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SER SHADRICH, HIS ALLIES AND ADVERSARIES.. (Morgarth, Byron, Creighton, Illifer)

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Of the various guesses that have been made at the identity of the Mad Mouse, I lean toward Howland Reed, but I always hold back from firm belief, because there are so many reasonable speculations about where else he might be, and what he might be doing .. and he is, after all, only one man. So I'm not setting out to prove or disprove the theory, but trying to find out as much as I can about his motivations, connections, etc., though I will take note (**) , if something particularly points in HR's direction. We'll just see what shakes out, but whoever he is and whoever he's allied with, I've always taken his intentions to be good.For me, he's one of the good guys.

(I know, this is fiendishly long.)

PART ONE - MUSINGS ON SHADRICH, HIS COMPANIONS .. AND HOUSE WHENT

What can be said about Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen, The Mad Mouse ? Well, to borrow a familiar phrase - much and more, as it turns out - some of which has always been apparent, and some of which I've only been able to connect recently. I'm going to skip back and forth with my quotes, and - fair warning! - include references to the chapters from TWoW.

So let's get the really obvious out of the way. I think for most of us, the very name "Shadrich" instantly evokes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the fiery furnace of religious mythology. Shadrach and his companions were cast into the furnace because they refused to bow down to the King's golden statue (either of a god, or of the king himself (as a god?)).. Of course, this would have been a new god to Shadrach and his stalwarts. They stand by their own "old" God.

Similarly, we (mostly) accept that our Shadrich, in-story, is a follower of the old gods, evoked by the weirwood colours of his white mouse with red eyes (which suggests a connection to Bloodraven whether he's aware of it or not).

There are many suggestions (which I'll come to) linking our Mad Mouse to Harrenhal and House Whent but  first, I want to skip ahead to see if his companions in the Vale might be his allies (again, even unknowingly) and thus echo Meshach and Abednego.

Ser Morgarth : ... Some have put forth Elder Brother as an alternate ID for Ser Morgarth, and I think this is very possible.
In AFfC, Brienne VI, Bro. Narbert tells Brienne , "... The Seven have blessed our Elder Brother with healing hands. He has restored many a man to health that even the maesters could not cure, and many a woman too."

According to Brienne,  .. he stood straight and tall, and moved with the vigor of a man in the prime of his years. Nor did he have the gentle, kindly face she expected of a healer. His head was large and square, his eyes shrewd, his nose veined and red. Though he wore a tonsure, his scalp was as stubbly as his heavy jaw.
He looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal one.
(Brienne's thought)

Looking at Ser Morgarth in AFfC, Alayne II, he's  ... a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins, and gnarled hands as large as hams.
.. the nose is a good match, and considering how "stubbly" Elder Brother is, face and head, it wouldn't take long for enough hair to grow in to meet Morgarth's description. EB has been a fighter, and though Brienne doesn't describe his hands, their appearance could be quite as unexpected as the rest of him. ... But what about his possible motivation ? E.B. says,  "...I fought for Prince Rhaegar, though he never knew my name. I could not tell you why, save that the lord I served served a lord who served a lord who had decided to support the dragon rather than the stag..." Of course he's aware that ... "The singers would have us believe it was all Rhaegar and Robert struggling in the stream for a woman both of them claimed to love.." .. and he will now be aware of the well known details of the sack of KL. He may even know more than we readers do, depending on who has visited him.. He could also easily have heard of the purge of Robert's bastards. 

Earlier in the chapter, when speaking of the "gifts" that wash ashore on the QI (like Rhaegar's rubies and the recent abundance of corpses) he says ,  "Sometimes we find a woman, though . . . or worse, a little child. Those are the cruelest gifts."  Although he's turned his back on being a knight, that doesn't mean he can forgive the "cruelest" behaviour. We know how he feels about Quincy Cox doing nothing during the destruction at Saltpans. He tells Septon Meribald ,  "When you cross to Saltpans, no doubt Ser Quincy will ask you for forgiveness. I am glad that you are here to give it. I could not." (still AFfC, Brienne IV) .. I'm sure he's well placed to have heard stories of the Bloody Mummers, the kinds of things they've been doing elsewhere, and who hired them in the first place. He will have heard of Gregor's campaign of terror, and everyone knows whose man he is.
Probably not coincidentally, Brienne earlier used the same word (though judging incorrectly) when musing on Sansa's situation... the girl had seen her father’s head lopped off and been forced to marry one of his killers afterward. If half the tales were true, the dwarf was the cruelest Lannister of all.  ...AFfC, Brienne I 

Elder Brother could be motivated to try to save one child (Sansa) from Lannister cruelty, on behalf of himself and perhaps, on behalf of others.
I'm putting him in the "good guys" category with Ser Shadrich, and they may know of and agree with each other's motivations.

Ser Byron : ... I've been unsure about Ser Byron never having been able to find as convincing a possible ID for him. He's ... an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders. ... and we're told ...  the tall one with the blond hair kissed her (Sansa's) hand before taking his leave. 

All we have to go on is his "thick blonde mane" and any hints given by his name.. Hmm.. He might be Shadrich's adversary. Since he's elegant, he's probably reasonably well funded.. His thick blonde "mane" easily could suggest a Lannister connection , or perhaps Targ/Blackfyre/Brightflame .. His name may also suggest those same houses, by inference. "Byron" strikes a chord with us because of Lord Byron, famous for being a great seducer, having an affair (and child) with his half sister, and being an exile (in his case, self - imposed). 

Augh! Wait ! ...  As soon as I typed that paragraph, I realized that there could be,  ... no, IS something that puts Ser Byron on the "good guys" list. (I'm just leaving the paragraph in for comparison and outside possibility).

OK, here goes ... Questioning how aware or actively involved Bloodraven might be in their mission... (I mean beyond a character just believing in the old gods) ... and keeping in mind the Lord Byron assosciation, has just led to a real revelation for me.

Bloodraven has Targaryen/Blackwood bloodlines - carrying the inevitable Targ. incest allusions. His own his own father was definitely a great seducer, while he, himself, was "exiled" to the Wall. This is all quite Byronesqe. ... Bloodraven is becoming one with a weirwood, blurring the line between life and death. Likewise, the weirwood at Raventree hall is "dead", but apparently still connected to the "weirnet". (The ravens still return every night). Perhaps it's just "mostly dead".
According to Jaime I, ADWD, Lord Tytos Blackwood is tall and thin and something of a snappy dresser ... Lord Tytos Blackwood met him in the outer ward, mounted on a destrier as gaunt as himself. Very tall and very thin, the Lord of Raventree had a hook nose, long hair, and a ragged salt-and-pepper beard that showed more salt than pepper. In silver inlay on the breastplate of his burnished scarlet armor was a white tree bare and dead, surrounded by a flock of onyx ravens taking flight. A cloak of raven feathers fluttered from his shoulders.
... The "elegance" of his wardrobe belies the raggedness of his beard.
His third son Hoster (Hos the hostage) ... could not have been any older than sixteen, yet he was even taller than his father, almost seven feet of legs and shins and elbows, a gangling, gawky boy with a cowlick. ... His apparel is not described, and he's still at the awkward stage.

Lord Tytos' heir , Brynden Blackwood, is alive, was not at the RW .. "Brynden is my eldest, and my heir.".. yet he's not introduced to Jaime, although we repeatedly are shown a Lord would have his heir present, if possible, to observe important negotiations with important people.  So I ask you, where is this probably tall, not-unlikely-to-be-elegant namesake of Bloodraven

Tytos' and Hos' hair colour is not specifically mentioned, but Tytos seems to speak with some authority (and some kindness)  when he says of Bracken's bastard who was killed in the war ...  "Harry was a bastard, true enough, but whether Jonos sired him is a thornier question. A fair-haired boy, he was, and comely. Jonos is neither.”... Whose bastard was he, then? Perhaps the Blackwoods tend to have fair hair.. beard and hair colour don't always match, and "salt-and-pepper" just means grey or white mixed in with the original colour (not specifically dark).

Now, that I think much better of Ser Byron, that may not have been a seductive or gallant parting kiss on Sansa's hand. If he is Brynden Blackwood, it may be more akin to Morna Whitemask kissing Jon's hand... an unspoken declaration that he is her man.

Before I get in-depth with Shadrich, I want to say a bit about House Whent. We had some interesting discussion in a thread by @Isobel Harper recently... http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/138138-the-bat-and-the-wolf/#comment-7502336

...which led me to start musing more deeply on the Whent/Lothston hints I already saw surrounding Ser Shadrich.

I won't go into a detailed discourse to start , but we can get into it more fully (if you like) as we go on in discussion. In brief, the Whents were knights in service to House Lothston, but helped to bring them down and succeeded them as rulers of  Harrenhal. They echo the Lothston bat in their arms, but we don't yet know why theirs feature nine bats. It's quite possible , if not probable, that they carry Lothston blood in their family. Lady Shella Whent is the last of her line and is related to the Stark children through Catelyn. Cat's children are her heirs, so far as we can tell. There are a number of references to her beginning in AGoT.

While she's with Yoren, Arya thinks Lady Whent might help her ... Later, she's disguised as a farmer with Sandor, when he falsely claims they serve "Old Lady Whent".

Curious side note - While in Harrenhall Arya describes the Harrenhal heart tree for us... The light of the moon painted the limbs of the weirwood silvery white as she made her way toward it, but the five-pointed red leaves turned black by night. Arya stared at the face carved into its trunk. It was a terrible face, its mouth twisted, its eyes flaring and full of hate. Is that what a god looked like? Could gods be hurt, the same as people? I should pray, she thought suddenly. ...ACoK, Arya IX
... Being dreadfully hurt (tortured) can bring on madness, but we also get a taste of the other meaning of "mad" - anger and hatred ( frequently powerful motivators).

