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The Iron Bank and the mockingbird

braavos littlefinger iron bank winds of winter stannis asha

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#1 SpaceChampion

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 01:26 AM

Given the Iron Bank is interested in retrieving its debts from Westeros, it seems that is all that there is to their backing of Stannis. But who is the Iron Bank, and what interest do they represent?

The Iron Bank could be representing itself, being wealthy people of Braavos. Anti-slavery, anti-dragon, anti-piracy, anti-chaos (disruption to trade is bad) translates to supporting Jon on the Wall, Stannis as king... but why did Tycho extend credit to ransom Asha's men from Lady Glover? It seems odd the Iron Bank would do that not even knowing if Asha was alive at that point and extending the credit without a contract with Asha, especially since Asha is not a viable candidate for lordship of the Iron Islands, and Tycho had no reason to expect Theon was even alive. I suspect there is something more going on that Tycho Nestoris being nice, or gambling on a longshot to displace Euron.

Money is power, and surely the Iron Bank is a front for many powerful people to manipulate politics and finance in the world.
Doesn't that sound like our own dear Littlefinger? He's known to have made himself wealthly as Master of Coin for Westeros, and before that in various position rising up in the Vale, the Eyrie and Gulltown. His modus operandi is to sow chaos and profit from it. I could see Littlefinger putting up money to get the Iron Bank to back factions in Westeros, targetting the longshots like Stannis and Asha, selling the bad debt to wealthy merchants in the Free Cities and making a tidy profit when Stannis and Asha default on the debts. That's right, Littlefinger is a proto-Goldman Sachs.

The alternative is Littlefinger thinks Stannis actually might have a chance at winning the wars, so backing him is part of his scheme to get Sansa (and thus himself) back in power as Lady of Winterfell, and eventually of the Mountain and Vale, and Riverlands as well. After all, Stannis doesn't really have an heir that anyone would take seriously as a ruler. A weak, child queen if Stannis should die would need a regent to rule... someone like Littlefinger, perhaps?

ETA: I should have clarified, i don't believe the Iron Bank is a front for a single person or group like the faceless men. I believe anyone with money can approach them with a scheme and as long as their money is good, they can get the Iron Bank to front it.

Edited by SpaceChampion, 02 January 2012 - 10:40 AM.


#2 Lord Varys

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 09:43 AM

Unlikely. If the Iron Bank is a front for anyone, it would be the Faceless Men. Littlefinger is far too young, and too insignificant I might add, to control such an old and powerful institution...

#3 chrisdaw

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 09:44 AM

Good theory, it is interesting we've yet to have any insight into the real players behind the Iron bank. Although I think Stannis sitting the Iron throne would mean a traitor's death for LF, simply not having directly declared for Stannis would be reason enough for Stannis, without bringing up the whole Tyrell alliance he manufactured.

#4 FanTasy

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 09:45 AM

Unlikely. If the Iron Bank is a front for anyone, it would be the Faceless Men. Littlefinger is far too young, and too insignificant I might add, to control such an old and powerful institution...


But didn't his forebearers come from Braavos? There was something about an old sigil at the hall in his keep at the Fingers.

#5 FanTasy

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 09:46 AM

Got it. Wiki: His grandfather was Braavosi, and took the Titan of Braavos as his symbol

#6 Sforzando

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:02 AM

Unlikely. If the Iron Bank is a front for anyone, it would be the Faceless Men. Littlefinger is far too young, and too insignificant I might add, to control such an old and powerful institution...


You're right, and the Faceless Men just don't seem like they'd have the interest. Unless everything they've said to Arya is a lie, of course. Maybe the Iron Bank is just the Iron Bank. But they seem far too powerful and... well, some of their decisions just seem odd.

They gave the Night's Watch food for the entire winter and gave three of their ships away just so they could get to Stannis. Now, I appreciate their information may not have been particularly up to date, but let's face it, Stannis is not a credible contender for the Iron Throne at the moment. He has a 50/50 chance of becoming lord of the North, and that's about it, the northern lords don't particularly like him and his god anyway and he will not sit easy if he wins Winterfell.

