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Wolfkin

There must Always be a Stark at Winterfell

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The Starks are the ice faction in this story.  I have a feeling that family is somehow affiliated with and responsible for the Others.  Like the Starks sold their souls to the Others in return for the warg powers.  We saw with Greywind how useful that power can be in battle.  It could have tipped the balance to the Starks during their war of conquest for the north.  The Boltons loved to skin the Starks because they saw them not as men but as animals.  The Boltons are the Huntsmen.  The Huntsman is the wolf's enemy.  The Huntsmen skinned the Starks because their warg powers were known.  The Boltons treated the Starks like animals.  The Starks gave up their sons to the Others and in return they got the help they needed to conquer the north.  The Others see the Starks as their stewards.  The stewards take care of the land until the master can return.  There must always be a Stark in Winterfell because they are the stewards for the Others.

 

 

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49 minutes ago, Loose Bolt said:

I suspect that without a Stark there would be either major civil war in the North about who would rule or there would be many petty and hostile "kingdoms". So Stark in WF is a glue that keeps North together.

Some readers assume it means the Starks guard the realms of the humans against the Others.  I think it's the other way around.  The Starks are the stewards who look after the land until their masters, the Others, can come back.  

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21 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

That king is missing his sword,” Lady Dustin observed.
It was true. Theon did not recall which king it was, but the longsword he should have held was gone. Streaks of rust remained to show where it had been. The sight disquieted him. He had always heard that the iron in the sword kept the spirits of the dead locked within their tombs. If a sword was missing …
There are ghosts in Winterfell. And I am one of them.

 

The sword is missing because when Bran, Rickon, Osha, Jojen, and Meera hid in the crypts, some of them took the swords as weapons when they fled from the ironborn and Boltons. 

Sorry to ruin any theories with that!

I always thought a Stark must always be in Winterfell because of all the dead Winter Kings in the crypts. Maybe only a Stark can blow the Horn of Winter and it wakes the dead Kings to battle for the current Stark of Winterfell.  

‘And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter, and woke giants from the earth.’

It was so long ago that it could have really been the King of Winter who blew the horn to bring down the Night’s King. Or Joramun could have been related to Brandon the Breaker. Or it could just wake an ice dragon from the Wall. *shrug*

Edited by Redhands

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22 minutes ago, Redhands said:

The sword is missing because when Bran, Rickon, Osha, Jojen, and Meera hid in the crypts, some of them took the swords as weapons when they fled from the ironborn and Boltons. 

Yes, and? The fact that it was Bran & co is interesting, and may even turn into something else later on. But I wasn’t talking about that at all. My point was that it’s the iron that keeps the spirits entombed, and now the iron is gone. 

22 minutes ago, Redhands said:

Sorry to ruin any theories with that!

Huh?

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Well you seemed to have a whole thing about the rust left on the stone tombs where the sword used to be, so I was apologizing. :P

I think the swords were just part of the funerary rite, like grave goods from ancient civilizations, to use in the afterlife. 

The whole thing with Theon and Lady Dustin pointing out the missing sword was a wink and throwback to the Bran and Rickon group hiding in the crypts. 

Edited by Redhands

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1 minute ago, Redhands said:

Well you seemed to have a whole thing about the rust left on the stone tombs where the sword used to be, so I was apologizing. :P

Nope, that wasn’t me. 

1 minute ago, Redhands said:

I think the swords were just part of the funerary rite, like grave goods from ancient civilizations, to use in the afterlife. 

We can think what we want irt unsolved mysteries and such. But sometimes we actually have the info right there, in the text. This is one of these cases. Mind you, I am not saying iron prevents spirits from wandering. Then again I am not westerosi. The bottom line is, characters believe it, and we have a PoV saying as much and giving it as the reason for the swords to be placed on the tombs. 

1 minute ago, Redhands said:

The whole thing with Theon and Lady Dustin pointing out the missing sword was a wink and throwback to the Bran and Rickon group hiding in the crypts. 

And again, this has nothing to do w/ that. Yes, we’re supposed to put two and two together. But my replies here were about the iron in swords and why the characters use it as they do. 

Hope that’s all cleared up now. 

:cheers:

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Sorry, musta got user names confused when I was skimming through! Anyway, here is the relevant passage from ACOK Bran VII:

Osha carried her long oaken spear in one hand and the torch in the other. A naked sword hung down her back, one of the last to bear Mikken’s mark. He had forged it for Lord Eddard’s tomb, to keep his ghost at rest. But with Mikken slain and the ironmen guarding the armory, good steel had been hard to resist, even if it meant grave-robbing. Meera had claimed Lord Rickard’s blade, though she complained that it was too heavy. Brandon took his namesake’s, the sword made for the uncle he had never known. He knew he would not be much use in a fight, but even so the blade felt good in his hand.
 

So it was Osha, Bran, and Meera that take swords from the tombs. I think Hodor eventually uses one when Bran wargs him. 

Edited by Redhands

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On 12/7/2018 at 2:04 PM, Wolfkin said:

Why must there always be a Stark at Winterfell? 

Why do the Starks bury their dead with Iron swords?

When the last Starks (Bran/Rickon) do leave Winterfell, Summer sees smoke/dragon?
 

Sayings and beliefs can lose their true meaning over time.  What if the original read "the Starks must always remain in Winterfell" and it referred to the dead kings in the crypts?  Religion promises life after death to the faithful and the Starks have certainly been faithfully sacrificing to something.  The Starks believed their kings will come back to life so long as they kept them in the basement freezer until the white walkers come back to resurrect them.  Isn't that the promise of religions?  Serve faithfully and await the coming of the gods.  Who in turn will resurrect the deserving among the dead.  

The iron swords?  Pharaohs were sealed with their earthly goods.  Why shouldn't these kings of the savages be interred with their swords.

 

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On 12/7/2018 at 2:04 PM, Wolfkin said:

Why must there always be a Stark at Winterfell? 

Why do the Starks bury their dead with Iron swords?

When the last Starks (Bran/Rickon) do leave Winterfell, Summer sees smoke/dragon?
 

The Stark dies when he leaves the north.  Ice cannot long survive in warmth.  It's like an allegory.  The Stark should remain in Winterfell means he should not leave the north.  The mother direwolf drove home the meaning in the first volume.  The south is a sea of politics and the Stark should not involve himself with.  The Stark has to deny his identity in order to survive outside the north.  Sansa and Arya are doing just that.  Nymeria is losing her mind because she can't deny what she is.  They won't survive for long because the north is calling them.  

The iron swords protected the dead Stark lords in the after life.  The First Men only had bronze when they fought the Others.  But what if they had iron?  The results might be different.  Victory over the Others.  Technology moves forward though.  The arrival of the Andals brought iron.  The Starks adopted the technology.  They now had a weapon with which they could fight the Others.  Iron is stronger than bronze.  Maybe this is what kept the Others away for so long.  And the weather  They know about the iron.  They waited until they can develop a weapon that could shatter iron.  All they need to do now is wait for the weather to get colder so they can attack with their superior crystal blades.

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On 12/7/2018 at 10:07 PM, Wolfkin said:

And where in the Seven Kingdoms is Ned Stark's bones? They seem to have disappeared :(

Hallis Mollen was taking Ned's bones up the causeway through The Neck.  Once the Ironborn took Moat Cailin I imagine the Crannogmen kept a watch and warned any friendlies traveling the Causeway.  The Captain of Guards of Winterfell escorting his liege lord's body would almost certainly have been given refuge at Greywater Watch.

Maege Mormont and Galbert Glover disappeared into the Neck in ASOS as well.  I imagine they were guided to Greywater Watch as well.  It's a huge marshland and I tend to think of it a bit like King Alfred hiding in the marshes and leading the resistance to the Danes from there.

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I suspect the saying, "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell" was not originated by some paranormal mystery, but rather a sensible logical rational.  If there are no Starks in Winterfell, what would prevent someone on the inside from barring the gates and taking the castle from the absent Starks?

The swords being buried with the Lords are a funeral rite

Ned's bones are probably at Greywater Watch with Hallis Molen.  Although I do have a another theory that Hallis is the hooded man in Winterfell and that he is actually there with Barbary Dustin.  She proclaims her hatred of Ned and the Starks way too much.  I think she is still loyal, but playing a part in order to 1) survive and 2) to help take back the North from the Boltons.  I think that is why she wanted to go in the Crypts, she may have suspected to find Bran and Rickon there.

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On 12/7/2018 at 8:04 PM, Wolfkin said:

Why must there always be a Stark at Winterfell?

Perhaps the answer is more simple than we imagine : because without a Stark, Winter is coming. ^^

In the serie, we can observe that autumn and then winter are arriving after Stark's departure : Eddard with the girls in AGOT and autumn begins slowly. Then Robb leaves too, and to finish Bran and Rickon. When Theon comes back with the Bolton, winter is at Winterfell, and becomes the center of a huge snowy tempest.

Coming back in the past, we can also observe that the long summer arrived when Ned and Catelyn had children at Winterfell = when the number of Starks was growing. Before that, there was winter, when Benjen remained the only Stark at Winterfell, during the war against Mad Aerys. Spring seemed to arrive when Brandon briefly came back to Winterfell after his journey with the Ryswell, and so on...

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On ‎12‎/‎7‎/‎2018 at 6:16 PM, Seams said:

The iron of the swords may be important because the blades eventually rust. I'm not sure why rust would be important except that the color orange is important (along with the fruit - both oranges and blood oranges).

In the Winterfell crypt, Theon becomes very uneasy when he sees only streaks of rust where swords used to be.

Yes, the rust is extremely important...

 

I just checked the search engine, and there are actually very few instances of this saying, and they are all clearly prophetic in some capacity: 

 

I'm thinking it's tied to the (original) Night's Watch oaths, as it was Brandon the Builder (legend claimed) who built the Wall of Ice, with oaths witnessed by the weirwood trees to mark their sacred content. 

So, we get: 

Spoiler

Catelyn II, Game

His words were like an icy draft through her heart. "No," she said, suddenly afraid. Was this to be her punishment? Never to see his face again, nor to feel his arms around her?
"Yes," Ned said, in words that would brook no argument. "You must govern the north in my stead, while I run Robert's errands. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Robb is fourteen. Soon enough, he will be a man grown. He must learn to rule, and I will not be here for him. Make him part of your councils. He must be ready when his time comes."
"Gods will, not for many years," Maester Luwin murmured.

There must always be a Stark in Winterfell, watching, waiting, learning to rule and to lead... for when the gods will that the time has come (Heart of Winter).

The saying reminds the Starks that Winter is coming, and they must prepare themselves even as they run mortal errands in other times

This next one is not a true instance of the saying, but curiously the words are hidden in there: 

Spoiler

Tyrion II, Game

"No," Jon Snow said, horrified. "I wouldn't …" [dream of killing--burning with dragonfire--his own family]
"No? Never?" Tyrion raised an eyebrow. "Well, no doubt the Starks have been terribly good to you. I'm certain Lady Stark treats you as if you were one of her own. And your brother Robb, he's always been kind, and why not? He gets Winterfell and you get the Wall. And your father … he must have good reasons for packing you off to the Night's Watch …"
"Stop it," Jon Snow said, his face dark with anger. "The Night's Watch is a noble calling!

The Starks do have good reason for producing bastards and shipping them off to the Wall (First Night Custom and Night's Watch custom married together). There must always be a Stark in Winterfell... and there must always be a "Snow" on the Wall. These duties were meant to go hand-in-hand. 

 

Spoiler

Catelyn III, Game

"I'll go," Robb said.
"No," she told him. "Your place is here. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell." She looked at Ser Rodrik with his great white whiskers, at Maester Luwin in his grey robes, at young Greyjoy, lean and dark and impetuous. Who to send? Who would be believed? Then she knew. Catelyn struggled to push back the blankets, her bandaged fingers as stiff and unyielding as stone. She climbed out of bed. "I must go myself."
"My lady," said Maester Luwin, "is that wise? Surely the Lannisters would greet your arrival with suspicion."

The Stark in Winterfell accepts evidence of suspicious activity from the Snow Upon the Wall, and then s/he fulfills the Stark duty to sound the war cry: Winter is Coming!!! for the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. It must be a "Stark" envoy, so that the arrival of the Others is not greeted with suspicion. They're essentially sounding the horn (the HOWL) of Winter. Three Blasts for The Great Other (Winter's Ice Dragon)

 

Spoiler

Bran II, Clash

Not now. The Walders would break lances with the squires of Lord Manderly's escort, but Bran would have no part of it. He must play the prince in his father's solar. "Listen, and it may be that you will learn something of what lordship is all about," Maester Luwin had said.
Bran had never asked to be a prince. It was knighthood he had always dreamed of; bright armor and streaming banners, lance and sword, a warhorse between his legs. Why must he waste his days listening to old men speak of things he only half understood? Because you're broken, a voice inside reminded him. A lord on his cushioned chair might be crippled—the Walders said their grandfather was so feeble he had to be carried everywhere in a litter—but not a knight on his destrier. Besides, it was his duty. "You are your brother's heir and the Stark in Winterfell," Ser Rodrik said, reminding him of how Robb used to sit with their lord father when his bannermen came to see him.
Lord Wyman Manderly had arrived from White Harbor two days past, traveling by barge and litter, as he was too fat to sit a horse. With him had come a long tail of retainers: knights, squires, lesser lords and ladies, heralds, musicians, even a juggler, all aglitter with banners and surcoats in what seemed half a hundred colors. Bran had welcomed them to Winterfell from his father's high stone seat with the direwolves carved into the arms, and afterward Ser Rodrik had said he'd done well. If that had been the end of it, he would not have minded. But it was only the beginning.

The Stark in Winterfell is playing a role: the promised prince, to whom all must hearken and kneel "when the time comes," and Winter with it. Notice that Bran "plays the prince in his father's solar" (the divine celestial war of the triune deity, the Sun, Azor Ahai, slaying mother and son; the mother seeking vengeance, raising her son from the dead to seek it, dancing him like a puppet on a string; the four "Bad Hands" of the Valonqar: red (Azor Ahai, Father Smith Warrior, SUMMER), blue (Mother, Maiden, Crone, WINTER), green ( the promised prince and corn king, living, SPRING) black and "grey" (the promised prince and corn king, dead, at the feast of the dead, the pigeon in the pie, AUTUMN). Bran (like the promised prince) doesn't want to be a prince, but a knight (but the knight must lead when he takes up his father's sword on his mother's command), and he's an innocent dragged into the wars of older people, ignorant of the true meaning or significance of it all, forced to play a part he despises (the promised prince turns against his mother in order to end the divine perversion of a deity at war with itself). 

