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sweetsunray

Balon Swann as valonqar?

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Sigh, yes, I myself never was much of a fan of this or that person being forwarded as Cersei's valonqar. And I've been mostly leaning and switching between Jaime and Tyrion. But as I'm analysing Areo Hotah's chapter the Watcher in aDwD, I inadvertently had to take a hard characterisation look on Ser Balon Swann. One of the sections I analysed was the veracity of Cersei's plot that Doran claims is intended to happen. So, this was what I concentrated on: Cersei's plan, and all the body signs that Areo Hotah witnesses earlier with Balon which verify Doran's claim about it.

The biggest reveal in the chapter is Doran disclosing Cersei's plans. In aFfC Cersei alludes in thought of a special task she intends to give Balon Swann during the small council.

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A tiresome creature, this prince. "His long wait is almost done. I am sending Balon Swann to Sunspear, to deliver him the head of Gregor Clegane." Ser Balon would have another task as well, but that part was best left unsaid. (aFfC, Cersei IV)

 

Cersei's POV never betrays this task to the reader. Instead we, the Sand Snakes and Areo Hotah learn of it directly from Prince Doran, during a private meeting in his solar, after the dinner with Balon Swann.

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Prince Doran took a jagged breath. "Dorne still has friends at court. Friends who tell us things we were not meant to know. This invitation Cersei sent us is a ruse. Trystane is never meant to reach King's Landing. On the road back, somewhere in the kingswood, Ser Balon's party will be attacked by outlaws, and my son will die. I am asked to court only so that I may witness this attack with my own eyes and thereby absolve the queen of any blame. Oh, and these outlaws? They will be shouting, 'Halfman, Halfman,' as they attack. Ser Balon may even catch a quick glimpse of the Imp, though no one else will." (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

So, Cersei wants the Stone Crows of the Vale who remained in the Kingswood after the Battle of the Blackwater to kill Trystane, thereby liberating Princess Myrcella of her betrothal that Tyrion once arranged, and Balon will blame Tyrion for the attack. Important for this essay here is how Areo Hotah already picked up signs about Balon Swann that he was nervous about something during the feast earlier.

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Ser Balon gave a nod and sipped his wine. This one is not so easily seduced [by Arianne] as was his Sworn Brother, Hotah thought. Ser Arys was a boy, despite his years. This one is a man, and wary. The captain had only to look at him to see that the white knight was ill at ease. This place is strange to him, and little to his liking. [...] And now that they had reached Sunspear, neither Princess Myrcella nor Ser Arys Oakheart was on hand to greet them. The white knight knows that something is amiss, Hotah could tell, but it is more than that. Perhaps the presence of the Sand Snakes unnerved him. (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

Notice how George stresses often that Areo notices this about Balon just by 'looking' at him. Hotah does not know the reason for it yet though. And he lists several rational explanations for it: the strangeness of Dorne, not liking Dorne, anxious about Myrcella and Arys not being at the feast. And yet Hotah can see that Balon's discomfort goes beyond that. Having run out of explanations, Hotah temporarily settles on the knight being nervous about the presence of the Sand Snakes. It is around this time that Prince Doran mentions Cersei's letter where the request Myrcella's return to King's Landing and invites Prince Doran to sit on the small council.

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Midnight was close at hand when Prince Doran turned to the white knight and said, "Ser Balon, I have read the letter that you brought me from our gracious queen. Might I assume that you are familiar with its contents, ser?" Hotah saw the knight tense.(aDwD, The Watcher)

 

And as the knight extends the invitation to include Trystane, saying how King's Landing would welcome him, Hotah notices that Balon has started to sweat.

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Why is he sweating now? the captain wondered, watching. The hall is cool enough, and he never touched the stew. (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

In fact, far earlier during the feast, Hotah had noticed that Balon had eaten very little of the fiery food. He did eat one small spoon of the stew and broke out in sweat because of it then, but only the spoonful and not any more since.

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[Ser Balon] ate little, Hotah observed: a spoon of soup, a bite of the pepper, the leg off a capon, some fish. He shunned the lamprey pie and tried only one small spoonful of the stew. Even that made his brow break out in sweat. Hotah could sympathize. When first he came to Dorne, the fiery food would tie his bowels in knots and burn his tongue. (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

So, Hotah picked up on Balon's body signs like a lie detector, while he did not yet know of Cersei's murderous plan and what role Balon plays in it. Once Doran explained it to the Sand Snakes and the reader, we come to understand in retrospect that Balon was ordered to extend the invite to Trystane, knowing full well he has to guide the boy right into the planned ambush. Balon is nearly panicking when Prince Doran suggests they travel by ship to King's Landing, instead of overland.

