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SFDanny

Ashara, post Harrenhal possibilities

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In the thread meant for "small questions" I confess I posted my thoughts on a subject that is by no means small and needs more room of its own to have any further discussion. One of the posters who responded, @Bael's Bastard, had some interesting questions I promised to discuss. Here's the place for any and all who are interested where the Lady Ashara was in the days after the Harrenhal tourney and up to (and possibly beyond) her apparent suicide in Starfall. Sorry, for the long delay, BB. And to all, sorry for the length. At least I had fun in writing it.

To start this off, let me quote @Bael's Bastard last posts in the other thread.

On 8/22/2018 at 1:35 PM, Bael's Bastard said:

How could she do that and still be at Starfall after the war to receive Dawn from Ned?

 

On 8/22/2018 at 4:01 PM, Bael's Bastard said:

I didn't mean to ask how she could have got there before Ned, or in time to meet Ned there. I was more asking about the idea of her bringing him across the Narrow Sea when we hear she met Ned at Starfall well after the sack. Furthermore, why would Ashara return to Dorne with Aegon, only to bring him to Starfall instead of Sunspear? Why would she not alert Doran and the Martells? And then bring him to Essos? That just doesn't sound plausible to me.

 

On 8/23/2018 at 6:45 AM, Bael's Bastard said:

The pertinent point is that a handful of sources have placed Ashara Dayne in Starfall after the Sack of King's Landing, the lifting of the Siege of Storm's End, and the fight at the Tower of Joy. Catelyn Tully (AGOT: Catelyn II), Cersei Lannister (AGOT: Eddard XII), Edric Dayne (ASOS: Arya VIII), Harwin (ASOS: Arya VIII), and Barristan Selmy (ADWD: Kingbreaker) all either explicitly or implicitly support the idea that Ashara was present at Starfall at that time.

So there would need to be a pretty good explanation as to why Ashara bypassed Sunspear, and brought baby Aegon to Starfall, where he would have been in hiding when Ned showed up after the war, then to Essos after some amount of time, all without ever informing Prince Doran and House Martell of his baby nephew Aegon's survival.

Let me first state I don't dispute the accounts of Lady Ashara being in Starfall, or the fact we are told she committed suicide after Ned left Starfall; apparently he left with the baby Jon Snow in his company. I will also state that it is no accident that we have so little information on Ashara's whereabouts between Harrenhal and her apparent death. She is one of the main candidates to be Jon Snow's mother, and as such, too much information might just reveal that mystery before our dear author wants to do so. Martin wants to keep the information limited to keep us guessing. But he also tells us the following:

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I will give you this much, however; Ashara Dayne was not nailed to the floor in Starfall, as some of the fans who write me seem to assume. They have horses in Dorne too, you know. And boats (though not many of their own). As a matter of fact (a tiny tidbit from SOS), she was one of Princess Elia’s lady companions in King’s Landing in the first few years after Elia married Rhaegar.

( http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/1040 ) bold emphasis added

Clearly, Martin wants to reveal very little detail, or rule much of anything out, on this subject. That doesn't mean we have no clues at all. We know Ashara is one of Elia's companions in the early years of her marriage, and at the tourney at Harrenhal, and that last event takes place in the Year of the False Spring, 281 AC, likely in the last quarter of the year. We know Ned leaves King's Landing in late 283 after Robert's coronation, and travels to relieve the siege of Storm's End, from there he is on to the Tower of Joy, and then on to Starfall where he returns Dawn to the Daynes, and leaves with Jon in his company. Whether or not Jon is in his company when he arrives at Starfall is another question, as is the timing of Ashara's arrival in her home, but we can be assured of her presence in Starfall when Ned leaves. So we are talking of two known locations for Ashara in about a two year period from the ending of 281 AC to the ending of 283 AC or the beginning of 284 AC.

Filling in this gap of time for Ashara is mostly rank speculation based on assumptions, but it is fun in the attempt. We have until November for Fire & Blood, and who knows how long for The Winds of Winter? In that spirit, here are some ways of looking at the subject. Let's then add two likely locations for Ashara in this time period. In the immediate aftermath of the Harrenhal tourney we know from the account in the The World of Ice & Fire is that Elia is on Dragonstone after the birth of Aegon. One would think, that as lady companion to Princess Elia, Ashara would be there as well.

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Huge green fires burned along the walls of the Red Keep for a moon's turn. Prince Rhaegar was not in the city to observe them, however. Nor could he be found in Dragonstone with Princess Elia and their young son, Aegon. With the coming of the new year, the crown prince had taken to the road with half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants, on a journey that would ultimately lead them back to the riverlands. Not ten leagues from Harrenhal, Rhaegar fell upon Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and carried her off lighting a fire that would consume his house and king and those he loved - half the realm besides. (TWoI&F 127) bold emphasis added

I don't want to rule anything out. Perhaps Ashara is one of Rhaegar's "half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants" but given her known role as Elia's lady companion, I would think her presence on Dragonstone in early 282 AC is more likely.

Another thing we have evidence Ashara doing during this long time period is delivering a stillborn daughter somewhere likely around mid-year 282 AC,  or up to nine months after the tourney, but we have little indication of where this takes place. Starfall is a good guess, as we would expect she would likely be welcomed there. In the company of Elia is an unlikely guess at this point, as the presence of a unmarried pregnant woman among Elia's lady companions is not probable especially late in her pregnancy. Indeed her dismissal from their ranks because of the pregnancy is likely part of the "dishonor" Ser Barristan talks about.

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But Ashara's daughter had been stillborn, and his fair lady had thrown herself from a tower soon after, mad with grief for the child she had lost, and perhaps for the man who had dishonored her as well. She died never knowing that Ser Barristan had loved her. How could she? He was a knight of the Kingsguard, sworn to celibacy. No good could have come from telling her his feelings. No good came from silence either. If I had unhorsed Rhaegar and crowned Ashara queen of love and beauty, might she have look to me instead of Stark? (ADwD 879) bold emphasis added

So, here we add another two locations as likely for Ashara during this time period. 

  1. At the Harrenhal Tourney in late 281 AC
  2. On Dragonstone with Elia following the birth of Aegon in early 282 AC
  3. In Starfall during the stillbirth of her daughter around mid-year 282 AC
  4. In Starfall after Ned arrives in very late 283 AC to early 284 AC

That's my best guess for Ashara's locations during this whole period. But as Martin goes out of his way to caution us against thinking Ashara is "nailed to the floor in Starfall" I think it is a good idea to take his advice and not assume anything beyond these four points. Which takes me to the question of motive.

First, let me say I assume Ashara is a partisan of Rhaegar and Elia. Her brother's relationship with Rhaegar and her relationship to Elia, as well as the history of House Dayne as a loyalist house which even has marriage ties to the Targaryens, are the basis for assuming this, but we may find out I'm totally wrong in my assumptions. Anyway, I find the likelihood of Ashara working secretly for Rhaegar and/or Elia much more likely than Varys's supposed role when it comes to smuggling one of Elia's children out of the clutches of the mad king.

This is not only based mainly on Ashara's connection, but also on the history of partisan infighting between the loyalist ranks between Rhaegar's supporters and the "lickspittle lords" of the small council - including Varys. It also relies on the evidence of a split between Aerys and Rhaegar, as exhibited in the organizing of the tourney at Harrenhal and other events.

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Old Lord Whent had announced the tourney shortly after a visit from his brother, Ser Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard. With Varys whispering in his ear, King Aerys became convinced that his son was conspiring to depose him, that Whent's tourney was but a ploy to give Rhaegar a pretext for meeting with as many great lords as could be brought together. Aerys had not set foot outside the Red Keep since Duskendale, yet suddenly he announce that he would accompany Prince Rhaegar to Harrenhal,  and everything had gone awry from there. (ADwD 878) bold emphasis added

As an eye witness to these events, I take Ser Barristan's thoughts as very credible. As I do with Jaime's words to Brienne for the same reason.

