The white raven from the Citadel, who speaks with secret auctorial voice whether from magical realism or from being inhabited by a greenseer, recognizes Patchface as a lost lord. That’s because Patches is descended from Prince Aerion Brightfire, the mad Targaryen monster who for his excesses was banished for a time to the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea.
Before Patchface’s death by drowning, he was a bright boy and clever. He was sold into slavery at Volantis, where the Volanteens marked him with a facial tattoo per their custom. His gift of prophesy comes from his hidden Targaryen ancestry. We learn all we need to know about Patches in Clash’s prologue:
Patchface had come to them as a boy. Lord Steffon of cherished memory had found him in Volantis, across the narrow sea. The king — the old king, Aerys II Targaryen, who had not been quite so mad in those days, had sent his lordship to seek a bride for Prince Rhaegar, who had no sisters to wed. “We have found the most splendid fool,” he wrote Cressen, a fortnight before he was to return home from his fruitless mission. “Only a boy, yet nimble as a monkey and witty as a dozen courtiers. He juggles and riddles and does magic, and he can sing prettily in four tongues. We have bought his freedom and hope to bring him home with us. Robert will be delighted with him, and perhaps in time he will even teach Stannis how to laugh.”
It saddened Cressen to remember that letter. No one had ever taught Stannis how to laugh, least of all the boy Patchface. The storm came up suddenly, howling, and Shipbreaker Bay prove d the truth of its name. The lord’s two-masted galley Windproud broke up within sight of his castle. From its parapets his two eldest sons had watched as their father’s ship was smashed against the rocks and swallowed by the waters. A hundred oarsmen and sailors went down with Lord Steffon Baratheon and his lady wife, and for days thereafter every tide left a fresh crop of swollen corpses on the strand below Storm’s End.
The boy washed up on the third day. Maester Cressen had come down with the rest, to help put names to the dead. When they found the fool he was naked, his skin white and wrinkled and powdered with wet sand. Cressen had thought him another corpse, but when Jommy grabbed his ankles to drag him off to the burial wagon, the boy coughed water and sat up. To his dying day, Jommy had sworn that Patchface’s flesh was clammy cold.
No one ever explained those two days the fool had been lost in the sea. The fisherfolk liked to say a mermaid had taught him to breathe water in return for his seed. Patchface himself had said nothing. The witty, clever lad that Lord Steffon had written of never reached Storm’s End; the boy they found was someone else, broken in body and mind, hardly capable of speech, much less of wit. Yet his fool’s face left no doubt of who he was. It was the fashion in the Free City of Volantis to tattoo the faces of slaves and servants; from neck to scalp the boy’s skin had been patterned in squares of red and green motley.
“The wretch is mad, and in pain, and no use to anyone, least of all himself,” declared old Ser Harbert, the castellan of Storm’s End in those years. “The kindest thing you could do for that one is fill his cup with the milk of the poppy. A painless sleep, and there’s an end to it. He’d bless you if he had the wit for it.” But Cressen had refused, and in the end he had won. Whether Patchface had gotten any joy of that victory he could not say, not even today, so many years later.
“The shadows come to dance, my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord” the fool sang on, swinging his head and making his bells clang and clatter. Bong dong, ring-a-ling, bong dong.
“Lord,” the white raven shrieked. “Lord, lord, lord.”
“A fool sings what he will,” the maester told his anxious princess. “You must not take his words to heart. On the morrow he may remember another song, and this one will never be heard again.” He can sing prettily in four tongues, Lord Steffon had written... Then much later in Dance, we have his scariness confirmed by the Red Seeress herself:
Ser Malegorn stepped forward. “I will escort Her Grace to the feast. We shall not require your … steward.” The way the man drew out the last word told Jon that he had been considering saying something else. Boy? Pet? Whore?
Jon bowed again. “As you wish. I shall join you shortly.”
Ser Malegorn offered his arm, and Queen Selyse took it stiffly. Her other hand settled on her daughter’s shoulder. The royal ducklings fell in behind them as they made their way across the yard, marching to the music of the bells on the fool’s hat. “Under the sea the mermen feast on starfish soup, and all the serving men are crabs,” Patchface proclaimed as they went. “I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.”
Melisandre’s face darkened. “That creature is dangerous. Many a time I have glimpsed him in my flames. Sometimes there are skulls about him, and his lips are red with blood.”
A wonder you haven’t had the poor man burned. All it would take was a word in the queen’s ear, and Patchface would feed her fires. “You see fools in your fire, but no hint of Stannis?”
“When I search for him all I see is snow.”
The same useless answer.
Edited by CrypticWeirwood, 18 May 2012 - 09:04 AM.