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"By ship?" Ser Balon seemed taken aback. "That … would that be safe, my prince? Autumn is a bad season for storms, or so I've heard, and … the pirates in the Stepstones, they …" (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

Doran refers to Balon's feeble attempt at dissuading Prince Doran from going to King's Landing by ship when he revealed Cersei's plan to the Sand Snakes.

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"This is monstrous," said Lady Nym. "I would not have believed it, not of a Kingsguard knight."
"They are sworn to obey, just as my captain is," the prince said. "I had my doubts as well, but you all saw how Ser Balon balked when I suggested that we go by sea. A ship would have disturbed all the queen's arrangements." (aDwD, The Watcher)

 

aFfC already acquainted us with Cersei's shocking ways to get people murdered, and the Kettlebacks have been known to the reader since aCoK to have low morals. Balon Swann, however, has not yet been known by the reader to be an amoral man. Both Tyrion and Jaime approve of Balon's appointment as Kingsguard. He felt ashamed over Joffrey dying, despite the fact he once jested they would need three glasses to toast to the health of the King, during the War of the Five Kings. He testified during Tyrion's trial that he believed Tyrion to be innocent of murdering Joffrey. He is invulnerable to Arianne's attempts of seduction. He is affronted on principle by the manner in which Gregor died - poison. Whether he would have participated without protest in beating Sansa or would have objected like Ser Arys, we do not know. Ser Balon only became a kingsguard after the riot, and by then Tyrion had already made sure Sansa's physical abuse had ceased. Symbollically, George linked him to the honorable side of the Night's Watch, for his home was Stonehelm overseeing the Red Watch, and George pitted him against Slynt's son during Joffrey's nameday tourney as a foreshadowing parallel to Slynt's fate at the Night's Watch (see The Trail of the Red Stallion - Sansa's tourneys). Hence, the reader has plenty of reasons to doubt Balon's knowing participation in the plot, and therefore reason to doubt Prince Doran's assertions about the plot.

And indeed, if the reader had learned of this through Arianne's POV there would be debate about the veracity of the plot. We never actually heard it verified in Cersei's POV. She only hinted at something unsavory, beyond delivering the skull. And Arianne already knew of this plot before the feast, so any observation she would have made of Balon Swann would come across as prejudiced. This is the foremost reason why George chose Areo Hotah to be the POV. He did not yet know of the plot and independently gives the reader all the body sign clues about Balon Swann that verify the knight has been ordered to get a Lord's innocent son killed. Add the fact that his sigil are a white and black swan fighting, and we know Balon Swann must be at inner conflict with his vows.

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His snowy cloak was clasped at the throat by two swans on a silver brooch. One was ivory, the other onyx, and it seemed to Areo Hotah as if the two of them were fighting. (aDwD, the Watcher)

Now this brings us back to issues that we witness in several POVs (Jon's, Brienne's and of course Jaime's)

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"So many vows . . . they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It's too much. No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow or the other." (aFfC, Catelyn VII)

And what do you know. When Jaime interrogates Balon Swann about his older brother's loyalty to a king, Balon says this.

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"My lord." Ser Balon drew himself up. "On my sword, on my honor, on my father's name, I swear . . . I shall not do as you did." (aSoS, Jaime VIII)

Balon swears he will not be a kingslayer.

The interrogation is prompted on Balon's brother Donnel first having fought for Renly, then Stannis, was captured and wounded at Blackwater and knelt for Joffrey and after Joffrey's death swore fealty to Tommen. Balon is the younger brother of Donnel, the "little brother".

Now, I'm not convinced it's Balon, but seeing these little seeds and Cersei's odd choice of Balon for the task to get a kid killed, while he has a sigil that screams "inner moral conflict" I cannot discount the possibility. It of course depends on whether Balon Swann will survive his Dornish trip or not.

Obara immediately demands her spear back when she learns of the plot, wanting to kill Balon and his squires. Instead, Prince Doran instructs her to go on a mission to High Hermitage to capture and kill Ser Gerold Dayne. The plan is for Balon Swann to see Myrcella and hear her "witness" account that Gerold Dayne maimed her and killed Ser Arys Oakheart, and Myrcella will demand from Balon Swann to find Darkstar for her. It is later confirmed to Cersei by Qyburn while she's in her cell, that Balon Swann saw Myrcella, that she lost an ear, and that he's off hunting Darkstar.

What we do not fully know is what Areo Hotah and Obara are instructed to do with Balon. Do they mean to lure Balon to his death at the hand of Darkstar? Nor do we know for sure what the outcome will be? Is it the death of Balon? Darkstar? Areo Hotah? Obara?

One of the earliest observations Hotah makes in this chapter about Balon is parallel to thoughts he once had about Arys Oakheart.