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Ned stark was racing south with Robert's van, but my father's forces reached the city first. Pycelle convinced the king that his Warden of the West had come to defend him, so he opened the gates. The one time he should have heeded Varys, and he ignored him. (ASoS 419) bold emphasis added

So, at the two extremes of the above time period, and I think it is safe to say extending well before it, I think we have evidence that Varys works as a partisan of Aerys in the struggle to maintain the throne, and against Rhaegar's plans to replace him. We can, and certainly should, go deeper into some of these antagonisms between Father and Son, but let's just say in the fluid shifting of political alliances during this period, I believe, Varys is a constant and influential confidant of Aerys, and an opponent Rhaegar. Which leads to the question, why would Rhaegar and/or Elia trust Varys with the life of their son and heir? I think that if they have any choice they wouldn't.

Which brings us to the story of the "Pisswater Prince."

As we all know, Young Griff relates a tale to Tyrion of his miraculous survival of the sack by Varys exchanging him, then a child of less than two years old, with another child bought from his father for the price of some Arbor Gold. Varys then claims, as told by Young Griff, to have smuggled him out of King's Landing and off to the the Free Cities. Thereby fooling the triumphant rebels who think the child murdered by Ser Gregor was Rhaegar's son and heir, Aegon.

Like many readers beside myself I have expressed my doubts about this story. Some have focused on theories of Young Griff as secretly an heir of the the Blackfyres, or of Egg's crazy brother Aerion as more likely origins for this pretender to be Aegon. I don't want to debate those theories here, but let me say I don't find them totally without merit. They especially would explain why the Golden Company, a band of Blackfyre loyalists, would all of the sudden risk all to invade Westeros to place the son of Rhaegar on the throne.

Instead, I want to say I find it extremely unlikely, though not impossible, for Elia, and especially Rhaegar, to trust Aegon to Varys's secret custody. Let me explain.

Elia and her children are left by Rhaegar on Dragonstone when he and his companions travel into the Riverlands and then disappear into hiding once they happen upon Lyanna. My belief is there is evidence that it is no accident Rhaegar and his family remove themselves from King's Landing to Dragonstone. Keeping them as far removed from Aerys and under Rhaegar's own control looks to be what is behind this. Yet somehow Elia and her children end up in King's Landing following Lyanna's kidnapping. I think we are told why this happens by Jaime when he talks to Brienne in the baths of Harrenhal.

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"After dancing griffins lost the Battle of the Bells, Aerys exiled him." Why am I telling this absurd ugly child? "He had finally realized that Robert was no mere outlaw to be crushed at whim, but the greatest threat House Targaryen had faced since Daemon Blackfyre. The king reminded Lewyn Martell gracelessly that he held Elia and sent him to take command of the ten thousand Dornishmen coming up the kingsroad. Jon Darry and Barristan Selmy rode to Stoney Sept to rally what they could of griffin's men, and Prince Rhaegar returned from the south and persuaded his father to swallow his pride and summon my father. But no raven returned from Casterly Rock, and that made the king even more afraid. He saw traitors everywhere, and Varys was always there to point out any he might of missed." (ASoS  418) bold emphasis added

In addition to continuing to point out the role Varys played in this time as a force to fan Aerys's paranoia against any and all, this quote tells us explicitly that Elia is used as a hostage against Dorne's good behavior. My belief is that it isn't just for forcing the Martells to support him that this threat is conveyed, but that the threat to Elia AND her children is a large part of why Rhaegar comes out of hiding to help his father's cause. In short, I think Hightower delivers much the same message Prince Lewyn does, and about the same time. Only it is delivered as a not so subtle threat to Rhaegar to force him back to King's Landing. Remembering that Rhaegar is said to be "fond" of his wife, and we have little reason to think he did not love his children (and see them as vital to the prophecy he thought wrapped up in their destinies), I have to believe this threat proved to be too powerful for Rhaegar to ignore. He leaves Lyanna in the hands of people he trusts more than anyone else in the world and returns to his father.

That is how I see this likely to have played out. But before moving on, let me deal with any objections on the grounds that it is only Elia who is mentioned in Aerys's threat to the Martells. I think the threat to the children, both physically and to being replaced by Viserys in the line of succession, is implicit in his holding them as well as Elia. In any case, we know from Jaime again that Aerys explicitly threatens Aegon as well as Elia after the Trident.

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"Rhaegar met Robert on the Trident, and you know what happened there. When the word reached the court, Aerys packed the queen off to Dragonstone with Prince Viserys. Princess Elia would have gone as well, but he forbade it. Somehow he had gotten it in his head that Prince Lewyn must have betrayed Rhaegar on the Trident, but he thought he could keep Dorne loyal so long as he kept Elia and Aegon by his side. The traitors want my city, I heard him tell Rossart, but I'll give them naught but ashes." (ASoS 419) bold emphasis added

The idea Aerys would have hesitated to threaten or harm the children earlier on seems highly unlikely. 

Which places Rhaegar and Elia's interests together once he arrives in King's Landing, even if they had been separated by Rhaegar's actions with Lyanna. Specifically, they both have an interest in getting their children out of Aerys's control well before the Trident and any rebel threat to King's Landing. But how to do it?

My guess is the Pisswater Prince plot is not a plan of Varys, but instead is something Rhaegar and/or Elia come up with to get Aegon out of King's Landing and on to the Tower of Joy where he would be held hidden away by people Rhaegar and Elia would trust from threats ranging from Aerys, the rebels, and the Brothers Martell. Why only Aegon and not Rhaenys? Because substituting a infant at the breast with like coloring is a lot easier than a child of three. To do so, however, assumes someone they trust completely to take Aegon secretly out of the city. How many of their partisans can we come up with who are not either in exile (Jon Connington) or dead (Myles Mooten) to take on this hazard? Not many. But of the few who are likely, Ashara's name needs to be highly considered. We, of course, don't know where she is at the time, as I've already pointed out, but we do know Martin has not ruled her out by any information he has given us to this point.

My suggestion then is this. It is much more likely that Rhaegar and Elia attempt this plot without Varys than with him. They have the motive and the means, I think, to do so. Rather I find it much more likely that Varys finds out about this plot after the fact (say the Pisswater Prince's father shows up wanting more Arbor Gold and Varys questions him rather sharply.) Varys involvement seems only barely plausible as a last ditch effort of Elia's after Rhaegar's death when Aerys refuses them passage to Dragonstone. Even under these extremely last minute circumstances it seems unlikely that Elia would turn to Varys.

But, of course, it is precisely these last minute circumstances that Young Griff relates in his story to Tyrion, so, perhaps, what is likely isn't important to the unlikely we are told happened. However, I think Ashara's role is much more likely given what we know of Young Griff's history and the needs of Varys and Illyrio's plot. 

Let me lay out my highly speculative conjecture in a bare bones story I call "The Two Princes in the Tower."

It is, of course, no accident if my title seems to be a direct steal from English history of Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. Our intrepid author having borrowed many references from the War of the Roses, I think he does so does again here. As elsewhere he changes it quite a bit but uses some parts as a homage to the real history.

I think the it likely Ashara leaves King's Landing secretly after the swap of Aegon for the Pisswater Prince and heads south towards the Tower of Joy with at least a wet nurse (Wylla?) to accompany her. Like Egg before him, Aegon has his hair shaved off, or dyed like Young Griff, to help in disguising him from unwanted stares. It is also likely there is some escort that accompanies them (Ser Richard Lonmouth or guards from Starfall?) But a wet nurse is necessary to feed young Aegon on the journey. That is something of which we can be sure, if our story is true. Please note that there is no known conflict between Ashara's whereabouts in this time period after Rhaegar returns to King's Landing and before she is known to be in Starfall. This is all in 283 AC before the fall of King's Landing and probably before the Battle of the Trident.

What brings Ashara back to King's Landing? Perhaps to bring the news of Lyanna's pregnancy from the tower. Perhaps to relay other information from Rhaegar's network of supporters.

Regardless, if Ashara has taken on this task, it is done in utmost secrecy from anyone not named Rhaegar or Elia. The wet-nurse need only know she is needed for taking care of her employers child and she is to at all times claim the child as her own. Ashara's escort need only know she is bringing a wet nurse and the wet nurse's child to the tower. And so they reach the tower, and perhaps the escort continues on to Starfall. 

