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[tWoW spoilers] Iron and Ice: Treachery Afoot?

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This post contains spoilers from Theon I sample chapter from the Winds of Winter. The objective is to propose a theory that will combine three major storylines of ADWD and tWOW. I've been thinking of this after the season 5 finale, subsequent re-reads of ADWD, and re-visiting the Grand Northern Conspiracy (GNC) through this essay series.

I. The Pink Letter

Despite the several detailed theories, or perhaps because of those theories, I have no strong convictions towards the authorship of Pink Letter. Given below are the authors already considered by the members of this forum:

  1. Ramsay - Purported author. Has the means to access all the info mentioned. But choice of words, signature, and lack of 'attachments' with the letter does not match his writing style. This led to a plethora of theories about who really wrote the Pink Letter.
  2. Mance Rayder - With or without the cooperation from some other faction, Mance too have access to all the info in the letter. Writing style match wildling style and the way he talks to Jon while pretending to be Rattleshirt. Most popular candidate for real author of the bastard letter.
  3. Stannis Baratheon - Has a better motive than Mance or Ramsay to lure Jon into action. Been talking to Theon, can get all info in the letter plus add the line 'I want my Reek back' because Theon said 'He will want his Reek back'. Warns Justin Massey about false rumours of his(Stannis's) death. But treachery of this nature is not really Stannis MO.
  4. Asha Greyjoy - Can access the Winterfell info the same way as Stannis. Textual evidence to suggest Theon has already told her about 'who Abel was'. Motive could be the same as Stannis - get aid to march forward.

My own opinions keep changing after every re-read and new sample chapters or theories. Of course, the actual author could be someone else, but we won't know for sure until the book is released.

It should be noted that whatever happened as a result of PL is not necessarily what the author of letter wanted. The only person who could have foreseen Jon's assassination as a result of the letter is Melisandre. I don't think she would want a mutiny in the Watch. Unless it was Ramsay all along, the author of PL did not want Jon dead - not by NW, at least. The assassination was too abrupt, and the book has been building up towards that climax throughout. The PL was but a spark of ignition. If not PL, something else would have caused a mutiny in the Watch.

Think from the PL author's perspective: What would sending such a letter to Jon achieve? Most theories involving Mance seem to assume that the author knew Jon would read it aloud to Tormund and the Watch. I am assuming Clydas is not part of any conspiracy, so the letter is actually for Jon's eyes only. We know it did come by raven because Mel told Jon to "look to the skies". Expected outcomes of Jon reading the PL

i) Melisandre finding out the her champion is dead. That would shut R'hllor for a while.

ii) Jon realizing that Ramsay has 'Lightbringer'. and there is no one left to save the North.

iii) Jon finding that 'Arya' has escaped Winterfell.

iv) Jon finding that if he does not meet Ramsay's challenge, Ramsay is coming for the NW, to punish the NW for aiding Stannis.

v) Jon finding that Selyse and Shireen are in danger.

vi) Jon finding out tha six women were tortured and killed for trying to rescue his little sister.

Apparently Jon doesn't spare a thought to Selyse or Shireen when he decides to march South, because he later thinks "I should have gone to her first". He thinks of Mance only as a proof that letter is genuine. If Jon wonders what "I want my Reek back means", we don't see him doing so. There is only one thing in the whole letter that has truly hit Jon in the head and heart: "I want my bride back".

He thought of Arya, her hair as tangled as a bird’s nest. I made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell … I want my bride back …I want my bride back … I want my bride back …
“I think we had best change the plan,” Jon Snow said.

He knows his little sister is out in the snow, and that a monster who flays and hunt women for sport is on her tail. He has to get to her before Ramsay does, or he will lose the last family he has left in the world. I think the author correctly predicted Jon's reaction to the letter. That Jon will bring an army is not something that could be predicted, except by Mance. But what if all they wanted was Jon? Mance and Ramsay are in Winterfell. Stannis and Asha are in the crofter's village, three-days' ride from Winterfell. As it happens, both these places are filled with people who might have been plotting long and hard to get Jon to come to Winterfell.