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Ser Balon Swann was taut as a drawn bow, the captain of guards observed. This new white knight was not so tall nor comely as the old one, but he was bigger across the chest, burlier, his arms thick with muscle. [...] The man who wore [the fighting swans] looked a fighter too. This one will not die so easy as the other. He will not charge into my axe the way Ser Arys did. He will stand behind his shield and make me come at him. If it came to that, Hotah would be ready. (aDwD, the Watcher)

"Hotah had felt a certain sadness whenever he saw the man in the long snowy cloak, [...]. One day, he sensed, the two of them would fight; on that day Oakheart would die, with the captain's longaxe crashing through his skull." (aFfC, The Captain of the Guards)

But there is a huge difference between both foreshadowings. With Ser Arys he can sense the two will fight and that Arys will die. Areo Hotah does not have that certainty when it comes to Balon. He is not even sure that he will have to fight Balon. He only thinks "IF".
With Ser Arys Oakheart George laid the groundwork for a kingsguard knight turning in favor of Dornish plans. Is it possible that George intends for Balon to turn eventually as well? In a plot involving a Dayne we cannot but recall Arthur Dayne who ultimately felt the order that Prince Rhaegar gave him outweighed any other of his kingsguard vows to his king. And if Balon survives his hunt of Gerold Dayne and returns to Sunspear, we can expect Aegon to have taken the Stormlands by storm. On top of that the whole escort plan has become a moot point: according to Kevan in aDwD's epilogue Myrcella has begun her journey back to King's Landing in the company of Nym (without Trystane and without Balon). It's clear that Balon accepted this hunt of Gerold Dayne as an order, all to avoid having to do what Cersei commanded him to do. 
I don't know how George gets Balon back to King's Landing, but anyhow wanted to share this possibility.

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Posted (edited)

That was well thought out and an interesting read.  In particular I like the analysis of Hotah's observations.  If we are looking for clues; the ability to perceive and observe is quite Holmesian.  Thanks Sunray or should I say Sherlock? 

Edited by LynnS

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, LynnS said:

That was well thought out and an interesting read.  In particular I like the analysis of Hotah's observations.  If we are looking for clues; the ability to perceive and observe is quite Holmesian.  Thanks Sunray or should I say Sherlock? 

Thanks LynnS,

The analysis fits in a greater thematic investigation on "mirror armor". This is what the Others wear: armor that mirrors the surrounding. This is another use than using mirrors where characters look at their own reflection. And I surmise mirrors reflecting the surroundings are used to highlight objective truths. In the prologue's case of the Others that is: the trees acting like protectors of the three rangers. With Dany we have a brass platter being used as a shield at some point, but initially used to spy on Arstan and Belwas following her, right before the sorrowful man hands her the jewel box with a manticore. Then there are the Swords, the knights of the Faith, who accompany Cersei during her walk of shame. But Areo Hotah is the actual sole POV who wears mirroring armor (copper polished until they shine like a mirror). And though it's the sole chapter set in Dorne in all of aDwD, we get a heap load of reveals in it: Cersei's plan, Doran's plan, a whole lot of opinions of Hotah who to trust and who might cause trouble, etc... And it's called "The Watcher". So, basically I conclude that the Others use ice as looking glasses to spy on people, and that includes the Wall.

But anyhow, it just struck me how odd a choice Balon was by Cersei. The task she had set him would have been far more suitable for Meryn Trant. He wouldn't care a bit about having Trystane killed. And it's doubtful he'd have personally gone after Gerold Dayne. So, at the very least George is planning something with Balon Swann that is far bigger than I initially thought.

Edited by sweetsunray

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Posted (edited)

Very interesting take on mirrors.  We were just discussing that in Heresy.  Do you mind if I post your comment there?

The question of the valonqar isn't closed for me at this point and I appreciate having a fresh view of the possibilities.  We're given only two things about it:  the term itself, meaning little brother, either literally or figuratively, and that Cersei's nemesis will wrap his hands around her throat and strangle her.  

So I add Marwyn to the list because of Samwell's observations:
 

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A Feast for Crows - Samwell V

"Sam," said Alleras, "this is Archmaester Marwyn."

Marwyn wore a chain of many metals around his bull's neck. Save for that, he looked more like a dockside thug than a maester. His head was too big for his body, and the way it thrust forward from his shoulders, together with that slab of jaw, made him look as if he were about to tear off someone's head. Though short and squat, he was heavy in the chest and shoulders, with a round, rock-hard ale belly straining at the laces of the leather jerkin he wore in place of robes. Bristly white hair sprouted from his ears and nostrils. His brow beetled, his nose had been broken more than once, and sourleaf had stained his teeth a mottled red. He had the biggest hands that Sam had ever seen.

 

What Sam is describing are the characteristics or dwarfism with emphasis on his hands.  We know that Marwyn has travelled to Asshai where he met and instructed Mirri Maaz Duur.  So how would the locals refer to him in their own language, if not as the valonqar or little brother?  So I'm keeping that option open.