In playing the role of the promised prince, the Stark in Winterfell rallies the troops in "that dread hour" when Azor Ahai Come Again (Jon Snow, distinct from Dany's Azor Ahai Reborn!) draws his sword from the fire (of his mother's breast) and wields it to send the darkness fleeing (The Mother/Crone wants vengeance, sending the darkness and the cold, crying The Others take you! her curse, and "All men must die. All men must serve." which means all men must die to serve her purpose, which is why die comes first... but the promised prince eventually grows fed up with this treatment and seeks to liberate himself even from her, breaking the "thread" between them--eyes like blue stars; skinchanging--and reclaiming his sight--like Coldhands!). 

Which all brings me to: 

Spoiler

Sansa VI, Feast

"Septa Mordane was good enough to say so."
"Robert has weak eyes, but he loves to be read to," Lady Lysa confided. "He likes stories about animals the best. Do you know the little song about the chicken who dressed as a fox? I sing him that all the time, he never grows tired of it. And he likes to play hopfrog and spin-the-sword and come-into-my-castle, but you must always let him win. That's only proper, don't you think? He is the Lord of the Eyrie, after all, you must never forget that. You are well born, and the Starks of Winterfell were always proud, but Winterfell has fallen and you are really just a beggar now, so put that pride aside. Gratitude will better become you, in your present circumstances. Yes, and obedience. My son will have a grateful and obedient wife."

This is not a true telling of the phrase, either, but the words are hidden within too, and it bespeaks more of the Starks current circumstances; they can no longer "proudly command" men come and kneel and obey (the promised prince seated on high) but instead must "beg graciously" for that aid. 

Playing hopfrog (the frog prince): Aegon "Young Griff" 

Spin-the-Sword (Warrior Draws from the Fire): Jon Snow 

Come-Into-My-Castle (The House With the Red Door=Drogon!): Daenerys

Lord of the Eyrie (Nest): Jon Snow, the Three-Eyed Crow (white with red eyes) and the pigeon in the pie at the feast of the dead

"A grateful and obedient wife" is THE THREE MOUNTS (spoke of in House of the Undying) for Aegon (Rhaegal), Dany (Drogon), and Jon Snow (Viserys, Ghost), that the promised princes/ess all ride "under the sea" (Patchface) when they've died, SKINCHANGING, that they might be REBORN to lead their armies into battle:

Spoiler

Jon XI, Dance

Jon had expected that. The direwolf made Queen Selyse anxious, almost as much as Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun. "Ghost, stay."
They found Her Grace sewing by the fire, whilst her fool danced about to music only he could hear, the cowbells on his antlers clanging. "The crow, the crow," Patchface cried when he saw Jon. "Under the sea the crows are white as snow, I know, I know, oh, oh, oh." Princess Shireen was curled up in a window seat, her hood drawn up to hide the worst of the greyscale that had disfigured her face.
There was no sign of Lady Melisandre. For that much Jon was grateful. Soon or late he would need to face the red priestess, but he would sooner it was not in the queen's presence. "Your Grace." He took a knee. Val did likewise.
 
Jon XIII, Dance
"Do I look so foolish?" [As to lead this mission myself?]
Patchface jumped up. "I will lead it!" His bells rang merrily. "We will march into the sea and out again. Under the waves we will ride seahorses, and mermaids will blow seashells to announce our coming, oh, oh, oh."
They all laughed. Even Queen Selyse allowed herself a thin smile. Jon was less amused. "I will not ask my men to do what I would not do myself. I mean to lead the ranging."
"How bold of you," said the queen. "We approve. Afterward some bard will make a stirring song about you, no doubt, and we shall have a more prudent lord commander." She took a sip of wine. "Let us speak of other matters. Axell, bring in the wildling king, if you would be so good."She took a sip of wine. "Let us speak of other matters. Axell, bring in the wildling king, if you would be so good."
 
This is written in plain English: 
I [The Promised Prince/ess] will lead [the army]! I will die and be reborn [in trying and failing to do so]. When I am dead, I will "mount" my "bride of fire" [Aegon: Rhaegal; Dany: Drogon; Jon Snow: Ghost, Viserion] and when I am being reborn, a heralding sound [e.g. the three cracks of Dany's dragon eggs on the funeral pyre] will announce my coming, [sound], [sound], [sound]! 
Dany has already undergone this process once in Game with the Dothraki. When Drogo falls from his horse (his THRONE), he tells Dany clearly what needs to be done (No. I must ride.) but she ignores his commands and presumes to lead the Dothraki herself. She fails. As she's failing to lead them (they MUTINY on her, and even put her into labor too soon, but she wrongly blames MMD for this), she "dies" and is "reborn" again (the Tent of Terror, the birth of Rhaego--a FULFILLED prophecy; see House of the Undying, the Funeral Pyre), and the cracking of the dragons' eggs herald her coming (with the RED STAR BLEEDING in the sky, WAKING DRAGONS FROM STONE, SMOKE AND SALT). 
She will undergo the process again on the Trident, trying to lead the Dothraki and the slaves into combat, only for her DOTHRAKI army to "break and flee" (b/c of the great dragon battle in the sky) and she runs back to DRAGONSTONE for safety, where she will have "the biggest funeral pyre of them all" and finally enter the House with the Red Door (Drogon). 
Jon Snow is undergoing this process in Dance with the Free Folk and the Night's Watch. He attempts to lead them in battle (SOUTH, with Boltons), and is assassinated for it (FOR THE WATCH). He'll skinchange Ghost, and in the meanwhile finish his CRYPT DREAM (FEAST OF THE DEAD; see: House of the Undying; Jon, Game for references), and will be reborn in a METEOR SHOWER (Azor Ahai Come Again prophecy: "When the stars bleed" and Mel's warning: Look to the skies, and all your questions will be answered. And Jon's MISREMEMBERING her warning, including: a raven (crow) in a storm.) WUN WUN and TORMUND already "blew" the Horn of WINTER here, waking giants of the earth (the corn king, as the promised princes songs are ice and fire and earth and stone, not literal giant or even earthquake). 
Aegon "Young Griff" has undergone (the Sorrows, thwarted by Tyrion) and is undergoing this process with the GOLDEN COMPANY, where he "reveals himself" at STORM'S END (death and rebirth). Will ELEPHANTS trumpet his coming, or some other sound?
Like Ser Erryck and Ser Arryk, like Aemond One-Eye (Aegon) and Daemon (Jon Snow), they will kill each other on the Trident (Rhaegal, Viserion), but Jon Snow will wake up in his own flesh a third time (not poor Aegon, tho!), which is probably the terrifying event that breaks and runs Dany's army (the dragon eats sheep and horse alike! she boasted to the Dothraki… and she'll have lots of horses on field). 
 
More on Patchface's prophecies: 
"In time," Cressen replied. "If the gods are good, they will grant us a warm autumn and bountiful harvests, so we might prepare for the winter to come." The smallfolk said that a long summer meant an even longer winter, but the maester saw no reason to frighten the child with such tales.
Patchface rang his bells. "It is always summer under the sea," he intoned. "The merwives wear nennymoans in their hair and weave gowns of silver seaweed. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
Shireen giggled. "I should like a gown of silver seaweed."
 
Again with the same themes: when you're dead, you don't worry about winter, you are winter, the terror coming. There's "fire" in death (icy fire and fiery ice), but note: if it's always summer under the sea, it also portends that always winter that the smallfolk dread (The Land of Always Summer is DEATH). The hells are half icy and half fiery, remember. 
In death, you wear a "shroud" (Gold their crowns and gold their shrouds) of silver seaweed (silver mist, as we see often in the prophetic dreams and visions of the winter and death and devastation to come) and cry out (nennymoans) from the grave as you're danced like a puppet on a string. Note also that it's the merwives (The MAIDEN MOTHER CRONE triune) that "wears" the dead's agony or voice (she seizes control of the bodies and minds of the dead; skinchanging). 
Of course, it also foreshadows the Purple Wedding. 
The passage continues: 
"Under the sea, it snows up," said the fool, "and the rain is dry as bone. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
"Will it truly snow?" the child asked.
This is also quite simple: people rise up from the dead (like Coldhands, Beric, Cat; like the wights; like the promised princes) and fire rains down from above (dragonfire; comets; meter showers--all dragons--and the ice dragon too). 
It continues on: 
Cressen made his way toward the raised platform where the lords sat with the king. He had to step wide around Patchface. Dancing, his bells ringing, the fool neither saw nor heard his approach. As he hopped from one leg to the other, Patchface lurched into Cressen, knocking his cane out from under him. They went crashing down together amidst the rushes in a tangle of arms and legs, while a sudden gale of laughter went up around them. No doubt it was a comical sight.
Patchface sprawled half on top of him, motley fool's face pressed close to his own. He had lost his tin helm with its antlers and bells. "Under the sea, you fall up," he declared. "I know, I know, oh, oh, oh." Giggling, the fool rolled off, bounded to his feet, and did a little dance.
Trying to make the best of it, the maester smiled feebly and struggled to rise, but his hip was in such pain that for a moment he was half afraid that he had broken it all over again. He felt strong hands grasp him under the arms and lift him back to his feet. "Thank you, ser," he murmured, turning to see which knight had come to his aid . . .
This one's more complex, but Cressen is actually a Jon Snow stand-in for the Battle of the Trident, I believe, where he topples to his death (like Cleos Frey whose head becomes a "plow") after battling and killing Aegon on dragonback with Longclaw (Aemond One-Eye; Aegon's story is all about tears, wailing, rains from above, grief, and maidenvault towers). 
A knight comes to the cadaverous Jon Snow's aid in the undersea (death) where he has his second near-death experience with Jaime Lannister and the Direwolf Doom of Casterly Rock, leading him to the Tower of Joy. The cadaverous guys are Jon Snow stand-ins in the parallel narratives. 
More: 
Too far, Cressen thought dully, looking at where Ser Davos was seated. Half of the lords bannermen were between the smuggler and the high table. I must be closer to her if I am to get the strangler into her cup, yet how?
Patchface was capering about as the maester made his slow way around the table to Davos Seaworth. "Here we eat fish," the fool declared happily, waving a cod about like a scepter. "Under the sea, the fish eat us. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
Ser Davos moved aside to make room on the bench. "We all should be in motley tonight," he said gloomily as Cressen seated himself, "for this is fool's business we're about. The red woman has seen victory in her flames, so Stannis means to press his claim, no matter what the numbers. Before she's done we're all like to see what Patchface saw, I fear—the bottom of the sea."
 
This is another foreshadowing of THE FEAST OF THE DEAD (the fish are dragons). At the feast, the people eat the dragon (corn king, pigeon in the pie), and in death the dragon (corn king, three-eyed crow) eat the dead (all the ravens and crows feasting on the dead; the smallfolk; men are meat, etc.). 
And onward: 
"Yes," Lady Selyse agreed. "Patches's helm. It suits you well, old man. Put it on again, I command you."
"Under the sea, no one wears hats," Patchface said. "I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
Lord Stannis's eyes were shadowed beneath his heavy brow, his mouth tight as his jaw worked silently. He always ground his teeth when he was angry. "Fool," he growled at last, "my lady wife commands. Give Cressen your helm."
 
This is a strange one, but I think it evokes several different motifs: iron crowns or golden crowns or laurel crowns (just crowns in general) and once you're dead your kingship/queenship doesn't matter for much. We also see a transfer of the crown (antlered helm) from one to another (Cressen is a Jon Snow stand-in from earlier in the passage), which is the Iron Throne circus act, and the contested crown. This crown is simultaneously horns (heralding horns but also sacrificial horns) evoking of the mounts to ride under the sea the heralding thunder announcing the second coming. 
 
Davos I, Clash
Melisandre was robed all in scarlet satin and blood velvet, her eyes as red as the great ruby that glistened at her throat as if it too were afire. "In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him." She lifted her voice, so it carried out over the gathered host. "Azor Ahai, beloved of R'hllor! The Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire! Come forth, your sword awaits you! Come forth and take it into your hand!"
Stannis Baratheon strode forward like a soldier marching into battle. His squires stepped up to attend him. Davos watched as his son Devan pulled a long padded glove over the king's right hand. The boy wore a cream-colored doublet with a fiery heart sewn on the breast. Bryen Farring was similarly garbed as he tied a stiff leather cape around His Grace's neck. Behind, Davos heard a faint clank and clatter of bells. "Under the sea, smoke rises in bubbles, and flames burn green and blue and black," Patchface sang somewhere. "I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
The king plunged into the fire with his teeth clenched, holding the leather cloak before him to keep off the flames. He went straight to the Mother, grasped the sword with his gloved hand, and wrenched it free of the burning wood with a single hard jerk. Then he was retreating, the sword held high, jade-green flames swirling around cherry-red steel. Guards rushed to beat out the cinders that clung to the king's clothing.
Martin tells the reader quite clearly here that STANNIS IS NOT AZOR AHAI (IN ANY INCARNATION). The dead dragons burn "green (Rhaegal; Aegon) and blue (Viserion; Jon Snow) and black (Drogon; Dany)" and, of course, foremost they die to ascend to these legendary heights, not participate in mummer's farces of magical rituals. We'll come back to Azor Ahai Come Again (when we get to Azor Ahai Reborn). 
 
And here we learn what UNDER THE SEA really means:
Closer at hand, it was the trees that ruled. To south and east the wood went on as far as Jon could see, a vast tangle of root and limb painted in a thousand shades of green, with here and there a patch of red where a weirwood shouldered through the pines and sentinels, or a blush of yellow where some broadleafs had begun to turn. When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
Ghost was not like to be alone down there, he thought. Anything could be moving under that sea, creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees. Anything. How would they ever know? He stood there for a long time, until the sun vanished behind the saw-toothed mountains and darkness began to creep through the forest.
"Jon?" Samwell Tarly called up. "I thought it looked like you. Are you well?"
 
