bemused, on 13 December 2012 - 01:23 PM, said:
My bet , too , is on Stannis for winning the battle .. but not necessarily for winning WF.
I could well see Stannis deceiving the Bolton forces as described here - have the Freys fall in the lake, send the Manderleys back with a pretty story of retreat for Ramsay. If there's more of a battle, Stannis will likely win. But it might be a rather phyrric victory. Stannis' host is not exactly in prime condition right now and it will likely be in even worse shape after engagement with Freys and Boltons. Taking Winterfell won't be a piece of cake. I don't think the Boltons are quite out yet.
Still there are ways for GRRM to screw with us and I fully expect him to exploit them. I suspect that the Boltons will discover the Manderley plot in time for instance, or be able to subdue the revolt. I envision an Oberyn/Gregor type deal, where Manderley and Umbers trie something in the chaos of Theon's and Jeyne's escape and it looks like they could pull it off for a hot minute, but no, the Boltons prevail.
Stannis might have his victory at the lake, but the Northern conspiracy is going to fail - at first, at least.
Boltons will realize that they can't rely on the other Northern Lords and look for allies elsewhere.
Mance might suggest a Bolton/Wildling alliance against Stannis, Jon and the other Northmen (I don't think that's what he'd actually do, but he can convincingly argue that he holds a grudge against Stannis and Jon.... the enemy of my enemy, etc.)
Hence the Pink letter: a ploy to provoke Jon into sending armed Wildlings to Winterfell, who will go over to the Boltons the moment Mance reveals the alliance (at least that's what Mance promises).
I don't think that Pink Lettter is really about its stated purpose. The demands are simply impossible to meet - Jon couldn't if he wanted to, the Queen's entourage are not going to hand her over so easily without any substantial proof of Stannis death (and I don't believe that Stannis is actually dead, so that proof is going to be hard to come by). There has to be some hidden agenda. Someone wants that Wildling host.
It might well be Stannis himself, who needs more men after a phyrric victory to take out the Boltons for good (although it would be a bit risky to gamble on Jon and Wildlings still willing to fight for him after discovering the deception).
It might be, more plausibly IMO, the Boltons who desperately need new allies.
Mance plays along, because armed wildlings south of the Wall are definitely in his interest. Whether he has them actually turn on Jon as promised or not, I won't dare to predict; I think it would be somewhat out of character for Mance - he has to see that Jon is a worthier ally than Ramsay - but then again, the confrontation between Mance in his glamour and Jon on the training ground seems to forshadow a future confrontation; they might well end up on different sides for a while.