So it is that when Ned arrives at the Tower of Joy, he finds Lyanna, Ashara, Wylla the wet-nurse, and the three Kingsguard. Perhaps with a maester in attendance for Lyanna's delivery of her child. After the fight between Ned and his companions against Hightower, Dayne, and Whent, the young Lords of Winterfell and Greywater are confronted with the dying Lyanna, Lyanna's newborn child, Ashara, and Wylla and "her child." Again with the possible addition of a maester (Marwyn?). Here we are of need of a phrase @Lost Melnibonean quoted in the small questions thread. "Men see what they expect to see." A wet nurse present at the birth of a newborn child would be expected, especially at the birth of a highborn child. That such a wet nurse had also a child of her own to feed would be exactly a scene the two northern lords would accept as normal and in no way suspicious. Nor would the presence of Ser Arthur's sister to take charge of the care of Lyanna and her child.

This account would help us also understand somethings and answer some questions. We know Ned travels to Starfall from the tower, but how does he get to Starfall across a still hostile Dorne? Lady Ashara's prescence there would explain how he does so. Instead of being seen as rebel northerners by every Dornishman the encounter in the Prince's Pass, they are hailed as part of the Lady Ashara's party on her return home. That Wylla travels with them gives us reason for the people of Starfall to accept her as Jon's mom if she so claims upon her first entry into the city. It also is necessary for the sustenance of the two boys - the Princes from the Tower of Joy - on their long journey from the tower to Starfall. Why would Ned go to Starfall? I would suggest it is less about bringing back the greatsword Dawn, than it is about the construction of a believable story to hide Jon's origins. Please note that in my little speculative tale, Ned need never know he escorts Prince Aegon to Starfall. In fact, it depends on him not knowing the identity of "Wylla's son" because Ned still thinks of Aegon as the child whose head was bashed against the wall in King's Landing. But as we have seen, Wylla can keep a secret, at least while she has the support of the Daynes of Starfall.

 The rest of the next part of the tale is known to one and all. Ned travels back, likely by ship, from Starfall to either Storm's End where he left his troops, or on to King's Landing where he is reunited in grief with Robert. My guess is Storm's End because this seems to be the origins of the rumor Ned's men bring back to Winterfell of Ashara being Jon's mom. Coming by ship to Storm's End would help explain that conclusion. After he leaves, Ashara supposedly jumps into the sea and kills herself. But here we have a different possibility. Martin has made it clear Ashara's body is never found, so let's suppose instead she secretly takes ship to the Free Cities with Aegon in her care. Freeing the child from anyone using him as a bargaining chip or from open attempts to kill him if his identity was ever known.

And this is the answer to @Bael's Bastard why she doesn't take Aegon to Sunspear. Her responsibility is to hide Aegon and keep him safe, not to let him be used any anyone, including the Martell brothers who we know don't know about this possible turn of events because they turn to supporting in secret Viserys's claim to the throne. Rhaegar's and/or Elia's last orders to keep Aegon safe and hidden would be the guiding principles for Ashara's conduct. Not orders from Prince Doran or his brother.

After this, take your pick. Either Ashara joins with Varys when he discovers her and Aegon after the smuggling of the prince is exposed by some leak such as I suggested above (the return of the Pisswater Prince's father.) Or, perhaps, Aegon dies before that happens. Not unknown for a young child to do, especially a well travelled one exposed to all manner of new disease and circumstances. After which Varys gets a despondent Ashara to join him in seeking revenge against the rebels and the ruin of all her dreams and responsibilities. I choose the latter. In part because of the "mummer's dragon" prophecy and in part because of the eagerness in which the Golden Company supposedly abandons over a century of rebellion in order to put a Blackfyre on the throne to instead support Rhaegar's "son."

But here I end my speculation, but to restate the main reason I think Ashara is alive and working for Varys in the guise of Septa Lemore. It is not only that Septa admits to living a life in which she remains hidden. It is also because Varys and Illyrio have hatched this plot they have nursed for some seventeen years that all depend on Targaryen loyalists believing the tale of the Pisswater Prince and that this is indeed Rhaegar's son comeback to them to restore the "rightful king" to the Iron Throne. I again submit that the testimony of Varys and Illyrio is incapable of persuading the loyalists to rebellion. Aegon's identity must be confirm by someone who they believe. But the Lord Jon Connington cannot be that person. He is known to have lived the first five years of his exile as a sellsword. Not nursing a young infant into childhood. An unknown Septa could have done this, but again no one would have reason to believe her. But Ashara Dayne would be believed by the Prince of Dorne and every hidden royalist in the Seven Kingdoms. She alone can provide the testimony that makes Aegon's identity believable. So, I think there is very good reason to believe it is Ashara who is hiding her identity on that riverboat along with Young Griff and company. 

Take this speculation for what it is worth and enjoy shooting holes in it while we wait for The Winds of Winter.

 

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Ned doesn't really provide a "story" for Jon's origins. When servants at Winterfell gossip about Ashara, he shuts that down. He tell Robert the mother's name was "Wylla", but no indication he specified it was that specific wetnurse from Starfall. And the reason he was able to travel in Dorne was likely because the war was over, with only Oberyn still trying to cause trouble.

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41 minutes ago, FictionIsntReal said:

Ned doesn't really provide a "story" for Jon's origins. When servants at Winterfell gossip about Ashara, he shuts that down. He tell Robert the mother's name was "Wylla", but no indication he specified it was that specific wetnurse from Starfall. And the reason he was able to travel in Dorne was likely because the war was over, with only Oberyn still trying to cause trouble.

Ned creates a story by what he does after the events at the Tower of Joy. That he does so unconsciously is rather hard to believe if he is really trying to hide who Jon is. Successful cover stories seldom arise out of accident. That the stories of Ashara Dayne being Jon's mother come from Ned's soldiers should be a clue. The timing of Jon's arrival on the scene tells them his mother is Ashara. Which makes sense if he shows up after his trip to Starfall. 

It is only to Robert that Ned tells a story of Jon's mother, naming her Wylla. Do you think it is a different Wylla than the woman young Lord Dayne tells Arya is Jon's mother? That would be one hell of a coincidence. Why would some strange and different Wylla in Starfall decide to tell the world she is Jon Snow's mother, if Ned Stark is telling Robert that Jon's mom is a different woman named Wylla? Why would the Daynes accept her story?

The war is not over as far a Dorne is concerned, nor is Prince Oberyn likely operating alone. Remember the analogy of the grass that hides the viper? That is the way the Martells operate, so the idea one of the rebel generals, and the man in charge of rebel forces when the sack of King's Landing takes place, and Elia and her children are slaughtered, can walk the Prince's Pass with only his friend Howland Reed and remain unmolested by the people of Dorne is rather far fetched.

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It seems like a plausible version of events. At least it doesn't contradict the few facts we have. Why Ashara though? And at which point would she have left King's Landing? For her to have a plausible reason to have a nurse-maid tagging along she would need to have been pregnant. If she had gotten pregnant at Harrenhal she would have had the baby long before the fall of King's Landing. This would indicate that the switch did not occur due to the Trident but while Rhaegar was very much alive and nowhere to be found. 

I do feel however there are some problems with your reasoning. For one it is difficult to imagine an attempt to remove baby Aegon from the Red Keep without Varys knowledge or involvement. For one thing he is always watching. It would be exceedingly hard to pull off something like that without him knowing. He is blind in Maegor's Holdfast through his usual means. It doesn't mean however that he does not have spies in there. Second, he is the one with knowledge of the secret byways of the Red Keep. He would be the one to talk to, if someone wanted to get someone out of the Red Keep unobserved. Third I think that it is an assumption to think that he is firmly on Aerys's side. It is very much in his modus operandi to play all sides. After all the best way to get in on a secret is to be there at its inception. He is perfectly capable of helping Rhaegar plot and telling on him to Aerys. He gets close to people by making himself useful to them. That and Elia's anxiety make it plausible for her to approach Varys or vice versa. She wouldn't need to trust him, only to be desperate enough. (Not that I necessarily subscribe to the Pisswater prince, it sounds too much of a fairy tale). 