UNDER THE SEA = IN THE WEIRWOOD TREES/IN THE SHADE TREES = IN DEATH (seeing the forest for the trees!)
Note: The forest for the trees becomes a "deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable." The DROWNED GODDESS, then, "drowns" in the trees (which absorb the consciousness of living creatures after death). Ghost (Jon's MOUNT) is not alone under the sea, in death, (because he's married to Jon Snow), and anything could be moving under that sea (of trees), which are THE OTHERS "creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees." After noting that "anything" (OTHER THINGS) are moving beneath the sea of trees, Jon asks the all important question: how would they ever know?
The answer: The Snow Upon the Wall (watcher on the walls; ranging north) tells the Stark IN Winterfell (watcher on the wall; horn that wakes the SLEEPERS) who tells the rest of the Seven Kingdoms "WINTER IS COMING" (or "the time has come; the gods have awoken") and it's best they all kick into high gear and rally. Notice also: It's important HOW JON SNOW LOOKS when he's holding this duty, this watch alone: you have the Stark look is important!
This is reaffirmed to us by Varamyr's chapter: 
 
 
Davos V, Storm
The narrow twisting steps of Sea Dragon Tower had been a sore trial to Maester Cressen [Jon Snow] after he broke his hip. Davos still found himself missing the old man. He thought Stannis must as well. Pylos [Aegon] seemed clever and diligent and well-meaning, but he was so young, and the king did not confide in him as he had in Cressen. The old man had been with Stannis so long . . . Until he ran afoul of Melisandre [Dany], and died for it.
At the top of the steps Davos heard a soft jingle of bells that could only herald Patchface. The princess's fool was waiting outside the maester's door for her like a faithful hound [mount]. Dough-soft and slump-shouldered, his broad face tattooed in a motley pattern of red and green squares, Patchface wore a helm made of a rack of deer antlers strapped to a tin bucket. A dozen bells hung from the tines and rang when he moved . . . which meant constantly, since the fool seldom stood still. He jingled and jangled his way everywhere he went; small wonder that Pylos had exiled him from Shireen's lessons. "Under the sea the old fish eat the young fish," the fool muttered at Davos. He bobbed his head, and his bells clanged and chimed and sang. "I know, I know, oh oh oh."
"Up here the young fish teach the old fish," said Davos, who never felt so ancient as when he sat down to try and read. It might have been different if aged Master Cressen had been the one teaching him, but Pylos was young enough to be his son.
Another iteration of what happens under the sea (in death) when the dragon prince/princess mounts his/her "faithful hound." 
This time around we see the old dragon eating the young dragon (dragon killing dragon)… but what does that refer to?
Moqorro tells us: 
Dragons. Dragon old and young, true and false, bright and dark. 
I break this down several ways: 
Dany: the dragon old and young (The Bear and the Maiden Fair) 
Jon Snow: the dragon true and false (The Trial-by-Battle and Direwolf Doom of Casterly Rock)
Aegon "Young Griff": the dragon bright and dark (Drowning in Sorrows and the Maidenvault)
And also: 
Old, True, Bright dragons: Dany, Jon Snow, Aegon "Young Griff" 
(Old--dragons of House Targaryen, an ancient lineage; True--trueborn dragons of House Targaryen, legitimate line of the promised prince; Bright--Red dragons of House Targaryen; entitled to carry red dragon on black banner)
Young, False, Dark dragons: Cersei (Aegon "Young Griff" is the younger and more beautiful king), Jaime (Jon Snow is the younger and more beautiful knight), Tyrion (Dany is the maiden fair to his monstrous bear; but also the younger and more beautiful "monster" or giant--see her Dance arc where she questions if she too is not a monster because of her dragons, the "mother of monsters." Bizarrely, Time-Travelling Fetus Joke Theory actually picks up on this parallel!)
(Young--new golden dragons of House Lannister; False--golden dragons of House Lannister; dark--bastard golden dragons of House Targaryen, should rightfully "flip" colors on banner, black on red) Yep, I'm saying that Tywin has no children whatsoever; the Cersei/Jaime vs. Tyrion is a Targ Bastard crowds are all correct! [Personally, I do not like this plotline, but it's where the evidence leads me.]
 
Jon X, Dance
Jon bowed again. "As you wish. I shall join you shortly."
Ser Malegorn offered his arm, and Queen Selyse took it stiffly. Her other hand settled on her daughter's shoulder. The royal ducklings fell in behind them as they made their way across the yard, marching to the music of the bells on the fool's hat. "Under the sea the mermen feast on starfish soup, and all the serving men are crabs," Patchface proclaimed as they went. "I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."
Melisandre's face darkened. "That creature is dangerous. Many a time I have glimpsed him in my flames. Sometimes there are skulls about him, and his lips are red with blood."
 
Patchface isn't the dangerous fool/creature here. He's just a ravaged prophet (we've seen his archetype before). Here he tells us about the warring triune deity Trios of the Three Heads (the Earth, the promised prince, the dragon with three heads: moon, moon, sun). In death, men feast on the deity's vengeance (starfish soup; star "dragon" soup: ice and fire hell!) and all the serving men are Others, wights, knights (crabs). 
Why this meaning for "crabs"? What's a crab? A creature with an exoskeleton, a "hardened" skin with a soft "heart" inside. Others and wights are the Merciless Mother's skinchanged creatures (seizing their bodies/skins whilst they are crushed inside of it; wights appear to remember, according to Varamyr's chapter, below). Knights and warriors are similar, armored bodies/skins the high lords use to play their game of thrones. Furthermore, we have Others described as "some child's snow knight." All in keeping with the theme.
So, what is Melisandre seeing, if not Patchface?
A dangerous creature. Glimpsed in flames. Skulls about him. Lips red with blood.... 
The promised prince, the black hand: he comes his mother's "creature" (a puppet danced on a string), glimpsed by darkness in the flames (used to fight the darkness and its creatures back), with skulls about him (of the dead he's killed and accumulated in his army on his mother's commands), his lips red with blood (because he is a sacrificial lamb, whose throat had been slit--amongst other blows, to gut and arm--and which gave him "a red smile."
Melisandre is describing Jon Snow to his face
And lastly: 
Jon XIII, Dance
"Sers." Jon inclined his head to the knights in question. "May you find happiness with your betrothed."
"Under the sea, men marry fishes." Patchface did a little dance step, jingling his bells. "They do, they do, they do."
Queen Selyse sniffed again. "Four marriages can be made as simply as three. It is past time that this woman Val was settled, Lord Snow. I have decided that she shall wed my good and leal knight, Ser Patrek of King's Mountain."
 
Men marry fishes could not be more simple. I showed above that "fish" = "dragon." When the promised princes die, they marry their dragons. They skinchange them. Skinchanging is a marriage, says Varamyr. 
Prologue, Dance
Dogs were the easiest beasts to bond with; they lived so close to men that they were almost human. Slipping into a dog's skin was like putting on an old boot, its leather softened by wear. As a boot was shaped to accept a foot, a dog was shaped to accept a collar, even a collar no human eye could see. Wolves were harder. A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf. "Wolves and women wed for life," Haggon often said. "You take one, that's a marriage. The wolf is part of you from that day on, and you're part of him. Both of you will change."
Imagine how hard it will be for our old, true, bright dragons to marry their dragons!
And Varamyr as evidence living consciousness is absorbed by trees (weirwood and shade):
Abomination. Was that her, or him, or Haggon? He never knew. His old flesh fell back into the snowdrift as her fingers loosened. The spearwife twisted violently, shrieking. His shadowcat used to fight him wildly, and the snow bear had gone half-mad for a time, snapping at trees and rocks and empty air, but this was worse. "Get out, get out!" he heard her own mouth shouting. Her body staggered, fell, and rose again, her hands flailed, her legs jerked this way and that in some grotesque dance as his spirit and her own fought for the flesh. She sucked down a mouthful of the frigid air, and Varamyr had half a heartbeat to glory in the taste of it and the strength of this young body before her teeth snapped together and filled his mouth with blood. She raised her hands to his face. He tried to push them down again, but the hands would not obey, and she was clawing at his eyes. Abomination, he remembered, drowning in blood and pain and madness. When he tried to scream, she spat their tongue out.
The white world turned and fell away. For a moment it was as if he were inside the weirwood, gazing out through carved red eyes as a dying man twitched feebly on the ground and a madwoman danced blind and bloody underneath the moon, weeping red tears and ripping at her clothes. Then both were gone and he was rising, melting, his spirit borne on some cold wind. He was in the snow and in the clouds, he was a sparrow, a squirrel, an oak. A horned owl flew silently between his trees, hunting a hare; Varamyr was inside the owl, inside the hare, inside the trees. Deep below the frozen ground, earthworms burrowed blindly in the dark, and he was them as well. I am the wood, and everything that's in it, he thought, exulting. A hundred ravens took to the air, cawing as they felt him pass. A great elk trumpeted, unsettling the children clinging to his back. A sleeping direwolf raised his head to snarl at empty air. Before their hearts could beat again he had passed on, searching for his own, for One Eye, Sly, and Stalker, for his pack. His wolves would save him, he told himself.
That was his last thought as a man.
The Abomination we witness here is what a grieving mother did to her own beloved son so she could seek vengeance for his death! The way Thistle dances like a puppet and a spirit (remember the shadows in Dany's tent dancing too? Were they in agony when MMD seized control of them?) is wight does as it fights to throw off its oppressor (Son and Mother). 
Afterward, Varamyr enters the weirwood to watch sadly the twitching dying man on the ground (the promised prince about to rise as wight) whilst a blind and blood madwoman dances beneath the moon (the mother in her agony and ecstasy raising her son from the dead so she can have her vengeance). Then the spirited cold winds rise and come (the Others take you!) and Varamyr is enjoined with all the earth (the corn king promised prince dragon with three heads). We see earthworms (or grave worms; the bowels of the promised prince and the trees) and ravens cawing and flying (a raven in a meteor storm, the three eyed crow), a great elk trumpeting (sacrificial horned god blowing horn to herald the coming of dragons; and Joramun blew the horn of winter and woke giants of the earth), unsettled children clinging to the sacrifice (children of the forest, wights, men who are meat), a sleeping direwolf snarling at the empty air (the promised prince breaking free from his "death" and turning against the mother--cold and mist and "empty" air) before Varamyr (promised prince figure) searches out a mount to ride so he can live a second life all his own (not under the mother's control, unlike Thistle, who returns as a wight amongst the Others, being a moonmaid figure). 
This is Varamyr's (promised prince's) last thought as a man--because he becomes married to his beast mount (rising as a dragon, burning away the mother's "strings" which she used to control him). 

 

Begging might not get much done, though (it didn't for the Night's Watch) and at times other weapons will serve better, including: a sword and armor... a harp... a howl or horn (as opposed to "silence" which is Jon Snow's "begging graciously" to make all the war stop from beyond the grave: see below): 

Spoiler

Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Severed hands clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. In a throne above them sat a dead man with th head of a wolf. He wore and iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal.

This is Jon Snow's attempt to reason with these people at the FEAST OF THE DEAD, and failing. Mute appeal mightn't get him anywhere, but his sword may do better. 

This is not the Red Wedding. The Red Wedding foreshadows this event

Theon dreams of it as well, but he mistakes the king who enters late, bleeding from half a hundred savage wounds (it should be Jon Snow, the three-eyed crow, not Robb Stark). 

The proof in the pudding is the particular use of three key phrases: bloody cups and wooden spoons, and  roast fowl, and heels of bread. These usages are actually very rare in ASoIaF. Let's take "roast fowl" (the three-eyed crow corn king) for instance: 

Spoiler

Eddard IV,  Game

Eddard Stark rode through the towering bronze doors of the Red Keep sore, tired, hungry, and irritable. He was still ahorse, dreaming of a long hot soak, a roast fowl, and a featherbed, when the king's steward told him that Grand Maester Pycelle had convened an urgent meeting of the small council. The honor of the Hand's presence was requested as soon as it was convenient. "It will be convenient on the morrow," Ned snapped as he dismounted.
The steward bowed very low. "I shall give the councillors your regrets, my lord."
Ned is a Jon Snow figure here (still mounted--still dead!) and "dreaming of roast fowl" (three-eyed crow at the feast of the dead) as well as a "featherbed" (dead crow in the ice cells!) and "a long hot soak" (fire to warm him through; remember, Bran III, Game tells of Jon Snow "alone in a cold hard bed... as the memory of all warmth left him.") when he's ushered to a meeting he doesn't want to go to (coming out of the crypts of Winterfell and ascended late to the feast of the dead in Winterfell's great hall). 
 
Catelyn V, Game
"Anything you like, m'lord, anything at all," the innkeep promised. And may he choke on it, Catelyn thought, but it was Bran she saw choking, drowning on his own blood.
Lannister glanced at the nearest tables. "My men will have whatever you're serving these people. Double portions, we've had a long hard ride. I'll take a roast fowl—chicken, duck, pigeon, it makes no matter. And send up a flagon of your best wine. Yoren, will you sup with me?"
"Aye, m'lord, I will," the black brother replied.
Another fine representation. Here we have the Merciless Mother (Lady Stoneheart-to-Be) wishing a "bastard" dragon (Tyrion) would "choke" on his supper (surely, eating men for meat might make it go down hard, no? Now, imagine if you're the meat on the table, as the corn king must become too!) but instead envisions her own son with a "red smile" with his throat slit (promised prince imagery). 
The dragon's men eat "double portions" of what everyone else gets--and it's chicken, duck, pigeon (in the pie), it makes no matter (in the symbolism) because its all "roast fowl." Tyrion wants double shares because he's had a long hard ride (mounted upon his beast in death). The meat is served with the best wine (bloody cups imagery; blood wines). And, oh, lookee! There's a black brother of the Wall of Ice supping at this roast fowl feast too!
 
Tyrion IV, Game
Yet even as they were bundling him outside, saddling the horses in the rain, and tying his hands with a length of coarse rope, Tyrion Lannister was not truly afraid. They would never get him to Winterfell, he would have given odds on that. Riders would be after them within the day, birds would take wing, and surely one of the river lords would want to curry favor with his father enough to take a hand. Tyrion was congratulating himself on his subtlety when someone pulled a hood down over his eyes and lifted him up onto a saddle.
They set out through the rain at a hard gallop, and before long Tyrion's thighs were cramped and aching and his butt throbbed with pain. Even when they were safely away from the inn, and Catelyn Stark slowed them to a trot, it was a miserable pounding journey over rough ground, made worse by his blindness. Every twist and turn put him in danger of falling off his horse. The hood muffled sound, so he could not make out what was being said around him, and the rain soaked through the cloth and made it cling to his face, until even breathing was a struggle. The rope chafed his wrists raw and seemed to grow tighter as the night wore on. I was about to settle down to a warm fire and a roast fowl, and that wretched singer had to open his mouth, he thought mournfully. The wretched singer had come along with them. "There is a great song to be made from this, and I'm the one to make it," he told Catelyn Stark when he announced his intention of riding with them to see how the "splendid adventure" turned out. Tyrion wondered whether the boy would think the adventure quite so splendid once the Lannister riders caught up with them.
The rain had finally stopped and dawn light was seeping through the wet cloth over his eyes when Catelyn Stark gave the command to dismount. Rough hands pulled him down from his horse, untied his wrists, and yanked the hood off his head. When he saw the narrow stony road, the foothills rising high and wild all around them, and the jagged snowcapped peaks on the distant horizon, all the hope went out of him in a rush. "This is the high road," he gasped, looking at Lady Stark with accusation. "The eastern road. You said we were riding for Winterfell!"
 