The first Lothston/Whent hints that stand out to us about Ser Shadrich are his red hair and his sobriquet "The Mad Mouse", which bring to mind Mad Danelle Lothston, who we see marching with Bloodraven in The Mystery Knight. ... Sansa's auburn hair comes through Cat from her grandmother Minisa Whent. ... Later we'll see Shadrich say, in the released Alayne chapter from TWoW,  "A mouse with wings would be a silly sight." ... winged mouse = fledermaus = bat.

Looking back, there are quite a few places where "mouse" can be connected to Whent blood and Harrenhal, as well. The first, and most numerous occurances come through Arya, but her Whent heritage is not something on our minds at the time. These are only some of the many examples :

On the road Arya had felt like a sheep, but Harrenhal turned her into a mouse. She was grey as a mouse in her scratchy wool shift, and like a mouse she kept to the crannies and crevices and dark holes of the castle, scurrying out of the way of the mighty. ... ACoK, Arya VII

Arry was a fierce little boy with a sword, and I'm just a grey mouse girl with a pail.... ACoK, Arya VII

Arya is a servant in Harrenhal and the Whents were in service to the Lothstons.

A mouse couldn’t use a sword but I can. ... ACoK, Arya VIII

She's a mouse girl that can use a sword, the Whents were sword bearing knights, and there seems no doubt the Mad Mouse can use one, too.

 I was a sheep, and then I was a mouse, I couldn't do anything but hide. ... ACoK Arya IX

Arya was hiding her identity and Shadrich appears to be hiding his.

Sansa doesn't call herself a mouse, but others do:

Cersei to Sansa...Try not to sound so like a mouse, Sansa. You’re a woman now, remember? And betrothed to my firstborn.” The queen sipped at her wine. ... ACoK, Sansa VI

Lysa to Sansa... “You squeak like a mouse now, but you were bold enough in the garden, weren’t you? You were bold enough in the snow.” .. AsoS, Sansa VII

A bold mouse... we'll meet another in the next book..

And later, well after we've met Ser Shadrich, Cersei will think...  Catelyn Tully was a mouse, or she would have smothered this Jon Snow in his cradle. Instead, she’s left the filthy task to me.  ...Cersei IV, AFFC

...This is fraught with extra meaning. Not only does it label Catelyn a mouse / Whent ... but no Whent would harm Rhaegar's child. Lord Whent appears to have been in on Rhaegar's plans to make changes from the beginning, and Oswell Whent gave his life to protect those plans (Jon) at the ToJ.

**Of course, Howland Reed was prominent at both the Harrenhal Tourney and the ToJ.


PART TWO - A PRELUDE TO SHADRICH

I now want to look at Brienne I, AFfC  where on the road from Rosby to Duskendale Brienne meets characters of varying importance that we may recognise later. There's Pod on his piebald horse, and there's the barefoot septon with his "poor fellows" - who we'll later recognise as  the High Sparrow. The septon on the palfrey might also be traceable, or even the swineherd, but I'm going to cherry pick those who can possibly relate to Brienne, Sansa and Shadrich..

Very early in the chapter,   "... she passed a swineherd driving pigs, and an old woman in a horse litter with an escort of mounted guards." 
Here are a few examples of horse litters -   https://www.google.ca/search?q=medieval+horse+litter&site=webhp&tbm=isch&imgil=UApt6Q2LkRWgfM%3A%3BBeA1hqPdivMYSM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fen.wikipedia.org%252Fwiki%252FHorses_in_the_Middle_Ages&source=iu&pf=m&fir=UApt6Q2LkRWgfM%3A%2CBeA1hqPdivMYSM%2C_&usg=__57BShAjSgiQIDrhgKkSSpP04UlM%3D&biw=1360&bih=637&ved=0ahUKEwjyj-iyq97NAhVl7IMKHTjBCiwQyjcIRA&ei=aLZ8V_K7NuXYjwS4gqvgAg#imgrc=UApt6Q2LkRWgfM%3A  
With her litter and her armed escort, the old woman had to be a noblewoman of at least some means. Although I've read right past her without taking notice a number of times, I'm now thinking there's a good chance she's Shella Whent, in light of many upcoming Whent/ Lothston (and Bloodraven) clues (and knowing how George likes to hide things in plain sight).

This is one of only three horse litters mentioned in the whole canon - another is mentioned for Prince Doran and there's the grandiose example used by Illyrio and Tyrion. (But it's probably safe to assume that Manderly used one on his way to WF, and perhaps the wounded Myrcella on her way to the Water Gardens, though only "litter" is used for both.) I think the horse litter is supposed to stand out. .. It's also curious that though Brienne pays attention to arms, sigils and other identifiers all along her way, she notices none for the old lady or her guard, and she was close enough to notice. Of the people she encounters, we're told...  She asked all of them if they had seen a highborn girl of three-and-ten years with blue eyes and auburn hair. None had. ... The old woman may be keeping a low profile by not bearing any distinguishing arms.

Some last quotes and a question : Speaking of Harrenhal... That's Lady Whent's seat, and she's always been a friend o' the Watch." ... Yoren to Arya, ACoK

" ... Lady Whent yielded Harrenhal for want of men to defend it. Ser Gregor burnt out the Pipers and the Brackens …" ... Kevan to Tyrion, AGoT (pushed out by Tywin.)

"... Lady Whent’s died as well, I hear.." ... LF to Sansa, AffC, Alayne I

In AGoT, she was among those ordered to present themselves in KL and swear fealty to Joffrey (or else). We don't see that she did. LF has only heard she's dead, and it could be a false report. .. One can see why she'd want to avoid going to KL and swearing to Tywin's grandson. She's already been disposessed by the Lannisters. And by AFfC, a number of her last remaining relations are dead or presumed dead at Lannister hands, or by their machinations.

If she is the unidentified old lady, what is she doing there? She's moving toward Rosby.. the site of yet another mystery. Who is ser Gyles' ward?.. and when he refuses to let Falyse and her husband enter the castle, is it only because of their claim, or is he hiding something (or someone) else ?  It's entirely speculative, but there's a chance these two mysteries may somehow connect.

Now, let's move on with Brienne. Her next encounter is with Ser Creighton Longbough and Ser Illifer the Penniless.. (Ok.. this is where connections with the Dunk and Egg tales, as well as information from TWoIaF really come to the fore, strengthening the connection I feel between Shadrich and Bloodraven.) ... Here's the meeting, in spoilers to save space :

 

Near dusk she saw a campfire burning by a brook. Two men sat beside it grilling trout, their arms and armor stacked beneath a tree. One was old and one was somewhat younger, though far from young. The younger rose to greet her. He had a big belly straining at the laces of his spotted doeskin jerkin. A shaggy untrimmed beard covered his cheeks and chin, the color of old gold.
“We have trout enough for three, ser,” he called out. ... 
<snip>... ".. Illy, gods be good, the size of her.”
“I took her for a knight as well,” the older knight said, turning the trout. ...
<snip> ... “Sers,” she said, “have you seen a maid of three-and-ten upon the road? She has blue eyes and auburn hair, and may have been in company with a portly red-faced man of forty years.” 
The nearsighted hedge knight scratched his head. “I recall no such maid. What sort of hair is auburn?” 
“Browny red,” said the older man. “No, we saw her not.” 

“We saw her not, m’lady,” the younger told her. “Come, dismount, the fish is almost done. Are you hungry?” 
She was, as it happened, but she was wary as well. Hedge knights had an unsavory reputation. “A hedge knight and a robber knight are two sides of the same sword,” it was said. These two do not look too dangerous. “Might I know your names, sers?”  
“I have the honor to be Ser Creighton Longbough, of whom the singers sing,” said the big-bellied one. “You will have heard of my deeds on the Blackwater, mayhaps. My companion is Ser Illifer the Penniless.” 
If there was a song about Creighton Longbough, it was not one Brienne had heard. Their names meant no more to her than did their arms. Ser Creighton’s green shield showed only a brown chief, and a deep gouge made by some battle-axe. Ser Illifer bore gold and ermine gyronny, though everything about him suggested that painted gold and painted ermine were the only sorts he’d ever known. He was sixty if he was a day, his face pinched and narrow beneath the hood of a patched roughspun mantle. Mail-clad he went, but flecks of rust spotted the iron like freckles. Brienne stood a head taller than either of them, and was better mounted and better armed in the bargain. If I fear the likes of these, I had as well swap my longsword for a pair of knitting needles.
 
“I thank you, good sers,” she said. “I will gladly share your trout.” Swinging down, Brienne unsaddled her mare and watered her before hobbling her to graze. She stacked her arms and shield and saddlebags beneath an elm. By then the trout was crisply done. Ser Creighton brought her a fish, and she sat cross-legged on the ground to eat it. 
“We are bound for Duskendale, m’lady,” Longbough told her, as he pulled apart his own trout with his fingers. “You would do well to ride with us. The roads are perilous.”
 

Beginnng with Brienne, her very apparent descent from Dunk may now have been confirmed outright, I'm not sure.. She, like Dunk at the Ashford tourney in The Hedge Knight, makes an elm tree her shelter or "pavillion" if you like( and of course, she will later have her shield repainted, unknowingly, as a replica of Dunk's). A lot of the following sort of connected all at once for me, but I'll try to put it in some sort of order..