I would also contend that Jon Connington,  a former lord and Hand of a proud and prickly nature and of unquestioned loyalty to Rhaegar would be less credible than Ashara Dayne, who frankly was a young woman at the time and probably disgraced due to her pregnancy. I would argue that this is precisely the reason why they recruited him. They need someone to provide continuity from Rhaegar to Aegon. Granted logistics would indicate that Ashara would be more likely to know what had happened, but that is not what most people would look at. That doesn't mean that she would be believed.

An overland journey with a baby in tow, through a war zone does not sound like the best idea either. 

 

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@SFDanny 

Well done. 

i'd just like your thoughts on a few things.

1- What causes speculation of Ashra's suicide? a note? or is it just a cover story?

2- Would it make sense for her to secretly make her way to Oldtown or Sunspear to travel to Essos? 

3- Wouldn't she need some guards or something during all this time? 

i like your theory, and it mostly sounds plausible. i'm just afraid of it requiring a few more helpers, which would be witnesses. Could Howland Reed have been Ashara's protector during this trip?

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8 hours ago, SFDanny said:

Anyway, I find the likelihood of Ashara working secretly for Rhaegar and/or Elia much more likely than Varys's supposed role when it comes to smuggling one of Elia's children out of the clutches of the mad king.

Unlike the rest, here I am in 100% agreement, I don't see them working with Varys, either. The story of the Pisswater Prince is not corroborated by anything and anyone, and as such, highly suspicious.

However, I would like to propose another possible scenario for the baby swap - one in which Aegon was actually never in KL. Some time during the Rebellion, Elia and her children came to KL. I think it is a safe bet that this wasn't Elia's idea, that it was ordered by Aerys. Now, if Ashara stayed (perhaps due to the return of winter weather and then problems in pregnancy), and gave birth, at DS, Elia and Ashara could organize a quick swap to protect the supposed PTWP. Ashara would then take "her" baby to Starfall, and be devastated when her baby was murdered in the Sack.  - A similar scenario, a lady-in-waiting substituting her baby for the prince and the substitute getting killed, is actually presented in the Accursed Kings, which GRRM acknowledged as an inspiration.

- The problem is, a second prince in hiding seems redundant for the story, there are hints at an impostor and the historical parallels also provide quite a number of impostors during turbulent times.

Also, let us not forget the theory with Allyria being B+A :-)

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I actually agree with most of this. 

I have been wondering about this for a bit. Maybe because I'm rereading ADWD right now. If Aegon ever went to King's Landing, I think he would have been gone from there well before Rhaegar died on the Trident. I think the reason Rhaegar left Lyanna in the south was not so much that she would have been in danger from Aerys. I just don't think he wanted to keep all his jewels in the same purse. Lyanna stays in the south because he won't risk her, Aegon is sent away, Elia tried to leave for Dragonstone when the opportunity came up. I'm assuming she would have tried to join her son, but she was forbidden from leaving and kept as a hostage for Dorne's good behavior.

What I find interesting is that Ashara (and her family) would be the only ones in possession of the information that not only did Aegon survive the Sack because he was spirited away, but that he had another son. And if she is indeed Septa Lemore, then got to wonder if she's told Connington anything. 

And I don't think Rhaegar or Elia would have trusted Varys with this. By then, and after informing on him, I doubt Rhaegar would have wanted Varys anywhere near his plans or near him for that matter. Rhaegar has no reason to trust the man. Neither does Elia for that matter.

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I see no good reason to assume that Ashara had anything to do with another attempt to hide Prince Aegon. Nobody has any reason or motivation to do such a thing. Moreover, three Aegons are one too much. We don't need Aegon the dead prince, Aegon the fake prince, and Aegon the real prince. Not if we have Jon Snow, too. Never mind whether both 'the real Aegon' and 'the dead Aegon' are both dead. If Aegon died then he should have died in Maegor's Holdfast the way he officially died.

The Pisswater Prince story doesn't sound very plausible - however, we are never given a date for the time of the supposed baby swap. The idea that Elia had much of a choice by the time Varys supposedly proposed such a ruse is not very likely if that supposedly happened after the Trident when it would have been evident even for a blind person that the Targaryen ship was about to sink.

Elia could either trust Varys - or hope that Aerys II or Robert would not harm her children. What would you do in such a situation?

12 hours ago, SFDanny said:

In addition to continuing to point out the role Varys played in this time as a force to fan Aerys's paranoia against any and all, this quote tells us explicitly that Elia is used as a hostage against Dorne's good behavior. My belief is that it isn't just for forcing the Martells to support him that this threat is conveyed, but that the threat to Elia AND her children is a large part of why Rhaegar comes out of hiding to help his father's cause. In short, I think Hightower delivers much the same message Prince Lewyn does, and about the same time. Only it is delivered as a not so subtle threat to Rhaegar to force him back to King's Landing. Remembering that Rhaegar is said to be "fond" of his wife, and we have little reason to think he did not love his children (and see them as vital to the prophecy he thought wrapped up in their destinies), I have to believe this threat proved to be too powerful for Rhaegar to ignore. He leaves Lyanna in the hands of people he trusts more than anyone else in the world and returns to his father.

That doesn't sound likely in light of the time line. Rhaegar supposedly trained the new army after his return, and there is no indication the 10,000 Dornishmen were there the entire time. It seems more likely they only joined the new host Rhaegar had raised around the time they were marching - which would mean Aerys II did indeed use Rhaegar's wife and children as hostages against the Martells after Prince Rhaegar had returned and was commanding his army.

What this implies about the relationship between father and son is unclear at this point, but it might be that Aerys II blackmailed his son as much as his son's brother-in-law.

The idea that Elia and the children somehow came to KL of their own free will is also without textual support at this point. Rhaegar lived on Dragonstone, and his wife would have had little reason to go the city to a king her lord husband didn't get along well while said husband was away.

And once they were in the city they were all at Aerys' mercy.

From Jaime, we also know that Rhaegar didn't spend much time in KL or the Red Keep after his return from the south. He was training the new army. That doesn't make it very likely he was colluding with Ashara or anyone.

Not to mention that Ashara - whenever she became pregnant - was not likely delivering her child at court. Especially not at KL.

If Ashara Dayne plays any role during the war it is much more likely she is involved in things relating to Ned and Jon and Lyanna, not Aegon and Elia.

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17 hours ago, SFDanny said:

My guess is the Pisswater Prince plot is not a plan of Varys, but instead is something Rhaegar and/or Elia come up with to get Aegon out of King's Landing and on to the Tower of Joy where he would be held hidden away by people Rhaegar and Elia would trust from threats ranging from Aerys, the rebels, and the Brothers Martell. Why only Aegon and not Rhaenys? Because substituting a infant at the breast with like coloring is a lot easier than a child of three. To do so, however, assumes someone they trust completely to take Aegon secretly out of the city. How many of their partisans can we come up with who are not either in exile (Jon Connington) or dead (Myles Mooten) to take on this hazard? Not many. But of the few who are likely, Ashara's name needs to be highly considered. We, of course, don't know where she is at the time, as I've already pointed out, but we do know Martin has not ruled her out by any information he has given us to this point.

My suggestion then is this. It is much more likely that Rhaegar and Elia attempt this plot without Varys than with him. They have the motive and the means, I think, to do so. Rather I find it much more likely that Varys finds out about this plot after the fact (say the Pisswater Prince's father shows up wanting more Arbor Gold and Varys questions him rather sharply.) Varys involvement seems only barely plausible as a last ditch effort of Elia's after Rhaegar's death when Aerys refuses them passage to Dragonstone. Even under these extremely last minute circumstances it seems unlikely that Elia would turn to Varys.

But, of course, it is precisely these last minute circumstances that Young Griff relates in his story to Tyrion, so, perhaps, what is likely isn't important to the unlikely we are told happened. However, I think Ashara's role is much more likely given what we know of Young Griff's history and the needs of Varys and Illyrio's plot. 

An interesting idea, that a swap of Aegon with the Pisswater Prince might have originated with someone other than Varys! 

 

But I have to ask, would it be so unlikely that Elia turned to Varys in the circumstances she was in as the Lannister army approached the gates? Considering the possibility that she would have accepted help from Varys to ensure the safety of her son (perhaps in the belief that Rhaenys, as a girl, would be taken hostage by the enemy instead of being killed), I am reminded by this statement of Cersei in Clash:

"[Varys] serves me well."