Here we have Tyrion, the bastard dragon, as a Jon Snow figure. He's forcibly "mounted" to his horse for a miserable and agonizing journey (killed and skinchanging and dreaming of gods). A "singer" comes along for the adventure (the promised princes who sing the song of ice and fire and earth and stone), which won't seem nearly so splendidly adventurous when the enemy catches up with him (Lannister riders--Azor Ahai slew a lion-dragon; the second forging of Lightbringer). The rain (of meteors and dragonfire) finally stop and the dawn light seeps through (the war for the dawn) when he's dismounted on Cat's command (breaking the skinchanging bonds; Cat the Merciless Mother). When he dismounts, he sees a "narrow stony road" ahead (leading to the Eyrie) which is the kingsroad (which leads him to the Red Keep ultimately--by way of Tower of Joy--instead of to Winterfell like he'd always dreamed of). 
The next instance of "roast fowl" was covered above in Dany's House of the Undying chapter. What follows it is: 
Bran VII, Clash
"Hodor," said Hodor.
They stopped at the kitchens first. Osha found some loaves of burned bread that were still edible, and even a cold roast fowl that she ripped in half. Meera unearthed a crock of honey and a big sack of apples. Outside, they made their farewells. Rickon sobbed and clung to Hodor's leg until Osha gave him a smack with the butt end of her spear. Then he followed her quick enough. Shaggydog stalked after them. The last Bran saw of them was the direwolf's tail as it vanished behind the broken tower.
The iron portcullis that closed the Hunter's Gate had been warped so badly by heat it could not be raised more than a foot. They had to squeeze beneath its spikes, one by one.
By way of Tower of Joy (a death experience) I said before, and this is one of the instances where that crops up (House of the Undying and Jaime's Doom dream are other examples: the black beast taking wing from a smoking tower is Jon Snow, as it's part of his triplet). 
Here we see Jon Snow figure (Rickon) stopping in the kitchens first (the feast of the dead), where we find burned loaves of bread barely edible (this is a Messianic last supper, so those "heels of bread" and "bloody cups" are appropriate at this feast of the dead) before moving onward again. Note that honey and apples (fruits of the earth, with apples also being Eden symbols) are unearthed (dug up, drawn from a crypt or tomb). When he makes it back outside (leaving behind the feast of the dead), they make farewells (departing for the world of the living now) but Jon Snow is reluctant to do his duty still and needs encouraging. The Direwolf (mounted, skinchanged wife) follows after him, and the last we see of it (Viserion) is when he descends from the broken, burning tower (Jon meets Viserion at the Tower of Joy where he is "born again"). 
 

All of this brings me to the Azor Ahai confusion. Highlighted RED are mistakes being made in interpretation of the prophecies. Emphasized BLACK are clues to the prophecies. [Note, this part is super long, but explains the prophecies of ice and fire and the role of the promised princes in much more detail.]

Spoiler

Samwell V, Storm

The officers did not know how to take that, Sam could see. Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck exchanged a doubtful look, Janos Slynt was fuming, and Three-Finger Hobb looked as though he would sooner be back chopping carrots. But all of them seemed surprised to hear Maester Aemon murmur, "It is the war for the dawn you speak of, my lady. But where is the prince that was promised?"
"He stands before you," Melisandre declared, "though you do not have the eyes to see. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai come again, the warrior of fire. In him the prophecies are fulfilled. The red comet blazed across the sky to herald his coming, and he bears Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes."

 

The prophecies of Azor Ahai and The Prince that was Promised cover at least some of the same events, namely: the war for the dawn

Azor Azhai Come Again: is a warrior with a burning sword, Lightbringer, Red Sword of Heroes. There are indicators as to how he shall be identified. His heralds are not discussed here; Mel has wrongly applied a herald (the red comet, the red star bleeding) to him. We'll see below that this is indeed mistaken. 

 

Davos I, Clash

Melisandre was robed all in scarlet satin and blood velvet, her eyes as red as the great ruby that glistened at her throat as if it too were afire. "In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him." She lifted her voice, so it carried out over the gathered host. "Azor Ahai, beloved of R'hllor! The Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire! Come forth, your sword awaits you! Come forth and take it into your hand!"

*** 

"A sword of fire!" shouted Queen Selyse. Ser Axell Florent and the other queen's men took up the cry.

"A sword of fire! It burns! It burns! A sword of fire!"

Melisandre lifted her hands above her head. "Behold! A sign was promised, and now a sign is seen! Behold Lightbringer! Azor Ahai has come again! All hail the Warrior of Light! All hail the Son of Fire!"
 
The prophecy of Azor Ahai COME AGAIN: 
+a day after a long summer (summer ends or is ending)
+when the stars bleed (meteor shower)
+the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world (the Others stir)
+in this dread hour (only after the criteria above) 
+a warrior (only warriors need apply for this job)
+draws a burning sword from a fire (a burning sword is pulled out of a fire; no specifics)
+that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes (note: nowhere does it state that the sword must continue to burn or produce heat after it is pulled burning from the fire; it may or may not) 
+and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai COME AGAIN (the possession of this sword is criterion for determining who is Azor Ahai COME AGAIN, more important that even the heralds to announce his coming; man and sword matter most)
+and the darkness shall flee before (and he wins the War for the Dawn with this sword in hand)
Note: Lightbringer burning is not given as a sign heralding the coming of Azor Ahai Come Again; Lightbringer's possession defines which warrior this is exactly. Melisandre misattributes the burning sword drawn from the fire as "a sign" here, when the "signs" are clear: a long summer comes to an end, the Others become (heavily) active, and a meteor shower (three signs to herald the event). 
Additional note: Let's be extremely careful about attributing only "a meteor shower" as AACA's sign, because that is not what the text says. It says "when the stars bleed." The plural here is ambiguous. It can actually mean: when comets come and meteors fall both. Thereby, "the red star bleeding" in the sky is half of the celestial herald of AACA, which makes grammatical sense in conjunction with two especial events in this general time period: Dany wakes dragons from stone (literal interpretation of event of import) and Jon Snow draws burning Longclaw from a fire to slay Othor (literal interpretation of event); this, I find neater, because I expect a second burning sword moment for him too (with meteor showers) and because it follows the English print to the letter without  making mess of its spirit. Longclaw's burning ruined its pommel and Jeor Mormont had it replaced... but the blade was fine and did not burn or receive damage (unlike Stannis's "mess" of a sword Lightbringer during his farce). 
However, does this interpretation meet the heralding criteria, as it meets all other criteria (barring "and the darkness shall flee before him" at this time)? Yes. 
"A day" after a long summer, we're told. Jon Snow has spent most of his life in summertime in Westeros. By the opening of Game the North is experiencing "late summer snows" already, which means summer is ending. "A day after" is actually quite ambiguous as well. As I noted above it could be literal (summer is already over) or figure of speech (the day comes toward the end of a long summer, but fudging of seasons is acceptable). 
"When the stars bleed" I already covered as to how it can too refer to the red comet due its ambiguity. 
"and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world" is the most strenuous of these terms, but also fairly ambiguous. It's most strict because the other half of the process describes "darkness gathers" and this half requires "heavy" activity from the Others. However, if darkness can only be "gathering" in the half of the prophecy pertaining to Dany, how can it be "heavy on the world" so early in Game when Jon Snow first draws his sword from the fire?
I see two ways to reconcile this: the darkness "gathers" quite literally around Dany in her prophetic awakening in both Game (running toward the red door) and Clash (House of the Undying, creeping closer down the hallway). Meanwhile, North of the Wall, Mance Rayder has been actively building his army eleven years now, meaning Other activity North of the Wall has been "heavy on the world" enough to prompt this action. Furthermore, following the sword pulled from the fire, the activity around Jon Snow only grows heavier and heavier, mounting the pressure to war for the dawn... whereas, afar in Essos, the darkness is still only just gathering around Dany and she has no notion of its significance or power. The strictness of the reading does not negate either reality, and so the reading's interpretation is quite possible whilst maintaining grammatical integrity. 
 
Davos III, Storm 
Were my sons no more than a lesson for a king, then? Davos felt his mouth tighten.
"It is night in your Seven Kingdoms now," the red woman went on, "but soon the sun will rise again. The war continues, Davos Seaworth, and some will soon learn that even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze. The old maester looked at Stannis and saw only a man. You see a king. You are both wrong. He is the Lord's chosen, the warrior of fire. I have seen him leading the fight against the dark, I have seen it in the flames. The flames do not lie, else you would not be here. It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. The bleeding star has come and gone, and Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn!" Her red eyes blazed like twin fires, and seemed to stare deep into his soul. "You do not believe me. You doubt the truth of R'hllor even now . . . yet have served him all the same, and will serve him again. I shall leave you here to think on all that I have told you. And because R'hllor is the source of all good, I shall leave the torch as well."
Jon Snow's three death experiences are all just "lessons for a king" readying for his ascension as a promised prince who will fight the night and win the dawn. Notice "some will learn" follows "lessons for a king." Whilst other promised princes (Dany, Aegon) might be receiving similar lessons at this time, it is anticipated that one will successfully retain those lessons. The promised prince, meanwhile, is neither mere man or mere king, but "the warrior of fire" who will lead "the fight against the dark" as glimpsed "in the flames." Melisandre is seeing real visions and signs but misinterpreting them. Remember, Cressen is a Jon Snow figure, seeing only a man, whereas Hand of the King Davos sees only a king; they are both missing something integral. 
Yet, true-to-form, Mel makes a huge mistake again: she assigns once more the wrong prophecy to the wrong person. 
She speaks of the Azor Ahai REBORN aspect now, which includes: 
+when the red star bleeds (at the literal same time as the red comet)
+and the darkness gathers (darkness is only just gathering around, not yet fallen heavy on AAR's world)
+Azor Ahai (the person heralded by the above and committing the acts below is Azor Ahai; a defining character)
+shall be born again (note: this is not necessarily a literal requirement; e.g. "born again Christian" need not literally die and be born twice over)
+amidst smoke and salt (Rhaego burns away and Dany weeps for him, with her tears turning to steam; this is the true moment that Dany is "born again" not in the funeral pyre, she having confidence to walk into the flames from her death and rebirth in the tent)
+to (this word leads an action, bespeaking of an intermediary period, which is exactly what we see between the rebirth and the appearance of the red comet and the waking of dragons from stone)
+wake dragons out of stone (Dany hatched three dragons from eggs that the "years turned to stone") 
Once again, we see all criteria are met with grammatical integrity intact. 
Melisandre goes on to include additional information and presumptions, however: 
+the bleeding star has come and gone (whilst the bleeding star appears above Dany to herald her prophetic activities and then even follows her herald onward to Qarth through the Red Waste, Mel hints that she arranged this after seeing the herald in the heavens, which negates the most telling criterion: when the red star bleeds and wake dragons out of stone; these two things are meant to happen together, and yet... Melisandre, seeing the red comet, orchestrated the removal of a sword from flames rather than orchestrating the waking of dragons from stone; in misreading the prophecies, she's orchestrated the wrong event for the herald; this is a rigid failure. Why? Not because the sword cannot be pulled from the fire beneath the red star bleeding but because no matter what, the dragons must be woken from stone beneath the red star bleeding. It's not that the sword event couldn't happen at this time, it's that the waking of dragons from stone must happen at this time! Yet, Melisandre is still trying to wake the dragons from stone, even knowing she's missed her herald in performing the wrong event!)
 
 
Jon III, Dance
A thousand captives watched through the wooden bars of their stockade as the horn was lifted high. All were ragged and half-starved. Wildlings, the Seven Kingdoms called them; they named themselves the free folk. They looked neither wild nor free—only hungry, frightened, numb.
"The Horn of Joramun?" Melisandre said. "No. Call it the Horn of Darkness. If the Wall falls, night falls as well, the long night that never ends. It must not happen, will not happen! The Lord of Light has seen his children in their peril and sent a champion to them, Azor Ahai reborn." She swept a hand toward Stannis, and the great ruby at her throat pulsed with light.
He is stone and she is flame. The king's eyes were blue bruises, sunk deep in a hollow face. He wore grey plate, a fur-trimmed cloak of cloth-of-gold flowing from his broad shoulders. His breastplate had a flaming heart inlaid above his own. Girding his brows was a red-gold crown with points like twisting flames. Val stood beside him, tall and fair. They had crowned her with a simple circlet of dark bronze, yet she looked more regal in bronze than Stannis did in gold. Her eyes were grey and fearless, unflinching. Beneath an ermine cloak, she wore white and gold. Her honey-blond hair had been done up in a thick braid that hung over her right shoulder to her waist. The chill in the air had put color in her cheeks.
This is another instance of misread prophecy: the horn of Joramun "wakes giants of the earth" not falls the Wall of Ice. How one event became conflated with another is perhaps not so much a mystery, however:  if the Wall falls; we've heard this many times before, and, indeed, we know "A wall is only as good as the men who man it." The Wall has already fallen three separate times! The First time the Wall Fell: Will betrayed his commander, Waymar Royce, to his death by Others. The Second time the Wall Fell: the Night's Watch mutineers murdered their host and then their Lord Commander (Jeor Mormont) and abandoned their posts (to live--and die by Coldhands a wight!--beyond the Wall). The Third time the Wall Fell: the officers of the Night's Watch mutinied against their Lord Commander (Jon Snow) "For the Watch" (but really for good old fashioned prejudice) and murdered him on the Wall (after which at least one dead man shall rise again, but let's not forget the wights in the ice cells, too). 
Here is an example of two sayings that became conflated with one. Reasonably, with a causational relationship. Because Joramun blew the Horn of Winter to wake giants of the earth, the Wall fell. Really, their relationship is much messier. As the Wall falls a third time, the Horn of Joramun sounds (three blasts?) to herald the waking of the giant of the earth (the corn king promised prince). 
 