Edited by LynnS

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3 minutes ago, LynnS said:

Very interesting take on mirrors.  We were just discussing that in Heresy.  Do you mind if I post your comment there?

No, I don't mind. The whole essay would have been finished over a week ago, if my wordpress draft of 15k words hadn't gone lost and was overwritten by the earliest draft by opening wordpress app instead of laptop. :bang: I was forced to rewrite the whole thing and it's going slower than initially, but it yields a few more deeper insights, such as this one along the way. With rewriting Dany's mirroring brass platter I think I figured out how VS steel is forged.

 

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Posted (edited)

Wonderful insights.

Are you saying that Balon's "battling" black and white swans might also be part of the mirroring symbolism?

I suspect that the Walder Frey family tree could be subtitled, "A Westeros Guide to Scoundrels and their Motives." Walder's second wife, Cyrenna, was a Swann but, more importantly, her sister, Corenna, was the wife of Stevron, Walder's first born son and (initial) heir. Ryman and Black Walder are descendants of that match, which makes me suspect that there is something dark and nasty hidden in the House Swann people we see operating in the series. Donnel and Balon are not Frey descendants, but they are nephews of Corenna and Cyrenna. (Or maybe the point will be that there are black Swanns and white Swanns. Corenna's descendants might be the black ones in the Frey family, and House Swann people in general will fall into the white team - maybe this is Donnel - and the black team - perhaps Balon's role, even if he seems reluctant.)

Another set of clues for deciphering Balon (or for possible foreshadowing in his arc) might come from his task as the bearer of Ser Gregor's skull. Potential parallels include Rattleshirt, who wore a giant's skull as a helmet, The Hound whose distinctive helmet is taken up by others after his "death," and those Hound's helm wearers, Rorge and Lem Lemoncloak, who both try to kill Brienne. Lots of fodder here for modeling king's (and Rainbow) guard characters (The Hound, Brienne) who struggle with their vows. Lem wasn't king's guard (if he is Ser Richard Monmouth) but there is a joking exchange where he is accused of having a white cloak that turns the color of urine - likely a parallel to Jaime's "shit for honor" motif.

Another thought related to Ser Gregor's skull: Prince Oberyn thought he had defeated Ser Gregor, but he had not. Oberyn dies and Gregor survives long enough to be considered the victor in the trial by combat. Even after Ser Gregor "dies" and is beheaded, he is still alive as (we believe) Ser Robert Strong. So the point may be that the Martells think they know how to defeat the plan Ser Balon was sent to execute, but they will find their initial triumph doesn't fulfill the outcome they have in mind.

I don't see the "little brother" role in Ser Balon's arc as clearly as you do, but maybe GRRM is deliberately downplaying the allusion so it will have more impact later, when the valonqar plot plays out. If Lem Lemoncloak is a parallel for Ser Balon, we do see him yank the rope to begin the hanging of Brienne. So that could be a hint in the direction of Ser Balon as a guy who strangles women.

Edited by Seams

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Seams said:

Are you saying that Balon's "battling" black and white swans might also be part of the mirroring symbolism?

Well, it's Hotah here who wears "mirror armor", and the swan symbolism in this chapter is mostly meant to symbolize imo Balon's inner moral struggles. He happily accepted Myrcella's order to hunt down Gerold Dayne. That solved his moral dilemma: he gets to hunt a child maimer/slayer instead of being a child slayer. He gets to be a hero, instead of a villain.

But yes, George may be using the swans as a mirroring/reflection concept for the Swann family altogether. He uses a female Swann to dress up Arya into dresses and call her pretty, and Arya has heavy (black/white) swan symbolism from the get go.

1 hour ago, Seams said:

I don't see the "little brother" role in Ser Balon's arc as clearly as you do, but maybe GRRM is deliberately downplaying the allusion so it will have more impact later, when the valonqar plot plays out. If Lem Lemoncloak is a parallel for Ser Balon, we do see him yank the rope to begin the hanging of Brienne. So that could be a hint in the direction of Ser Balon as a guy who strangles women.

Well, there are two possibilities here imo. Either Balon is to go Arthur Dayne's way. Myrcella's order is used in a similar way by Balon as Arthur used Rhaegar's order to not be in KL and do whatever foul stuff Aerys would have ordered him to do. Or he's to go Jaime's path. Other signs for Jaime's path for Balon are the fact that after Joffrey's death, Balon gets cast often in plots with children. He's Tommen's foremost guard, until Cersei sends him away to Dorne with the plot to get Trystane, a child, killed. But then Doran and Myrcella offer him a chance to seek justice for the harm done to a child. However, now Myrcella is traveling to KL without a KG protecting her, and she'll be traveling along a region that is being conquered by Aegon... unless Doran did send them all by ship. If she dies in Balon's absence, then Balon will feel guilty. So, will he go back to protect Tommen? And what else will Cersei do to children that might make Balon go "I choke the life out of her"?

