would cause him to miss King Joffrey's wedding.
The urgency of bringing the Erie back into the King's control gave him the perfect excuse to be gone from the city during the assassination of the King, which would remove any suspicion from him since he would supposedly be far away from King's Landing during the killing.
Before he left, however, he approached King Joffrey about a wedding present - and as with any gift from Petyr Baelish, it had an alternative purpose. The Tyrell plan to steal Sansa Stark had forced him to bring her to the Lannisters, who married her off to Tyrion. For his future plans to work, he would need to have her widowed. Having framed Tyrion before for the attempt on Bran Stark's life, it was a simple matter of putting the pieces in place for another frame job.
Knowing that Tyrion was unpopular with the masses, and hated by his sister the Queen, all Petyr needed was to ensure that Tyrion was given sufficient motive to look as though he killed the King when Olenna Tyrell made her assassination attempt at the wedding. He of course helped this along by suggesting to Joffrey that having a mock joust between two dwarfs during the wedding would upset his uncle, which Joffrey picked up on. With the King's approval, Petyr made the arrangements for two dwarfs to joust duringthe wedding feast, one on a dog, the other on a pig.
Once his arrangements were made, Petyr left King's Landing, though where he went during this time its hard to say. It doesn't appear as though he went to the Erie as planned. Its possible he stayed close to King's Landing on a ship waiting for the arrival of Sansa Stark, but its also possible he conducted some business across the Narrow Sea at this time as well.
On the day of the wedding, Ser Dontos, under the employ of Petyr, ensured that Sansa wore the poisoned hair net, which Olienna Tyrell would use to kill King Joffrey. Sansa was also ready to escape King's Landing that night, with Dontos having specific instructions on how to get the two of them out of the castle from Petyr. Of course, Sansa did not know that they would make their escape under the confusion of a regicide. I'm assuming that Dontos did know, though he probably wasn't informed until the last possible moment, since he might have messed up the plan to kill the king had he known earlier.
During the wedding of King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, Littlefinger's pulling of the strings played out as he had planned them. Joffrey had already been monsterously cruel to Tyrion, but the jousting dwarves would make the whole court laugh at him, lending creedence to his motives for "killing" Joffrey.
Sansa wore the hair net, which gave Lady Olenna access to the poison, which she slipped into the cup during Tyrion's time as cupbearer. When Joffrey died, the Queen, already predisposed to hating her younger brother, accused Tyrion of killing the King and had him arrested.
As Joffrey was choking to death, Sansa fled from the great hall where the wedding feast was taking place, found her hidden possessions in the Godswood, and changed her clothes. When she examined her hair net, she realized that she had played a part in the killing of Joffrey and confronted Ser Dontos when he arrived for her.
Ser Dontos then lead Sansa Stark out of the castle, using the same route Petyr had taken Ned Stark when he first arrived in King's Landing to meet Catelyn. Sansa and Ser Dontos traveled down the side of the cliff using the hidden handholds to the beach below where a rowboat was waiting for them, manned by Oswell Kettleback.
Oswell rowed Sansa and Ser Dontos out of the Blackwater towards the sea where Petyr was waiting for them on a trading galley called The Merling King, along with Ser Lothar Brune. Once Sansa and Oswell were aboard, Petyr had his men kill Ser Dontos with crossbows, and set the body and the rowboat on fire to destroy any trace of the drunken old knight.
Sansa was horrified by the murder of Ser Dontos, so Petyr explained to her that Dontos would have sold her to the City Watch once he'd burned through the reward Petyr had promised him. Dontos was killed to keep her safe. "A bag of dragons buys a man's silence for a while, but a well-placed quarrel buys it forever." Petyr explains to Sansa that Dontos had been a catspaw acting at his behest. He could not befriend Sansa openly while at court, so he used Dontos to communicate to her.
Petyr then took Sansa to his ancestral home on the Fingers, a small three story holdfast with an even smaller group of servants, to wait for the arrival of Lysa Arryn, who Petyr had instructed to meet him there. (Lysa, of course, had no knowledge of the assassination plot of Joffrey, or Petyr's plan to abscond with Sansa Stark.)
Petyr informs Sansa that he is going to wed her aunt, and tells her of the need to disguise her. Petyr suggest that Sansa pretend to be his bastard-born "natural" daughter, since its considered rude to pry into the origins of a man's natural children. This would save them unwanted questions from curious lords and ladies. He quickly comes up with an origin for her, helping her to remember it for future reference. (Again, this shows Littlefinger's ability to come up with credible lies on the fly.)