"Or so he'd have you believe. You think you're the only one he whispers secrets to? He gives each of us just enough to convince us that we'd be helpless without him. He played the same game with me, when I first wed Robert. For years, I was convinced I had no truer friend at court, but now . . ." She studied his face for a moment. "He says you mean to take the Hound from Joffrey."

Elia had been left behind by Rhaegar, who had stolen/kidnapped/run off with another woman, and her father-in-law had taken her and her children hostage. With the safety of her children on her mind, would it be so unlikely that she'd put her faith in a person who offered her a solution, or partial solution, to one of her problems?

 

18 hours ago, SFDanny said:

Regardless, if Ashara has taken on this task, it is done in utmost secrecy from anyone not named Rhaegar or Elia. The wet-nurse need only know she is needed for taking care of her employers child and she is to at all times claim the child as her own. Ashara's escort need only know she is bringing a wet nurse and the wet nurse's child to the tower. And so they reach the tower, and perhaps the escort continues on to Starfall. 

So it is that when Ned arrives at the Tower of Joy, he finds Lyanna, Ashara, Wylla the wet-nurse, and the three Kingsguard. Perhaps with a maester in attendance for Lyanna's delivery of her child. After the fight between Ned and his companions against Hightower, Dayne, and Whent, the young Lords of Winterfell and Greywater are confronted with the dying Lyanna, Lyanna's newborn child, Ashara, and Wylla and "her child." Again with the possible addition of a maester (Marwyn?). Here we are of need of a phrase @Lost Melnibonean quoted in the small questions thread. "Men see what they expect to see." A wet nurse present at the birth of a newborn child would be expected, especially at the birth of a highborn child. That such a wet nurse had also a child of her own to feed would be exactly a scene the two northern lords would accept as normal and in no way suspicious. Nor would the presence of Ser Arthur's sister to take charge of the care of Lyanna and her child.

This account would help us also understand somethings and answer some questions. We know Ned travels to Starfall from the tower, but how does he get to Starfall across a still hostile Dorne? Lady Ashara's prescence there would explain how he does so. Instead of being seen as rebel northerners by every Dornishman the encounter in the Prince's Pass, they are hailed as part of the Lady Ashara's party on her return home. That Wylla travels with them gives us reason for the people of Starfall to accept her as Jon's mom if she so claims upon her first entry into the city. It also is necessary for the sustenance of the two boys - the Princes from the Tower of Joy - on their long journey from the tower to Starfall. Why would Ned go to Starfall? I would suggest it is less about bringing back the greatsword Dawn, than it is about the construction of a believable story to hide Jon's origins. Please note that in my little speculative tale, Ned need never know he escorts Prince Aegon to Starfall. In fact, it depends on him not knowing the identity of "Wylla's son" because Ned still thinks of Aegon as the child whose head was bashed against the wall in King's Landing. But as we have seen, Wylla can keep a secret, at least while she has the support of the Daynes of Starfall.

Would the only way for Ned and Howland to cross the Prince's Pass be in the company of Ashara?

Perhaps she believes it incorrectly (an incorrect rumour or a story changed in the numerous times it was told and retold - that could certainly happen). But according to Catelyn, who heard it from her maids (who heard it from Ned's soldiers), Ashara was already at Starfall when Ned set out to bring home Dawn.

They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys's Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur's sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. (AGOT, Catelyn 2)

While the explanation of Wylla's presence in the party traveling to Starfall nicely explains why Starfall would believe she is Jon's mother, Ashara's presence is not necessary for this. (Although it leaves the question of why would she remain behind at Starfall, while her supposed child went north with Ned?). In fact, why would Ashara hide with Aegon in the ToJ, instead of at Starfall? If she had left KL with Aegon because Rhaegar and Elia had asked her to do so, wouldn't it be logical for her to travel to a location other than Rhaegar's third child? Similar to how, during the Dance of the Dragons, the hidden heirs were split to create a higher chance that at least one of them would survive?

It was Lord Larys who decreed the fugitives should part company as well, so that even if one were taken, the others might win free. Ser Rickard Thorne was commanded to deliver two-year-old Prince Maelor to Lord Hightower. Princess Jaehaera, a sweet and simple girl of six, was put in the charge of Ser Willis Fell, who swore to bring her safely to Storm’s End. Neither knew where the other was bound, so neither could betray the other if captured.

And only Larys himself knew that the king, stripped of his finery and clad in a salt-stained fisherman’s cloak, had been concealed amongst a load of codfish on a fishing skiff in the care of a bastard knight with kin on Dragonstone. (TPATQ)

 

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15 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

It seems like a plausible version of events. At least it doesn't contradict the few facts we have. Why Ashara though? And at which point would she have left King's Landing? For her to have a plausible reason to have a nurse-maid tagging along she would need to have been pregnant. If she had gotten pregnant at Harrenhal she would have had the baby long before the fall of King's Landing. This would indicate that the switch did not occur due to the Trident but while Rhaegar was very much alive and nowhere to be found.

Thanks, and in such a wide open field, I was trying to not contradict those few facts.

Why Ashara? Because she is, in my opinion, likely one of the few people Rhaegar and/or Elia would trust for such a mission. As I tried to say in my post, I also think the needs of Varys's plot necessitates someone like Ashara, and there are very few candidates like Ashara. I think this takes place after Rhaegar comes north following of the Battle of the Bells and before the sack of King's Landing.

I disagree that Ashara has to be pregnant to disguise her journey south. Although, the pretense of pregnancy is not impossible to pull off to any but the most intrusive searches. Other cover stories are also possible, including taking a wet nurse to Ashara's patron to the south, etc. I'm not proposing Ashara substituted her own child with Aegon.

15 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

I do feel however there are some problems with your reasoning. For one it is difficult to imagine an attempt to remove baby Aegon from the Red Keep without Varys knowledge or involvement. For one thing he is always watching. It would be exceedingly hard to pull off something like that without him knowing. He is blind in Maegor's Holdfast through his usual means. It doesn't mean however that he does not have spies in there.

There may well be problems with my reasoning, and I welcome posters showing me when my reasoning is faulty.

I don't doubt Varys skills as a master of whisperers. It is indeed hard to pull such a switch off without his knowing. That doesn't men it is impossible. Nor does it mean others have no experience in operating plots and schemes in the Red Keep. I would remind you that we are told in The World of Ice and Fire that there is a sectarian conflict compared to the Dance of the Dragons that takes place between the king's party and those of the crown prince. Obviously, the prince's partisans had their own methods of operations in these circumstances. I think those methods come into play here. So, difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

15 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

Second, he is the one with knowledge of the secret byways of the Red Keep. He would be the one to talk to, if someone wanted to get someone out of the Red Keep unobserved.

Varys is not the only person knowledgeable with the Red Keep. Rhaegar grew up there. Others controlled the secret byways before Varys came into Aerys's service. Again, difficult, but not impossible. I would also point out it isn't necessary for this plot to succeed that the secret byways are accessed. Think rather of the escape of Jeyne Poole from Winterfell. One child goes in, and one child goes out. 

15 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

Third I think that it is an assumption to think that he is firmly on Aerys's side. It is very much in his modus operandi to play all sides. After all the best way to get in on a secret is to be there at its inception. He is perfectly capable of helping Rhaegar plot and telling on him to Aerys. He gets close to people by making himself useful to them. That and Elia's anxiety make it plausible for her to approach Varys or vice versa. She wouldn't need to trust him, only to be desperate enough. (Not that I necessarily subscribe to the Pisswater prince, it sounds too much of a fairy tale).

I don't contend that under the right circumstances, those in which Varys sees helping Elia to be in his own interests, that he might not help in such a scheme. Rather my contention is that Rhaegar and/or Elia have every reason not to trust Varys, and every reason to try to get Aegon and Rhaenys out from Aerys's control. Which makes me doubt Varys story. That doesn't mean it is not possible. It is possible, but I would point out that for Varys and Illyrio's scheme to work it needs someone like Ashara to make it work. To make the Targaryen loyalists, particularly Prince Doran, to believe this child is Aegon.