Jon III, Dance
"His Grace is not an easy man. Few are, who wear a crown. Many good men have been bad kings, Maester Aemon used to say, and some bad men have been good kings."
"He would know." Aemon Targaryen had seen nine kings upon the Iron Throne. He had been a king's son, a king's brother, a king's uncle. "I looked at that book Maester Aemon left me. The Jade Compendium. The pages that told of Azor Ahai. Lightbringer was his sword. Tempered with his wife's blood if Votar can be believed. Thereafter Lightbringer was never cold to the touch, but warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm. In battle the blade burned fiery hot. Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame."
Clydas blinked. "A sword that makes its own heat …"
 
Here we see again the marriage of the promised prince (those who wear a crown during the Long Night) with Azor Ahai mythos and prophecy. 
We learn: 
+Azor Ahai "tempered" his sword with his wife's blood (whatever that means) 
+which made it warm to the touch (whatever that means) 
+only in battle does the blade burn fiery hot
+Azor Ahai once fought a monster (likely a lion)
+when he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast its blood began to boil, smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame 
The monster, in keeping with AA mythos is probably a lion (Lannisters: Cersei-Aegon, Jaime-Jon, Tyrion-Dany) and the way the beast dies gives some insight into the defeat of House Lannister: blood began to boil (a bleeding wound, the "song" in the body when "the blood is up," a trial-by-battle-Jaime), smoke and steam poured from its mouth (Tyrion's tongue getting him killed, death comes out that way but it doesn't go in), its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks (like tears, when your tears have drowned you--Cersei), and its body burst into flame (Lannister army, allies, kingdom burned away) 
 
 
Tyrion VI, Dance
"Her. Daenerys?"
Haldon nodded. "Benerro has sent forth the word from Volantis. Her coming is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. From smoke and salt was she born to make the world anew . She is Azor Ahai returnedand her triumph over darkness will bring a summer that will never enddeath itself will bend its knee, and all those who die fighting in her cause shall be reborn …"
"Do I have to be reborn in this same body?" asked Tyrion. The crowd was growing thicker. He could feel them pressing in around them. "Who is Benerro?"
Here again, we see prophecies conflated into one and false interpretations given because of that conflation, but Martin also gives us some clues as to what we might expect from the prophecy of ice and fire: 
+Daenerys is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy (waking dragons from stone beneath a bleeding star, being born again amidst smoke and salt) 
+She is therefore Azor Ahai "reborn" (or returned)
However, we see conflations and confusions too: 
+to make the world anew (this is a political interpretation imposed upon prophecy because it reflects Dany's current cause--ending slavery--and the speaker's agenda)
+her triumph over darkness (her prophecy so far states no such thing! It is the second prophecy which states "darkness shall flee before him," the warrior's prophecy)
+will bring a summer that will never end (also not stated in either prophecy!!! "The darkness shall flee before him" is the most information we get, and there is no indication of what exactly that means)
Martin also uses these conflations and confusions to give the reader some idea of what we might anticipate, including: 
+and all those who die fighting in her cause shall be reborn 
+reborn in this same body?
First of all, neither of these things are stated in the prophecies as we know them, but Martin has given certain clues as to what we might anticipate, such as: 
+the promised princes will die and be reborn, both metaphorically (e.g. Dany on the Dothraki Sea in Game and Dance) and physically (e.g. the endgame when they die and are reborn in new bodies, dragon bodies; or, when Jon Snow comes back from the dead in his own body, similar to what we see with Beric and Cat)
+reborn in this same body also has a secondary meaning, that is Jon Snow being literally born twice at the Tower of Joy. What makes me think this? Mirri Maz Duur and the House of the Undying Ones, to whit: 
Daenerys IX, Game
"When will he be as he was?" Dany demanded.
"When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east," said Mirri Maz Duur. "When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before."
Dany gestured at Ser Jorah and the others. "Leave us. I would speak with this maegi alone." Mormont and the Dothraki withdrew. "You knew," Dany said when they were gone. She ached, inside and out, but her fury gave her strength. "You knew what I was buying, and you knew the price, and yet you let me pay it."
Mirri is unwittingly speaking a prophecy (or: Martin is using Mirri's words to convey important aspects of the prophecy of ice and fire), including: 
+someone of import will "be as he was" (which is incredibly vague, but since Mirri and Dany are speaking of Drogo returning to meaningful and recognizable life, we sort of get the gist of its intent)
+Certain things must happen first: 
+when the sun rises in the west and sets in the east (Jon Snow born in the west of Westeros--in the Tower of Joy at the prince's pass--and being reared in the west of Westeros, Winterfell, and then dying in the east of Westeros at Castle Black) I will come shortly to my reasoning for naming Jon Snow instead of another for "the sun" that rises and sets
+when the seas go dry (the Dothraki Sea dries out where Dany is both "born again" and becomes the Great Khaleesi in Game and Dance; Dany flees back to Dragonstone, the second place of "salt and smoke" to "wake dragons from stone" upon her great funeral pyre; so, Mel is not entirely incorrect above when she names Dragonstone "the place of salt and smoke" but is simply misunderstanding something of importance; Dany has multiple places of salt and smoke in her story, which the most important include: the place where Drogo falls from his horse preceding the Tent of Terror event and the funeral pyre; Dany's Dance "Dragonstone" where Drogon takes her and nests; and literal Dragonstone, where she will flee when her army breaks)
+and mountains blow in the wind like leaves (references Aegon "Young Griff" and his battle with Cersei, who uses a dead-and-remade Gregor Clegane "the Mountain that Rides" to defend her against the Faith Militant, who I do believe will support Aegon/Margaery in the upcoming books in some meaningful way)
+when your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child (Jon Snow, having died and "mounted," will continue his post-death journey from Winterfell to the Direwolf Doom of Casterly Rock to the Tower of Joy where he witnesses or experiences his mother giving birth to him, with dramatic and traumatic consequences)
This last, I glean from the House of the Undying Ones, Quaithe, and Bran Stark: 
+From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies . . . (Daenerys IV, Clash) The great stone beast is both a dragon and a giant woken of the earth, whilst the smoking tower is the Tower of Joy, and the shadow fire (a dark fire or a "dead"/shade fire) hints at the confusion that comes from glimpsing visions through "the mists of time." We actually see this happen again to Dany soon after. Drogon is the house with the red door (a large stone house, I think), which is sort of viewed through the mist with confusion; the body being the "house" and the door being "red" (fire--but Drogon's fire is red with dark jets through it. Drogon is Balerian the Black Dread come again, of which we learn: and Balerion . . . his fire was as black as his scales, his wings so vast that whole towns were swallowed up in their shadow when he passed overhead." (Daenerys I, Clash) However, we also see in the House of the Undying Ones (evoking of Dany's death by fire): Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. Her heart was pounding, racing, the hands and mouths were gone, heat washed over her skin, and Dany blinked at a sudden glare. Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying [Dothraki] as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them; they staggered and writhed and spun and raised blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches. (Daenerys IV, Clash) These allusions bring back to mind Aerys Targaryen, of which we're told: Finally a great pair of bronze doors appeared to her left, grander than the rest. They swung open as she neared, and she had to stop and look. Beyond loomed a cavernous stone hall, the largest she had ever seen. The skulls of dead dragons looked down from its walls. Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. "Let him be king over charred boned and cooked meat," he said to a man below him. "Let him be king of ashes." Drogon shrieked, his claws digging through silk and skin, but the king on his throne never heard, and Dany moved on. (Daenerys IV, Clash) And lest there is any doubt which "king" is in question, we also see: 
The traitors want my city, I heard him tell Rossart, but I'll give them naught but ashes. Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat. The Targaryens never bury their dead, they burn them. Aerys meant to have the greatest funeral pyre of them all. Though if truth be told, I do not believe he truly expected to die. Like Aerion Brightfire before him, Aerys thought the fire would transform him . . . that he would rise again, reborn as a dragon, and turn all his enemies to ash.
"Ned Stark was racing south with Robert's van... (Jaime V, Storm)
Which can be read in parallel with Jon Snow literally standing over "cooked meat and charred bones" with the slaying of Othor, to be rewarded with a Valyrian Steel sword... of which we're told: The soft leather gave beneath Jon's fingers, as if the sword were molding itself to his grip already. He knew he should be honored, and he was, and yetHe [Rhaegar] is not my father. The thought leapt unbidden to Jon's mind. Lord Eddard Stark is my father. I will not forget him, no matter how many swords they give me. Yet he could scarcely tell Lord Mormont that it was another man's sword he dreamt of … (Jon III, Game)
Truly, the gods had heard Jon's prayer that night; the fire had caught in the dead man's clothing and consumed him as if his flesh were candle wax and his bones old dry wood. Jon had only to close his eyes to see the thing staggering across the solar, crashing against the furniture and flailing at the flames. It was the face that haunted him most; surrounded by a nimbus of fire, hair blazing like straw, the dead flesh melting away and sloughing off its skull to reveal the gleam of bone beneath.
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. Yet in his nightmare he faced it again … and this time the burning corpse wore Lord Eddard's features. It was his father's skin that burst and blackened, his father's eyes that ran liquid down his cheeks like jellied tears. Jon did not understand why that should be or what it might mean, but it frightened him more than he could say.
"A sword's small payment for a life," Mormont concluded. "Take it, I'll hear no more of it, is that understood?"
So, Jon Snow is given many swords and stands king over "cooked meat and charred bones." In his nightmare, he relives this scenario--at Dragonstone. It's not his father's face, but his aunt's face he's confronting, then, as Dragonstone burns with Dany and her forces within it (Cersei, whatever she may or may not do with wildfire is foreshadowing of this, like Robb Stark at the Red Wedding is foreshadowing of Jon Snow at the Feast of the Dead). The "sword" he receives in the end of this in "payment for a life" (only death can pay for life) is in fact another kind of "burning sword" (a dragon--Dany-as-Drogon). This is why a "stone" (corn king promised prince, whose song is "earth and stone" too) turns underneath the Great Khal's foot in Dance: 
"It is such a long way," she complained. "I was tired, Jorah. I was weary of war. I wanted to rest, to laugh, to plant trees and see them grow. I am only a young girl."
No. You are the blood of the dragon. The whispering was growing fainter, as if Ser Jorah were falling farther behind. Dragons plant no trees. Remember that. Remember who you are, what you were made to be. Remember your words.
"Fire and Blood," Daenerys told the swaying grass.
A stone turned under her foot. She stumbled to one knee and cried out in pain, hoping against hope that her bear would gather her up and help her to her feet. When she turned her head to look for him, all she saw was trickling brown water … and the grass, still moving slightly. The wind, she told herself, the wind shakes the stalks and makes them sway. Only no wind was blowing. The sun was overhead, the world still and hot. Midges swarmed in the air, and a dragonfly floated over the stream, darting here and there. And the grass was moving when it had no cause to move.
She fumbled in the water, found a stone the size of her fist, pulled it from the mud. It was a poor weapon but better than an empty hand. From the corner of her eye Dany saw the grass move again, off to her right. The grass swayed and bowed low, as if before a king, but no king appeared to her. The world was green and empty. The world was green and silent. The world was yellow, dying. I should get up, she told herself. I have to walk. I have to follow the stream. (Daenerys X, Dance)
And now the flames reached her Drogo, and now they were all around him. His clothing took fire, and for an instant the khal was clad in wisps of floating orange silk and tendrils of curling smoke, grey and greasy. Dany's lips parted and she found herself holding her breath. Part of her wanted to go to him as Ser Jorah had feared, to rush into the flames to beg for his forgiveness and take him inside her one last time, the fire melting the flesh from their bones until they were as one, forever. (Daenerys IX, Game)
Dany, beholden to the song of fire and blood that the dragon sings, and growing weary of war with "such a long way" yet ahead of her, embraces her words. She stumbles over a stone even as the grass comes alive with the sun high and hot overhead (the earthen corn king bowing before a promised princess in kind, the sun's son yielding to the great dragon queen), and then she looks around to find "midges swarming" (like the great horde of Dothraki and Freedmen she's brought with her to Dragonstone and Westeros) and a dragon flying over head (the dragonfly) and the grass (Jon Snow) moving when it has no cause to move (because he's alive when he should be dead). She pulls a stone from the mud (waking a dragon from stone, first the mother and then the son so both die regent, only death can pay for life, and of course the "great stone beast [taking] wing, breathing shadow fire" as the horn of Joramun "wak[es] giants of the earth.") to use as her weapon (she, as Drogon, and Jon Snow team up to fight the Others) because the world is "dying." Dany then forces herself to get up and walk and follow; it's a "stream" she follows, which reminds me of the Trident dream, the second time she "flies" to the Trident, only this time she's not confronting "the Usurper (Stannis) and the Usurper's Dog (Jon Snow)" but working with him to "turn the Trident into a torrent" by breathing dragonfire: 
That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper's rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.
She woke suddenly in the darkness of her cabin, still flush with triumph. Balerion seemed to wake with her, and she heard the faint creak of wood, water lapping against the hull, a football on the deck above her head. And something else.(Daenereys III, Storm)
Dany dreams of herself as Rhaegar fighting once more the battle of the Trident, but she's not Rhaegar truly, she's a dragon "mounted" (e.g., become one with Drogon) and fights an army "armored all in ice" that "melted away like dew" when she breathed her dragonfire. She's flying to the Trident with Rhaegar in a sense instead of as Rhaegar. But the concept is more complex, because dragon riding does seem to imply some sort of skinchanging. Which is why when she wakes exulted (because this "is how it was meant to be" and "the other [battle of the Trident she fought against her family instead of with her family] was a nightmare" and now she's "awakened" [waking dragons from stone!]. And, indeed, Martin indicates to the reader that Dany is the dragon and is being ridden in the next paragraph: "Balerion" [the ship; Drogon, the dragon, Balerion come again] wakes with her, and she hears the "faint creak of wood" [the trees, which are the "hearts" of the Mother but the "bones" of the promised prince!] and "water lapping" [a black and bloody tide; towers by the sea; the drowned god; the Others melted away for the dawn] with a "football" [a foot! And, remember that sometimes skinchanging feels like slipping on a worn old boot, molded for wear!] "above her head." There's also "something else" which is really someone else there with her (Drogo, Rhaego, and her rider too). 
 
