This is good. This is very good. A few thoughts or observations. Other Starks are interred in the tombs, but don't have their own statues and swords and direwolves. Maybe you were already taking that into consideration. I think we hear about this in a Bran POV. Granted, he may be foreshadowing his own likely claim to be the new LOW / KitN, but I think he mentions that his siblings' bones would be there, too. It seems as if the swords in the tombs were specifically made as what archaeologists would call "grave goods" - the sword Ice doesn't have to go into the tomb with the king, so Mikken (or the previous smiths) make a sword specifically for the tomb. So there must be something special about the way these blades are forged that gives them the ability to hold the soul in the tomb. Or maybe some spell is cast over them after they are forged? Mikken was not a Stark descendant, as far as we know, so the magic was either something he knew about as a trusted insider, or the magic came from someone other than the smith. If it came from the Crone, that could explain why Old Nan had been at Winterfell so long. She might be the overseer of the pact between the Starks and the CotF. If Mikken can make a new sword to go with a modern Winterfell tomb, wouldn't the Winterfell smiths have had the duty of making new swords to replace old rusty swords as they started to decay? Or does the sword only work if it's the initial sword buried with that particular Stark? The stairs or passage to the lower tombs may have collapsed, but what if there was a different way in? Maybe Osha's swim in the bottomless hot spring was an attempt to find the back door to the tombs. The unreliable narrator could also come into play with the notion of the inaccessible lower levels. Maybe the kids have been told that the lower levels are inaccessible, but they really can be reached, if you know how. Or maybe Theon is saying they are inaccessible because he doesn't want anyone to find how many swords he took. I had been thinking that Jeor Mormont was such a benevolent guy for sparing Jon Snow after he deserted the Night's Watch, in contrast to Ned Stark killing four deserters that year alone. But his closing words to Jon always nagged at me: he said he needed Jon's blood and his direwolf to go beyond the Wall, to fight the real war they were facing and to find Benjen Stark. What if the old northern Mormont family is trying to restore the peace by selling Jon Snow's soul and his direwolf and a special sword (Mormont asks Jon whether he has a grumkin to "magic up your sword") to the vengeful CotF? This could explain why Maege cheered for Robb as King of Winter, while everyone else was cheering for King in the North - she knows that a certain kind of king is needed for the soul sacrifice, and suspects that Robb either is, or can't be, that king. What if Jeor knows that Benjen is trying to undermine this strategy to sacrifice Jon? (But why wouldn't Benjen have warned Jon?) We need to find that grumkin and find out what he knows. You know, that whole scene with the northern bannermen reaching the conclusion that Robb must be the King in the North takes on a new meaning if this theory is correct. They may have been dying to get the Starks to wear the crown and call themselves kings again so the safety from the winter and the long night could be restored. Lord Rickard Stark may have known about the responsibility that would pass to him, and he may even have had "the talk" with his oldest son. When Rickard and Brandon both suddenly died, the little father-to-son talk may never have been passed down to Ned. Maybe Ned had no idea that it was essential he die at Winterfell. (Or maybe he did, explaining why he ensured that Lyanna's bones were interred there.) But I was thinking that the bannermen cheering for the King in the North could be like the people who cheer for the bear who is persuaded that he is going to town to marry a beautiful girl when, in fact, he is going to be hunted and eaten. Robb has no idea he is being made into a sacrifice by all these nice northern pals who have been hanging out with him. Without a lot to go on other than my twitching wordplay antenna, I have suspected that Craster comes from a splintered-off branch of the Stark family. I don't think GRRM would have gone to so much trouble to explain the reasons behind the Karstarks unless it had a more important application. And that application could be to call attention to the fact that the name Craster shares a lot of the same letters and sounds as Stark and Karstark and Greystark. So I agree with the speculation that Craster is deliberately maintaining a pure bloodline for the sacrifices or for some other reason. If you're right about the pledge to sacrifice the souls of Stark kings, maybe Craster and his father and grandfathers before him have been trying to shore up the agreement for those three hundred years since Torrhen bent the knee. (And Gilly's baby will have to grow up and take up the family business as the only warm-blooded male heir.) There is also a throne connection for Craster - GRRM makes a point of calling attention to the one chair in Craster's keep. Everyone else sits on benches or the floor. So many interesting ways to explore this. Thanks for a good, provocative read, Yovmo.