Creighton Longbough.. The name Longbough doesn't occur anywhere else, and gods only know what Creighton refers to could be some inside joke( or simply close to "cretin"). However, it's suggested  he's a member of the nobility (if only minor) by the inclusion of a last name. "Longbough" could be a branch that extends far from the trunk of a tree. A distant cousin of a better known family, perhaps, or coming from a locale far removed from the original House. I feel he has a connection to House Fossoway, and though I at first considered the green-apple branch, because of the green field of his shield, on second thought, his connection could equally be to the red-apple Fossoways. ( Either way, Longbough is not listed among Fossoway cousins in the wiki.)

In THK, the Fossoways, Steffon and Raymun, are among the first to "befriend" Dunk. They immediately comment on Dunk's size , as Longbough does on Brienne's here. Both Fossoways seem friendly, but Steffon will later turn on Dunk, while Raymun becomes the first of the green-apple Fossoways and stays friendly. (His new arms  are a play on Steffon's repeated joke that Raymun is as yet unripe, a green apple , to which Raymun quips "better green than wormy".  ... Steffon is boastful and arrogant, Raymun good natured and well-meaning.

In ACoK, at Renly's feast at Bitterbridge, Catelyn notes that Jon (green-apple) Fossoway is "genial",  while ..... 
Ser Tanton of the red-apple Fossoways climbed on the table and swore to slay Sandor Clegane in single combat. The vow might have been taken more solemnly if Ser Tanton had not had one foot in a gravy boat when he made it. ... AcoK, Catelyn II 
... This sounds quite Creighton-ish.

In TWoIaF, Targaryen Kings, Jaeherys II ... We learn that one of the Band of Nine was ... SER DERRICK FOSSOWAY, THE BAD APPLE  - An exile from Westeros, and a knight with a black reputation. .. We don't know if he was of the red or green variety, but the War of the Ninepenny Kings (260 AC) was also the fifth Blackfyre Rebellion... ( Like Dunk, I feel like saying, "Oh, that again."). Odd notes: In THK, Steffon splintered Raymun's shield.. Only somewhat younger than the 60-if-he-was-a-day Illifer, Creighton is old enough to have fought alongside Maelys the Monstrous. (The "old gold" of the beard covering his cheeks and chin may be a slight evocation of the gold skulls of the Golden Company).

I'll come back to Longbough in a bit, but let's look at Illifer the Penniless : ..The only possible connection I could come up with for his name, is that it's somewhat similar to Tristifer IV of the now obscure, (if not defunct) House Mudd. The gold and ermine gyronny of his shield could well hint at former greatness, if not royalty. That connection seems quite a stretch, at first.. but let's just dig a bit deeper.

The vehemence of Ser Illifer's reaction to Brienne's bat shield is greater than any other reaction she encounters..(hidden again, for space)

 

His companion gave a dry chuckle. “Creigh, leave off. The likes o’ her has no need for the likes o’ us.” 
“The likes of me?” Brienne was uncertain what he meant. 
Ser Illifer crooked a bony finger at her shield. Though its paint was cracked and peeling, the device it bore showed plain: a black bat on a field divided bendwise, silver and gold. “You bear a liar’s shield, to which you have no right. My grandfather’s grandfather helped kill the last o’ Lothston. None since has dared to show that bat, black as the deeds of them that bore it.” 

The shield was the one Ser Jaime had taken from the armory at Harrenhal. Brienne had found it in the stables with her mare, along with much else; saddle and bridle, chainmail hauberk and visored greathelm, purses of gold and silver and a parchment more valuable than either. “I lost mine own shield,” she explained. 
“A true knight is the only shield a maiden needs,” declared Ser Creighton stoutly. 
Ser Illifer paid him no mind. “A barefoot man looks for a boot, a chilly man a cloak. But who would cloak themselves in shame? Lord Lucas bore that bat, the Pander, and Manfryd o’ the Black Hood, his son. Why wear such arms, I ask myself, unless your own sin is fouler still... and fresher.” He unsheathed his dagger, an ugly piece of cheap iron. “A woman freakish big and freakish strong who hides her own true colors. Creigh, behold the Maid o’ Tarth, who opened Renly’s royal throat for him.”
 

Of course we focus on the Renly accusation because that event took place within  the time frame of our story, but after Brienne swears she didn't do it, Illifer just shrugs, and carries on. He spends more time and it seems to me, more hatred, on the Lothstons. Why? .. Lucas "the Pander" could hardly be thought to have done "black deeds".. unsavory, perhaps, but surely nothing to earn the outrage of a hedge knight, even if he was a pander (and I think we're entitled to doubt.) ... He says Brienne bears a liar's shield. A pander is not necessarily a liar, but a hooded man might be (including Illifer himself), by hiding his identity or his intentions. Manfryd o' the Black Hood seems a possible liar...

In The Sworn Sword, Dunk serves Ser Eustace Ogrey, a blackfyre sympathiser ... Ser Eustace cradled his wine cup in both hands. "If Daemon had ridden over Gwayne Corbray . . . if Fireball had not been slain on the eve of battle . . . if Hightower and Tarbeck and Oakheart and Butterwell had lent us their full strength instead of trying to keep one foot in each camp . . . if Manfred Lothston had proved true instead of treacherous ...  " ...That's treacherous to the Blackfyre cause..and he may not simply have been a turncloak, but Bloodraven's mole all along, since it's suggested Bloodraven had informants in the BF camp... In the end, years of such talk bore their fruit, and Daemon Blackfyre made his decision. Yet it was a decision he made rashly, for word soon reached King Daeron that Blackfyre meant to declare himself king within the turn of the moon. (We do not know how word came to Daeron, though Merion's unfinished The Red Dragon and the Black suggests that another of the Great Bastards, Brynden Rivers, was involved.)  ... TWoIaF Targ. Kings Daeron II
(Bloodraven used informants again in the second BF rebellion.)

I think these two have some nerve, accusing Brienne of hiding her true colours.. Longbough may be using an invented name, neither of their shields correspond to any known houses, and Illifer carries a shield that shouts nobility, but claims no last name at all.
Illifer says ..  "My grandfather’s grandfather helped kill the last o’ Lothston." ...  But that doesn't guarantee that the man swung a sword.. He might only have provided damning, or even false information. His involvement would take us back in time roughly 5-6 generations (remembering that Brienne is much younger) to probably the early part of Maekar's reign (221-233 AC), not long after the third BF rebellion (219 AC).. depending on at what time of life his great-great-great grandfather acted.

And about that last name - when Griff meets with the Golden Company ... Ser Franklyn did the introductions. Some of the sellsword captains bore bastard names, as Flowers did: Rivers, Hill, Stone. Others claimed names that had once loomed large in the histories of the Seven Kingdoms; Griff counted two Strongs, three Peakes, a Mudd, a Mandrake, a Lothston, a pair of Coles. Not all were genuine, he knew. In the free companies, a man could call himself whatever he chose.  ...ADWD, The Lost Lord

Not all were genuine, but some might be..

Young John Mudd and Lorimas Mudd appear in the appendices of ADWD as sarjeants in the GC, and from TWoW, Arianne II ... The Mudds had been kings up by the Trident a thousand years ago, she knew, but there was nothing royal about this one. Nor was he particularly young, but it seemed his father had also served in the Golden Company, where he had been known as Old John Mudd.

Is Old John Mudd alive? If so, where is he? Have we just met him?

Brienne thinks she shouldn't fear these two, and after waking up unmolested (and not robbed), she even thinks they're "decent men". I'm not so sure. Perhaps she needs to be aware that there are more than just two sorts of hedge knights. 

They seem determined to accompany her even though she doesn't want them to. There's another possibly nasty sign in that they've caught trout for dinner. (Sansa also has Tully blood) and Ser Creighton pulls his trout apart with his fingers... I can't say I'm sure they fought at the Balckwater, but if they've been in KL, I'm sure they know about the "bag of dragons", yet they seem not to just be out for a reward. They may be working directly for Varys. Varys may want Sansa, not for Cersei's reasons, but his own. (Mummer's Dragon?)

These two seem to have a relationship of long standing (Longbough calling his companion "Illy"). They can easily have been comrades since the War of the Ninepenny Kings.

Should we pay attention to all this ? .. I think so. If BR and the old gods are connected to Shadrich, BR has been relentlessly opposed to Blackfyre ambitions from day one.


PART THREE - SHADRICH AT LONG LAST ! 


Three hours later they came up upon another party struggling toward Duskendale; a merchant and his serving men, accompanied by yet another hedge knight. 

Brienne, Creighton and Illifer approach, and Brienne says she's searching for her sister. Here's the whole section in space saving mode..

 

 “We mean you no harm,” said Brienne. 
The merchant considered her doubtfully. “My lady, you should be safe at home. Why do you wear such unnatural garb?” 
“I am searching for my sister.” She dared not mention Sansa’s name, with her accused of regicide. “She is a highborn maid and beautiful, with blue eyes and auburn hair. Perhaps you saw her with a portly knight of forty years, or a drunken fool.” 
“The roads are full of drunken fools and despoiled maidens. As to portly knights, it is hard for any honest man to keep his belly round when so many lack for food... though your Ser Creighton has not hungered, it would seem.” 
“I have big bones,” Ser Creighton insisted. “Shall we ride together for a time? I do not doubt Ser Shadrich’s valor, but he seems small, and three blades are better than one.” 