+"No. Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal." (Daenerys II, Dance). This showcases the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. There are two Lightbringers here, however, one successful (the correct ingredients) and one possibly not as successful (a "twist" on the ingredients which might make the recipe incorrect): kraken (water), lion, the sun's son (Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa's promised prince) vs. dark flame (fire), griffin (wrong animal, but still a beast), the mummer's dragon (skewed result
+He looked south, and saw the great blue-green rush of the Trident. He saw his father [Rhaegar] pleading with the king [Jon Snow], his face etched with grief. He saw Sansa [Aegon "Young Griff"] crying herself to sleep at night, and he saw Arya [Dany] watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart. There were shadows all around them [Jon, Aegon, Dany]. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound [Cersei--the Mountain that Rides/Robert Strong, Aegon]. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful [Jaime--Jon Snow, the Doom of Casterly Rock, the trial-by-combat]. Over them both [Cersei, Jaime] loomed a giant in armor made of stone [Tyrion, the "giant of Lannister," the "giant come among us, here at the end of the world"], but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.
He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities [Aegon] and the green Dothraki sea  and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain [Dany], to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow [Jon Snow--the "shadow" on the Wall of Ice, buried in the ice cells "down the gullet of an ice dragon," aided by Melisandre of Asshai], where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise [Dany, Aegon, Jon; Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion].
Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. [The Others] North and north and north he looked [up into the heavens], to the curtain of light at the end of the world [eclipse formation, third eye of the three-eyed crow], and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter [Merciless Mother and her Others curse; Red Comet], and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.
Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.
(Bran III, Game) Jon Snow walks Bran through the same process that he must undertake on his own, surviving to fight the "heart of winter" (the Merciless Mother and the Others come to "take" them all, as well as the Red Comet, coming back through the "portal"/"lantern window"/"third eye of the three-eyed crow" to smash the moon and blast the earth, like in the past]
 
 
Melisandre I, Dance
Three tallow candles burned ["tallow" of extreme importance; "living" candles implied] upon her windowsill to keep the terrors of the night at bay. Four more flickered beside her bed, two to either side. In the hearth a fire was kept burning day and night. The first lesson those who would serve her had to learn was that the fire must never, ever be allowed to go out.
The red priestess closed her eyes and said a prayer, then opened them once more to face the hearthfire. One more time. She had to be certain. Many a priest and priestess before her had been brought down by false visions, by seeing what they wished to see instead of what the Lord of Light had sent. Stannis was marching south into peril, the king who carried the fate of the world upon his shoulders, Azor Ahai reborn. Surely R'hllor would vouchsafe her a glimpse of what awaited him. Show me Stannis, Lord, she prayed. Show me your king, your instrument.


 

Visions danced before her, gold and scarlet, flickering, forming and melting and dissolving into one another, shapes strange and terrifying and seductive. She saw the eyeless faces again, staring out at her from sockets weeping blood. Then the towers by the sea, crumbling as the dark tide came sweeping over them, rising from the depths. Shadows in the shape of skulls, skulls that turned to mist, bodies locked together in lust, writhing and rolling and clawing. Through curtains of fire great winged shadows wheeled against a hard blue sky.

 

The girl. I must find the girl again, the grey girl on the dying horse.  Jon Snow would expect that of her, and soon. It would not be enough to say the girl was fleeing. He would want more, he would want the when and where, and she did not have that for him. She had seen the girl only once. A girl as grey as ash, and even as I watched she crumbled and blew away.

 

A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment … but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf's face threw back his head and howled.

 

The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover's hand. Strange voices called to her from days long past. "Melony," she heard a woman cry. A man's voice called, "Lot Seven." She was weeping, and her tears were flame. And still she drank it in.

 

Snowflakes swirled from a dark sky and ashes rose to meet them, the grey and the white whirling around each other as flaming arrows arced above a wooden wall and dead things shambled silent through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves. Then the wind rose and the white mist came sweeping in, impossibly cold, and one by one the fires went out. Afterward only the skulls remained.

 

Death, thought Melisandre. The skulls are death.

 

The flames crackled softly, and in their crackling she heard the whispered name Jon Snow. His long face floated before her, limned in tongues of red and orange, appearing and disappearing again, a shadow half-seen behind a fluttering curtain. Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again. But the skulls were here as well, the skulls were all around him. Melisandre had seen his danger before, had tried to warn the boy of it. Enemies all around him, daggers in the dark. He would not listen.

 

Unbelievers never listened until it was too late.

 

"What do you see, my lady?" the boy asked, softly.

 

Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow. Whenever she was asked what she saw within her fires, Melisandre would answer, "Much and more," but seeing was never as simple as those words suggested. It was an art, and like all arts it demanded mastery, discipline, study. Pain. That too. R'hllor spoke to his chosen ones through blessed fire, in a language of ash and cinder and twisting flame that only a god could truly grasp. Melisandre had practiced her art for years beyond count, and she had paid the price. There was no one, even in her order, who had her skill at seeing the secrets half-revealed and half-concealed within the sacred flames.

Yet now she could not even seem to find her king. I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R'hllor shows me only Snow. "Devan," she called, "a drink." Her throat was raw and parched.

"Yes, my lady." The boy poured her a cup of water from the stone jug by the window and brought it to her.

 
So, we learn a lot more about the prophecy of ice and fire from Mel here, and we learn not to trust the visionary so much as the vision itself. For instance, Mel prays for two different things in this paragraph, one more important than the other, without realizing: she prays to see the "king" and "instrument" of the prophecy (Jon Snow) and on top of that she prays to see Stannis (imposing her will and interpretation, for which she is not rewarded with answers she's hoping for). The visions we learn of are: 
+eyeless faces from sockets weeping blood
+towers by the sea, crumbling as the dark tide came sweeping over them, rising from the depths
+shadows in the shape of skulls, skulls that turn to mist
+bodies locked together in lust, writhing  and rolling and clawing
+through curtains of fire, great winged shadows wheeled against a hard blue sky
+a grey girl on a dying horse; grey as ash, who crumbles and blows away; fleeing
+a face, wooden, corpse white; a thousand red eyes floated in the flames (capable of seeing her through her vision); beside him, a boy with a wolf's face throws back his head and howls
-blood trickles down Mel's thigh, black and smoking; the fire is inside her, and agony, an ecstasy, filling, searing, and transforming her whilst shimmers of heat trace patterns on her skin, as insistent as a lover's hand; strange voices call out from days long past--a woman cries "Melony" and a man calls "Lot seven." Mel weeps and her tears were "flame" and still she "drinks it in"
+Snowflakes swirled from a hard dark sky as ashes rose to meet them, whirling around each other grey and white; flaming arrows arc above a wooden wall and dead things shamble through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves; then the wind rose and the white mists cam sweeping in, impossibly cold, and one by one the fire go out; afterward, only skulls remain
+flames crackle and in there crackling a name is whispered: Jon Snow
+Jon Snow's face, limned in flame, appearing and disappearing again, a shadow half-seen behind a fluttering curtain; he is a man then a wolf and then a man again. Skulls are all around him. Mel notes having seen "daggers in the dark" associated with him before. 
+Skulls, a thousand skulls, and the bastard boy (Jon Snow)
All right, so... a lot here, but all can be made coherent in the narrative of the prophecy of ice and fire. Sometimes we see archetypes represented and sometimes actual events.
Eyeless faces weeping blood are both the heart trees (weirwoods especially) and the Mother archetype weeping tears of blood and demanding vengeance as she curses her brother-husband (and child)--for example, we see Lyanna and Cat both weeping tears of blood in narrative; the eyeless face weeping tears of blood is also the triune godhead (the three-eyed crow and the three-headed dragon; the harpy, the sphinx; different cultures represent the triune deity in different ways, but it's all the same deity) who was blinded in one eye already and shall be blinded in another by the red comet
Towers by the sea crumbling as a dark tide sweeps over can represent several things as well. Foremost we have the "black and bloody tide" that comes when the goddess falls to the earth from the heavens and is drowned (see: the drowned god), the breaking of the continents and the flooding or drying it caused (Westeros was flooded and frozen; Essos was burned and dried out during the Long Night, so two continents with different emphasis upon a singular global event). There are also actual events in this archetype like an assault on Pyke or Oldtown or the Stormlands (Aegon's arrival) that should fit this mold, or even an attack on Eastwatch from the north. 
Mel understands the skulls to be death, and she is not necessarily wrong in this. The skulls are death. However, they can also represent the heart trees and the greenseer gods of the narrative (Jon Snow, Dany, Aegon are all represented by the skull! So are Bran, Bloodraven, the House of the Undying Ones, the Children of the Forest, etc.). The "face" of the weirwood/shade trees are "skulls" whereas the trunks are "bones" and the roots are "graveworms" and the branches and leaves are "burning hands" or "burning hair." 
The bodies locked together in lust and in violence represent the celestial body of the triune deity, once in love and now in hate, once at peace and now at war with itself. 
Next, we see the dragons of all sorts: literal dragons, metaphorical dragons (Dany, Aegon, Jon, Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, others), symbolic dragons (red comet, meteor showers). 
Then we come to a Mother of Dragons archetype--the runaway bride (e.g. Lyanna, Dany, the Moonmaid Drowned Goddess, who "ran away" from the heavens when she fell to the earth). As it regards Jon Snow (who Mel is focusing in on at times and who she has prayed to see), this is his mother fleeing south to her absconding and elopement (how she is running "to" Jon Snow when she's running "to" Rhaegar). 
Following after, we glimpse Bloodraven and Bran (greenseers again) who are able to witness Mel too. This brings back to mind the three-eyed crow (both the celestial crow/raven and the one of Bran's dreams, who he mistakenly went too far north to Bloodraven when he was seeking to find) and the consciousness network of the living earth itself. 
Melisandre then herself becomes a moonmaiden figure: blood trickles down her thigh, black and smoking (the wedding and bedding ceremony), filling her with agony and ecstasy (the bedding, the birthing). A voice from the past cries out a child's name (Mel's mother?) whilst a man uses and abuses that child (Azor Ahai figure, here "selling" the child as an object rather than slaying the child for a threat). That child turns out to be pretty special, however. Mel also "weeps fire" here, like the Mother archetype, who "weeps" both fire and blood (meteor shower, dragons) and it rains upon the earth, causing the Long Night. 
Next, we see a representation of both the Long Night falling (snowflakes and ash and flaming arrows; a wooden wall--forest for the trees, the heart trees--and dead men shambling through an impossible cold) and the War for the Dawn to come. These archetypal events can be played out with actual events in narrative. For instance, we have Hardhome (past and present) and the Battle for Winterfell (there's a Night Lamp theory that Cantuse has floated), the battle of Barrowton, the battle of Deepwood Motte, etc. 
We're brought back to Jon Snow again (his name "whispered" in the crackles of flames), who will lead the battle for the Dawn (and dreams of himself as the "awakened" and rebellions promised prince who throws off his mother's yoke to cease her curse when he dreams of himself "armored all in black ice" and wielding a flaming sword, slaying those he loves). We then witness a representation of Jon Snow's deaths and Patchface's prophecies (attempting and failing to lead, slain for his troubles) and rebirths, whereby he "mounts" three separate mounts in order to return to the world of the living and fight that battle. There is death all around him and skulls representing skinchanging too (man and wolf and man). He's limned in fire (...a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword...). There are daggers in the darkness (dragonglass, assassins, and glass candles too, which also represent the other dragons that pose him threat: Dany, Aegon, Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion). We're back to skulls as both death and skinchanging/greenseeing gods again. 
 
Jon X, Dance
The same useless answer. Clydas had dispatched a raven to Deepwood Motte to warn the king of Arnolf Karstark's treachery, but whether the bird had reached His Grace in time Jon did not know. The Braavosi banker was off in search of Stannis as well, accompanied by the guides that Jon had given him, but between the war and weather, it would be a wonder if he found him. "Would you know if the king was dead?" Jon asked the red priestess.
"He is not dead. Stannis is the Lord's chosen, destined to lead the fight against the dark. I have seen it in the flames, read of it in ancient prophecy. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt."
Jon had heard all this before. "Stannis Baratheon was the Lord of Dragonstone, but he was not born there. He was born at Storm's End, like his brothers." He frowned. "And what of Mance? Is he lost as well? What do your fires show?"
 
This is quite the interesting passage too. The prophets and visionaries of the series (and the author) are giving warning after warning to the promised princes, but these warning will likely be of little help. We're reminded again of the "raven in a storm" (the three-eyed crow triune deity, Jon Snow) and "the war and weather" that hinders it (celestial and physical). One aspect of that raven in a storm (with Mel's warning of "look to the skies" for answers and Martin's tongue-in-cheek clue) is the death of the king used to buy life (Dany, Aegon, and Jon Snow three separate times). The promised prince must awaken and arise to kingship, throwing down the Mother who has become an unworthy queen (firth the mother and then the son, so both die regent in order to wake the dragon from stone and wake the giant of the earth). 
Martin gives us another hint that Stannis in no way fulfills prophecy and that Dany does and shall: 
Stannis wasn't born at Dragonstone (a place of salt and smoke), but Dany was (in addition to being reborn in places of salt and smoke: the Dothraki Sea in Game and "Dragonstone" on the Dothraki Sea in Dance). Stannis will not die at Dragonstone, but Dany will, ascending to become a literal dragon, Drogon. 
But what of "Mance," we're reminded? Mance is a Rhaegar figure, and all three promised princes--all of whom have some claim (rightful or no) to Dragonstone, the place of salt and smoke (Aegon, claiming to be Rhaegar, Prince of Dragonstone's heir, thereby with claim to Dragonstone as well as the Red Keep; Dany, claiming to be Princess of Dragonstone from Game via Viserys's claim and crowning; and Jon Snow actually being Rhaegar's only living child and thereby heir, with the same claim to Dragonstone--at least in another life, or after his death and the "ending" of his watch). Every claim to Dragonstone and thereby the Red Keep is on shaky ground too. Even the Lannisters have some claim to his place: Robert Baratheon gave it to Stannis, who became a rebel and a pretender to the Iron Throne, and who left Dragonstone to sail north to the Wall (to rescue it from wildlings), which resulted in the castle being taken in Feast by House Lannister (and Loras Tyrell). However, since the Lannisters are usurpers and the "kings" they pretend are bastards not Baratheons, their claim to the castle is just as shaky and dubious. 
Anyway, the promised princes all believe they are in some way Rhaegar's heir, not necessarily Aerys's (which is another way that Rhaegar is a symbolic king) and want to fight his battles again (the Trident specifically). Even Dany clings more to Rhaegar than to Aerys, her own father (because Viserys loved him, but he gives no indication that he truly loved Aerys, although he desperately loved Rhaella too). Rhaegar is the man who provides the Targaryen pretenders their strongest claim to the Iron Throne (ironically, as he never sat it) because Aerys's reputation hinders their goal. And Rhaegar is the ghost that we see pressing the Targaryen claim from the afterlife (and Lyanna, weeping tears of blood and growing thorns to protect the winter rose laurel he gives) rather than Aerys, who actually gave up on his claim in his last moments--symbolically, not literally--when he decided "Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat!" Notice, Robert is "king" in this statement, which is symbolically significant and telling. It's Rhaegar then, who maintains his claim, even in death (as Jaime puts it: the rightful heir to the Iron Throne). 
 