These plots involving the protecting and murdering children is relevant as Jaime's weirwood-stump dream is him being confronted by Rhaegar and the other KG that he failed to protect the children. And it's interesting that Cersei appointed him as KG, that both her brothers approve of him, and then she goes and sends this most suited KG-like knight to do an awful child murder. Meryn Trant was far better suitable for her plan than Balon was. Meryn wouldn't bat an eye at such a plot, and he would have grabbed Myrcella and carried her back to KL himself, without bothering to hunt for Gerold Dayne. Except, Cersei kept Meryn at KL.

George definitely has plans for Balon imo.

Edited by sweetsunray

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1 hour ago, Seams said:

Another set of clues for deciphering Balon (or for possible foreshadowing in his arc) might come from his task as the bearer of Ser Gregor's skull. Potential parallels include Rattleshirt, who wore a giant's skull as a helmet, The Hound whose distinctive helmet is taken up by others after his "death," and those Hound's helm wearers, Rorge and Lem Lemoncloak, who both try to kill Brienne. Lots of fodder here for modeling king's (and Rainbow) guard characters (The Hound, Brienne) who struggle with their vows. Lem wasn't king's guard (if he is Ser Richard Monmouth) but there is a joking exchange where he is accused of having a white cloak that turns the color of urine - likely a parallel to Jaime's "shit for honor" motif.

As for the skulls. We have a link to Lem Lemoncloak and Monmouth when Nym takes the skull out of Coleotte's hands and kisses it. Lem too was assigned to watch and guard the Orphan's Inn. Rory and Biter attacked it during his watch, but he wasn't there since he went off in chase of them (and was led astray). Lem was lucky that Brienne was there and that Gendry managed to spear Biter.

There's also the link to Jon, who's surrounded by skulls in Mel's vision, and we have Ghost peeing on the spears that with the heads of the 3 NW rangers placed in front of the Wall at CB by the Weeper and his men. And Jon's dilemma at the end of aDwD is framed as a choice between saving his sister, a child bride, and rescuing his men trapped at Hardhome. He also "saves" princess Shyreen from the giant Wun Wun (that is, he sends Wun Wun away to go eat, after the giant frightened Shyreen with his laughter), saves Alys Karstark from a usurping marriage effort, and saves Mance's son by switching him with Gilly's boy and sending Mance's son to Oldtown with Sam. And then there's him agreeing to use Mance to meet with the supposed fleeing Arya, eventually leading to Mance's spearwives helping Theon in rescuing Jeyne Poole from her abuse and ordeal by Ramsay.

Balon does not only carry Gregor's skull. During the feast the cook prepared sugar spun skulls for dessert. So, yup he's surrounded by skulls.

And of course "skulls and kisses" reminds me of Hamlet.

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GRAVEDIGGER

Faith, if he be not rotten before he die—as we have many pocky corses nowadays that will scarce hold the laying in— he will last you some eight year or nine year. A tanner will last you nine year.

HAMLET

Why he more than another?

GRAVEDIGGER

Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade that he will keep out water a great while, and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. (indicates a skull) Here’s a skull now. This skull has lain in the earth three-and-twenty years.

HAMLET

Whose was it?

GRAVEDIGGER

A whoreson mad fellow’s it was. Whose do you think it was?

HAMLET

Nay, I know not.

GRAVEDIGGER

A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! He poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.

HAMLET

This?

GRAVEDIGGER

E'en that.

HAMLET

Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning?

 

 
 

 

   
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

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Posted (edited)

(It's a theory, my guesses, not facts.)

Balon Swann is working for Varys. The sourse of information, that Cersei was supposedly planning to kill Trystane, is also Varys. He is that friend, to which Doran was referring. But that was one of Varys' lies, the point of which was to prevent Martells from leaving Dorne, because that's where Varys and fAegon needs them to be.

The other, secret task, that Cersei gave to Balon, was to kidnap Myrcella. Supposedly it was Tyrion's idea, to send Myrcella to Dorne (while actually, if I remember it correctly, the idea was Littlefinger's, and he did it to spoil Varys' original plan of the Big War). So, when Tyrion was out of the picture, and Joffrey and Tywin were dead, Cersei decided to get Myrcella back. Though now Varys doesn't need Myrcella. So, even though Cersei had assigned Balon to get her daughter back, Balon wasn't going to retrieve her. And to help him to spoil his mission (the one that was given to him by Cersei), Varys compromised Balon, by giving to Doran falce information, that caused Martells to closely watch over Balon, while he was at Sunspear. Thus, later Balon can use as an excuse for Cersei, that he was unable to kidnap Myrcella, because he was closely watched.