Four blades, thought Brienne, but she held her tongue. 
The merchant looked to his escort. “What say you, ser?” 
“Oh, these three are nought to fear.” Ser Shadrich was a wiry, fox-faced man with a sharp nose and a shock of orange hair, mounted on a rangy chestnut courser. Though he could not have been more than five foot two, he had a cocksure manner. “The one is old, t’other fat, and the big one is a woman. Let them come.” 
“As you say.” The merchant lowered his crossbow. 
As they resumed their journey, the hired knight dropped back and looked her up and down as if she were a side of good salt pork. “You’re a strapping healthy wench, I’d say.” 
Ser Jaime’s mockery had cut her deep; the little man’s words hardly touched her. “A giant, compared to some.” 
He laughed. “I am big enough where it counts, wench.” 
“The merchant called you Shadrich.” 

“Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen. Some call me the Mad Mouse.” He turned his shield to show her his sigil, a large white mouse with fierce red eyes, on bendy brown and blue. “The brown is for the lands I’ve roamed, the blue for the rivers that I’ve crossed. The mouse is me.” 
“And are you mad?” 
“Oh, quite. Your common mouse will run from blood and battle. The mad mouse seeks them out.
 
“It would seem he seldom finds them.” 
“I find enough. ’Tis true, I am no tourney knight. I save my valor for the battlefield, woman.” 
Woman was marginally better than wench, she supposed. “You and good Ser Creighton have much in common, then.” 
Ser Shadrich laughed. “Oh, I doubt that, but it may be that you and I share a quest. A little lost sister, is it? With blue eyes and auburn hair?” He laughed again. “You are not the only hunter in the woods. I seek for Sansa Stark as well.” 
Brienne kept her face a mask, to hide her dismay. “Who is this Sansa Stark, and why do you seek her?” 
For love, why else?” 

She furrowed her brow. “Love?” 
Aye, love of gold. Unlike your good Ser Creighton, I did fight upon the Blackwater, but on the losing side. My ransom ruined me. You know who Varys is, I trust? The eunuch has offered a plump bag of gold for this girl you’ve never heard of. I am not a greedy man. If some oversized wench would help me find this naughty child, I would split the Spider’s coin with her.” 
“I thought you were in this merchant’s hire.” 
“Only so far as Duskendale. Hibald is as niggardly as he is fearful. And he is very fearful. What say you, wench?” 
“I know no Sansa Stark,” she insisted. “I am searching for my sister, a highborn girl...” 
“... with blue eyes and auburn hair, aye. Pray, who is this knight who travels with your sister? Or did you name him fool?” Ser Shadrich did not wait for her answer, which was good, since she had none. “A certain fool vanished from King’s Landing the night King Joffrey died, a stout fellow with a nose full of broken veins, one Ser Dontos the Red, formerly of Duskendale. I pray your sister and her drunken fool are not mistaken for the Stark girl and Ser Dontos. That could be most unfortunate.” He put his heels into his courser and trotted on ahead. 
Even Jaime Lannister had seldom made Brienne feel such a fool. You are not the only hunter in the woods. The woman Brella had told her how Joffrey had stripped Ser Dontos of his spurs, how Lady Sansa begged Joffrey for his life. He helped her flee, Brienne had decided, when she heard the tale. Find Ser Dontos, and I will find Sansa. She should have known there would be others who would see it too. Some may even be less savory than Ser Shadrich.
 

Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen. Some call me the Mad Mouse.” He turned his shield to show her his sigil, a large white mouse with fierce red eyes, on bendy brown and blue. “The brown is for the lands I’ve roamed, the blue for the rivers that I’ve crossed. The mouse is me.” 
“And are you mad?” 
“Oh, quite. Your common mouse will run from blood and battle. The mad mouse seeks them out.

Right off the mark, there's another Blackfyre rebellion allusion. The words "shady" and "glen" are only used twice in conjunction with each other in the whole canon.. Here, Shadrich (dedicated to the old gods) is of "the Shady Glen", sounding like a specific place.. while in The Sworn Sword ...  An hour upstream from the bridge, they found themselves riding on the edge of the small Osgrey forest called Wat's Wood. The greenery looked inviting from afar, and filled Dunk's head with thoughts of shady glens and chuckling brooks ... Inviting as it looks, the Osgrey forest is tinder dry - no chuckling brooks , no cool shady glens. It's ready to burst into a conflagration. This hints to the reader that BF pretensions have not been eradicated- they remain a danger - and probably that Shadrich is aware of it.

 “The brown is for the lands I’ve roamed, the blue for the rivers that I’ve crossed. The mouse is me.” ...

** Passing thought : If Shadrich is Howland , he must have crossed many rivers in his time (practically anytime he leaves home).. including to be where he is right now.

" ... Your common mouse will run from blood and battle. The mad mouse seeks them out.” 
 

So, he's seeking battle, but with whom? Here's a possible answer...  “This paste is spiced with basilisk blood. It will give cooked flesh a savory smell, but if eaten it produces violent madness, in beasts as well as men. A mouse will attack a lion after a taste of basilisk blood.”  ... AFfC, Cat of the Canals (the Waif to Arya)

Our mouse may be maddened enough to attack a Lion, not after a taste of basilisk blood, but after the spilling of a lot of blood, perhaps after being given a large taste of some other blood with magical properties (e.g., Stark blood). 

When he says he's seeking Sansa "for love", that rings more of truth, for me, than "love of gold". As Lady Whent's agent, the love would be familial. If Bloodraven is involved, it could be love of the realm (and perhaps more)... ** If he's Howland Reed, love of the Starks could be a motivator. 

If he was "ruined" by his ransom and in the hunt for "love of gold", why would he be so open with Brienne, a perfect stranger, and offer to share the reward ? ... No, their whole conversation is designed to warn Brienne - in general, and perhaps specifically of Ser Creighton and Ser Illifer. When Brienne suggests that he and Ser Creighton have much in common, he laughs and replies "Oh, I doubt that..". He may be referring to something much less obvious than Creighton's ridiculous claims of prowess. (They called out to Brienne to join them, she didn't ask.. they may have known to keep an eye out for her.)

After the conversation with Shadrich, Brienne feels foolish. She hadn't given thought to a reward, though it would be predictable .. She hadn't been giving thought to the possibility of competitors in her hunt. Ser Shadrich has just given her a wake-up call. (It's very reminiscent of the Liddle's conversation with Bran, Jojen and Meera. He doesn't try to impede them, but gives them important information about the Bolton searchers and the situation at the wall.)

Hibald points out that Ser Creighton seems remarkably well-fed "when so many lack for food". Have the two hedge knights been in KL (or some other relatively safe haven) during all the strife?

We get a composite of Shadrich's appearance between this chapter and the TWoW Alayne chapter. Here... Ser Shadrich was a wiry, fox-faced man with a sharp nose and a shock of orange hair, mounted on a rangy chestnut courser. Though he could not have been more than five foot two, he had a cocksure manner.  ... and from Alayne... 

Alayne turned abruptly from the yard… and bumped into a short, sharp-faced man with a brush of orange hair who had come up behind her.  His hand shot out and caught her arm before she could fall.   “My lady.  My pardons if I took you unawares.”

     “The fault was mine. I did not see you standing there.”

     “We mice are quiet creatures.” Ser Shadrich was so short that he might have been taken for a squire, but his face belonged to a much older man. She saw long leagues in the wrinkles at the corner of his mouth, old battles in the scar beneath his ear, and a hardness behind the eyes that no boy would ever have. This was a man grown. Even Randa overtopped him, though.

He's not a young man, has no doubt seen battle, and he's traveled. His small size is always noted and his "orange hair". No attempt is made to describe it any other way. It occurs to me that he may actually be grey, or turning grey. In our world, with natural dyes, red hair is very difficult to duplicate. Henna, e.g., turns the hair a quite unnatural shade of orange, but it hides grey very well.

** All of this would be quite compatible with H.R. 

He saves Sansa from falling, which may be foreshadowing, or just speak well of his intentions.


The chapter Immediately following Brienne I, AFfC, is Samwell I, which opens with Sam's encounter with a mouse in the book vaults at Castle Black.

Sam was reading about the Others when he saw the mouse.
His eyes were red
..(This refers to Sam's eyes, which he's been rubbing, but since we've just met Shadrich, it's easy to think it means the mouse's eyes at first.. perhaps we should pay attention) ..<snip>... The mouse was half as long as his pinky finger, with black eyes and soft grey fur. Sam knew he ought to kill it. Mice might prefer bread and cheese, but they ate paper too. He had found plenty of mouse droppings amongst the shelves and stacks, and some of the leather covers on the books showed signs of being gnawed
It is such a little thing, though. And hungry. How could he begrudge it a few crumbs? It’s eating books, though...
 

Books contain knowledge - in this case, knowledge of the Others and of history. So this mouse can be said to have been devouring knowledge. A person who devours knowledge knows a lot.

Shadrich obviously knows more than he lets on.

** Howland Reed really knows a lot ... Harrenhal, ToJ, returning Dawn , Ned's plans going forward... and considering the time he spent with the Green Men, no doubt much more of history, the CotF, perhaps the Others, etc., etc. .. His son is a greendreamer.. is he, as well?

On a fun side note for those familiar with @sweetsunray 's Avalanche-in-the-Vale theory, we'll return to Sam ...

He knew he was not quick enough to catch the mouse, but it might be he could squash it. By his elbow rested a massive leather-bound copy of Annals of the Black Centaur, ..<snip>... Very slowly, Sam took hold of the book with his left hand. It was thick and heavy, and when he tried to lift it one-handed, it slipped from his plump fingers and thumped back down. The mouse was gone in half a heartbeat, skittery-quick. Sam was relieved. Squishing the poor little thing would have given him nightmares. “You shouldn’t eat the books, though,” he said aloud. 