 
Jon XIII, Dance
"A grey girl on a dying horse. Daggers in the dark. A promised prince, born in smoke and salt. It seems to me that you make nothing but mistakes, my lady. Where is Stannis? What of Rattleshirt and his spearwives? Where is my sister?"
"All your questions shall be answered. Look to the skies, Lord Snow. And when you have your answers, send to me. Winter is almost upon us now. I am your only hope."
"A fool's hope." Jon turned and left her.
*** 
When he was done, Tormund whistled. "Har. That's buggered, and no mistake. What was that about Mance? Has him in a cage, does he? How, when hundreds saw your red witch burn the man?"
That was Rattleshirt, Jon almost said. That was sorcery. A glamor, she called it.

"Melisandre … look to the skies, she said." He set the letter down. "A raven in a storm. She saw this coming." When you have your answers, send to me.

"Might be all a skin o' lies." Tormund scratched under his beard. "If I had me a nice goose quill and a pot o' maester's ink, I could write down that me member was long and thick as me arm, wouldn't make it so."
 
Here we learn a little more about the two prophecies that are interconnected. In the first sentence, Martin ties together these three visions and prophecies--a grey girl on a dying horse (Lyanna), daggers in the dark (Jon Snow's death, "For the Watch), and a promised prince, born amidst smoke and salt (the tower of joy, revisited after his death "under the sea" when "mounted" to his "wife" or "bride of fire."). Along with these connections and questions, then, we have "look to the skies" (for a herald) tied to it. Jon Snow misremembers this information, adding into it "A raven in a storm" (and whilst this is his incorrect interpretation of events and prophecies, it does have some symbolic merit, which Martin skillfully aligns for the reader). The three-eyed crow (deity) in a storm of meteor showers and dragons; the three-eyed crow (Jon Snow), a promised prince figure, in a storm of meteor showers and dragons, as revealed by the Azor Ahai Come Again prophecy (when the stars bleed). Martin adds Mance Rayder into the mix again (Rhaegar figure, but also representing Jon Snow now), who "hundreds" will have seen die to attest to his miraculous second coming
 
Davos I, Clash
"A burning sword," corrected Davos.
"Burnt," said Salladhor Saan, "and be glad of that, my friend. Do you know the tale of the forging of Lightbringer? I shall tell it to you. It was a time when darkness lay heavy on the world. To oppose it, the hero must have a hero's blade, oh, like none that had ever been. And so for thirty days and thirty nights Azor Ahai labored sleepless in the temple, forging a blade in the sacred fires. Heat and hammer and fold, heat and hammer and fold, oh, yes, until the sword was done. Yet when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder.
"Being a hero, it was not for him to shrug and go in search of excellent grapes such as these, so again he began. The second time it took him fifty days and fifty nights, and this sword seemed even finer than the first. Azor Ahai captured a lion, to temper the blade by plunging it through the beast's red heart, but once more the steel shattered and split. Great was his woe and great was his sorrow then, for he knew what he must do.
"A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. 'Nissa Nissa,' he said to her, for that was her name, 'bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.' She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.
"Now do you see my meaning? Be glad that it is just a burnt sword that His Grace pulled from that fire. Too much light can hurt the eyes, my friend, and fire burns." Salladhor Saan finished the last grape and smacked his lips. "When do you think the king will bid us sail, good ser?"
 
Once again, Stannis's magical farce (a blade dipped in wildfire) is held in contrast to the true forging of Lightbringer (the three deaths and rebirths of the promised princes). 
We have the father of Azor Ahai ("Rhaegar crowned in mist and grief" and "saw his father pleading with the king") struggling to forge "a hero's blade" from his son, Jon Snow, for which he and Nissa Nissa (Lyanna) will pay a terrible price. The first forging in water (Wall of Ice) fails and the steel bursts asunder ("bleeding from half a hundred savage wounds") when the force Jon attempts to lead mutinies on him. The second forging tempered in a lion's heart (Jaime Lannister, in trial-by-battle; "Is it you, Stark? I never feared you living, I do not fear you dead." and "I'll fight you..." and "Is there a bear down here? A Direwolf?" "Only doom." and the battle between Jaime and Brienne, in which he tires and loses and is surprised that "she's stronger than me," exemplifies and foreshadows this too.). Yet the steel shattered and split (Jon Snow battled Aegon and plummets to his death, his head split open like his brother's once was, becoming a "plow" like Cleos Frey's does). The third forging, tempered in Nissa Nissa's heart (the tower of joy, "when the sun rises in the west and sets in the east...when your womb quickens again and you bear a living child... then he shall return, and not before." ) is the successful forging, leading to the "Battle of the Trident"/War for the Dawn (as Dany dreams of it). 
Nissa Nissa (Lyanna) does this thing for love of her son. 
(Daenerys IV, Clash) 
"Three?" She did not understand.
. . . three heads has the dragon . . . the ghost chorus yammered inside her skull with never a lip moving, never a breath stirring the still blue air. . . . mother of dragons . . . child of storm . . . The whispers became a swirling song. . . . three fires must you light . . . one for life and one for death and one to love . . . Her own heart was beating in unison to the one that floated before her, blue and corrupt . . . three mounts must you ride . . . one to bed and one to dread and one to love . . . The voices were growing louder, she realized, and it seemed her heart was slowing, and even her breath. . . . three treasons will you know . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love . . .
"I don't . . ." Her voice was no more than a whisper, almost as faint as theirs. What was happening to her? "I don't understand," she said, more loudly. Why was it so hard to talk here? "Help me. Show me."
. . . help her . . . the whispers mocked. . . . show her . . .
Then phantoms shivered through the murk, images in indigo. Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman's name. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . . Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . . mother of dragons, slayer of lies . . . Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . . .
Faster and faster the visions came, one after the other, until it seemed as if the very air had come alive. Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible. A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door. Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow. Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed.Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. "Mother!" they cried. "Mother, mother!" They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them . . .
There many ways to interpret this passage, but I'll stick to the relevant one: 
The prophecy is given in words, which Dany does not understand, and is then clarified with visions. Dany does not understand that the prophets are here speaking to her as if she were three people (child of three). That is, they give the prophecy in whole, even though only a third of it is relevant to her or her arc. Afterward, more visions come that pertain to her prophesied arc alone, showing how her triplet unfolds. 
So, for Dany: 
Three heads has the dragon...mother of dragons, child of storm...three fire must you light: one for life...mother of dragons, daughter of death...three mounts must you ride: one to bed...other of dragons, slayer of lies.... three treasons will you know: once for blood...mother of dragons, bride of fire. 
Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a city burning behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman's name. This is the fire lit for life--for the life of Dany's three dragons. Viserion (Viserys gives his life to awaken the cream and gold egg). Drogon (Drogo and Rhaego both give their lives to awaken the red and black egg). Rhaegal (Mirri Maz Duur gives her life to awaken the green and bronze egg, but its dragon is named in honor of Rhaegar).
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing. Mother of dragons, slayer of lies. This is the mount to ride--one to bed. This isn't about Dany marrying people. That's a misunderstanding of the meaning "mount," which Martin gives to us as skinchanging. The promised prince is a greenseer god, and anyone who isn't necessarily can't be the promised prince, and is thereby a "lie" that must be slain so the true promised prince (Dany, Aegon, Jon Snow) can arise and awaken. This shows the battle of the Trident as Dany's dream revealed to us--the first Battle of the Trident with the Usurper (Stannis) his "dog" (Jon Snow; last line) and "Rhaegar" come again (Aegon, the black dragon). Stannis is burned alive (his vision of the fiery crown consuming its king), who pretended to be Azor Ahai with a false Lightbringer. Aegon and Jon Snow slay each other in battle on dragon back, with Aegon dying with a sword through the eye (Longclaw; he "awakens" after death in Rhaegal, and Jon Snow claims him for a dragon mount afterward, probably because Viserion dies) and Jon Snow plummeting to his death (which leads him onward to the tower of joy from his next rebirth). This is where Dany's army breaks, which sends her fleeing onward to her next major event, below, the burning of Dragonstone and return to the house with the red door. 
Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. Mother of dragons, bride of fire. This is the treason for blood. These are the three dragons dying and becoming mated/mounted to their beasts. Dany returned to be reunited with and married to Drogo (who lives on in Drogon); she has a Dothraki death rite: funeral pyre, burning all of her "most precious possessions" along with her (Dothraki, Freedmen, Dragonstone) and then her mount (her silver, Drogo's first and bridal gift) rides off into the stars (ascends to the true Dothraki Sea with all the great khals). Aegon sails on a sea of sorrows to his death and his mount. Jon Snow is assassinated by the Night's Watchmen and yet rises again from the ice cells. 
What follows expounds upon Dany's triplet--a fire lit for life, a mount ridden to bed (read: to rest or to sleep, not to sex), a treason for blood: 
Faster and faster the visions came, one after the other, until it seemed as if the very air had come alive. Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible. A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door. Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow. Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. "Mother!" they cried. "Mother, mother!" They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them . . .
Here, we see the tent where Dany attempted to save Drogo's life and give birth to Rhaego (the two sacrifices for the life of her dragon). During this time, Dany has a death experience (a little girl ran barefoot toward a house with a red door... "Wake the dragon..." the ghosts urged her onward). When Dany comes out of his death experience ("Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt") she blames Mirri Maz Duur for the choices she made and the consequences of them, and burns her alive to fulfill the prophecy in whole ("to wake dragons out of stone"). In order for Dany to achieve this goal, however, she's paid a terrible price: the life of her son. He's the corpse being dragged behind the silver mount (Dany herself) in this vision (remember, this literal event happened because someone tried to kill Dany and Rhaego!). 
All of this sacrifice was so that Dany could sail to Westeros and conquer it, which is where she will encounter her lion (Tyrion, the bear and the stone giant and the monster), and eventually slay him. [Remember as well Dany wears from time to time a hrakkar skin, which is a white lion, symbol of the moonmaiden, and symbol of skinchanging. Remember too that Azor Ahai's second attempt at leadership requires the sacrifice of a lion.] 
This second attempt at leadership from Dany fails just like the first (the Dothraki on the Dothraki Sea) and results in a magical event (just like the first). This magical event is tragic and sad. Notice that Dany's followers are now called slaves. For a freedom fighter, this is either a huge oversight or a telling travesty. Dany at first embraces the slaves, but when she suffers for it (they wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life... as they grasp at her, calling her mother), then rejects them (see Dance of Dragons; "remember your words." and "Fire and Blood." and "Dragons plant no trees." and Dany forgetting Hazzea's name) and treats them as her property when she burns them alive on her funeral pyre ("the greatest funeral pyre of them all") as if they were merely her most prized possessions (as we see foreshadowed on Drogo's funeral pyre). 
 
For Jon Snow and Aegon, we're given less information in the House of the Undying Ones, but more information from other sources. So, returning to this triplet for Jon Snow, we get: 
Three heads has the dragon...mother of dragons, child of storm...three fire must you light: one to love...mother of dragons, daughter of death...three mounts must you ride: one to love...other of dragons, slayer of lies.... three treasons will you know: once for love...mother of dragons, bride of fire. 
Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a city burning behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman's name. This is the fire lit to love. Viserys gives his life for the dragon Viserion, which will become Jon Snow's mount to ride. Viserys died in threatening the life of Rhaego and Dany, for which he is rewarded with "a golden crown that men shall tremble to behold." Jon Snow is able and entitled to ride this dragon at all because he is Rhaegar and Lyanna's son, which he will learn "under the sea" and "mounted" to Ghost. In fulfillment of this prophecy, then, Jon Snow must "light a fire to love" (within himself and for his parents, waking a dragon from stone--the Winterfell crypts and Lyanna's statue). 
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing. Mother of dragons, slayer of lies. This is the mount ridden to love. Jon Snow throws his lot in with Stannis in Dance, which ultimately leads to his death on the Wall of Ice. Furthermore, it is with Stannis that he will fly to his second death as well, over the Trident (still foolishly following the "lie" that Stannis represents, resisting and refusing to recognize his own prophecy and destiny). At the Trident, he'll meet Aegon, who he will slay (causing him to "awaken" in Rhaegal) and die again in the process, plummeting to his death to have his skull split open. Fortunately for him, he gets another chance (which Aegon and Dany do not), and has a trial-by-battle with Jaime Lannister (a sacrificial death to pay for his life; this is why Brienne--representing Jon Snow--and Jaime's swords burn blue, and why Jaime's goes out but Brienne's continues burning). From Jaime's sacrifice, Jon Snow is led onward to the tower of joy, when he is "born again" amidst smoke and salt to wake a dragon out of stone (the tower) and take wing, breathing dragon fire. 
Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. Mother of dragons, bride of fire. This is the treason for love. Given his Mulligan (if hard-won), Jon Snow has to rally once more and gather his dragons to fight the War for the Dawn. It won't be easy. He'll have to become a king and unite warring factions. First, he'll have to confront and then pair up with Dany (burning of Dragonstone). He'll also have to confront and pair up with Rhaegal (who might understandably hold a grudge? IDK!), his "brother." With the help of the dragons, he'll be able to confront the Others and the Red Comet too, to end the Long Night (spring returning from the ice). [Notes: this triplet actually makes for a curious new meaning or reading of: first the mother (Dany, "mother of dragons") and then the son (Aegon, "son" of Rhaegar), so both die kings.]
For Aegon: 
Three heads has the dragon...mother of dragons, child of storm...three fire must you light: one to death...mother of dragons, daughter of death...three mounts must you ride: one to dread...other of dragons, slayer of lies.... three treasons will you know: once for gold...mother of dragons, bride of fire. 
Viserys screamed as the molten gold ran down his cheeks and filled his mouth. A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a city burning behind him. Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman's name. This is the fire lit to death. We begin with Viserys who becomes Viserion, and who demands a "golden crown" and the Seven Kingdoms by rights. This dragon becomes Jon Snow's mount, giving some proof to his claim of parentage. However, Aegon has a similar proof, and for which he will go to battle against his "brother." He will take into battle with him the Golden Company (amongst others), that was founded by Bittersteel (whose banner has a "fiery stallion") and conquer King's Landing to become the reigning King of Westeros. Unfortunately, at some point he will learn about Rhaegar and Lyanna and how that impacts his own status (especially should his reputation of a "feigned boy" stick with him) and perceive Jon Snow to be a threat, which will lead to them slaying each other in battle at the Trident. 
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing. Mother of dragons, slayer of lies. This is the mount ridden to dread. Whilst Stannis will be a figure at the Trident, and slain there (the feigned boy Azor Ahai), this can also be representative of Aegon himself; despite having his own red sword (Rhaegal), Aegon is a "feigned boy" too and a king whose eyes often appear "blue," (instead of purple) who casts "no shadow" because he is "dead" (Aegon, son of Rhaegar and Elia) and because he is no "true" dragon of House Targaryen (dragons being equated with shadows). This makes Aegon a "mummer's dragon" despite his popularity and support in Westeros (with Varys and Illyrio supporting, although Illyrio is already dead), which is why he must confront and defeat his legitimate brother (Jon Snow) to secure his reign. This leads to his death, however, and his permanent mount (Rhaegal). Unlike Aegon, though, Jon Snow gets a Mulligan, proving that he is the "sun's son" and the promised prince (unlike the other two feigned boys, Stannis and Aegon). 
Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. Mother of dragons, bride of fire. This is the treason for gold. From the "dance of dragons" on the Battle of the Trident (above), Dany flees back to Dragonstone (and her funeral pyre) and Aegon sails away on a sea of sorrows (his "dread" mounting; he wants to be a man again, not a dragon, supposing; Dany embraces but Aegon rejects, it appears, the song of fire and blood. This brings us back to Game and You don't want to wake the dragon, do you? Which is a threat and a warning. Dany goes all in but Aegon doesn't). The dragons must all unite, however, to fight the War for the Dawn (the blue flower on the wall of ice), even if that means accepting a "rider" and "king" that they previously fought against. 
 
Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible. A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door. Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow. Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. "Mother!" they cried. "Mother, mother!" They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them . . .
The dragons woke because of Dany (shadows whirled, a little girl ran, Mirri Maz Duur) and the sacrifices she made, including her own son (behind a silver horse). They also make some sacrifices too (a white lion). Jon Snow will also be accepted as a king because of Dany-Drogon (slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver.... Dany gasped and opened her arms ….) who will descend from the heavens at a critical time to accept him as a rider (like Mormont's raven emerging from the kettle so Jon Snow becomes Lord Commander of the Night's Watch). 
 
 
Davos V, Storm
"My lord, are you unwell?" asked Pylos.
I am frightened, Maester, he might have said. Davos was remembering a tale Salladhor Saan had told him, of how Azor Ahai tempered Lightbringer by thrusting it through the heart of the wife he loved. He slew his wife to fight the dark. If Stannis is Azor Ahai come again, does that mean Edric Storm must play the part of Nissa Nissa? "I was thinking, Maester. My pardons." What harm if some wildling king conquers the north? It was not as though Stannis held the north. His Grace could scarcely be expected to defend people who refused to acknowledge him as king. "Give me another letter," he said abruptly. "This one is too . . ."
 
Davos VI, Storm 
Stannis ground his teeth again. "I never asked for this crown. Gold is cold and heavy on the head, but so long as I am the king, I have a duty . . . If I must sacrifice one child to the flames to save a million from the dark . . . Sacrifice . . . is never easy, Davos. Or it is no true sacrifice. Tell him, my lady."
Melisandre said, "Azor Ahai tempered Lightbringer with the heart's blood of his own beloved wife. If a man with a thousand cows gives one to god, that is nothing. But a man who offers the only cow he owns . . ."
"She talks of cows," Davos told the king. "I am speaking of a boy, your daughter's friend, your brother's son."
 
 
Once again, Stannis is held in contrast to the promised princes. Whilst Stannis is willing to make sacrifices of other people's lives as if they were his possessions, the sacrifice demanded of the promised princes is something greater--their own lives, their only true possession. Dany might have profited at times by sacrificing others, but that will bring her nothing but grief and sorrow, not the goal she hopes to achieve. The Faceless Men are a fine example of this mindset, that the life is the only true possession of worth (one can give life in service or in death to the temple). Stannis will not prosper for sacrificing others for his goals and calling it duty either. Nor Aegon or Jon Snow or anyone else. Martin tells the reader that the only "true sacrifice" is the hardest kind: self-sacrifice. The value of another person's life is worth "everything" because only that person has the right to sacrifice it
 
 
Jon XI, Storm
And this time it would not be a ruse. To claim his father's castle, he must turn against his father's gods.
King Stannis gazed off north again, his gold cloak streaming from his shoulders. "It may be that I am mistaken in you, Jon Snow. We both know the things that are said of bastards. You may lack your father's honor, or your brother's skill in arms. But you are the weapon the Lord has given me. I have found you here, as you found the cache of dragonglass beneath the Fist, and I mean to make use of you. Even Azor Ahai did not win his war alone. I killed a thousand wildlings, took another thousand captive, and scattered the rest, but we both know they will return. Melisandre has seen that in her fires. This Tormund Thunderfist is likely re-forming them even now, and planning some new assault. And the more we bleed each other, the weaker we shall all be when the real enemy falls upon us."
Jon had come to that same realization. "As you say, Your Grace." He wondered where this king, was going.

And (finally!) back to "rust" and the "Stark in Winterfell:"

Why is it so important that the iron swords rust away? 

These people hope and pray that the gods will be "good" but the gods have lost sight of their original meaning and purpose, and have fallen. As such, the gods will be "bad" and "cruel" instead of good (The Father is NOT Just; The Smith is NOT Industrious; The Warrior is NOT Noble and Brave; the Maiden is NOT Chaste; the Mother is NOT Merciful; the Crone is NOT Wise). As a result, Winter will eventually come, no matter how long the preceding summer. 

The Iron Swords keep the spirits from wandering when they aren't yet needed, but by rusting away, they also allow those spirits that have been resting too long to awaken from sleep again to heed the call to arms

This brings us to Jon Snow's crypt dream, the House of the Undying Ones, the removal of rusted swords, and the Night's Watch Oath (which are all connected). Those who sleep must be awakened during the Long Night, from men to gods themselves and even dead men and ghosts.... 

Spoiler

Jon VII, Clash

"Skinchanger?" said Ebben grimly, looking at the Halfhand. Does he mean the eagle? Jon wondered. Or me? Skinchangers and wargs belonged in Old Nan's stories, not in the world he had lived in all his life. Yet here, in this strange bleak wilderness of rock and ice, it was not hard to believe.
"The cold winds are rising. Mormont feared as much. Benjen Stark felt it as well. Dead men walk and the trees have eyes again. Why should we balk at wargs and giants?"
"Does this mean my dreams are true as well?" asked Squire Dalbridge. "Lord Snow can keep his mammoths, I want my women."
 
Jon VIII, Clash
Ghost ate well that day, and Qhorin insisted that the rangers mix some of the garron's blood with their oats, to give them strength. The taste of that foul porridge almost choked Jon, but he forced it down. They each cut a dozen strips of raw stringy meat from the carcass to chew on as they rode, and left the rest for the shadowcats.
There was no question of riding double. Stonesnake offered to lay in wait for the pursuit and surprise them when they came. Perhaps he could take a few of them with him down to hell. Qhorin refused. "If any man in the Night's Watch can make it through the Frostfangs alone and afoot, it is you, brother. You can go over mountains that a horse must go around. Make for the Fist. Tell Mormont what Jon saw, and how. Tell him that the old powers are waking, that he faces giants and wargs and worse. Tell him that the trees have eyes again."
He has no chance, Jon thought when he watched Stonesnake vanish over a snow-covered ridge, a tiny black bug crawling across a rippling expanse of white.
 
Jon VI, Game
They said the words together, as the last light faded in the west and grey day became black night.
"Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow," they recited, their voices filling the twilit grove. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
The woods fell silent. "You knelt as boys," Bowen Marsh intoned solemnly. "Rise now as men of the Night's Watch."
 
Jon VIII, Clash
"Say them again with me, Jon Snow."
"If you like." Their voices blended as one beneath the rising moon, while Ghost listened and the mountains themselves bore witness. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
When they were done, there was no sound but the faint crackle of the flames and a distant sigh of wind. Jon opened and closed his burnt fingers, holding tight to the words in his mind, praying that his father's gods would give him the strength to die bravely when his hour came. It would not be long now. The garrons were near the end of their strength. Qhorin's mount would not last another day, Jon suspected.

The Stark in Winterfell has one specific duty: to say his words. Winter is coming! 

Catelyn I, Game

"A little," she admitted. "He is only three."
Ned frowned. "He must learn to face his fears. He will not be three forever. And winter is coming."
"Yes," Catelyn agreed. The words gave her a chill, as they always did. The Stark words. Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks. Winter is coming, said the Stark words. Not for the first time, she reflected on what a strange people these northerners were.
"The man died well, I'll give him that," Ned said. He had a swatch of oiled leather in one hand. He ran it lightly up the greatsword as he spoke, polishing the metal to a dark glow. "I was glad for Bran's sake. You would have been proud of Bran."
 
Eddard I, Game
"Yes, yes, of course, tell Catelyn, sleep on it if you must." The king reached down, clasped Ned by the hand, and pulled him roughly to his feet. "Just don't keep me waiting too long. I am not the most patient of men."
For a moment Eddard Stark was filled with a terrible sense of foreboding. This was his place, here in the north. He looked at the stone figures all around them, breathed deep in the chill silence of the crypt. He could feel the eyes of the dead. They were all listening, he knew. And winter was coming.

 

Catelyn II, Game

"Gods will, not for many years," Maester Luwin murmured.
"Maester Luwin, I trust you as I would my own blood. Give my wife your voice in all things great and small. Teach my son the things he needs to know. Winter is coming."
Maester Luwin nodded gravely. Then silence fell, until Catelyn found her courage and asked the question whose answer she most dreaded. "What of the other children?"
 
Bran III, Game
"Why?" Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.
Because winter is coming.
Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid.
The Three-Eyed Crow (The Black Bastard of the Wall) learns a terrible knowledge north of the wall--the true meaning of his words....
...which he then runs and tells his brother, the Stark in Winterfell, just like he was meant to do. The Stark must muster, having those words--and it is ironically important that the Stark have the right "look" (which, queerly, Bran doesn't, but Jon and Arya do) so he will be believed (i.e., believed to be a Stark with the right to say the words and thereby rally the host). Everybody must rally in the Long Night to the Stark in Winterfell who says the words, because by night all cloaks are black and all sleepers awaken and all horns blow and all men watch from their walls for the Other to fight with shield and fire and sword. 
 

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On 12/7/2018 at 7:04 PM, Wolfkin said:

Why must there always be a Stark at Winterfell? 
Sacrifice. It's a bit of a guess but i think it's a safe one in this story. But in that Theon sample chapter... I can't remember it word for word but it left an impression on me. I won't spoil.... If you have or will ever read it, it's right at the end. 
I think there needs to be a Stark present to carry out a specific task. Something ritualistic; one or maybe some of the Stark Traditions. Craster seemed to believe he was keeping right with the gods with his actions. Maybe he was? 
 

Why do the Starks bury their dead with Iron swords?
So they may take up their swords during the LN? Perhaps similar to Coldhands. As in, there's a type of wight that is beyond the control of the Others. We know Ice preserves. So maybe something in Stark make-up is left behind for use at a later date. We've come to understand that bones are significant. They're a part of Mel's glamour she uses on Mance. And there's a line in ADWD where Summer chows down on a wight's hand. I'm paraphrasing, but I it goes something like, ' only when the direwolf broke the bones did the arm remember it was dead '. As for the iron. I think it's a superstition and little else. It's tempting to make an exception for a 'magical' family - for lack of a better term. But if there were a long standing tradition then one would expect Ned and his predecessors to replace these swords routinely so they could continue to perform whatever function it is they do. I think the most important aspect of the missing swords would be the validity it provided to either Stark children should they turn-up with one in hand. + Direwolf, and you've got your missing Stark kid.  
 

When the last Starks (Bran/Rickon) do leave Winterfell, Summer sees smoke/dragon?
I swear this is just a bit of creative writing on the author's part. Summer is a wolf, and probably doesn't have a good idea what a plume or smog is so it's interpreted as something that a direwolf, warged by a greenseer would see in it's stead.  We see the same logic applied to the red comet. For some it's the red sword, for others it's a wound or a dragon. Without having a definitive understanding of what that thing exactly is, the character must instead interpret as best as they can. 
 

 

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On 12/11/2018 at 6:34 PM, Chris Mormont said:

Although I do have a another theory that Hallis is the hooded man in Winterfell and that he is actually there with Barbary Dustin.  She proclaims her hatred of Ned and the Starks way too much.  I think she is still loyal, but playing a part in order to 1) survive and 2) to help take back the North from the Boltons.  I think that is why she wanted to go in the Crypts, she may have suspected to find Bran and Rickon there.

Theon would certainly recognize Hallis Mollen yet he does not recognize The Hooded Man.  Barbary being a hidden dagger pointed at Roose I can get behind.  I think she has heard stories of their escape and was looking for signs that they hid there - rubbish, bedding, candles, discarded children's clothes etc...

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On ‎12‎/‎7‎/‎2018 at 1:04 PM, Wolfkin said:

Why must there always be a Stark at Winterfell? 

Why do the Starks bury their dead with Iron swords?

When the last Starks (Bran/Rickon) do leave Winterfell, Summer sees smoke/dragon?
 

Okay, I found the texts about the Iron swords (rereading the series again!) This is when Eddard and Robert go down into the crypts:

Lords of Winterfell... "their likenesses carved into stones that sealed the tombs. In long rows they sat, blind eyes staring into eternal darkness, while great stone direwolves curled at their feet. By ancient custom an iron longsword had been laid across the lap of each who had been Lord of Winterfell, to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts. The oldest had long ago rusted away to nothing, leaving only a few rust stains where the metal had rested on stone. Ned wondered if that meant those ghosts were free to roam the castle now."

Interesting to note that only those 'who had been Lords of Winterfell' had those iron swords.

Edited by Wolfkin

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On 12/18/2018 at 12:55 PM, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

Was there a Stark at Winterfell during the Harrenhal tourney? It had to be Rickard's wife then, no?

The words have meaning but it doesn't have to mean they can't take a vacation from their vigil.  

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On 12/18/2018 at 5:55 PM, Takiedevushkikakzvezdy said:

Was there a Stark at Winterfell during the Harrenhal tourney? It had to be Rickard's wife then, no?

Probably Richard himself actually. Iirc it was only the children at the tourney

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