When Lysa finally arrived, she came with a singer, a septon, and a wedding party, much to Petyr's surprise. He wanted to have a wedding in the Vale where his betrothal (and subsequent rise as Lord Protector of the Vale) could be witnessed by all the great Lords of the Erie to help secure his position, but Lysa was impatient and wanted to get married right away.
Part of Petyr's genius is adaptability. He knew that fighting Lysa and pushing for a public marriage would only cause strife, so rather than do so he demured and allowed her wish to be married immediately. This of course meant that he would have to do more work with the Lords of the Erie later to secure his position, but he had been planning on much of that anyways.
After marrying Lysa, Petyr informed her of Sansa's true identity and his plans to wed her to Lysa's son Robert, to join the power of the Vale and the North, knowing that with all her family "dead" she was now the sole heir to Winterfell. (Of course, this was dependent on Tyrion being executed and Sansa thus becoming a widow) Once Lysa was brought in on the secret, Petyr made the call to immediately travel to the Vale of Arryn to assume his seat as the Lord Protector and announce his marriage.
Once at the Vale, it soon became obvious that Jon Arryn's bannermen resented Lysa's marriage and begrudged Petyr his authority as Lord protector of the Vale. The senior branch of House Royce was close to open revolt over Lysa's failure to aid Rob Stark in the war of the five Kings, and the Waynwoods, Redforts, Belmores, and Templetons were giving house Royce every support. And Old Lord Hunter of Longbow Hall had died so suddenly that his two younger sons were accusing their elder brother of having murdered him.
Wasting no time once arriving at the Erie, Petyr quickly set about trying to shore up alliances for his tenuous grasp on power. He dismisses the Erie's captain of the guards and puts his own man, Ser Lothar Brune in his place, and then spends most of his time at the foot of the mountain, meeting with the Corbrays, whom his family had connections going back to his great grandfather who came from Braavos under their service.
House Corbray of Heart's Home is one of the main noble houses of the Vale, but it is also a poor house. Lord Lyonel Corbray is a childless man of fourty years, and Ser Lyn Corbray is a quarrelsome knight, and a homosexual with a penchant for young boys, though he is also known as a fierce fighter.
During his four days of negotiations, Littlefinger wins over Lyonel Corbray by promising to broker a marriage with a wealthy merchant's daughter, which will not only help Lord Lyonel to beget an heir, but also bring in some much needed wealth to the poor house. He also wins over the support of Lyn Corbray, by plying him with "gold, boys, and promises," but while Lord Lyonel is to openly support Petyr, Lyn is to continue to appear as though he is against Petyr, and join in plots to bring about his downfall - all the while informing to him.
After shoring up his support of the Corbrays, Petyr returns to the Erie and finds Sansa building a snow castle. Overcome with desire for the beautiful young girl, Petyr lets his guard down and kisses her, and act which is witnessed by Lady Lysa, unbeknownst to Petyr and Sansa.
Consumed with jealousy, Lysa sends her singer Marillion to fetch Sansa to the High Hall. When Sansa is delivered to her, she confronts the girl about kissing Petyr and accuses her of tempting him into infidelity, just as her mother tempted him when she was young. Lysa becomes so wroth, she grabs Sansa and dangles her before the Moon Door, threatening to push her out to her death, as Marillion plays music to drown out the argument and Sansa's cries for help.
When Petyr heard the commotion, he entered the High Hall through the Lord's entrance on the dias, since Marillion had barred the main entrance to keep the guards at bay. Petyr saves Sansa from being thrown out the Moon Door, and goes to comfort his Lady wife, before finally throwing her out the Moon Door himself.
Knowing how unstable Lysa was, Petyr no doubt had planned to eventually rid himself of her in some fashion. But again, Petyr's great stregth is his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. After Lysa starts babbling about how he had her poison Jon Arryn and set up the Starks for war with the Lannisters, Petyr sees her for the liability she is and disposes of her. He then blames the singer Marillion for killing her, and has his guards seize him and throw him into a sky cell.
Before word can get out about Lysa's death, Petyr must shore up his story. With Lysa gone, his grasp on the Vale is even thinner than it had been. The only people who know that he actually killed Lysa are Sansa and Marillion. His first task is to get Sansa to agree to a version of events where Marillion was the one who threw Lady Lysa through the Moon Door.