II. The Grand Northern Conspiracy.

Original thread in the link^^. Some relevant points:

  • By the end of ADWD, most Northmen knows that the Stark boys are alive and what really happened during the sack of Winterfell. Those inside Winterfell knows by the missing swords or from Manderly. Those with Stannis knows from the Liddle and the other clansmen who watched Bran & co. going North.
  • Maybe they want Rickon to come back, or maybe they want Jon to be king in the North, as per Robb's Will. Whatever the plan, the Boltons and Freys are in for a huge shock. Jojen's dream of 'the Wolves will come again' has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in some ways - maybe this gives confidence to the loyal Northmen to go ahead with their plans for Stark restoration.
  • The Norrey and Liddle who came to the Wall must have left with a good opinion of Jon's leadership skills.
  • It is likely that those inside Winterfell know that the bride is fake. If Jaime could spot it, Manderly and Mance could spot it, too.
  • Whoresbane Umber leads a group full of old men to Winterfell. All the young men are outside. This clearly says that something violent is going to happen inside the walls, and the loyal Northmen there has nothing to lose.
  • The Northmen do not like the Red God. Manderly promises to take Stannis for his king, if Davos smuggles him his liege lord. But Manderly appears to be on a suicide mission. And Manderly's liege lord is Bran(by law) or Jon(by Robb's will), not Rickon. Maybe Davos will be cheated by Manderly. After all, the North belongs to the Old Gods and Starks of Winterfell.
  • We don't know exactly why Alysane Mormont decided to launch a surprise attack at Deepwood Motte, especially after her sister Lyanna disagrees to take Stannis as their king. Stannis calls the She-Bear as a 'help from unexpected quarters', but if we take the GNC theories into account, it is possible that Stannis was the unexpected help.

III. The Invalid Kingsmoot

Moments before the Asha was attacked by Stannis, she had got a brainwave about undermining Euron's power. Tris Botely tells her the story of Torgon the latecomer. Torgon was not present at the kingsmoot immediately after his father's death. So when he arrived at last, he called the kingsmoot unlawful. Torgon killed the king who was chosen by the unlawful kingsmoot, and became king and ruled the Iron islands for several years. This tale gives hope to Asha - since Theon is alive, he should have been present at the kingsmoot, and hence Euron's kingsmoot is unlawful, too. The problem is, Theon is currently chained to a wall by Stannis and every Northman wants his blood. Stannis' own men want Theon burnt. So Asha tells Stannis to take him to the heart tree and execute him the way Ned Stark would have done. It is generally believed that she does this as a last kindness to her little brother, to spare him the pain of burning alive. Only, from what we have seen so far of Asha Greyjoy, she does not give up easily. If I am any judge of her character, I'd say Asha will try to return to Iron Islands, and she will take Theon with her. The question is how. She is a prisoner slated to death sooner or later. There is nothing she can do to escape without risking her life and her friends'.

The (?)Conspiracy at the Crofter's Village

A case for Asha:
What if Asha does not need to escape? What if it is Stannis and his men who needs to run? Their nightly entertainments and the recent arrest of Karstarks without giving an explanation does not make Stannis any more beloved to Northmen, that is for certain. The Northmen at Stannis's camps are mainly made up of mountain clans, Aly Mormont's men, and the Karstarks. The mountain clans and the Karstark men have never been targets of the Ironborn. The she-bear has shown more anger at Clayton Suggs than at Asha. The other Northmen who fled to Stannis must have been attacked by Ironborn and Boltons both, but most importantly they all know that Bran and Rickon are not dead, and that it was Bolton's bastard who offered money to find them. So why would they want Theon given to flames? Theon betrayed Robb, but he did not murder anyone (that the Northmen cares about). No one in the camp has any reason to hate Asha personally. Stannis however, is all set to burn their gods, and the North has followed the old gods before the Starks were made the Kings of Winter.
A case for Stannis:
So far, Stannis has been doing well diplomatically, by not allowing burning of infidels and trying best to keep the Northmen happy despite his natural stubbornness. The deal with Iron Bank is a huge plus for his side, but not many people in the camp know about this loan. Stannis's exchange with Massey suggests that Stannis will keep Asha unhurt for making a deal with the Iron islands, but he has not shared these plans with Asha - when she asks him to make her 'his man', he rejects the offer with a jape. Who knows, maybe he was lying to Massey. Stannis is not to blame for the tongues of men such as Clayton Suggs or Godry Giantslayer. But the Theon I chapter suggests that the men are confused by the sudden arrest of Karstarks. I doubt Stannis has bothered to tell Wull or Norrey of Arnolf's betrayal. Stannis caught between R'hllor men and the Northerners is a comparable to Jon with the Night's Watch and the Wildlings. And we know how well that ended for Jon.
A case for Jon:
What the Northmen needs is a King of their own, to counter the Boltons and the Southerners. GNC assumes that they intend to make Stannis and the Boltons eliminate each other, and bring Jon and/or Rickon after the victory is all but settled. Euron is not interested in the North, the Lannisters have their own problems, Moat Cailin and the Crannogmen will ensure that the Southerners won't march North easily. All the naval forces of the realm are busy fighting, so an invasion by sea is also less likely. Should such a situation arise, Manderly has been building ships anyway. Manderly, Dustin, Mormont and Umber are all powerful houses on their own, and one might wonder why they need to bring the Starks back instead of taking the North for themselves. In the Theon chapters of ADWD, we can see how 'comfortably' is Roose Boltons ruling the North, even with all the support from the crown and his enemy factions weakened by the Red Wedding. Not for nothing do they say 'there must always be a Stark in Winterfell'. The Starks are the only house that will have everyone's support and ensure stability in the North to survive the winter - which is why I think the GNC men are after Jon, and Rickon is only their plan B.