For Stannis to march south, even with the Iron Bank's support, would be madness. His men don't like his god to say the least, don't want to embark on another bloody crusade southward, and will follow Rickon the second he is revealed, most of his southerners are dead as is his main ally at the Wall, he has wildlings and possibly Others at his back, and worse, he will find very little support south of the Neck. The only reason anyone would support him in the south is if King's Landing is in such chaos that the lords can be persuaded that a just, fair, strong ruler is what's needed, and in that case they will turn to Aegon.

The Iron Bank would have been far, far, FAR better throwing in their lot with Aegon. With the support of Tarly, Hightower and Martell (the three houses I think are most likely to join him) he could be sitting on the Iron Throne before the end of TWOW. And then he could start paying the bankers their infernal debts back.

#7 Slurms McKenzie

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:08 AM

The Iron Bank would have been far, far, FAR better throwing in their lot with Aegon. With the support of Tarly, Hightower and Martell (the three houses I think are most likely to join him) he could be sitting on the Iron Throne before the end of TWOW. And then he could start paying the bankers their infernal debts back.


Ah good point but Aegon is a Targaryen (Or Blackfyre) and therefore is of Valyrian descent.....and the Iron bank is Braavosi and they hate anything to do with Dragons and Valyrians (The city was founded by escaped Valyrian slaves and was kept secret until the doom of Valyria)......if they can help it they won't support Aegon...or Dany.......Stannis would be far better as far as they are concerned......

Edited by Slurms McKenzie, 02 January 2012 - 10:08 AM.


#8 FanTasy

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:24 AM

The Iron Bank would have been far, far, FAR better throwing in their lot with Aegon. With the support of Tarly, Hightower and Martell (the three houses I think are most likely to join him) he could be sitting on the Iron Throne before the end of TWOW. And then he could start paying the bankers their infernal debts back.


But why would a Targaryen be picking up the tabs of a former Baratheon / Lannister usurper-regime?
Stannis paying Robert's debts makes more sense.

#9 Miriel

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:34 AM

but why did Tycho extend credit to ransom Asha's men from Lady Glover? It seems odd the Iron Bank would do that not even knowing if Asha was alive at that point and extending the credit without a contract with Asha, especially since Asha is not a viable candidate for lordship of the Iron Islands, and Tycho had no reason to expect Theon was even alive. I suspect there is something more going on that Tycho Nestoris being nice, or gambling on a longshot to displace Euron.

I thought that was explained quite nicely when the banker said he had need of an armed escort and Lady Sybelle had need of fewer mouths to feed through the winter.

#10 SpaceChampion

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:40 AM

Unlikely. If the Iron Bank is a front for anyone, it would be the Faceless Men. Littlefinger is far too young, and too insignificant I might add, to control such an old and powerful institution...


I should have clarified, i don't believe the Iron Bank is a front for a single person or group like the faceless men. I believe anyone with money can approach them with a scheme and as long as their money is good, they can get the Iron Bank to front it.

#11 MtnLion

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:43 AM

I thought that the ransom for the ironborn was pretty obviously to provide escort services for Tycho. That fortiutous encounter with Asha and Theon may yet become some kind of dealings of the Ironborn with the Iron Bank, but it does not seem to be intentional.

#12 Lord Varys

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:59 AM

The Iron Bank might have allied with Aegon - had they known about him when Tycho was dispatched to the Wall.

But apparently they did not. Stannis was the last option they saw, since they would never ally themselves with Daenerys. And as has already been said, Stannis would be honor-bound to honor Robert's debts, and he could also be persuaded to honor Joffrey's debts as well.

Neither Daenerys nor Aegon can be expected to make good on the Usurper's debt, since, from their POV, the Braavosi should never have dealt with Robert in the first place.

Yes, Littlefinger's great-grandfather came to Westeros as sellsword in service to House Corbray, and his grandfather took the face of the Titan of Braavos as sigil, but I think this thing says more about the ambitions of House Baelish than about their connections to the ruling class of Braavos.
I'm sure Littlefinger has business contacts in Braavos, but I very much doubt he has the city or its bank in its pocket. That would simply be too much. Way too much, I'd say.