Petyr constructs a series of events where he orders his Lady Wife to dismiss the unlikable singer from service. Consumed with jealousy and indignation, the singer hurls Lady Lysa out the Moon Door, killing her in front of Sansa before the guards could stop him.
Next, he tells Lysa's son Robert the tale. Once Robert is convinced, Petyr knows the only thing left is to have the final witness, Marillion, comply to his series of events. Petyr has Mord torture the singer until the singer agrees to confess that he was the one who killed Lady Lysa. It cost him his eyes and three fingers before Petyr approached him and promised him freedom if he agreed to confess. Eventually, Marillion willingly accepted Petyr's version of events and agreed to state as much to anyone who asked.
Once his alliby is set, Petyr begins work by sending out letters to various Lords about Lady Lysa's death. He controls who gets the news first, and sets up to have the confession be given to Lord Nestor Royce, who is the castellon of the Gates of the Moon, the large stronghold that guards the base of the mountain.
Nestor Royce is a member of the lesser branch of House Royce, but had been High Steward to the Vale for 14 years prior to Jon Arryn's death. He himself was a suitor for Lady Lysa, but she rejected him.
Lord Nestor arrived at the Erie, along with his son Ser Albar, a dozen knights, and a score of men-at-arms. Petyr brought them into the High Hall where he had Lysa's son Robert make claim that Marillion had killed his mother. When Lord Nestor asked if he had seen the deed himself, Robert told him that Sansa and Petyr had informed him. Now, Sansa gave witness about Marillion's guilt. Nestor and his men did not need any more reason to hate the singer, who had ridiculed them during his time with Lady Lysa, and they accepted Sansa's account of the events.
Then, it was Petyr's turn. Petyr confessed that it was his fault Lysa died, saying it was his decision to send the singer away that drove him to kill her. The reverse psychology of this confession stirred Albar Royce to go so far as to insist that Petyr not blame himself for Lysa Arryn's death.
By this point, all were convinced of the singer's guilt. Now, the final nail in the coffin would be the confession. Petyr produced Marillion, who had been groomed to be presentable before Lord Nestor and his companions. This was a calculated risk on Petyr's part. If the singer suddenly decided to tell the truth, Petyr and Sansa would insist he was lying to save his life, and Lord Nestor would agree since he was already convinced of the singer's guilt. However, if the singer stuck to the agreement he had with Petyr, it would further solidify his version of events.
As it turns out, Marillion stayed true to his agreement with Petyr and confessed that he was the one who killed Lady Lysa. Petyr had him returned to his sky cell (where its believed Marillion later committed suicide, or was possibly killed now that he had served his purpose), and invited Nestor's men to engage in a feast he had prepared for their arrival. He invited lord Nestor himself to attend him privately in his solar.
Once there, Nestor Royce informs Petyr that his cousin, Bronze Yohn Royce, means to question the singer himself, and will come in force alongside Symond Templeton, Lady Waynwood, Lord Belmore, Young Lord Hunter, Horton Redfort, Strong Sam Stone, the Tolletts, the Shetts, the Coldwaters, and Lyn Corbray. Its clear that Bronze Yohn means to remove Petyr as Lord
However, Petyr had been expecting this. He plays it off that he will not resist if it comes to that, before flattering Lord Nestor about the high regard Lady Lysa held him in. He produces a piece of parchment, granting him the title of Keeper of the Gates of the Moon, making him a Lord in truth as well as name. Its a title that Nestor had longed for, and Petyr knew he'd happily accept it.
It was Petyr who had signed the grant as Lord Protector of the Vale, though. He lied to Lord Nestor that Lady Lysa had died before she could sign it herself, but the real reason was that if Petyr was removed as Lord Protector of the Vale, the grant could be called into question, so it was now in Lord Nestor's best interest to ally himself with Littlefinger to protect his claim.
This was a shrewd move, since Nestor was overproud and prickly, had Petyr offered him an outright bribe, Lord Nestor would have taken it as a slight against his honor. But this way, Petyr allows Lord Nestor to believe that Lysa Arryn actually valued him above her other bannermen, while at the same time shoring up his support.
After gaining the support of Lord Nestor, his cousin Bronze Yohn has made his move. He sent out a declaration, signed at Runestone by himself, Lady Waynwood, Lords Hunter, Redfort, and Belmore, and Symond Templeton, the Knight of Ninestars. They declare their intention to remove Petyr as Lord Protector of the Vale, forcibly if need be.