Phew! He escaped .. and remember ..Eat books, no.. devour knowledge, yes.

Just one more for good measure - In Arya's last chapter in AFfC, 'Cat of the Canals', we read..

Cossomo the Conjurer instructed her in sleight of hand. He could swallow mice and pull them from her ears. “It’s magic,” he’d say. “It’s not,” Cat said. “The mouse was up your sleeve the whole time. I could see it moving.”  

Cossomo can't work magic. He may be a street conjurer, but not a sorcerer. His mouse is trained to assist him in working his tricks (no doubt rewarded with food). Arya could see his mouse moving.

Bloodraven is called a sorcerer, and we know he can actually work magic (conjure), e.g. glamours, and so forth... Should we see Shadrich as the "Mouse" up BR's sleeve.. in his case, not merely conditioned to act, but knowingly and willingly assisting ?

A few chapters later, we come to Sansa's last AFfC chapter as 'Alayne', in which she meets Ser Shadrich, Ser Morgarth and Ser Byron.

That brings us full circle, and I'm now sure Morgarth and Byron are Shadrich's allies, as is Bloodraven ... while Ser Creighton and Ser Illifer are probable adversaries, not to mention Varys and his cause... and the Lannister cause (Tywin's and Cersei's certainly, though Jaime and Tyrion are becoming exceptions).

When you think about it, with the natural protection Greywater Watch enjoys, Howland Reed is better able than most lords to confidently leave his castle in uncertain times. I now lean much more heavily toward identifying Shadrich as Howland. I feel fairly confident, although we still haven't had a description of Howland as himself ... other than "the little crannogman"

Edited by bemused

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@Isobel Harper and @sweetsunray ...I tried to flag both of you in the OP, but I guess it only works in the discussion section. Anyway, I don't think any of this is incompatible with your own topics, and I laughed out loud when I connected Sam's mouse avoiding being squished. (I adore that chapter. It's just brimming with information about other characters and situations)

To anyone.. are you out there? can I get a nibble ?:D 

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the Rosby ward,but on another thread, @Lord Too-Fat-to-Sit-a-Hors put forth Olyvar Frey as the ward and linked to this... 

https://warsandpoliticsoficeandfire.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/heirs-in-the-shadows-the-ward-at-rosby/#more-4827

 I think Olyvar and Shella could be natural allies.

And with Varys and the Blackfyre cause looming, I think Creighton and Illifer will surface again, and Tantalizing question arise around Lyn Corbray, whose house seems to have opposed the Blackfyres.

Edited by bemused

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@bemused

I can be convinced by the idea that the Mad Mouse can be related to House Whent in an ally sense, as choosing sides.

Whenever I read the name Shadrich, I automatically hear Louis' deep, rough voice singing in my mind, so the Shadrach connection does not seem farfetched to me. I'm writing a fiction where some side characters are nominally important as support of symbolism on what is psychologically happening to my main protagonist: when she goes on an underworld journey a man who ferries people from one beach to the other, carries her across an overflowing brackish rivulet for a penny and I named him "Khar" (anglofiling Charon), and during a "dawn/rebirth" moment the scientist who invites her to watch Venus through his Newton telescope just before sunrise is called Mr. Forris ("phorus" from Phosphorus, aka "morning star"). Anyway, I'm sure that George would certainly realize Shadrich & Shadrach are very similar, and even if not on purpose originally, he let it stand.

I am not yet convinced that Mad Mouse = HR, but you put forward the likeliest candidate for it imo, by stressing that he's "small", and yet obviously far older.

I also very much like the idea of the two old hedge knights that Brienne comes to trust enough, yet distrusting Shadrich, and how she might be wrong. Her whole journey through the RL is an adaptation of Dante's journey and meetings in Inferno and Purgatory of the Divine Comedy (btw Dante meets a lion and a wolf on the volcano before desceding into the underworld). Because we know Brienne to be true-hearted we tend to trust her judgments, but in relation to Brienne's Danteesque underworld journey in the RL, George made symbolically clear that Brienne made a "bad" choice. In the 9th circle of Inferno is Satan, trapped in a frozen lake of ice. The 9th circle is the circle of the worst sins: that of the traitors (kinslayers, kingslayers, oathbreakers against their liege, breakers of guest right, betrayers of god). And what is their punishment in Inferno? Satan who has 3 heads "chews" on those worst sinners (Brutus and his friend and Judas Iscariot). Dante is purely a descriptive POV who meets and talks with hundreds of characters on his journey in the Divine Comedy. Brienne's journey is similar except in two instances - twice she gets involved, and is not just a witness or bystander, in her confrontation with Bloody Mummers. First she kills Shagwell, and at the orphanage she kills Rorge, BUT has her face being "chewed" by Biter, and her journey ends right there and then. In other words, George is symbolically telling us that Brienne has committed one of the 5 worst sins - she broke her oath to Cat, who she chose as her liege.

Of course, we know that in her heart Brienne has tried to be "true". But who's she searching Sansa for? Not for Cat, but for Jaime, for his "honor". Meanwhile Jaime has just thrown away his "honor", because by then has besieged Cat's ancestral home RR occupied by her uncle the BF (waving the Stark banner) and threatened to catapult Cat's unborn nephew/niece over the walls, and thereby breaks his oath to never take up arms against Tullies and Starks again. And LS knows Jaime besieged RR, because she has Robb's crown in her hands who was in possession of the washerwoman with Ryman Frey (sent away by Jaime) whose hanging LS just returned from. Brienne's a well meaning girl, but "she knows nothing" (as Ygritte would say) and unbeknownst to her ends up being an oathbreaker and the wrong side of the war. 

So, once you recognize how George ends up twisting Brienne's well-meant arc ending up at the wrong side of her oath to Cat, then yes, it is very likely that the 2 hedge knights Illifer and Creighton are bad news and untrustworthy, while Mad Mouse is very trustworthy.

The Dante angle also should be taken into consideration that whomever Brienne meets on her underworldly journey while looking for Sansa is indeed an important political actor/agent or hero/villain. All the sinners that Dante meets either in Inferno or Purgatory are men and women of either heroic legends or crucial political and religious actors in Italy's and Christian history. The Divine Comedy is not nearly as enjoyable without all the notes about who these figures are. So, if Brienne makes a similar journey, she will be meeting important Westeros characters with a link to Westeros history, political events and religious events. Obviously there's the High Sparrow. And I think you might be right that the old woman Brienne sees might be Lady Shella Whent. You correctly point out that a horse litter implies an older woman of wealth and/or nobility. The lack of sigil is suspect, especially coming from the RL. And Shella Whent is "believed" to be dead, which fits the underworldly character of Brienne's voyage, just as much as she meets Sandor on the purgatory like QI and learns the "Hound" is dead. There's another Dante tie that fits with Shella Whent being the old woman. The earliest circle that Dante visits is the farthest away from the central 9th circle - it is the hell circle of those who neither did wrong, nor good. Illifer and Creighton fit in that circle being portrayed at a first glance as hedge knights who have done nothing heroic nor villainous. Lady Whent too has done nothing during the Wo5K - she has done neither ill nor good. She made no active choice, other than flee and surrender the castle.  

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Sir Shadrich of the Shady Glen, a pretty clear reference to Duskendale. I seem to remember (can't swear to it) in one of the Dunk & Egg books that the lord of Duskendale was a redhead like Shadrich, while there's nothing to indicate that the Reeds have that trait.

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Oh goody..some replies.. I'll have to come back later for some answers , though.. rushing now

2 hours ago, Light a wight tonight said:

 

Sir Shadrich of the Shady Glen, a pretty clear reference to Duskendale. I seem to remember (can't swear to it) in one of the Dunk & Egg books that the lord of Duskendale was a redhead like Shadrich, while there's nothing to indicate that the Reeds have that trait.

 

Ni-i-ice. I must have just dashed past Duskendale  a gazillion times without even thinking about it.

And yes, in the Hedge Knight we find.. 
"It would not be fitting for us to ride against those we are sworn to protect," answered Ser Donnel, red of hair and beard. ...(one of the KG)

But I'm not suggesting that Jojen and Meera must have red hair (I know some people do). Too soon to say, IMO.. and I'm not even declaring that Shadrich must be Howland.. although he could be, and I lean more toward the idea than I did before writing this thread (I was always open to it). I think his hair could be dyed, like "Alayne", like "Aegon", like John the Fiddler, like Daario, and so on - as a disguise or a sign of who he represents (like wearing a lady's favour), or both.

The Darklyns were also in Bloodraven's forces in The Mystery Knight... From Maidenpool had come Lord Mooton, from Raventree Lord Blackwood, from Duskendale Lord Darklyn. The royal demenses about King's Landing sent forth Hayfords, Rosbys, Stokeworths, Masseys, and the king's own sworn swords, led by three knights of the Kingsguard and stiffened by three hundred Raven's Teeth with tall white weirwood bows. Mad Danelle Lothston herself rode forth in strength from her haunted towers at Harrenhal, clad in black armor that fit her like an iron glove, her long red hair streaming. 

Barristan wonders if he did the right thing by bringing Aerys out of Duskendale.. and maybe Shadrich is a Darke or a Darkwood, etc., Hmmm.. I don't see how that helps with his motivation, much.. But think of the more recent action at Duskendale, part and parcel of Roose and Tywin's trap for Robb and his forces.. Then we can see that for BR and anyone allied with him, that might be yet another catalyst. Save a Stark/Tully/Whent and thwart a new Blackfyre attempt at the same time.