15 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

I would also contend that Jon Connington,  a former lord and Hand of a proud and prickly nature and of unquestioned loyalty to Rhaegar would be less credible than Ashara Dayne, who frankly was a young woman at the time and probably disgraced due to her pregnancy. I would argue that this is precisely the reason why they recruited him. They need someone to provide continuity from Rhaegar to Aegon. Granted logistics would indicate that Ashara would be more likely to know what had happened, but that is not what most people would look at. That doesn't mean that she would be believed.

Connington is important. But he is widely known to have been occupied as a sellsword during the first five years of his exile. He can't vouch for Aegon's identity during this time and those who know anything about him will know this. Which is why he can't do what Ashara can. She can testify to her fellow loyalists that she took Aegon into exile and be believed.

16 hours ago, The Sleeper said:

An overland journey with a baby in tow, through a war zone does not sound like the best idea either. 

No it doesn't. It may have been necessary though. There are options here that could include some of the journey being done by ship, but I'm trying to simplify it to get its basics out for people to consider.

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15 hours ago, dmfn said:

@SFDanny 

Well done. 

i'd just like your thoughts on a few things.

1- What causes speculation of Ashra's suicide? a note? or is it just a cover story?

2- Would it make sense for her to secretly make her way to Oldtown or Sunspear to travel to Essos? 

3- Wouldn't she need some guards or something during all this time? 

i like your theory, and it mostly sounds plausible. i'm just afraid of it requiring a few more helpers, which would be witnesses. Could Howland Reed have been Ashara's protector during this trip?

Thank you.

  1. We don't know. We just know the story is told that she jumped from the Palestone Sword, a tower overseeing the Summer Sea, and her body was not ever found. No note has ever been mentioned, and, although I obviously think it is a cover story, that is not anything other than my speculation.

  2. My speculation centers on Ashara operating as a agent of Rhaegar and/or Elia whose interests are not necessarily the same as the Martells in Sunspear or the Hightowers of Oldtown. So, in a nutshell, I doubt it.

  3. Likely yes, but in extreme circumstances people do extreme things. Note the example of Catelyn's journey to and from King's Landing. One old knight is hardly much of a guard. Of course this is not a time of open rebellion. My guess is yes she would have had some sort of guards. Which is why I suggested either her own guards from Starfall, or Ser Richard Lonmouth. 

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14 hours ago, Ygrain said:

Unlike the rest, here I am in 100% agreement, I don't see them working with Varys, either. The story of the Pisswater Prince is not corroborated by anything and anyone, and as such, highly suspicious.

Glad to see it, and thank your for reading my speculation. That we agree here makes me think this much of my concern might have some validity, because it screams out to me like a siren.

14 hours ago, Ygrain said:

However, I would like to propose another possible scenario for the baby swap - one in which Aegon was actually never in KL. Some time during the Rebellion, Elia and her children came to KL. I think it is a safe bet that this wasn't Elia's idea, that it was ordered by Aerys. Now, if Ashara stayed (perhaps due to the return of winter weather and then problems in pregnancy), and gave birth, at DS, Elia and Ashara could organize a quick swap to protect the supposed PTWP. Ashara would then take "her" baby to Starfall, and be devastated when her baby was murdered in the Sack.  - A similar scenario, a lady-in-waiting substituting her baby for the prince and the substitute getting killed, is actually presented in the Accursed Kings, which GRRM acknowledged as an inspiration.

We agree that it likely wasn't Elia's idea to go to King's Landing. I expect we will find she was summoned to the city by royal orders. Perhaps Ser Barristan or one of his sworn brothers had to deliver the summons and we will learn about it from him, but it doesn't seem likely she gave up the safety of Dragonstone for being under Aerys's total control. 

Your scenario could be possible. I tried to make it clear just how wide open I think the possibilities are because so little is known. I invite you to expand more on your idea.

14 hours ago, Ygrain said:

- The problem is, a second prince in hiding seems redundant for the story, there are hints at an impostor and the historical parallels also provide quite a number of impostors during turbulent times.

Absolutely agree there are hints at an imposter. I tried to make that clear in my final paragraphs. I think Simnel and Warbeck follow the Princes in the Tower in English history as well as their equivalent we have in Martin's story.

The problem is we are confronted with this "second prince" and we are forced to decide what his real story is.

14 hours ago, Ygrain said:

Also, let us not forget the theory with Allyria being B+A :-)

My hope is this is not true. We need more people without secret parents.

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1 hour ago, SFDanny said:

SNIP

  1. Likely yes, but in extreme circumstances people do extreme things. Note the example of Catelyn's journey to and from King's Landing. One old knight is hardly much of a guard. Of course this is not a time of open rebellion. My guess is yes she would have had some sort of guards. Which is why I suggested either her own guards from Starfall, or Ser Richard Lonmouth. 

To bring on board the Lem = Lonmouth theory.... Who did Lem lose? His wife and daughter. Him escorting out a woman and a child could be the cover for escorting out.... a woman and a child.

This is super thin, but the kernel could be there.

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14 hours ago, Widow's Watch said:

I actually agree with most of this. 

Glad to read it, and glad you took the time to read my thoughts.

14 hours ago, Widow's Watch said:

I have been wondering about this for a bit. Maybe because I'm rereading ADWD right now. If Aegon ever went to King's Landing, I think he would have been gone from there well before Rhaegar died on the Trident. I think the reason Rhaegar left Lyanna in the south was not so much that she would have been in danger from Aerys. I just don't think he wanted to keep all his jewels in the same purse. Lyanna stays in the south because he won't risk her, Aegon is sent away, Elia tried to leave for Dragonstone when the opportunity came up. I'm assuming she would have tried to join her son, but she was forbidden from leaving and kept as a hostage for Dorne's good behavior.

Here we have some disagreement. I think Rhaegar has a very, very good reason for never bringing Lyanna to King's Landing and it all centers on not letting Aerys have control of her. What Aerys does with Elia and her children in his blackmail of Dorne is exactly what Aerys would do with Lyanna. Her life would be in danger if the rebels did not lay down their arms and submit to Aerys's "justice."

14 hours ago, Widow's Watch said:

What I find interesting is that Ashara (and her family) would be the only ones in possession of the information that not only did Aegon survive the Sack because he was spirited away, but that he had another son. And if she is indeed Septa Lemore, then got to wonder if she's told Connington anything.

I think Ashara is key to getting Jon Connington to join in Varys and Illyrio's plot. He has no reason to believe Varys anymore than Rhaegar and Elia did. Whether or not she gets Lord Jon to join the conspiracy by telling the truth is the critical follow up question here.

 

14 hours ago, Widow's Watch said:

And I don't think Rhaegar or Elia would have trusted Varys with this. By then, and after informing on him, I doubt Rhaegar would have wanted Varys anywhere near his plans or near him for that matter. Rhaegar has no reason to trust the man. Neither does Elia for that matter.

We agree here. Absolutely.

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10 minutes ago, Ser Leftwich said:

To bring on board the Lem = Lonmouth theory.... Who did Lem lose? His wife and daughter. Him escorting out a woman and a child could be the cover for escorting out.... a woman and a child.

This is super thin, but the kernel could be there.

Very nice idea. I like it!

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On 9/2/2018 at 11:11 PM, SFDanny said:

<snip>

 

This is an interesting theory and I will give it some more thought.  But one thing jumped out at me upon initially reading it. You quote a pre-ASOS SSM in which GRRM supposedly said that we would learn in ASOS that Ashara was "one of Princess Elia's lady companions in King's Landing in the first few years after Elia married Rhaegar."  

The odd thing about this, of course, is that (1) that information did not make it into ASOS, and (2) we later learned via the world book that contrary to that old SSM, Elia did not live in King's Landing "in the first few years after Elia married Rhaegar":  rather, Elia lived on Dragonstone during that time, as indicated in a passage you cite from the world book. 

For purposes of your theory, I think this creates some confusion about where Ashara was between the tournament at Harrenhal and the time she jumped off the Palestone Tower that is not reflected in your analysis here.  Do you see that as an issue?  In my view, all it means is that that old SSM was probably an off-hand remark and that none of it should be taken very seriously.  The information about Ashara contained in the world book is more likely to be accurate.  