However, rather than seeking help, Petyr simply writes King's Landing asking Grand Maester Pycelle to send him some old tapestries of Roberts. It could be these tapestries are the Targaryan tapestries that Robert had removed when he became King, but this hasn't been clarified as of yet. I theorize that during this time, Petyr is well aware of what Daenerys is up to in Meereen, and is starting his preperations for her eventual arrival. Petyr has enough informants to know that the tales of Dragons from across the narrow sea are not to be dismissed, as they are in King's Landing.
Now that Bronze Yohn has made his move, its time for Petyr to counter it. The "Lords Declarant" as they have come to be known had camped themselves at the foot of the Erie and were denying food and supplies until Petyr handed over Lord Robert to their care. Petyr offers them a parlay, and asks them to come up to the Erie, granting them safe conduct. This brings the Lords Declarant up the mountain to meet with him. His ally Lord Nestor is escorting the Lords up the mountain, and his hidden ally, Lyn Corbray, is among them as well.
By this time, Petyr begins having the Erie's Measter begin giving Lord Robert a small amount of sweetsleep to help calm his shaking so he may greet the Lords Declarant, but I also believe this is the start of a slow poisoning of Robert Arryn, since Petyr plans to eventually remove Robert and blame it on his poor health. Petyr also has some food prepared for the Lords so they may be put at ease with the guest rite ensuring their safety once in the Erie.
Petyr has his solar set up to greet the Lords, avoiding the High Hall since he does not want to give the impression that a lowborn man such as him aspires to sit in its seat. After the Lords Declarant had arrived and eaten his salt and cheese, they were escorted to the solar for the parlay. Petyr greets them and offers them wine.
Petyr starts off the meeting by praising the declaration the Lords had sent out, and says he wished they had offered to let him sign it as well. When the Lords look at him confused, Petyr repeats the vague language of "false friends and evil councilors," and insists that they join forces to root them out, since no one loves Lord Robert more than he does.
The Lords do not wish to bandy words with him. They make it clear they want Littlefinger gone, and for him to give over Lord Robert to their care. Bronze Yohn makes it clear he intends to take Lord Robert to Runestone to foster him there.
Petyr tries to create a divide among the Lords by asking why Lord Robert would not be fostered with other Lords, but they do not take the bait. The Lords Declarant stand firm in their solidarity. However, this does not stop Petyr from suggesting Lady Waynwood allow him to foster Harrold Hardyng at the Erie, the boy who is next in line to the Vale after Robert. An amused Lady Waynwood refuses him, and Lord Belmore makes a veiled threat. Petyr responds by insisting that Lady Lysa felt his proper place was as Lord Protector of the Vale over her own son. At this point, Nestor Royce voices his support for Littlefinger. Then, Petyr makes it clear that he will not be giving up his stepson Robert.
Symond Templeton then threatens Petyr with war, and Bronze Yohn insists on having Robert Arryn. Now, it's Lyn Corbray's cue to play the part Petyr had assigned him. Acting as a brash man, he draws his sword and threatens to do Petyr harm, much to the surprise and dismay of his fellow Lords Declarant. When the others shout him down and tell him to put away his sword, he "reluctantly" does so and stalks away. However, the damage has been done.
The Lords try to appologise for his actions, but Petyr does not let them off the hook, knowing that their honor will dictate they make certain concessions for their companion's actions.
Petyr uses this to claim he has more honor than some of the people in the Lords' party. he then states that he aims to fix the misrule that was done under Lysa, and asks the Lords to grant him a year to set the Vale to rights. When he still meets resistance, he claims he is more trustworthy than the Lords, who allowed steel to be wielded in a parlay.
Petyr's play against their honor shames most of the Lords to conceding to give him one year to prove himself as a worthy Lord Protector. Petyr also convinces them to lift their siege and return to their castles, or else he will be forced to go to war to them. He even goes so far to agree, in writing, to pardon all of them for their actions should they consent. With winter looming, and no one really wanting war, this causes the Lords to agree to his terms - much to the dismay of Bronze Yohn Royce.
Petyr knows that in a year's time, he will be able to shore up enough support to secure his seat of power. He plans that Lords Redfort and Waynwood are both old, so one or both of them may die. Gilwood Hunter will be murdered by his brothers, most likely the youngest one, Harlan Hunter, who was secretly responsible for his father's death (a fact that Petyr had somehow uncovered or may have had a part in). He believes he can buy Lord Belmore's allegiance since the man is corruptable, and he believes he'll be able to befriend Lord Templeton. And without the other Lords to back him, Bronze Yohn Royce will be marginalized and easily contained. In the meantime, Lyn Corbray will continue to speak against him and put himself in the middle of every plot to overthrow Petyr, all the while keeping Petyr informed of the schemes against him.