I really have to come back later...

Edited by bemused

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The "Ser Shadrich = Howland Reed" hypothesis doesn't really make any sense to me. Ser Shadrich is supposedly a knight, trained to fight on horseback. That's not an easy skill to learn; it takes years. The KotLT story clearly states that Howland Reed had not undergone that training as of that time, and he would be very unlikely to get a chance to do so later. (It would be very tough to practice jousting in a swamp.) Howland would not be able to impersonate a knight effectively, and he would be foolish to try. We haven't seen Ser Shadrich fight yet, but if he is in any way competent in the knightly arts, he's not Howland Reed.

There are also some timing problems with the idea. As of the beginning of ACoK, HR was at Greywater Watch. He sent Meera and Jojen to WF only after Jojen had his "Winged Wolf Chains of Stone" dream. At that time, Sansa was being held in the Red Keep, and her location was common knowledge. Howland wouldn't be able to penetrate the Red Keep, so he would have no reason to try. Thus, he probably stayed at Greywater. Sansa didn't go missing until the PW. Brienne arrived in KL a couple days later, and embarked on her quest before Tyrion escapes. She met Ser Shadrich early on her journey, before she reached Duskendale. The elapsed time from the wedding was probably no more than three weeks. Howland wouldn't have time to don his disguise and get there. And why would he go to the Duskendale Road, rather than the Vale?

The possible Whent connections raised here are interesting. Sansa has always been associated elementally with Air (little bird, little dove, stayed at the Eyrie with her cousin the Falcon Lord), so I've always guessed that she will indeed end up warging bats. As for Shadrich, one could argue that, despite appearances, mice and bats aren't really that closely related, so this would be a false lead.   

Ser Shadrich's name and sigil could be interpreted in many ways. The biblical reference might indicate he will have a run-in with Burned Men or a dragon. He's a mouse chasing Cat's daughter, which he may eventually regret. He might get eaten by a shadowcat. I'm very much inclined to take Ser Shadrich's story at face value - he's out to kidnap Sansa and return her to KL for the reward. If BR was really interested in helping Sansa, Bronze Yohn would seem to be a better choice for a tool.

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On 8/6/2016 at 11:38 PM, bemused said:

’Tis true, I am no tourney knight. I save my valor for the battlefield, woman.” 

@Ibbison from Ibben That's a quote from Shadrich in Brienne I, AFFC. And, of course, we will not see him participate in the tourney in the vale...

So if he's Howland, he's posing as a knight.. but that wouldn't mean he hasn't seen battle.(We know he must have.) He's riding a "rangy chestnut courser" .. a horse commonly used in battle, but also hunting. (A tall horse is something of an equalizer for a small man.)

On 8/14/2016 at 5:35 AM, Ibbison from Ibben said:

There are also some timing problems with the idea. As of the beginning of ACoK, HR was at Greywater Watch. He sent Meera and Jojen to WF only after Jojen had his "Winged Wolf Chains of Stone" dream. At that time, Sansa was being held in the Red Keep, and her location was common knowledge. Howland wouldn't be able to penetrate the Red Keep, so he would have no reason to try. Thus, he probably stayed at Greywater. Sansa didn't go missing until the PW. Brienne arrived in KL a couple days later, and embarked on her quest before Tyrion escapes. She met Ser Shadrich early on her journey, before she reached Duskendale. The elapsed time from the wedding was probably no more than three weeks. Howland wouldn't have time to don his disguise and get there. And why would he go to the Duskendale Road, rather than the Vale?

Yes, as I said, this is the sort of thing that has always kept me from making a certain ID... and still does to a degree.. but l'm more inclined to it now, than previously. It's the potential involvement of Bloodraven that changes things. Dontos (of Duskendale) and Sansa do all their planning in the godswood.. and though the heart tree is an oak, when Ned takes his daughters there on an overnight vigil ... When dawn broke over the city, the dark red blooms of dragon's breath surrounded the girls where they lay. "I dreamed of Bran," Sansa had whispered to him. "I saw him smiling." ... AGoT, Eddard V

I'm suspicious of that dragon's breath (at least as a possible significator of BR's presence in spite of the lack of a weirwood)... A black cat could also go unnoticed in a dark godswood, as well as roosting birds.. Littlefinger's part in the proceedings may not have been so easily discernable (depending on where he planned with Dontos, and later on the sea, in the dark).. so, searching to pick up her traces might be necessary (Or, LF's part may actually have been foreseen or quickly deduced with daylight, seabirds, the old hound at the fingers, etc.)

However, we do know, if Creighton and Illifer are Varys' agents, where they could have met to discuss plans very privately, and how they could have been observed. - In AGoT, "Balerion" possibly led Arya to where Varys and Illyrio could be overheard, and because of Arya, we know there's an outside route from there to/from one of the city gates.

(As Skahaz tells Barristan elsewhwere "Cats go everywhere. No one ever looks at them." .. I get the feeling that in this game, cat and mouse are on the same team.)

I don't really think that Howland is the stay-at-home type. Besides the Isle of Faces, Harrenhal, RR &ToJ, I think there are some signs that he was perhaps personally liaising with Robb when Robb and Greywind (probably in contravention of what would be normal security measures) went out scouting alone, repeatedly, during Robb's progress through Hag's Mire. (I say this because by the time Robb gives instructions to Meage and Galbart, and discusses his homeward battle strategy, he's already certain of the role Howland and GWW will play.) 

In the years since the TOJ , Howland might have made many trips outside GWW. Did he never return to the Green Men , or to Harrenhal, where he would be known to Shella Whent? His lands border on Dustin lands to the north, would he never have had anything to discuss with Barbrey Dustin in 14+ years? We can't know, but many things are possible.

 **And Barbrey Dustin has just made me realize another possible reference the TOJ... Shadrich rides a "rangy chestnut courser" which is a similar description to Willam Dustin's "great red stallion". A chestnut is a red horse... It's not likely the same horse, but perhaps bred from the same stock ? ..or maybe, it's just a subtle evocation of Ned and his companions.

Howland must have learned to ride (if not well enough to be a jouster) - because in order to turn up with Ned at the TOJ, he obviously responded when Ned called his banners, and fought with him through RR.

Thinking about why he would take the Duskendale road... (apart from a possible meeting with Shella Whent) : Anyone who put Sansa and Dontos together in their mind would begin looking there.. just as Brienne did. He could be scouting to see who was on the hunt, while perhaps always knowing he'd need to make his way to the Vale.

He doesn't seem to follow Brienne away from the inn, and probably stays with Hibald until Duskendale, watching for what Creigh and Illy might do next, and seeing who else might turn up on that road. The more I look, the more I think Howland can't be ruled out.

On 8/14/2016 at 5:35 AM, Ibbison from Ibben said:

If BR was really interested in helping Sansa, Bronze Yohn would seem to be a better choice for a tool.

I don't know that I'd use the word "tool" for any of them.. for most, I think it would be more a case of inspiring them to do what they would naturally want to do ,if they had access to the necessary information.

I think there's very little about Shadrich, Creighton or Illifer that should be taken a face value.

I do think Bronze Yohn will probably become another ally to the Mouse, Morgarth and Byron ..It depends how "reachable" he is..how open to suggestion by BR.. His first men blood seems favourable, but we don't know if he keeps a godswood, etc. (Even though Morgarth is a devotee of the seven.. he lives in a cave, and has spent a good deal of time in meditation... I wonder if there are any weirwood roots in the caves on the QI?... and the rusted dragon head washing up on his shore suggests that he still may have red dragon sympathies)

With the connections to the Blackfyre rebellions creeping in .. I even begin to have hope for Lyn Corbray.. especially in light of the TWoW Alayne chapter. (sorry, spoilers went wacky- too tired to fix.)

 

 

 Myranda Royce considered the victor thoughtfully.  “Do you think if I asked nicely Ser Lyn would kill my suitors for me?”

     “He might, for a plump bag of gold.” Ser Lyn Corbray was forever desperately short of coin, all the Vale knew that.

[/spoiler]

OK, that sounds ominous, when put together with Shadrich's "bag of Dragons", but we maybe shouldn't make too much of his poverty, because..

 
 

 

 “But what need have I for heirs when I am landless and like to remain so, thanks to our Lord Protector?  No. Tell your lord father I need none of his brood mares.”

     The venom in his voice was so thick that for a moment she almost forgot that Lyn Corbray was actually her father’s catspaw, bought and paid for. Or was he?  Perhaps, instead of being Petyr’s man pretending to be Petyr’s foe, he was actually his foe pretending to be his man pretending to be his foe.

     Just thinking about it was enough to make her head spin. Alayne turned abruptly from the yard… and bumped into a short, sharp-faced man with a brush of orange hair ...

It makes my head spin, too...that doesn't sound like money (or boys) are everything to him, either. Historically the Corbrays supported the red dragon.. and supported Rhaegar until defeated by Jon Arryn. So, I'm thinking he could move either way.. depending on whether he views "Aegon" as genuine or Blackfyre, and whether anyone wants to use Sansa to consolidate "Aegon's" authority..

Lothor Brune is another that could surprise... He's been sympathetic to Sansa.. but Nimble Dick tells Brienne.. "... we bow only to our own lords, and the king. The true king, not Robert and his ilk.” He spat. “There was Crabbs and Brunes and Boggses with Prince Rhaegar on the Trident, <snip> We’re all good dragon men, up Crackclaw way.”

