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Pirates of the God's Eye: The curse of the Blackwater

3 posts in this topic

1. Wha...?

In the aftermath of the Battle of the Blackwater, Sallador Saan tells Davos about a rumor of two Stannis' war galleys that were "playing pirate on the river" (ASOS, Davos II) after the battle was over: Ragged Jenna and Laughing Lord. By saying that, I believe Saan meant those ships kept going upriver.

The Blackwater Rush is deep, flows from southern riverlands and westerland, and has headwaters near Stoney Sept. The river has one tributary east of Stoney Sept and another coming from the south of God's Eye. We never heard of the former, but the latter has appeared in ACOK, Arya IV.

As I see it, war galleys must be easy to spot on a river (even one as wide as the Blackwater Rush), specially if they belong to an enemy of the Crown. So, I guess RJ and LL had three options ahead of them: 1) Wait for a while upriver and then try not to get caught in their way back to Dragonstone; 2) Sail to Stoney Sept and test their luck; 3) Sail the God's Eye river and hide in a lake so large that looks like an ocean from its shores and have the most isolated island in Westeros (even Skagos have some trade).

Let's take option 3.

2. Is this tributary even navigable?

In ACOK, Arya IV, Yoren estimates they cannot cross it, because they'd have to leave their wagons behind. In fact, he said they could swim the horses over.

So, I guess it is.

3. But it's a war galley that we are talking about...

We have no objective information on the river's depth. If GRRM simply make these galleys appear on the waters of the God's Eye we will have to accept the river is deep enough for a war galley.

4. What about bridges? The Goldroad runs across of both Blackwater Rush and God's Eye river!

The closest bridge in ACOK, Arya IV, was burned down.

On the other hand, the Kingsroad runs across the very Trident and still we saw river galleys in Saltpans "made to ply the waters of the Trident" (ASOS, Arya VIII), or in other words, made to sail upriver. Therefore, roads are not excluding factors.

5. And what the hell did these Stannis men plan to do there? How does it fit the plot?


In the near future, they may be helping green men and children of the forest in the Isle of Faces, thickening their lines of defense, I don't know.

In ACOK, Arya IV, we found out that the people of a town by the God's Eye took all the boats when they fled. That might mean they sailed to the Isle of Faces aswell.

6. They're Stannis men. Why they didn't simply went upstream until they left the battlegrounds and then abandoned the ships and marched to Storm's End?

Because this is a very stupid move. They'd be surrounded by enemies all along the way.

Two other war galleys were upriver with RJ and LL (Swift Sword and Lord Steffon) but their own crew sunk them in order to prevent them from falling in Lannister's hands. That's how desperate things were back then.

7. Rubbish!

O ye, of little faith.

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Ok, I'll bite :D

Just to add some more information:



A Clash of Kings - Davos III

Fury herself would center the first line of battle, flanked by the Lord Steffon and the Stag of the Sea, each of two hundred oars. On the port and starboard wings were the hundreds: Lady Harra, Brightfish, Laughing Lord, Sea Demon, Horned Honor, Ragged Jenna, Trident Three, Swift Sword, Princess Rhaenys, Dog's Nose, Sceptre, Faithful, Red Raven, Queen Alysanne, Cat, Courageous, and Dragonsbane. From every stern streamed the fiery heart of the Lord of Light, red and yellow and orange. Behind Davos and his sons came another line of hundreds commanded by knights and lordly captains, and then the smaller, slower Myrish contingent, none dipping more than eighty oars..........

The two ships in question were hundreds, so quite sizeable - probably much bigger than the river galleys of the Riverlands - they were also ocean-going vessels, which tend to draw more water than river vessels.

Now compare:


A Feast for Crows - The Reaver

"The plan was good, I grant him," Victarion said as she knelt beside him. "The Mander is open to us now, as it was of old." It was a lazy river, wide and slow and treacherous with snags and sandbars. Most seagoing vessels dared not sail beyond Highgarden, but longships with their shallow draughts could navigate as far upstream as Bitterbridge. In ancient days, the ironborn had boldly sailed the river road and plundered all along the Mander and its vassal streams . . . until the kings of the green hand had armed the fisherfolk on the four small islands off the Mander's mouth and named them his shields.

We know most longships are smaller than the galleys - Theon's shipped 50 oars, for instance, and his thoughts indicated it was quite a good size.