After negotiating his grace period, Petyr wasted no time. He reconciled quickly with Lord Belmore by buying his allegience, just as he said he would. He then finished the marriage contract between Lord Lyonel Corbray and the daughter of a wealthy Gulltown merchant (Who's staggering dowery would no doubt be a boon to the relatively poor house of Corbray). Since the Lords Declarant were not expected to attend, Petyr travelled across the Vale to attend Lord Lyonel's wedding since his presence would be essential. His allies also attended, the Lords Waxley, Grafton, Lynderly, and Lord Belmore.
However, to everyone's astonishment, Lady Waynwood and the Knight of Ninestars also appeared for the wedding feast. Before leaving for the wedding, Petyr had been confident of being able to win Lord Templeton (The Knight of Ninestars) to his side, and it would seem Lady Waynwood was won over after Petyr bought up most of her house's debt. (One can assume that Petyr has bought up a great deal of debt from rivals and potential allies, after the Iron Bank of Braavos start calling in debts thanks to cercei Lannister refusing to pay them what the crown owes. One can only assume this is exactly what Petyr had planned after leaving his position as master of coin.), effectively knocking the Lords Declarant from six to three in their opposition to Petyr.
At the wedding, Petyr entered into negotiations with Lady Waynwood about a marriage contract between Sansa and Waynwood's ward, Harry Hardyng - the seeds of which he planted at the initial parlay with the Lords Declarant. Petyr won over Lady Waynwood with the promise of a substantial dowery for wedding her ward to his "baseborn" daughter Alayne (Sansa). However, Lady Waynwood said she would not force Harry to marry, and it would be up to Alayne to win him over. This was fine for Petyr, who also needed time to get rid of Cercei and make sure Tyrion was dead before he could safely see Sansa wed.
While at the wedding, Petyr's ship the Merling King returned to Gulltown with Oswell Kettleback bearing news from King's Landing of the foolhardy decisions Cercei Lannister and her small council were dolling out, not the least of which was allowing the Faith to re-arm and start a military order up again. No doubt he also learned of the Ironborn raiding the western coastline as well.
Petyr is vexed by the news that Cersei is self destructing sooner than he had planned, since he was hoping for more time to shore up his power, but he adapts to the chaos. Due to the news, he feels the need to garner more swords to his cause. After all, "When the times are interesting you can never have too many swords." After the wedding Petyr made his way back to the Erie after hiring three new sellswords to his cause - Ser Byron, Ser Morgarth, and Ser Shadrich (who previously had been revealed to be searching for Sansa Stark. Whether Petyr is aware of this or not is unknown).
Back at the Gates of the Moon, Petyr explains his plans to Sansa. Petyr knows that the Lords of the Vale will never love him, nor will they love Robert Arryn, who is sickly and ill-suited to rule. However, he knows that gallant Ser Hardyng, who is Robert Arryn's heir, is a man the lords of the Vale will flock to. Eventually, Petyr plans to rid himself of Robert Arryn, and on the day of the wedding between Harrold and Alayne, reveal her to be Sansa Stark, true heir of Winterfell and the North.
Once it is revealed that Sansa Stark has joined with the Lord of the Vale, Petyr Baelish will effectively have control of the East, the North, and the Riverlands. He knows that Daenerys is preparing to cross into the Seven Kingdoms eventually, and that the Lannisters and the Tyrells will both be weakened from constant war (His mention of the "three queens" confirms this). With a Frey in Riverrun and Petyr named as the warden of the Riverlands, he'll have the full, healthy, and untouched might of the Vale at his command, along with the Riverlords (who still resent the Frays and Lannisters) at his side.
When Danny crosses and starts her invasion, Petyr is in a prime position to declare his allegience to the new Targaryan queen, and deliver the East, the North, and the Riverlands to her.
I'm sure Petyr has an even bigger part to play in the events to come. but up to now, you can easily see his brillaince when it comes to political maneuvering. Out of all the people in Westeros, he is the most dangerous by far, and its all made possible by his mad genius.
Edited by The_Halfhand, 07 June 2011 - 11:56 AM.