As to the connection between the Iron Bank and the Faceless Men:

1. There is the fact that an IRON COIN was Arya's entrance to Braavos and the House of Black and White.

2. We have no idea what the House of Black and White does with all the wealth it acquired over all the years. My guess would be, they founded the Iron Bank early on in the history of Braavos, and now its main (maybe its only) stockholders. Only an assassin guild with the proficiency of the Faceless Men would be able, in my opinion, to ensure that the Iron Bank got its due. I doubt that the Faceless Men would have to assassinate clients of the Iron Bank on a regular basis. Certainly they need to prove the point early on in its history that you do not cross the Iron Bank if you want to live, but in the present only fools seem to do that. So they Faceless Men would be mostly occupied with other stuff.

3. Then there are Jon's musings about how princes who did not care to pay the Iron Bank its due, all tend to die. How other claimants to various thrones/estates spring we saw now with Stannis, but this does not explain the dying. To get their money back, the Iron Bank has to strike a deal with another pretender. When he has signed a contract (possibly with pretty much interest on his loans!) they can take care of the stubborn princes. It might very well be that Stannis signed Tommen's and Myrcella's death warrant with his blood.

4. And I'm still somewhat convinced that the Faceless Men are calling the shots in Braavos. Obviously they do not rule the city openly, but I very much doubt that much happens in Braavos without them knowing, nor do I believe that Braavos as a nation does anything that is not in the interest of the Faceless Men. They can kill men openly on the street, and people know that they are behind it. No authority interferes. This is an awful amount of power.

5. The hint that the Faceless Men might have caused the Doom of Valyria, is very telling indeed. This might indicate that they are not as neutral or uninterested in politics as they make us believe. This leads me to believe that 'Jaqen' is in Oldtown to secure 'The Death of the Dragons' on behalf of his organization, the Faceless Men, not for some third party who has hired him for that mission...

#13 bemused

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 11:38 PM

The Faceless Men haven't led me to believe house of B&W is politically neutral ( intelligence gathering seems to be a major part of their function , and I doubt they're just gossips /wink.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' /> ) . It seems the FM may have quite different rules depending on whether they're acting for a contractor, or for their own institution .

Arya is told that FM do not kill for personal reasons, and her place is not to judge ,or decide who deserves death. That has a high minded ring ..yet when the Alchemist did for Pate it was obviously just to gain entree into the Maester's inner circle , and whatever might be behind a locked door. Expedient..but lacking any spiritual / esoteric aura that we can discern.
.
Going back to Jaqen for a moment, he will not personally kill more people than he's agreed to for Arya .He proceeds to Oldtown as the Alchemist ( apparently ). Pate was obviously not the subject of a contract..and it's not certain the Alchemist is actually there for a contract . he might be , but he's pretty obviously there to gather information.Whatever he's there for, he has license to kill whomever he needs to to accomplish his goal. ('Bye Pate )

I agree the bank and religious establishment could well be connected.Even if the Iron Bank wasn't founded by the House of B&W , the House has to be extremely wealthy, and an extremely important customer..powerful enough to pull strings. I also wonder about the fact that Sealord of Braavos hasn't become a hereditary title , and how much depends on which candidates have the backing of Bank and religious institution. ( I wonder if many of them have met early deaths ?)

Edited by bemused, 02 January 2012 - 11:44 PM.


#14 Brucolac

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 11:41 PM

I really didn't like the involvement of them. Backing Stannis to the extent of being able to win a war would easily cost more than the debt already incurred. Any savvy banker knows not to throw good money after bad.

#15 bemused

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 11:48 PM

But if the bank is really acting in it's own, or Braavos' political interests, how much is too much to risk ?

On a side note , I wonder why LF's grandfather left Braavos ?

#16 Serry

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:30 AM

I really didn't like the involvement of them. Backing Stannis to the extent of being able to win a war would easily cost more than the debt already incurred. Any savvy banker knows not to throw good money after bad.

Do consider, though, that the Iron Throne has refused to pay the debt. If Stannis is willing to pay off even some of the debt, the Iron Bank would at least get some of its investment back. Oh, and get a little bit of revenge upon those who would not pay to begin with.

#17 Sand Snake No. 9

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 05:11 AM

I think Littlefinger used his position as master of coin to loot the treasury of the Seven Kingdoms to finance all of his enterprises. The Iron Bank may be aware of fancy bookkeeping, and it must know about Littlefinger because he probably arranged all the loans for the Throne, even if he didn't sign the notes himself. So I don't think he's going to get help from the Bank in the future -- but he probably doesn't need it.