The World of Ice and Fire - The Reach

Once and always a great realm, the Reach is many things to its inhabitants: the most populous, fertile, and powerful domain in the Seven Kingdoms, its wealth second only to the gold-rich west; a seat of learning; a center of music, culture, and all the arts, bright and dark; the breadbasket of Westeros; a nexus of trade; a home to great seafarers, wise and noble kings, dread sorcerers, and the most beautiful women in all Westeros. On a hill overlooking the Mander rises Highgarden, rightly hailed as the most beautiful castle in the realm. The Mander itself, which flows beneath its walls, is the longest and broadest river in the Seven Kingdoms. The great city of Oldtown is the equal of King's Landing in size, and it is superior in all other respects, being vastly older and more beautiful, with its cobbled streets, ornate guildhalls, stone houses, and three great monuments: the Starry Sept of the Faith, the Citadel of the Maesters, and the mighty Hightower, with its great beacon, the tallest tower in all the known world. Truly, the Reach is a land for superlatives.


So, on the broadest river in the Realm, sea-going vessels will go barely along a tenth of its length, and to go any further requires smaller boats, of notably shallow draught.

But then Tyrion tells us:


A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion IV

Yandry snorted in derision. "Mother Rhoyne has no need of your water, Yollo. She is the greatest river in the world."

Tyrion shook off the last few drops. "Big enough to drown a dwarf, I grant you. The Mander is as broad, though. So is the Trident, near its mouth. The Blackwater runs deeper."

So perhaps a sea-going galley could get further up the Blackwater, after all, but I doubt the tributary is any more navigable than the Mander. To be forced to leave the wagons behind, I doubt it would need to be much above 6 foot deep - this is definitely not enough for a galley, though a longship might cope.


Now to the 'why' and 'what' of it. Even if the ships could manage the journey into the God's Eye (which i seriously doubt from the above), how welcome would they be in the home of the Green Men on ships bearing the banners of the Fiery God, especially after Mel burned the godswood at Storm's End? There would be no common cause, more likely animosity.

As for the fleeing smallfolk, they're more likely to have fled to King's Landing down the river - all the other smallfolk headed that way, and at least with boats, these fisherfolk could avoid the dangers of the King's Road.

For my money it's more likely that the crews did a bit of piracy and either got bored and tried to sneak back out - after all, the Blackwater is very wide near KL, and the chain would have been removed eventually, and most of the royal fleet was sunk as well - or else they took a serious liking to pillage and were amongst those bands of 'broken men' harrowing the Riverlands. I doubt they'd head to Storm's End - as far as they knew, Stannis' cause was lost after the Battle of the Blackwater, it's a bloody long way to walk, and they'd have to skirt round KL and maybe go through the burnt out Kingswood with nothing left to forage on the way. So all in all, I think they broke and disbanded.

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11 hours ago, Rufus Snow said:

Just to add some more information:

All good information. I've completelly forgotten to check anything related to the Mander.

I share all your doubts regarding the navigability of God's Eye river. But I deliberately left out information such as "the Ironborn sailed on their ships in the forks of the trident prior to the conquest" because they referred to a distinct river.

As you have pointed out, unlike Blackwater, the Mander is not known for its depth, but for its breadth. Still, I am forced to agree that this does not imply that the BWR tributaries are as deep as. 

But let me be a bit pushy and add a second layer of loose speculation. There's the saying "the deeper the river the less noise it makes". Arya describes the river and its banks quite idyllically and ends by stating "It seemed a peaceful place ... until Koss spotted the dead man". Then someone with a far-fatched approach could take this peace as a clue to the great depth of the river.

11 hours ago, Rufus Snow said:

Now to the 'why' and 'what' of it.'

I feel most of Stannis's men do not earnestly praise R'hllor (they only hoists its banner out of obedience) nor do they worship Melisandre (they only respect her out of fear). However, the religion of the old gods is also alien to them, which is why I happen to agree that an encounter between the crew of RJ and LL and the green men would be very problematic.

As for the fleeing smallfolk, you made a good point.

Regarding where the ships' route after Blackwater Battle, I daresay they didn't go back to King's Landing. In ASOS, Tyrion IV, we heard that the sunken ships at the mouth of Blackwater are still preventing the reopening of the harbor. According to the most precise timeline that chapter took place less than two months prior the purple wedding. So I think we have reasons to assume that this work is still ongoing, making it difficult to cross BW's mouth with any large vessel.

As for they have disbanded, it is very likely. However, if they had gone to the Riverlands, I believe we would have heard from Thoros and Beric. The same wouldn't have happened if they are hidden in the Kingswood. No one seems to know what's going on there. But as you noted, there's nothing left there for anyone (outside the Stone Crows, who are still lingering there).

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