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11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I see no good reason to assume that Ashara had anything to do with another attempt to hide Prince Aegon. Nobody has any reason or motivation to do such a thing.

On the contrary, I think I've given extremely strong reasons for Aegon's parents to want to hide him from Aerys. We have actual evidence of Aerys using Elia and Aegon has hostages. If that isn't a reason to try to get him away from Aerys, then I don't know what is.

11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Moreover, three Aegons are one too much. We don't need Aegon the dead prince, Aegon the fake prince, and Aegon the real prince. Not if we have Jon Snow, too. Never mind whether both 'the real Aegon' and 'the dead Aegon' are both dead. If Aegon died then he should have died in Maegor's Holdfast the way he officially died.

May I remind you, LV, that the story as we have it has an Aegon the possibly dead prince, Aegon as the possibly fake prince, AND Aegon the possibly real prince. Whether the story needs them is not something I created. George did. I do take note of your vote for Aegon the dead prince.

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The Pisswater Prince story doesn't sound very plausible - however, we are never given a date for the time of the supposed baby swap. The idea that Elia had much of a choice by the time Varys supposedly proposed such a ruse is not very likely if that supposedly happened after the Trident when it would have been evident even for a blind person that the Targaryen ship was about to sink.

I agree the Pisswater Prince tale, as we have it from Varys via Young Griff, doesn't sound very plausible. Which is why I wrote this piece. I would not be so categorical about the fate of the "Targaryen ship" at this point in the story. The Lannisters have not shown their treachery yet, the Tyrell army and the Redwyne fleet are still in the field and at sea, and the walls of King's Landing are well manned and the royal fleet exists to evacuate the royal family if necessary. The defeat at the Trident is a severe blow, but the war isn't over until Aerys opens the gates to the Lannisters. Of interest here, would be if we knew Elia has knowledge of the Pyromancer plot. We don't know that.

 

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Elia could either trust Varys - or hope that Aerys II or Robert would not harm her children. What would you do in such a situation?

What I would do means less than nothing. The question is what would Elia and/or Rhaegar do in the face of the danger to their children? I tried to explain what I think they would do, and I acknowledged that given the last minute character of the Pisswater Prince tale that Elia might be forced to entrust her son to Varys's supposed plan. I just doubt they would have left this to the last possible minutes.

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That doesn't sound likely in light of the time line. Rhaegar supposedly trained the new army after his return, and there is no indication the 10,000 Dornishmen were there the entire time. It seems more likely they only joined the new host Rhaegar had raised around the time they were marching - which would mean Aerys II did indeed use Rhaegar's wife and children as hostages against the Martells after Prince Rhaegar had returned and was commanding his army.

I think your time line is off, LV. The quote from Jaime makes clear that Rhaegar returning and Aerys using Elia as hostage via a message sent through Prince Lewyn, as well as Ser Barristan and Ser Jon Darry rallying the remnants of Connington's army all take place roughly around the same time. Where exactly the Dornish troops are throughout this time isn't really relevant. The message Aerys sends to the Dornish, and possibly to Rhaegar, is.

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

What this implies about the relationship between father and son is unclear at this point, but it might be that Aerys II blackmailed his son as much as his son's brother-in-law.

The idea that Elia and the children somehow came to KL of their own free will is also without textual support at this point. Rhaegar lived on Dragonstone, and his wife would have had little reason to go the city to a king her lord husband didn't get along well while said husband was away.

And once they were in the city they were all at Aerys' mercy.

Here we agree.

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

From Jaime, we also know that Rhaegar didn't spend much time in KL or the Red Keep after his return from the south. He was training the new army. That doesn't make it very likely he was colluding with Ashara or anyone.

Not to mention that Ashara - whenever she became pregnant - was not likely delivering her child at court. Especially not at KL.

If Ashara Dayne plays any role during the war it is much more likely she is involved in things relating to Ned and Jon and Lyanna, not Aegon and Elia.

I don't think we know where Rhaegar trains his army. I would think near King's Landing makes the most sense for reasons of supply, but we just don't know for sure. We also have at least one example right before the Trident in which Jaime tells us of Rhaegar being present in the city. A judgement that the Crown Prince is not in the city and not in communication with his wife all through this period after Rhaegar comes north really has nothing to support it.

We agree that Ashara does not likely deliver her child at court. Which is why I suggested Starfall as the most likely location for this event.

As to the role Ashara played during the war, let me just once again point out how wide open Martin has left the possibilities. I respect your opinion, LV, but we disagree here.

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9 hours ago, Rhaenys_Targaryen said:

An interesting idea, that a swap of Aegon with the Pisswater Prince might have originated with someone other than Varys! 

Thank you RT! Always grateful for your ideas and feedback.

9 hours ago, Rhaenys_Targaryen said:

But I have to ask, would it be so unlikely that Elia turned to Varys in the circumstances she was in as the Lannister army approached the gates? Considering the possibility that she would have accepted help from Varys to ensure the safety of her son (perhaps in the belief that Rhaenys, as a girl, would be taken hostage by the enemy instead of being killed), I am reminded by this statement of Cersei in Clash:

"[Varys] serves me well."

"Or so he'd have you believe. You think you're the only one he whispers secrets to? He gives each of us just enough to convince us that we'd be helpless without him. He played the same game with me, when I first wed Robert. For years, I was convinced I had no truer friend at court, but now . . ." She studied his face for a moment. "He says you mean to take the Hound from Joffrey."

Elia had been left behind by Rhaegar, who had stolen/kidnapped/run off with another woman, and her father-in-law had taken her and her children hostage. With the safety of her children on her mind, would it be so unlikely that she'd put her faith in a person who offered her a solution, or partial solution, to one of her problems?

The short answer is, in my opinion, yes, that Elia might well go along with Varys in the extreme situation immediately before or during the sack. Especially if she knows of the pyromancer plot. But the situation of her and her children being held hostage against Dorne's good behavior, and, if I'm right, also against Rhaegar's own behavior goes back at least to the days immediately following the Battle of the Bells. We are then talking about at least something like six months of being held hostage and her children's lives being threatened. That doesn't count the unknown amount of time from which she left Dragonstone, under what I believe is Aerys's summons. I think both Elia and Rhaegar have a strong incentive to try to get them out of Aerys's control long before the news of the Trident reaches King's Landing.

I also have no doubt that Varys always tries to present himself as everyone's true friend. Long experience with Varys shows however that is not the case, as Rhaegar and Elia found out in the build up to Harrenhal, if not before. Rhaegar and Elia's experience in the sectarian fights before Harrenhal and Varys role in fanning Aerys's paranoia has to make them extremely suspicious of Varys's trustworthiness. 

It may turn out that your caution is warranted and Elia was hopelessly estranged from her husband, but I think there is reason to question this is the case. The well being of their children is a powerful incentive to have them work together whatever their differences. Remembering that when we last saw husband and wife together, Rhaegar was confiding his belief to her that Aegon was the prince who was promised and he was destined to great things. We have no reason to believe he changed his mind, nor do I think his reference to the dragon having three heads left out little Rhaenys. Which tells me even if Rhaegar only saw his children in the light of prophecy, he still had reason to care for their lives. Ser Barristan tells us that Rhaegar was "fond" of Elia, and there is little reason to think that changed in the last days of their lives. 

Martin has told us that the Martell brothers were angered by Rhaegar's treatment of Elia when he takes Lyanna, but that still leaves the question of what Elia felt and if that would effect her working with her husband to save their children from Aerys's threats. I think not.

9 hours ago, Rhaenys_Targaryen said:

Would the only way for Ned and Howland to cross the Prince's Pass be in the company of Ashara?

No, but I think discounting the problems of Ned and Howland accomplishing this by themselves or with Wylla and a baby is wrong as well. Ashara's presence makes it understandable. Without her, raises all kinds of problems. Now, perhaps, Howland's magics help them carry it off, but until I know more about the extent of his powers, I'm not betting on them. Invisibility or just plain dumb luck doesn't impress me as likely.

9 hours ago, Rhaenys_Targaryen said:

Perhaps she believes it incorrectly (an incorrect rumour or a story changed in the numerous times it was told and retold - that could certainly happen). But according to Catelyn, who heard it from her maids (who heard it from Ned's soldiers), Ashara was already at Starfall when Ned set out to bring home Dawn.