Furthermore, because Martells were made by Varys to think, that Balon's intentions are to harm Trystane, they watched over him, only when he was at Sunspear. But when he went away (supposedly after Gerold Dayne), they stoped following him so closely. He left, and they thought, that the danger is over. Though Balon did had another secret mission, this one was given to him by Varys. It's to get in contact with Gerold Dayne. Because Gerold is also working for Varys, and he attacked Myrcella, because that was what Varys ordered him to do.

The point of that attack was to make Cersei think, that it was Tyrion's plot. Same as Varys used Mandon Moore, who was also one of Varys' people, to attack Tyrion, and make him think, that the attack on him was Cersei's plot. Varys used against Lannisters "divide and conquer" strategy. So, what Balon is actually going to do in Dorne, is to join forces with Gerold. And Gerold Dayne's role is to become Commander of fAegon's armies at Westeros (pro-Targaryens). That's why he was saying - " "If I led a quarter of a million men to death, would they call me Gerold the Great?" He snorted. "I shall remain Darkstar, I think." "

Or Gerold Dayne is working for Shiera Seastar/Quaithe/the Three-Eyed Crow, and he thinks that he is Azor Ahai, because Dawn sword of Daynes is the original Lightbringer of the first Azor Ahai. So, because Edric Dayne is still a kid, too small for that longsword, and Gerold doesn't know, that Jon Snow is 1/8 Dayne, so he thinks, that he is the only candidate, who could be the Promised Prince (probably one of Egg's sisters, Daella, married back into her mother's family, and thru her Daynes are bloodrelated to Targaryens). And when Gerold said, that he will lead 250.000 men to death, he was referring to him leading people against the Undead Army.

In this case Balon was sent after Gerold either to convince him to join Varys' side, or he is intending to steal Dawn from Gerold, and give it to fAegon. Because Varys&Co think that fAegon is the Promised Prince. And the one, who made them think so, was Shiera Seastar. She was that septa, that was escorting Lady Jeyne Swann, when they were attacked by the Kingswood Brotherhood. That attack happened on the same day, when the real Aegon was conceived at King's Landing, and the comet was passing above that area. That septa (Shiera in shadow-glamour) gave love potion to Barristan Selmy, and Jeyne seduced him, and got pregnant. So, fAegon's parents are septa Lemore/Jeyne Swann and Barristan Selmy (when he was a kid, he was Lord Swann's squire. And when Barristan's father was squiring for Lord Swann, at Stonehelm he met Barristan's future mother, who was daughter of Aenys Blackfyre. So Barristan and fAegon are Blackfyres). And Balon is fAegon's maternal uncle, that's why he is working for Varys. Varys is a Blackfyre, and he is closely bloodrelated to Swanns, because Johanna Swann was maternal great-grandmother of Daemon I Blackfyre. Johanna was a shadowbinder, same as her daughter, Larra Rogare/Serenei of Lys. So, Shiera Seastar, who is a shadowbinder Quaithe, is also partially Swann, because Johanna was her maternal grandmother. And the sigil of House Swann is a clue about female Swanns - it's a white swan and her black shadow. Jeyne Swann is the Perfumed Seneschal, because her ancestor, Johanna, was probably working as a courtesan, at the Perfumed Garden. And Johanna possibly used Faceless Men to kill her enemies in Lys, including her ex-clients from that pleasure house, her husband, and her brother-in-law, who was in Dorne (Drazenko Rogare, husband of Aliandra Martell). Which ties together Faceless Men and Swanns and Arya.

So, if Balon is Jeyne's/Lemore's younger brother, then he could be valonqar. And maybe Arya will kill Balon, take his face, and will use Balon's status, as a Kingsguard, to get close to Cersei.

(Most likely, some of those guesses are totally incorrect.)

Edited by Megorova

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Megorova said:

The other, secret task, that Cersei gave to Balon, was to kidnap Myrcella. Supposedly it was Tyrion's idea, to send Myrcella to Dorne (while actually, if I remember it correctly, the idea was Littlefinger's, and he did it to spoil Varys' original plan of the Big War). So, when Tyrion was out of the picture, and Joffrey and Tywin were dead, Cersei decided to get Myrcella back. Though now Varys doesn't need Myrcella. So, even though Cersei had assigned Balon to get her daughter back, Balon wasn't going to retrieve her. And to help him to spoil his mission (the one that was given to him by Cersei), Varys compromised Balon, by giving to Doran falce information, that caused Martells to closely watch over Balon, while he was at Sunspear. Thus, later Balon can use as an excuse for Cersei, that he was unable to kidnap Myrcella, because he was closely watched. 