 

But I'm sort of getting ahead of myself... back in AFfCWhen Brienne stops at Maidenpool on her way back, she learns from Ser Hyle that the high passes to the vale are now closed by snow. One of our trio could have slipped through before that happened, while Brienne was touring Crackclaw point. At the docks, she just misses Arya's ship, Titan's daughter ; she buys a orange for Pod (probably the same place Meribald bought his oranges) from ... the Seastrider, a cog just in from Oldtown by way of Tyrosh, Pentos, and Duskendale. “Gulltown next,” her captain told her, “thence around the Fingers to Sisterton and White Harbor, if the storms allow....."

And another ship out of Gulltown, the "Gulltown Girl" is also in port.. so we can see paths exist for Shadrich, Byron and Morgarth to make their ways separately to the Vale. If Morgoth is EB, he couldn't have left until after Brienne's visit, but the Seastrider may not be making a very quick turnaround, depending on what business it has to do.

I think the Blackfyre rebellion clues are intentional. In Brienne V, Meribald gives his broken man speech, at the end of which he confirms that he fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and in Brienne VII he makes reference to the first BF rebellion in the story of the broken, rusted dragon sign.

 I wonder if in TWoW Creigh and Illy will turn up for the melee at Sweetrobin's tourney.

Edited by bemused

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@bemused

Since you referred to my avalanche theory, I thought you were familiar with what I forward as the likely meaning of "red stallions". In fact the avalanche theory came about by digging into the meaning of the Dustin horse at the ToJ, and how it's a big alarm signal. Here's the first essay.

https://sweeticeandfiresunray.wordpress.com/parallelism/the-trail-of-the-red-stallion/

The first part goes on about Lyanna as half centaur and Despoina connections, then goes to Ned-Jaime confrontation where he wounds his leg (Jaime rides a blood bay) -> Ned's favorite horse threw him off, which is a foresahdowing metaphor of "betting on the wrong horse". Then I go back to Ned's chapter of the Tourney, where the first joust is between Jaime (on the blood bay) versus the Hound, Littlefinger "betting on Jaime", but Jaime's thrown off and his blood bay keeps on going "riderless".

All the red stallions end up riderless: Jaime tourney and later capture at RR, Drogo, Lord Dustin and his horse, Dontos doesn't even manage to crawl on his red stallion at the Nameday tourney.

Sansa rides a chestnut mare, but is nearly dragged off, saved by the Hound, and they reappear at the RK double riding on the chestnut mare in Tyrion's POV chapter => Sansa later becomes Tyrion's bride, but she turns out to be wrong mare to bet on for Tyrion.

Tyrion rides a red stallion too for a while (in fact he arrives on it at the RK on the nameday tourney), and he ends up without getting any public credit for his defense plans during Blackwater, claims to want to save and protect Sansa but still keeps her as a hostage (albeit tries to keep her better treated) and marries her for WF

And many more characters. But they all consistently are a red flag that they'll end up dead/losing/not the man or woman to bet on for help.

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Could he be some sort of Agent of Lady Stoneheart? If Thoros can see anything in his fires, than Cat might know where Sansa is... I imagine LS would want to act on that knowledge. It's a stretch, I know...

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On 8/7/2016 at 2:38 AM, bemused said:

Of the various guesses that have been made at the identity of the Mad Mouse, I lean toward Howland Reed, but I always hold back from firm belief, because there are so many reasonable speculations about where else he might be, and what he might be doing .. and he is, after all, only one man. So I'm not setting out to prove or disprove the theory, but trying to find out as much as I can about his motivations, connections, etc., though I will take note (**) , if something particularly points in HR's direction. We'll just see what shakes out, but whoever he is and whoever he's allied with, I've always taken his intentions to be good.For me, he's one of the good guys.

(I know, this is fiendishly long.)

Fiendishly so :devil:, but you got the details right! Great work. At the moment I only have a few comments because I like to re-read and think on things before making myslef look too silly... Oh, and coffee first. I have learned to never post anything without first having some strong black coffee :cheers:

On 8/7/2016 at 2:38 AM, bemused said:

PART ONE - MUSINGS ON SHADRICH, HIS COMPANIONS .. AND HOUSE WHENT

What can be said about Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen, The Mad Mouse ? Well, to borrow a familiar phrase - much and more, as it turns out - some of which has always been apparent, and some of which I've only been able to connect recently. I'm going to skip back and forth with my quotes, and - fair warning! - include references to the chapters from TWoW.

So let's get the really obvious out of the way. I think for most of us, the very name "Shadrich" instantly evokes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, King Nebuchadnezzar, and the fiery furnace of religious mythology. Shadrach and his companions were cast into the furnace because they refused to bow down to the King's golden statue (either of a god, or of the king himself (as a god?)).. Of course, this would have been a new god to Shadrach and his stalwarts. They stand by their own "old" God.

Similarly, we (mostly) accept that our Shadrich, in-story, is a follower of the old gods, evoked by the weirwood colours of his white mouse with red eyes (which suggests a connection to Bloodraven whether he's aware of it or not).

There are many suggestions (which I'll come to) linking our Mad Mouse to Harrenhal and House Whent but  first, I want to skip ahead to see if his companions in the Vale might be his allies (again, even unknowingly) and thus echo Meshach and Abednego.

I totally agree with the Sharach, Meshach, Abednego reference. It validates your reasoning more because out of all the Stark kids, Sansa is the one who is more southron in spiritual beliefs that are based on Christianity with her singing of hymns and praying, as opposed to all of the Norse symbolism for Jon. Another way Sansa is a mini-cat. I believe she has unfinished business in Kings Landing, as Arya has unfinished business at Riverrun. (sidenote: I really want Rickon to come back on scene soon.)

You could make a case that Shadrich is following the old gods and he rejects the notion of the "golden crown" of Kings Landing. You could also make a case that Bloodraven has something to do with Sharich, Longbough, and Illifer the Penniless, knowingly or not:

  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and whom the king had appointed to high office in Babylon, were refusing to worship the golden statue.
  • When the three are thrown into the furnace the king sees four men walking in the flames, the fourth like "a son of god," a divine being.
On 8/7/2016 at 2:38 AM, bemused said:

Ser Byron : ... I've been unsure about Ser Byron never having been able to find as convincing a possible ID for him. He's ... an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders. ... and we're told ...  the tall one with the blond hair kissed her (Sansa's) hand before taking his leave. 

All we have to go on is his "thick blonde mane" and any hints given by his name.. Hmm.. He might be Shadrich's adversary. Since he's elegant, he's probably reasonably well funded.. His thick blonde "mane" easily could suggest a Lannister connection , or perhaps Targ/Blackfyre/Brightflame .. His name may also suggest those same houses, by inference. "Byron" strikes a chord with us because of Lord Byron, famous for being a great seducer, having an affair (and child) with his half sister, and being an exile (in his case, self - imposed). 

Augh! Wait ! ...  As soon as I typed that paragraph, I realized that there could be,  ... no, IS something that puts Ser Byron on the "good guys" list. (I'm just leaving the paragraph in for comparison and outside possibility).

OK, here goes ... Questioning how aware or actively involved Bloodraven might be in their mission... (I mean beyond a character just believing in the old gods) ... and keeping in mind the Lord Byron assosciation, has just led to a real revelation for me.

Bloodraven has Targaryen/Blackwood bloodlines - carrying the inevitable Targ. incest allusions. His own his own father was definitely a great seducer, while he, himself, was "exiled" to the Wall. This is all quite Byronesqe. ... Bloodraven is becoming one with a weirwood, blurring the line between life and death. Likewise, the weirwood at Raventree hall is "dead", but apparently still connected to the "weirnet". (The ravens still return every night). Perhaps it's just "mostly dead".
According to Jaime I, ADWD, Lord Tytos Blackwood is tall and thin and something of a snappy dresser ... Lord Tytos Blackwood met him in the outer ward, mounted on a destrier as gaunt as himself. Very tall and very thin, the Lord of Raventree had a hook nose, long hair, and a ragged salt-and-pepper beard that showed more salt than pepper. In silver inlay on the breastplate of his burnished scarlet armor was a white tree bare and dead, surrounded by a flock of onyx ravens taking flight. A cloak of raven feathers fluttered from his shoulders.
... The "elegance" of his wardrobe belies the raggedness of his beard.
His third son Hoster (Hos the hostage) ... could not have been any older than sixteen, yet he was even taller than his father, almost seven feet of legs and shins and elbows, a gangling, gawky boy with a cowlick. ... His apparel is not described, and he's still at the awkward stage.

 Great connections. I love anything to do with Bloodraven (even though I mis-quoted something about him a few weeks ago because I had not had coffee yet!) Bran and Bloodraven are a huge part of almost everyone's story. I cringe when other posters claim that AFFC, Bran, Brienne, or Sansa's story are lame and slow. NO. George had to reset the book for stage two of the story with another round of set-ups. I love what you have done here because it helps show how it is being brought together.

 

On 8/7/2016 at 2:38 AM, bemused said:

The first Lothston/Whent hints that stand out to us about Ser Shadrich are his red hair and his sobriquet "The Mad Mouse", which bring to mind Mad Danelle Lothston, who we see marching with Bloodraven in The Mystery Knight. ... Sansa's auburn hair comes through Cat from her grandmother Minisa Whent. ... Later we'll see Shadrich say, in the released Alayne chapter from TWoW,  "A mouse with wings would be a silly sight." ... winged mouse = fledermaus = bat.