They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys's Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur's sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. (AGOT, Catelyn 2)

The fact we know from Martin that Ned takes none of his troops into Dorne with him makes me question how they would know that Ashara was in Starfall to meet Ned. They tell the tale incorrectly as well as we know from Ned's comments to Bran that Howland was involved in that "single combat" with Ser Arthur. What it does tell us is that Ned's soldiers think Ashara is Jon's mother because of his trip to Starfall. Cersei seconds the tale with her talk of Ned taking Jon away from his mother causing Ashara to commit suicide. Ned verifies none of it, of course. For me, it is not a problem questioning the details of these rumors, including just when Ashara arrives in Starfall and whether or not she accompanies Ned there.

9 hours ago, Rhaenys_Targaryen said:

While the explanation of Wylla's presence in the party traveling to Starfall nicely explains why Starfall would believe she is Jon's mother, Ashara's presence is not necessary for this. (Although it leaves the question of why would she remain behind at Starfall, while her supposed child went north with Ned?). In fact, why would Ashara hide with Aegon in the ToJ, instead of at Starfall? If she had left KL with Aegon because Rhaegar and Elia had asked her to do so, wouldn't it be logical for her to travel to a location other than Rhaegar's third child? Similar to how, during the Dance of the Dragons, the hidden heirs were split to create a higher chance that at least one of them would survive?

It was Lord Larys who decreed the fugitives should part company as well, so that even if one were taken, the others might win free. Ser Rickard Thorne was commanded to deliver two-year-old Prince Maelor to Lord Hightower. Princess Jaehaera, a sweet and simple girl of six, was put in the charge of Ser Willis Fell, who swore to bring her safely to Storm’s End. Neither knew where the other was bound, so neither could betray the other if captured.

And only Larys himself knew that the king, stripped of his finery and clad in a salt-stained fisherman’s cloak, had been concealed amongst a load of codfish on a fishing skiff in the care of a bastard knight with kin on Dragonstone. (TPATQ)

I think the answer to why Ashara would take Aegon to the Tower of Joy instead of Starfall or some other location is simply this: who has control over Rhaegar and Elia's son's well being. In Starfall, the Daynes have their oaths of fealty to Sunspear. The brothers Martell have their own plans that may not include handing Aegon back over to Rhaegar. At the Tower of Joy, Rhaegar and Elia have three proven men who will follow Rhaegar's orders. In fact, it looks like they have chosen to follow his orders over that of his father. At least two of them, and the other seems to fine keeping himself away from any further orders from the king. So, yes, it would be better to hide Aegon and Jon in two separate places, but that would mean either splitting up the trio or entrusting Aegon to someone else of divided loyalties.

Anyway those are my thoughts on your excellent questions. Off to bed, my friend. I'll look to see if you have more in the morning.

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6 hours ago, SFDanny said:
  1. snip

  2. My speculation centers on Ashara operating as a agent of Rhaegar and/or Elia whose interests are not necessarily the same as the Martells in Sunspear or the Hightowers of Oldtown. So, in a nutshell, I doubt it.   

  3. snip

i don't think Ashara is in kahoots with Martells or Hightowers either, but Starfall isn't a major port. Just to blend in she might take passage on a larger ship in a larger port.

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8 hours ago, SFDanny said:

Thanks, and in such a wide open field, I was trying to not contradict those few facts.

Why Ashara? Because she is, in my opinion, likely one of the few people Rhaegar and/or Elia would trust for such a mission. As I tried to say in my post, I also think the needs of Varys's plot necessitates someone like Ashara, and there are very few candidates like Ashara. I think this takes place after Rhaegar comes north following of the Battle of the Bells and before the sack of King's Landing.

I disagree that Ashara has to be pregnant to disguise her journey south. Although, the pretense of pregnancy is not impossible to pull off to any but the most intrusive searches. Other cover stories are also possible, including taking a wet nurse to Ashara's patron to the south, etc. I'm not proposing Ashara substituted her own child with Aegon.

It seems to me that in the proposed scenario, the most essential person is Wylla or whoever Aegon's nurse maid was supposed to be. She would have been the one to take care of the child as well as pass him off as her own. Ashara's value would have been as a cover for a mother to be travelling with a baby at the breast as well as an excuse for the escort and funds they would want to provide the Prince with. Ashara's purported pregnancy could provide a pretext for her dismissal from Elia's service and for having a nurse maid in her retinue. 

This ties in with her rumored and speculated affair and justifies her role of removing Aegon from either Dragonstone or King's Landing.

9 hours ago, SFDanny said:

I don't doubt Varys skills as a master of whisperers. It is indeed hard to pull such a switch off without his knowing. That doesn't men it is impossible. Nor does it mean others have no experience in operating plots and schemes in the Red Keep. I would remind you that we are told in The World of Ice and Fire that there is a sectarian conflict compared to the Dance of the Dragons that takes place between the king's party and those of the crown prince. Obviously, the prince's partisans had their own methods of operations in these circumstances. I think those methods come into play here. So, difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

Varys is not the only person knowledgeable with the Red Keep. Rhaegar grew up there. Others controlled the secret byways before Varys came into Aerys's service. Again, difficult, but not impossible. I would also point out it isn't necessary for this plot to succeed that the secret byways are accessed. Think rather of the escape of Jeyne Poole from Winterfell. One child goes in, and one child goes out. 

I don't contend that under the right circumstances, those in which Varys sees helping Elia to be in his own interests, that he might not help in such a scheme. Rather my contention is that Rhaegar and/or Elia have every reason not to trust Varys, and every reason to try to get Aegon and Rhaenys out from Aerys's control. Which makes me doubt Varys story. That doesn't mean it is not possible. It is possible, but I would point out that for Varys and Illyrio's scheme to work it needs someone like Ashara to make it work. To make the Targaryen loyalists, particularly Prince Doran, to believe this child is Aegon.

The issue has more to do with whether lack of trust excludes Varys. Nobody trusts Varys, but when it comes to secrets he can be one's best friend and worst enemy. I also don't claim that he is omniscient, but trying to pull off something like that under his nose complicates things considerably. An added complication is Aerys' paranoia. Even with Ashara having a very plausible pretext for leaving King's Landing with a baby in tow, Aerys could have had her arrested for whatever reason that came into his head. There is also the possibility that Varys forced himself into the scheme. 

Considering Varys' eventual involvement it makes more sense if he was involved from the start or found out about it along the way. The other alternative would be that Aegon and Ashara never set foot in King's Landing and departed directly form Dragonstone. 

One thing to keep in mind is that depending on the timing, this would have happened in Rhaegar's absence. 

9 hours ago, SFDanny said:

Connington is important. But he is widely known to have been occupied as a sellsword during the first five years of his exile. He can't vouch for Aegon's identity during this time and those who know anything about him will know this. Which is why he can't do what Ashara can. She can testify to her fellow loyalists that she took Aegon into exile and be believed.

I find it hard to picture how that would work. She might have been able to persuade certain individuals in person who knew her, but it is not like she can sign affidavits and distribute copies. Reputation matters more than evidence. I doubt that anyone actually kept track of all of Connington's movements from his exile to his supposed death and can exclude what he says on those grounds. 

As for Connington himself he was recruited by his lover, Myles Toyne not Varys. Between the words he regarded with affection, trust and affection and his own despodence, I believe he persuaded himself. 

A couple of other observations. 

Neither Ashara nor Arthur are the Lord of Starfall. I feel it would be a mistake to assume that either had free reign with the resources and personell of house Dayne. The Lord of Starfall may not have wanted to take part in all of this; Ashara and Arthur may not have wanted him involved. The whole affair would have been inherently dangerous. Nor could they have trusted every person is Starfall. This could be a reason for Ashara to be at the Tower of Joy. 

I also don't think that Ned would have been in that much trouble going to Starfall. He was the victorious Warden of the North. Waylaying him would not  have been a particularly bright idea. The majority of Dornish troops had been lost in the Trident and the Tyrells had bent the knee. I'm not sure that many would have had the stomach.

The one thing that Ned would need to avoid is his own troops leaving the Tower of Joy with Jon in Tow. 

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