#18 Knight of the Teabags

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 02:30 PM

Actually I wouldn't at all surprised if Lord Baelish isn't the second biggest debtor to the Iron Bank in Westeros after the Crown! I've often wondered how I'd like to see to Littlefinger finally get his come-up-ance - right now I am kind of leaning towards the Iron Bank heavies showing up at the Eyrie threatening to discuss his credit rating...

#19 Ghost714

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 05:55 PM

Cersei never spoke to the Iron Bank right?
What I mean is, as the reader we know that she planned to continue paying the Iron Bank after her sons seat on the Iron Throne was secure. My question is, does the Iron Bank think she was ever going to resume payments on the loan to the Iron Throne? (keep in mind when Tycho was in Kingslanding, Cersei was in charge).

If the Iron Bank believes that the Crown won't pay anymore of its debt (with the current people in charge), then it makes complete sense they would support Stannis.

Tycho Nestoris is obviously the Iron Throne representative, for the Iron Bank, or at minimum the "collector", for said loan.
By the time Tycho decided to go look for Stannis, Aegon wasn't even in the picture yet. And even in the new Theon chapter, when Tycho makes the deal with Stannis, I'm pretty sure they still think Aegon and Co, are only raiders ( assuming they have heard anything at all about them). Not to mention there is a lot of bad blood between the Braavosi and the "Dragons". So that's my argument to people who wonder why Tycho/Iron Bank is backing Stannis, and not Aegon.

As to the people who say, "surely Stannis won't agree to pay his brothers debt, let alone Joffery's and Cersei's"

If you remember in ADwD, when Jon first meets Tycho. Jon says to Tycho, surely you can't expect Stannis to make good on his brothers debt? (this is in my own words but it went something like that) then Tycho explains to Jon that who ever is sitting on the Iron Throne at the time, takes over payments on the the loan. That's also when Tycho tells Jon his plans to support Stannis if he agree's to pay the loan, of the Iron Throne. And its also when Jon decides to Help Tycho get to Stannis, by giving him horses and guides. I also believe that, that's when Jon decides to give Tycho the letter, depicting Karstark as a turncloak (me thinks that's the letter on the table with the Black seal.) This is also when Jon decides to make a deal with the Braavosi Banker, for the NW.
The reason why I listed so many things about what was happening then, is because it seems like a lot of people forgot that part in the book, when Tycho explains to Jon, how the deal works with the current ruler of the Iron Throne. (again in a lot of forums I have been on, including this one, people say things about other people not paying someone else's debt when they take over the Iron throne....but it's clear that if you want to continue banking with the Iron Bank of Braavo's, you have to take over the loan, no matter who set on the Iron Throne before you.)

As to the whole Letter with the Black Seal, in the new released Theon chapter. Many people do not believe that is the letter from Jon, about the Karstark warning. They don't believe this because Of this part in the chapter

"A letter, Theon knew.  Its broken seal was black wax, hard and shiny.  I know what that says, he thought, giggling."

People say how could Theon know what the letter from Jon says?......I would like to point out that Tycho knows about the warning to Stannis. Also Tycho and his "armored guards" found Theon and "Arya" outside of Winterfell, in the camp of Crowfood Umber. Then they had to travel around looking for Stannis and his army. I find it highly plausible that Tycho could have talked to Theon about Jon, telling him to warn Stannis about Karstark. (or the Iron born could have told Theon after they learned it from Tycho).

Also there is this quote from the new Theon chapter.

 "Oh, and take the Stark girl with you.  Deliver her to Lord Commander Snow on your way to Eastwatch."  Stannis tapped the parchment that lay before him.  "A true king pays his debts."

Stannis is delivering "Arya" to Jon, as a thanks for the warning letter he sent. (also for sending Tycho with guides from the NW, so Tycho could find and make it to Stannis.)

I know this is really long, but that's my take on a few things.

Edited by Ghost714, 03 January 2012 - 06:02 PM.


#20 MtnLion

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 06:13 PM

Theon knew about the treachery expected from the Karstarks from a conversation that Roose had in Winterfell (or perhaps earlier).



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