End Results
Thanks to the religious zeal displayed by Stannis's men at the village, and by Melisandre at the Wall (which could easily be found out by Flint and Norrey who came for Alys Karstark's wedding), I really doubt the Northmen will suffer Stannis any longer than they need to. If Asha is able to make a deal with Mormont and other Northmen, she can escape Stannis and the North with her friends and her brother. From her Queensmoot onwards, she has been more favorable towards a truce with the North and peace for her people. If she convinces the Northmen that she is not the foe (unlike Euron and R'hllor) they should be worrying about, she stands a chance to win her homeland back from the clutches or Euron.

If the Northmen in Stannis's camp does not know the 'Arya' they have is fake, (and there is nothing to suggest they know her to be fake), then Asha can try make them forgive Theon, taking the rescuing Arya as the proof for his redemption. I doubt even the most unforgiving of Northerners will want Theon to be tortured any more. Sure, they have been asking Stannis to kill him, but the loyal Stark bannermen have been doing a lot of things in ADWD to mask their true intentions. Manderly and Whoresbane we know for certain are acting for a Northern victory. The lords Blackfish, Edmure, Piper and Vance in the Riverlands are no help to the crown, either.

Still, whatever Asha offers the Northmen in return for Theon must be something really valuable, because the Northmen and Ironborn have been fighting each other for thousands of years. What can she offer?

i) Write the Pink letter to lure Jon out of Castle Black. The Northmen gets a son of Ned Stark, Jon gets his 'sister', Asha gets her brother.

ii) Kill Stannis and his men, and make it look like Ramsay did that. In case Massey returns from Essos with a company of sellswords, the Northmen are spared the wrath.
iii) Both i and ii

There is also the question 'when was the pink letter written?'. The ravens in Theon sample chapter are particularly noisy, making me think the next chapter will involve Stannis taking Theon to the tree. But why would he do that now, when he has made it clear that he needs Theon's knowledge of the castle to capture Winterfell? My speculation:

  • Stannis defeates the Freys coming to get him, marches to Winterfell with the Manderly on his side, and wins the battle of Ice to capture Winterfell. (Any raven/message he tries to send the Castle Black infroming this is intercepted.)
  • He then decides to keep his promise to Northmen, and take Theon to the heart-tree of Winterfell to carry out the execution. He hopes this will appease the Northmen and make them respect him as they respected Eddard Stark (we see Theon making a botched attempt at the same in aCoK). His men, however will be talking more and more of burning the godswood.
  • In front of the heart-tree, the Northmen tells the truth to Stannis - that they were never his men, and never will be. A fight starts, and Stannis might be killed or captured. Not very honorable for the Northmen, but Queensmen and the Sparrows are not the only ones with religion issues!
  • The Pink Letter is then sent to make Jon come to Winterfell. Justin Massey, fArya and Alysane Mormont is a loose end, but maybe they overcome Massey and return to Winterfell, as well. Jeyne Poole would not mind postponing the meeting with Jon. (but I really wanted to see her meeting the real Arya in Braavos)
  • The timelines are messy, but it is possible that the Brotherhood would have freed the captives from Red Wedding, freeing the Riverlords from the chains that bound them to the Lannisters and Freys - And then, Robb Stark's kingdom is reborn anew, and winter has come with full of its fury.

One heck of a Time for Wolves, is it not? But there are no happy endings in this story. Many people's problem with the GNC is that it is too optimistic. But we already know that all these well laid plans are shattered like a sand castle, thanks to the (t)Ides of Marsh. It is similar to every single time Arya escaped some place - she thinks she is saved, only to end up some place more dangerous. As for the Northmen, the Others are coming to get them, literally. Asha believes Aeron is dead, but we know he is alive and some really crazy stuff is going to happen in his chapter. So not all of her plans go well, either. That leaves Stannis. We will all dearly miss the King who cared, but as I see it, he's got more "kingsblood" and definitely more dragonblood than Theon has. I don't care what D&D says, I think Melisandre will try to burn Shireen to raise Stannis/Jon as Azor Ahai. That means we have enough magic from the forces of Ice (Stannis's blood on the heart-tree which is connected to Bran to Summer to Ghost to Jon) and Fire (Shireen given to flames) to raise Jon.

Two kings to raise a dragon.

ETA: Expanded the end results.

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