That's not a secret task: it's in a letter written by Cersei to Prince Doran. She wants Myrcella to return to King's Landing and invites him to take a seat at the Small Council. Balon wasn't to kidnap Myrcella, but accompany her back.

 
Quote

 

Midnight was close at hand when Prince Doran turned to the white knight and said, "Ser Balon, I have read the letter that you brought me from our gracious queen. Might I assume that you are familiar with its contents, ser?"
Hotah saw the knight tense. "I am, my lord. Her Grace informed me that I might be called upon to escort her daughter back to King's Landing. King Tommen has been pining for his sister and would like Princess Myrcella to return to court for a short visit."
Princess Arianne made a sad face. "Oh, but we have all grown so fond of Myrcella, ser. She and my brother Trystane have become inseparable."
"Prince Trystane would be welcome in King's Landing as well," said Balon Swann. "King Tommen would wish to meet him, I am sure. His Grace has so few companions near his own age."
"The bonds formed in boyhood can last a man for life," said Prince Doran. "When Trystane and Myrcella wed, he and Tommen will be as brothers. Queen Cersei has the right of it. The boys should meet, become friends. Dorne will miss him, to be sure, but it is past time Trystane saw something of the world beyond the walls of Sunspear."
"I know King's Landing will welcome him most warmly."

"As for the other matter that Queen Cersei raises," Prince Doran was saying, "it is true, Dorne's seat upon the small council has been vacant since my brother's death, and it is past time that it was filled again. I am flattered that Her Grace feels my counsel might be of use to her, though I wonder if I have the strength for such a journey. Perhaps if we went by sea?"

 

Doran and Balon discuss the contents of this letter openly, in front of the Ullers, Ellaria, Manwoody, Daemon Sand and his father, the Wyls and the Fowler Twins. So you're constructing something here that isn't necessary.

It is known ;)

I don't believe Balon works for anyone else. But I do suspect that Varys is indeed the informant of Cersei's plan, but it's not a lie by Varys. Cersei is perfectly capable of wanting to see Trystane dead: it's a betrothal that Tyrion arranged and she doesn't trust the Dornish. The sole way to make the betrothal go away in her eyes without provoking Dorne is to kill the fiance, and by pinning it on Tyrion and have Shagga do it, she would ensure that Tyrion could never seek refuge in Dorne. Cersei is that devious. Varys doesn't need to embellish it.

Areo Hotah is one of the few reliable narrating POVs in the books. That's why he's wearing mirroring armor. Mirrors show the truth. That's why George wanted Hotah as POV and not Arianne. The chapter could have been written from Arianne's POV, but George didn't, because Arianne is an unreliable (less observant and partial) POV. We get so much reveals in this chapter alone that readers who have gone accustomed to George's use of unreliable narrators would doubt most of it. That's why George picked Sherlock Hotah: to underline it's all true, and yes that includes his opinions.

Obara would never harm Arianne, Ellaria is a sincere good woman wanting peace, etc... 

And the lies told in the chapter are identifiable as lies: Balon's behavior, and Doran lying about Gerold Dayne killing Ser Arys when we the readers have witnessed Areo killing him.

Edited by sweetsunray

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5 hours ago, LynnS said:

The question of the valonqar isn't closed for me at this point and I appreciate having a fresh view of the possibilities.  We're given only two things about it:  the term itself, meaning little brother, either literally or figuratively, and that Cersei's nemesis will wrap his hands around her throat and strangle her.  

So I add Marwyn to the list because of Samwell's observations:
 

What Sam is describing are the characteristics or dwarfism with emphasis on his hands.  We know that Marwyn has travelled to Asshai where he met and instructed Mirri Maaz Duur.  So how would the locals refer to him in their own language, if not as the valonqar or little brother?  So I'm keeping that option open.

Are maesters called "brothers"?

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32 minutes ago, sweetsunray said:

That's why George picked Sherlock Hotah: to underline it's all true, and yes that includes his opinions.

LOL!

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1 minute ago, sweetsunray said:

Are maesters called "brothers"?

I'd have to do some searches but they do operate like a brotherhood.  Don't you think?

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1 minute ago, LynnS said:

LOL!

;) Now you know why he opted for this "superfluous boring" character who has had only one chapter in aFfC and only one in aDwD

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Just now, LynnS said:

I'd have to do some searches but they do operate like a brotherhood.  Don't you think?

Yes, but if it is someone of a "brotherhood" chances are that Maggy would use "littl brother" if it was a common reference for maesters. I cannot recall that term ever being used amongt maesters. Someone of the BwB or NW would work better then if you interprete the meaning of "brother" more as a title reference.

Nice point about Marwyn's physical description being like that of someone with dwarfism.

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I mean, good post, but i bet even some of the crazier GoT theorists here would tell you to move on. He is and will stay to minor a character to be that important. Maggys prophs wont include the likes of him.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, sweetsunray said:

would like Princess Myrcella to return to court for a short visit.