Looking back, there are quite a few places where "mouse" can be connected to Whent blood and Harrenhal, as well. The first, and most numerous occurances come through Arya, but her Whent heritage is not something on our minds at the time. These are only some of the many examples :

On the road Arya had felt like a sheep, but Harrenhal turned her into a mouse. She was grey as a mouse in her scratchy wool shift, and like a mouse she kept to the crannies and crevices and dark holes of the castle, scurrying out of the way of the mighty. ... ACoK, Arya VII

Arry was a fierce little boy with a sword, and I'm just a grey mouse girl with a pail.... ACoK, Arya VII

Arya is a servant in Harrenhal and the Whents were in service to the Lothstons.

A mouse couldn’t use a sword but I can. ... ACoK, Arya VIII

She's a mouse girl that can use a sword, the Whents were sword bearing knights, and there seems no doubt the Mad Mouse can use one, too.

 I was a sheep, and then I was a mouse, I couldn't do anything but hide. ... ACoK Arya IX

Arya was hiding her identity and Shadrich appears to be hiding his.

Sansa doesn't call herself a mouse, but others do:

Cersei to Sansa...Try not to sound so like a mouse, Sansa. You’re a woman now, remember? And betrothed to my firstborn.” The queen sipped at her wine. ... ACoK, Sansa VI

Lysa to Sansa... “You squeak like a mouse now, but you were bold enough in the garden, weren’t you? You were bold enough in the snow.” .. AsoS, Sansa VII

A bold mouse... we'll meet another in the next book..

And later, well after we've met Ser Shadrich, Cersei will think...  Catelyn Tully was a mouse, or she would have smothered this Jon Snow in his cradle. Instead, she’s left the filthy task to me.  ...Cersei IV, AFFC

...This is fraught with extra meaning. Not only does it label Catelyn a mouse / Whent ... but no Whent would harm Rhaegar's child. Lord Whent appears to have been in on Rhaegar's plans to make changes from the beginning, and Oswell Whent gave his life to protect those plans (Jon) at the ToJ.

**Of course, Howland Reed was prominent at both the Harrenhal Tourney and the ToJ.

I have also been one to long believe that Sansa is linked with the Whent's and Harrenhal and bats for a long time. Heck, even the Hound is like a walking, talking Harrenhal figure and I do believe he will be back in her life soon (to some degree).

This line hooked me in right away when I first read it. It could be taken a few ways, but one thing they all have in common is Sansa's relationship to bats being in her/a part of her, waiting to fly out:

  • A Storm of Swords - Sansa IV

    Tyrion scarce touched his food, Sansa noticed, though he drank several cups of the wine. For herself, she tried a little of the Dornish eggs, but the peppers burned her mouth. Otherwise she only nibbled at the fruit and fish and honeycakes. Every time Joffrey looked at her, her tummy got so fluttery that she felt as though she'd swallowed a bat.
This is all a wonderful read. I am glad someone put it all out there for others to discuss. I am going to have to come back to the second half a little later.

 

 

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bemused -

Sure, Howland can ride a horse. But the difference between being able to ride a horse and being able to fight from horseback is about 6 years of constant practice. It would be very difficult and very dangerous for someone without that training to pose as someone who did.

In AGoT, Balerion most definitely did not lead Arya to Illyrio and Varys. That was the show.

on the godswood in the Red Keep. -

Dontos insists on meeting Sansa only there because LF has given him instructions on that matter. It's obvious that LF has figured out what Varys's "little birds" are and how they work. (Given his role as Master of Coin, LF no doubt uses customs agents as spies in every port on both sides of the Narrow Sea. He would have had little trouble finding the link between Varys and Illyrio - thus his comment to Ned in AGoT about "... hold[ing] the man's balls in my hand.") Can BR's visions reach to the Red Keep without a weirwood? Can he warg a cat or bird constantly to maintain coverage? We don't know.

Howland might have had a bit of wanderlust as a young man, but Harrenhal plus a war most likely cured it. Crannogmen as a whole are a stay-at-home bunch. I doubt Robb actually saw Howland personally in ASoS, but it seems likely that provisions for messengers existed at both the north and south ends of the Neck, along with raven message forwarding through the Dustins or Ryswells. Robb states he "sent word" to Howland in AGoT, Catelyn VIII.

If you look hard enough, you can find find evidence of BR meddling anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms, whether he is or not. The same stands true for Varys. Excuse me while I go shave - my triple-headed electric Occam is almost recharged.

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2 hours ago, Ibbison from Ibben said:

Can BR's visions reach to the Red Keep without a weirwood?

BR comments to Bran that Bran's view in time won't be restricted to the weirwood alone, and from the way he says it (in relation to weirviewing) he doesn't seem to imply skinchanging animals, but that a well trained talented greenseer is not restricted to using trees alone as eyes. It seems logical to me that GRRM doesn't want to restrict the use of greenseeing with Bran as a POV witness to only watching through weirwoods, in order to allow Bran to witness past or present events at locations where there aren't any.

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8 hours ago, BricksAndSparrows said:

Could he be some sort of Agent of Lady Stoneheart? If Thoros can see anything in his fires, than Cat might know where Sansa is... I imagine LS would want to act on that knowledge. It's a stretch, I know...

So unCat's agent is the Mad Mouse? 

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13 hours ago, Light a wight tonight said:

So unCat's agent is the Mad Mouse? 

Like I said, I know it's a stretch... I'm not married to the idea or anything; I'm mildly ashamed of it since it's so tinfoily. But I'll say this. I don't think he is there by coincidence.

There are obviously a lot of people looking for Sansa, and Shadrich could be working for any of them, or simply for himself. But my theory on Lady Stoneheart says she is still looking for the Stark children. If she is proactively sending people after them (like she did with Brienne,) than Shadrich is the most likely candidate in the Vale.

 If you take "unCat" out of the loop though, I'd say he might be there as a result of Olenna Tyrell. Assuming she really did conspire with Baelish to murder Joff, the Queen of Thornes would have to be insanely stupid not to know where Sansa is, or at least be capable of picking up her trail.

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There is the slight possibility that Ser Shadrich could have been the hedge knight that captured Harrion Karstark, at the battle of the Green Fork, and held him captive at Harrenhal.

The connection to the Whents is interesting. Lots of questions about Shella Whent to be sure.

As for the ward of Rosby, my first guess would be Olyvar Frey.

Did the mouse smelled a good battle and a good prize in the Vale ?

 

Edited by Poupsi

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On 7-8-2016 at 8:38 AM, bemused said:

and though Brienne doesn't describe his hands, their appearance could be quite as unexpected as the rest of him.

There is actually a quote where Brienne notes he has "big hands":

He leaned forward, his big hands on his knees. "If so, give up this quest of yours. The Hound is dead, and in any case he never had your Sansa Stark..." (aFfC, Brienne VI)

This is mentioned towards the end of the chapter, when Elder Brother has his private conversation with Brienne in her beehive-quarter, and she confesses all that happened to her, and why it's so important to her to find Sansa. It's just not mentioned at the initial description paragraph.

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On 8/16/2016 at 11:37 AM, Ibbison from Ibben said:

Sure, Howland can ride a horse. But the difference between being able to ride a horse and being able to fight from horseback is about 6 years of constant practice. It would be very difficult and very dangerous for someone without that training to pose as someone who did.

see; Ser Duncan the Tall.  Could ride just fine, sucked as a tourney knight.

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I don't buy any of the secret identities you have suggested.  I have problems with Howland Reed's ability to become Ser Shadrich, and with the Elder Brother's motive for become Morgrath.  I also have serious problems with timing.

Crannogmen are clearly described as lousy riders.  I haven't seen any mention of horses in connection with Meera and Jojen and wouldn't be surprised if they travelled to Winterfell on foot.  Whie Howland probably rode with Ned during the war, I doubt he has much opportunity since then.  He seems to have stayed homein the Neck.  Also as @Ibbison from Ibben commented, it would be dangerous for an inexperienced rider to pretend to be a knight.  He could easily be called upon to defend himself or another, and would have serious difficulty.  I also agree with the timing issues mentioned above.  

I also see no way for Howland (or Shadrich, for that matter) to know Sansa is in the Vale.  If anything, I would expect Howland to help Robb, and if he is going to go anywhere, I would expect it to be Winterfell, where I think it is likely that there will be a future confrontation with the Others.  In fact, I think that if we have seen Howland at all, he is the Hooded Man Theon encounterd.  (No, I don't buy that one either, but it makes more sense than being Shadrich).

I similarly have a problem with the Elder Brother being Morgrath.  Why would he leave the monastery where he has been ensconced for 15 years.  To help someone he has barely heard of?  And how would he know where Sansa is?  Or did Bloodraven tell him too?  (He's the all-seeing, all-knowing mastermind of everything that has happened in Westeros since the beginning of the series! :lol:)  If he does want to help Sansa and knows where she is, why not tell Brienne?  He has no reason to doubt either her sincerity or ability.  It makes more sense than him going off under a fake name.  Also, I don't see how he could make it in time either.

This false-identity stuff is getting ridiculous.  Martin gives us clear hints about this kind of stuff where it exists.   As in, the sort of thing that a careful, layman reader can pick up on.  Already, there are four characters who are universally believed by careful readers to have a hidden identity; Quiet Isle gravedigger; Robert Strong; Alleras the Sphinx; and Pate.  And there are others that are widely suspected such as Lem being Richard Lonmouth, and Septa Lemore being .. somebody.   I see no real hints that these characters are anything other than what they appear to be, which is hungry hedge knights.  

I must say, though, that I do like the connections made between Harrenhal and the Whents and the Stark sisters.  I wouldn't be surprised if that plays out in the future.

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