That was what was in the letter, but Cersei was intending to take back Myrcella for good, and to do that she needed Balon to get rid of Myrcella's escorts on the way to KL (not necessary to kill them all, only to get her away from them), and thus to kidnap her.

1 hour ago, sweetsunray said:

Her Grace feels my counsel might be of use to her, though I wonder if I have the strength for such a journey. Perhaps if we went by sea?

She was expecting that he won't go at all, because of his bad health.

1 hour ago, sweetsunray said:

I don't believe Balon works for anyone else.

Though what his family did, is very similar to what some other Houses were doing during Blackfyre Rebellions. Lord Butterwell sent one of his sons to support Targaryens, and the other to support Blackfyres, but during Second Rebellion he was on Daemon's side, and hosted that tournament at Whitewalls. Also, Eustas Osgrey mentioned House Swann amongst those Houses, with which Osgreys were intermarrying in the past, and all of those Houses are pro-Blackfyre, same as Osgreys were. Daemon was anti-Dornish (because their Prince took away the woman that Daemon loved). And marcher lords of Dornish Marches (House Swann are one of them, same as House Selmy) were also anti-Dornish. That's why I think, that it's likely, that when Aenys Blackfyre came to Westeros in 233, he brough his family with him, intending it to be one-way trip, and prior going to KL, left them with Blackfyre-loyalists - House Swann. That's how Lyonel Selmy met Barristan's mother. And years later Barristan became Lord Swann's squire, and even more years later he saved Jeyne Swann from the Kingswood Brotherhood (in 281), and more years later Balon Swann enters the picture.

First he participated in Tournament alongside with Jalabhar Xho. Jalabhar is obviously a descendant of one of the Ninepenny Kings (Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion), Xhobar Qhoqua. And in The Mystery Knight novel tournament was used as a cover for the Second Blackfyre Rebellion. And tournament at Harrenhal was supposedly a cover for people that were planning to overthrow King Aerys. So, it's possible, that during that Hand's tourney at KL, something fishy was also happening in the shadows, and it was orchestrated by Varys, who is a Blackfyre. Then Balon returned to KL, just before Robert got wounded by a boar. Possibly Varys was aware of Cersei's plans, and ordered his agent to get away from there, not to get under any suspicions. Then he warned Dontos Hollard not to approach Sansa. Hollard was Littlefinger's agent, and Balon is Varys'. Varys was aware of some of LF's plans concerning Sansa, so thru Balon he warned LF to get away from Sansa. Then Balon's toast at Tanda Stokeworth's dinner, seems to be a test. Varys was testing Tyrion's nature, and by this test figured out, what kind of person Tyrion is, that he is not like the rest of Lannisters. Etc.

We have Johanna Swann (mentioned in both the World Book and F&B, and said to be the ruler of Lys in all but name, same as members of Rogare family were said to be princes of Lys in all but name, which is likely a hint, that Johanna was one of Lysandro Rogare's wives, and mother of Larra Rogare, who was grandmother of Daemon I Blackfyre), Byron Swann (who was killed by a dragon during Dance of the Dragons, and was mentioned in ADWD; after his death his squire wrote a letter to his daughter. Seems that this daughter was Johanna), Barristan squired for Lord Swann, saved Lady Jeyne from KB, fAegon is just the right age to be their son, and now we have Balon. <- Doesn't this looks like a pattern? Swann-Blackfyre pattern. No?

Edited by Megorova

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35 minutes ago, sweetsunray said:

Yes, but if it is someone of a "brotherhood" chances are that Maggy would use "littl brother" if it was a common reference for maesters. I cannot recall that term ever being used amongt maesters. Someone of the BwB or NW would work better then if you interprete the meaning of "brother" more as a title reference.

Nice point about Marwyn's physical description being like that of someone with dwarfism.

Holmes would also notice what was missing - his eye color. 

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It's a fun post to read, but I don't know. I'm not prepared to believe anything out of Doran Martell's mouth because the man lies. We know that. He already scapegoated one man for one thing he did not do (and maybe even a second), what's to stop him from doing the same with Balon Swann? Doran will lie where it suits him. His ass has been scheming for 16 years. Do we know that this is any different?

I think that GRRM wants us to connect this so-called Cersei plot that she keeps to herself to Balon who is supposed to carry it out to Trystane through Hotah's observations of Balon's body language. 

But Balon Swann is the son of a Marcher Lord and a Kingsguard to boot in a land that is neither a fan of Marchers or Kingsguard. It's been a while since I read that chapter and my books are packed, so I can't verify this, but aren't these Hotah observations happening after that half-assed toast and Obara upturning her cup of wine and marching herself out of the hall and other people refusing to drink?

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